1: When they meet at a place in between Tokyo and Gwanju and Seokjin is a model-prince
It’s a cliche but when Namjoon first meets his soulmate, he falls fully and inadvertently in love. He’s known about soulmates forever. Meet in dreams and collide in real life – but he’s not a child. There’s been so many train wrecks, so many awful stories, that his highest hopes are that his person isn’t a total asshole. A big part of him wants them to be Korean (and male), but the rational part of his head tells him that he’s lucky to end up with anyone that does not want to butcher him for breakfast.A cousin of his work-mate Jackson, met someone who tried to poison him and Namjoon has been cautious since.
Namjoon is sensible. It’s his best way of dealing with things. Schooling in the eyes of Apgujeong High School’s highest ranker, had been a matter expectation and acceptance. He had one friend, which is not as awful as the movies make it seem because they had been very close – they even talked on the phone every other week, sipping over Sunday coffee as each revered a world so totally different from the other’s.
Because that’s how people were. Homes of their own. Homes in their own right. Namjoon’s only expectations he makes sure to place upon himself. That way, he’s always satisfied, knowing that any reconciliation or disappointment he wants to fix has to start with himself.
His friends always find it pretty disturbing.
“You’re like this self-automated car wash,” Eric said, flipping a page of his manhwa, bilingual dictionary in hand as he worked through it.
“That’s going a bit far, don’t you think?”
“Like you never fuck up - never.”
Namjoon narrowed his eyes. “I do that all the time. We all do. It’s just important to be stronger than your losses.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, man. I’m jealous but I don’t want to jinx it for you either.”
Yeah, he’s one of those people. It’s not like he doesn’t have struggles. Namjoon just doesn’t like to linger. And that, he tells himself, is absolutely valid.
Perhaps this is why he is so stunned with himself when it happens. He knows it before he even gets a name – the feeling turning his bones to water, so new and unexpected.
A man squats in front of him, metropolitan Tokyo booming behind his shoulders. His eyes are a very dark colour and they feel so annoyingly steady in contrast to the maelstrom spurring in Namjoon’s chest. He has the most brilliant black hair. Namjoon feels a tad self conscious about the brown tint in his own hair. Not the best first expression if this guy was one of those Macho Men types but Namjoon decides he doesn’t want to ever make a good impression on the kind anyway.
“City guy?” He has the coolest voice. There’s a whisper to it, this eddying chill that makes you wonder if you’re imagining things.
They say your soulmate appears to you in a place that is precious to you, an epitome of where you want to be. Namjoon stands in the middle of a wheat field, wind gently blowing at his hair. Was Seokjin a nature-lover? Where had he grown up? Namjoon is not very different. It’s just that he loves cities too. He loves places. They had this subtle speech to them that he’s found people to be incapable of.
“I went to Tokyo once with my parents. I only stayed one night but maybe it left an impression. What’s with the wheat?”
“Visited my grandparents in Gwanju. The field wasn’t really their’s so they didn’t let me go in.”
“Ahh. Do you live in Seoul?”
“Yeah, I model part-time.” Namjoon knows he looks exactly like he feels. He isn’t the kind of person that models would want to spend their time around. It’s got nothing to do with vanity or looks or anything you might come up with when you think of a person like Namjoon and his apparent model-soulmate. He’s scared. Because Seokjin has dreams that most Asian mothers would spit at, and he’s done it all. Namjoon’s seen it in the movies but he’s just never thought it’s possible.
“That sounds awesome. That you’re a model.” There’s a pause and Namjoon knows he has to say something as well. Employment is the most commonly talked about subject in soulmate meetings. He’d read a blog post about it once. “I do marine biology.”
His soulmate hoots, “Hot stuff, huh?”
“Uhh, not really. The only people queueing up to talk to me are aunties who want to get their kids college admission tips.”
“That’s literally the best kind of hot stuff, Mr..?”
“Wow, we might even be from the same clan. I’m Kim Seokjin.”
“I think I’m Gangneung.”
“Gwangsan – practically a prince.”
Namjoon laughs. It feels so easy, talking with Seokjin. They sit at a bench on the sidewalk to Seokjin’s right. They don’t hold hands but they talk about everything they can come up with. As the dream starts to fade, Seokjin tells him, “let’s keep going this way.”
Namjoon closes his eyes and the wood of the bench feels lighter under his fingers. There’s a shift and the material grows smoother, descending into the soft familiarity of his sheets. He wakes up with his cheeks damp and his lips splitting his face into a wide grin. A wave of feeling rushes through his body and it’s like when he was seven and his grandma gave him his first square of cadbury chocolate. He had let it melt in his mouth, not wanting to chew, and she was gone before he finished. There’s a discord in his stomach that’s quite like the emptiness he had felt then, an aftermath of the sweetness lingering at his teeth. Not quite there – calling for him to rise to his feet and follow its scent.
Seokjin bites his lip. The bar drink feels too mild on his lips. He watches the light muddying the clear liquid, careful to turn his gaze away from his potential boyfriend. He shouldn’t feel guilty. He had vowed to himself that he would not ever feel guilty. He told Namjoon all that he needed to know about it all on the second meeting. He’s spent his entire life telling himself this over and over again – he wouldn’t let blind belief screw his life up.
Yoongi looks up at Seokjin over the brim of his glass. He looks like he believes himself to be discreet. It’s so cute. He has the sharpest resting face but it turns to mush really fast. Seokjin wants to squish his cheeks. And treat him well enough to see the focus drift from his point-glare, hear him sigh and laugh with those pink lips of his.
He isn’t cheating. The first thing he told Namjoon on their second meeting was that he didn’t want to date him.
A gritty city wind blew over them as they talked, Namjoon looking even more serious than he had seemed like when they had first met.
He didn’t have to hesitate to say the words. After all, he had been saying this to himself from when he was a teenager. “Listen, you’re the most beautiful, intelligent soulmate that anyone could ask for but I don’t want us to date.”
The dream sky darkened. Namjoon closed his eyes and opened them very quickly. He looked like he was trying his hardest not to cry. Seokjin feels like a jerk. But, there was no stopping him.
Namjoon’s fingers flitted through the spaces between his own, cold and clammy with sweat. The first time they had ever held hands…
“Can I know why?”
“Well, there’s many reasons and none of that has anything to do with our meeting. You were– are nothing short of perfect.” Namjoon bowed his little brown head to face the floor. Seokjin stroked the inside of his wrist. “It’s just that soulmates don’t have to be romantic partners. We’re meant to help each other, yes, but I don’t think forcing people to act in a certain way would work. For anyone.”
“So you don’t want to see me again?” He looked like it pained him to ask.
“Of course I want to see you again! I would love to keep meeting you.”
Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows. His soulmate was not making much sense to him.
“If you’d let me,” Seokjin whispered, “I want to meet you in every dream, and listen to all your stories. Because soulmates, I think they’re each other’s biggest supports.” He hated the excited edge to his voice, like a kid begging for a dream house.
Namjoon closed his eyes. His dimples show even when he isn’t smiling.
2: When Namjoon and Seokjin make pancakes in Seokjin’s real but dream apartment
When they meet again, Namjoon doesn’t let himself get carried away.
Fated meetings: you start meeting your soulmate between doors and amid paths after you first see them.
It’s incredibly hard, trying to make the words go away when they feel like they had been ingrained on his skull. A warm balmy voice telling him about all this over bukkumi, still hot from the frying pan. A perfect person, cookie cutter produce for his desires. He’s still not sure what he loves so much about it. Was it that he would find someone who wouldn’t make him unhappy? Or was it the other way around?
Fated meetings: they creep into your other dreams, the ones too mundane to be considered special. You see them in the forever you spend choosing between two favours of ice cream under the glaring eyes of Voldermort because dreams aren't supposed to be special, they aren't supposed to.
But they do now and Namjoon has no idea how to deal with it.
Meeting Seokjin, it’s like he’s experiencing a new way of seeing things. A way Namjoon isn’t sure he’s really comfortable or well adjusted with. It all seems like second sense to the other man, who, across the aisle at a dream equivalent of Lotte Mart, widened his eyes and waved, like it was all just occurrences. Growing up, Namjoon expected the meetings to be all hazy, like a pipe-dream, but the universe has surprised him with how vividly realistic things appear to be.
It could be scientific, Namjoon muses, like some magnetic pull that the universe initiates. There are myths that say souls were all created together, before God decides to breathe them into a living body. Maybe they had been friends as souls, before they came down to earth.
They hop on a cab to Seokjin’s place because Namjoon couldn’t bring himself to say no when he was asked if he wanted to help out with pancakes.
Seokjin’s apartment is remarkably high-end. Large windows stretch all the way to his wooden floors, colour coded furniture a contrast to the dim walls they line. There’s an exercise mat lying on the nook beside the television. A large sofa sits in the middle of the room, its cushions red and lined with gold embroidery. Two velvet seats rest on either side of the sofa. There’s even a coffee table, flat and sleek, low enough to prop your legs on when you watch television. All of this, Namjoon has never seen before.
Fated meetings mean you could show your soulmate anything you want them to see. There’s so much magic to it all, to how the sky is infinitely in the curve between night and day, and how he feels so at home at a place so far away. It excites that part of him that can’t help but feel at awe at all of the universe’s ways. It’s childish but Namjoon loves the world very much.
Seokjin is dabbling a bit of honey into his pancake batter, humming old trot songs as he gets to work. They need two eggs for the original recipe but he is making double because ‘you can never get tired of eating good food’.
Making sure not to get any rotten eggs in the mixture, Namjoon cracks each of the eggs into a first bowl before plopping them in with the rest. He is careful not to get any eggshells, careful not to make himself feel more useless than he already does.
“Hey,” Seokjin says across him, like he’s just used to being so attuned to another person, “What’s wrong?”
Namjoon doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know how he can say anything without making Seokjin upset. He tries to think of something that will make all of this go away, it’s just been a bad day at work, the boss, you know. But Seokjin seems to see through pretence. He stops beating at the batter, placing the bowl by his elbow.
His hands are gentle on Namjoon’s wrists. They turn his palms to face the ceiling, keep them warm as Seokjin looks him in the eye, soft and knowing. “I’m giving you a hard time, aren’t I?”
Namjoon dims, so guilty for ruining things. “No hyung, it’s just how I am. Believe me.”
“Just you?” Seokjin looks like he’s seen the most bewildering thing and Namjoon just wants him to stop because it’s not fair how much he gets to make everything about him so beautiful. He’s never felt this way and he’s still wondering if all this is his imagination playing games on him, years of fantasies messing with his head when Seokjin asks him, “In what way could you make things wrong?”
He tries to train his eyes to the cold tiles of their counter. “It’s nothing new. I just- tend to think too much.”
“Well, since it’s nothing new, care to share some of these thoughts of yours?”
“No, Hyung, I–”
There’s the sound of a cupboard being opened and Namjoon looks up to see Seokjin’s newly blond head emerge above the sink, a pan on each hand.
“Do the pancakes on the left stove and we can talk while I make you my best topping.” He’s smiling, eyes so dark and full of life that it’s unlikely they’ve ever not been acquiesced with.
Namjoon stands on unsteady feet, reaching for a ceramic pan that Seokjin swears is healthier than the metal kind. They are too close, inches away from bumping into each other, but Seokjin takes it in stride, reaching over to properly slant the metal spoon in Namjoon’s hand, telling him how to make sure the pancake is cooked enough to flip.
He seems to take no care of how incompetent Namjoon is in a kitchen, always guiding but never in that condescending tone his coworkers tended to use when circumstances made it necessary that he should cook in their presence.
“What is it? Joonie, tell hyung what’s wrong.” Seokjin is not looking at him, his voice low above the sound of the batter cooking.
Namjoon breathes in the vanilla and melted butter, “It’s just–”
He considers lying, or skirting over the topic. Unfortunately, his mind still seems to like the idea of being special to a soulmate. It’s stupid but Namjoon wants to keep things clean with Seokjin.
“Have you ever felt like you can’t trust yourself? Over the smallest things? Because, I don’t know, I am so used to me just seeing things in this specific way that I can’t trust what I’m feeling because it could just be myself again, you know, projecting.”
He’s unpacked too much in a single sentence. How Seokjin’s going to come up with a reply for it, he doesn’t know.They’re yet just barely friends. He wishes he does not feel as relieved as he does, pretends that the fresh air in his lungs has been there all along.
Seokjin is silent for a moment, before, “I feel that way too. Or I think I do. Is it like when you think too strongly about something? And you can’t trust yourself on other things because of that?”
“Like this one thing I think so strongly about, it’s not true and that means everything else, they can’t be trusted too.”
Brown seeps into the border of the pancake, the smell almost withered to a burn. Namjoon tries to flip it. It folds instead and he has to smoothen it with the spoon.
“How do you know?”
“That this big thing you’ve been thinking so strongly about, that it’s not true.”
He pushes his half-burnt pancake onto a plastic plate. “I’ve just experienced some things, that for anyone else in my place, would have meant my big thing being false. Holding onto something I know is just this fantasy, it can’t be healthy, can it?”
There’s a sound of the batter being stirred, powdered milk and sugar. Seokjin said it tastes better when it’s thick.
“You said that this thing, it’s would be obvious for someone else that it is not true?”
“But you still want to believe it?”
“It’s more like,” Namjoon feels the need to clarify, “I can’t not see how it’s a lie. It’s that much a part of me. I’m just so used to looking at things and thinking, ‘it’s all because of this one big thing I think so strongly about’.”
“I feel like I’m losing you at this point.”
“No, I get it.” Seokjin looks at him, wooden spoon gripped in his right hand. “Is it like when people believe in unicorns?”
“And some other people find out about horses.”
“And suddenly, there’s no way there could be both horses and unicorns.”
Namjoon stills. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“Then Joonie, how do the people know that the other people aren’t naive instead? How do they know the others don’t have it right?”
He bites his lips. A dollop of batter lands splat on the middle of his pan.
“Think Tooth-Fairy, and how everyone knows that it’s the parents putting the money under the pillow but the little kid. Everyone’s seen the horse, but no one’s seen the unicorn.”
Seokjin sighs. He looks at Namjoon, blond hair falling into his eyes, with a look of accusation, “Would you ever treat another person like they were a naive little kid just because they believed in something as passionately as you don’t?”
Namjoon is sure he’s gaping. He almost swings his bare hand into the pan, only for Seokjin to pull it away with his own. “No, hyung, I would never. I swear, I would never.” He does not want his soulmate to ever associate himself with that kind of person, to ever mistake himself for someone like that.
Seokjin pours the remainders of the batter and the topping into two tupperware boxes.
“Then, you better start applying that to yourself. If you can be loving and accepting of pure strangers, why spend all that hate on yourself? If something is important to you, cherish it with all you’ve got. Love doesn't always have to be for another person. Loving yourself should be the first most important thing.” He doesn't apologize for his speech, doesn't try to stifle the seriousness of his words with a snicker. The sincerity makes Namjoon want to believe him. Passion is something he’s always loved.
He doesn’t reply and they talk about other things as they eat. The food is moist and warm and he feels so content that he knows he doesn’t need to say a word. He can’t help it at this point, he thinks, watching Seokjin laugh and crack the weirdest dad joke before proceeding to whack him across the back. He’s in love with his soulmate, and it’s best he accepts it.
3: When Seokjin’s last break-up sucked and they have mochis
Seokjin never takes break-ups very well. He likes to pretend he’s well past it all. Almost tradition, he makes himself the fussiest dessert he can think of, settling by his couch to peck at it while he marathoned enough movies to render him emotionless. Care is taken not to gobble at the meal that usually takes him a minimum of three hours to put up.
With the air of the pettiest of idiots, he would stare at his screen (quite soullessly) and pretend he’s not the kind to get his heart hurt. It was their loss, he would tell himself, they were missing out on a Kim Seokjin. His co-workers think it is pretty impressive, how far he could bully himself into not giving a shit.
If his past post-break-up shenanigans were anything of valid evidence, they were aching to get rid of the habit.
“This is forceful constipation,” Jimin sighed from his seat beside Seokjin. They had been watching Seokjin’s favourite Avengers movie before Jimin had jabbed at the pause button.
“Hyungie, you can tell me. You know you can tell me anything. You know I won’t tell anyone.”
Seokjin understood it probably got on Jimin’s nerves, the feeling that he couldn’t help his friend. Park Jimin, bratty whininess aside, shed his heart to making people feel protected. Seokjin loved that about him — except that sometimes not talking, not feeling, was protection too. Also, Jimin detested silence with a burning passion.
“Tell me, tell me, tell me–”
Humouring him would mean that Jimin would take it upon himself to stage more “interventions” so Seokjin opted for filling him on a Bucky/Steve theory he had read up on. Jimin narrowed his eyes at Seokjin, a hand fisted on Seokjin’s knee in a vague resemblance of a cat who’d gotten a whiff of something fishy. But he ended up caving in anyway. Thank God for movie dweebs.
Now, Namjoon fidgets on the very same couch. Curled around his fingers is a box of red bean mochis. Seokjin realises with amusement that Namjoon probably hadn’t cooked it. He wasn’t terrible at cooking. A plain sponge cake was perfectly manageable. He just didn’t trust kitchens too much. It’s probably better off that way.
So he would forego the cooking this time around. Sure, he was in a bad mood. But he couldn’t subject Namjoon to three hours of silent meditation cooking. That would be cruel.
They shift to make each other comfortable on the couch, and the dream makes the tele flicker to a dubbed rerun of Pokemon. Namjoon looks like he’s trying very hard to hide his smile. Cute. It was said that after your usual dream soulmate meetings, it was possible that your soulmate could wheedle into your other dreams if you really needed them. Seokjin thinks it’s all horseradish. What’s to say that he didn’t imagine Namjoon, just like he imagined his couch and Pikachyu’s temporary Amnesia?
Seokjin watches him fiddle with the fabric of his couch, eyes trained so hard at the screen that his neck goes rigid with the action. He’s holding his lips together in a bad poker face. Seokjin takes a second bite of his red bean mochi.
“You seem awkward. Any way I can help?”
“Uh no,” Namjoon mumbles, still watching the television like he’s yearning to be inside it, “I’m fine, Hyung. Thank you.”
On screen, Han Jiu’s eyes fill with anime tears and there’s a dramatic pause before he says, “You don’t remember me?”
Seokjin bumps his hip against Namjoon’s. He reaches out to poke a dimple. “C’mon, you can tell me…”
A gust of icy air pushes through the air conditioner and he shivers in April, thanking God for the luxuries of the wealthy.
Namjoon rolls his eyes, placing an old newspaper from Seokjin’s coffee table on his lap. He reaches to place the mochis on the folded paper, before turning to Seokjin, “Is this okay?”
“Oh it’s perfectly fine. I pay the reception to send the daily newspaper, but I never end up reading much.”
The paper crinkles under the weight of the food and Namjoon looks thoughtful. “My sister makes best the mochis. She went to culinary school, so she’s amazing at deserts.”
“She’s in Seoul?”
“Yeah, we all moved here when I was like, eight? Yeah, I was in first grade, so I must’ve been around eight years old. She owns a bakery now. I rarely go anywhere else.”
“These mochis, they’re not from hers, are they?”
“How did you know?”
“It’s from the stall at the junction? The one by the BBQ place, right?”
There’s a warm light in his eyes when he says, “Yes.” It’s a honey brown and it’s sweeps through the shutters, catching the wings to his lashes and the dips to his cheeks. Most of his dreams with Namjoon are like this. Slow, between orange and brown.
“I go there all the time. Once got a bad stomach ache because of their sausage. I think it was pink in the middle but I hadn't checked before eating.”
“You still go?”
“Of course!” Seokjin says indignantly, feeling his face grow warm. “It was an honest mistake. They make the best sauce.”
The first time Namjoon went underwater, he had been on a trip to an island in the Andaman Sea with his parents. Somewhere between the border to Malaysia and Thailand, their family motorboat came to a slow stop. The water was the kind of blue you find in sapphires. Thick and turquoise, like a substance heavier than water. Heavy enough that you couldn’t poke your head above it.
Someone helped him fit a snorkelling mask over his mouth and the water stood before him earlier than he would have wanted. He remembers how his breath came to him in harsh pants, how it took him so much energy to leap off the edge of the boat. It was different, being under a sheet of water. The blue felt gentle, colour erupting through the bodies of the fish to his left. His jaw hurt from gripping his mask, the weight of the plastic heavy on his cheekbones.
He expected the urge to stand on his feet, to rise and remove himself from how claustrophobic it all seemed. But, to his utter surprise, he found that he could breath– quite easily at that! The sensation settled oddly on his body. He was still Kim Namjoon, who was clumsy and awful at team sports, but he was also someone the ocean liked and wanted to be with.
Upon questioning, he always answered that he was interested in the subject. That he liked the way he seemed to have a healthy amount of liking towards the subject.
If he was really trying to be honest with himself, it probably had a lot to do with that trip near the ocean. There was a safeness to seeing sunlight yellow on water, to seeing something special with the knowledge that you are extremely privileged to be allowed to do so. Sometimes, Namjoon feels the same way about Seokjin.
4: When Namjoon is back in the real world and he lies to Taehyung
Namjoon blinks at his work table, lined with piles of reports that he had neatly filed before going to sleep. He had taken his power nap on a plush reading seat in the library and his back hurts as if in protest of how he’s abused it. Taehyung sits across him, hands curled around a plastic cup as he watches Namjoon with an amused expression.
“What time is it?”
“I know it’s morning,” Namjoon groans, rubbing his hands on his grimy work skin. Days like these he always felt a bit stale, like he was a little too behind things than he should be.
The library is lined with a muted plum carpet and its lights are gold on his papers. Taehyung’s hair is also bright blue and Namjoon just really wants to be at home right now.
“You look really bad, hyung.”
“Kim Taehyung, is that any way to respect your elder?”
“Just stating the facts. You look like you could sleep forever.”
“I’m just tired, Tae. You know how it is.”
Taehyung props his legs on the chair beside him. With the most gentle look in his eye, he says, “I’ve seen you commute to Busan every weekend for the past two years. You’ve never looked this worn out, hyung. What’s wrong?”
“The university is just a lot lately.”
Namjoon tries to avoid Taehyung’s eye but ends up looking like a very bad liar as he does.
“Tell me the truth! Did you start dating somebody?”
Namjoon props his face in his hands, “How come your first thought when it comes to my dating life is that it’s making me a tired loser?”
“So it is true. Who do I have to punch?”
“I don’t know, can you punch me?”
Taehyung, to his credit, hardly looks disgruntled at the idea. “I would if I had enough reason to.”
“You’re supposed to be my friend.”
“That’s exactly why I’m doing this. So tell me, what’s up?” Taehyung pulls up his phone and starts tapping at it, almost like he knew Namjoon wouldn’t want to look him in the face.
Namjoon drums their wooden desk. “Let’s say Hoseok–”
“Wait, what’s my soulmate got to do with all this?”
Namjoon reaches for Taehyung’s drink. It’s always tea with milk. Taehyung can’t stand coffee because it makes him very jittery. “Will you calm down? This is metaphorical.”
“Okay... Hit me.”
There’s a silence, terse and unwanted in their banter. Namjoon tries not to look sad. He says, “Let’s say Hoseok didn’t want to date you. When you first met.”
Taehyung’s hands slow on his phone but he doesn’t look up. Namjoon tries to keep his gaze on levelled on the shelf behind his friend’s blue head. There’s a bunch of texts on corals and their subdivisions. Some of them are in English, others in Korean.
He listens to the slow taps Taehyung makes on the screen. The sound is comforting before it stops. He hears Taehyung swallow, before leaning in on their table. There’s an ugly edge to his voice when he asks, “Hyung, what happened?”
“Just tell me,” Namjoon says, feeling his voice grow thin with desperation. “What would you have done?”
Taehyung looks pained. He knots his long fingers together and unweaves them, the action surprisingly smooth for how it was a nervous habit.
“I would have been upset. I think I would have told him that. Asked him why.”
Namjoon gulps his tea. The library has short windows right underneath its ceiling. You can see the sea past Yeongdu-gu, where the Korea Maritime and Ocean University is located. It’s still the opaque blue that you get when there isn’t enough light shed on the water.
Taehyung believes in soulmates as strongly as Namjoon does. It’s one of the many things they have in common. He found his soulmate on their second year of university, when they were both away from home and so worn with the distance and fatigue it all came with. Meeting Hoseok at the time – it had felt like magic. Almost suddenly, Taehyung had enough energy to put into school and part time work. He got up at dawn to watch the sunrise break on the water.
Back then, when they had both been drowning trying to breathe underwater, Hoseok seemed to be an unending supply of space and air. Taehyung had a safe space. The missing and the work was still hard on him, but for some reason, he seemed to be able to deal with it better.
Namjoon hadn’t really thought to be scared of the sudden change because he was so relieved.
A person like that, Namjoon decides, wouldn’t understand. Taehyung would just get mad at Seokjin. He doesn’t want anyone to get mad at Seokjin.
There is a figure in the midst of the golden wheat stalks. The air is light, the island breeze weightless on his skin. He barely feels his feet, heavy on the leaf litter beneath them. His hands are limp on his sides and the wind runs its fingers through his hair. He is so tired, but it is like the world is telling him not to be.
He recognises who it is before he takes in the wide, heavy set to the shoulders, the way the waist pinched the curves of the body. Seokjin looks worried. “You’ve been avoiding me.”
“I couldn’t,” Namjoon babbles, the words breaking past a hitch in his throat, so clumsy and unkind that he wants to take them and hide, “couldn’t find time to sleep.”
“It’s January, Joon-ah. Work can’t be too bad.”
“I lecture at two places when I could do one.”
“Don’t do this. I can make myself disappear or something. I’ll figure it out. Please get some sleep.”
“I am getting sleep.” His voice sounds weak, even to him. It flits into the body of the wind, barely a whisper above its roar. Claps that tell of the tide on sand punctuate the silence between them. “I’m okay, I really am.”
5: The time Jimin and Jungkook can’t not act like soulmates and Seokjin’s eating seaweed chips
The question comes up where Seokjin least expects it. He’s staring at his reflection, watching Jimin blend two dull shades of pink on his lips, when he hears it.
“Have you ever had the soulmate dream?”
Jimin barely flinches, far too occupied with coming up with a good hue to care about what people were saying. But Seokjin knows the words in a way too intimate for them to escape him. He fears them so much that he expects them wherever he goes. And since he’s always watching, he always knows when they are going to appear. The surprise comes from the place – Seokjin had already sensed its presence from the tone of the conversation, from the way everyone was shifting about the topic in a mixture of hope and skepticism. It isn’t out of the ordinary. The models in the room are young, beautiful and incredibly talkative.
The speaker in question is a wide eyed boy that Jimin has taken an almost taken a maternal liking to. It isn’t very surprising because the boy, Jungkook, is very endearing and has managed to get almost everyone in the company under his command. He’d been casted as a model about a block away from his university dorms and he’s been with them since. Jungkook is very innocent. Seokjin thinks this is part of why he’s so loved.
In an industry like their own, where sincerity is as rare as it gets, you tend to scrounge off every last bit of goodness you see. If Seokjin ever starts to talk to more people, he thinks he would like to take Jungkook under his wing, warding off any possible ill-luck coming his way. However, he is content with the way things are. With him standing on his own and Jimin filling up his days with enough chatter to make up for two more friends at the very least, Seokjin thinks he has enough society the way things are. After all, he’s always been told that he’s best at observing.
Jungkook flushes all the way up to his ears, still working up the energy to boast, “My soulmate and I had the same dreamscape!”
Seokjin tries not to think about city fumes, tries not to remember a place that smells like coffee and lets sunlight leave its imprints on your skin.
“Wait, there’s more people that dream of CG models?”
“Fuck yeah! With every pixelated leaf included!”
Jimin wedges the brush into his mouth. Seokjin splutters on the rough plastic as Jimin turns around to glare at the models. “Don’t you idiots have anything else to talk about?”
A good proportion of them look stunned. It’s rare to see Jimin talking to Jungkook in a tone that doesn’t imply he’s looking after someone’s abandoned child. Come to think of it, Seokjin thinks he hasn’t seen them interact in the past week.
“Why, hyung-ssi?” Jungkook prods, exceptionally bratty for how terrified he should be. “Your soulmate doesn’t like pixelated dreams?”
“Watch it, I mean it.”
“I’m just saying, my soulmate managed to get me in Tracer’s gear and–”
“I dare you to complete that sentence.” Seokjin has no idea what has Jimin so worked up, but it’s amusing enough that he considers giving Jungkook some support.
“–And it was so hot. My soulmate also–”
In a flourish, Jimin is by Jungkook’s left. Seokjin waves them both a dismissive okay when Jimin yells that he’ll be back to finish over his shoulder. They still have an hour to kill before the shoot and Seokjin is in no haste to get his moulded to perfection. He should be used to it by now but it’s still hard to keep all the makeup from smearing without going hungry for it.
Sungjae plops into a chair beside him, “I don’t think Jimin-ssi knows the kid’s told us he’s the soulmate.”
Oh. Seokjin reaches for his bag to fetch his bag of chips, making sure to rip it in a way that doesn’t make the seasoning spill on his clothes.
“This is news..”
“Damn, he didn’t tell you?” Sunjae splutters. “Guess he really was shy about it.”
Seokjin doesn’t think shy sums the level of anxiety that comes with changing your behaviour according to the universe and its random whims. Shy barely grazes that odd feeling of power lost when the universe decides that you can make space for a whole other person in your life, as if you weren’t already this awkward mess of emotions struggling to move past the brink of what was okay. He tries not to overthink it. He really does. If other people are fine with it, if they can just be the best people that their soulmates deserve, why can’t he? Namjoon is as beautiful as he believes people can get. He’s been patient and clumsy and loving, and Seokjin knows he has so much to make up for.
That was the problem, the hitch in the wheel gears that make up the universe and its clockwork. Soulmates, destined couplings, it all assumed that you were okay, that you were stable enough as an individual not to screw up the only chance at love with this one specific person you’ve been born to be with. He’s screwed up so many times. Being on the giving and receiving end of so many awful memories, what’s to say he wouldn’t screw this up too? Distance is so much easier, Seokjin thinks, than the thought of having someone close but never seeing them again. At least you got to keep them that way. Maybe that’s what shy was.
But he doesn’t say this, of course.
“Guess we should call him, Jimin-shy.”
It’s a terrible joke but Sungjae guffaws at him anyway – for friendship’s sake.
Seokjin would’ve known to avoid him if he had spotted the man earlier. Min Yoongi, small and bundled in a sweater that reached a place just above his knees, many wouldn’t consider him a sight too threatening, but Seokjin knows how his failed dates go and Yoongi’s heart is too big to leave the matter alone.
They meet by the water fountain. Yoongi sees him first. Seokjin tries to avoid looking at him. Yoongi’s face mirrors who he is without effort. He has the kind of easy, gentle features that grabs the eye without having to act to do so. The lazy ease of the sharp lines of his eyes, the soft red of his lips – it all falls into place without expression; a face pretty even when it is blank of emotion. It is the kind of face that would have made the perfect model. Seokjin has told him so, but the other man had expressed that he didn’t ever want to do a job that he wasn’t interested in. Yoongi’s meticulous sincerity to his actions make him very loveable, but also the most intimidating person to face when you weren’t sure if you were being stupid.
He offers Seokjin a plastic water bottle, “It’s orange juice, homemade. You’ll like it in the hot weather.”
Seokjin accepts the bottle because he doesn’t want to talk about other things. He takes a long, gratifying gulp of orange juice that he knows is too much for a courtesy offer, his shamelessness he owes partly to the heat and partly because he can be satisfied that Yoongi will think twice before offering drinks to models in the future.
“You like it?”
“It’s so good,” Seokjin groans. “Practically liquid sunshine. You made it yourself?”
Yoongi looks a bit pensive before mumbling, “Someone else.” It’s funny, watching him scowl and cringe in a span of a few seconds. Almost like he was front seat to a mini internal battle.
Seokjin leans back on his arms, wiggling his eyebrows at Yoongi. “Yoong-chii.”
“You like someone,” Seokjin coos, draping a foot over Yoongi’s legs. “Tell Hyungie all about it. Don’t be shy!”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “What are you so dramatic for? It’s no secret!”
The reaction is a bit more mature than Seokjin expected. Maybe he should spend less time with babies. “You’re still not telling me the name, Yoongi-yah.”
Yoongi narrows his eyes at Seokjin. “Her name is Mina. We met in real life last week.”
In real life. Seokjin lets the words play in his head, tries to ignore the nauseousness filling the pit of his stomach. The feeling still takes hold. It gnaws at him, pinches his sides and pulls at his hair. Why can’t he just let go of it all? Why did it always manage to get himself so worked up?
Seokjin swallows, “Your soulmate? That sounds nice. Where’s she from?”
Yoongi is peering at him like he’s the one bad piece that camouflages too well with the outfit to stand out easily. He’s got the same look he has when he’s about to get the assistants to bring the extra supplies in, determined to expose what he’s understood to be amiss. Again, a quality that anyone would find helpful if they weren’t on the receiving end of his speculative designer-gaze.
“She’s from Japan. Kyoto. She’s really cool.” Yoongi pulls his feet to his stomach, eyes skirting the street ahead of them. There’s sun in his face and it makes his skin glow. Seokjin thinks he looks like the best version of himself; Min Yoongi, somber-eyed bringer of sunsets. “Hyung, what are you scared of?”
“Well. There isn’t a lot but I think grasshoppers take the cake. They have this creepy way of attaching to your things and they don’t get off too easily. I wrung my hoodie on my balcony for ten whole minutes before it fell off.”
“It was probably dead.”
“It was. But that doesn’t mean I like live grasshoppers any better.”
“You’re weird, hyung.”
“I’m too evolved for a little gremlin like you to understand so don’t bother.”
Yoongi laughs, head leaning to his chest. “You’re finally sounding like yourself. I was getting worried.”
Seokjin peers at Yoongi. “What? Why? What did I sound like before?”
The corners of his lips bow downward and Seokjin sees that he’s trying to hold back a comment. He leans into Yoongi’s space,“Tell me.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes at Seokjin like he’s asking him to sing the tomato song. “Deadbeat, extremely tired. In want of being run over by a truck.”
“You’re letting your imagination get to you, Yoongi-chi,” Seokjin says, swallowing his nervousness with a laugh.
“The moment I mentioned soulmates. You looked like you wanted to sprint all the way back to the studio.”
“So perceptive, where did you get all these riveting analogies from?”
Yoongi’s skin is snow in the sun, eyes dark and knowing. His voice is low, worried, when he asks, “Why are you deflecting so much? You know I’ll listen to you if you have something to say.”
At times like this, Seokjin wishes Yoongi was more like Jimin, who would tiptoe at the borderline, never wanting to trespass into boundaries where he might be unwelcome. Yoongi had a knack for honesty, not really caring if he got snapped at for it. Seokjin prefers the wheedling awkwardness, the ‘you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to but here’s some tea it’ll make you feel better’. His mother used to say that it isn’t safe to keep one person. That all the time and company spent without new faces is like shared solitude. Seokjin never thought of it that way. Jimin has an amalgam of friends. Loud ones that he visits every week and keeps up with on text. If anything, Jimin was a window than a companion in the dark. Seokjin doesn’t even know if he is in the dark. What was so wrong about solitude if he found peace in its quiet? People take too much energy, make too much noise. He liked his window, liked the outside in its distance, where he wouldn’t be able to ruin the view.
“Hyung?” Yoongi prods, unsure.
Seokjin closes his eyes.
“I met my soulmate. And I told him I didn’t want to date. He’s hurting and I feel like shit.”
His heart races as he waits for Yoongi to speak. He waits for the blow, the condemning look of disappointment. “But that’s valid, hyung. Not everyone wants to be romantically linked to people they like.”
The words are better than the icy cold Seokjin was preparing himself for. But he realises they lie. They would have been true for someone else, but it’s not a romantic relationship he fears. “I think I’m scared.”
A warm breeze blows at the reeds growing by the fences. Yoongi curls his foot over the edge of the steps ahead of them, still balanced on the concrete ledge to the fountain. “Of what? Him being mad at you?”
“Yes, ugh no.” Seokjin runs his hands through his hair, the locks dry and heavy with hairspray. “I wanted to stay without disappointing him when I told him that I didn’t want to date. And I guess that was a bad move because he was happy before and now he just seems so tired.”
“You turn someone down and don’t expect them to be hurt?” Yoongi’s eyes are wide. He doesn’t raise his voice but he looks upset. “Hyung, it wouldn’t be wrong if you rejected him because you genuinely didn’t want to date him. I only know what you’ve told me, but it looks like you hurt him because you’re scared of getting hurt yourself.”
“It’s not like that! It’s not that easy,” Seokjin breathes. “I am terrible at relationships. I end up hurting the same people I want to protect. Namjoon, my soulmate, I didn’t want to put him through that.”
“You don’t get to decide that.”
Seokjin presses his palms to his eyes. The world blurs between the yellow sunlight and the hard concrete under him. “I know that. I just–”
He just wants to keep waking up to that feeling of buoyancy. The safety, a person as wonderful and brilliant as Namjoon, for him to love in the safe confines of his head, where no one would get hurt, where he could reach for another hand without the fear that he would have to let go of it one day. But he can’t do that. Because Namjoon deserves so much more. He deserves the feeling of a hand enveloped in his own, the sensation of someone’s lips blooming open for him.
“I just-” Seokjin looks at his feet. The ground is warm and hard under him. Its reeling forwards and he’s losing grip trying to make it stay in one place. He has to move with it. Like water and stone, the strength of the earth as it holds itself together between light and darkness, he has to accept some things, even when it would feel easier to ignore them. His fear is fire on his skull, the minute dreams rain on his skin, but in order for him to really be safe, in order for Namjoon to really be safe with him, he has to dive face first into the flame, trusting his soulmate to make the heat cold enough to walk through. He has to trust that Namjoon will be enough to land through all the burns and blisters the flames would entail. Because they’re soulmates. It’s what you do.
“I just need to talk to him,” he says again. He looks ahead of them, at the grass swaying to the wind whipping at their bodies. “I have to make things okay again.”
He doesn’t see Yoongi balance his face between his palms, hopeful as he considers it, “Yeah. You should.”
+1: When Seokjin decides that it’s time to stop lying to his soulmate and Namjoon takes a detour into the wheat
Seokjin waits in between Gwanju and Tokyo, the wooden bench uncomfortable under his sore muscles. It takes Namjoon two days to show up. He stumbles into the room, the skin under his eyes swollen with how much they’ve strained to stay awake. Energy brims at his fingertips. He glances at the pink dusting the clouds above them, watches the sunlight fumble through the trees in panic, like someone took him there in his sleep. Seokjin tells him that.
“Funny,” Namjoon grumbles. “I didn’t realise I fell asleep.”
“All those coffees you chug can’t keep up with a beat up system, Jagi.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“What?” Seokjin pokes his side. “Jagiya?”
Namjoon laughs despite himself, hands coming up to cover his face. He bends to rest his head on his knees. His shirt looks rumpled enough for it to have weathered through 48 hours. Seokjin lets his fingers press at his hair, carding through the knots. Namjoon sighs and leans back onto him, his head falling into Seokjin’s lap.
Running his knuckles against the soft skin of Namjoon’s nape, Seokjin whispers, “Why don’t you come meet me anymore?”
Namjoon shakes his head.
“You can’t tell me? Well I don’t think you need to. I’ve been the worst soulmate. I’d run away from me too.”
At this, Namjoon tries to get up. Seokjin holds him so firmly to his knees that his protests are muffled by the fabric of his jeans.
“I don’t know what to say, Namjoon-ah. Hyung’s been an idiot. I am so sorry.”
They are both quiet after. A golden retriever paws at the gilded water pooled in their shallow dream lake. Namjoon had it filled with crabs, their shells red, coral and baby blue.
Namjoon’s voice is mellow in the effervescent light,”Hyung, you don’t have to change everything for me. Even if it makes me feel, sad or difficult, I want to be with you as friends. I wouldn’t make you do something you don’t want to do.” The words feel so carefully chosen, like Namjoon picked its flavours by tasting them by himself in the dark.
It moves Seokjin to no end. The knowledge that Namjoon is still being kind to him, it breaks him in its sincerity. His hair is brown where the light hits it, his skin caramel under Seokjin’s careful hands.
“What if I told you something? What if I told you I was lying when I said I want to be friends.”
Seokjin feels Namjoon stiffen against him. He lets go of his grip on the other boy as he struggles to move upright. The blood is drained from his face when he looks at Seokjin, lower lip trembling as he says, “But that would be so mean, hyung.”
His voice is low and nervous like he’s approaching a stray animal, approaching someone he barely understands. Eyes filling with tears, he looks at Seokjin, so sad and desolate that the sky breaks into the dim blue of the early morning. The sunlight leaves his face. His lashes are damp and dark. “You just asked me why I don’t sleep. I have been burning myself out trying to keep awake. It hurts me so much. I wanted you to like me. I kept beating myself over how I wanted to be with you when you obviously don’t care. I’ve been hating myself day and night, hyung, I haven’t got an ounce of rest. Back then I thought it was normal. That it was worth it. I can’t believe I wasted my time wanting to protect someone who hates me so much.”
“Namjoon-ah. I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you at all.”
“But you keep telling me you don’t like me. I keep trying so hard to be your friend, but you don’t want that either? What do you want me to do? Disappear?”
Seokjin closes his eyes. He swallows the knot in his throat. “Be with me. I’ve been an idiot. I liked you all along. I was just scared of disappointing you. I know this is rushed and I want to give you a better explanation, but- Be with me. Let me take you out on dates. I’ll show myself to be a better person. I’ll try to be a better person.”
Namjoon rises to his feet, his face red and his cheeks wet with his tears. “This is just a joke to you. I’m just a joke to you,” he cries. “You’ve put me through hell and you tell me it’s because you like me. I’m not stupid hyung.”
Seokjin’s hands wrap around Namjoon’s wrists. “You’re not stupid, I’m telling you I am. So stupid. Such a fucking dumbass.”
“Why would you do that? Why would you pretend you don’t like me when you knew how much it hurt?”
“I’ve ruined so many relationships. I didn’t think I could put my only soulmate through that.”
Namjoon glares at him.
“Stop acting like that’s a good thing. You make me so mad. Who told you that you could decide that for me?”
Seokjin lets go of his wrists. They stand where the grass meets the concrete street in a neat line. The tips of the grass blades are only slightly visible under Tokyo’s city lights. “Hey-”
“Please,” Namjoon says, quietly. “Give me a moment.”
And so he waits. He watches Namjoon turn away from him and disappear into the wheat of Gwanju, no longer golden without the sky shedding light upon it. Namjoon’s figure grows smaller in the distance and Seokjin closes his eyes when it gets more painful to watch. He sits back on the bench, trying to will the dream away with forced shut eye. He’s been selfish. He’s been an idiot. There’s no room for him to protest if he was to be rejected. A cat howls sullenly at the sky, pushing its head under the park bench. He hears the sound of ghost vehicles skidding on concrete roads.
It feels like a day has gone before Namjoon shows up again. The sky is lighter when he places his hand alongside Seokjin’s. “Just this once. I’m not giving you any more chances.”
Seokjin holds his hand. “Thank you. Oh thank god. I’ll be better. I’m not taking any more chances.”
“Just this once.” Namjoon tightens his grip. His eyes are dark and sombre. “Hello, I’m Kim Namjoon.”
“Hello, I’m Kim Seokjin.”
They meet in real life. Like people do, they fall in and out of their fights. They learn the colour of the sunlight under dawn water near the Korea Maritime and Ocean University, learn the rhythm of heartbeats in early mornings. There are nights where they sit beside each other, the television played low as they speak. They find out that words can sometimes solve what actions cannot. They talk about the world, the nature of love and a thousand topics between them. The words grow between them, evident of a myriad of loved memories.
They are together, in the warmth of a summer sun, sand hot at their feet. Together, the day Namjoon returns home to find Seokjin on the floor, eyes worn shut by his tears. Together when they wish the world could be kinder, together when they revel in its wonders.
Tonight, Namjoon curls into Seokjin in a hotel room in Busan. His feet are warm in the dispensable socks he found at the bottom of the wardrobe.
An electric guitar riff plays in the background, the rain outside drowning the sound so it's a bit fuzzy on the edges.
Under his palm, Seokjin’s heartbeat is a steady staccato.
“Can I kiss you?”
“Yes. But only if I get to kiss you back.”