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Watching Hoseok from in front of the green screen, Namjoon knew his eyes were glowing.

Hoseok's measured voice lit up the room, as he finished reading the prompter.

Sitting behind the news desk, Hoseok wore a simple black suit; as he always did.

Looking Hoseok up and down, Namjoon always felt like he was seeing Hoseok for the first time.

The quality of Hoseok's work was consistent, yet there was always something new, and something fresh, about the weight Hoseok carried on his back.

Hoseok was inspiring.

As Hoseok's segment wrapped up, Namjoon turned towards the camera pointed at him.

He was already smiling, and standing up straight with something like pride.

-

Namjoon was never sure if he would be happier watching Hoseok's life pass him by.

He never felt left out.

Watching Hoseok, sometimes, curiosity itched.

Sometimes, Namjoon could just sit back, and observe in satisfied silence.

They had known each other for two years. Coming up at the station together, Namjoon considered his relationship with Hoseok a fast friendship.

Still, it was a working friendship.

Outside of the face Hoseok showed at work, the other man was a mystery.

Every day contained millions of moments, Namjoon knew. When he could step in, and intrude on Hoseok's life. When he could sit up, and speak, and reach out a hand - to break the barriers between them.

Sitting on the sidelines, Namjoon followed workplace gossip closely.

When an intern said they thought they heard Hoseok crying in the dressing room, Namjoon treated him more gently. If Hoseok noticed, he didn't show it.

When there was a rumor Hoseok secretly had an embarrassing tattoo removed from his hand before he started working at the station - an unfounded piece of gossip, Hoseok made clear, when he found out - Namjoon watched the way his tattoo-free hands more carefully, but said nothing.

A torn-up envelope sat on Namjoon's kitchen table.

Late afternoon sunshine streamed in through his window, and slatted over the acceptance letter in Namjoon's hand.

Namjoon never felt entitled to Hoseok's life.

He knew better than to let himself assume he had any place in it. Valuing their work together, admiring Hoseok, and finding happiness within himself was enough.

Staring down at the letter, Namjoon knew he needed to ask.

He had to ask Hoseok.

If they could get closer.

Namjoon knew his affections for Hoseok sat somewhere in the middle of platonic love and romantic inklings. Carefully keeping his feels in that middle ground, Namjoon knew it was up to Hoseok to tell him which direction to turn.

Closer to platonic, or closer to romantic - the specifics weren't important.

If he asked, Namjoon could accept any answer.

If he asked, his life would carry on happily any way.

Namjoon set the letter down. He gave himself a nod of approval, and fixed intention in his mind.

-

"Good work this morning, Jung."

Camera operators in dark clothing carrying dark equipment shifted in front of the brightly lit newsroom set.

Standing in front of where Hoseok had stepped down from the set, Namjoon gazed at him warmly. Hands in his suit's trouser pockets, he rested his weight on one leg.

"Hm?" Hoseok looked up from the clipboard a production assistant was showing him. "You too, Kim."

Hoseok met Namjoon's eyes with a smile, and a nod.

When Namjoon didn't say anything else, Hoseok lifted his smile again, before nodding his head back down to look at the sheet of paper being turned over.

Namjoon smiled softly.

Namjoon was still in work mode, but he was fine being there. With Hoseok.

He felt strangely calm, and strangely at peace.

It was true that Hoseok shone bright every morning. No matter how dark the topics he addressed were, watching Hoseok made Namjoon feel like the world wasn't as hopeless as it seemed.

Hoseok exchanged a few words with the production assistant, and nodded back to Namjoon.

Settling back and standing up straight, Hoseok seemed to realize Namjoon wanted a longer conversation.

"Let's get a drink tonight." Namjoon spoke through the vague smile on his lips. He could see the slight confusion in Hoseok's eyes, as he searched Namjoon's face over.

"Ah..." Hoseok glanced away from Namjoon. "Oh?" A flip was switched, and he looked at Namjoon with smiling eyes. "Is everyone going out tonight?"

That brief moment of shyness.

It always crossed over him, when Namjoon asked.

It made Namjoon's chest ache each time.

"No," Namjoon said simply. "I was only asking you." He was only ever asking Hoseok, every time he floated the idea. He always made that clear, even if he didn't press the issue.

"I'm busy tonight." Hoseok nodded. His words sounded carefree, and casual. His hands slid into his pockets. "Maybe tomorrow?"

"Coffee, tomorrow?" Namjoon wanted to press the issue.

"Coffee?" Hoseok blinked.

"If you don't want to drink tonight." Namjoon shifted on his feet, and resisted the urge to speak with his hands. Confidence was flowing through him, and he wanted it to show through his restrained posture. "We can get coffee tomorrow, then?"

Hoseok was silent for a moment. He studied Namjoon's tie up to the top of his hair, before the hint of a sly smile spread onto his lips. Lifting his chin, Hoseok threw back his shoulders.

"Why not," Hoseok beamed. "At 4:30, then?"

-

The 24-hour cafe was surprisingly busy, and Namjoon was a half hour late.

It was still dark outside, and the cool air had left his cheeks and nose ruddy.

Standing near the tall windows and glass door, Namjoon arced his head around the warmly-lit, brick-walled room. His eyes glanced over the turned backs of university students and office workers, tapping away at their work quietly.

When he found Hoseok, Namjoon's eyebrows ticked up, and relief was an instant wash.

Tucked into a booth near the back of the cafe, Hoseok was staring at nothing in particular.

Jiggling his leg, he tapped his finger against the cup of coffee between his hands. Hoseok's coffee shared the table with his phone.

Namjoon was surprised to see that Hoseok wasn't glued to his phone. He usually snapped it up, the second he had down time at work. Namjoon knew it eased Hoseok's energy, so he that could give himself fully to whatever task came next.

Hoseok was either very relaxed, or very bored.

Namjoon almost jogged to the table. He saw a few heads turn in his direction, as his jacket swished loudly, and his footsteps fell heavy.

"Sorry." Namjoon slid into the booth, and Hoseok looked up. "Sorry I'm late," Namjoon said quickly. "I slept through my alarm. And I got a bit lost on the way here." He didn't mention the fact that he had spent nearly ten minutes trying to get the perfect photo of his acceptance letter.

Sitting down and unbuttoning his jacket, Namjoon eyed Hoseok's coffee. Full, and obviously cold, Hoseok's hand were still wrapped around it. The fact that Hoseok clearly hadn't been drinking it slid over Namjoon's mind, and left his chest strangely warm.

"I'll go order in a second," Namjoon continued. "I'm just going to leave my jacket here." Sliding his jacket off, he folded it onto the bench next to him. "Do you want me to get you something fresh?"

"Don't worry about it." Hoseok gave Namjoon a perky smile. "Any of it."

As Namjoon shuffled out of the booth by sliding over the wooden seat, he glanced up, and met Hoseok's eyes.

Hoseok was fixing him an expectant, distant, half-lidded gaze. The smile was still on his lips, but it looked strained.

Namjoon looked back out onto the cafe quickly.

He had no idea what to make of the look.

He tried not to dwell on the questions springing up in his mind, as he stood up, and moved quickly towards the counter.

-

Hoseok stared at Namjoon's phone.

Holding it with both hands, his thumb scrolled down the photo Namjoon had opened for him.

Namjoon turned the hot mug of coffee between his hands. The base of the cup scrabbled loudly against the table. He set the saucer aside.

Hoseok's eyes flicked up.

He handed the phone back to Namjoon, and Namjoon accepted it quietly. A sweat had broken out on his palms, from the heat of the thick ceramic mug.

It was the best photo of the acceptance letter he could get.

Hoseok's eyebrows were raised, but he said nothing. Glancing Namjoon up and down, he pressed his lips together, and waited.

"I wanted to tell you first." Namjoon met Hoseok's eyes.

As the door of the shop slid open, the metal light fixture above the table gleamed, and a gust of cold air managed to reach their far booth. Hoseok's face was neutral, as his hands fell around his mug, and he leaned forwards. Namjoon knew that Hoseok's listening was quiet, but intense.

"I'm going to go through with it," Namjoon stated simply. Shoulders dropping and head bobbing slightly, his eyes fell away from Hoseok's intense gaze, and settled somewhere in the open air in front of him. "Going back to school." Namjoon knew his workplace manners had fallen away. He didn't care. He was excited, and an early morning had left him fresh.

"Oh?" Hoseok's eyebrows lifted. "That's wonderful," he smiled broadly. "Congratulations. I'm not surprised they want you for their PhD program. You're really one of the smartest," his voice was bright, "and hardest working people I've ever met."

Hoseok's hand slid across the table.

Namjoon stared at Hoseok's open palm for a second.

Settling his arm onto the table, he placed his hand in Hoseok's.

He was surprised Hoseok wanted to hold his hand. The surprise left him dizzy.

For a split second, their hands were held together motionlessly. In that split second, Namjoon's heart skipped a beat.

Hoseok's grip tightened, and he shook Namjoon's hand curtly.

When Hoseok's suddenly limp hand pulled away, Namjoon squeezed his eyes shut. His fingers curled in, and he snapped his arm back over the table quickly. Tilting his head, he told himself to move on quickly.

"So what does this mean?"

Thankfully, Hoseok was moving on for him.

Namjoon placed his hand next to his leg, on the seat of the booth. He could still feel Hoseok's softness. Fiddling with the handle of his mug, he met Hoseok's eyes.

"I'll be putting in my notice at the station."

"Oh?" Sitting back, Hoseok crossed his arms over his chest. He nodded slowly. "That makes sense."

"I was thinking -" Namjoon's words snagged.

Namjoon smiled to himself.

Hoseok's ears perked up, and he glanced across the table at Namjoon.

Wrapping his fingers around the mug in front of him, Namjoon raised it to his lips, and tilted his head dismissively.

"Nevermind."

The steaming coffee burnt his tongue, and he swallowed it with a grimace.

Now that I'm leaving, Namjoon wanted to say. Now that we won't be working together. Maybe we can spend more time together.

Because I've been wanting to get closer to you a while, now. Hoseok - can I call you that -?

Namjoon realized Hoseok was staring at him, as he looked up.

"This is really an amazing opportunity for you," Hoseok said with a smile. "The station will really miss your light. Your intelligence is obvious." The compliments flowed out of him on the rise and fall of his voice. Direct, and enunciated. Namjoon could tell Hoseok was in work mode. "Viewers truly understand that you know what you're talking about. That's valuable."

Namjoon smiled.

"Thank you."

Shifting in his seat, he sat back, and sighed.

He would to wait a little longer, before he told Hoseok the rest.

-

The lounge was filled with the sound of busy feet, and the smell of fresh clothes and the dry scent of makeup.

Namjoon half-watched the monitor as the afternoon crew took over, hand on his hip. Pressing a wet towelette against his forehead, he shrugged off his jacket.

Out of the corner of his eye, Namjoon spotted Hoseok, already dressed in his street clothes. Namjoon felt Hoseok stop, to stand behind him.

"Your presence today was powerful, Kim." The words were over-earnest flattery, but they were full of sincerity. Hoseok's compliments never sounded hollow. "The audience is definitely clutching their hearts, knowing you'll be leaving soon."

"Thank you," Namjoon said quietly. Turning on the heels of his dress shoes, Namjoon glanced at Hoseok. Hoseok was turning to walk away. "Hey -" winding around, Namjoon wrapped an arm around Hoseok's to stop him. "Good work today." He let his hand fall down onto Hoseok's ass, and he gave it a pat.

As soon as the sound of skin on fabric hit his ears, Namjoon realized what he had done, and froze.

Hoseok looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

"You too," he said blankly.

Namjoon realized his hand was lingering, and he hovered it back awkwardly.

Taking a step to the side, Hoseok bowed slightly, and turned to leave again.

As Hoseok disappeared out of his vision, Namjoon's chest dripped with a vague sense of dread.

-

By the time he had changed, Namjoon found Hoseok under the exit sign that lead to the studio's back parking lot.

Namjoon knew Hoseok's sister would be picking him up, the way she did every other Tuesday.

Hoseok would be waiting inside today. The last chill of winter was departing the city slowly.

Namjoon had seen Hoseok lingering around the back lot, a few times. It was only through outside sources that Namjoon's confused nerves had eased, when he learned the woman he saw picking Hoseok up wasn't his girlfriend.

Asking after the health of a sister Namjoon had never met was a fixture of his small talk with Hoseok. Hoseok never mentioned their Tuesday lunch dates.

There were so many things Hoseok could tell Namjoon, that he never did.

Settling by on the opposite side of the double doors from Hoseok, Namjoon rest his back against the wall, and tucked his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

They stood silently on either side of the doorway, for a moment.

"Earlier." Namjoon glanced at Hoseok, and lowered his chin. "Sorry about that."

"Huh?"

Hoseok pulled an earbud out of his ear.

Namjoon didn't realize he had any in. Pressing out a thin smile, Namjoon scrunched up his shoulders.

"Sorry. About earlier." He stuck to his statement, and dropped his shoulders.

"Earlier?" A look of genuine confusion crossed Hoseok's face.

"About - you know." Namjoon gave a short laugh.

It was amusing, he admitted to himself.

Hoseok probably saw it that way, too.

It was something Namjoon was accustomed to doing to some of the guys at the studio; especially the camera crew - he just didn't have that kind of relationship with Hoseok. Somehow, it felt impolite.

If he dwelled on it, Namjoon knew why it felt impolite.

He tried not to dwell on those thoughts.

The thousands of impolite ways he could touch Hoseok were wrapped up and tucked away into the back of Namjoon's mind, when he was at work.

As long as Namjoon was content watching Hoseok from the sidelines, he didn't want to get tripped up in fantasy.

Miming the action, Namjoon couldn't help but smile, as he swiped his hand up into the air like he was throwing an underhand pitch.

"Patting your butt."

"Oh." Hoseok's face fell. He looked away, and pulled his phone out of his pocket too quickly. "Don't worry about it."

"Yeah. Sorry. I got careless." Staring at the wall, Namjoon relaxed slightly.

It was a small thing, Namjoon told himself.

Still, it was small things that snowballed.

Namjoon wanted his relationships at work to feel clean, when he left. No unresolved issues.

Relief eased his mind.

"You can be careless more often."

"Excuse me?" Namjoon turned towards Hoseok.

He wasn't sure what Hoseok meant, but something about the statement made him raise his eyebrows.

Hoseok was silent for a moment. He was staring at the wall ahead of him. His face was blank.

"You never had to treat me differently," Hoseok sighed, "Kim." He tucked his phone back into his pocket. "I have to go to the bathroom." Hoseok lifted off the wall, and strode away. He glanced back at Namjoon. "If my sister arrives, tell her I'll be quick."

Hoseok disappeared through a doorway, and Namjoon was left leaning against the wall. Alone, and slightly confused.

His thoughts reeled, and relief disappeared.

-

Hoseok was near the recycling bins, when Namjoon found him.

The paper plates were stained with swathes of silver and black frosting, and squished cake crumbs. Hoseok's face was a little red. He set the plates into the bin delicately.

The party had left Namjoon tipsy.

In the familiar lounge, they were surrounded by a few straggling, familiar people.

Namjoon's body buzzed. He gazed down at Hoseok, as Hoseok glanced up, and flicked his eyes up and down Namjoon's body.

"Hey." Standing up, Hoseok grabbed some forks, and took a few steps towards another bin. "What a nice party."

Namjoon trailed Hoseok. He was just tipsy enough, to be bold enough, to ask -

"Jung." Namjoon settled by Hoseok's side.

Dropping the frosting-cracked forks into the bin, Hoseok glanced Namjoon up and down again.

"We'll miss you," Hoseok said emphatically. Dusting his hands off against each other, he reached out to squeeze Namjoon's arm.

"Do you want to go out drinking with me?" The feeling of Hoseok's grip on his arm sent a ripple of woozy pulses across Namjoon's body.

Hoseok had a few sips of a drink during the party. Namjoon had been watching. It was just enough to leave its mark on Hoseok's face, but not enough to leave him close to buzzed. Namjoon knew Hoseok could knock back a few more.

They could drive in Hoseok's car, and find a bar halfway to Hoseok's place. Ditching Hoseok's car for the night, they could walk back to Hoseok's apartment together.

Or they could catch a taxi - Namjoon felt responsibility itching at his nerves - and go to the new bar that had opened up near Namjoon's place. He had been wanting to take somebody there.

Thoughts Namjoon usually sequestered away were being torn open. Fantasies leaked, and started to fill his mind.

He told himself it was the alcohol.

The alcohol, or the knowledge that his working relationship with Hoseok had been severed.

He was drifting aimlessly. Drifting aimlessly, in a place with no barriers.

You never had to treat me differently.

Namjoon had added the words up exhaustively in his mind. Conclusions evaded him.

In the absence of Hoseok telling him which way to go, the knowledge that this might be one of the last times he saw Hoseok was telling Namjoon to get as close to Hoseok as he possibly could.

If Hoseok didn't want Namjoon to treat him any differently, then Namjoon would be as natural as he possible.

Hoseok's eyes were drifting over him again. Namjoon was starting to feel like he was undergoing a silent interrogation.

Hoseok dropped his hand from Namjoon's arm. His chin tilted up.

He didn't give the perfunctory smile Namjoon was used to, when he spoke.

"Why not."

Chapter Text

"You're really my best friend at work." Namjoon spoke loud, over the sounds of the bar. Waving his hand in the air for emphasis, his head was nodding, his eyes were hooded, and he was leaning over the table on one elbow.

Namjoon knew the beer was making him sappy.

Still, he leaned over the table, and reached out a hand.

The bar was halfway to Hoseok's apartment.

Leaving Hoseok's car in the parking garage near the studio, they had taken a taxi through the evening traffic.

The bar was so darkly lit, it was almost completely black.

Green and red lights glowed behind the bar to Namjoon's left, and oblong shapes of blue neon decorations trailed across the ceiling.

A small joint with cheap beer, Namjoon was sure if floodlights were poured over the place, grime and wires and cracks along the wall would be revealed.

It was perfect.

"Your best friend?" Hoseok's eyes were wide. He stared straight into Namjoon's eyes for the first time that night.

The haze of a yellow glow on the wall above the table provided just enough light for Namjoon to take in Hoseok's features.

Hoseok reached for Namjoon's hand on the table, and gave it a quick shake. Leaning back, he nodded slowly.

"Really?" He was back to avoiding Namjoon's gaze.

Namjoon let his mind linger on the sensation of Hoseok's hand. His skin was warm, under patches of cold and wet. His hand had been wrapped around his beer glass.

Namjoon gazed down to Hoseok's nearly full glass. Pilled with droplets of water, it shimmered the way the windows of the taxi had shimmered with raindrops. The condensation was streaked, along the imprint of Hoseok's hand.

Every spot of water reflected the multicolored lights of the bar, and the movement of the people filling the room.

Hoseok crossed his arms over his chest. Namjoon slid his hand back over the table, and gripped the edge.

Their small table was pressed against the wall. The bar was full, and crowds of turned backs huddled around square tables.

The rain outside had drawn in more and more wet and shaken people, as the hour wore on. Namjoon and Hoseok had caught the first few drizzles of what Namjoon knew was becoming a torrent outside.

Namjoon's mind drifted to how Hoseok's hand had felt weeks ago at the coffee shop.

Warm, and a little clammy.

Soft, and inviting.

The lack of umbrellas in hand and the light jackets on the backs of the bar's patrons told Namjoon they had been surprised by the rain. It was enough to make him want to roll his eyes and laugh, as the beer thinned his patience.

"These people," Namjoon pointed around the room, and leaned forwards over the table. "They need to check the weather."

Hoseok glanced at Namjoon, and beamed.

His laugh was muffled, under the din of rising and falling conversation, scraping chairs, and drinks hitting tables.

With his arms crossed over his chest and his face turned away, Hoseok looked suddenly smaller.

Namjoon had been expecting more of Hoseok's intent listening, as he rattled off a few stories and mused about his move up north. Even if he could tell Hoseok's ears were perked up to take in whatever Namjoon said, the fact that he had been avoiding Namjoon's gaze all night was slowly turning Namjoon's stomach upside down.

Namjoon was used to seeing Hoseok's confidence. Flashes of uncertainty were wiped away by a straightening of his back, a fixing of his face, and a darkness drawing back in his eyes. Namjoon had seen it in action enough to know that Hoseok hid his reclusive sides carefully.

Glancing Hoseok up and down, Namjoon knew he was seeing Hoseok in a new light.

It was enlightening, and electrifying.

The way Hoseok seemed to be able to compartmentalize space, and time - his mind, his energy, his body and his heart -

It was a skill Namjoon admired.

"I try really hard to hide my heart," Namjoon sighed. His knuckles rapped down against the wooden table. "Really. Or -" Namjoon tilted his head. "Not hiding it," he waved a hand in the air, to brush the thought aside. "No. Finding that balance." Namjoon gave himself a nod, and snapped his fingers.

Namjoon listened to his meandering thoughts blend into the noisy air.

He knew he should give Hoseok a breather to say something, but his heart told him to keep speaking. He needed to get it out.

"You know," Namjoon grabbed his glass of beer, and took a long, hoppy sip.

His eyes squeezed up as the condensation slid down his throat, and behind the back of his nose. Freshly poured, the beer was ice cold.

"You're the reason," Namjoon took another sip, and continued. "The reason. I tried really hard to emulate you, you know? That's why I never told you all these things," he was practically yelling the words, as a group of forty-somethings around the table next to theirs pealed out a bout of loud, unrestrained laughter. "I thought -" Namjoon shook his head.

His eyes were almost closed, as he put a hand under his jaw, and rest his head on his hand. He looked up and around at the blue lights decorating the ceiling of the bar, like stars on a black sky.

"I would try to be like you, and we would get closer. Because I respected the distance, you know? It would all fall into place. You know? The way everything about you falls into place, all the time. You would see me, and..." Namjoon's words trailed off on the shrug of his shoulders. "Nevermind."

Finding Hoseok again with his eyes, Namjoon felt like he was turning his head back towards a still image.

He was still gazing to the side. The only part of Hoseok that had changed was the line of his smile. Tilting up in the corner, and shadowed by hues, his smile dipped with a small dimple.

Namjoon stared at Hoseok.

Light glowed around the silhouette of his profile.

Hoseok had run a hand through his hair, when they sat down. The rain misted his hair, and frizzed his bangs in a way Namjoon had never seen before. Fiddling with his bangs for a moment, Hoseok had stopped, and sighed, and pressed his hands down onto the table when Namjoon returned with the drinks.

Hair brushed back and a little disheveled, Hoseok looked -

Namjoon swallowed down a long sip of beer, and ignored the warmth spreading down from his stomach.

"I'll miss having you around," Hoseok glanced back to Namjoon. "Your presence is comforting. Now that I'm the youngest there," Hoseok laughed. His laugh was weak, and Namjoon could tell the alcohol was starting to weigh Hoseok down. "They're all going to pick on me." Hoseok smiled broadly, through the laugh, as he sat back. He gazed at Namjoon.

Hoseok's light smile thinned, and faded. He glanced away again.

Namjoon realized he was staring.

"They won't pick on you." Namjoon's mind was refreshingly blank, and he rushed to catch up to Hoseok's words. Reaching across the table again, he wiggled his hand. "Everyone loves you. I love you. Or they're afraid of making fun of you," he added, unthinkingly. "You'll keep doing amazing work. I believe in you."

Hoseok eyed Namjoon's hand. A sigh flared his nose, and he leaned forwards, and grabbed Namjoon's hand again. Hoseok's smile had a modest tamp that kept it thin.

Another shake, and their grip broke.

Hoseok's head turned to the side, and he lifted his shoulder up to his chin.

Namjoon wanted to reach back out, and wrap his hand around Hoseok's again. He could slide his hand up Hoseok's wrist; the table between them would disappear -

"You're really saying all these things honestly." Hoseok's words rung clear, through his smile. He stared back at Namjoon hazily. His dropping eyelids looked tired, but his voice was even, and smooth. Namjoon could pick it up easily, despite the group cheer that broke out from the other side of the bar. "Anything else you want to say? Honestly." He kept his hands on the table.

"Hm?" Namjoon lifted an eyebrow. He swilled down the last of his beer, and gazed at Hoseok over the emptying glass.

Namjoon hadn't realized how tight Hoseok's shoulders had been, until he saw them drop.

Hoseok's brow twitched, and he shook his head.

"Nevermind."

-

Finding Hoseok attractive - handsome, beautiful, sexy, desperately fuckable - was one thing.

That was admiration.

There were many qualities to Hoseok, and those qualities didn't speak over any others.

It was a recognition of Hoseok's qualities.

Not lust.

Certainly not lust that Namjoon couldn't control.

Getting drunk with Hoseok had uniformly dissolved that paper-thin boundary.

Namjoon desperately tried to distract himself, by staring at the buildings passing them by.

City lights glistened, and the night air swept over Namjoon's hot face with a soothing coolness. The air smelled like rain.

Hoseok had insisted on the taxi dropping him off a few blocks from his apartment. Namjoon had insisted on getting out, and walking Hoseok the rest of the way.

Thoughts from the back of his mind kept cycling forwards, and distracting him from reality.

The refreshing blankness of his mind was gone. Dragging the thoughts through his mind was like dragging his legs through wet cement, but Namjoon kept trudging onwards.

Even if Namjoon found his thoughts wandering to Hoseok during long nights, and lazy mornings - he was sure to treat those thoughts carefully. Idle fantasy, removed from reality, and removed from the desires of reality.

If fantasies stacked up, and if he let them muddle with reality, he could easily start to believe his own inventions. Fantasies could color his expectations, and influence his beliefs.

He didn't feel entitled to Hoseok's life.

Just a few weeks ago, all he wanted was to get closer to Hoseok.

He had what he wanted.

He was happy with anything.

Hoseok could do anything, and he would be happy.

The bright white light of the waxing moon was cold, over the warm orange glow of the street lamps.

Namjoon's eyes took in the world, but his mind was elsewhere.

Even if in his fantasies, Hoseok wanted him -

It didn't mean he could look at the little things Hoseok had been doing all evening, and understand them through that lens. The uncertain side of Hoseok Namjoon almost never saw had hung out in the open, and Namjoon was sure it meant something. Maybe not what he imagined. Maybe not what he wanted.

What Namjoon wanted, most of all, was to reach out, and hold that side.

He would hold that side until Hoseok relaxed, and became certain.

Namjoon squeezed his eyes shut. He shook his head. His body was numb, and his balance shifted. He opened his eyes back onto the dark street stretching out in front of him quickly.

Namjoon could convince himself his feelings for Hoseok were confused. He couldn't let himself believe that Hoseok's feelings towards him were confused. He couldn't assume what Hoseok felt, at all.

Namjoon knew he was overthinking things.

Next to him, Hoseok's jacket rustled, and his footsteps hit the pavement lightly.

They were walking in two separate spheres.

A long sigh broke the quiet. Namjoon breathed the warm sigh into the cool air, and sucked back in a deep, refreshing breath. He tried to draw himself out of his mind.

All he had to do was push those thoughts into the back of his mind, find some fresh tape, and seal it up. The decision was simple.

Hoseok wasn't interested. Namjoon's interest was obvious. If Hoseok returned it, he would say something. He would ask after Namjoon's intentions, flirt, or just outright say so.

Namjoon repeated the reassurances, over and over again, before his hands fell out of his pockets, and he stared up at the stark clearness of the night sky.

He knew that was why he had asked Hoseok to go out in the first place. It was what he was hoping for. Somehow, a little more alcohol had made his consciousness return. Maybe it helped seeing Hoseok's cool demeanor, as he tried to act put together despite the beers coursing through him.

They walked slowly.

Namjoon turned his head, and studied Hoseok. Hoseok stared down at his feet, even though his face was fixed straight ahead.

Namjoon smiled.

He was fine with anything.

Once he was sobered up in the morning, he would look back at his desperation with amusement. Just spending this time with Hoseok was enough.

"Let's go out again." Hoseok spoke with a sigh, and stopped.

Glancing up and around, Namjoon trailed his eyes over a small pathway decorated by hedges. A pair of glass doors sat at the end of the pathway - the entrance to an apartment building.

"Right."

Namjoon fought back the urge to say something more. Shoving fantasies into the back of his mind, he let his thoughts disappear.

There was no use waiting, and wanting. Namjoon would keep in contact with Hoseok. Namjoon would reach out again. They could be friends - not just work friends - the way Namjoon had always wanted.

There was no use sitting on the edge of his seat, like Hoseok might be the one to initiate something.

"I'll miss you, Namjoon." Hoseok put a hand on Namjoon's shoulder. "Good luck."

Namjoon's mind was filling up again.

All he needed to do was ask about a kiss.

It was a simple question. It was the kind of childish, bubbly question Namjoon knew he would only ask when he was drunk.

It wasn't the kind of question that fractured a friendship, on a drunk night out.

If he asked, maybe Hoseok would find it amusing, or charming. Or romantic.

"Yeah," Namjoon laughed. It was all he could say.

He knew if he started talking, it would all spill out.

Behind Hoseok, the bright doors of the apartment rose up like the entrance to a palace.

"I'll be seeing you." Hoseok gave Namjoon's arm a pat. "Keep in touch."

Chapter Text

Laying on his back, Namjoon was sprawled across the apartment's bed.

He chewed on the stir stick of a takeaway coffee he had finished hours before. Remote in hand, he flicked on the TV.

It was about that time.

The anchor was transitioning to a special feature about the effects of the late summer heatwave on agriculture. A backdrop of green grass slid into frame, pulled fuzzy in the wide television's skewed aspect ratio. Rolling onto his stomach, Namjoon listened in to the sound of a breeze, and birds chirping. Knuckles under his chin, he focused his tired eyes.

He would remember every detail.

Paying rapt attention was the least he could do.

Even if Hoseok wasn't presenting it, the story was interesting. Namjoon had tried to keep in touch with news of the south, living in Seoul. Returning to a smaller city, he realized how much had been passing him by.

Namjoon's body was beginning to recuperate through long bike rides and short train journeys.

Visiting his parent's home outside of Seoul for a few days, then traveling aimlessly on his road southwards, Namjoon had already checked off a few items from his vague list of vacation refreshments. A lightly packed backpack, his bike, and enough money for train tickets was all he needed.

Namjoon’s eyes blinked wide, as Hoseok appeared on the screen.

He heard himself let out a tired exhalation. The stir stick fell from his lips, and clattered onto the floor.

His mind was taking longer to recuperate.

His brain was compressed with exhaustion. He knew he had been fooling himself; thinking he could pay attention like he was sitting in on a seminar.

Namjoon looked forward to savoring the last few days of the small vacation he managed to squeeze out of his program. He knew that running down the list of people and places he had been missing would give him a fresh dose of energy.

Namjoon had tried not to put Hoseok on the top of that list.

He had tried not to get his expectations too high.

On the train that morning, Namjoon made an attempt to clear his mind. Watching the roll of green countryside pass by his window, Namjoon's thoughts inevitably turned to Hoseok. Thinking about reaching out to Hoseok was a flare of anxiety. Namjoon accepted the uneasiness even as he rejected it, and told himself not to worry.

As he stared at Hoseok on the television screen, Namjoon's chin nodded into his hands.

A sudden, sweeping loneliness made Namjoon's bones weightless, and knocked out his ability to do much more than reach out a numb arm to pick up his phone.

He had been planning to wait.

He would text Hoseok later that night.

Namjoon needed to find something to eat, first. He had friends who said they weren't busy, and a cousin with a wide open front door he could pay his complimentary visit to. There were a handful of days ahead of him when he could make plans with Hoseok. He didn't need to rush.

Hoseok wasn't his priority.

Namjoon had told himself that.

Again, and again.

Flicking his eyes back and forth from the screen of the television to the screen of his phone, Namjoon tried to concentrate on both at once.

I'm back in town, he typed, thumbs flying. If he hesitated, Namjoon knew he would let the opportunity pass him by.

He had convinced himself he wouldn't reach out to Hoseok at all, a few times.

With the train's monotone in his ears, temple jittering against the window's plastic frame, Namjoon gave himself permission to make plans that were casual, and carefree. He gave himself permission not to care. Untangling the possibility of seeing Hoseok from his own expectations and nervous questions, Namjoon had inevitably circled back to convincing himself he just shouldn't bother.

They had barely spoken for half a year.

They added each other to a few group texts. Namjoon kept up with Hoseok's updates on social media, when he had the time.

Falling into a distant, waning relationship with Hoseok had felt as easy as breathing. He had always been fine, watching Hoseok from a distance -

The sound of Hoseok's voice filtered through Namjoon's ears.

When he read the news, Hoseok's crisp voice carried no real tone. Interviewing an elderly farmer, Hoseok was speaking with a soft but measured, respectful voice. It sounded sweet.

Namjoon avoided looking at the screen.

Seeing Hoseok, and hearing Hoseok, no more than a half hour away from the studio where Hoseok was probably still working, now that he had joined the afternoon news team - sadness and elation competed for Namjoon's attention. The reminder that he could actually see Hoseok in person was strangely uncomfortable.

He hadn't had time to miss Hoseok.

For months, missing anything had been swept off the table.

His time was crammed, and his mind was full. New ways of thinking and new things to think about kept him occupied. Pulled through long nights and studious days, his body wouldn't let him stay awake long enough to see things behind his eyes that weren't reflections of tiny text on computer screens, and swirling numbers and diagrams.

Until the 17th - Namjoon continued. Want to get those drinks?

Namjoon stared down at the words.

Brows pulled down, Namjoon sucked on his lip.

He wanted to add a quick note of context. He was sure Hoseok had completely forgotten about the offhand promise he made.

Let's go out again - Namjoon remembered the statement clearly. Hoseok’s open-ended invitation was something Namjoon intended to follow up on, even if Hoseok had only sighed out the words to be polite.

Namjoon didn’t want to insult Hoseok by implying they needed to go over the specifics. Still, he typed Hoseok's platitude into the message. At the very least, his reflection of the words could be interpreted as his own sentiment.

A tap of his finger, and Namjoon sent the words away.

Shoulders collapsing, he hung his head.

The cheap apartment rental that would be his home for the next few days was cold, and the cold was underlined by the lemony scent of cleaning products.

The bed was surprisingly comfortable.

Despite the instinct to close his eyes, Namjoon stared up at the television, and listened in. Hoseok's black hair was fluttering in the wind. Face turned to look at the woman he was interviewing, he was squinting slightly against the breeze. The sky behind him was blue, and bright.

Even as he tried to concentrate, Namjoon felt his mind wander.

It would have been easier to shut of the television, and ignore the feelings he tried to swallow down. He could get back on the train that Wednesday, and never let Hoseok know he was there at all.

A sudden, breathless need to see Hoseok was far from relaxing.

Namjoon needed to bounce ideas off of Hoseok, and hear his insight. He needed to feed Hoseok compliments the workplace had once allowed him to send Hoseok's way day by day. Most of all, he wanted to feel Hoseok's soothing energy in person.

There were things Namjoon wanted to say. They were things that had hidden in the gaps between his words after a long day, or in the empty air of the things he didn't do during harried mornings when he knew Hoseok needed his space - things that had spilled out slightly, on the last drunken night he saw Hoseok.

He still wasn't sure what that night meant to himself.

Hoseok had just been saying goodbye to a coworker.

Namjoon groaned, and rolled onto his back. His neck hung over the edge of the bed, and he stared up at the television as blood rushed to his head. His swarming thoughts felt as heavy as his skull did.

He was staring at vivid fuzz on a flat screen, but Namjoon almost felt like Hoseok was there in the room with him.

Almost.

Doctorate work and a meditative week of travel shifted to the side.

There was a hole in his chest. Namjoon could feel it, now.

Namjoon knew better than to ignore that empty space, and wait for new layers of life to cover it up again.

There was an empty space where his relationship with Hoseok should be, and he needed to fill it with answers - about what Hoseok meant to him; and most of all, what he meant to Hoseok.

-

Namjoon made an effort to show up to the bar early.

He texted a location and time to Hoseok as quickly as he could, when Hoseok responded. He had a feeling if he didn't set a time and place quickly, Hoseok would find a way to blow it off.

The hug surprised Namjoon.

Hoseok arrived a few minutes after Namjoon. Pulling him into an embrace outside of the bar's door, Hoseok was smiling broadly.

"It's good to see you again, Namjoon." Hoseok took a step back, and glanced Namjoon up and down. In the dim lights of the street, his smiling eyes gleamed.

The unfamiliar sound of Namjoon's given name sent a familiar rush of dizziness down to his feet. His bones felt like liquid.

"You too," Namjoon's voice was breathless, as Hoseok pat him on the arm, and turned into the bar. "Hoseok."

-

Namjoon's work seemed to be the focal point of the evening.

Hoseok's intent listening slid over his body the second they sat down, and the questions cracked out of him every time Namjoon stopped to breathe.

The bar was brightly lit, and filled with idle chatter. Namjoon tried to pick somewhere neutral, near the center of town. A bar where the dim lights wouldn't turn him on, and the crowd was quiet enough that he and Hoseok could have a real conversation. A kettle of makgeolli sat between them, in the small booth they had settled into.

Replaying his memories of the last night he saw Hoseok, Namjoon picked his own actions apart. There were times when he could have asked Hoseok a question, or taken a long pause to let Hoseok jump in.

"Canada in the winter?" Hoseok's eyebrows were halfway up his forehead. The way he had been jumping in all evening quickly uplifted Namjoon's uncertain spirit. "Really? For how long?"

"Only one month." Namjoon twirled the shallow cup of wine in his hand. A smile was stuck on his face. He didn't really want to talk about himself, but if Hoseok was asking the questions, he would keep answering them thoughtlessly.

"You've been to the U.S. before, right?" Hoseok's expression was pleasant.

Pleasant was the best word Namjoon had for it. There was a hint of a smile on Hoseok's lips, and an excited energy in his eyes. The look had been on his face all evening, after the initial broad smile of his greeting.

"A few times."

"And Canada?"

"Never," Namjoon said simply.

"You lived in the U.S., didn't you?"

"For three months," Namjoon nodded. He was surprised Hoseok remembered. He couldn't recall when he mentioned that fact, but it must have surfaced in some long forgotten conversation. "That was a long time ago, though."

"What part?" Hoseok took quick sip of wine. Namjoon's eyes followed the slip where the cup met Hoseok's lips. His hand looked warm, around a cold sheen of metal.

"The east coast." Hearing Hoseok's voice had left Namjoon a little staggered, when they first sat down. The wine was warming him up, and Hoseok's easy manner was erasing the tension in his spine.

The cup tapped against the table, and Hoseok nodded.

Confidence was winning out over Namjoon's wooziness. He was ready to start asking Hoseok questions, too.

"Have you ever been to the U.S.?" Namjoon raised his eyebrows, and met Hoseok's gently hooded eyes.

"Oh," Hoseok shook the words away with an idle hand, before sitting back with a dismissive puff of breath. "Ages ago." He twirled his hand in the air.

Hoseok's elbow bent out to the side, as he leaned over slightly. It looked like he was moving to lean his arm against the back of a chair, before he realized he was sitting in a tall booth. Blinking, Hoseok stopped, and turned his head back to Namjoon.

"I don't remember anything." He pulled forwards casually. "I'm sure it's different when you aren't a tourist. What part of Canada will you be living in?" He glanced up to meet Namjoon's eyes, and crossed his arms over his chest. "It'll be cold in the winter, won't it? I heard it's very friendly, anyways. And you speak English so well - is it easier having a convers-?"

"Enough with the questions." Namjoon cut Hoseok off with a fond laugh. His laugh shook the table, where his arms had dropped down onto it. "What about you?”

"And?" Hoseok's eyebrows ticked up again. "What about me?" He threw the question back with an accusatory tilt, and a laugh that mirrored Namjoon's; still fading in the air.

Namjoon opened his mouth, and stumbled into an opening in the conversation inelegantly.

"About -" He wanted to unload something that parked heavy in the back of his mind. "Can I ask you a weird question?" It seemed like the right time.

"Go ahead." A crease appeared against Hoseok's eyebrow, but his pleasant expression remained.

"It's about something you said." A hot and cold wave of self doubt crashed over Namjoon's back. He knew he should have rushed straight to the question.

"Something I said?" Hoseok tilted his chin, and looked up to the side.

Namjoon propelled himself forwards.

"You said that I shouldn't treat you differently."

The tilt of Hoseok's head deepened. Eyes cast to the side, one eyebrow furrowed and one eyebrow raised, he framed a vivid image of somebody racking their brain.

"When did I say that?" The expression broke, and Hoseok glanced back to Namjoon with light-hearted diffidence.

"Well -" Namjoon took his cup of wine into his hands. He rubbed his thumb over the filmy aluminum, and looked up and away from Hoseok.

He stared out into the bar. The tables were populated by small groups and couples, sitting under pendant lamps. Every inch of wall that wasn't windows was shelves; lined with fairy lights, and displaying traditional pottery near the front, or bottles of alcohol near the back. Conversations were quiet.

The umbrella Namjoon brought with him sat in a stand by the door.

"My question isn't contingent on when you said it," Namjoon sighed out. "Generally speaking. Forget about the details."

He could feel himself fidgeting with the cup.

"I'd just like to know - you thought I treated you differently." Namjoon turned back to Hoseok. The closer he got to his own vaguely formed question, the more he realized he didn't need an answer. "Now, all I'm asking is if..." he continued, anyways. "If I treated you differently - differently than who?"

Hoseok blinked.

For a brief moment, his expression was blank.

"I don't know what you're talking about" Waving his hand, Hoseok sat back with a cross of his arms. "That was a long time ago," he shrugged. "Let's -"

"Move on?" Namjoon closed his eyes, and nodded.

He knew it would be weird to bring it up.

Even if it wasn't as long ago as Hoseok made it sound - it felt like yesterday - Hoseok had a point.

"Right," Namjoon murmured. He opened his eyes with a sharp snap to the wall of the booth, and gazed at the plain white paint. He felt his head nodding along with his body, in a mellow rock of agreement. "Sorry."

Namjoon looked down at the golden gleam along the rim of his wine cup.

Hoseok was telling him to move on.

He always believed he needed Hoseok to tell him what to think about their relationship. He was getting solid commands, but the place where his mind, body and soul met was trying to suplex those commands into the dirt.

Squeezing his lips shut, Namjoon resisted the urge to keep talking.

Hoseok's answer wasn't good enough. Even if Hoseok was happy to move on, Namjoon was almost entirely certain the way Hoseok was acting now teetered on a tower built of their shared history.

Maybe he was projecting.

"I want to hear more, though," Hoseok continued. "Tell me more."

For all of the inspiration he gained from Hoseok, and all of the lessons Hoseok had taught him, Namjoon could learn to move on. He wanted to move on. He wanted to forge a new relationship with Hoseok -

He shook the thoughts out of his head. A nervous heat was pricking at Namjoon's skin. Staring down at the thin ring glowing around his cup, he tapped his finger against it quietly. The opaque rice wine looked like a full moon.

Across the table, Namjoon could see Hoseok shifting in his seat.

Hoseok’s hand lifted to take a sip of his drink, and he set the cup back down gingerly.

“Can I ask you something? Honestly?” Namjoon lifted his head, and met Hoseok’s eyes. Hoseok’s expression was open, but starting to verge on discomfort. Namjoon almost felt guilty. He knew if he steered the conversation in the direction he wanted, the discomfort on Hoseok’s face would deepen.

“About what?” Hoseok took another sip.

"What's on your mind?”

He forced himself to keep the question vague. Open-ended.

Namjoon was eager to see what Hoseok would do with it.

"Hm?" The sound was small. Hoseok shook his head. "Oh," he smiled. "It’s nothing."

“Nothing?” Namjoon's ears perked up. His head lifted fully, and his bent neck straightened. "What's nothing?"

Half of Namjoon wanted to let it go.

The other half of him had a clear prerogative. If he didn't keep asking, he would never know.

"Something's wrong." Namjoon tried to sound more confident in his knowledge than he felt. Hoseok's good mood had been contagious all night. The question reminded Hoseok of something, though.

Even if whatever weighed on Hoseok's mind wasn't attached to negative emotions, Namjoon hoped Hoseok would open up about his worries, anyways. The highs, and the lows. Namjoon wanted to hear it all.

"I can tell something's wrong," Namjoon lied. "So just tell me."

Namjoon knew he wasn't the best at social subtlety. He hated lying, even if it meant nudging out some truth. He wanted to explain his process to Hoseok more than he wanted to enact it.

Swallowing, Namjoon wondered if the tiny gamble would pay off.

Hoseok's gaze turned down and out. His profile was quiet, and contemplative. The bright lights made the pink tint of his skin all the more apparent, and a sheen glowed over his cheekbones. As his eyes stared at the floor, the shift in Hoseok's expression was subtle.

Somehow, Namjoon felt he was watching a secret moment unfold.

Hoseok spoke, before Namjoon could force himself to pull his eyes away.

"I'm just glad you wanted to see me." Hoseok glanced down at the table. His smile jerked up to one side. "That's all."

Namjoon was silent for a long moment.

"Oh."

He breathed out the sound.

Namjoon wasn't sure what else to say.

He been expecting Hoseok to lean back, and unwind about practical worries in his life.

Maybe there was a high fee he had to pay to fix his car's transmission. Perhaps his dog wasn’t drinking enough water, and the vet didn't know why. Or politics were grating on his nerves - Hoseok had known better than to talk politics for as long as Namjoon knew him, but Namjoon imagined there were some thoughts and feelings a little wine might eke out.

He hadn’t been expecting a private piece of Hoseok's soul.

The silence was awkward.

"Anyways," Hoseok leaned forwards, and patted his hands against the table in a quick staccato. The desire to move on was written all over his face. "Should we get something to eat?"

Chapter Text

A raindrop hit Namjoon's nose.

The drop drew his eyes upwards; towards the night sky.

Holding out his hand, Namjoon's gaze caught a few shimmering drops, and fell with them. He watched, as they flecked pools onto his open palm.

His skin was shadowed by the thin light provided by passing street lamps. The light caught the water against his skin, and the pools became a thousand points of refracted dark and bright.

Namjoon felt himself smiling.

Swiping his palm off on his jacket, his other hand tightened around the handle of his umbrella.

His happiness was simple, and peaceful.

Hoseok was walking by his side. The street was dark, and empty.

Moving down the pavement quietly, their small talk had faded away some thirty minutes ago. It dropped off in the bar, and Namjoon had been content to let the wordlessness settle around them.

Hoseok wanted to take a few things out of his car before they caught a taxi. As they wandered towards the car garage, their footsteps echoed together.

Glancing over, Namjoon took Hoseok in. Walking with hunched shoulders, hands jammed into his jacket pockets, Hoseok glanced up at the sky. He scrunched his nose, as a few raindrops specked over his face.

Namjoon was more than a little excited to put an umbrella over Hoseok. He had held the umbrella by his side expectantly, as they walked.

The sound of the umbrella shaking opening was a flutter, followed by a metallic slide. Namjoon pushed the metal runner up, until he heard a snap.

The metal left a cold bite on his fingertips. The fact that it was almost autumn was clear, in the chill of the air.

"I guess that heatwave's over, huh?" Namjoon let himself step closer to Hoseok, as he angled the umbrella over both of them. "Feels like it's going to be a cold night."

"Oh -” Hoseok sighed the sound out idly, as he glanced up at the umbrella. “Thanks.” His hands stayed in his pockets, and he continued to walk. He took a step closer to Namjoon, and looked around into the dark air, filling with raindrops. "I knew it was going to rain."

"It's fine," Namjoon said softly. "You didn't know I’d be asking you out."

"Mm." Hoseok lifted a hand. "Let me hold it," he offered, drifting his fingers towards the handle of the umbrella.

Namjoon was in too good of a mood not to let him.

The rain was slowly turning into a gentle pulse on the umbrella. As fingers brushed and he felt the handle transfer to Hoseok, Namjoon tucked his cold hands into his pockets.

"I watched the report you presented, you know." Namjoon had hoped Hoseok would say something.

Studying the street, Hoseok took a moment to respond. The sweep of Hoseok's gaze paused, and he flicked his eyes to Namjoon.

"The heatwave?" He furrowed his eyebrows, and tilted his head slightly.

"Yeah," Namjoon smiled. "I was watching it."

"Oh," Hoseok turned his face towards the ground, and laughed. He looked a little embarrassed. "I'm glad we're getting viewership with young people," Hoseok smiled, and shifted the umbrella slightly in his hand. "Thanks for adding to our numbers."

"I have an obligation to tune in, don't I?" The broad smile on Namjoon's face was pushed up by the warmth in his chest.

Namjoon turned his gaze out over the dimly lit street. A few apartment lights were flicked on above shops.

The smell of the rain, and the pitter-patter of rain across every surface it found in the otherwise quiet air -

It was beautiful.

Walking by Hoseok’s side, the rain felt like curtains around their spot of warmth.

Headlights swam over the street. Namjoon and Hoseok both took a step to the side, as a car rolled loudly past them.

Nightlife wasn't bustling on a Sunday night. Or an early Monday morning - Namjoon was sure it was Monday, by now. Pulling out his phone, Namjoon checked the time. Midnight had arrived and left, some time after they drifted out of the bar.

Namjoon tucked his phone back into his pocket, and eyed Hoseok.

There was nothing wrong with the neutral expression on Hoseok's face.

If he could, though, Namjoon wanted to share a few more emotions with Hoseok that night.

Namjoon didn't want to distort the air of peace around them.

He did want to make Hoseok smile.

"You know -" Namjoon pressed his lips together. In his gut, he knew the quiet air was the perfect atmosphere to say what he needed to say. Taking a deep breath, Namjoon forced the words out. "There was something I wanted to ask you. That first night we went out."

"Oh?" Hoseok sounded genuinely curious.

The way Hoseok had let out a piece of honesty in the bar encouraged Namjoon. Hoseok had looked uncomfortable, admitting that he was glad Namjoon wanted to see him.

Hoseok had been admitting a fear, through that happiness.

He had been afraid Namjoon wouldn’t want to see him again.

Namjoon was confident enough in his ability to read between the lines.

Namjoon turned his head, and studied Hoseok. Staring at the ground as he walked, Hoseok looked withdrawn. In the cold and dark, his expression was a mask of blank concentration. His shoes glided slowly over the dark pavement, and he was watching each step.

Looking Hoseok up and down, Namjoon tried to imagine what Hoseok was thinking.

"Is it okay if I ask you now?" Namjoon spoke casually.

If he was afraid of Hoseok's reaction to something like a love confession, Namjoon knew waiting wouldn't change anything. Putting little pieces of personal truth into the air made the world a better place, Namjoon always thought. Even if the reactions to those truths stung, it was ultimately worth it.

However Hoseok reacted, Namjoon would accept it. He told himself that, again, and again.

"Shoot." Hoseok’s voice was as casual as Namjoon's.

"It's..." swallowing, Namjoon felt his heart skip a beat. "I wanted to ask,” the words turned into a laughing, light-hearted statement. Namjoon glanced Hoseok up and down, as he spoke. “If I could kiss you.”

They had barely made a dent in the kettle's contents, and grilled pork eased the buzz. They weren’t drunk enough that Namjoon felt guilty.

Hoseok was silent for a moment.

"Kiss you?" His head turned to Namjoon sharply.

Namjoon couldn't read Hoseok's expression. It looked close to laughing. A smiling, happy laughter. That much was enough to give Namjoon a boost of confidence.

"Is that okay?" Namjoon smiled at Hoseok. "Is it okay that I wanted to ask that?" His words lifted with a short laugh.

Glancing away from Namjoon, Hoseok shook his head.

Namjoon could see him straining to hide a smile. Something shifted. Hoseok's smile disappeared, and his face fell serious. It was the same drop Namjoon had seen in the bar, earlier.

Namjoon blinked.

Their footsteps tapped on the pavement unevenly.

Namjoon had been expecting a few seconds of silence, before Hoseok put his mind at ease.

As the silence stretched out, visions drifted into Namjoon's mind. He was too nervous to fight them, and they clouded behind his eyes.

He was buying a ticket at the train station, and wondering if he should have told Hoseok how he felt.

He was sitting under the shade of a tree on campus, flicking through his phone, and telling himself it didn't matter. Resigning himself to seeing Hoseok when he found the time, he was ignoring the reality that he was afraid to reach out to him. Hoseok's fear was justified. Namjoon had almost convinced himself it would be easier to give up.

Namjoon knew he didn't want pieces of Hoseok. He didn't want to make himself happy with the small things. Reading texts Hoseok sent to him; getting secondhand information. Getting glimpses of Hoseok's feelings, between long stretches of emptiness.

Namjoon rolled his tongue around in his mouth, as bitter thoughts were pushed to the back of his mind. His jaw shifted.

When the moment of silence stretched on far too long, Namjoon had to speak up. He glanced Hoseok up and down again. He was looking for something. What he was looking for, he didn't know. His confidence was wavering, and he was suddenly certain Hoseok wished he had kept the question to himself.

"Sorry," Namjoon flicked his eyes down to the pavement, squeezing them shut for a split second before shaking his head. An apology was all he could muster. He hated how it sounded, in the air. He wished he hadn’t apologized. There was no reason to. All he needed to do was breathe in enough confidence to drive the conversation forwards, and ask Hoseok what he was thinking.

Taking a deep breath, Namjoon wanted to roll his eyes at himself.

He didn't need to be half as stressed about this as he was.

"What -" Namjoon would just ask Hoseok what was on his mind. It was a simple as that.

"Because you wanted to ask me again?" Hoseok's question interrupted Namjoon's.

When Namjoon looked to the side, he met Hoseok's eyes.

Looking Namjoon up and down, Hoseok's lips were parted. He breathed slowly. He almost seemed out of breath -

Namjoon's eyes dropped down to Hoseok's feet, as he suddenly felt how fast his own feet were moving.

Nervous, excited energy was propelling him forwards. Hoseok had been matching that pace.

“Ah…” Namjoon let out a short sound of realization, and came to a halt in the middle of the pavement.

Sometimes, he forgot how long his strides were.

"Wait -" Namjoon exhaled the word, turning to Hoseok.

It took Hoseok a moment to catch up with the sudden stillness. The umbrella passed over Namjoon, and rain hit his shoulders and ear, before Hoseok ambled back two steps with a slightly exasperated expression.

Stepping to stand in front of Namjoon, Hoseok pulled the umbrella down over both of them.

Behind Hoseok, a business's rolling metal door that had been pulled down for the night. It framed his huddled shoulders.

"That's why you brought it up?" Hoseok murmured, as they settled into stillness under the umbrella.

The chill was becoming starker, and Namjoon let himself pull his body down towards Hoseok's.

Namjoon could tell Hoseok had something else to say. His whole body shifted, and his face lifted, with words he was about to speak. I've been waiting - Hoseok's words, a fantasy in Namjoon's mind. A why did you wait so long to tell me?, maybe, accompanied by a sly smile. Trying not to let his expectations get the better of him, Namjoon pushed the thoughts away.

If they were having this conversation, he had to focus.

Glancing up at the canopy of the umbrella, Hoseok smiled. Namjoon followed his gaze, up to the silver runner and stretchers, glistening against black.

"I should have known you were a romantic." The words were amused, and Hoseok sounded tired.

Namjoon stared down at Hoseok.

"Oh?" He felt his eyebrows lift. He didn’t know what it meant, but the words burst a flurry of promise through his stomach.

"Do you want to kiss me?" Hunched over slightly in the cold, Hoseok had an arm wrapped around himself. Dark raindrops dotted the shell of the umbrella, and the shadows cast themselves over Hoseok's skin. New shadows appeared and shimmered, as others rolled down his cheek. "Come on,” he nodded his chin up. “I'll kiss you, if you want."

Namjoon blinked.

It was one of the least romantic things he had ever heard.

"I..." Namjoon could feel any possible replies formulating in his head, and dripping down the back of his spine. Mouth open to speak, he had no idea what to say. Mind blank, he stared at Hoseok with something he knew must look like amazement.

It felt strange, to be left completely dumbstruck.

Hoseok leaned forwards, and grabbed the collar of Namjoon's jacket. Namjoon glanced down at where Hoseok’s thin fingers were digging into the dark fabric.

He glanced up to see Hoseok’s face relax, as he lifted his chin again. Brows slightly furrowed, his half-lidded eyes searched over Namjoon's face.

Time drifted out around Namjoon luxuriously.

Namjoon could feel the heat radiating off of Hoseok's face. His face was darkened by alcohol, and Namjoon wasn't sure if Hoseok's face was flushed for other reasons.

Letting himself take in Hoseok's expression, Namjoon's gaze lingered, and drifted down to Hoseok's lips.

Hoseok's expression faltered. A smile started to form on his lips, and his eyes fell away, as he tilted his head to the side slightly -

He was embarrassing Hoseok.

With that realization, Namjoon was sure his heart stopped beating.

Namjoon could see Hoseok shrugging it off, with the start off a laugh.

“Wait -” Namjoon breathed the word out, as he slid a hand against the side of Hoseok’s face.

The feeling of his hand grazing over Hoseok's cheek exhilarated Namjoon. He never thought he would touch Hoseok's face. He never thought he would touch more than just Hoseok's hand, his arm, his shoulder - or that one time he had thoughtlessly grabbed his ass -

The fake laugh Namjoon had seen Hoseok preparing faded, and turned into a look of surprise, and a short exhale of genuine amusement.

Closing his eyes slowly, Namjoon watched Hoseok's eyelids drop, right before his vision was cloaked by darkness.

Brushing his lips against Hoseok’s, Namjoon exhaled a faint breath. There was barely anything in his lungs to exhale, but his shoulders dropped with the silent sigh.

Hoseok's lips were soft.

Soft, and a little damp.

Cold.

Namjoon pressed his lips down harder.

It felt like an eternity, before Hoseok’s hand was releasing Namjoon's collar, and his lips were dropping away.

The trace Hoseok left was sharp.

The cold air bit at the hint of Hoseok’s impression. It was a promise of warmth, fading fast. Namjoon desperately wanted to meet Hoseok's lips again. He was sure if he did, the sting would be soothed.

Staring at Hoseok's face, half slanted with darkness and and dripping with the umbrella's shadows, Namjoon's lips stayed parted.

He needed more.

"Come on." Hoseok nodded his head. His eyes fell away, and his lips formed a thin line. "Let's keep going.”

Namjoon watched, as Hoseok turned on his heels.

Glancing over his shoulder, Hoseok looked Namjoon up and down. His lips were still pulled into a line, but he didn't look unhappy.

If anything, he looked businesslike.

He held the umbrella at an angle, to shelter himself and Namjoon.

They still had to get to Hoseok's car. Namjoon remembered that fact, suddenly. The stupor of good wine and good food had been deepened by the stupor of possibility. Hoseok seemed intent on completing that journey, even if Namjoon was in a daze.

"Don't you have anything to say?" The words were breathless. Namjoon closed his mouth, and swallowed. He had to ask.

"Hm?" Hoseok's brows furrowed upwards. The expression was a pull of over-innocence, like he didn’t understand the question.

"About what just happened?"

Hoseok glanced up and down Namjoon’s body. Namjoon was sure he could see the redness along the ridges of Hoseok's ears fading.

"I'm fine with whatever you want to do," Hoseok said simply. "We don't work together anymore, right? That was a problem," Hoseok started to turn again, “right? So, come on. Let's go."

Hoseok started walking, and took the umbrella with him.

When Namjoon didn't follow, Hoseok paused, and looked back over his shoulder.

Rain was hitting Namjoon all over.

Hoseok took a step back, concern washing over his face. As Hoseok angled the umbrella back out again, Namjoon’s frozen body jerked to life.

He barely noticed the cold of the rain. His energy was a miry heat.

Namjoon rolled Hoseok's words around in his mind, as he pulled up to Hoseok’s side, and they started walking.

Namjoon had always thought his interest in friendship spoke louder than his interest in anything else. His priority was Hoseok. His priority had never been defining their relationship as this, or that.

It felt strange to hear Hoseok acknowledge it. Even if he knew Hoseok picked up on his interest acutely, he always thought there was some element of uncertainty in the air.

He had been hoping there was uncertainty in the air.

If Hoseok had been confused all this time, Namjoon might not feel like Hoseok was humoring him now.

“Hoseok,” Namjoon’s whole body felt like it was drifting weightlessly. “Hoseok. Can I be blunt with you?”

“Blunt?” Hoseok stopped. Namjoon stopped, and turned to face Hoseok again. He felt like he was running in circles.

Namjoon gave himself a moment to sort through the emotions swirling fresh problems through his mind. Trying to push the problems together quickly and solve them all at once felt like untangling a Gordian knot. Namjoon's eyes flickered from Hoseok's expectant expression, down to the pavement.

Hoseok could turn Namjoon down, if he didn't want to fuck.

If Namjoon kept talking around the issue, he was making it harder and harder for Hoseok to turn him down -

It was less than a year ago, that he had told himself he was okay with anything.

If Hoseok was humoring him, it would be wrong to take advantage of that fact. If Hoseok was humoring him, then Hoseok wasn't doing anything he didn't want to. If playing along with Namjoon's feelings was what Hoseok wanted to do, he could do it.

Namjoon tried to settle on that sentiment.

The thought of heading back to his new home with regrets was tearing up his chest.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Namjoon took a deep breath, and grounded himself. When he opened his eyes, Hoseok was studying him up and down. His whole body was angled away from Namjoon, like they were identical polararities of magnet.

“Even if it’s just what you feel right now.” Namjoon spoke carefully. “I don’t want to feel -” Namjoon stopped the words in his throat.

He didn’t want to feel selfish.

Even if he couldn’t fully conceptualize what Hoseok thought of him, Namjoon still knew he had something like power over Hoseok. The fact that he was able to make a confident man like Hoseok turn shy was part of what endeared him to Hoseok, and intrigued him.

Hoseok wasn’t weak-willed, though. He was blunt, too, when he needed to be.

“Do you want to come back to my place tonight?” Namjoon fixed the question firmly, and let it settle between them.

An idle shrug lifted Hoseok's shoulders.

Namjoon blinked.

“I’m really fine with anything,” Hoseok waved off the question with a stilted fwip of his hand through the air. Namjoon could see him swallow visibly, as he met Namjoon's eyes. He shifted. A small smile formed on his lips, thin, and terse.

Namjoon tried to follow the sequence of expressions with something like a keen eye, but his mind was muddled.

Hoseok blinked his eyes up and down Namjoon, then up into the umbrella.

“How about tomorrow?” The question was so casual, it sounded like Hoseok was making a coffee date.

“Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow night.” Hoseok's eyes slid to the side. “At my place.” He gave a small nod, scanning the air above him like he was roving over a schedule in his mind. “Tomorrow will work better.”

“Tomorrow?” Namjoon heard himself repeat the question.

He tried to think of something else to say for a long moment, and failed.

Hoseok’s brows furrowed. His eyes flashed to meet Namjoon's, and he smiled broadly. A short laugh puffed out of him.

Even if Namjoon felt like Hoseok was laughing at him, he didn’t mind. He knew how he must look, and if he wasn’t so numb, he would be laughing, too.

“I’ll text you, okay?” Hoseok smiled. “Come on,” he glanced down to the pavement, warm smile shifting on his lips. “Let’s go.”

Namjoon's mind was blank, as they turned, and started to walk again in silence.

-

The familiar edifice of Hoseok’s apartment building loomed up in front of Namjoon.

When he took the taxi home with Hoseok the previous night, they hadn't spoken about their plans. They hadn't spoken about anything at all.

Namjoon tried not to think too hard about the way Hoseok’s energy drifted away from him. He could sense it, and see it, in the way Hoseok sat next to him in the taxi. Closed up, and closed off.

Hoseok had almost seemed happy to say goodbye. Smiling as he waved Namjoon out of the taxi, the relief was obvious on Hoseok’s face.

Forcing himself not to think about the evening behind him or the evening in front of him, Namjoon's day had passed quickly.

Approaching the panel of buttons by the yellow light of the glass doors, Namjoon pressed down on a well-worn number.

8:30 tonight?

Hoseok’s texts had arrived early that morning.

Apartment 416 by the way~ you remember where right lol? Haha

Namjoon had almost memorized the texts. He read over them again, and again. He was nervous. To his nervous mind, the texts dripped with Hoseok’s attempts to act casual.

I can send the address - the third text arrived around Hoseok’s lunch hour.

All three had been lurking in Namjoon’s notifications, by the time he finally woke up in the late afternoon.

Turning, Namjoon reached out, and ran a hand along the hedge behind him. Rubbing one of the glossy, dark green leaves between his fingers, Namjoon took a deep breath. The night air was clear, and the hedge had a distinct woodsy scent. It refreshed Namjoon’s heated mind.

A light flashed on a podium in front of the apartment’s glowing doors.

Namjoon’s vision snapped to catch it, as he heard the doors open with a clink.

-

"Want something to drink?"

Hoseok was walking into the bedroom.

Namjoon only had a moment to glance around Hoseok's apartment. It looked about how he imagined. Well-kept, but full of spots of color. The fact that pieces of gaudy art provided the color did lift his eyebrows, as his numb feet followed Hoseok.

Flickering his gaze across an elaborate speaker system in the living room, Namjoon wandered into the doorway of the bedroom.

Namjoon watched as Hoseok dropped onto the bed. It creaked under his weight.

Dressed in a t-shirt, sweatpants, and slippers, Hoseok looked like he had been interrupted during a lazy evening at home.

It was strange not to see Hoseok in a suit, or dressed to go out.

Namjoon wasn't sure what to say.

Or do.

His jacket was hung up by the door. Hands in the pockets of his jeans, Namjoon put his weight onto one foot, and swallowed. He had thought they would sit and talk in the living room for a bit, or have the pretense of a cup of coffee in the kitchen, before they wandered into the bedroom.

"A drink?" As Namjoon spoke, he saw the writing desk next to him. Beneath a line of bright collectibles, a handful of beers sat on the desktop. Hoseok caught his glance. The collectibles sent a quick flash of surprise through Namjoon. In the back of his mind, it was jotted down on the list of things he never would have guessed about Hoseok. "Oh," Namjoon nodded. "Sure."

Something that should have felt natural didn't, and he wasn't sure if it was his own nervousness, or the strange look Hoseok was giving him.

Let's get this over with.

That was the mood Namjoon thought he was picking up.

It was making his stomach churn.

Grabbing two beers, Namjoon walked over to the bed. He tried his best to saunter. The least he could do was act seductive.

He didn’t want to just get it over with.

He wanted to savor it.

Settling down next to Hoseok on the mattress, Namjoon popped open a tab, and handed the beer to Hoseok.

"Cheers." Hoseok held out the can, as Namjoon opened his.

"Cheers." Namjoon clinked his can against Hoseok's, and tried to smile.

-

"You know," Namjoon took a long, bubbly sip from his beer. "I'm really proud of you, Hoseok."

He would say Hoseok’s name as many times as he could.

"Proud?" Hoseok laughed. He held his can in front of himself. Namjoon could see him relaxing, as each moment passed. Legs pulled up onto the bed, he had slid back against the headboard.

Even if neither of them were drinking much, the beers had been a good ice breaker.

Namjoon sat cross-legged down the bed from Hoseok. Hoseok's bed was comfortable, and Namjoon had settled onto it easily.

Once Namjoon noticed the condoms and lube on the bedside table, he had felt his nerves disappear. They were a confirmation, and a promise of less awkwardness when the moment melted itself into fucking. Somehow, knowing that they were there told Namjoon they weren't in a rush.

"Watching you on T.V.," Namjoon spoke earnestly. He put a hand to his heart. "I really feel proud of you."

Hoseok laughed. It was a thin laugh. Smiling broadly, he shook his head, and his expression pulled in.

"No," Hoseok said simply. "You should be proud. You're the one getting your doctorate. You're so smart." Hoseok twirled his hand in the air showily. He shook his head again, wincing slightly. "I never could. You..." he trailed off, as his hand dropped.

"It's because of your support." Namjoon's voice fell into a quiet murmur, as he gazed at Hoseok. "Your energy. The way you radiate it, Hoseok. You really made me less afraid. To tell myself it was okay to switch gears. To not get trapped on one path, you know? To pursue what I wanted," Namjoon sighed. "Without questions."

Hoseok was staring towards the floor. He put his beer on the bedside table, and smiled. He gave his head one final, slow shake.

Sitting up, Namjoon was filled with a singular urge.

Crawling over to Hoseok, he clinked his beer down next to Hoseok's on the table.

His knees settled by Hoseok's hips, and Hoseok's eyes met Namjoon's slowly. His face was flushed. Namjoon was entirely sure it wasn’t just from the beer. Sitting back against the headboard, Hoseok looked frozen, as Namjoon put an arm over him, and gripped down on the headboard.

Leaning forwards, Namjoon slid in a quick breath, and brushed his lips over Hoseok's.

Hoseok's lips were warm, this time. Hot, even.

Namjoon pressed into the kiss.

Hoseok's lips parted, and a slick of tongue moved over Namjoon's lower lip. A graze of teeth shifted down, and replaced the heat.

Namjoon pulled away, just enough to laugh. Hoseok's spit dried on his lips quickly. The hint of a crooked smile sat on Hoseok's face.

When Namjoon leaned back into the kiss, he was smiling, and his stomach was fluttering.

He tried not to be surprised by the way Hoseok's tongue slowly slid back out, moved under his lips, and grazed against his teeth.

Hoseok's hand was on his shoulder, and Hoseok's head was angling. Namjoon opened his mouth as Hoseok's lips smacked away, then came back, hotter, and wetter -

Namjoon sighed out a shaky breath against the kiss.

The taste of Hoseok's mouth was sharp. Namjoon recognized the sharpness; the sting in the backs of his cheeks, begging him to keep feeling Hoseok's softness. The softness of his lips; the softness of his tongue -

Namjoon trailed his fingertips down Hoseok's shirt. Catching the fabric as his hand fell down, Namjoon found the bottom of Hoseok's shirt, and flipped it up over his hand.

Namjoon's thumb grazed over the warmth of Hoseok's abdomen.

He felt Hoseok's breath gasp in sharply. The breath sucked in against his lips, and Hoseok’s stomach pulled in sharply against his hand.

Namjoon's hand pressed along muscle, under the light fabric of Hoseok's shirt. Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows in surprise. Another secret Hoseok hid.

He traced the lines his hand found carefully, as his mouth shifted against Hoseok's. He couldn't feel himself. He wasn’t sure if he was kissing Hoseok so deeply that he didn’t need to think, or if Hoseok was moving his tongue so expertly against his own that he had lost track of his own shapes and lines in the process.

It didn't matter.

Between them, a space of warmth and need had opened up, and they were filling it.

Namjoon started speaking, the moment his lips parted from Hoseok's, and he was able to suck in a deep breath.

"So what are you into?" The question was quick. "What do you like?"

Namjoon felt like he was breaking some sacred oath he had never made, as he considered all of the things they could do. All of the ways they could fuck, unfolding in front of him; unstoppable. It wasn't fantasy, and Hoseok -

No matter how many encouragements he fed himself, Namjoon still felt like he was doing something wrong.

Namjoon's hand was still under Hoseok's shirt, and he drifted it up, and found the groove beyond the solidity of Hoseok's ribs.

Rubbing his thumb onto Hoseok's chest, he slid over his nipple. Namjoon panted, as he ran his thumb over it slowly. It stiffened under his touch. Hoseok shivered, and his lips pulled together.

"Feels good?" Namjoon's question was quiet.

Hoseok's lips pulled into a lopsided smile. Eyes half-lidded, head falling back, his expression matched the quiet moan he breathed out.

When Hoseok didn't say anything, Namjoon swallowed his questions, and leaned in for another kiss.

-

Straddling Namjoon, every detail of Hoseok was visible in the lights of the bedroom.

Shadows slid around Hoseok's waist, and slanted over his thighs.

Shimmying his hips, Hoseok slid his tan thighs apart further, where they splayed over Namjoon's legs.

The sight was enough to make Namjoon's cock twitch, where it lay across his stomach.

Clothes had been tossed to the floor. Namjoon's condom had been rolled on, and a heady haze of loud kisses and gentle touches had faded into quiet rearranging.

Hoseok had taken Namjoon's place down the bed, and Namjoon was backed up against the headboard. When Hoseok handed him a condom and didn't bother with one for himself, Namjoon took it as a cue for what they were about to do.

He had been hoping to suck Hoseok's dick, or get his dick sucked - or to just 69 their way through some slow oral foreplay.

He hadn't told Hoseok what he liked. Namjoon couldn't let himself regret it.

He wasn't going to complain.

Leaning back against the headboard, Namjoon's body was thrumming with arousal. Forming the words on his lips took concentrated effort.

"Let me..." The words were light, and high in Namjoon's head. He had seen the way Hoseok's fingers tapped nervously against the sheets, as Namjoon slid his cock out of his jeans. Leaning over to the bedside table, Namjoon grabbed the lube. It fumbled in his hands, as he snapped open the lid. "I don't want," he exhaled the sounds. "To hurt you."

Hoseok's barely open eyes were fine lines.

"Don't flatter yourself." Hoseok snagged the lube from Namjoon's hand. His voice was a hoarse whisper. "What did you think I was going to do?"

Namjoon flicked his eyes up and down Hoseok's naked body. Even if Hoseok had been quick to show old, tattoo-free photos to his coworkers, Namjoon couldn't tell if he was relieved or disappointed that the hand tattoo rumor hadn't sprung from a real piece of ink somewhere else. Namjoon tried to imagine what kind of tattoo Hoseok would get, now that he knew more about his taste in art.

"You've had bigger?" Namjoon had been told before that his frankness came off as boasting, and he was content to blur the line. Licking his lips, he glanced up at Hoseok's face. “Thicker?”

Hoseok was staring down at him through half-lidded eyes.

"Are you trying to get me to leave?" The exasperated words flew out on a single breath. Hoseok closed his eyes, and sat back. "Just." His upper body rose and fell through the air with a deep, shaking sigh. "I didn't invite you over here to talk."

“Oh?” Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows. He didn’t understand Hoseok’s angle. It was just dirty talk. He wasn’t sure if the words meant that Hoseok was eager, or -

Cold lube gelled out over Namjoon's fingers, and he looked down at where Hoseok was spilling it out onto his hand. His hand had stayed open and held in the air, after Hoseok grabbed the lube out of it.

“Is something wrong, Hoseok?” Suddenly, saying Hoseok’s given name felt strange. Namjoon thought he was starting to understand what Hoseok wanted. For Namjoon to clarify his feelings, maybe. For Namjoon to be honest with him; no games, and no flirting that went nowhere. He thought they were on the same page. “Hoseok -” Namjoon swallowed a nervous tension in his throat, and put a hand on Hoseok’s hip. He gripped it tightly.

Hoseok wasn’t looking at him. Concerning himself with lubing up his own fingers in the dollop he made on Namjoon’s hand, Hoseok’s focus was acute.

Namjoon wouldn’t let Hoseok ignore him, or move on. Not now.

“Is something wrong?” Namjoon asked the question again, firmer this time. “I really need to know. Don’t ignore me.”

“Nothing’s wrong.” Hoseok spoke plainly. He slid his wet fingers over Namjoon's cock.

Through the condom, the cool of the lube and the warmth of Hoseok's fingers sent a shiver down the base of Namjoon's spine, and tightened the muscles of his legs.

Hoseok slid a hand behind himself. Namjoon watched Hoseok's expression twitch with a wince, as he heard the slick pressure of fingers pushing in.

The wince stayed on Hoseok's face, as he took a deep breath.

Namjoon swallowed thickly.

"Can I?" Both of his hands wandered to Hoseok's hips. He ran a line along the crest of Hoseok’s hip, and the hand that had been swiped almost free of lube found the back of Hoseok’s. It settled over Hoseok’s hand, where Hoseok had it pressed against his ass. "Let me do it. It'll feel better." A thousand thoughts were springing up in Namjoon's mind. Each was a clear and precise arrow through his heart.

Every conclusion told him Hoseok didn't like this. That Namjoon needed to step up, and tell him to stop.

"No," Hoseok breathed out. "That's fine."

"You don't have to." Namjoon's chest tightened. "Is this what you wanted to do Hoseok? You're not - just doing it, because you think it's what I want...?"

"What I want -" Hoseok's breath caught, as his hips shook. Namjoon felt tendons shift along the back of Hoseok's hand. Stillness swept over Hoseok's body, and his eyes shut. Words ran gravelly along the back of his throat; falling low, and rasping. "Let me do what I want."

The tension in Namjoon's stomach melted. It melted down into his cock, and Namjoon suddenly wanted - needed - to roll Hoseok over, and relieve the pressure.

Tightening his grip on Hoseok's hip, Namjoon whistled in a breath through his teeth.

"You want it?" He spoke thoughtlessly. His cock pulsed. The hand on Hoseok's hip slid down, and gripped the base of Hoseok's cock. Behind Hoseok, his other hand pressed down, and deepened Hoseok's touch.

Hoseok's eyes snapped open, and his fingers slid out as he pushed Namjoon's hand away from behind him.

"Let me do it," Hoseok spoke quietly. A gleam of light on his warm skin slid along his neck, as he swallowed. He blinked away from Namjoon, and took a deep breath. "Why did you think I was so nervous?" Hoseok blurred up the words out at the end of the sentence, shifting quiet and muddling, like he was trying to erase them even as he spoke them. "Don't get urgent on me."

"Urgent?" Namjoon was still deep in his arousal, and the word came out breathy. His hand slid up Hoseok's cock, and he watched Hoseok's lack of reaction, closely.

Brows furrowed, face completely still, Hoseok looked on the edge of desperation.

Taking Namjoon's cock between two fingers, Hoseok angled it out, and angled his hips forwards. Glancing behind himself, his fingers slid down Namjoon’s length.

Namjoon watched Hoseok's concentrated face with open lips and alert eyes, as he felt his head press against a hard ring of muscle, and push through into softness.

"Hoseok..." Namjoon's breath broke low in his throat. His eyes closed, and he rolled his head back with a gasp of relaxation. The urge to thrust his hips up was muted, when Hoseok slid down further, almost completely. "Hoseok, you feel..."

A hand was pressing down on Namjoon's shoulder.

"Shit -" the word choked out of Namjoon, as Hoseok's ass fell down onto his thighs.

Behind his closed eyes, Namjoon stared into pulsing glows of orange and red.

"Fuck," his hand jerked up Hoseok's cock. "Hoseok -" Namjoon's eyes opened in a haze, and formless colors melted into Hoseok's gasping expression. Eyes closed, Hoseok's whole body shook with each breath.

He was almost close enough to kiss.

Hoseok's fingers dug into the back of Namjoon's shoulder, as his hips started to rock.

"Don't have to do it all at once -" Namjoon gasped out the words, as a shiver settled down his body.

Hoseok's head hung, as he spoke.

"Quiet."

The pull of Hoseok around him was a sweet ache, and Namjoon's breath trembled with each movement.

Grabbing the back of Hoseok's neck, Namjoon leaned up.

Hoseok's eyes opened, then fell closed again with a sigh, as he leaned into the kiss.

The feeling was familiar, now. Namjoon gave himself to it, and lost himself inside of it.

"What do you like?" Namjoon pulled away, and panted into the breath between them. Hoseok had never answered his question. Rubbing his fingers up over Hoseok's head, Namjoon heard Hoseok twitch in a short groan. His other hand fell from Hoseok's neck, and found Hoseok's nipple. He rubbed it carefully. "This good?"

“Don’t,” Hoseok shook his head. He brushed Namjoon’s hand away from his chest. “I don’t want to -” the sentence choked.

An elbow dub into Namjoon's shoulder, and Hoseok's hand twirled into Namjoon’s hair.

Hoseok took a deep breath, and his voice dropped.

"I'm showing you, aren't I? What I like?" Hoseok's hips rolled, and rolled Namjoon with them. “So you can stop asking, right?”

Namjoon was glad the questions were rhetorical.

Words were flattened by a weight crushing down his mind. Hoseok's hips rolled again, and shoots of warmth spread up his cock and down his body, and singed.

Hoseok lifted his hips -

Hoseok’s breath was silent, as he slammed them back down.

In the blackness of his mind, Namjoon managed to pull back a single word.

Fuck.

Hoseok trailed his hand out of Namjoon's hair, and leaned back. His grip broke from Namjoon's shoulder, and his hands settled on Namjoon's shins.

Throwing his head back, Hoseok's body shook with a deep breath.

Namjoon watched Hoseok's muscles shifting. He studied the way the light glowed on Hoseok's skin. The way Hoseok's hair fell back from his forehead. His gaze dropped between Hoseok's pecs, where a line of sweat hinted the beginnings of a glisten. Namjoon was overcome again, by the need -

As he threw his head forwards to look at Namjoon, face flushed, eyes sharp, Hoseok slid his tongue over his lips.

Limbs shifted, and Namjoon sat up. The bed creaked.

Namjoon stayed inside of Hoseok, until he was on top of Hoseok - until Hoseok’s legs were wrapped up under his arms, and his hips were pressed flat against Hoseok’s ass, and thighs. Hoseok's quiet groan hummed in the air, as Namjoon rolled him back onto the sheets.

The sheets slid, and twisted. Hoseok's hands were drifting above his head, and digging into them.

"Is it comfortable?"

The sheen of sweat forming on Hoseok's brow twitched.

A leg slid down, and found its way into the window of space between Namjoon's arm and his side. The next leg -

Wrapping his legs around Namjoon's hips, Hoseok nodded.

Namjoon gave himself a moment to take in the sight. Cast in his shadow, Hoseok's chest rose and fell, collarbone shifting, with each panting breath. Against the white sheets, of Hoseok's bed -

Rain was falling outside.

Tapping against the bedroom's window. Namjoon's ears focused in on the sound, for a brief moment. Crystal-clear, and quiet.

He glanced at the window. Curtains open, the glass was dotting with small droplets. The lights of the city gleamed in the distance.

"Hm?" Hoseok's sound was a whisper.

Namjoon glanced back to Hoseok.

Namjoon smiled, and shook his head.

Dizziness moved him, as his ears focused back onto every little sound Hoseok was making.

Arms on either side of Hoseok, Namjoon fell onto an elbow, and slid his hand between their bodies. As his hand drifted over Hoseok's cock, he savored the small moan the touch drew from Hoseok's parted lips.

Gripping Hoseok's cock, Namjoon slid his hand up. At the same time, he pushed out a slow, purposeful thrust from his hips.

Hoseok's eyelids dropped, and his legs wrapped tighter against Namjoon's back.

The pressure of Hoseok's legs electrified an instinct in Namjoon. He leaned his hips forwards, arching his back into the push - driving himself deeper, as if that was even possible -

Hoseok's fingertips were pushing against the back of Namjoon's hand, trying to brush it away from between their bodies.

"You sure?" Namjoon couldn't hide the disappointment in his voice.

Hoseok's nod was emphatic.

The feeling of Hoseok's stiff, hot cock in his hand was satisfying. Still, Namjoon slid his hand up, and away.

Shifting his hips, Namjoon lifted himself up on his hands. The hand that had been wrapped around Hoseok felt burning hot on the sheets.

A small rock of his hips, and Namjoon found a gentle, steady pace.

“Hoseok,” Namjoon spoke quietly. “Can I tell you something?”

Hoseok's eyes opened slowly. He was almost glaring at Namjoon, under heavy eyelids.

“What is it?” His voice was a soft mumble, despite the flare in his eyes.

The look made Namjoon shift uncomfortably, but he pressed onwards.

“I want to do this again, and again.” Namjoon was breathless. He hadn’t even come yet, and he already wanted to do it again. He wanted to stop, and wait out the pulsing sensitivity gripping at his pelvis and running down his cock and thighs. Then they could start again, and make it last longer. If they kept doing that -

They could make it last all night.

Thrusting slowly, Namjoon tried to control his breathing as evenly as he could. His hips stopped, and he gazed down at Hoseok.

“It feels good, Hoseok?” Namjoon asked the question through his teeth, before rolling his tongue over them. “Feels so good -?” Opening his lips with a lopsided smile, Namjoon watched as Hoseok squirmed his back into an arch.

Hoseok nodded.

Giving a sharp, jerking thrust, Namjoon watched Hoseok’s whole body twitch, as his brows pulled in.

“Fuck, Namjoon -” Hoseok’s chest rose and fell slowly. “Don’t. Don’t tease me,” his lips barely moved, and his eyes stayed closed. “Don’t.”

“Oh?” Namjoon felt a smile spread over his lips. “Like this -?” he thrust again, and watched Hoseok's hand fly up from the sheets, and hover in the air.

Hoseok's deep breath lifted his stomach, and his body relaxed. His expression was tight, and filled with concentration.

It took Hoseok a moment to speak.

“I’m serious.” He lifted his hovering hand to press against Namjoon’s shoulder.

“Then what should I do?” Namjoon spoke idly, as he started to move his hips again. “Should I -?”

“Enough questions,” Hoseok gasped the words out, as his eyes flew open. “Enough talking. Don’t make me -”

“Don’t make you what?” Namjoon could hear the echo of the unsaid word. “Beg?” He smiled.

“Can I be blunt, then?” The words were a whisper. As Namjoon pushed a slow thrust into him, Hoseok’s breath was controlled, and deliberate. “Le'ts not talk. Let’s just -”

“Get this over with?” Namjoon blinked, and the words came out.

Hoseok furrowed his eyebrows.

His head shook from side to side slightly, as he made a fist, and tapped it against Namjoon’s shoulder.

“No,” Hoseok gazed to the side, and closed his eyes. “No," he shook his head again. "Why would -" his brows tightened. "No. Let’s just fuck.”

“Right.” Namjoon breathed the word out, as he continued to move. He had been drifting up from his cock and into his mind, and he tried to level his emotions somewhere between the two.

His chest was swooning.

“I really like you, you know.” Namjoon was whispering. As he tried not to think, the sentiment rose up. “I’ve always liked you. Always - wanted -”

“Don't.” Eyes closed, Hoseok’s expression was strained. He tapped his fist against Namjoon’s shoulder, as a deep breath lifted his body, and his back arched. “Don’t distract - fuck - damn it,” Hoseok gasped, and his eyes shot down his body.

Namjoon followed Hoseok’s gaze. Surprise blinked his eyes. A stream of come was dripping out of Hoseok’s cock, and onto his stomach.

Hoseok gasped, as his cock twitched, and another stream spilled out. Dripping down in a thin line, it joined the patch of come glistening with Hoseok's ragged breaths.

“Oh?” Namjoon glanced up to Hoseok's face. Hoseok's hand was resting on his forehead, covering his eyes. Namjoon stared back down to the pool of come. Trailing his hand between Hoseok’s cock and stomach, he lifted up Hoseok’s cock gently. Nudging the come-streaked head with his thumb, he glanced up at Hoseok’s closed eyes. “Wow,” Namjoon smiled out the word. His stomach was shuttering, and his chest was crashing with waves of heat.

A few deep, uneven breaths filled the air.

“Hoseok.” Namjoon smiled wide. “Hoseok, you...” Namjoon couldn’t help but laugh.

Hoseok’s hand fell from his face, and he gazed up at Namjoon.

“Don’t laugh at me,” he mumbled. His eyes closed again, and he took a deep breath. “Just keep going.”

“Laugh at you?” Namjoon’s stomach dropped. “Hoseok, no, I… it’s hot. It’s really hot. I’m glad… I'm really glad I could make you do that. Make fun of you?” Namjoon could feel his face fall serious. “Don’t ever think I would do that, Hoseok.”

“Maybe…” Hoseok spoke slowly, as Namjoon started to move his hips again. “Not making fun of me - no. That’s not what I meant. Don’t make a fool of me,” Hoseok was whispering. His body was flattened into the sheets, and his expression was distant and unwound. “Don’t think I’m foolish.”

“I never would.” Namjoon leaned down, and put an elbow on either side of Hoseok.

Drifting his lips over Hoseok’s, Namjoon breathed against them. It felt like Hoseok’s lips were parting with hesitation. Namjoon was starting to pull back, when he felt Hoseok's hand rest against the back of his hair.

Namjoon gave the kiss a long moment to settle between them.

“Is that what you think?” Namjoon lifted himself up just enough to breathe out the words. His eyes were closed, and hazes of light swam behind them. “Hoseok? That I think you’re…?”

He wasn’t thinking. He was feeling, and moving; inside of Hoseok, as his mind hummed, and his body throbbed. He was sure there was something happening in the air that he should treat delicately, but he didn’t know how to find it, and hold it.

Namjoon wished Hoseok would keep his hand on the back of his hair. It slid away, and Hoseok's hands were wrapping around his shoulders.

“Want me to stop?” Namjoon asked the question quietly, as he moved his hips.

“Didn't you hear me?” Hoseok’s words were thin, and Namjoon was suddenly reminded of how close Hoseok was. Speaking in his ear, and breathing against his skin. “Don't stop.”

The pulse of the rain ran into Namjoon’s ears, and filled him, as he tuned into it again.

“You feel so good, Hoseok.” Namjoon was whispering. “Feels so right. Feels so… can you feel that,” he wasn’t sure what that was - “too?”

Namjoon lifted himself up slightly, and gazed down at Hoseok.

Hoseok’s eyelids parted slowly. As he met Namjoon's gaze, the flare of frustration behind Hoseok's eyes faded. The way the light caught the glisten over his irises, Namjoon was sure he saw something like desperation growing.

Time seemed to slow down. Namjoon watched Hoseok's mouth shift with the start of words.

Namjoon had heard it enough times, now.

Hoseok didn't want to talk.

Holding himself back for Hoseok meant yielding to the silence.

Yielding to the silence meant trusting Hoseok.

Namjoon leaned down, and caught the start of Hoseok's exhalation in a kiss.

Chapter Text

Being in the same room as you is enough for me to feel my mood change.

To feel my soul shifting, and making room for you, and accepting you completely.

I want to believe that I can be a part of your life, the way you're a part of mine. I don’t think you know -

The way my mind races around you.

At the very least, maybe we can just be there for each other.

Halfway awake, Namjoon collected the thoughts in his mind.

As he rose up into wakefulness the thoughts, and the excitement that carried them, slipped away.

Gazing around the empty bedroom, it took Namjoon a long moment to remember where he was. Natural light had replaced the electric light of the previous night. Everything was cast in shadows, and lit only by a faint blue glow from the window.

The bedroom looked completely different. It looked bigger, and softer. Emptier.

As Hoseok’s apartment refamiliarized itself with Namjoon’s mind, Namjoon glanced down at the sheets next to him.

They were folded up neatly.

Sliding his legs off the bed, Namjoon squinted into the dim light. He figured the dark shapes draped over the foot of the bed must be his clothing.

As Namjoon tugged up his jeans, his senses were numb. He hoped that if he found his way into the kitchen, or wandered around to the living room, he would find Hoseok on his phone - the way he always seemed to find Hoseok before, when Hoseok wandered off.

Namjoon wanted to find Hoseok, and hold him, and kiss him all over. Glancing memories needed to be reaffirmed. Namjoon wanted to tell him how great last night had been, and feel Hoseok touching him back.

Namjoon prepared himself for two options. Hoseok was somewhere else in the apartment, or Hoseok was gone.

Even as Namjoon told himself both options were possible, every inhale he took in the quiet air told him he was alone.

-

It took Namjoon a long minute to find the light switch for the kitchen.

When he did, his eyes were drawn to a bright green sticky note stuck squarely onto the middle of the table. Wrapping his hands around the rail of a chair, Namjoon leaned over the table, and took in the note.

i went out

The note didn’t tell Namjoon anything he didn't already know. He appreciated the effort, nonetheless. Even with its sparing simplicity, the note seemed to imply Hoseok would be back soon.

That was all Namjoon needed to know.

Hoseok had probably just left to take out the trash, or go for a morning run. Hoseok never struck Namjoon as somebody who worked out, but Namjoon was certain he had to rework his assumptions. Hoseok might have ducked out to grab some coffee, or pick up dry cleaning, or do whatever Hoseok did in the mornings.

Namjoon eyed the front door, where Hoseok’s slippers sat next to a clean, sky blue mat.

Wandering around Hoseok’s bright kitchen in Hoseok’s comfortable slippers, Namjoon contemplated whether or not he should cook Hoseok breakfast. The door of the squat fridge sighed open, and Namjoon sighed out a sound of contentment.

Two boxes of leftovers sat on a shelf. A few sauces and a bottle of lemon juice lined the door. Pursing his lips, Namjoon wondered if it would be rude to heat up the leftovers in a pan. Or the microwave.

Closing the fridge, Namjoon stood up straight. His gaze turned to a sleek machine on the counter. It looked less like a coffee machine, and more like an olive green spaceship. The thing was either decades old, or brand new.

Even if Hoseok had gone out for a morning espresso, Namjoon figured Hoseok couldn’t complain about a full pot being brewing for him when he got back.

Coffee was neutral.

-

“Oh?”

Namjoon asked the question down at the coffee maker.

Groundsy coffee was spilling over the sides of the pot. The thick, dark liquid sparkled with bubbles, and hissed on the warming plate.

Namjoon stared with wide eyes, and held his hands out in front of himself helplessly.

“Shit,” his trance broke. “Shit. Shit…” Jerking his head around the kitchen, Namjoon searched for paper towels.

Running to the opposite side of the counter and swiping a rag off a ring, Namjoon jogged back to unplug the coffee maker.

The pot was steamed up, and barely sloshing with lightly tinted water. Sliding it off the warming plate, Namjoon mopped at the drying and burning stains, as the sound of singes greeted the rag. Tossing the rag into the sink, Namjoon looked for a fresh rag to clean up the mess that had pooled down the base of the coffeemaker, and all over the countertop.

As he rattled open a drawer beneath the sink, Namjoon heard the door open.

“Hi.”

Hands on either side of the cutlery drawer, Namjoon glanced up.

Closing the door behind himself with his heel, Hoseok gave Namjoon a once-over. Dressed in baggy clothes and sneakers, he had obviously stepped in fresh from the chilly morning air. His hair was swept back, and the usual red underline of his skintone was deepened by faint ruddiness.

Hoseok held two coffees in a cardboard tray with one hand. His other hand was wrapped around a small paper bag filled with something that smelled delicious.

“Sorry.” Sliding the drawer closed, Namjoon stood up straight. “Your coffeemaker -”

“It’s fine.” The words were slow. Hoseok was walking into the kitchen, and setting down the contents of his hands onto the table. His eyes were unblinking, as he glanced from the top of the coffee maker, to the brown stains pooled out around it. “It needs filters. Did you put in a filter?”

“Yes.” Namjoon sighed. “I did.”

He almost wanted to roll his eyes, and tell Hoseok he knew how to make coffee. It would be a lie. Even if Namjoon knew the general steps from brief glances at coworkers and fellow students refilling communal coffee machines, he had never done it himself.

Namjoon watched, as Hoseok took small steps around the table, and wandered over to the machine. Trepidation moved his hand. A flick, and the lid flipped open.

“Oh -” starting back at a burst of steam, Hoseok cast a flippant hand towards it. “A lot of grounds.” He swiped his hands together. “The water couldn’t - nevermind." Hoseok took a step to the side, opened up a cupboard, and pulled out two small porcelain plates. "Forget about it."

Glancing from the coffee maker, to the coffees on the table, to Hoseok setting the plates down on the table - Namjoon felt himself smiling. Closing the distance between their bodies, Namjoon watched Hoseok’s eyes go wide, before momentum wrapped his hand around Hoseok’s waist.

“Don’t.” Hoseok was laughing, and leaning back from the swoop of a kiss to the side of the throat. Namjoon opened his eyes with a blink.

“Mm?" Namjoon's hand slid down to Hoseok's hip. The question in his sound was obvious.

"Let's eat." Hoseok was smiling, and his eyelids were heavy.

As Hoseok pulled himself away, Namjoon gave Hoseok’s hip a smack. Turning, he watched Hoseok drift towards a chair.

”What did you get?” Namjoon was amazed by how dreamy his voice sounded. Despite heat making his soul feel two sizes too big for his body, and an urge to hold Hoseok itching at his skin, he only felt at ease.

He was still glowing from something so simple as Hoseok grabbing him a coffee.

“There’s some stuff,” Hoseok mumbled, poking the paper bag. It was crisp white, and emblazoned with a logo Namjoon didn’t recognize. "Breakfast."

Hoseok pulled out a chair. As he sat down, he glanced up at Namjoon, and pat the back of the chair next to him.

"After breakfast -" Namjoon sat down with a smile glued to his face. "Then?"

Early morning and the glow of a good night made the clean air taste sweet. In the corner of his vision, Namjoon could see the blue kitchen window edging with sunlight.

Hoseok slid a pastry out of the bag, and onto a plate. He picked at it. Pinching a granule of sugar, he flicked it onto the paper bag, and followed it with his eyes.

He was clearly ignoring Namjoon.

"What are you doing today?"

Namjoon didn't need to ask the question. It sounded awkward. He wasn't sure what else to talk about.

"Going to work," Hoseok laughed.

Namjoon waited for a question that didn't arrive. Hoseok reached forwards, and grabbed a coffee out of the carton.

The question didn't get returned.

Niceties weren't necessary.

If anything, it was a relief that they didn't need them. Namjoon had gotten closer to Hoseok than he ever imagined. This was what being closer to Hoseok felt like.

Being close to Hoseok meant that he got to watch Hoseok take a few long, squinting sip of coffee, as he looked everywhere but Namjoon's direction.

Silence draped over the room. Namjoon tried to relax into it.

He was certain that if he tried to make Hoseok laugh, or brought up something to chat about, the faint dread in his stomach would disappear. Attempts to think of something to say failed, against the humming of the kitchen lamp.

He was happy to do whatever Hoseok wanted. If Hoseok wanted to sit in silence and eat, Namjoon could do that. He appreciated their silences.

He really did.

"Did you have fun last night?"

Hoseok's shoulders jerked, and a crumb puffed away from the bite of pastry he was taking.

"Where's this coming from?" He put his hand over his mouth, chewed, and dropped the pastry back onto the plate.

Namjoon wasn't sure if the amusement in Hoseok's voice should make him feel better, or worse.

When he glanced up from the table, he realized Hoseok was staring at him. A faint smile was frozen on Hoseok's lips. He licked his lips, blinked, and glanced away.

"If you're trying to make me nervous -" the quiet words were interrupted by Hoseok grabbing his coffee, and taking a short sip. "There are more entertaining ways to do it." A refreshed sigh broke the air, as Hoseok set his coffee down.

Heat and fuzziness were taking a while to fade away.

Ideas Namjoon had about losing himself and finding Hoseok were replaced by coolness. He was reminded that waking up in somebody else's apartment was an exercise in feeling at home, yet feeling estranged. He was reminded of what it felt like to be at home with, and yet feel estranged from, Hoseok's implacable moods.

"I'm not trying to make you nervous." The sudden sap to Namjoon's energy bent his back. He wasn't sure where his conviction to sit in silence with Hoseok had gone, or why he hadn't stuck with it. Happiness about where his relationship with Hoseok stood erased his desire to talk about it. "Let's just -" Namjoon managed a toothy, listless smile. "Eat."

Namjoon's smile was tight. He pushed it off his face with a jerk of his lips.

Reaching forwards, he pulled a coffee out of the carton.

-

“When do you take the train out,” Hoseok chirped from the bathroom, “again?”

“I think I'll head out today, actually.”

Shrugging on his coat, Namjoon stared at the floor.

They had ended up talking about nothing in particular, between long bouts of silence. Namjoon said he would share whatever Hoseok was eating. He took a few bites of Hoseok's intricately latticed blueberry pastry when it was offered, but his appetite was nonexistent. Hoseok’s mood had lifted, and soon, Namjoon conceded that he had things to do.

While Hoseok brushed his teeth, Namjoon finished cleaning up around the coffee machine. Hoseok insisted he would do it. Namjoon insisted harder.

If Namjoon had been hoping to get something more out of the morning, he wasn’t making it easy on himself. Fucking again didn't matter. He just wanted to set up another date. He wanted to ask about texting, calls, and video chats. He wanted to know what Hoseok would accept.

He wanted to ask if Hoseok was interested in something long distance.

Namjoon knew he could ask those questions, even as he watched his thin fingers slide a button closed.

Hoseok was in a good mood. Namjoon didn’t want to ruin it.

The bathroom light flicked off. Hoseok was wandering around in boxer briefs and a tank top, and taking sliding steps in the slippers Namjoon returned to him. Namjoon had a feeling Hoseok would stay half-dressed, until it was time to pull on work clothes.

“Back to your new life.” Sliding over to Namjoon, Hoseok gave him a pat on the arm. “Good lu -”

The word rolling Hoseok’s tongue froze, and he stared at Namjoon.

Fingertips fixed around a button, Namjoon stared at Hoseok, too. Hoseok’s mouth closed with a snap, and he glanced up and down Namjoon with confused eyes.

Namjoon realized how his face must look, and he tried to relax it, but he wasn’t sure how to.

“My new life?” Namjoon almost stuttered. Offense made Namjoon’s blood run hot, and for a brief moment, annoyance flashed behind his eyes. “There’s no old life and new life,” Namjoon meted the words out, slowly, as he slipped the button closed. “It’s all just my life.”

Namjoon wasn’t sure what it was about Hoseok’s words that struck him so deeply.

Pulling his hand back and curling it in, Hoseok gave Namjoon a sheepish smile.

Namjoon knew he was acting strange.

He knew he was acting snappy.

Maybe it was because, despite his light-headed joy at the thought of leaving the city without regrets the night before, he already felt regrets stacking up in the back of his chest.

“And -” The words fell off dry lips. Namjoon realized something, as he spoke. “I want you to always be a part of my world,” Namjoon’s hands fell to his sides. “Hoseok.”

The previous night was the start of a new turn in their relationship. It was the start of more than just a casual hookup between friends. Namjoon assumed Hoseok could tell. Hoseok either didn’t get that picture, or he didn’t care.

Namjoon’s breath stopped.

He didn’t want to see Hoseok’s answer play out in front of him.

Implicit acceptance was better than explicit rejection, now. Breaking boundaries meant Namjoon couldn’t hide behind them anymore, and the raw sweat heating up his body and making the backs of his his ears burn reminded Namjoon how easy it would be to just walk back the statement, and tell Hoseok they should see where things went.

Hoseok still fixed Namjoon with a stare.

A smile was spreading over Hoseok’s face. The smile scrunched up his eyes, as his head tilted back.

Namjoon felt himself smiling, too.

He recognized Hoseok’s smile.

Flattered, and embarrassed. Shocked. Maybe a little scared.

It was the way Hoseok had looked after Namjoon’s third failed attempt to ask Hoseok out for drinks. Hoseok had quickly wiped the expression away, and acted like it never crossed his face.

Namjoon's first and second attempts had drawn Hoseok's flippancy. When he asked again almost a year later, Hoseok seemed to understand it wasn't just a formality. Even if Hoseok had turned him down, Namjoon prized that smile.

Nodding his head down, Namjoon laughed. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and kicked the toe of his shoe against the floor.

-

Sliding a hand through Hoseok’s hair, Namjoon shivered.

Rubbing his thumb over Hoseok’s soft nape, he drifted his eyes over Hoseok’s melting expression.

Kisses had pulled them over to the bare patch of wall next to the apartment’s door. Kissing Hoseok’s throat was a gift. New patches of skin Namjoon's lips hadn’t explored; floating above the way Hoseok’s hand was on his back, sliding down weightlessly.

”Don’t expect anything of me.” Hoseok’s lips barely moved, as he made the sounds. His stiff dick pressed against Namjoon’s hip. Their lower bodies were linked together, and Namjoon was certain the way he pinned Hoseok to the wall was the only thing keeping Hoseok standing.

”What do you think I expect of you?” As he drifted back from Hoseok’s warmth, Namjoon glanced Hoseok up, and down. The thought of teasing Hoseok - even just a little bit - made the throb in his jeans push back even deeper into his body.

Hoseok inhaled a deep, slow breath.

The breath flared his nostrils. Hoseok's head thunked back against the wall.

Impulse stepped Namjoon's foot back.

For a brief, petrified moment, he knew Hoseok was about to yell at him.

Shut up and didn't I tell you!? rung preemptively in Namjoon's mind, as he watched Hoseok’s eyes flutter open.

Hoseok was staring off to the side, and towards the ceiling. He shook his head.

”I'm not," Hoseok's leg shifted, "talking dirty.”

Nobody moved, and nobody spoke. It took a moment for Namjoon's panicked heartbeat to even out. He felt himself pulling closer, as Hoseok's eyes slowly slid towards Namjoon's. His dark gaze was pulled back. It was pulled in, like he was looking at Namjoon from somewhere deep inside himself.

Namjoon knew Hoseok's guards were down. He could see it in the way Hoseok had disappeared inside himself, and he could feel it in the way Hoseok's body had given up completely. The hand Hoseok had been dropping down Namjoon's back was on his ass. It fell away in a heavy slump.

Namjoon recognized the look in Hoseok's eyes. Before, Namjoon had only known it a a look of exhaustion. When Hoseok was exhausted, he always looked wary.

”Can I -” Namjoon hesitated. “Ask you something?” Whatever Hoseok assumed, Namjoon knew Hoseok assumed too much.

“Uh-huh?” The sound was low in Hoseok’s throat.

”What did you think of me?” High on sensitivity, Namjoon sucked in a trembling breath. The vague question was all he could manage. He knew Hoseok would take it, and tell him something he needed to know. “Before?”

”Before?” Hoseok raised his eyebrows.

Namjoon shuffled his foot forwards, until it was between Hoseok’s slippers, and he was sliding an arm around Hoseok’s thin waist.

He knew he shouldn’t say anything. It seemed to take all of Hoseok’s energy to say something he didn’t want to, and if silence helped, Namjoon would give him silence.

”You know what you’re doing,” Hoseok sighed, “right?” Shallow, silent breaths kept time with the pulse Namjoon could feel in his chest. “Don’t act like you don’t know." Tapping his head back against the wall, Hoseok closed his eyes.

The fabric of Hoseok's shirt suddenly felt too thin, and Hoseok's bare arms suddenly felt too exposed.

Namjoon leaned back, and slid his hands onto Hoseok's elbows.

“Do you know what I used to think of you?” He was smiling, but the smile was pained. He stared down towards Hoseok’s stomach. “You made me happy. But I tried not to think too hard..." a sigh stopped Namjoon’s laugh. “It didn’t matter what I felt about you, specifically. I liked you. I just liked being around you.” He heard how fast he was talking, but he didn't know how to slow down.

Namjoon blinked down up at Hoseok’s chest, and swallowed. He stared at shadows and thin fabric over tan skin, as a puff of laughter pulled up the corner of his mouth.

”Maybe that’s why I’m acting so desperate now. Sorry -” Namjoon knew he could shut up, but he was high on the moment, his whole body was sensitive, and his emotions were scattered. “Because I was never really sure…” Namjoon let himself trail off.

He wondered what Hoseok would make of the incomplete thought. He hoped Hoseok filled it in with because I was never really sure what you felt.

It wasn’t what Namjoon wanted to say.

Because I was never really sure if I loved you that way, or if it mattered if I loved you at all, but now it does matter, because we’re here, and we’re doing this, and now if you don’t feel the same way about me - well, I’m screwed -

Hoseok didn't need to know that.

Hoseok made a noncommittal noise, and closed his eyes.

Glancing down his chest, Namjoon watched heavy breaths rack his jacket.

”I'll stop.” He apologized, even if he knew Hoseok had no idea what he was talking about.

Along every centimeter of Hoseok’s body that was pressed to his, Namjoon felt Hoseok shiver.

Hands were sliding around Namjoon’s face. A cool wave of surprise curled Namjoon's senses down to the floor, as darkness clouded his vision. Hoseok held a hand against Namjoon’s hairline, and a hand against Namjoon’s jaw, before he pressed their parted lips together.

Namjoon closed his blinking eyes. Fabric fluttered. Namjoon barely had time to moan at the feeling, when Hoseok's hands drifted under his shirt. Hoseok was pulling back from the kiss, and gripping onto Namjoon's sides tightly.

Namjoon's breath was an excited gasp. He was usually to proud to ask. When he knew somebody well enough, he might be able to beg. Just being touched. Just knowing that somebody - that Hoseok - couldn't keep their hands off of his body -

A deep breath shivered. Hoseok somehow still smelled like the fresh post-rain morning outside, over a warm and full scent Namjoon had learned to recognize instantly.

Hoseok's skin was glowing. He was so flushed, Namjoon was surprised he couldn't feel the heat radiating over his own face. He watched a wash of white fall over Hoseok, as the flush suddenly faded, and Hoseok nodded his head back. Hoseok rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. The distance in his eyes was gone, and Hoseok's sigh was immediate.

“I don't know what to do.” Hoseok sounded like he was sleep-talking. "So, come on." He stared down Namjoon's chest.

It took Namjoon a moment to filter through each word. The words sounded strange on Hoseok's lips, and they slowed Namjoon's rapid heartbeat. He had heard Hoseok ask for help. He had seen Hoseok ask for do-overs, and he had watched Hoseok flatly admit he couldn't do something. Do you know how to do this?, I need to do it again, or I can't do this - they were all were sudden strangers to a simple I don't know what to do.

Namjoon's mind gave solidity to wobbling notions. Attempts to fasten up the thoughts were almost painful. He settled on something.

When Hoseok's familiar ease was gone, Hoseok needed guidance.

An anchored part of Namjoon’s gut knew that he should keep moving. Hoseok was waiting for him. If he turned Hoseok around against the wall, or hiked him up against his hips, Hoseok would be far happier. His own uneasiness would disappear. Holding the quiet moment as well as he could, Namjoon pushed his hips forwards, and drew a gasp out of Hoseok's silence.

Hoseok's shoulders were shifting, and falling back deeper against the wall.

Namjoon felt Hoseok's hand brush the side of his hair.

"I hate how much you already know.” Hoseok’s voice was a quiet groan, slowly turning soft. “But," he smiled. "If it’ll make you feel better. I could never decide. If you liked me," the hand on Namjoon's hair dropped against his shoulder. Hoseok swallowed. “Or you liked playing with me."

The words were numb. Namjoon could almost feel their uncomfortable lightness in his mouth. If he were speaking them, he knew it would feel like trying to talk with clouds for teeth, and no air in his throat.

"You just wanted to see what I would do -" The caustic, knowing confidence that started the question faltered by the end. "Right?"

Hands lighted onto Namjoon's arms. Hoseok's hands barely hovered. Even through his thick jacket, Namjoon felt like Hoseok was gripping him tightly.

Namjoon had never though of Hoseok as insecure.

He thought of Hoseok as somebody who was prone to bashfulness, but who shook off embarrassment easily.

Hoseok's eyes were trying to meet Namjoon's.

Namjoon avoided them.

Even if he stared at Hoseok's shoulder, Namjoon knew Hoseok's face almost looked smug.

"What do you mean?" Leaning back, Namjoon slid Hoseok's fingers off his arm, and caught Hoseok's hand. Wrapping his hand over Hoseok's palm, he let their arms fall down by their sides. "Play? Hoseok -" Namjoon laughed. "If you thought - if you thought any piece of the way I put myself out there was for -" Namjoon hated how hot his body felt, and he hated how amazing it still felt. "For a game, or some shit like that." The thought was removed from him, and he didn't know how to tackle it.

An urge to jerk his head to the side was muted. Namjoon didn't want to look frustrated, when all he felt was sick.

Glancing up, Namjoon’s breath stopped in his chest.

Namjoon didn't realize how much Hoseok's eyes had been sparkling, until they weren't. They had become dull, and sharp, under heavy eyelids.

"You know that." Namjoon stared into Hoseok's eyes. "I really like you."

"Let’s just fuck.” The words became a laughing hum, on Hoseok’s slowly forming crooked smile. A hand was on Namjoon's hair again. “We're talking with our bodies. If that’ll make you feel better.” Hoseok spoke with his eyebrows. “Okay?"

Namjoon's heart was hammering in his chest. His shallow breaths had been faint panting, while he ignored the rising pressure between their bodies. As Namjoon's mind flashed through every time he had seen Hoseok with that purposeful, driven gaze in his eyes, he had to pull his jaw closed.

Namjoon focused on Hoseok’s hand wrapped up inside his own. Weakness was tugging at his knees.

He squeezed Hoseok’s hand. A pause made Namjoon’s heart skip a beat.

When he felt Hoseok squeeze back, Namjoon knew Hoseok was just telling him to move.

-

let’s meet up for drinks, when I visit again. The words sat in a yellow bubble.

Namjoon had sent the text in a moment of stairwell bravery. Hoseok would know he hadn’t even left the building. Namjoon didn’t care. The things he hadn’t been able to say were swarming, and threatening to overflow.

good luck~ 🤗

Curled up in a train compartment, Namjoon read the texts slowly.

if you have a free weekend, i would like to try some brews in seoul~

Parsing through each word, Namjoon’s stomach was fluttering. As he started typing, dizziness was choosing his words for him.

of course. you know... how cute it is, when couples drink wine together on video chat…?

Namjoon could tell himself he stepped off the sidelines of Hoseok’s life.

It wasn't the same as entanglement.

In the absence of holding himself back, Namjoon wanted, and needed, to know Hoseok was as caught up as he was.

Staring at the unsent message, Namjoon sighed. He pounded backspace, until it was all erased.

Yeah. That sounds great. Namjoon retyped, quickly. Whenever you want to come up, I’ll be waiting.

“Fuck.” Namjoon mumbled the word under his breath, as he sent the text. Dropping his hand down onto his lap, he gazed out the window. With his elbow propped against the train's hum, Namjoon felt his whole body threatening to shake.

Autumn was coloring the countryside with warm hues. A bright blue sky made the horizon flash.

Staring at the scenery, Namjoon let it hypnotize his unblinking eyes. Tapping his fingers against his lips, he ran over the morning in his mind.

He didn't bother to fight it, when his eyes squeezed shut, and his whole body pulled in with love-struck certainty.

-

"Did you work hard yesterday?"

"Of course."

"Keep giving your best,” Hoseok smiled. “I believe in you."

Hoseok sat back. He was holding his phone in one hand, and the phone swerved back with him.

Swirling a shallow slip of red wine around the bottom of his glass, he licked his stained lips.

Everything about Hoseok was affable. He was so subdued during their talks, Namjoon had started to forget what it was like seeing Hoseok nervous.

Namjoon let a long stretch of silence settle, and ease out.

"I can’t even remember what happened yesterday," Hoseok laughed, and stared off to the side. "So it must have been a bad day, for me." Hoseok leaned forwards. Namjoon got a close view of Hoseok's sweatshirt, as Hoseok propped his phone against something that held a broad and even angle. "Sometimes you have to just forget about things,” he made a humming sound. “While they’re happening. Clearing stuff out of your mind is a skill. Right?"

Namjoon's eyes fell down to his arms, where they were folded over the dark surface of a long table.

He knew it was lighthearted.

Ignoring how uncomfortable he suddenly felt, Namjoon focused on something simple. If Hoseok could forget about his worries, Namjoon could, too.

When Namjoon glanced up, he realized Hoseok had been staring at him.

Hoseok smiled.

"Namjoon and alcohol, though," Hoseok murmured. "That's a deadly combination."

One of Namjoon’s eyebrows ticked up.

”That so?” He gave Hoseok a skeptical smile. “You know,” Namjoon’s voice dropped, as his face dropped. “I’m here for you, Hoseok.”

When another stretch of silence sat between their screens, Namjoon licked his teeth, and moved on.

“What about Choe?” Namjoon cast his aching eyelids as alert, and interested, as he felt. He fought back a shiver, and pulled his arms in tight against his jacket. “Did she ever find out how to get access to the sales money?” As he asked the question, Namjoon shifted forwards, and knocked his knees together.

The laptop was perched in front of him. His glass of wine sat next to it. Further down the table, his messenger bag was folded neatly over itself, and the tote he had packed the wine and glass into laid atop it.

“Yeah.” Hoseok nodded, gazing off and to the side. "A bit ago.” Hoseok looked back to Namjoon.

For a few hours, an empty art studio chilled by the dry winter morning was Namjoon's home. His apartment was being fumigated, and he didn't have anywhere to be. He didn't dare alter the schedule. When he told a friend he needed somewhere to have a private conversation with his boyfriend, they had happily handed over the studio's key.

Namjoon knew Hoseok was sitting at the desk in his bedroom. Behind Hoseok, Namjoon could see his bed, and window.

Namjoon glanced up, to see how he looked on Hoseok's screen.

He looked tired. His eyes were red, but his new haircut looked fresh. Adjusting the collar of his shirt, Namjoon tilted his chin up. When Namjoon picked up, Hoseok had noted the new location and haircut before Namjoon had a chance to open his mouth.

"I…” Namjoon glanced down, when Hoseok started laughing.

“You want to look good?” Hoseok leaned forwards over his desk. A soft smile belied the tilt of his voice. “You always do.”

Namjoon gave himself a moment to freeze.

His idea about attempting to change the subject veered him back to it, as he felt the words pouring off his lips.

"Thank you. You look good." Namjoon whispered. Hoseok was a wash of color on his screen, and a tangible presence.

"I mean, you always do. But, you know... " When he heard himself trail off, Namjoon's blood ran hot. Hoseok was listening intently, and blankly. "It's just... the way you feel." Namjoon hoped he wasn't embarrassing Hoseok. He was watching Hoseok look down, and fight a smile. "Just feeling you." Namjoon flicked his eyes down, too, and gave a sincere nod. "Thanks, Hoseok. Thanks for doing this with me."

Closing his eyes, Namjoon breathed in a nagging dread that made his jaw shift against the urge not to ignore it. On the horizon of his mind, ideas about the future were rising and falling nauseously. He tried not to think about what would happen when he left for Canada. He tried not to wonder what it would mean to Hoseok.

Sucking on his teeth, Namjoon opened his eyes back up to the screen.

"I want to see you," Namjoon added. The words were breathless. "Soon."

Hoseok was in the middle of taking a long sip of wine.

Namjoon wanted, and needed, to keep up the video chats. They were a small treasure during weeks when he fought himself to the conviction that he wasn't working hard for a reason.

Nodding, Hoseok gave Namjoon a small smile. A swallow, and he fiddled with his wine, where he had set it down on the desk.

Hoseok stared at the burgundy in his glass.

"Of course, Namjoon." He made his whole body smaller with a simple forwards tug of his shoulders. "I want to see you, too."