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better than I thought

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It's really exhausting, Seokjin thinks, being an idol. As if the endless daily practices and evaluations weren't enough, he's supposed to learn a bit of guitar for the upcoming showcase, write lyrics for his own solo song, and stay on top of his classwork.

It's okay for him to indulge, of course. He sees Jimin and Taehyung tangled in each other, a knot of limbs and lips and love. He sees Jungkook slink back into the building, pupils blown and shoulders relieved of the load they normally bear. 

Namjoon isn't above slipping away to Itaewon himself, sometimes dragging Hoseok along with him. These things are okay to like, he reminds himself. Sinfulness is okay, in moderation. There's no need to be such a prude. Yoongi catches him indulging, sometimes. He stands in their shared doorway now, eyes narrowed into tiny slits. Seokjin knows a lot about his roommate, but can never tell if he's angry or just intrigued.

"Sorry, babe, I have to go now," Seokjin whispers into his phone, before ending the FaceTime and rolling over on his bed.

"Did I interrupt something?" Yoongi asks, knowing full well he did. He sounds smug, and Seokjin gets the sudden, overwhelming urge to leap off the bed and clock his dongsaeng in the jaw. He restrains himself, and he tells himself it's because of the ache in his knees and back. He stares dumbly at the popcorn ceiling for a moment. He feels like there's a creature living in his nest of hair, controlling his every move. Kind of like that one Disney movie he saw on the plane to Dubai.

"I don't get much time with him," he explains. "We were in Fukuoka during the anniversary."

"Third, right?"

Seokjin snorts. "Fifth."

Nights out with Hansol are easy. Conversation comes naturally, and entire evenings fly by in what feels like minutes. On their first ever vacation after debut, Seokjin meant to stop by at Hansol's for a few hours before heading to his parents'. He ended spending the entirety of his four days off with his boyfriend. They may as well be married.

Neither of their families officially know, but Hansol is always welcome at Chuseok, even when Seokjin is too busy with work to attend. Not even Jungkook, the closest thing to a third son Seokjin's parents ever had, was invited into the ssierum ring with his cousins.

That's what makes Yoongi's blatant disdain for their relationship all the more jarring. He doesn't think it's the gay part of it that makes Yoongi so strange. Is it the fact that Seokjin was already tied down before he even began his training? Because Seokjin was committed to something other than his artistry?

"Five years is a long time to be dating," he observes, dry as usual.

"It is." Longer than they've been together as seven. It echoes, unsaid, in the space.

"You gonna marry him?"

"'S not legal," he yawns. God, this is exhausting. "If it was, then maybe."


The lights go off somewhere around 2 AM, and Seokjin doesn't have to wait long before he hears soft snores from across the room divider. He slips out of bed, pulls on the hoodie on the back of his desk chair, and pads out of the room. This isn't something super uncommon. He's usually not this tired, usually not this hazy, but sneaking out to meet Hansol isn't a big deal. He did it in his trainee days once or twice, when getting caught could have meant the termination of his contract and thousands of won in unpaid trainee debts. He secures his mask tight around his face once he's outside.

The taxi he booked is three minutes away, but he gets a text from Hansol.

waiting by the starbucks. i have a surprise for you

The surprise turns out to be a small, pink device. Hansol passes it to him like he's playing hot potato, and it catches Seokjin completely off guard.

"A toy?" he asks, because it looks vaguely phallic. If he squints, it could look kind of like a tiny alien cock. The thought cuts through the cobwebs in his brain; he almost huffs a laugh.

"A vibrator. I paid for overnight shipping so it'd get here on time; are you proud of me?"

"Always," he says, automatically, but his brain catches up to him. "Wait, I have a performance tomorrow. I don't think we should-"

"We missed our anniversary, though," Hansol says, looking everywhere but at Seokjin and the stupid magenta dick in his hand as he starts the car. He sounds irritated, like Seokjin told the MNet executives to put MNet in Japan on February the Second in the Year of Our Lord Twenty Fifteen.  "I never get to see you," he spits, a little quieter.

"Promotions will be over by the end of the month," Seokjin replies. He feels a bit like James Bond on his way into the villain's lair. He considers escaping out the car window before he'll get handcuffed to a pole and tortured for a few hours.

And it's something that healthy, well-rested Seokjin would never confront, but he kind of thinks sex is annoying. It's too visceral, too wet and harsh and sticky and clammy. He doesn't mind sex with Hansol, usually, because he makes it good for Seokjin, too. Today, he thinks he minds more than usual.

"I've lost a lot of weight," he says. It's an excuse, he thinks. His phone is within reach. Would Hansol be mad if he saw him texting a manager? "I look like a plucked chicken."

"You look hot no matter what," Hansol chides. He's pulling up to the hotel now, and Seokjin tugs the brim of his cap even lower on his face. This is the part he hates the most.

Hansol slings an arm around him as they walk to the receptionist's desk, and he makes small talk with the woman at the check in like he couldn't be recognized. Like his trail wasn't flaming hot, like it wasn't obvious he had come to this upscale business motel in Gangnam to get fucked for a night.

It isn't horrible, really. The vibrator feels nice on his nipple, and he wishes Hansol would keep it there, but his stupid alien cock flits lower and lower on his scrawny, sad body. He doesn't mind the rawness of his wrists around the handcuffs or the bruises around his waist. He likes looking at them the day after-- he feels kind of like a superhero with his battle scars. 

It's when Hansol grabs Seokjin by the hair and steers him between his legs that it feels wrong.

"Wait, wait," he says, and Hansol's dick (veiny, sticky, gross, gross) is resting on his lower lip, and Hansol chokes his protests off with a buck of his hips and--








He stumbles back home. It's six; they have to be up by eight.

Aloe on wrists. Neck thankfully clear. He pulls his phone out and God, he's more tired than he's ever been in his whole entire life. He wishes he could stop time and hibernate. His eyes keep sliding shut as he cleans between his legs, his head keeps lolling forward.

He puts on a mask to ward off the puffiness as best as he can and tests his gait. It's not horrible, really. He should thank Hansol. As long as he doesn't stretch his legs too far apart, it doesn't hurt that much. Jimin had waddled his way through a dance practice once, and everything had worked out okay.

He still has a pair of assignments due. He was planning on finishing them last night (last night? tonight? a few hours ago?). He really doesn't want to apologize to his Anthropology professor for the third late essay in a row. If he fails, he could have to delay his graduation by another year, and he doesn't even need fucking Anthropology to graduate.

Seokjin recalls loving Konkuk once. He'd been so excited when he'd got the letter in the mail, a week before the KSAT even happened. Early acceptance, to somewhere as prestigious as Konkuk, was a huge deal. Everywhere he walked in the school that day, a teacher or friend or janitor patted his shoulder and congratulated him.

He'd planned to graduate early. At the end of his freshman year, he already had auditions scheduled with Namoo, A-Man, fucking Sidus. It's been four years now, and credit-wise, Seokjin is barely a third-year student.

He starts on breakfast. Yoongi trudges into the kitchen, roused by the scent of the fried egg and the bubbling broth. He's not wearing pants, for some reason, and his bleach-stained shirt has a hole under the collar.

The rest of the members file in, in various states of cleanliness and awareness. Tae, for one, looks so grubby and greasy he may as well have just rolled out of bed. Seokjin lets him go on this one-- Jungkook would complain about the smell or something and force Taehyung into the bathroom to at least brush his teeth.

The soup is ready sooner than the rice is finished, but a quick glance at the clock tells Seokjin they are running dangerously low on time. He breathes in deep-- it often takes a good scary wake up call from mean old Jin-hyung to get all the kids to listen to him in the morning-- and--








He tries again, quieter this time. His voice makes a tiny whimper. He sounds like an old man. He tries again. It cracks miserably before turning into a hiss of air.

He has to fight the urge to vomit on the rice cooker.

He isn't sure what does it. His phone is in his pajama pockets, and the dust bunnies who've colonized his stupid empty head must be controlling his mind. Is this how the kid felt in Ratatouille? Terrified and powerless and afraid? His fingers are flying across the screen, he's memorized the keyboard from hours of sexting and nudes and five years worth of shit he wants to take back.

i'm not in love with you anymore

please don't try to contact me

The rat hits send and blocks his number, for good measure. He needs to tell his parents not to invite him for family gatherings anymore. His cousins will be disappointed. The rat doesn't let him go back on his decision.

He tries to ignore the feeling of choking, of swallowing, of fighting for breath, of salt and musk and sweat and the heady, all-consuming fever pitch of hatred and the indecision-- was he going to throw up or bite down?-- and he did neither, locking up and making cute pliant little gagging noises.

Hoseok laughs, loud and nasally, from the other room. Jimin cries out, Namjoon's voice rumbles something reasonable and unfunny. "Where's the food?" Jungkook complains, probably yelling into cupped hands.

He unplugs their useless rice cooker (he can use his leftover birthday money to get them a new one) and brings out the soup. He ladles out seven portions, carries them to the table three at a time, and sips his own bowl in the kitchen as he steeps a handful of tea leaves in boiling water.