Chapter 1 -
Your thumb hovered over the smudged screen of your phone, stuck in place with the quiet indecision you'd been feeling for the past few minutes. Lifting your eyes from the glow of the display, from the choice you'd been struggling to make, you allowed yourself another glance across the whole of your bedroom. Searching yet again, seeking out traces of him you might have missed on previous passes, you couldn't seem to find a single sign of anyone's presence save for your own. There wasn't a stray article of clothing or a photo in sight, any notion that you had a boyfriend unseen within the confines of your personal space. There was nothing which spoke Mason's name, the only part of him you needed to do away with the name and number on your phone.
“It was only three months. Of course, there wouldn't be anything of his here,” you mumbled, feeling your thumb lower and lift as you debated with yourself.
It was a ritual of sorts whenever a relationship of yours had ended to rid your room and every other necessary space of reminders of your ex. You'd been broken up with more times than you cared to keep count of and the best way to move on from the hurt of being dumped yet again had been to cast aside whatever semblance of your former significant other's presence you needed to. More often than not, you found no need to throw away physical tidbits when each relationship had been doomed to last no longer than a few months at best. Each time it tended to be common that the only thing you really needed to remove was a number in your contact list. You'd have hoped it would have made your ritual for moving on easier, but somehow, regardless of how short the time had been or how minimal your feelings may have deepened, deleting a number always felt hard. Much harder than it should have been.
Mason hadn't meant very much to you, sad as that was to admit to yourself. He'd been just another guy who'd asked you out at a bar, one you'd agreed to go on a few dates with despite having not really felt much of a spark at first. He'd been a nice enough guy and funny enough as well, with a handsome smile and a tendency to always hold open doors for you when you'd gone out together. All in all, nothing had seemed especially wrong with him at first and it wasn't as if you hadn't enjoyed spending time with him. You ought to have known, though, after the dates out started to become nights in what he'd been hoping for. It shouldn't have surprised you that he'd eventually become bothered by how much distance you tried to keep between the two of you during Netflix binges on his couch, how frustrated he'd become when you cut off your make-out sessions before his hands could wander to the places he seemed keen to seek out. He had never tried to pressure you whenever you'd put up your red light, never gotten especially angry, but the frustration was evident enough. Your last date, filled with strained conversation and his eyes wandering more than they settled on your face, had been very telling. You'd known it would be over well before he'd sent his text message.
In a way, you couldn't even bring yourself to hold it against him. You'd dated other guys who'd been a lot more pushy and irritable about your refusal to let things progress further than a few deep kisses, after all. Mason had, at the very least, made no efforts to try begging or guilt-tripping you into anything and he'd thankfully spared you the exhaustion of having to give him the verbal beat down of a lifetime. He hadn't done much to hide his frustration, though, and if he'd reached the end of his patience after three months then he'd probably done you both a huge favor by ending things sooner rather than later before either of you could really catch feelings. Even so, it still kind of stung no matter how minimal your attachment to him may have been. It was never easy being rejected for the same reasons.
Heart heavy, you let your thumb fall and confirmed the deletion without further delay, stuffing your phone into the front pocket of your oversized hoodie without another glance. Mason was another brief paragraph in the fucked up book that was your love life and rather than dwell on it too hard, you decided to nurse your familiar hurts with your usual post-break-up therapy routine: pizza and reruns of Parks and Recreation. Why dwell on the past and failed relationships when you could gorge on greasy pizza while wishing that Leslie Knope was an actual, real person you could befriend? You turned on the TV in the living room, booting up your console to get Netflix ready to stream before you retrieved your phone, halfway through using the necessary app to put in an order from Lorenzo's when your phone started vibrating with an incoming call. Sighing as heavily as you felt inside, you tapped your screen to answer without even paying mind to the name or number, feeling too tired to really care.
“Y/N! What are you doing and how long until you can stop, so you can come hang out?”
“I was about to eat a pizza and veg out on my couch actually. Not doing that would kinda require that I put on actual pants. Which I don't really wanna do.”
“Okay, I feel you on the pants thing, but what you lose in comfort you gain in company! You can come over here and veg out on the couch with me and the guys! Hobi and Tae are on their way right now! We miss you! It's been a good two weeks since we've gotten to hang out!”
Despite the sour state of your mood, you couldn't help smiling at the sound of Jimin's voice. He had a way about being incredibly infectious with his good moods and just picturing the sweet way his eyes tended to crinkle up when he smiled made your heavy heart feel just a tiny bit lighter. It genuinely had been a few weeks since you'd gotten to hang out with any of your non-work friends, a few texts exchanged here and there not nearly the same as actually being around them. Sparse chats, even with the occasional emoji and meme thrown in, never really captured the energy that came with being in same room as even just one of your longtime pals. Truly, you had been missing them a great deal. It would have been wonderful to accept the invitation being offered to you had you felt the ability to do so, too worn down and aching with the hurts you were feeling to handle the generally boisterous antics and noise that tended to come hand in hand with being around more than one of your male friends at a time. Hell, even Yoongi's subdued persona felt as if it would be too much for you just then.
“I miss you guys too. I really do, Chim. But, honestly, I'm just not feeling up to hanging out with a bunch of people right now. Rain check?”
“Woah, woah, woah. Hang on now. Why are you not feeling up to it and why do you sound so sad?”
“Just feeling down right now. Need to be alone, I think. I'll be all right, Jimin. I promise. You know I adore you with my whole heart and I'd love to hang out soon. Just not today.”
There was a beat of silence before you heard muffled talking, voices speaking indiscernible words back and forth. You waited for the inevitable questioning that seemed sure to come, preparing yourself to fake a bit more enthusiasm than you really felt to try and give the boys the reassurance that they'd probably need that you were going to be okay. You knew they were just being good friends, worrying about you and whatever it was making you too sad to see them. Hopefully, with the right words and tone of voice, you'd be able to convince them that you didn't need to talk about things. You heard shuffling after another moment, sounds indicating movement, and then the other line became more clear.
The voice was decidedly deeper than Jimin's and you sucked in a breath at the sound of it, holding it in place rather than answering.
“YN? Please talk to me. Jimin looks like you broke his heart a little with how down you apparently sounded. Can you tell me what's wrong?”
Had it been anyone else, you probably could have held strong and masked at least some degree of your low state of being. All of the guys had a way about being their own brand of supportive, having shown themselves to be reliable shoulders to cry on when you had need of one or, in some cases, seven of them. They'd been there for you in the past as much as you'd been there for them and their ability to be so supportive in their own special ways made them incredible friends, from Jimin's immense empathy to Jin's way of making you laugh even when you wanted to cry. Despite knowing you could rely on them, however, there were simply some things that you just couldn't bring yourself to turn to them for, finding it difficult to open up to even your closest friends. The one person in your life you had never, ever been able to resist leaning on, crying to whenever he discovered you were hurting, was Kim Namjoon.
He had been the first of the boys you'd met two years ago and the very one who had introduced you to the rest. You'd felt a sort of ease with him from the very first conversation you'd ever shared, as if he just had a way about him that made those he interacted with feel comfortable, important. He'd been warm and personable from the start, someone you'd happily exchanged numbers with, having no idea how close of a friend he'd inevitably become. He'd drawn you in with his charming, thoughtful personality and had you hooked from the first time you heard his boisterous laugh, witnessed his tendency to be as silly as he was smart. Namjoon transformed from a stranger to a close confidant faster than anyone else ever had and he knew you better than most, knew how to read your moods and help you through things as if he'd been a part of your life for much longer than he already had been. Nobody could bring down your walls like he could and in a way it terrified you when you still had secrets you'd never been able to bring yourself to share. Given how the events of that day tied so closely to those secrets, the sound of Namjoon's familiar voice with its soothing and gently urging tone made it difficult to keep from letting everything slip out.
“YN?” Namjoon asked again after a few moments of continued silence.
You swallowed hard around the growing lump in your throat, taking a breath both deep and slow before you willed yourself to finally answer.
“I'm just…I'm feeling a lot of things right now, Joon. Mason and I broke up and I'm dealing, you know? It's...I don't...Fuck. I'm feeling sort of raw for a lot of different reasons and I just don't think being around a bunch of people is the best idea right now.”
“Shit, I didn't realize you two had...I'm sorry.”
You couldn't bring yourself to tell him why you were so upset, that it was less due to the loss of Mason himself and instead attached to so many other feelings, other ghosts you'd never shared with him. You listened to the sound of Namjoon taking a deep breath, swearing you could practically visualize the way that he tended to move his jaw whenever he was essentially chewing on his thoughts, collecting the right words that were needed.
“I get needing to be alone right now. Sometimes when we're hurting we need that time to ourselves to sort out everything we're feeling, make sense of things until we've got the clarity we need. If you need us all to give you some space until you're ready to really talk about it or you just feel better in general then that's what we'll do. You know we'll do whatever you need.”
You nodded your head even though he couldn't see you, unable to care about how silly that was when you knew he had more to say.
“But, if you think you might want to talk or you just want someone to be there beside you while you cry it out, you know I'll be over in ten if you need me. I'll let you sulk or cover my shirt in snot or whatever else might help. I can even stop by your favorite pizza place on the way over. Lorenzo's, right? Seriously, whatever you need from me or any of us, we've got you, sweetheart.”
His words simultaneously made your heart feel full and aching at the same time, breath hitching as you tried not to let the threat of tears grow further. You wiped at the hint of moisture beginning to cling to your lashes, the desire for solitude overridden by the familiar want of Namjoon's presence. Maybe it might have been better to be alone, to assess all your hurts like he'd said, but you'd already gone over the same scars a thousand times. All you'd expected to really do that night had been to either distract yourself from the same old pain, numb yourself to it as much as you could, or endure a repeat of the usual routine of personal introspection that only ever served to make you feel damaged beyond repair. The first sounded more appealing and perhaps, with Namjoon sitting beside you, it'd be a little easier to feel better. Whatever the right choice may have been, all you knew for sure was that you wanted to see his face even if your own was likely to be a distraught mess.
“Can you come over?” you asked, voice barely above a whisper as you tried to reign your emotions in.
Namjoon, as always, did not disappoint you.
“I'm on my way.”
You made an effort to occupy yourself while waiting for Namjoon to show up, trying your best to focus on your TV as you laid slumped over on your couch. Your emotions had begun to feel super charged after speaking with Joon, threatening to boil over with the promise of his comforting presence, but the time spent waiting for his arrival gave you enough of a reprieve to regress back into a sad yet mercifully tearless state of moping. A box of tissues had been settled in the center of your coffee table as a precaution, but thus far you'd hardly had to make use of them, wondering how much that might change once your friend made it over. Despite feeling almost numb to a point at present, you had a feeling the waterworks would start up quickly enough the second you saw that soft, concerned look Namjoon tended to get on his face whenever someone he cared for was upset.
“Damn his sweet, dimpled face...” you groused, equal parts affection and frustration in the pillow-muffled words you uttered to no one.
No matter how much you might have grumbled, you were still glad that he was on his way, feeling comforted by the knowledge that he'd be there soon no matter how much you'd initially craved solitude and regardless of the fear you felt that this time you wouldn't be able to keep Namjoon from discovering the skeletons you'd kept in your closet. With any luck, though, he'd simply help you take your mind off of everything rather than suggest talking about it. Joon had never been one to pressure anyone in to sharing things or spilling their guts if they didn't want to. He would always encourage it, but you hadn't known him to be one to force things out, offering helpful suggestions without ever being pushy when it wasn't needed. If you didn't want to talk at length about things then he wouldn't expect you to and that did help with some of the malaise you felt.
When you heard a few knocks at your door, you rolled your body gracelessly off the couch and paused your show with the press of a controller button, not even bothering to take a gander through the peep hole before opening the door.
“Pizza delivery for a Miss YN?”
Namjoon's grin was slightly crooked, deepening one of his dimples in a way that never failed to make him look impossibly endearing, a large box of pizza clutched in his ring-clad fingers. You stepped aside to let him in, the scent of his faint cologne an odd combination with the smell of the pizza, but far from unpleasant. He made a beeline for your small kitchen as you shut the door, setting the box atop the stove, hands quickly occupying themselves with emptying the contents of the two plastic bags he'd also been carrying.
“I got a side of breadsticks since I wasn't sure how hungry you might be and I bought you a pint of mint chip ice cream, even though it's an abomination.”
“Thank you and it is not.”
“I respectfully disagree and I'm putting it in the freezer rather than the trash, regardless of my own instincts, because I care about you and you deserve things you like when you're sad. Even if they're awful.”
“Throw yourself in the trash with that attitude, mister.”
He angled his head back with a loud laugh at your smart remark, setting the controversial pint in the freezer before it could start to melt. Unable to resist the lure of temptation, you made your way over to the pizza box in order to lift the top, peering inside to see that all of your favorite toppings were in place, a tiny smile working its way across your lips at the sight as the lid slowly came back down.
“You remembered my favorite.”
For a moment you didn't say anything, glancing at Namjoon as he regarded you, dark eyes soft as he looked you over. It felt a little bit silly perhaps to be so touched over something as simple as a friend remembering what type of pizza you liked best, but you couldn't help the way your heart seemed to swell a little bit at that indication of care, at the reminder of how incredibly thoughtful he was. You could only imagine that his afternoon would've been a great deal more entertaining if he'd stayed at Jimin's place, enjoying whatever loud shenanigans everyone was sure to get up to rather than hanging out with your sad, sorry self. Regardless, he'd shown up and his face carried no sign whatsoever that he was unhappy to be there with you. It meant a lot.
You hung your head, hating that being so cared for in your current state was enough to make you feel like crying again, lifting a hand to wipe at one of your eyes as you tried reigning your emotions for what felt like the umpteenth time.
You didn't even have to look up to know that his arms were opening up to you, body stepping forward into his as if on autopilot, and you let your eyes close as you turned your cheek to rest against his shoulder. Namjoon slipped his arms around you immediately, one large hand lifting to settle against the back of your neck so he could gently stroke your nape in a way he'd eventually come to learn you found soothing. It felt good to be held, to hear his heartbeat against your ear even while you tried to focus on keeping calm rather than just breaking down completely, afraid to let yourself cry as hard as you felt you might if you let go. Particularly when it wouldn't be easy to explain. You were sure that you could try lying, try to convince Namjoon that you really had cared for Mason and it was the reason you felt so bent out of shape, but you weren't sure if he'd believe you. Hell, you weren't sure if you could really do so anyway. Leaving some things unsaid was one thing, but lying outright to one of your closest friends was another and Namjoon, even with his tendency to sometimes be humorously oblivious to simple things, was far too astute.
The hug lasted for a few moments, as long as you needed it to in order to get your emotions as under control as you possibly could, and Namjoon said nothing while it went on, merely holding you until you started to back away.
“Yeah. Sounds good.”
Even though pizza had been a part of your original solo plans and the smell of the freshly cooked, cheesy pie was enticing as could be, your appetite felt somewhat lacking. You figured with a bit more time and a bit more calm your stomach would become more cooperative, so you set to work grabbing some cold drinks from the fridge while Namjoon easily navigated your cabinets to plate a few slices and breadsticks. Steam wafted from both plates as you walked with your companion to the connected living room, the small size of your modest one-bedroom apartment making the trip incredibly short. Your sofa wasn't especially large, a lumpy hand-me-down you'd received from a friend, but there was enough space that the two of you could sit comfortably without being pressed against one another. You leaned your body against the arm, knees lifting and curling against your chest, arms wrapping around them. The pizza and drinks were right before you on the low coffee table, but you made no move to grab either, reaching instead for the glow of your controller.
“Parks and Rec?”
Your Netflix list had at least a dozen or more titles you'd never watched, left sitting for months at a time while you fell into the routine of watching the same things over again instead. It was a bit of a bad habit you had yet to kick despite how many times your friends had teased you about it.
“You really are upset,” Namjoon remarked, leaning forward to drape his elbows across his parted knees, head angled your way.
You could feel his eyes on you, but couldn't bring yourself to look back, fingers idly swirling around the analog sticks of the controller, the episode you'd been watching still paused. When you didn't say anything or look at him, he opted to continue.
“You always watch this show whenever you're really feeling low and normally you'd be half-way through your first slice by now.”
You heard movement, daring to glance out the corner of your eyes to see Namjoon running a hand over the back of his neck, and you looked down at the controller again when his head started turning towards you again. It seemed possible that you could cut off the conversation by hitting the x button, resume the episode in hopes that the tribute concert for Lil Sebastian would distract you both from your misery and the reasons why. Somehow, though, you didn't want to just cut Namjoon off like that, steeling yourself for answers and replies that would sate his curiosity without saying more than you could, waylay his worries enough that you could both fall comfortably quiet.
“Yeah well, you know how it is. Breakups are hard and all that.”
“You're certainly not wrong there and I know you've had your fair share of them. I've just...you didn't really say much about Mason while you two were together, so I had no idea he meant that much to you.”
“We weren't together that long. Wasn't much to say.”
“But, you cared about him a lot regardless of how brief the time might have been. Otherwise, you wouldn't be this upset.”
You stopped yourself before you could simply launch into an explanation without choosing your words as carefully as you needed to, taking a breath and wetting your lips with a quick swipe of your tongue as you decided what to say.
“The thing is...I'm not upset about Mason. Not really. I liked him, but I didn't really like him, you know? No fireworks or butterflies in my stomach or anything like that. He was just...a guy I was dating. It's just the break up itself that's bugging me. Being here again. Dumped for the millionth time for the same reason. History just continuing to repeat itself. It fucking sucks.”
Namjoon, not to mention the rest of your friends, were all fairly privy to how often and quickly your relationships tended to end. It wasn't as if you had a new significant other every month, but they'd all likely gotten used to you dating a guy for a few weeks or months only to end up single again. Nobody had ever had anything mean to say about it, no tasteless jokes or playful jabs at how destined to fail at relationships you seemed to be, but even without seeing you immediately after your breakups most of the time you could imagine that anyone would figure out how tiring being dumped so much could get. It was a perfectly reasonable explanation, one you knew Namjoon could understand as being the cause for your upset. It wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't a lie either.
He seemed to get it, going quiet after you'd finished speaking, and you took it as a sign that he understood, that he got it. For a moment, even with the feelings churning uncomfortably within you to create a quiet chaos in your heart and mind, you felt perhaps a little relieved. You'd given Namjoon enough to get why your mood was so lousy without having to give him more than you'd given anyone else and that allowed for room to relax, to fall into that ritual of comfort food, comfort TV, and comforting companionship without further stress. You didn't expect to feel wholly better straight away, but it'd certainly be a start and maybe in a little while, once the rest of your nervous tension had fled, you'd be able to lean into Namjoon if he felt up for it. After all, you'd become close enough friends over the years that a bit of platonic cuddling now and again tended to be rather normal. As the silence continued, you finally felt able to resume the episode in front of you, leaning forward to set the controller on to the coffee table.
Your eyes had barely even begun to focus on the screen for more than a minute when Namjoon shifted towards the table, tapping the x button to pause the show and subsequently plunging the room back into silence. You looked over at him in quiet confusion, taking in the way he was gazing at you, expression as intent as it was concerned.
“I've never asked about this, but after what you just said I can't help wondering about it.”
Namjoon shifted sideways, turning to face you completely like he wanted to make it very clear that you had his undivided attention.
“You said you keep getting dumped for the same reason, but...what is the reason exactly?”
Panic immediately settled in, your entire body going rigid as soon as the words left his lips, as soon as you realized the mistake you'd made. Fuck! How could you have let a tidbit like that slip out and why did Namjoon have to be sharp enough to have picked up on it? You tried your best to keep your expression perfectly neutral, hoping that you could manage to hide the anxiety spiking hard within you. Namjoon, the wonderful yet frustratingly perceptive man that he was, seemed to notice the nervousness you were attempting to veil, the way your arms had tightened just a little bit more around the knees pressed against your chest. You could see the way his eyes softened even further like he was all too aware that he'd trigger something fearful within you and, confusion side, he wanted to figure out what he could do to make things better.
“I've known you for a while, YN. You have your faults, the same as anyone does, but that doesn't change the fact that you're one of the most amazing people I've ever met. Anybody would be beyond lucky to have you and the fact that so many have let you go has always confused the hell out of me. The rest of the guys too. Knowing that there's apparently a specific reason...I can't help wondering what that might be. Can I ask what it is? Would you be okay with talking to me about it?”
“I don't know. I don't think I can. I don't know if I can. I never have...not with anyone.”
“Never,” you reaffirmed, unable to look him in the eye any longer, curling further into yourself. “It's not something that's easy to think about, much less try to talk about. Every time I've ever even remotely entertained the notion of telling someone about it...”
You felt your throat burning, aching with that all too familiar and now repetitious threat of oncoming tears, the urge to cry the strongest you'd felt thus far that day. Fighting it seemed as if it might be impossible this time, teeth pressing down on your bottom lip to the point of it being painful to try suppressing how badly it wanted to quiver. Regret ate away at you, making you wish you'd never said anything at all or simply resisted the temptation of Namjoon's presence in the first place. He'd never been around you immediately after one of your breakups when your emotions were the most raw, the most difficult to contend with. Now that he was finally near you at another one of your typically solitary low points, you wished you'd been smart enough to know that inevitably your composure would fall to pieces. That fragile hope that you could tough things out until you could swallow your feelings and just enjoy having Namjoon near you, making you feel better, had shattered in mere moments.
You were scared.
You were so damn scared.
“YN, please look at me.”
Difficult as it was to find the desire to do as he'd asked, you somehow managed to look over at him and the regret he wore so clearly across his features, as if it was agony to have unintentionally upset you, made it impossible not to let a few tears fall. Your hands were quick to wipe them away, a soft sniffle making you want to let out a groan of frustration, irritated that your nose was already starting to get stuffy. Fuck if you didn't absolutely loathe crying.
“I'm sorry for pushing. If I'd have known it would hurt you this much just to ask, I wouldn't have tried to pry. You don't owe me or anyone an explanation, especially not when it's this painful. But, can you promise me that maybe someday you'll try to talk to someone about whatever it is? Maybe a relative or somebody you feel comfortable enough to trust sharing things with? If it's as bad as it seems, then confiding in someone one day might help. Think about it at least?”
His concern for you was as earnest as it had ever been and you knew, as difficult as it had always been to admit, that he was right. You didn't owe anyone a reason for why your relationships always went south nor did you have an obligation to open up about the damaging parts of your past. That didn't mean, however, that there wasn't some need for eventually opening up about it. Sharing your hurts held the possibility of helping them heal, giving you a starting point with which you might be able to really and truly move on from them. At the very least, confiding in a person you felt you could trust could be an avenue to make coping with things a little easier. On some level, deep down beneath the layers of fear and pain, tucked away under the damage you had shouldered for so long, was a desire to let things out. It wouldn't be pretty opening the proverbial closet to let the rush of bones and ruin and dark things spill out for someone else to see. In a way, you were almost scared of judgment even despite the knowledge that the right person would never make you feel bad or at fault for the things you'd been put through. There seemed to be a million reasons to keep quiet and just as many to finally speak out loud, either choice difficult to make.
The need to be held urged you closer to Namjoon, your body slowly closing the gap resting between the two of you. It wasn't until you'd settled your brow against the side of his neck, tucking your body into the familiar warmth of his lanky frame, that he wrapped you up fully in his arms like he'd been waiting to make sure that holding you was okay and what you wanted. All the turmoil and indecision fighting an apparent war inside you lingered, just as loud and unwanted as always, but the way it felt as Namjoon leaned back to let you rest comfortably against him gave you a modest sense of ease. His fingers found your nape the same way they had before, touch slow and searching to make certain you were all right with the caress before it continued. He didn't shush you as you continued to sniffle, whimpering now and again as a few more tears slipped out. He simply let you get out whatever you felt able to without further questioning, silently offering comfort and care on your terms, in what ways or forms you indicated that you needed. It made you feel safe.
He made you feel safe.
You started speaking before you could even consider making yourself stop.
“I won't have sex with them.”
“The guys I've dated the past few years,” you began to explain, closing your eyes as you prepared to yourself for everything that was coming. “The reason they always break up with me. It's because I won't have sex with them...because I can't. I don't want to.”
“Shit, that's what's been happening all this time? YN, that's nothing to be ashamed of and it's in no way a poor reflection on you if the assholes you've been dating expect things from you that you in no way owe them.”
You nodded against his shoulder, knowing as much for yourself yet still finding some relief in hearing someone else say it regardless. He gave you a quick squeeze, the motion almost feeling protective in a way, perhaps expressing what Namjoon now thought of the men you'd dated. If he held any disdain for them it probably wasn't fair, not when he didn't yet know everything, hadn't heard the full story.
“I know, Namjoon. My body belongs to me and nobody has a right to it just because they might want it. I don't want to let someone that close unless I know, really know, that it's what I want. Problem is...I don't think I ever will meet someone I'll want to get that close to.”
“What makes you think that? A slew of jerks doesn't necessarily mean that you won't eventually meet a decent guy. Granted, no guy is ever going to fully deserve you, but there's got to be someone out there who comes close.”
You felt yourself frowning, eyes closing tight to try and stem off some of the moisture running what felt like tiny rivers down your cheeks, probably dripping wet spots on to the material of Namjoon's white t-shirt.
“Maybe you're right, but you know what scares me about that being even the slightest bit possible?”
For a moment you paused, checking to see if Namjoon was listening. He gave you another wordless squeeze to let you know that he was, as if he didn't want to say anything when your words were the only ones that needed come out.
“Deep down, I don't know if I even really do want to meet someone like that. I think maybe, on some fucked up level, I've been dating guys I know probably won't work out, because I'm so afraid of what'll happen if I do really fall in love with someone. I don't know if I can ever really let myself trust a guy the way I want to and I'm terrified if I try that it'll just end up being another Patrick.”
You knew he didn't recognize the name, that none of your friends would when you'd never once uttered it to them, a figure from the past you still felt hovering around you, more a poltergeist than a harmless ghost. Even saying his name aloud, for the first time in years, made you remember his face so clearly it was like looking at a clear photograph in your mind. It had never gone away, every part of him you felt burdened with still locked away in the deepest parts of your mind as often as you could keep him there. The memories hit you now and again, worst of all on days like the present or nights when sleep evaded you, making your bed feel unsafe even though you knew your home was your haven; a place your ex had never and would never see. He was gone from your life and had been for years, but even so, he managed to linger against your will, uncaring of what you wanted just as he had been when he'd actually been nearby.
“My first boyfriend...the first and only guy I've ever been in love with. I was with him a few years before I moved here and met you. I was still nineteen and living with my parents and he came into my life when I never would have expected it. I didn't know anything about relationships when I met him, hadn't really even cared about them really, but he just...fuck, he felt like something special and I was really young, fell really hard. Hard enough that I was stupid enough to move away from home to live with a guy I'd only dated for a few months. But, if I'd known what he was actually like or had even the tiniest inkling what would happen for the next two years, I'd have never...”
You had to stop, take a moment to just breathe and stop yourself from falling into old, damaging ways of thinking. Initially, after everything had gone down, you had blamed yourself for the things you'd endured during your relationship with Patrick. You'd called yourself every unfair name under the sun, feeling like your own immature decisions had led you into the situation you'd ended up in. It had taken a great deal of time before you'd reached a place where you felt able to realize that you hadn't willingly placed yourself in harm's way, that you hadn't deserved to be abused because you'd fallen for the wrong guy, chosen to live with someone who had ended up being toxic. You hadn't hurt yourself. You'd been hurt. You weren't at fault for the actions of your abuser and you were hardly culpable for the horrible choices he'd made.
Namjoon's voice cut through your thoughts after a time, calling your name and dragging you from the brief reprieve you'd taken to reaffirm the things you knew you needed to remember, the truthful reassurances you told yourself giving you a bit more strength to keep going. There was more yet to tell and terrible as it was, you needed to keep going until it was all out.
“I thought he never asked for sex or tried anything because he was being respectful, waiting until I was ready. But, once we were several cities away from my home town and sharing an apartment...I guess he decided that enough was enough. He told me I'd made him wait long enough, that I owed him since he was giving me a place to live, and I didn't want to...I never wanted to, but he was aggressive and I was scared, afraid he'd hurt me if I said no, so I said it was okay. I didn't want to, but I let him because I felt like I had to. That's how it always was...for two whole years. He'd insist and get frustrated and make me feel small, made me feel like I didn't have any other choice than to say yes when I wanted to say no. And I hated that I still loved him even though he kept hurting me like that.”
You felt Namjoon tense slightly, his nose burying into the hair atop your head. Somehow, even though the way he'd gone rigid said something of what he was feeling, perhaps upset or anger at the revelation that you'd been abused, you felt calm. Even though it hurt and despite the tears spilling with more frequency from your eyes, there truly was almost a strange sense of relief in finally recounting what you'd been through and carried for so long.
“When he cheated on me and things finally ended, I was a mess. I didn't know what to feel for a long time. I was angry and sad and I felt used, worthless. Sick as it was, I even missed him. It took me a while to realize that him breaking up with me, screwing someone else, was probably a good thing. I did love him and maybe on some fucked up level he did love me too, but that didn't mean that what he did to me was okay or that I deserved it. It didn't mean it wasn't abuse.”
Exhaustion seemed to overtake you like you'd shed fifty pounds of dead weight you'd been carrying for ages just by telling someone the truth of what you'd gone through. It still hurt just as much as it had before and you surmised that it probably always would, but there genuinely did seem to be a sort of catharsis in it all. You still carried the same burden, but you were no longer alone in it. It may have been your weight to carry, but somebody else finally knew what you were carrying in the first place and it helped, even if only a little. It almost felt akin to coming up for air for the first time after being underwater for too long, resulting in a painful burning in your chest that coupled with a much-needed sense of relief.
“I don't want to ever feel like that again. So...I'm scared shitless that I might fall in love with someone again someday and they'll be the same kind of asshole who wants to try to make me sleep with him when I don't want to. Or that...maybe I will find a decent guy who doesn't push, who'd be willing to wait until I'm ready, but who I'll end up losing eventually because I don't know if I'll ever be ready. I do think I want someone in my life. I really do. I want to be able to want someone someday. But, I don't know if it's even possible and the notion that history might repeat itself absolutely terrifies me.”
Namjoon pressed a brief peck to your forehead, the affectionate gesture chasing away the creasing of your furrowed brow, and you let yourself slump against him completely, your body feeling practically boneless. Were it not for the fact that you were still crying a little, your nose obnoxiously stuffed up, you damn near felt as if you could've passed out there against him with enough time and silence. When your human pillow leaned forward, one arm wrapped around your back to keep you against his chest, you let out a soft groan of protest until you realized that Namjoon had reached out for the box of tissues on the coffee table. He handed it to you and despite how warm he was, how comforting his chest felt, you made yourself move off of him to blow your nose clear, not wanting to get snot on his clothes. A glance over at his shirt and the wet marks staining the white fabric revealed that you may have already done so anyway, casting Namjoon an apologetic look once you'd realized. He scarcely seemed to notice or care, his eyes on you and convey a cocktail of different emotions. Sadness seemed prevalent, mingled with concern, neither leaving his face as he reached for your hand once you'd set the tissues aside.
“I am so, so sorry that he did that to you, YN. Nobody ever deserves to be hurt like that even once let alone for years. I had no idea that you'd been through something like that and I can only imagine how hard it has to have been living with those experiences and memories, much less finally telling someone about it. Thank you for confiding in me, for feeling able to confide in me.”
“Joon, I'm trying to unclog my nose and you're gonna make me start crying again talking like that.”
“Sorry. I'm not trying to. If you need to cry some more, though...”
He was most likely right, allowing yourself a good cry simply another means of letting things out, but you groaned at the thought of it, not even sure you had the energy to cry any more than you thus far had.
“I probably do, but I don't want to. Telling you everything means remembering it a lot more vividly than I want to and I'm feeling worn out.”
“I can't say I blame you at all. Do you think you feel up to eating a little now? It might be a good idea. Take a breather, fill your stomach, then talk about it more if you need it.”
“Eating might be good. I'm still not really feeling hungry, to be honest, but I should probably try.”
Tossing the soiled tissues in the trash, you finally made a grab for the plate Namjoon had prepared for you, setting it on your lap. The pizza was no longer steaming, but a quick bite revealed that it was still warm and it tasted as good as a slice from Lorenzo's always did. A second bite seemed to be enough to help revive your appetite a bit, the taste of the tangy sauce and perfectly melted cheese hitting the spot more than you'd anticipated. As you swallowed the third bite, you noted that Namjoon hadn't made a move for his own plate or drink, seemingly too occupied with watching you. You chewed quietly, eyes darting from your plate to the man on the opposite end of the couch, wishing you could read his thoughts at that moment. Had what you told him completely eliminated all traces of hunger he may have previously had? Now that everything was out in the open, his mind filled with knowledge about parts of you he'd never expected to uncover, was Namjoon feeling disturbed or put off? Had his perceptions of you shifted, forever changed by the truths you'd unveiled?
“You don't feel different about me now that you know, do you? This doesn't change anything, does it?”
He shook his head immediately, seeming both alarmed and a little shocked by the suggestion that he might view you or treat you differently now that he was privy your history. The relief you felt in seeing his expression was almost instantaneous.
“No. Nothing could ever change how I feel about you. You mean the world to me and I still respect you as much now as I have for the past two years. I just...”
Namjoon's words tapered off, remorse pouring into every facet of his being, from his face to his body language. When he found it in himself to continue, his voice almost sounded small, carrying with it a tone which spoke of regret as clearly as his actual words when he finally persisted in finishing what he'd been trying to say.
“I just wish now that I'd met you sooner. I wish I could have been there for you and been a friend to you sooner, so maybe you wouldn't have held on to all this pain by yourself for so long.”
“That can't really be helped. It's not like you can time travel or something. Besides, you're here now and I need you just as much now as I would have back then.”
For the first time since you'd both taken a seat on the couch, you felt able to smile, staring over at him with an incredible fondness you felt deep down in the core of your being. You didn't know what it felt like to be on the other side of things, to be the one hearing that someone you cared for had been abused by their partner, but you did know that you appreciated him for how he was handling things. He was being the same gentle, considerate Namjoon you'd come to rely on in other times of need, giving you his support and kindness without a single hint of judgment. There seemed to be nary a sign that he thought ill of you, viewed you as some sort of broken thing as you'd once feared others might see you if they discovered the truth. You had no clue how the other guys might react if they were to find out, knowing that they'd still be supportive and wonderful if not angry as all hell at your ex. Just the same, you considered the possibility that some of them might feel the need to walk on eggshells around you and you didn't want that, didn't want them to treat you any differently than they always had. Yes, you'd been through something terrible, but you were still you and you were dealing with it all. Perhaps someday, you'd feel okay to tell them as well, but for now, just having Namjoon in the know felt like enough. It felt like yet another needed step forward in the healing process you'd begun by yourself once Patrick was out of your life.
You managed a few more bites of your pizza before it seemed to be plenty for the time being and you opted to set it back on the coffee table. Maybe a bit later, with a bit more calm, you'd want to finish it. Worst case scenario, you'd stick it in the fridge. Lorenzo's pizza was just as good reheated as it was fresh and that was part of why the restaurant would have your business forever. Unless the worst happened and they closed permanently; a terrible thought you didn't want to consider after a day of bleak thoughts and general sadness.
“Want your mint chocolate monstrosity instead?”
Namjoon grinned at the dirty look you shot him and you couldn't help laughing at how pleased he looked for a moment, shaking your head.
“Nah. Honestly, the only thing I really want right now is to just sit and maybe cuddle some more. If that's okay?”
Eagerly, you settled back into the comforting cradle of Namjoon's arms, beyond thankful that you had a place where you could seek out that sort of contact without worry or fear. For a long time, being touched had made you nervous, even when the contact was brief and unassuming. You'd accepted hugs from new friends and co-workers somewhat stiffly for the first few months after separating from Patrick, having needed time to get yourself to a point where you didn't constantly feel worried that a person holding you or touching you for more than a few seconds might have ill intent behind it. You could hardly remember when it was that you'd gotten comfortable enough with Namjoon to lean your head on his shoulder during movie nights or fall into the hugs he offered so easily, but it had initially astounded you how relaxed closeness with him made you feel. In time, being near him helped you feel a little better about being near other people, to the point where you were happy for all of Hoseok's warm hugs and the way Jimin would rest his chin on your shoulder when he was feeling cuddly. Your own efforts towards recovery and a great deal of unknowing help from Namjoon had opened you back up in so many ways that you were beyond thankful for. You doubted further intimacy would ever happen for you, unsure if you'd ever find yourself at a point where you really wanted it, but on some level being able to be close in the ways you were with Namjoon at that moment gave you a sliver of hope.
You felt the desire to thank him, wanting to let him know all he'd done for you beyond just that day, but the words were caught in your mouth. Telling him would no doubt get you feeling extra emotional given the state you'd been in since Mason's texts that morning and your nose finally felt like it was starting to clear up a little. It did warrant saying at some point and when the right moment came, you'd make sure to explain to Namjoon just how much good he'd done just by being who he was. He meant so much to you and he deserved to know one day, especially when you knew telling him would likely get him feeling shy. Namjoon was especially cute when he was feeling bashful.
You let out a soft, questioning hum in response.
“If the next guy you date turns out to be another asshole, tell me, yeah? I get why it is now that none of us ever see you right after your breakups, so don't go thinking you have to deal with them alone if you don't want to. I wanna be here for you when you're hurting, as often as you want me to be.”
You smiled a little, angling your head back to let him see it and giving him a glimpse of the sadness that tainted it ever so slightly. His offer was appreciated certainly and it was kind of him to make it even if it felt as if it might be a little pointless in the long run.
“You really are sweet, Joon. But, I wouldn't worry about that too much. I think maybe I need to just take a break from trying to date for a while. I wanna hope that someday things will end up okay or be different, believe that a great guy really is out there who can wait for me, stick it out with me even if I never end up wanting to take him to bed...but it's getting harder and harder to hold on to that hope, you know? Being afraid for so many reasons and also being rejected again and again has really gotten old.”
“Someone will, YN. I know it's possible.”
“I wish I had the amount of optimism that you do. I'd like to believe that he's out there somewhere, but I dunno how many more shitty dates and relationships I want to go through trying to find this guy. I've done so much legwork trying to search for someone right for me that I'm getting goddamn exhausted. Maybe enough is enough.”
Namjoon went silent, his fingers lightly tapping the side of your arm; a bit of a nervous tick you'd noticed he had whenever he was thinking about something he wanted to say. While usually fairly articulate in getting his thoughts and viewpoints across, sometimes Namjoon tended to need a few moments to gather up his words, find the exact way he wanted to explain what he felt in a manner that was easy to understand as well as non-intrusive. While not without his own occasional fumbles or temper, the vast majority of the time Namjoon made a very strong effort to make certain, even during a debate, that he was understanding of other people and their differing opinions, trying to be insightful and mature. He never went out of his way to try and make another person feel bad or uncomfortable, even when he was teasing or joshing around with the best of them. Knowing so much about his character made it easy for you to not worry about what it was he was building up to or what words he wanted to say. In fact, you were more curious than anything, awaiting his response.
After a time, he let out a soft groan of frustration, as if he'd reached some sort of mental roadblock he was having trouble moving around. He shifted the two of you, taking a gentle hold of your arms to turn your body his way, the both of you facing one another directly as he shifted back, putting a bit of distance between you. You'd have been a little hurt by that had he not been so careful in the way he'd separated the two of you, his fingers lingering on your arms for a few reassuring strokes before he folded his hands in his lap. He didn't look at you right away, eyes directed at the almost anxious manner in which he took to adjusted the rings on his fingers, lips thinning and jaw working a bit as he seemed to search for courage.
“If you did meet someone who could promise that he'd wait as long as you needed and meant it...would you be willing to give him a chance?”
You had to stop for a moment, unable to just answer the question readily. Finding a partner who could give you that level of patience and understanding would've felt like an amazing stroke of luck. Misgivings and dating fatigue aside, you felt as if you would probably always long for the fantasy of a boyfriend like what Namjoon had described. You'd considered what it would be like being with someone who wouldn't press for more or call it quits when things weren't progressing physically, envisioning the potential of a man who you could trust to share your past with. But, with every single instance of entertaining that daydream came the bite of reality to remind you that things wouldn't likely be so simple. Despite knowing that plenty of people in the world had healthy, loving relationships without sex, there was at least a sense of certainty in the lives of those couples, wasn't there? You didn't know if you'd ever want to have sex again and you didn't know if maybe with the right amount of time, understanding, and love you would want to. You didn't know how you'd react if you actually decided to try; if you'd be able to relax or you'd panic before you could even get all of your clothes off. Would anyone be able to deal with how wishy-washy you sometimes felt where thoughts of intimacy were concerned? Wouldn't even the kindest boyfriend get frustrated being caught in a state of 'maybe yet probably not, but maybe'?
You felt discomfited, unbelievably so, just trying to figure everything out based on a theoretical relationship, every emotion so jumbled up against the next that you practically wanted to rap your hand against your head a few times in a feeble attempt to try and clear out the mess inside your brain.
“I honestly don't know. I'd have to think about it before I could give him an answer. Not that any of this even matters since it's just theoretical. It's not like I'm just gonna tell some guy who asks me out about all this straight away, so some dude promising me all that isn't going to magically happen.”
“And if he did know?”
At some point, as you'd been humming and hawing over your own thoughts, you realized that your eyes had closed, peering at the blackness behind your lids as you'd tried to sort out your own 'what if' worries. When they opened at Namjoon's question, baffled by the purpose of it, you looked up at his face to see how intently he was looking at you, like the answers you'd eventually give him meant everything to him. He looked almost afraid, almost hopeful as well, and none of those feelings made sense to you at that moment.
“If he knew about your boundaries, your fears, your wants, what you'd been through...if he knew all of it and he wanted to be with you...if he promised you he'd wait as long as you needed him to and that he'd be okay with sex never happening because he was crazy about you and just wanted to be with you for as long as you'd have him...would you give him a chance?”
It was dawning on you then, slowly yet surely, the truth washing over you like a tidal wave to knock the air from your lungs. Namjoon was still wringing his hands, toying with his rings as he looked at you, and his shoulders were as tense as you'd ever seen them. You had the distinct feeling that he wanted to reach out and touch you, take your hands in his, but had forced himself to resist that desire. It made sense now why he'd suddenly put distance between you, wanting to give you a bit of space in case this new line of questioning and the revelations it would lead to might upset you, make you feel afraid.
And you were definitely afraid.
Yet somehow, mingling with the unmistakable fear and anxiety, was a bizarre and unexpected hint of what felt like happiness. Perhaps even a little hope.
You wanted to run to your room and slam the door shut, lock it behind you while you tried to hide from the world and your feelings and all the possibilities offered by the man in front of you. You thought of the prospect of ruined friendships and heartbreak, of trying for something that could so easily fail and cause you to lose someone so very dear to you. You thought of everything you knew about Namjoon and his nature, the type of person he was. How you knew him so much better after two years of friendship than you'd known Patrick in those short months before you'd moved in with him. You considered every wonderful, beautiful aspect of the man in front of you and how he had never, ever been the sort of person to say something important without meaning it. Namjoon was the type of man who would promise patience and give his all to keep that promise because that was just who he was; dedicated and unbelievably earnest in all that he did.
He was everything you'd hoped for deep down in a boyfriend while also being everything you were terrified to have and one day lose.
You weren't sure what to do or say or even what emotion to feel when you were feeling so many, your heart pounding at what felt like a mile a minute. Fighting to try and stay calm, you urged yourself to say something, anything really, knowing first and foremost that you needed to make sure that you weren't misinterpreting what he was trying to convey to you. You had to hear it, really hear it.
“Namjoon, are you trying to say that you want to be with me?”
You turned away from him, needing to sit back against the couch as even sitting up straight suddenly felt like it took too much energy. The confirmation of his feelings was almost staggering, particularly given that he'd answered so readily and without hesitation, as if he had absolutely no doubt in his mind that you, with all your recently revealed baggage, were what he wanted.
“I know this is...Fuck, I'm so sorry. My timing is awful and maybe it really is tactless of me to tell you this now. The last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable or feel more afraid. But, after all these years of seeing you with different boyfriends and then hearing you say that you're almost at a breaking point, ready to give up on ever having a relationship that works when all I've ever wanted was to have a chance at making you happy...Shit. God, I have colossally fucked this up. I am seriously so sorry, YN. Should I...do you want me to leave? I can go.”
The more he spoke, the more rushed his words became, giving a clear indication of the mounting panic that he too was feeling. It helped to put you two on the same page in a sense, both of you internally flailing with your own swarming emotions. Oddly enough, you didn't want him to leave yet, holding up a hand when he started to stand up and feeling his body thud back on to the couch heavily right after like he was relieved you potentially weren't so freaked out that you wanted him to get the fuck out of your apartment.
“Really, YN. I am sorry about my timing. Ridiculously so. I should have thought this through a little more and I was trying to, I really was, but I may have gotten way too ahead of myself without meaning to and it's like...like I was considering what to do and say and when, but it all wanted to come out and...fuck. God, I made this such a mess.”
You turned your head to watch him ramble and apologize, his hands periodically covering his face the way they sometimes did when he felt shy or flustered. It wasn't often that you saw him act that way and it tended to come about whenever he'd gotten embarrassed by acting cute, particularly over something he really liked. Usually, it was over some adorable plush doll he may have come across in a store or something equally precious, getting him all giddy and soft only to have him turning bashful at his own reaction. If he was acting that way as a result of coming out with his interest in dating you then it really seemed to mean that he liked you a lot, the fact blowing you away anew. That familiar bloom of warm affection you'd always felt for him returned, spreading through your chest and sinking down into your stomach, making it feel progressively more difficult to be completely afraid that you'd essentially been confessed to. It was all the more complicated because it was Namjoon while somehow being more comforting because it was him as well. How the hell were you ever supposed to figure things out, settle on one emotion to feel about the entire situation, when nothing about the situation was simple?
If there was one thing you could say for certain it was that you wanted to know how long it had been since he'd started to see you as more than a friend. How long had he been sitting on his feelings, treating you much as he did the rest of his friends, without ever giving you a clear sign that he wanted to be with you romantically?
“How long have you wanted to date me? When did you start feeling something more than friendship towards me?”
Somehow, Namjoon managed to look all the more flustered than he already was and you would have loved to tease him about how absolutely adorable he looked had the situation been different. Hell, maybe you'd find time to tease him about it later, but in the now you felt lacking for that sort of jovial humor. You didn't want to know more about Namjoon's feelings and when they changed so much as you felt that you needed to. How many subtle or not so subtle signs of a crush had he potentially shown you in the past that you'd miraculously remained oblivious to?
“To be embarrassingly honest, I was at least a little attracted to you almost from the beginning. I thought you were beautiful right away, but in that sort of passive way anyone notices that someone is an attractive person without really thinking anything of it. When I showed up at the shelter looking for a dog to adopt and you led me right to RapMon, didn't laugh at me or make me feel ridiculous for how completely awkward I was interacting with a dog, it just showed me that you were a really sweet person. I figured that it was probably just you doing your job, but none of your kindness felt fake or manufactured for work. You never seemed annoyed or judgmental whenever I called for advice about Monie.”
Namjoon's demeanor shifted a bit, becoming less embarrassed and more happy as he recounted the past, looking back on the start of your friendship as if with a sort of fond nostalgia. You couldn't help mirroring him in that respect, fighting a smile at the memory of the ball of excited nerves he'd been as he came into your life looking for a four-legged companion. RapMon couldn't have been less interested in him and Namjoon had been obvious in his lack of experience with dogs, but he'd fallen in love with the gorgeous canine at first sight. He'd been so unbelievably sweet and excited, so hopeful about giving the slightly aloof pup a good home that you'd been charmed right away. The man was a full-on dork where his pet was concerned, but it was honestly as adorable as it was hilarious half the time.
“Becoming friends with you over the next few months after that felt so easy like there was never any awkwardness. Transitioning from talking about Monie to everything and nothing at all, finding out what we had in common and didn't felt so natural. It felt like I'd known you my whole life. I was thrilled to have made another friend like you, genuinely happy to start getting to know you. And then that day in the park happened.”
“What day in the park?”
“It was a couple months in to our friendship and I'd called you about taking a walk with RapMon and I. You said you had plans with Jin and Jungkook to go to some Marvel movie marathon at one of the local theaters and you'd been excited about it for weeks because it was an adults-only event. I still remember how thrilled the three of you were about dressing up as a group and trying the character-themed cocktails they were going to be serving. You said you had time to walk with the two of us for at least an hour before you had to go home and get ready, but RapMon's leash broke and he went running.”
You could picture the day in question immediately, recalling the absolute panic both Namjoon and yourself had flown into the second the leash had snapped, RapMon charging off through the park in a swift blur of pure white with absolutely no concern for the way you'd both screamed after him. Monie had never been an especially large dog, but he'd definitely proven to you both that day how remarkably swift he was while free of restrictions. He'd fled from sight in no time flat, far too swift for either of you to have kept up with him the whole time.
“Yeah, I remember that day. We chased him for a good while before we lost him. I'm just glad we managed to track him down again before he got hurt.”
“Especially given that it took us three hours to find him. I felt awful about that. You had plans that you'd been looking forward to for weeks. I remember every picture you sent me of the progress on the costume you were putting together. You were so proud of it. But, you didn't even hesitate to call the guys and let them know that you weren't going because you wanted to make sure that you helped me get my dog back. You didn't even seem disappointed or upset. By the time we found RapMon I felt like a total asshole for completely spoiling your day, so I knew the least I could do was take you out to that cafe to make it up to you, say thank you and sorry for all the trouble. But, you just snorted and rolled your eyes at me and told me that you hadn't missed out. Because, even if you didn't get to wear your costume that night or have those drinks with Jin and Kookie, you got to spend time with me and you said...”
The words hit you all at once, coming back to mind with incredible clarity.
“I said time with you is never time wasted.”
The way Namjoon looked at you then was soft and sweet, the smile on his face warm and wistful as he remembered it all, reflecting so fondly on the day he started to see you in a different light.
“Something just felt different after that. I didn't understand it at first, but little by little I started to realize that every time I was around you, I felt lighter. Happier. I started to notice the way your nose wrinkles whenever you're angry and how scratchy your voice sounds whenever we'd talk early in the morning. Every time you'd start using a different shampoo or perfume, I could tell. If you started doing something different with your make-up or your hair, I found myself noticing it straight away. I just became so much more...aware of you and I realized that however I could, whatever way I could, even if it was just as a friend and even if it meant watching you date other guys, I wanted to see you happy. I wanted to make you happy.”
He meant it. He really, truly meant every word and every emotion he'd revealed to you.
Kim Namjoon, one of your dearest friends, actually had feelings for you and what he'd told you, the way he looked at you as he shared them, spoke volumes of how deep those feelings went. As pensive as he might have been, clearly concerned with your comfort level and the possibility that learning the truth might be putting you ill at ease, Namjoon's expression wore his emotions as clearly as a car wore a fresh coat of paint. That ever-present fondness he regarded you and truthfully all of his friends with was there, as always, but it was different. The warmth in his eyes and his smile, a touch gentler than normal, carried with it a notable sort of soft affection you couldn't believe you'd managed to overlook before now. Had he always looked at you that way or were you only seeing it now for the first time, able to notice it because he wasn't trying to hide it? You wracked your brain for any other signs you may have missed, tells which may have revealed his feelings to you if you'd just paid enough mind to take note of them, but you could only draw a blank. Perhaps it had simply never occurred to you that one of your close friends could view you in any way other than platonically. You'd been seeking out relationships that weren't within your friend group for long enough that it almost made sense not to consider the notion that romance might be plausible with Namjoon or any of the other guys.
Was it even really plausible at all despite knowing how Namjoon felt about you?
Dating him meant putting a friendship you treasured dearly at risk. If the two of you made an attempt to be together only for it to inevitably end up going south, how would that change things? Would the two of you be able to salvage your friendship or would it be impossible? The idea of losing him and putting a strain on all of your mutual friends was not an appealing prospect in the slightest, making your heart ache even thinking of how much pain it would cause everyone. There were just as many reasons to be cautious and uncertain about the idea of pursuing something romantic with Namjoon as there were reasons to see its merits.
Even beyond the good things that could happen and the bad, one thing you knew you had to contend with was your own feelings about the man before you. Could you even view him in a romantic way in the first place? It occurred to you that you'd have known or had some idea if you viewed him as more than a friend long before he'd ever made his confession. Given that you'd only ever really had feelings for someone once, disastrous as that was, it seemed like genuinely liking a guy would have been obvious and easy for you to pin down. If that were wholly true, however, wouldn't you have easily been able to shut down the idea of dating him? Having absolutely zero interest in Namjoon as far as romance went seemed as if it would have meant having no desire to even entertain the notion at all, but you'd let yourself consider the pros and cons like it was a viable option. Hell, for all your fear and doubts, some small part of you felt a little pleased by the knowledge that he had feelings for you. Did that mean that deep down you'd started crushing on him without having even realized it? Were you really such an oblivious mess where love was concerned that not only had Namjoon's feelings gone over your head, but possibly your own as well? What did you feel for him and what did you want to do about what he felt for you?
You knew you had to say something, give him some sort of an answer after sitting lost in your own thoughts for a fair few minutes, silence settling heavily between the two of you. Even though your gaze had shifted away, you found that Namjoon's was still on you, still watching you as you took time to let things sink in.
“Joon...I...I don't...This is...”
“It's a lot to take in, right?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it really is.”
“I'm sorry for this. For making you uncomfortable if I have and like I said earlier, for my timing.”
“I'm not uncomfortable per se actually.”
“No. I'm more...confused if anything.”
He nodded, seeming to think that confusion was more than understandable at that moment. You watched him bite his lip for a moment, fingers combing back through the dark strands of his hair and coming back down again, hand tentatively reaching out.
You watched him angle his head down for a second, eyes darting to the hands you'd settled in your lap. It took very little time for you to realize that he wanted to hold them, refusing to simply touch you until you gave him confirmation that it was all right. Normally touches were pretty free and easy between the two of you, including where holding hands was concerned, but the circumstances of the present bore enough tension that it made sense for him to double check if the norm would be okay with you. It was a simple thing maybe, but the fact that he wanted permission first, that he was considering your comfort level more than his own desire for contact, was one notably huge difference between Namjoon and Patrick. You felt secure in knowing that he wouldn't press or make you feel awful if you declined his touch, reminded all over again why you'd always felt so at ease with him. Namjoon wasn't like what you were familiar with from past experiences, whether in regards to Patrick or other ex-boyfriends.
When you gave him the go ahead with a nod and a tentative smile, he closed the distance with a soft touch and warm fingers, his large fingers slipping around yours in a light hold that could easily be broken if you suddenly decided to pull away.
“I know you didn't expect this and that you're not sure how to feel about any of it, especially not when you're feeling so open and raw after finally telling someone what you've been put through. It'd be pretty shit of me to expect you to just be completely comfortable with me confessing like I did.”
“I think the thing that's throwing me off the most right now is not knowing what to say. I don't know if I wanna tell you yes or no.”
“I don't expect you to give me an answer, sweetheart. Not now or even soon. Hell, not ever really. I mean, yeah, you know how I feel now. There's no taking that back. But, before everything, you're my friend and I don't want to lose that ever. I don't want to lose you. I meant it when I said I want to make you happy and I can do that as a friend. I can do that however you want me to unless I've already royally fucked up our friendship by letting you know that I like you.”
It wasn't fucked up. Not yet at any rate. Things had definitely changed now, would never wholly be the same as they were with Namjoon's feelings for you having been laid bare. What you didn't know was how good or bad the change might be, where it might all lead regardless of what decisions you elected to make.
“Can you give me some time? I don't want to just pretend this never happened or try to. I don't think I'd be able to do that. This is too big to just not deal with it. So, would you be all right if I took a while to think this over and maybe figure out an answer?”
“Of course. Take as long as you need to.”
You swallowed hard, choking back the bitter worry you could feel trying to climb up through your throat.
“If I realize that my answer is no...will we still be friends?”
He squeezed your hand without missing a beat, nothing in his touch or his gaze seeming at all dishonest.
“Always, YN. If you don't like me that way, then you don't. I'm a big boy. I can handle rejection.”
“Then I won't lose you if I say no?”
Namjoon grinned, teeth and dimples alike making an appearance, making your heart feel full to bursting for a brief, startling moment.
“The only way you're getting rid of me is if you tell me you want me to fuck off. Until that happens, I'm always here. I'm not going anywhere.”
Those words were a reassurance you had desperately needed to hear. Namjoon had apparently held on to his feelings for a long time without it ruining your friendship, even through seeing you date different guys. There was a chance that nothing would change in that respect regardless of you now being in the know about his affection for you. There was no telling how you might feel around him with your new knowledge or if there would be awkwardness on your part in the event that you decided that you didn't want to try for more with him. It was soothing nevertheless to know that Namjoon sounded so certain and so confident that he would be content to remain a part of your life even if you did end up rejecting him. The last thing he seemed to want to do was hurt you or cause you further pain.
“Is it cool if we talk more about all this stuff another day? I think I've reached my limit for serious.”
“Parks and Rec then?”
“And...cuddling? If that wouldn't be too awkward right now?”
Namjoon chuckled softly, muttering a soft 'cute' under his breath at how tentative you'd sounded and how bashful you'd looked, nodding his agreement to your request. Heat seemed to pour into your cheeks, surprising you with how shy one simple compliment could make you feel.
“Well, I could go for my ice cream actually.”
He made a face at the thought of it, cringing the way he always did whenever he was going to bear witness to someone eating anything mint chocolate flavored. Expression regardless, Namjoon stood up from the couch and headed straight for the kitchen, filling the room with the sound of your silverware drawer jiggling as he searched around for a spoon. You hadn't intended for him to actually get up and fetch the pint from your freezer, more than capable of doing so yourself, but it made you crack a smile at his sweetness.
Namjoon hadn't become your boyfriend and it was uncertain to you then if that might someday change.
But, if there was anything you could say it was that Namjoon seemed to have boyfriend behavior down pat.
It was light that drew him from sleep, slowly urging him to force his tired eyes open. For a moment, he wondered if the sun was coming up, dawn peering through his curtains to rouse him from the brief slumber he'd fallen in to. Blinking against the vivid glow, Namjoon glanced at his window to see only blackness beyond the tightly closed material of his curtains, temporarily confounding him. He inhaled deeply, stretching his long limbs beneath his blankets before falling limp with a groan, looking around to spy the cellphone on his nightstand beaming brightly. Recognition suddenly dawning on him, he rolled on his side to stretch out his arm, fingers fumbling clumsily to grasp the device in his hand and tug it closer. It slipped from his hold almost immediately, the pull of its charging cable preventing it from getting further than the edge of the bed. Despite being less coordinated than usual in his sleepy state, Namjoon managed to pin the device to his sheets before it could fall over the side of the mattress, grumbling as he unhooked the cable.
The light of his screen temporarily went off as he rolled on to his back, plunging his bedroom into a deep enough darkness to tell him that it wasn't quite sunrise yet, face scrunching up when he swiped his screen to turn it back on. He gave himself a few moments to let his pained eyes adjust to the glow, squinting again and again as he tried to determine why his phone had woken him in the first place, vision slowly adapting to the brightness.
A text message lay waiting for him, making him wonder who was trying to contact him at half past three in the morning, opening his messaging app to find his answers.
“YN...” he mumbled to himself as he noticed the contact name, voice rough from having just woken up.
Namjoon closed his eyes, blocking out the light as he pictured her face, recalling every emotion he'd watched flitting across her features a mere few hours ago. He'd spent most of his night awake and reflecting on the events of that afternoon, thinking about all the things he'd learned about her and all the things he'd said, secrets revealed on both sides. Half of his night he'd spent angry and sad, heart aching to think of the horrible things she'd been put through before their paths had crossed. The other half had been spent wondering about how things between them might change, trying not to let his hopes get up too high when he was well aware that the bombshell he'd dropped about his feelings for her had been a lot to process. He couldn't even begin to guess what her answer might be once she'd taken as much time as she needed to sort things out. Part of him fully expected her to want to stay friends and while he was perfectly fine with that, content to still be a part of her life regardless of how she needed or wanted him to be, there was a part of him still hoping she'd take a chance on him. How could he not hope for that when he'd fantasized about being her boyfriend for over a year now?
He'd been sleepless for most of the night ruminating on everything, willing to bet that it had to be worse for YN, and he'd resisted the urge to text her a number of times before he'd finally begun to doze off. He certainly hadn't expected that she would text him, wondering what it was in the middle of the night that she felt needed to be said straight away rather than waiting for sunrise. Fearfully, he considered that maybe she may have realized she regretted telling him about her past or perhaps even that she felt she could no longer be friends with him in the wake of learning that he liked her. Trying not to let himself get caught up in the paranoia of his tired brain and hopeful heart, Namjoon thumbed over his screen to open her latest message, staring at the words quietly.
YN: ok. i think i wanna try.
Rereading the words, again and again, needing to let them sink in, Namjoon laid beneath the warmth of his covers and swore that it felt like his heart might explode at any moment. It was clear enough what she meant, but he knew he was tired enough to be lacking in his usually strong comprehension skills. That or he just needed further clarification to ensure that he was actually awake and not fantasizing that the girl of his dreams had actually agreed to give dating him a try. Fingers shaking, Namjoon shot her a reply, hoping that she was still awake and able to reply sooner rather than later.
Joon: just to make sure i'm not misinterpreting this but do you mean you want to try going out with me?
He waited, pulse pounding beneath his skin, watching the typing indicator flit across the screen and seem to last forever before her response arrived, taking his breath away as YN was so often capable of doing.
All at once, the urge to let out a cheer or an elated laugh came over him, and Namjoon had to ball a fist against his mouth to keep himself quiet lest he wake his roommate. Every ounce of fatigue he'd felt from his mostly sleepless night seemed to melt away, replaced by an immense giddiness. It almost felt unreal and it was enough to make him pinch his own wrist just to let the pain tell him that he was in fact wide awake. He wanted to call her, hear her voice but was almost too embarrassed to let her hear how intensely happy he was in that moment. Chiding himself a little, with a silent urging to remain calm, Namjoon sat upright with a massive smile stretched across his lips, watching as another text came in.
YN: and it's cool if we take things slow, right?
Joon: absolutely. as slow as you need us to.
Joon: i promise.
He didn't know if those words reassured her, could only hope that they had, but he knew he'd made a promise he could keep and he'd do whatever he had to in order to prove that to her. She was giving him a chance he never thought he'd ever get and he wouldn't waste it, wouldn't squander it. He'd do right by her. He swore to himself that he would.
YN: ok. tired so maybe we can talk about things a little more this weekend or something.
Joon: of course. just let me know when you want to call or meet up.
YN: all right. night joon.
Joon: good night yn.
Namjoon fell back against his pillows after he sent his last reply, their softness far from lulling as he reread their conversation just to help let it all sink in. There was a lot to process, a lot to discuss and figure out about their relationship going forward, but for the moment the reality that YN had agreed to try going out with him had Namjoon feeling like a million bucks.
Sleep wouldn't be coming back to him any time soon and in all honesty, he didn't even care.