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It's late July and Jin’s hair is blonde. 

 

Early morning light trickles in through their broad bay windows, illuminating the spacious apartment with a golden glow. It ignites the pale walls and reflective picture frames until Namjoon is grateful he’d had the wherewithal to make himself a coffee long before the sunlight became quite so intrusive. 

 

He’s sitting on the far side of their blanketed couch, perched atop two pillows. His phone in his lap and his elbow is resting lazily against the armrest at his side. He is gripping the bottom of his ceramic coffee cup, spotted like the back of a dalmatian puppy, in a vice-like hold. He’s wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a loose blue shirt that dwarfs his lithe frame until he looks twice as small as normal. A beanie has been pulled haphazardly over his dark hair, and his gaze is downcast- watching his half-aware reflection upon the cracked screen of his phone. 

 

Music fills the room - listless and faint - emanating from Jin’s phone inside the kitchenette, perched at the bottom of a cereal bowl to offer him more acoustics given that every other power outlet is currently in use by their many kitchen appliances. He’s drifting in and out of Namjoon’s peripherals, humming along to a tune sung in English, too-full lips half-forming each word; only to trail off as they speed up into a sharp bridge that spirals into a complex chorus. The spiced scent of eggs and rice has finally made its way toward Namjoon, and his appetite is finally catching up with him. He looks up- and he perches two fingers along the seam of his lips to hide his smile as he watches Jin shift his attention from the rice cooker to the frypan. 

 

The whole picture is so horribly endearing, so incomprehensibly him that it feels perfect.

 

“Namjoon.” Jin’s voice is quiet, inquiring. It’s enough to snap him from his thoughts.

 

“What?”

 

“You’re staring at me.” Jin says, a smile pulling thoughtlessly across his lips. 

 

“Yeah.” He tears his gaze away, and he picks up his phone- listlessly unlocking it and opening Twitter, just for something to do with his hands. “I’m hungry.”

 

“Unfortunately, I’m not trained as a line chef, so you’re going to have to tip me more generously, or learn how to be a bit more patient.” Jin says over the sizzle from the pan. 

 

“You make it smell good. What d’you want me to do?” Namjoon says, tipping his head back with a broad smile. 

 

“Be patient.” Jin says, switching off the stove. “..and tell me how much you enjoy my cooking.”

 

* * * *

 

It’s August and Jin’s hair has faded into lilac. 

 

Namjoon isn’t sure when he had begun cataloging the highlights of his year with how they correspond to Jin’s hair colour. Lately, it feels like the only constant in his life. Everything around them feels like a blur- tour dates, buses, flights, cities, countries and hotels. Fans and press tours and movies and releases and music videos, running and running and running right by him in a blur until the only oasis amidst it all is their apartment in Hannam and the softness of Seokjin’s hair. 

 

He knows it’s ridiculous. He also isn’t so sure when it started. 

 

So, when he finds himself crammed into the back seat of a taxi, sandwiched between Yoongi and Jin, he wonders why he isn’t more uncomfortable. Yoongi’s elbow is digging into his ribcage. Jin has angled his impossibly broad shoulders to one side, so that one is tucked beneath Namjoon’s own in a position that should be uncomfortable. 

 

Only, it isn’t.

 

Namjoon is fairly sure that his left leg is fast asleep. He can feel that Yoongi is all but craning his head toward the window to be as far from him as possible. But, Jin has his phone out; he keeps showing Namjoon pictures of bichon frieses with their fur trimmed into impossibly spherical circles and laughing as though it’s the single most amusing thing he’s ever seen. He smells like sandalwood and vanilla. His cheeks are tinted pink from the cold and thirty minutes into the drive, he rests his head upon Namjoon’s shoulder. 

 

The rest of the trip seems to pass them by in a blur. Jin drifts off to sleep somewhere between the first highway exit and the fifth. Namjoon doesn’t wake him. 

 

* * * *

 

“You’ve been quiet lately.” Yoongi tells him over sushi late on a Friday night. “I mean, more quiet than normal.”

 

They’re sitting by the broad windows of their apartment, cross-legged on the floor and illuminated by one of the table lamps and the glittering skyline below. Clouds dot the horizon with the promise of an impending storm. The air that billows in through the single open window is cool and fresh, flecked with seasalt. 

 

They’re the only ones home. There’s a single line of sushi between them, artfully arranged upon a ceramic tray with a small pool of soy sauce beside it. The two of them are dressed down - Namjoon in sweatpants and a white tee, while Yoongi lounges back with his mouth full in a pair of gym shorts and a blue button-down that feels like some incomprehensible clashing of two distinct outfits he somehow makes look effortless. 

 

“Have I?” Namjoon asks, rubbing the pads of his fingers against the nape of his neck. 

 

“Are you writing again?” Yoongi asks with an upward tilt of his chin as he swallows.

 

“No. Not really. Not any more than normal.” He admits, and it’s (mostly) true. He hasn’t visited the studio in a little over a week. 

 

“You get quiet when you’re working on something.” Yoongi says, retrieving his chopsticks, “Or when you’re stuck. Are you stuck?”

 

“Stuck?” Namjoon quirks an inquisitive brow upwards, “Like a writer’s block?”

 

“Something like that.” Yoongi’s chopsticks hover over the line of sushi, as if he can’t decide which little roll looks the most appetizing. 

 

“No, I’m just-..” He pauses, watches Yoongi make his choice and promptly eat it whole, eyes drifting back to the balcony. He’s silent for a moment as he considers. “I think I’m just working through some shit, you know? Quarter life crisis and all that.” 

 

Yoongi laughs; a dainty and muffled sound he hides behind the back of a closed fist. “Yeah. I had one of those, too. I’m here if you need anything. I think-.. what got me through mine was just to throw myself into everything. I didn’t want to half-do anything. Does that make sense?”

 

Namjoon nods, running that hand back through his hair. “That makes sense.”

 

* * * *

 

It’s late August and the colour is beginning to fade out of Jin’s hair. 

 

They’re at dance practice in one of the studios, with walls made from mirrors that reflect them double, triple, quadruple— until they look like an entire platoon rather than a single group of seven. They’ve reached the end of their second last number, and the last few notes of Fake Love fade from around them as Namjoon holds up a hand in request of a break. He’d been following Yoongi’s advice- throwing himself into everything he can, into everything around him, one-hundred and ten percent. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to apply such logic- where he could easily over-exert himself. 

 

But, where Namjoon does one hundred and ten, Seokjin does two hundred and twenty. He’s red-faced and breathless, sitting off to the side with his back to one of the mirrors, shrouded in a thin sheen of sweat with the sleeves of his hoodie pushed up to his elbows and the zipper undone over his bare chest as it rises and falls with his steep breathing. His cheeks are pink, a vibrant and nearly lurid flush that has spread down to the top of his chest, features blown with a look that makes Namjoon think we should be filming this for all the wrong reasons. 

 

His gaze darts away as Hoseok reaches him and holds out a water bottle dripping with condensation. Thoughtlessly, he takes it- and he downs the entire thing, creaking the plastic under the curl of his fingers as he squeezes out every last drop until he can feel the cold trickle of it ebb through him and bloom through his stomach- chasing away any of that inner and unwelcome heat. 

 

He tells him it’s nothing, it’s envy- he knows he doesn’t look that effortless, that pornographic during a workout. He’s envied Jungkook’s voice before. He’s envied the volume of Jimin’s hair. He’s envied Hoseok’s ability to pick up on their dance routines as if they’re a language he’s already fluent in. He envies Jin, too. He envies his looks. 

 

He watches Jin pull himself to his feet again, plucking at the front of his hoodie as though he cannot quite decide if he ought to strip it from his broad shoulders entirely. He swings his arms out in wide arcs on either side of himself, crossing them over at his front again as Namjoon sets the water bottle aside and clambers to his feet, too. 

 

“What stretch is this?” He asks, mirroring the movement until Jin laughs.

 

“Your arms need to be straight.” He tells him, “It’s to open up your shoulders.”

 

“What does that mean?” Namjoon asks, drifting forwards to stand beside Jin, “My shoulders shouldn’t open. That sounds painful.”

 

Jin laughs, leaning forwards to touch the tips of his fingers to the burnished floorboards between his parted feet. Namjoon steps backwards instinctively, he moves behind him and looks pointedly down at Jin’s flushed features as his hair sticks to his damp temples.

 

“This one is for the thighs.” Jin explains from between his parted knees, voice tight and strained. “Try it!”

 

“I don’t think I’m that flexible.” Namjoon admits.

 

Jin leans back, and thoughtlessly- Namjoon reaches out to steady him.

 

His hand settles against the sway of Jin’s spine, between the lip of his trousers and the hemline of his hoodie, nestled against his sweat-slick skin, hot and heady and sticky under the press of Namjoon’s fingers. It startles him.

 

He sucks in a short breath. 

 

It’s skin-on-skin and it’s electric. It’s filthy. It’s intimate. It’s framed by damp cotton and hot. He should snatch his hand back. He should pull away.

 

Jin straightens up, and Namjoon’s fingers remain there, settled against the small of his back, pressed beneath rumpled fabric. 

 

“Joon-ah.” Jimin’s voice pulls him from his reprieve. Namjoon’s hand withdraws. Jin brings his arms above his head to pull his elbows inwards, turning away from the two of them while Jimin turns the smudged screen of his phone toward him to show him a gif of a baby elephant falling sideways, stuck on loop. “It reminds me of you.”

 

“How?” Namjoon asks, a smile blooming across his lips despite the pink flush to his cheeks. “How does that remind you of me?” 

 

Jin’s sweat dries across the tips of his fingers. Whatever had passed between them in that moment, it’s fleeting and unspeakable. 

 

* * * *

 

In September, Jin’s hair is grey. There’s the faintest hint of lilac left; and it makes him look ethereal. 

 

They’re in-between interviews and Namjoon is sitting on the breakroom floor with his legs stretched out straight in front of him. His phone is set within his lap, replaying an interview junket with The Weeknd he’s seen four times before. 

 

Jimin is dozing on the couch, propped against Hoseok. Yoongi is engaged in a muffled phone conversation with his mother, leaning against the far wall by the window. Taehyung and Jungkook are listlessly digging through a basket of snacks on the coffee table in front of the couch, and Jin had vanished on a trip to the bathroom. 

 

Their music is playing softly in the background, drifting artlessly from the speakers of an old bluetooth device, as if to help them feel like this temporary room is truly welcoming them. The roll of thunder from the sky beyond the building feels like a tangible reminder that the outside world will be there to greet them once they’re done with the press, and Namjoon finds himself desperately wishing for a decent night of sleep. 

 

The door creaks open, bringing with it a dulled and cold chill that makes Namjoon’s shoulders stiffen. It clicks shut, and the weight of another body settles beside his own. He lifts his gaze for long enough to see Jin’s profile, fragrant with the lingering scent of pervasive lavender that Namjoon realises must be due to hand sanitizer. He looks as tired as everyone else in the room, and when he pitches sideways - Namjoon doesn’t stop him. 

 

He eases onto his back, settling his head upon the tops of Namjoon’s thighs as though they’re a pillow. His light hair fans out above him like some fractured halo, and a quiet sigh slips through his parted lips. 

 

“Jin-..” Namjoon starts, lifting his phone out of the way and pressing pause on the muffled video. 

 

“He’s loud and nonsensical.” Jin says, flapping a dismissive hand in the direction of Namjoon’s phone. “I don’t understand a word he says.”

 

“Well, he’s speaking English.”

 

“Exactly.” 

 

A bemused smile tugs across his parted lips, and he exits the video - opting for twitter instead; watching out of his peripherals as Jin’s eyes drift closed. 

 

It’s difficult to tell if he falls asleep there. Namjoon hopes that he does. He watches him, content with the knowledge that his eyes are shut- so that he cannot see just how plainly Namjoon gazes at him. His eyelids are tinted purple from a lack of sleep. His eyelashes are long and curled, they settle like angel’s kisses against the crests of his cheeks. His lips are full and faintly parted, enunciated by the faintest shimmer of gloss Namjoon knows their stylist had painted upon him. His hands are folded artlessly across the dip of his navel, and the collar of his shirt reveals the jutting dip of his left collarbone. 

 

Thoughtlessly, Namjoon reaches out for him. He settles his free hand against Jin’s sternum, where he can feel the gentle rhythm of his heart as it thuds against his ribcage, beating like the wings of a caged bird. He can feel the warmth bleeding off him, seeping through the woven fibers of his button down shirt. He wants to crawl his fingers forwards, to sink them into the gap between two of Jin’s buttons so that he might touch his skin, so that he can have that eclectic and addictive thrill of skin-on-skin a second time. 

 

Somehow, he resists. Somehow, he keeps his hand still. 

 

He tucks away his phone after thirteen minutes where Jin doesn’t move. His breathing has evened out. Every now and again, his eyelids flutter. 

 

Namjoon lifts his left hand, and skims his fingers through that dulled-grey hair, watching the notes of lilac leap forwards against the shift of the light. His hair is downy, and soft- despite the amount of times it’s been bleached. It - and he - smells of strawberries and cream. 

 

Movement catches his eye, and he lifts his gaze in time to see Yoongi watching him, phone still cradled against his cheek, attention divided between his conversation and the sight before him. Namjoon’s hand falls still, and slowly withdraws- a dull twist of shame settling in his chest.

 

Jin shifts, but doesn’t rouse. 

 

* * * *

 

It’s hot in a balmy and humid sort of way. The air feels cloying and damp. The sheets are sticking to the outsides of his thighs and there’s a faint white mist everywhere that he looks. His skin prickles with it. His stomach twists with it. His fingers itch and his hair sticks to the cusp of his forehead and it takes him a moment to fumble back into reality as he blinks against the intrusive light. 

 

He’s in bed, twisted among the sheets. There’s sunshine beaming in through the window by his bedside. It’s sweltering and uncomfortable and he shifts against it- only to realise that he can’t move. 

 

“Namjoon-..”

 

It’s a voice he recognises, uttering his name with a quiet and pitched cadence he’s memorised (because he’s played it over and over and over like a record stuck on loop just so that he’d never forget it). He turns his head, and he sees Jin there- lying beneath him, splayed beneath the golden light with dark hair and red-painted lips. 

 

He’s flushed, that same pervasive and all-encompassing pink that had bloomed across his cheeks and spread downwards across the cusp of his chest during rehearsals only a week ago. It rises and falls with each earnest breath that he takes; and he seems breathless- panting as though he’s just run a marathon, glowing under the golden light that dapples across his skin as he reaches out to run the tips of his fingers across the curve of Namjoon’s shoulder. 

 

“Fuck.” It falls past his lips before he can stop it. Jin doesn’t seem to hear him; he is absorbed, enraptured, as mesmerized by Namjoon as Namjoon is with him. “Fuck. Fuck .”

 

He reaches out and runs a splayed hand down the sway of Jin’s side; feeling the notched ridges of his ribcage, and where they taper inwards to meet the curve of his hip. He digs his thumb in there, pulling him closer- feeling his warmth as if it’s as blistering and wonderful as the sun. The moan that slips from him sounds angelic, deeply sinful and woefully delectable- until this feels almost like a religious experience. 

 

Namjoon’s thumb sinks past the pull of Jin’s entrance. It feels warm and wanting, pulling him deeper and deeper until Jin arches off the sheets and turns his head aside. 

 

“No, no.” Namjoon says. “Look at me, I want you to look at me.”

 

Jin’s eyes flutter open. His chin tips upwards. Fingers curl against the nape of Namjoon’s neck, and they pull him downwards, drowning him in a kiss that takes his breath away.

 

There is a sharp knock somewhere behind him. It’s demanding and sudden, choked by a muffled shout of his name that he wants to ignore. This, right now, beneath him - it’s the only thing that matters.

 

The knock grows louder. It rattles and thuds.

 

“Namjoon!”

 

The golden light fades away.

 

He opens his eyes blearily- for he is indeed in his bed, lying beneath his twisted bedsheets with a shaft of light shining in through the window against the wall, warming his skin uncomfortably until he kicks the duvet away. 

 

“Fuck.” He hisses, feeling the familiar sinking dread that always follows a wet dream, when he’s reminded of reality- and that whatever fanciful moment he’d conjured is just that. A dream. 

 

This time, reality feels particularly cruel. 

 

Namjoon is hard. He’s so hard that it almost hurts .

 

Fuck.” He hisses.

 

“Joon!” Another knock. He recognises the voice as Hoseok’s. 

 

“What?!”

 

“Breakfast is ready! Jin says if you don’t come out now, he’ll feed it to Holly.”

 

Namjoon rolls over, snatching one of his pillows out from behind his head, and dropping it across his hips as he glances to Taehyung’s bed- thankful to find it vacant (had he even come home last night?). 

 

“Feed it to him.” Namjoon says, dragging a hand across his face, “I need another ten minutes.”

 

* * * *

 

On the twenty-third of September, at five fifty-four in the afternoon, Namjoon - sequestered alone with his thoughts (a dangerous notion) - realises that he might be wrong. 

 

There’s a fine line between envy and infatuation. He knew it in school, when he’d crushed on one of the star students in his grade and attempted to brush off his competitive spirit with her as jealousy, up until his mother had patted his cheek sympathetically and admonished him, you’ll understand when you’re older

 

He didn’t think it would happen when he’s teetering on the verge of twenty-six. 

 

He remembers how he’d felt when he’d sat next to her, when he’d peered at her over the chapped pages of his history textbook, when he’d seen her smile and laugh, tipping her head back with a waterfall of dark hair down her back. There’s the strangest feeling in my chest , he’d thought- and insisted it was envy. 

 

Jin had shuffled out of the kitchen with a mug of coffee clutched in his hands, half-engulfed by the sleeves of his button-down, tired-eyed and fragrant with the scent of baking thyme as he’d sat down upon the far side of the couch and sipped from his mug in silence. 

 

Namjoon had watched him from the other side of the room, feeling distinctly like a deer caught in the headlights, gripping his moleskin notebook like it’s a lifeline as he’d sat motionless in his armchair. 

 

The feeling is a familiar one. 

 

A rushing, blooming, exhilarating heat that spills outwards, oscillating from the core of his chest and rolling beyond like the first ever high tide on an abandoned beach. It spills and splashes against his edges, it tears at his ridges, it thump-thump-thumps against the cage of his ribs like it’s seeking freedom. It sinks through him, knotting his stomach tight and filling it with a hundred-and-one butterflies. His face feels hot. His shirt is itching his shoulders.

 

Jin looks up at him at last, half-way through his coffee and shrouded by a thin veil of steam swirling from its surface, as if noticing his presence in the room for the first time. 

 

Oh. Namjoon thinks. Oh no.

 

He’s never been jealous of him. 

 

This is much worse. 

 

* * * *

 

Jin is blonde and Namjoon has stopped wondering if the colour of his hair means anything. 

 

They’re slated to do an interview with an english-speaking journalist, and he’s on edge; sweating through the fine silk button-down his stylist had tucked him into an hour ago until she impatiently hurries to his side with a sheet of blotting paper clutched in her hand to dab away his shine while he mutters an apology he knows she doesn’t want to hear. His hair is grey; and it’s brushed impatiently out of his eyes into a style he’s always vastly preferred- but one that leaves him feeling distinctly naked

 

The others are within his orbit (just like always), Hoseok and Yoongi are off to the side, involved in a quiet conversation Namjoon cannot overhear. Jimin, Jungkook and Taehyung are each being attended to by their stylists for touch-ups (and a replacement contact lens for Jimin’s left eye). 

 

Jin stands off to the side, leaning against a windowpane with his phone in his left hand. He’s wearing a blue button-down with every button notched loose except for the last three until an obscene amount of his chest is on display. His trousers are high-waisted and black. They’re tight, and they taper downwards to grip his ankles against a pair of glossy dark boots that mark his every step with a commanding thump

 

His hair is swept back, but a single lock of it has fallen forwards to hang over his forehead. His lips are pink, and the faintest touch of shimmer sits along the crescent curve of his eyelids. Worst of all (and only partially a culprit for Namjoon’s current predicament) he’s wearing a diamond choker. One inch wide, it catches the dulled golden light like an extraordinarily precious slit throat, bleeding silver diamonds onto the woven fibres of his shirt until he looks better suited to the halls of some dilapidated and ancient castle, rather than an interview set. 

 

He’s looking at his phone, and somehow he looks like something torn from a page of GQ. 

 

“Jin.” Namjoon calls once his stylist backs away- content with his current level of shine, evidently. Jin looks up. His eyes are dark and searching. He arches an inquisitive brow in question.

 

“Can you come here?” Namjoon asks, voice wavering ever so slightly at the gentle thrill of anxiety that spikes through him upon uttering such a simple request. 

 

It’s the interview, he tells himself. He’s just worried about the interview. 

 

Jin straightens. He locks his phone and he slides it into his pocket as he drifts to Namjoon’s side. 

 

“You look pale.” Jin observes, quietly. “Have you eaten?”

 

“I’m not hungry.” Namjoon offers, dismissively. 

 

“That doesn’t answer my question.” Jin slips a hand into his pocket, “I have some cashews in my bag if you’d like some. You should have something, Joon. Do you want to be sick on camera?”

 

“Won’t it be worse if I have something in my stomach to be sick with?” He asks, skimming his fingers through his hair, sticky with hairspray. 

 

“No. It’ll help soothe your stomach.” Jin reaches out, and notches three fingers against the bend of Namjoon’s elbow. 

 

The touch is small. It’s fleeting. It’s muffled by the sleeve of Namjoon’s shirt; but it still sends an intangible bolt of electricity rocketing through him. Jin gives him a small tug, fingers withdrawing again just as quickly as he winds toward their discarded bags in the far corner of the room, and drops himself down to sit, cross-legged, by his own. 

 

It’s simple, unassuming, black-- decorated by a plastic RJ key-chain to differentiate it from the rest. He wastes little time in unzipping one of the side pockets and digging impatiently within it as Namjoon takes a seat on the floor beside him, doing his best to ignore the tongue-click of dissent offered by their wardrobe team. 

 

“I wanted to ask you something.” Namjoon presses, watching as Jin pulls out a rumpled bag of unbranded cashews from within his bag. He wordlessly presses it into Namjoon’s lap. “I’m nervous about these interviews.”

 

“I can tell.” Jin says, “Eat.” He prods the bag. 

 

Reluctantly, Namjoon complies- unwinding the elastic keeping the bag closed, he digs in for a handful of nuts, and unceremoniously crams them into his mouth. They taste like cardboard. It feels like chewing on gravel. He swallows them down, and Jin looks a little less irritated. 

 

His features soften. Namjoon’s heart misses a beat.

 

Jin surprises him again. He breathes out a measured sigh, and asks, “What do you need from me?” 

 

Namjoon nearly chokes on his mouthful of cashews. 

 

“I-..” He forces himself to swallow; considers how best to word his request in a way that doesn’t sound overly needy, corny, ridiculous or irrational. He twists the torn lip of the bag in his fingers. 

 

“Stay close to me.” 

 

He can hear the beat of his own heart, ringing like a churchbell between his ears, loud and insistent and demanding not to be ignored. 

 

“It helps when you’re there. People love you. You know how to make them laugh. It gives me a second to breathe.”

 

He glances up. Jin is watching him, expression wholly unreadable, but alight with an emotion Namjoon cannot place. 

 

“So, like in America?” He asks, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. 

 

“Yeah.” Namjoon’s smile is hesitant, halting, but present nonetheless. “Like in America.”

 

“Does that mean I can be Worldwide Handsome, again?”

 

“Oh.” Namjoon hangs his head, breathing out a laugh that quakes between his shoulders. “No. Please, Jin--”

 

“You don’t want Worldwide Handsome? Did you hear that, Jimin--?” He twists where he sits to rope Jimin in with a wave of an arm. “Namjoon thinks I’m not handsome.”

 

“I never said-..”

 

“Namjoon!” Jimin’s following look of abject horror is enough for him to surrender; and it feels timely. Their chaos is short-lived before the arrival of their journalist. 

 

Jin holds true to Namjoon’s request. He feels like a shadow for the remainder of the afternoon, lingering close enough to Namjoon’s side that their shoulders brush. His fingertips skate against the back of Jin’s hand twice. His elbow is pinched between a forefinger and thumb three times. The sway of his spine is touched twice, a gentle reminder (as Namjoon trips over his words) that Jin is right there , right beside him. 

 

* * * *

 

They’re back at the hotel. It was midnight ten minutes ago, and whiskey burns through Namjoon’s veins. He’d long marveled at its ability to make the rest of the world feel unimportant and infinitely distant; especially when they’re perched up high in this pillar in the sky, well above the rest of Seoul.

 

They’re sitting cross-legged on the livingroom floor, in front of a perfectly comfortable leather couch that Jin had slid out of an hour ago. Namjoon had followed him without even thinking, as if caught in Jin’s orbit-- where he goes, Namjoon follows; without even questioning it. Without even noticing

 

There’s a bottle of foul Jack Daniel’s between them and they’re drinking from crystal wine glasses Jin had found in the back of the kitchenette cupboard. They could’ve requested tumblers, but there had been something hopelessly endearing about watching him jaunt out of the kitchen with two long glass stems threaded between his fingers, and a wolfish smile plastered across his too-full lips, as if he’d just struck gold. 

 

Both of them like whiskey, and neither of them are terribly fond of wine. 

 

The thing is, Namjoon’s many filters seem to disintegrate when alcohol is brought into the mix. He swears more. He says what is on his mind ( exactly what’s on his mind). His propriety goes away. His inhibitions are nowhere to be seen. His Jin filter is well and truly fractured. Jin, meanwhile, only seems to become lovelier. He’s less self-conscious. More aware of where his limbs are. Less focused on what he’s saying, but immeasurably focused on the person he’s saying it to. It’s a precarious and complicated thing that makes Namjoon feel as if he’s the only person in the world. 

 

It’s dangerous.

 

He’s far too aware of that as he peers down the length of his half-drunk wine glass, fragrant with the acrid stench of whiskey. He doesn’t even like Jack Daniel’s.

 

But he likes Jin. 

 

So, he’ll drink it. 

 

“I wanted to ask.” Jin’s words are only faintly slurred. Their balcony door is open and an artless breeze drifts in to greet them, urging a stray lock of blonde hair onto his forehead that Namjoon has to restrain himself from brushing aside. “Why does it make you feel better to have me next to you when we do big interviews?” 

 

He glances up at Namjoon as he speaks, tracing the tip of his index finger around the rim of his glass. 

 

For a moment, Namjoon is breathless. He finds himself wondering if anybody else has ever been in his shoes; this helplessly enraptured and captivated by Jin. How did they survive? What happened to them? Did they get picked up in the hurricane that is him, only to be spat out somewhere else? 

 

He doesn’t know how he’s expected to say anything at all when he’s contending with this. He draws in a breath, and swallows down another sour mouthful of whiskey just to drown his nerves. 

 

“I don’t know.” He admits. “I know the others get nervous, I know Yoongi and you understand more than you let on, I know people like you-..”

 

“As if they don’t like the others, too?” He interjects, lifting his glass to his lips. 

 

Namjoon watches them fit seamlessly against the rim, red-flushed from the heady alcohol.

 

“They like you more .”

 

“Why do you say that?” Jin asks him, frowning. “They like you plenty.”

 

“You have this-..” Careful, he tells himself, be careful. “..-natural magnetism, you know? You’re charismatic, even when you’re speaking another language. People gravitate towards that. People are drawn in by beautiful things.”

 

Jin is silent for a moment, studying the fraying tear along the knee of his jeans. A frown settles between his brow, and he brings his dark gaze up to meet Namjoon’s own, something fraught and strained veiled beyond. 

 

“Do I draw you in?” 

 

His breath catches at the back of his throat. He swallows. His tongue suddenly feels too big for his mouth. His face feels warm. His heart misses a beat. 

 

“Of course.” He admits, voice cracking. He presses on before Jin has the chance to speak, “I think you have that impact on everyone. Do you remember that interviewer in Australia? She looked like she was ready to elope with you if you asked it of her, and she didn’t even know who we were until twenty minutes before that interview.”

 

Jin laughs, a quiet and breathless sound. 

 

“Then why not-.. Jimin?” He asks, “He’s beautiful, too. People adore him.”

 

“It’s different with you.” Namjoon says, lifting and dropping a dismissive shoulder. 

 

“How?” Jin presses. 

 

“I don’t know, man. It’s like-... this level of comfort. It’s gonna sound corny as hell, dude, but-..” He lifts the glass to his lips and he knocks back the remainder of the whiskey. It bristles and burns. It’s awful, but it gives him the courage he needs to continue. His voice is hoarse and soft, “It just feels like home when you’re there. It makes everything else so much easier to deal with, ‘cause I’m just-... I’m fuckin’ home, you know?”

 

“Home.” Jin echoes it, a listless smile pulled across his lips, something unreadable shrouded across his features like a veil as he leans forwards to set down his wine glass on the carpet between them. Namjoon wants to tell him that it’s precarious, that they’ll have to pay for cleaning if they spill it, but Jin is leaning closer to him, and any sense of sensibility left in him seems to trickle suddenly far, far away. 

 

He has one elbow propped on the seat of the couch behind him, and both of his shoulders leaning against it. His empty glass is held loosely in his free hand, legs stretched out straight in front of him with his phone face-down on the rug between his splayed thighs. 

 

Jin is suddenly very close. His knee presses into the outside of Namjoon’s thigh. He smells like sandalwood and vanilla, soaked in whiskey. There’s hair product in there, somewhere- and aftershave (not that Jin even needs to shave most days). It intermingles into a tempting cocktail of fragrances that have him leaning (thoughtlessly) forwards as though he’s more than ready to indulge. 

 

“I don’t think anybody has ever said anything that nice to me.” Jin admits, barely more than a whisper. 

 

“I don’t think that’s true.” Namjoon tells him with a small frown. His raised arm shifts, his palm draws back, and his idle fingers drift along the nape of Jin’s neck, carding through the downy hairs curled upwards by the collar of his shirt in a touch he knows is far too intimate. “People say nice things to you all the time.”

 

“Yeah.” Jin murmurs, tipping his head into Namjoon’s fingertips. “But, it’s like what you said before. It isn’t really the same.”

 

“Wh--” He’s cut off. 

 

There’s a sharp and sudden knock at the door. Loud enough that Namjoon nearly jumps. 

 

Namjoon’s heart sinks. Irritation curls tightly in his chest. He feels ready to throttle whomever is on the other side; and he briefly considers ignoring them entirely.

 

He sets his wine glass down, and clambers to his feet as Jin leans away. He covers his face with a hand, unfolding his legs to prop his elbow against his raised knee. Namjoon watches him for just a moment as he turns for the door, wondering if it’s regret that Jin feels. 

 

He reaches for the handle, gives it a sharp twist, and jerks it open wide enough to glare daggers at their interruption. 

 

Yoongi is standing there, features red-flushed and perfumed with cheap vodka and bagged wine. His hair is ruffled and standing on-end and his dark gaze snaps from Namjoon, to Jin- sitting on the floor in front of the couch with two wine glasses by his side, before drifting back again. 

 

“Am I interrupting something?” He asks, voice flat - almost unimpressed. 

 

“Yes.” Namjoon steps aside, pulling the door further closed as if to hide a scene that had felt so private until a second ago. “What do you want?”

 

“I have your charger.” He says, lifting his left hand - fingers tangled together by a length of white cord adorned by a rubber Koya protector. “You threatened to wake me up at six if I didn’t give it back to you tonight, so..”

 

“Oh, yeah.” Namjoon reaches out to take it from him. “Thanks.”

 

“..and we have to be ready to go by nine tomorrow. Tell Jin-hyung, since he’s staying here.”

 

“He’s not-..”

 

“Go to sleep. Both of you. You can’t look hungover at the airport, or we’ll never hear the end of it.”

 

“You too, man. You smell like a club floor.” Namjoon says, frowning. 

 

“Don’t worry about me.” Yoongi waves a hand, and turns to depart - sauntering back down the hallway toward his room, three doors down from Namjoon’s. “Sleep.” He tosses the admonishment over his shoulder as he swipes his access card against the reader by the door, and vanishes beyond it. 

 

Namjoon lingers there for a moment longer, before pushing the door closed again, and turning back toward Jin and the whiskey. He dumps the charger cable on the unused coffee table as he starts back toward him. 

 

Jin is motionless, now. His head is tipped back against the couch cushion. His eyes are closed. His cheeks are flushed a faint pink from the alcohol. A smile still sits at the very corners of his lips, as if he’s lost in a very pleasant dream. He doesn’t rouse as Namjoon draws back to his side. 

 

His disappointment is short lived. He knows it’s likely for the best that their night comes to an end here, rather than in another clumsy shot that could loosen his tongue further, into admitting something much more dangerous than that he thinks Jin is beautiful. 

 

So, he only wakes him for long enough to encourage him out of his (very expensive) Balenciaga button down, and into bed. 

 

He wishes there could be another reason for them to share the king-sized bed. Other than inebriation. But, as he clambers under the covers in a plain white tee and a pair of flannel pajama bottoms, he knows he’ll take anything he can have - especially when it comes to Jin. 

 

Namjoon keeps to the left side of the bed, lying flat upon his back while Jin already feels lost to the depths of his slumber, lying chest-down against the mattress with both hands tucked beneath his pillow. 

 

* * * *

 

They wake to the blare of Namjoon’s phone alarm; a tinny and unpleasant sound that he’s come to dread after hearing it first thing in the morning for six months straight. 

 

Sun is beaming in at them through the thin white curtains, sharp and vibrant and cascading over the rumpled bedsheets twisted across them. Everything feels pale and bright and intrusive. Namjoon reaches over blindly to snatch his phone from the nightstand and promptly muffle the unpleasant ring

 

The silence feels wonderful. 

 

His head throbs

 

A groan is pulled past his lips, and he drapes his arm over his eyes to blot out the light. 

 

Something shifts against him, and suddenly- he realises that the blistering line of warmth against his side isn’t from the sun. He peels his arm away, and he opens one eye to peer down at the twisted bedsheets half-thrown across his gangly frame. 

 

Jin is there, shirtless and sleep-addled, blonde hair standing up at all angles, eyes red-rimmed and bleary, makeup smudged across the pillowcase; looking utterly, utterly bewildered- as if he has little to no clue how he’d ended up here. 

 

Yet still, even like this, he looks beautiful. He’s nestled close to Namjoon’s side and the length of his arm sits along the curve of his chest- as if they’d somehow gravitated closer to one another over the course of the night, and Namjoon suddenly wishes he had stayed awake- just to feel what it might have been like to hold Jin for a little while. 

 

“Shit.” He hisses, voice choked, throat dry. “What time is it?”

 

“Eight.” Namjoon tells him, “We’ve gotta be ready to get to the airport at nine.”

 

“Airport? Oh-..” 

 

“Home.” Namjoon says, with some measure of relief. 

 

“What-..” Jin draws his arm back, he pulls himself upright into a sitting position. “...-what happened?”

 

“Nothing.” Namjoon tells him. “We drank, and you fell asleep on the floor.”

 

“On the floor?”

 

“I got you to come to bed. I rescued your shirt, don’t worry.”

 

“Good. That one is my favourite.”

 

“You say that about every shirt you wear.”

 

“I’m a man of refined tastes, Namjoon.”

 

A dry chuckle is pulled from his parted lips at that. His heart swells. He hates himself for it. 

 

“What is the point of life if it isn’t peppered by an array of favourite shirts?”

 

“Fine.” He says, still laughing. “You’re right.”

 

“I’m going to shower.” Jin announces, peeling the bedsheets away. “I feel as though I’ve been hit by a truck.”

 

“Me too, dude. Jack Daniel is a dick.” Namjoon mumbles. 

 

“Why do we keep going back to him?” Jin stands from the bed, and braces himself against the bedpost, momentarily unsteady on his feet. He’s still for a moment, and then he straightens. Namjoon watches the sway of his spine, recalls the way it had bent beneath the press of his fingers. 

 

He tears his gaze away.

 

“‘Cause we’re lazy.” Namjoon adds. “Drink water, Jin-hyung. It’ll make you feel better.”

 

“It might make me sick, too.”

 

“Please, just-... don’t get sick on my bathroom floor.”

 

“Right. I’ll try to aim.” He drifts out of the room, and Namjoon hears the bathroom door close behind him. 

 

He remains there until he hears the shower turn on. 

 

He rolls over, into the side of the bed that Jin had occupied only a moment ago, still warm from his bare skin. He settles into the place that he had been, and turns his head to inhale, long and slow; catching that same effortless intermingling of sandalwood, vanilla and whiskey from the pillow. 

 

It’d be fine if the whole thing didn’t feel so terribly domestic

 

He turns his head away, and he pulls himself upright, peeling the sheets away and setting his feet upon the floor to stand. He brings his arms up above his head to stretch the notches of his spine out while the room swims around him. It feels more bland, more ordinary, more forgettable without the inebriated tandem magic of Kim Seokjin and Jack Daniel. 

 

* * * *

 

They travel to the airport in silence, squeezed into the back of a black van with tinted windows. Namjoon’s hair is still wet from his shower, and there’s no hiding his current state from the world - so a pair of oversized sunglasses supplied to him by his stylist had to suffice. Yoongi is sitting opposite him, and it’s impossible to ignore the wordless looks he spares Namjoon’s way each time they turn a corner. 

 

He’s difficult to read on the best of days, but today especially. His features are flat, blank, impassive- but still unimpressed, still disappointed, still drifting from Namjoon to Jin and back again as if he’s waiting for one of them to sing a litany of apologies. 

 

Neither of them do, and Namjoon is suddenly grateful for Hoseok’s presence in the van. He’d gone to bed at ten last night, and his attitude is chipper and upbeat, second coffee of the day gripped in his right hand while Namjoon is still pondering the ramifications of attempting keeping breakfast down.

 

..and what might have happened last night if Yoongi hadn’t interrupted them. 



* * * *

 

It’s two thirty-two in the morning on a Friday night, and they’re back in Seoul. Namjoon is standing on the lip of their broad balcony. The porch light is off, and the apartment is dark. The others are asleep, except maybe for Yoongi- who is as much of a night owl as Namjoon is. The only light shines from the weight of the moon, and the glittering city below him that still trawls with light and a thousand-and-one moving denizens still drifting from place to place despite the late hour, traversing like ships in the night. 

 

He’s tired, but he can’t sleep. 

 

He’d spread out on his double bed and tried his best to fall asleep; skincare finished and songwriting done- it’s usually the optimal time for his brain to shut off and power down to grant him a moment of reprieve; but his thoughts hadn’t stopped. They’d trundled around his family, how much he misses them, and Jin - who he also misses, even though he’s two doors away. He’d thought about one of their film crew members that had broken her ankle a week ago, and how he hopes she’s feeling better. He thinks about Yoongi and Holly, and how he’d like to get a dog, too; he’d wondered if Jin would like that. 

 

Eventually, he’d grown frustrated. He’d stripped back his bedsheets and slipped quietly out of the bedroom in search of fresh air; because somehow that always helps. His hands are braced on the cold railing, spaced evenly apart- fingers splayed and feet bare. There’s a chill in the air, and there’s too many stars to count - and for a moment, his thoughts are silent. 

 

He listens to the distant cicada song. To the quiet rush of passing traffic far below him. To the rustle and whisper of shifting leaves as a breeze winds its way through the park below. 

 

The door behind him creaks and rumbles. The scent of vanilla wafts toward him, and Namjoon turns - twisting at the waist to glance over his shoulder as Jin appears in the doorway, tired-eyed and topped by a head of rumpled blonde hair, as if he’d only just kissed goodbye to his pillow.

 

“What are you doing out here?” His voice is tight. He’s just woken up. 

 

“I’m just thinking.” Namjoon tells him. “What are you doing up?”

 

“You woke me up when you shut your door. I wanted to get a drink.” He pauses, running a hand through his hair, and leaning heavily against the door. “Namjoon, it’s nearly three.”

 

“I know. Go to sleep, Jin.”

 

“I will if you will.” 

 

“I will. I just need a minute.” His heart is straining, pleading, clawing desperately at him in a feeble attempt at getting him to turn around , wrap his arms around Jin, and urge him back into his bedroom to sleep.

 

His grip on the railing tightens, keeping him anchored on the spot. 

 

“Are you writing?” Jin asks, tipping his head back to peer at Namjoon through his heavy lashes. 

 

“Yeah.” He lies, “Something like that.” 

 

“Who is it?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You always get like this when you meet someone new. You know? That girl from Australia, first-... when you wrote Tokyo .” 

 

“I didn’t-..” I didn’t write that about her , he almost says. 

 

Jin’s smile is faint, for a moment - Namjoon almost thinks it looks sad . But, Jin looks away. He lowers his gaze. He nods just once, and he straightens. 

 

“I’m not going to sleep until you message me from bed.” He says. “So, get sleep, Kim Namjoon.” He drifts away from the doorway, sliding the glass closed until it clicks, and vanishing into the dark livingroom once again. 

 

Namjoon watches him until the outline of his darkened silhouette drifts out of sight. He turns his attention back to the view before him, drawing in a slow breath inwards, and letting it out again- struggling still to process the strange and unfamiliar churn of warmth and nervousness that swirls through his stomach. 

 

He feels sick , but it doesn’t feel bad. 

 

His phone buzzes within his left pocket. He drops a hand from the railing, slackening his hold upon it at last, and reaches in through rumpled cotton to fish it free. He unlocks it, only to discover a new message--.. From Jin. 

 

It comes with an image attached; Jin’s half-lidded and sleepy-eyed stare peers up at him, illuminated by the light of his phone no doubt, with bedsheets rumpled beneath his chin, and a single lock of blonde hair curled over against his forehead. Even like this, approaching three in the morning, exhausted and barely awake- he looks perfect. 

 

Namjoon locks his phone. 

 

The churn in his chest grows stronger and he breathes out again, gritting his teeth tightly until a muscle jumps in his cheek. 

 

This isn’t a crush any longer. He wonders if it had ever been that simple. 

 

He’s in love with Kim Seokjin, and it might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. 

 

* * * *

 

This epiphany seems to bring with it a wealth of unpleasantness. It’s suddenly impossible to be around him. It’s hard to sit next to him, to nestle against his side- in the bracket of his broad shoulders, without putting his arms around him. It’s hard to walk next to him and not reach out to loop their fingers together. It’s difficult to be laughing and talking and dancing with him without leaning over to press a kiss into the curve of his cheek (because he still remembers that one time Jin had kissed him on the cheek, the fanfare and cheer that had followed- as if Jin would have rathered eat glass than kiss another man on the cheek). 

 

There’s no way he feels the same way for Namjoon. Not Kim Seokjin, so handsome that he turns heads just by existing. So beautiful that slumped over and covered by a snapback hat, people still pause mid-stride to look at him. So perfect, even without a swatch of makeup upon him, that he’s able to sway servers and waitresses and air hostesses with just a blink.

 

Namjoon had briefly toyed with the idea of telling him, coming clean and confessing- maybe kissing him; they have great lengths of time alone in the apartment. It would be easy. He’s had daydreams about luring Jin into his studio, backing him into one of the cluttered walls, and kissing him with enough intensity that he forgets his own name. He considers swaying him with whiskey (not Jack Daniel’s, the good shit that Jin never says no to), and letting it fall from his lips as unceremoniously as everything else he’s ever said while drunk would. 

 

He’d even considered confiding in Yoongi during rehearsals when they’d been the last two to leave; but the immeasurable fear , the crippling terror that grips him when he considers the consequences of what the others might think of him, what they might say, how it might impact the group at large..

 

It’s too much of a risk. 

 

What if Jin is disgusted? What if he refuses to ever speak to Namjoon again? What if he’s afraid of him? What if he tells someone else? What if the press finds out? 

 

What if it drives Jin away entirely?

 

No, he can’t risk that. 

 

Even if he can’t have him, being in his orbit is enough. Having him there is enough. 

 

* * * *

 

It’s as though the universe is aware of his predicament. 

 

Paparazzi photos of Jin with a girl Namjoon recognizes as one of BigHit’s trainees emerge splashed across the pages of Top Star News . They’re hand-in-hand in some. His arm is draped across her shoulders in others. Her head is tipped back, with a hand clasped across her parted lips as she laughs in another. 

 

It isn’t the first time these allegations have come out. It’s happened before, and such displays have always made Namjoon uncomfortable; because he knows they’re a stunt to drum up excitement about up-and-coming trainees who are due for their moment in the spotlight. It’s just another part of operating under such a prominent company (one prominent because of him). But, the way she looks- the way she laughs, with such an all-encompassing smile as if she really is amused by him, the way he walks so close against her side, how happy he looks just to be there..

 

It makes Namjoon feel sick. 

 

It’s selfish, he knows it. He has no ownership over Jin. Jin is his own person, capable of making his own decisions, able to turn down publicity stunts and PR moves if he isn’t comfortable with them, able to make his own decisions on his romantic inclinations - whether on a whim or because he’s passionate . Namjoon has no right to feel this way. 

 

But, he does. 

 

It makes him shut down. 

 

* * * *



It’s October and Jin’s hair is auburn again. 

 

It feels harder to get through the day. 

 

They’re eating lunch at one of Jimin’s favourite bibimbap restaurants, sealed away in a private room fragrant with the warm scent of burning firewood and seared rosemary on a rare break just for the seven of them; something Hoseok insists on more and more regularly these days; insisting it helps preserve their sanity. It’s a notion Namjoon is beginning to understand. 

 

He’s sitting between Yoongi and Jimin on the round table. Jin is opposite him, cheeks pink from the soju, wearing a long-sleeved shirt as dark as his hair with a rounded neckline that dips below the curves of his collarbones until they stand out against his pale complexion like precious jewels. 

 

He does his best not to look, even though it feels distinctly like staring into the sun. He knocks back a squat ceramic shot of soju, and reaches out to pour himself another.

 

“Hey, slow down.” Jimin admonishes. “We haven’t gotten food yet, you’re drinking on an empty stomach.”

 

“Good.” Namjoon says, before he can stop himself. “I’ll just eat more to soak it up.”

 

When their food does arrive, it’s fragrant and flavourful. He’s come here many times, both with Jimin and with the others, and each time - he’s reminded again of just how good the food is, as if he could forget. He’s fairly sure he’s entered into a religious experience with the filleted chicken when he overhears Jin’s conversation with Jungkook. 

 

“..-I didn’t think it would matter much.”

 

“You should have worn that red jumper, the one with the buttons.” Jungkook tells him, earnestly.

 

“It looks so bulky!” Jin mutters, prodding at the rice still within his bowl using the tip of his chopsticks. “I didn’t want to look-... puffy, you know?”

 

“It doesn’t make you look puffy! It makes you look broad. Girls like that.” Jungkook insists. “People always talk about your shoulders. You need to show them off.”

 

As if his current attire isn’t doing just that, Namjoon thinks. He shovels another piece of chicken past his lips, eyes fixed on the rim of his bowl as he listens.

 

“Why don’t you wear it then? My shoulders are broad enough.” Jin shoots back.

 

“I’m not the one trying to win a girl over.” Jungkook reaches over to prod Jin’s shoulder. 

 

Suddenly, Namjoon doesn’t feel quite so hungry anymore. The piece of chicken in his mouth feels flavourless and bland. He’s only half-chewed it, but he swallows it down. 

 

“I don’t need special jumpers to win girls over ,” Jin continues. “She liked me just fine, anyway.”

 

“When are you going to see her again?”

 

“I don’t know.” Jin scoops a piece of seared salmon into his mouth, and raises his free hand to cover it as he continues. “Maybe next week.”

 

“Are you going to kiss her?”

 

Namjoon drops his chopsticks. He pushes his chair back, muttering a soft ‘excuse me’ to Jimin as he slips out from behind the table, and hurriedly makes his retreat- not wanting to hear Jin’s response to Jungkook’s incessant questioning. 

 

He wants to throttle him; not that any of this is his fault. He’s curious- and he likes girls. 

 

So did Namjoon, up until two months ago. 

 

He can’t blame him for being curious. Namjoon would be right beside him, offering up another, less polite line of questioning for Jin to answer in most ordinary circumstances. But, none of this is ordinary and the world feels as if it’s turned on its head. Suddenly everything in Namjoon’s world revolves around Jin. It’s insufferable. 

 

He makes it to the shuttered bathroom and locks himself in a stall- relieved to find it empty. He pulls the lid down over the toilet’s bowl, and sits upon the edge of it. He rests his elbows against his thighs, and he buries his face in his hands; willing all of it to just stop

 

He can still see Jin’s expression as though it’s embossed against the blank space at the backs of his eyelids. He can see him grinning, pink-cheeked and gleeful- are you going to kiss her? - he can hear Jin’s windshield-wiper laugh, high and delighted. He thinks back to the photos, to the nameless and blameless girl that had been so primly nestled under his arm like she’s a puzzle piece, made to fit there. 

 

Are you going to kiss her?

 

His fingers curl where they’re steepled against his scalp, catching and curling through his hair until pain prickles across the nape of his neck. 

 

It’s awful when it blooms through him, as if he’d been in denial about all of it up until now; content to write it off as idle gossip that not even Jin cared for. But, it’s real. It’s happening. 

 

Something cold and heavy and dreadful settles its weight across Namjoon’s shoulders. It bears down upon him, earnest and unforgiving; pushing through his veins with the antithesis to the euphoria that had come with his revelation on the balcony. His heartbeat is ringing in his ears, beating rabbit-like against the cage of his ribs as if it’s split into two. He doesn’t even realise that his eyes are wet until his palms slip away from the backs of his eyelids, and his face feels hot

 

When he draws in a breath, it’s wrecked and broken, choked-off and marked by a muffled sob . He’s never had his heart broken before. It’s awful. It’s all-encompassing. It hurts. It keeps hurting. It doesn’t stop hurting.

 

The bathroom door creaks open again as someone else enters, and Namjoon sniffs. He pulls his hands from his features and hurriedly begins unwinding toilet paper out of the dispenser bolted against the stall wall to drag across his blotchy and tear-soaked features, trying feebly to pull himself together. 

 

This feels like some turning point, or - maybe that’s just what he tells himself so that he might feel a little better about crying in a public restroom over Kim Seokjin.

 

* * * *

 

He misses two dance practices - both of which were due to be filmed. He skips out on an interview with E-Daily by feigning that he feels ill (and he does, it just has little to do with his physical health). He misses a radio interview on a Thursday, and that - it seems - is the final straw for Yoongi. 

 

He drifts into Namjoon and Taehyung’s bedroom late that night, when it’s only Namjoon present and Tae’s bed is unsurprisingly vacant. He’s leaning against his headboard with his headphones pressed into his ears and his phone propped in his lap, scrolling listlessly through dog videos on Twitter, because they seem to be the only things that are able to coax a smile out of him. He’s been diligently avoiding most other forms of social media, and every single gossip website or magazine that he can out of fear of seeing that mentioned date made reality before his eyes.

 

Yoongi leans against the doorframe, a bottle of soju held by the neck in his left hand with two ceramic cups in his right as he looks pointedly at Namjoon. Silent and motionless, at least until Namjoon reaches up to pluck his headphones from his ears. 

 

“Am I interrupting you?” Yoongi asks. 

 

“Yeah, I--”

 

“Good.” He pulls himself upright, and reaches out to ease the door shut behind him, sliding the lock in place before drifting toward the foot of Namjoon’s bed. He tosses one of the empty cups into his lap, and perches himself upon the edge of the bed, one knee tucked beneath him, while his other remains bent over the edge, sock-enclosed foot resting upon the floor as he opens the bottle and pours himself a full shot. 

 

He lifts the bottle, waiting.

 

Namjoon threads his headphones from his lap, dropping them - and his phone - into the vacant half of the bed as he reaches out to pick up the ceramic cup. He holds it out, and watches Yoongi fill it. 

 

Neither of them say a word as the cap is returned to the rim of the bottle. They down their first shots at the same time, and only once the sticky-sweet burn has begun to dissipate does Yoongi speak.

 

“What’s going on with you?” He asks, voice even - almost deadpan.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Come on, Namjoon. Don’t play dumb.” Yoongi admonishes. “You’ve been weird since we were in Busan, and it isn’t your normal weird.”

 

“What’s my ‘normal weird’?” Namjoon asks, reaching to retrieve the bottle to refill both of their cups - partly to stall, but partly because he really is curious. 

 

“When you’re writing, you go weird.” Yoongi explains. “But, so do I. I get that weird. You withdraw, and you end up listening to a lot of music that isn’t your own. You read weird books and you start looking into poetry, and then the next thing I know there’s a single you want my opinion on, and it’s always special.”

 

Namjoon says nothing. He knocks back the shot, and immediately refills his cup for another while Yoongi patiently sips his own. 

 

“So, where’s the single, Namjoon?” 

 

“There isn’t one.”

 

“Then what the fuck have you been doing since July?” 

 

“I’m just going through some shit, man. Okay?” He knocks back a third, and reaches to refill a fourth, aware that he should begin slowing down, now. 

 

“What ‘shit’?” Yoongi presses. 

 

“It isn’t your business.”

 

“Well, you’ve disappeared. From interviews, from rehearsals, from lunches and dinners; even from breakfast. Jin made extra for you yesterday and you didn’t show up. You didn’t show up for him.” Yoongi says, “People keep asking me where you are, and I don’t know what to tell them. It isn’t my business, no-- but you’ve made it my business by vanishing inside yourself and leaving the rest of us in the dark.”

 

“Yoongi--”

 

“You’re the leader, here. Not me. So, why am I herding cats and coordinating practices?” He asks, sweeping one arm outwards as he speaks, words growing more frustrated and more impassioned the more that he speaks. “People are waiting on big decisions to be made and now even the fans are getting upset because the radio shock-jock interviewer we had to sit through yesterday kept asking us where you were. He made it clear you were absent, and when I said you weren’t feeling well, he made it out like you’d contracted mad cow, and you know? I’m beginning to wonder if he’s not wrong.”

 

“Listen--”

 

“If nothing else, you owe me an explanation. If you don’t want to tell the others, that’s fine. But, it’s me, Namjoon. We’ve been friends for years, and if you don’t feel comfortable coming to me to tell me what’s bothering you badly enough for you to vanish, then something is wrong, and it makes me feel like you don’t-..” His voice cracks, he clears his throat, tone softening ever so slightly. “..-like you don’t think you matter to me.”

 

Namjoon reaches over to set a hand upon Yoongi’s knee. “Hey, hey, hey. Alright, alright.” He gives it a squeeze, and slowly withdraws; fingers threading across the rumpled bedsheets between them. A bolt of shame sizzles through him. It settles bone-deep and unpleasant; for it feels like having his failures tossed at his feet for him to see. 

 

“It just-... it isn’t-... something that can be fixed.”

 

“All right.” Yoongi draws in a slow and measured breath. “That doesn’t mean that talking about it won’t help.”

 

“I know.” Namjoon says, reaching for the soju again. “It’s just-... sort of a big thing, and I don’t want you to think any differently of me.”

 

“I won’t.” Yoongi says, earnestly - holding out his cup for Namjoon to fill. “I’ve seen you throw up in the back seat of a taxi and fall asleep on a curb. I don’t think anything you could say to me at this point would ever make me view you any differently than I do.”

 

“That’s fair.” Namjoon fills both cups, and sets the half-drunk bottle aside as he knocks back his shot. The burn is soothing. It settles him. 

 

He tries arranging his words before uttering them aloud, unsure of where to begin. I’m desperately in love with Jin and I’m afraid it’ll tear the whole group apart if I tell anyone, even you . Or, maybe; I think I like men and I want to rail Jin into next week and also maybe marry him , but neither of those feel fitting. Neither of them feel right.

 

It’s Yoongi, in the end, who speaks first.

 

“Does it have to do with Jin?”

 

Namjoon nearly drops his cup.

 

“I-- what?”

 

“Jin.” Yoongi echoes. “Kim Seokjin.”

 

“Er-..”

 

“You’ve been extra weird around him.”

 

“I-... I have?” 

 

“When we were flying back from Busan, you were sitting by the gate with Jin. He had his head in your lap.” and Namjoon remembers it; remembers carding his fingers through Jin’s lilac hair, and feeling the rest of the world drop away. He remembers looking up and seeing Yoongi watching him with his phone cradled against his cheek. He remembers the calculating and vacant look upon his features. He remembers the dull twist of shame it had set aflame in his chest. 

 

“But, it wasn’t just that.” Yoongi says, reaching up to brush a stray lock of blue hair from his eyes. “You stare at him. All the time. You didn’t always do that. It happened suddenly. You were always checking up on him. Always trying to sit next to him. Always touching him at any opportunity you could. More than normal. I think I started to wonder if something was going on when we were in Busan, staying in that hotel. Jin was in your room, and he didn’t leave at all that night. He was meant to share a room with me, you know.”

 

Namjoon remembers that, too.

 

“Then this thing started happening with Hyejin, the trainee girl, and suddenly you were nowhere to be seen.” Yoongi shrugs. “I’m not the most well-versed in personal issues, but I can’t help but think that these things are related.” 

 

Namjoon swallows, throat feeling tight.

 

“I guess, I-..” He clears his throat, “..-I didn’t realise how closely you paid attention.” 

 

Yoongi’s smile is listless and faint. “You’re always looking out for us, but someone’s got to keep an eye on you; otherwise you’ll really go insane.” 

 

“I think I already have.” Namjoon admits, feeling the alcohol begin to wind its way through his system as he breathes out a humourless laugh.

 

“When did you realise?” Yoongi asks, after a short pause.

 

Namjoon shrugs, looking down at the ceramic cup cradled in his left hand. “It happened gradually.” He murmurs, and it feels strange to be uttering all of this aloud- to be confessing something so private . “I can’t say when it started.”

 

“Then, when did you know?”

 

“He fell asleep on my shoulder during a cab ride.” Namjoon recalls, softly. “..and I think I would’ve been happy to stay there forever, as long as it made him happy.” 

 

“How do you know that it wouldn’t make him happy?” Yoongi asks. 

 

“He’s got this girl, now. Women are always-... so easily won over by him. Men, too. Why would he want to be with me, when he could have anybody else in the world?”

 

“He’s got this girl.” Yoongi laughs. “She’s a trainee, Namjoon. It’s for publicity.” 

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“Because he told me.” Yoongi leans forwards. “Because I asked him, and we had a conversation about it, like adults do.”

 

“But he told Jungkook--”

 

“Jungkook’s ready to whisk anything and anyone to bed, even if it means doing so vicariously through somebody else.” Yoongi deflects, “..and if you’re so pressed about it, why didn’t you just ask Jin?”

 

“I-.. I don’t want him to know.”

 

“Why?” 

 

“..-because I don’t know how he’s going to react.” Namjoon admits, with some semblance of defeat. “I don’t want-... him to hate me. I don’t want to lose him. Having him ignorant of it is better than not having him at all.”

 

Yoongi sighs, looking down at the rumpled bedsheets between them.

 

“I think,” He starts, “I think you underestimate him.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Jin is one of the kindest people I know. I don’t think he could ever hate you.” 

 

“He might.”

 

“Put it this way,” Yoongi says, splaying his left hand between them. “How would you react if your positions were switched, and he was the one coming to you to confess?”

 

* * * *

 

Maybe telling Yoongi has its merits. 

 

He wakes up the next morning with a faint headache from the copious amount of soju he’d ingested the night before, but he feels lighter- as if some intangible weight has been lifted from his shoulders just by confiding in somebody else. 

 

He showers, changes, runs a comb through his hair - whose silver has begun to dull to a brassier shade - and he drifts back out into the kitchen where Jin, Yoongi and Hoseok sit around the island, sharing a bowl of wok fried eggs over a bed of seasoned rice. There’s only one vacant stool - and it’s beside Jin. 

 

Yoongi is sitting on Hoseok’s other side, until there’s simply a vacant seat between Hoseok and Jin, as though it had been left intentionally empty. Judging by how earnestly Yoongi tries to avoid his gaze, Namjoon can only surmise that the empty seat is a result of Yoongi’s careful orchestration. 

 

So, he slides smoothly into it and reaches over to pull a clean plate toward him, and scoop out a generous helping from the bowl in the middle of the table. 

 

Jin looks up at him with a smile. Hoseok reaches over to clap the cusp of his shoulder- their own unspoken way of greeting him from his week-long hybernation. Yoongi doesn’t look up, cheeks pressed outwards as he chews; the faintest hint of a smile visible upon the corners of his lips. 

 

* * * *

 

They have a Halloween party on the last day of October.

 

It feels less like a party, and more like an informal gathering and an excuse to drink. None of them had bothered to dress up beyond Jin donning a headband adorned by two stuffed RJ faces sewn into the rim like little ears. He’s drinking Soju, and the drunker he gets - the louder he gets, sandwiched between Jungkook and Yoongi, it’s more endearing than it has any right to be. 

 

Their apartment’s lighting has been lowered to an atmospheric golden glow that is neither too obtrusively bright nor too dark. There’s a small faux candle illuminated in the middle of their livingroom floor. The couches have been pushed aside to free the fluffy and thick rug, where the seven of them sit; crowded close in a loose ring, broken by Hoseok lounging back, and Jimin lying upon his stomach with his knees bent and the soles of his feet nearly touching the curve of his backside. Each of them has a glass, a cup, a shot glass or a bottle in front of them. 

 

Namjoon had long ago zoned out of their conversation- gaze straying from the rim of his beer bottle to the curve of Jin’s lower lip, bitten-pink and damp from the rim of his champagne flute. His cheeks are flushed both from his elongated lecture about the merits of ramen verses carbonara, and from the intensity of the alcohol half-filling his glass. Namjoon can’t hear what he’s saying- it’s filtered out into background noise, something he can easily ignore, in favour of just watching him. 

 

Something solid hits him in the cheek, and he turns his head to see a loose Australian coin sitting on the rug by his left foot, tossed at him by Yoongi, who gives him a pointed look. 

 

He’s been caught. 

 

Namjoon clears his throat. He reaches out to take his bottle by the neck, “I’m gonna grab another.” He announces. “Hoseok, do you want more?” He asks, pointing to the other’s almost-empty beer bottle. 

 

“No. I’m good for now.”

 

“Yoongi?” Namjoon prompts. 

 

Yoongi holds up the unopened bottle half-hidden amidst his too-long sleeves.

 

“Just me, then.” Namjoon mutters, turning away and stepping over Taehyung’s folded legs to free himself from their little ring as he makes a beeline for the kitchen. He vanishes beyond the partition for a moment of reprieve in the half-dark of the barely-lit kitchenette. 

 

The sink is full of ice. Glass bottles protrude like stalagmites from within. He dumps his empty glass into the bin, and sets his palms on either side of the sink. 

 

He closes his eyes. He pulls in a steadying breath. He tunes out the distant chatter from his friends only a room away, and he feels his heartbeat ring between his ears; a loud and earnest thud-thud-thud.

 

Thoughtlessly, he drops a hand into the sink, grabs a fistfull of chipped ice, and lifts it to his cheek. 

 

The cold is biting and harsh. It stings. It sticks to his clammy skin. It cools the blistering warmth still burning beneath the surface of his skin, still caught up in the curve of Jin’s parted lips, in Yoongi’s knowing stare, at how obvious he must have been.

 

“Are you feeling sick, Namjoon?”

 

“Oh--!” He drops the ice rather unceremoniously. It lands in the basin with a small clatter and a splash. 

 

Jin is standing in the doorway with an empty wine glass in his left hand and a concerned frown drawn between his brows.

 

“Uh-.. a little. I think I just needed a second.” 

 

“Good.” Jin says, smile dopey and slow - he’s drunk, Namjoon realises. “I need one, too. I also need more wine.” He sets the glass down by the sink, and reaches up to set a hand upon the marble countertop. With a lilt of feline grace, he hops up to perch upon the edge, legs dangling freely, sock-enclosed feet drifting a foot from the tiled kitchen floor. He sets his hands in his lap, and tips his head back to peer expectantly at Namjoon. 

 

Again, it’s so horribly, horribly, horribly endearing. 

 

He wants to wrench Jin from the counter and force him out of the kitchen. He wants to shut the door and bury his face in a tea towel and scream until his throat is hoarse. 

 

“Are you going to pour it for me or what?” Jin asks. 

 

Every single one of Namjoon’s irritated thoughts fall flat in an instant. 

 

He hates this.

 

“What are you drinking?” he asks, straightening up; feeling a warm rivulet of water trickle down the cusp of his cheek. He reaches up to wipe it away. 

 

“Surprise me.” Jin tells him. “Something as unpredictable and mysterious as me.”

 

“Soju, then.”

 

“Not the commoner’s drink!” He snatches up one of the rumpled napkins, and tosses it at Namjoon, only for it to flutter harmlessly to the floor between them while Namjoon grins. 

 

“No, I think rosé,” He says, digging through the broken ice to fish out the misted and gold-embalmed bottle, as yet unopened by the others - because nobody likes sweet alcohol nearly as much as Jin. 

 

The pleased smile his suggestion manages to earn feels better than any kiss. 

 

“That’s perfect.” He muses, reaching over to pull a single cube of ice from the sink as Namjoon begins unwrapping the gold foil from the neck of the bottle.

 

“You don’t think I’m annoying, do you?” Jin asks him, pressing the ice cube beneath the hinge of his jaw, tilting his head to peer down at Namjoon through curved lashes. 

 

“Why would I think that?” he asks, unwinding the metal trapping encasing the cork. 

 

“Taehyung called me annoying.”

 

“When?” Namjoon asks, I’ll kick his ass , he thinks. 

 

“Just then. Yoongi said I should ask you to see if I really am annoying, so I came to ask you. You’re dodging the question, though, and that’s deeply concerning to me, you know?”

 

Namjoon’s brain short-circuits. His instinct is to make it better, to fall over himself insisting to Jin that he isn’t annoying, that he’s the furthest thing from it. That he’s wonderful and radiant and beautiful and that Taehyung is clearly just plain wrong

 

“Did you piss him off during a game?”

 

“I suggested we play spin the bottle.” Jin sighs, as if this is the biggest inconvenience in his whole twenty-eight years. “He said ‘that’s so annoying, Jin-hyung. Are you in highschool?’.” 

 

“He didn’t call you annoying.” Namjoon settles his thumb against the cork, trapping it against the heel of his palm as he begins incrementally inching it closer and closer to the rim of the bottle, craning away as he waits for the inevitable pop!

 

“You’re still dodging the question, though.” Jin points out, kicking up his left leg. 

 

“I don’t think you’re annoying.” Namjoon placates, closing his eyes as the cork pops from the rim with much less fanfare than what he’d been preparing himself for. He straightens up with a huff of relief, and leans forwards to fill Jin’s glass. “..and I think Taehyung was calling the game annoying, not you.”

 

Jin clicks his tongue. 

 

“You’re always so nice, Namjoon. Always so kind, even to people who call other people annoying.”

 

“I’m assessing the situation, Jin. Do you want me to take your side?”

 

“No.” Jin says, lifting his glass once it’s half-filled, “That wouldn’t be fair. I just wanted an honest take, you know?” He murmurs, as if he knows Namjoon would - in a heartbeat. “Honestly, I-..”

 

Namjoon sets the bottle down. He waits for Jin to continue, and when he doesn’t, he prompts. “..you, what?”

 

“I wish you’d be mean from time to time.” Jin admits, tipping his head back. “I know that sounds ridiculous. I just worry that you’re going to whittle away your sanity by being kind and fair and diplomatic all the time.”

 

“Uh-..” Namjoon frowns, watches Jin adjust his grip on the melting ice cube that’s dripping rivulets down the column of his throat. It blooms and spreads along the neckline of his shirt, spreading between his knuckles, across the back of his hand, and the top of his wrist in a sight that’s almost lurid; and one he barely seems to notice. 

 

Namjoon wonders if he’s even aware that he’s still holding it.

 

“Be mean to me.” He says.

 

“What?” Namjoon chokes on a laugh.

 

“Say something mean.” Jin’s too-full lips pull upwards at the corner in a small smile. “Make me cry.”

 

“I don’t want to make you cry.”

 

“Namjoon.” 

 

“Fine, uh-..” He steps forwards, moves to stand in front of Jin, sets his unsteady hands upon each of the older’s parted knees as he drums his fingers against the plush fabric of his sweatpants while he considers. What is there to say? You’re too handsome. You’re too perfect. You dance too well. You sing too wonderfully. Your lips look too beautiful. Your eyes are too distracting. All of you is distracting, really. I want to have a long and strongly-worded conversation with your parents for creating you and ruining everything.

 

“You’re stubborn.” Namjoon starts. “It drives me nuts sometimes. You make your mind up about something in a few minutes, and you won’t budge. It’s your worst trait.”

 

“Mhm.” Jin nods. “What else?”

 

“You’re pushy, especially about food. You’re a control freak in the kitchen, and it’s unbearable to cook with you.”

 

Jin does look hurt for a moment, but Namjoon hurriedly continues, “..-but I’m no good at it, anyway. I like it better when I get to just-.. watch and then do the dishes.”

 

“Don’t be nice.” Jin admonishes, reaching out to cuff the curve of Namjoon’s jaw with the backs of his frozen fingers. 

 

“Right, sorry. Um-..” He frowns as he considers. “You don’t say what you really mean. A lot of the time, it’s to save other people’s feelings, but you don’t think about how it’ll impact you.” He presses on before Jin can interrupt. “You’re terrible at giving gifts. Like, abysmal. I get that we’re busy and we don’t have much time to do our own shit, but my birthday gifts last year? All that RJ shit?”

 

“I love RJ.” Jin says, defensively. 

 

“I know you do.”

 

“Don’t you love him?”

 

“I do .” Namjoon lifts his hands, holding them both upwards as if in surrender.

 

“So, then-- it’s a perfect gift.” Jin insists. “What else?”

 

“You’re too-...” Beautiful, handsome, pretty, distracting, distracting, distracting. “..-you.”

 

“What does that mean?” Jin hisses.

 

“Your face is too nice.” He says, settling on a familiar line Jin has heard from him before, one that always placates him, one that always satisfies him. 

 

He does look satisfied. For a moment. 

 

“That isn’t a bad thing.”

 

“Yes it is.” Namjoon continues, running on fumes and vodka. The ice has melted in Jin’s right hand and there’s a wet spot on the front of his shirt. His neck is soaked and alight with a thin gleam from the dull golden light in the livingroom. Namjoon wants to lean in, crowd between his parted knees and drag his tongue along the hinge of Jin’s jaw to taste it

 

“It is, because it’s very distracting, and I have things to do. You’re always looking so effortless, and it makes me want to look effortless, too.” It’s the truth, and some part of him feels a relentless flood of relief at having uttered it aloud- even while inebriated with a bottle of rosé propped temptingly in front of him. “But, I can’t.”

 

“Yes you can.” Jin frowns, and it’s the most serious he’s looked since their conversation began.

 

“Not like you can.”

 

“Nobody can look like me, it’s impossible.” Jin states, flatly. “..but that doesn’t mean-..”

 

“It’s still inconvenient .” Namjoon interrupts, letting out a huff into the lambent space between them that he realises isn’t nearly as great as he remembers it being. 

 

He can count the scattered freckles along the slope of Jin’s throat. He can see the gentle flecks of gold in his dark eyes. He can see the faintest shadows beneath his heavy eyes. He can smell sparkling wine and sandalwood, and Jin’s breath washes over the curve of his chin. 

 

Time stands still. It pulls to a steady trawl. His heart is beating so loudly that he wonders if Jin might hear it. It feels like the only thing he’s aware of, along with the bitter and incessant cold falling from the edge of the wine bottle in dappled waves to crash across the backs of his fingers. The only thing anchoring him to reality, when he’s standing so seamlessly between Jin’s parted knees. 

 

He’s tipping his chin upwards. His eyes are half-lidded, pupils blown wide, lips parted faintly- full and irresistible and tinted pink from rosé and soju.

 

There’s a small knock at the door. 

 

Namjoon steps away. He jerks his hand away from the wine bottle as if it’s been burned. He lifts it to his hair and runs his damp fingers through his dulled silver locks as the door is pulled back to reveal a dishevelled Taehyung. 

 

“Hoseok wants the wine, and Yoongi tackled me for getting up.” He announces, like a petulant child telling on his mischievous siblings to his two parents. The thought makes Namjoon’s stomach twist. “So, now I want the wine before it goes flat.”

 

“I’ll bring it.” Namjoon says, grasping the bottle by its neck as Jin slides off the edge of the counter and wobbles precariously as he regains his balance. “..please help Jin-hyung before he falls and hurts himself.”

 

Tae snickers.

 

“I don’t need help!” Jin shoots back.

 

“You’re drunk.” Namjoon reminds him. 

 

“I’m not!” 

 

Tae slips his arm around Jin’s waist, fingers folding beneath the hemline of his shirt to fit against the dip of his hipbone. Bitter jealousy twists like a vice in Namjoon’s chest. He shoves it aside as he takes up Jin’s half-drunk wine glass and follows the pair of them back into the livingroom.

 

“You definitely are.” Namjoon murmurs. 

 

That conversation wouldn’t have happened at all if Jin had been sober. 

 

* * * *

 

Suddenly it’s November. 

 

They’re on break and nobody is home.

 

The apartment feels like some desolate and vacant liminal space that’s unbearable to be in for too long when it’s just him. His voice echoes too long. It travels too far. There’s no chorus of eager voices to answer him, no smiles around any corners expecting him. No fragrant food drifting from the kitchen, no music playing from the tinny analog radio nor the old record player in Hoseok and Jimin’s living area. Yoongi’s keyboard is covered and stored neatly away behind the leather couch. 

 

So, he packs his bags; pockets Yoongi’s noise-cancelling headphones and Hoseok’s lip balm. He snatches one of Jin’s oversized shirts from within the laundry hamper, bundles it up, and stashes it in his suitcase before hauling it out his door in a split-second decision he’s determined not to overthink. 

 

He goes home. He spends time with his family. He eats his mother’s cooking. He visits Busan with a snapback and a face mask to conceal his identity. He lets himself be a normal boy in his twenties for just a few weeks.

 

He misses the apartment. He misses his studio. He misses his bed. He even misses Taehyung’s snoring. 

 

He misses Jin.

 

* * * *

 

He’s the last to make it home again three days before the new year. 

 

Their apartment is full again, and opening the door only to be engulfed in a bear hug from Taehyung feels like the perfect way to be welcomed back into the fold. 

 

The buzz is immediate. Yoongi appears a step behind him and wastes little time in prying Tae’s limbs off Namjoon, only to replace them with his own in a briefer and more fleeting embrace that Namjoon knows is significant to Yoongi. He drags his suitcase into the livingroom where Hoseok and Jimin hurry over to clap his shoulder, to pull him into one-armed hugs, already begging him for details on his trip; where he’d gone, what he’d eaten, how he’s feeling- and if he’s ready to get back to work. Jungkook looks up from his cracked phone screen for long enough to blow him a kiss that feels eerily reminiscent of Jin’s; but there’s absolutely no sight of the eldest. Namjoon cranes his head, looking toward the kitchen as if half expecting Jin to be there, in the doorway- wearing his apron and a faux-frustrated expression, ready to accost the others for refusing to help him in the kitchen, when all he really wants is company. 

 

“He’s upstairs.” Yoongi interjects, as though he can read Namjoon’s mind. “Doing laundry.”

 

A small smile pulls across Namjoon’s lips as he shoves his bags aside. “Of course he is.” He murmurs; words engulfed by the hubbub as Jimin begins wrestling Jungkook upon the couch. 

 

“Joon! I’ve written another song.” Hoseok interjects, starting after him. “I want input, because I feel like your lyricism is the best, and I couldn’t not work while I was away. After a few days, I got bored. Did you?”

 

“Hobi!” Namjoon hears Yoongi call. “Come help me decide on what to order for dinner.”

 

“Can’t it wait?” Hoseok asks as Namjoon starts up the stairs two at a time.

 

“No. It’s already seven-thirty! The restaurants will shut if we wait any longer!” 

 

He hears Hoseok sigh from behind him, and shrug back down the stairs. He lets himself wonder, however briefly, if that’s really what Yoongi had wanted him for. 

 

He makes a mental note to buy Yoongi flowers. Or, maybe chocolates. Maybe an entire platinum mine for being such a subtle wingman.

 

There’s music drifting from the upstairs bathroom. It’s english, and that’s what surprises Namjoon the most. It’s gentle and unhurried, marked by a temporal beat that’s neither hasty nor too slow. Upbeat and soothing in a way he hasn’t experienced before; a grand departure from Jin’s normal taste. 

 

He can hear water running. He can hear Jin humming along to the tune, as if it’s one he knows well. 

 

Namjoon rounds the corner, and he spots him - standing in front of the sink with a wicker basket half-filled with dirty laundry on the counter before him. The washing machine is open and switched on, and Jin is only wearing a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants that ride low on his hips.

 

For a moment, all he can do is stare.

 

He cannot help but notice how dry his mouth feels, how it’s suddenly inexplicably difficult just to swallow. He silently maps out the planes and curves of his spine, the mottled freckles scattered here and there against alabaster skin that looks as if it hasn’t seen the sun in some time. He joins them together like a topographer marking points upon a map; making entire constellations out of how they meet together. He wants to reach out. He wants to touch him. 

 

His heart misses a beat. It quickens, as if keeping time to the music. He draws in a measured breath, one that must be loud enough for Jin to hear - for he turns where he stands, brows raised with surprise. 

 

Then he grins. It’s wide, infectious, wonderful--..

 

God , Namjoon missed him. 

 

“Namjoon!” He drops the stained shirt he’d been holding. It tumbles into the sink. He turns away from the machine, and crosses the length of the room toward Namjoon, still stuck in the doorway, struck dumb at the sight of him - motionless and pinned in place. 

 

Even in the garish and flourescent light of the laundry, he looks breathtaking. The planes of his chest are broad and pale. The dip of his navel is unfamiliar and wonderful. Namjoon wants to sit down and just stare at him; drink in all of this exposed skin as if it’s the first and last time that he’ll ever get to see it - because it probably is

 

Jin reaches him, and he pulls him in for a hug, arms looped tightly around Namjoon’s shoulders until he thoughtlessly reaches out to pull Jin against him; drawing his chest flush to Namjoon’s own, until his bare skin creases the front of his shirt. 

 

His skin feels as though it’s buzzing, as if some electric current is running through him from all the points they touch. He can feel the gentle beat-beat-beat of Jin’s heart. He can feel his warmth, bleeding through the thin layer of cotton between them. He can hear his breathing, how methodical and slow it is, before he realises that he’s holding his own. 

 

Namjoon exhales, and tips his chin downwards to settle the curve of his nose against the nape of Jin’s neck, where he can breathe in that familiar intermingling aroma of vanilla and sandalwood that had begun to cling so weakly to his liberated shirt while they had been apart.

 

Time stops. Nothing matters outside of this little tinny laundry while the woman preening from Jin’s speakers sings sway with me in the dark, in the dark. We could be who we are from afar , as if she sympathises with his plight. 

 

His chest feels as though it’s going to burst. His arms are beginning to shake from how tightly he’s holding on. His eyes feel wet. He knows he needs to let go, but then Jin hums. 

 

“I missed you, you know.”

 

..and Namjoon’s heart feels on the verge of fracturing in two. 

 

You can’t say things like that to me, he wants to murmur. 

 

Instead, he sniffs. “Yeah.” He says. “I missed you, too.”

 

“Are you crying?” Jin begins to pull away. 

 

Namjoon slackens his hold at once. His arms ache. He unwinds them, and scrubs the back of his hand across his eyes as if to blot out any and all evidence of his emotional state.

 

“No.” He says. “I’m just... happy to see everyone again. Why the fuck are you doing laundry?” He asks. 

 

“I didn’t do it at all while I was away.” Jin admits, with a guilty chuckle. “So, now I have nothing to wear.”

 

“Not even a shirt?”

 

“Well, no. I considered stealing one of yours but I thought that might be weird.”

 

Namjoon’s heart skips a beat just considering what his reaction might’ve been if he’d come back from a month away, only to find Jin here - wearing his shirt and doing laundry

 

“You can take my shirts.” He shrugs. “I don’t mind. Just don’t stretch them out too much. Your shoulders are way too broad.”

 

Jin laughs, flushes, flicks washing powder at him in admonishment, and suddenly- things feel normal again. 

 

* * * *

 

It’s New Year’s Eve and Jin’s hair is lilac again. 

 

It feels like the change in seasons has come early to blow away Seoul’s midwinter snowflakes. Like lavender is blossoming and growing over every facet of Namjoon’s life, winding its thick vines into his nooks and crannies until it’s all-encompassing. Like Jin is Persephone, come to herald the arrival of spring, and Namjoon is Hades- waiting for the opportune moment to steal him away. 

 

Their party is similar to their Halloween gathering. It’s small, informal, unstructured; made up of their film crew, producers and immediate staff all crammed in to their spacious livingroom with bottles of champagne, soju and beer; peppered in with more exotic drinks more to Namjoon’s liking - like whiskey, ouzo and raki. 

 

Their music is pumping loudly over Hoseok’s elaborate speaker system, until every low beat feels loud enough to drown out even the loudest chatter. Makeshift strobe lights repurposed form one of Jimin’s old projectors shine brightly into the heart of the room with great stripes of heliotrope that ignite the careless succor of Jin’s hair as though he’s been set aflame. People are dancing, it’s eleven fifty and Namjoon is drunk

 

“It’s almost time!” He hears Taehyung shout from two feet away, “It’s nearly midnight!”

 

People are beginning to pair off. He sees Hoseok haul Yoongi aside. He sees their producer wind his arms around his wife’s shoulders. He sees their stylist press a kiss into the curve of her boyfriend’s cheek. He sees their hairdresser loop his arm around his fiance.

 

He turns his head to look for Jin. His heart hurts. 

 

It’s Hoseok who appears beside him at last, hauling Jin and Yoongi after him.

 

“We’re going to flip a coin.” Hoseok interjects as the volume on the music is lowered for the countdown. 

 

“What?” Namjoon asks, fingers feeling numb as Jin fumbles to his side. “Why?”

 

“Don’t ask questions, just go with it.” 

 

Yoongi is grinning from beside him, cheeks pink-flushed and eyes only half-open. He’s as drunk as Namjoon feels. All of them are - even Jin who can barely hold himself upright as he tips his head back to laugh

 

“Heads, it’s me and Yoongi.” Hoseok says, producing an American penny. “Tails, it’s you and Jin.”

 

“What for?” Namjoon asks. “Seok, what for-..?”

 

But he has the coin raised in his left hand, held aloft between them, gleaming in the dark like something lethal, like something deadly. He tosses it upwards, and Namjoon watches as if in slow motion as the coin revolves three times in the air, and lands back in Hoseok’s palm. He turns his hand over, and presses his open palm onto the back of his free hand, releasing the coin below the ridges of his knuckles to reveal its tail. 

 

He and Yoongi cheer, throwing their arms up high while Jin laughs and Namjoon looks between the three of them, feeling left out of a very significant joke. 

 

“What does that mean? Jin-- what does it mean?” He demands, grinning despite himself as he fumbles to grip the front of Jin’s half-open shirt with both fists.

 

“You’re kissing at midnight.” Hoseok tells him, smile broad. 

 

Namjoon’s heart sinks. 

 

Yoongi’s smile falters, as if he is only now realising why this mightn’t be a good idea. The shift in tone, in mood, in disposition between he and Yoongi goes seemingly unnoticed by Hoseok and Jin.

 

“None of us have anybody to kiss at midnight, and everybody else does, so--”

 

“I never agreed!” Namjoon tries, feebly. “When you make deals and dares, you’ve gotta loop me in , man!” 

 

“Hoseok--” Yoongi tries.

 

“It’s fine .” Jin interjects, at last. The music fades away to a hushed silence. “It’s just a kiss. It isn’t like we’re getting married.

 

Namjoon’s throat feels dry. His heart is racing. His palms are clammy. His posture is shaky and unsteady. His knees feel ready to buckle from beneath him. He wants the floor to open up and swallow him whole. He wants to hide in the bathroom and wait until midnight passes him by in a blur. He wants to be sick, he wants to--..

 

Jin moves to stand in front of him.

 

“Ten!”

 

Both of his hands lift to bracket Namjoon’s cheeks, thumbs settled just beneath the curve of his lower lip. His hands are warm. They’re fragrant with spirits and spilled wine, as if he’d dropped one too many drinks. 

 

“Nine!”

 

Namjoon lifts his gaze in time to meet Jin’s own. His expression is unreadable; lips quirked upwards at the corners with some semblance of amusement, as if this is just another drawn-out bit to him.

 

“Eight!”

 

Both of his hands shift away. They move to rest palm-down on either of Namjoon’s shoulders, as if to keep him from running; as if to anchor him to the spot, as if he could dream of being anywhere but here.

 

“Seven!” 

 

He wonders if Jin would still be so ready to kiss him if he knew. 

 

“Six!”

 

If he knew Namjoon had been dreaming of him, touching himself while thinking about the curves of his lips and the slope of his throat. If he’d still be so willing to stand this close if he knew that Namjoon had stolen his shirt, had slept with it pulled over a pillow so that he might fool himself into believing Jin was right there with him when he awoke. 

 

“Five!” 

 

He moves closer. Namjoon’s hands move before he can stop them. They settle upon the curves of Jin’s waist, fingers notched against the sway of his spine as if he can’t decide on whether he ought to push him away or pull him closer .

 

“Four!”

 

That listless smile pulls wider, and it feels like a blow to the stomach. Namjoon is breathless, eyes darting between Jin’s parted lips and his half-lidded gaze, pupils blown from a mix of excitement and inebriation, cheeks pink-flushed from champagne.

 

“THREE!”

 

He lifts a hand to settle against the curve of Namjoon’s throat, thumb curled below his chin.

 

“TWO!”

 

He leans closer, until Namjoon could map out the slopes of his cheeks.

 

“ONE!”

 

Their lips touch and time stops. 

 

Namjoon pulls in a steady breath through his nose. His left hand climbs the steps of Jin’s spine to settle between his shoulders, holding him close. His lips are soft and warm. He tastes like sugar and cinnamon, spiced with vanilla and intoxication and it’s so wonderful that for a moment Namjoon is positive that he’s dreaming again.

 

But, then Jin hums. His fingers curl against the cleft of Namjoon’s cheek. His thumb settles along the curve of his throat, his free hand splays against the cusp of his chest and it’s all so good, so perfect, so brilliant that the rest of the room feels like a distant memory. 

 

A loud cheer and rippling applause tears him back to the present.

 

Jin pulls away. The kiss breaks. He folds out of Namjoon’s arms and he laughs, throwing his head back and holding his hands up high while Hoseok loops his arm around Jin’s shoulders, cheeks pink and eyes crinkled with amusement. 

 

“Namjoon--”

 

Yoongi’s voice feels distant, as though it’s uttered from underwater.

 

Hoseok is pressing a champagne glass into Jin’s hands, and he’s knocking it back like it’s water, like he’s trying to wash the taste of Namjoon’s lips out of his mouth. 

 

He stumbles back a step.

 

“Joon!” Yoongi grasps hold of his arm, but Namjoon turns away from him. He wrenches out of his hold and weaves through the tight press of the crowd, pushing through the throng of bodies until he makes it into their spacious hallway. He hurries down the length of it toward the stairs, and scrambles down them two at a time until he makes it into the secondary bathroom. He shuts the door after himself, and slides the lock in place. 

 

His knees give out beneath him.

 

He crumples.

 

His palms slide down the length of the door. He sits back upon his heels, and he covers his face with both hands. A broken, bone-deep sob all but rips its way out of his chest. His fingers curl into fists in his hair and he pulls until the pain is too great to bare. He feels his tears tracking streaks down his cheeks; running in rivulets to the curve of his chin as the pain sears through him in a sharp and obtrusive flame. Spiralling outwards and swallowing him whole until every beat of his heart feels thatched with a new kind of pain. 

 

He can’t say how long he stays there. He hears the song change three times above him as the floor rocks and his friends dance while his thoughts wander to Jin, the softness of his lips, and the weight of that fucking coin in Hoseok’s left hand. The room revolves and spins. The cold tiles are obtrusive and harsh against his skin. A full-bodied tremour works its way through him. He cries until he feels numb, until the tears stop because he has none left to give. 

 

He doesn’t go back to the party. 

 

* * * *

 

He hides in the studio on the first day of January. 

 

He tries to work on music, but every lyric he writes feels empty. He finds himself writing about lost loves and the pain of rejection more than he does most other things- until the voice of RM feels lost in this whiny, self-involved and self-hating shell of who he truly is. 

 

So he scraps the songs, and tries to compose instead- but everything he likes is sad and slow, and that frustrates him, too. 

 

In the end, he lies back upon the couch pushed up against one of the studio’s walls and covers his eyes using the back of his arm, finding some contentment in the vacant silence. 

 

Only, it means he’s alone with his thoughts; and that’s just as bad. 

 

There’s a timid knock to the sliding glass door, and Namjoon lifts his hand. He turns his head, craning to see the misshapen silhouette of someone standing just beyond the door, barely comprehensible beyond the frosted glass. There is a pause, before the door glides open and Yoongi peers inside, wearing a bucket hat and an over-sized polo. 

 

“There you are.” He says, relief palpable in his tone. 

 

“What do you want?” Namjoon asks, turning away again.

 

“I wanted to talk.” Yoongi steps into the studio, and he slides the door closed behind him. “I wanted to check on you. You disappeared last night.” 

 

“Yeah.” Namjoon covers his eyes again. “It was midnight. I’d had enough.”

 

“Uh huh.” The desk chair creaks as Yoongi sits in it. “That was the only reason? It was midnight and you were fed up?”

 

“Mm.”

 

“It didn’t have anything to do with kissing Jin?”

 

His heart quickens at the sound of that sentence alone. It’s pathetic. He is pathetic. 

 

“Why did you rope me into that?” Namjoon asks. 

 

“I didn’t. It was Hoseok and Jin’s idea, actually. I found out a few seconds before you did, and I didn’t realise what was happening until it was too late.” The chair creaks, Namjoon knows he must be spinning on it. “Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed. If Hoseok and I kissed, I’d be able to hold it over his head for the rest of his life. I just-... didn’t think about it backfiring. I didn’t think it would land on you and Jin.”

 

“Yeah. It did. Now everything is terrible.”

 

“Come on, Joon.” Yoongi admonishes, lightly. “You’re the only one wallowing. Jin seemed very upbeat this morning. He even asked where you were.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I said you were out with your family.”

 

“How did he react?”

 

“He was disappointed. He’s always disappointed when you’re not around.” 

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“You know, you can talk to him about this stuff.” Yoongi reminds him. “He’s still a person, and he’s still your friend.”

 

“I can’t tell him this.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“How do you think that will go, Yoongi?” Namjoon peels his hand away from his face, and props himself up on an elbow. “‘Hi, Jin. It’s nice to see you. Why am I down? Oh, you know-- just battling with a lot of internal demons. Also, I’m desperately in love with you’.” He tips his head to one side. “He’ll run for the fucking hills.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

“I have a pretty good idea. Unless you know something I don’t know.”

 

“No, just-..” Yoongi shrugs. “He seemed quite happy to kiss you last night.”

 

“He was drunk.”

 

A silence settles between them. Namjoon can hear Yoongi’s even breathing. He watches him rotate back and forth on the chair as though he’s incapable of sitting still as he props an elbow against the armrest and runs the tips of his fingers across his parted lips.

 

“I thought it was just a crush.” He admits, voice a murmur. “I didn’t know that you’re in love with him.”

 

Namjoon lies back down on the couch, turning to stare up at the ceiling. 

 

“Yeah.” His throat feels tight all over again. “I wish I wasn’t.” 

 

* * * *

 

The next three days feel as though they begin at a crawl. 

 

They’re filming another RUN episode, and every break and cut feels as though it takes an eternity to trawl through. He avoids meeting Jin’s gaze. He manages to wrangle himself onto the team that Jin isn’t on. He doesn’t answer him when he tosses out listless jokes and artless comments made to make Namjoon smile. He avoids him when they have their makeup and hair touched up, and Namjoon squeezes himself into the front seat at the end of the day to avoid cramming himself into the back with Jin for the ride home. 

 

If the others notice something is amiss, they don’t utter it aloud. Jin is suspiciously silent during the drive back to their apartment, and Namjoon has an itching feeling he knows why

 

* * * *

 

It’s three-thirty-one in the morning on a Tuesday night and Namjoon stands in front of their open kitchen fridge, illuminated by the silver glow from within while he ponders the ramifications of eating the expensive block of parmesan cheese Jin has been reserving for his elaborate carbonara dish. His late night cravings are always odd, and he just likes cheese.  

 

He’s wearing a pair of loose-fitting pajama pants and a simple white crew neck shirt that clings to his shoulders and dips at the sway of his waist. His hair is dishevelled and dreadfully dry, sticking up at every angle that makes him glad that none of the others are awake late enough to witness him in his most natural state. 

 

In the end, he surrenders. He reaches out to snatch the cheese block from the third shelf of the fridge, and he holds it to his chest as he makes a silent deal with himself to buy more before Jin has the chance to notice it’s missing. 

 

The door swings shut, and Namjoon’s heart leaps into his throat. 

 

There’s a silhouette standing in the doorway, a dark shadow with no discernible familiarity whatsoever, standing with its hands raised by either hip, fingers curled into tight fists as if it’s preparing for a fight.

 

“Drop the cheese.”

 

“Jin.” He breathes out a coarse sigh of relief, dropping his chin and relaxing his shoulders. “God, don’t sneak up on me, man. I thought someone might’ve broken in.”

 

“Our security is too good for that.” Jin steps forwards, into the dim kitchenette lighting that ignites the planes of his even features and the tired set of his half-lidded eyes. His hair is rumpled and dishevelled, as if he’d only just rolled out of bed. He’s wearing a simple pair of flannel pajamas with every button fastened in a frustratingly Jin ensemble. 

 

“I heard someone in the kitchen and I knew it would be you or Jungkook,” He takes another step forwards. “Hand over the cheese.”

 

“I just want a little--”

 

“I need the entire block.”

 

“I’ll buy you another one.”

 

“I’ll never cook for you again.” 

 

Namjoon sighs. He closes his eyes tightly, he wrinkles the bridge of his nose, he scrunches his features while Jin holds out his hand between them, waiting for him to surrender. 

 

Eventually, he does. He drops the cheese into Jin’s outstretched hand.

 

“Thank you.” He mutters, shouldering past Namjoon to pull open the fridge door again. “You’re really something, you know?”

 

“Because I almost ate your cheese?”

 

“No.” Jin stashes the block at the very back of the shelf, as if to make sure nobody else might be tempted. “You’ve been ignoring me, and you almost ate my cheese. The cheese I specifically said not to eat. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were angry at me.” 

 

He closes the fridge door, and turns to look up at Namjoon. The inches between their heights suddenly feel monumental. 

 

“Are you angry at me?” Jin asks, voice so quiet, so trepidatious, so heart-breakingly cautious that Namjoon wants to scream

 

“No.” The answer is immediate. “No, Jin-... no . Of course not.”

 

“Then why are you ignoring me?” 

 

“I-...” He huffs, and he lifts a hand. He rubs at the nape of his neck as he leans against the edge of the kitchen island, running through a long list of excuses for the most convenient option. I don’t know how to act around you now that I know what it feels like to kiss you. Or, maybe I’m so desperately in love with you and I don’t know how to be anything else when I’m near you. Or, perhaps I want to touch you so badly and I feel like everyone can tell

 

“Does it have to do with New Year’s?” Jin asks when Namjoon fails to answer him. 

 

Again, Namjoon’s heart leaps into his throat. 

 

His stomach twists into a sharp knot. Cold anxiety blooms through him, and his instincts all but scream at him to get out, to say goodnight - to run back to his room and lock the door to prevent him from saying (doing) something he might regret. All of this is so precarious; he’s straddling a fine line between keeping everything the same, and changing it all irreparably. Shattering everything they’ve built and everything they’ve worked for, all because he cannot resist chasing the white rabbit. 

 

“Sort of?” He answers, instead.

 

“Was kissing me so awful?” Jin asks, looking crestfallen as he folds his arms across his chest.

 

“No, no!” Namjoon takes an instinctive step toward him, stopping himself short before he might touch him. “No. I just-... It was a joke. I think I just got worried that I might’ve freaked you out, y’know?”

 

“A joke.” Jin echoes, quietly. 

 

“Yeah.” Namjoon says. “I mean, that’s all Yoongi meant by it. He told me that he just wanted to hold it over Hoseok’s head, though I don’t really know why. Maybe I should’ve followed him up on that? I didn’t really think to. Honestly, everyone was laughing.” Right? He remembers hearing laughter before he’d bolted. 

 

“Is that why you’ve been avoiding me?” Jin asks, without looking up. “..because it was a bad joke?”

 

“I never said it was bad .” Namjoon continues, quietly. 

 

Jin lifts his chin, and he manages a stiff nod-- and it’s about then that Namjoon realises his eyes are red-rimmed. They’re damp. His eyelashes are clinging together to frame them like stars. The tops of his cheeks are blotchy and discoloured. He reaches up to wipe the rise of his palm against the backs of his eyelids, as if to hide the fact that he’s-..

 

“Jin, are you crying?”

 

“No.” He turns away, pivots on his heel to reach up for one of the cabinets above the island. He pulls it open and fishes within to pluck free a glass that he carries over to the sink. 

 

“Listen, I’m sorry.” Namjoon says, voice quiet as he trails after Jin like a shadow; unsure of what he might have said, what he might have done to make Jin cry

 

God, he’s made Jin cry

 

What is wrong with him?

 

“I’m sorry, hyung. Please-.. I didn’t think, I-.. um..”

 

“It’s fine.” Jin cuts in, filling the glass to the brim, and bringing it to his lips. “You don’t have to explain yourself.” He begins to drink, but his hand is trembling. 

 

“I feel like I do .” Namjoon says, “I don’t want to be the reason you’re upset, I-..”

 

Something snaps inside Jin. It happens so suddenly that there is no room for Namjoon to be anything other than taken-aback.

 

“You’re an idiot.” The water sloshes in the glass. It splashes onto the front of his shirt, and Jin sets it down with more force than necessary as he hisses out a curse. He reaches up to begin fumbling with the buttons, hastily pulling them loose, and peeling the shirt from his broad shoulders to cast aside. 

 

“You’re the stupidest person I have ever met, Kim Namjoon .” He says, as if he doubts Namjoon’s ability to even know his own name.

 

“I-...”

 

“Was it all a joke to you? To torment me? To avoid me and ignore me like I don’t even matter?”

 

“You do matter--”

 

“Then why do you keep disappearing?”

 

“I--..” His words catch in his throat. 

 

Jin is angry . His cheeks are pink. The curve of his bare sternum shines where it’s damp. A single rivulet of spilled water drifts down the length of his stomach, skating from his ribcage, toward the tilt of his hipbone. His frame is lean but wiry-- and his chest heaves as he pulls in his steadying breaths. 

 

It’s hard to think

 

“Talk to me, Namjoon.” Jin says, voice low yet earnest, dripping with sincerity. “I’m here .”

 

For once, that doesn’t feel like the solution. Despite all of Yoongi’s pep-talks, despite all of the advice he’s been given, and all of the internet columns and forums that he’s read. Each one of them have held the same solution; urging him to admit his feelings, to get them off his chest, to tell the person he loves just how much he loves them, that doesn’t feel right. Not here. Not right now. 

 

His heartbeat is ringing between his ears. His palms are damp. He’s sure that he must look pale, sure that his eyes must be as wide as dinnerplates. He knows he must look wild, teetering on the verge of mania-- and that’s how he feels

 

He takes two lithe steps forwards; acting before he can overthink this just like he overthinks everything. Even though every inch of his wiry frame is telling him to turn away , he reaches out to set his left hand along the column of Jin’s throat. His thumb notches beneath the curve of his chin, and he angles his face upwards. 

 

The last thing that he sees before he closes his eyes are Jin’s own, as wide and as disbelieving as his as their lips meet in the lambent half-dark. 

 

It feels like it did on New Year’s, only there’s no alcohol in either of their systems to act as a social lubricant. It’s more raw, peppered with the scent of freshly washed bedsheets and cypress needles from Namjoon’s aftershave and Jin’s lack thereof. His lips are soft and full, and he tastes like sunshine. It’s just as euphoric. Just as blissful. Namjoon still feels as though he might sprout wings at any moment, and float away. 

 

But, he’s waiting for Jin to pull away; waiting for his hands to clamp down on Namjoon’s chest to shove him back ...

 

But, he doesn’t. 

 

It’s Namjoon that pulls away first. He breaks the kiss, and he takes a step backwards, dropping his hand back to his side as he lowers his gaze away from Jin. He’s frozen in the midst of the kitchen as though he’s shellshocked.

 

“You wanted to know why.” He reasons, voice rough. He takes another step backwards, hands shaking, as he leans against the island in a faux display of bravado that he hopes conceals just how on-edge he truly feels. “I think that should, um-... should sum up why I’ve been so-... so weird.”

 

He braces himself for what he knows is coming; some admonishment, disgust, shame, anger- maybe resentment. A clear fracture in the close friendship he and Jin have spent years cultivating; all thrown away over an American penny and a block of cheese. 

 

Jin steps towards him. He reaches out for him. He fists a crooked hand in the front of Namjoon’s crewneck, and pulls him down an inch to crash their lips together in a messier, sloppier, more desperate kiss that takes him by surprise. 

 

Briefly, it’s his turn to be stunned; but that only lasts for a moment. For just long enough for his thoughts to cease short-circuiting. 

 

Namjoon reaches up at once, threading one arm around the sway of Jin’s waist, pulling his chest flush against his own, until his warmth bleeds earnest against the thin fabric of his flimsy shirt. 

 

He’s dreaming. He has to be. There’s no way this is real, and this wouldn’t be the first time he’s dreamed of Jin like this

 

His kisses turn earnest, his fingernails dig crescent-shaped welts into the notches of Jin’s spine. He hums into his parted lips and feels Jin shudder against him. His skin is on fire and his head is spinning. His thoughts are stumbling a mile a second and this is happening, this is real , Jin is kissing him back and neither of them are drunk. 

 

A warm hand slides beneath the hemline of his shirt; and Jin’s tongue skates over the seam of his lips until he parts for him, and tastes him. The kiss is messy, all tongue and lips and saliva; it’s warm and wet and so perfect that Namjoon never wants to pull away. 

 

But, he does. He kisses a searing line from the corner of Jin’s lips to the column of his throat-- that same expanse of skin he’s spent so long admiring. 

 

“You don’t hate me--?”

 

Namjoon’s teeth skate across Jin’s pulse point. He feels it quicken under the bow of his lower lip, and he bites down just to hear Jin gasp.

 

“How could I hate you?” Namjoon asks, words murmured into his skin. 

 

“You were acting like it.” Namjoon trails kisses along the rise of his collarbone. “..-like you couldn’t even stand to look at me.”

 

“I couldn’t stop looking at you.” He admits, and Jin’s quiet huff feels like one of disbelief. “I mean it.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“I can show you.” He lifts his head, and it feels like a mistake. 

 

Jin’s cheeks are flushed, but it’s a different kind of pink to the tint of red that colours his features when he’s angry, or when he’s over-exerted or overheated. His pupils are blown wide and his too-full lips are kiss-bitten red, parted and obscene in a way that sends a bolt of warmth straight through Namjoon to settle low, low in his stomach. 

 

That palm presses down against the sway of Jin’s spine. Namjoon rolls his hips forwards until the press of his arousal eases against the cusp of Jin’s left thigh.

 

“I-..” He looks down, surprise flitting across his features.

 

“You drive me mad .” Namjoon tells him, quietly. “You’ve actually sent me insane.” 

 

He reaches up to curl his free hand against the nape of Jin’s neck, and he presses him back, maneuvering him by it until he’s bracketed against the island with Namjoon crowded in close behind him, until he can lean in to inhale the sweetness of his cologne, and press his chest flush to Jin’s spine. 

 

“You’re so beautiful.” he hisses; breathing it right by Jin’s ear, close enough that he hears his breath hitch . “You know that, don’t you?”

 

“Joon-...” Jin hisses. 

 

Namjoon reaches up to curl his fingers in the downy hairs at the nape of Jin’s neck. He gives them a gentle tug to turn his head, and claims his lips in another, greedier kiss. It’s open-mouthed and lurid. Filthy and decadent, made all the more precarious because anybody could walk in on them. They have the small luxury of the late hour to keep their illicit activities concealed. But, Namjoon isn’t the only night owl out of the seven of them. 

 

Somehow, that only spurs him on. He doesn’t want to let go of Jin. He doesn’t want to cut this short. He wants to pull him apart piece by piece, and take his time in fitting him back together again.

 

The kiss breaks, and Namjoon is so tangled up in his own thoughts that he nearly misses Jin’s desperate whisper of, “ Touch me-..”

 

Namjoon feels as if he’s teetering on the verge of passing out. 

 

His hand drifts forwards, moving from the sway of Jin’s waist to the elastic band of his trousers. He hesitates there, fingertips toying with the ruched lip; like he’s waiting for Jin to push him away or change his mind. 

 

He doesn’t. His breath hitches- as if in anticipation. 

 

Namjoon’s fingers press below the waistband. His pulse quickens when nothing but bare skin answers the questioning tug of his fingertips as he traces a line down the slope of Jin’s hipbone until warm flesh answers the grope of his touch. Jin is hard , skin tacky and hot , damp and wanting- and Namjoon’s stomach bottoms out as he curls his fingers around him, burying his face in Jin’s hair as he breathes out a harsh and laboured breath. Like he needs to steady himself.

 

It’s almost too much

 

Jin’s gasp is quiet and muffled, bitten-off and timid; but it only spurs Namjoon onwards. He’s never done this for anybody other than himself, but the angle is familiar. The forwards roll of his palm feels bone-deep, honed from years of practice (and many more than he’d want thanks to the toll of fame). The pad of his thumb strokes over the flared head of Jin’s length, and he feels him shudder

 

His head tips backwards to rest against Namjoon’s shoulder, eyes closed- expression one of utter reverence with the faintest frown between his brows; like he’s concentrating. 

 

“You’re so beautiful.” It leaves him before he can stop it, and it feels so freeing to be saying it to him, to be telling him all of this at last . “You’re so fucking perfect.

 

Jin’s hips stutter forwards into the ring of his fingers; another choked-off cry barely tipping past his lips before he catches the plush bow of his lower lip under the press of his teeth to silence himself. 

 

Namjoon wants to tell him not to. He wants to hear him, see him-- but they don’t live alone here, and he’s keenly aware of that. 

 

He strokes at an even pace; at the same pace he likes to go when he’s alone with himself, thumb skimming forwards with each upward stroke of his wrist until Jin’s hips are rocking forwards to meet him half-way, and the whole thing is so horribly erotic that Namjoon’s half-sure he could come just by watching this. His hand is buried down the front of Jin’s trousers, and both of Jin’s palms are braced against the edge of the kitchen island while Namjoon holds him in place with a hand on his hip and his chin perched upon Jin’s shoulder- like he doesn’t want to miss a single moment of this- nor how vibrantly the red-flush to his cheeks has begun to travel downwards to bloom over the top of his chest and the dip of his sternum. 

 

“Keep-..” He stifles another gasp. “..-keep talking to me, Joon-.. Please .”

 

That surprises him. He’s sure half of that flush is from embarrassment; and it makes sense that Jin would be so mortified by this. He’s so proper, so together, so graceful in every other setting. 

 

“You want me to keep telling you how pretty you are?”

 

“Fuck--” Jin’s hips jerk forwards again, as if that word alone is enough to set him on-edge. 

 

“You say it about yourself so much, I’m amazed you need validation from me .” Namjoon murmurs into his shoulder.

 

“It’s-... different when it comes from you.” Jin grits out.

 

“Is it?” Namjoon asks, fingers slick with precum as they glide back down the curve of Jin’s length.

 

“Yes, Joon-- fuck -..” He lifts his head, and he tips it forwards to look down the length of his red-mottled chest to where Namjoon’s wrist vanishes below the front of his trousers, a full-bodied shiver skimming through him. “I’m-.. I’m close. You have to-... have to stop-..”

 

Namjoon’s hand stills at the word ‘stop’. “You want me to stop?” He asks, a quiet edge of concern to his words.

 

“No-.. no -.. I just-... keep touching me, I just want you to-..” He swallows, thickly- as if he can’t utter the request aloud, as if it’s too dirty, too taboo, too degrading for him to dare verbalising. Instead, his hips press backwards until the swell of his backside presses flush to Namjoon’s hips. 

 

Again, he’s left breathless. The hand on Jin’s hip tightens. 

 

“I don’t have-...”

 

“It’s fine.” Jin cuts in. “Bottom drawer, under the cutlery. Jungkook put it there before New Years.”

 

“What the fuck?” Namjoon asks, blinking back his surprise as he reluctantly shuffles away from Jin to pull open the drawer in question, and lift their silverware tray. Sure enough- there’s a roll of condoms and a sample satchel of lubricant stashed beneath. “...what the fuck?”

 

“He said he wanted to be prepared for anything and didn’t trust one of us to steal them from his room.” Jin reasons as Namjoon fishes both out. “He planned to get lucky overnight, I think.” 

 

“Did he?” Namjoon asks, quirking a brow.

 

“Namjoon--..”

 

“He hid condoms and lube under our silverware! I’ve got to know.”

 

Jin huffs out a laugh, dropping one hand from the edge of the island. 

 

“I don’t think he did. He fell asleep on the laundry floor on top of Yoongi’s sheets at one in the morning. They were warm and fresh out of the drier and he was six shots deep. It’s a lethal combination.” 

 

“Ah.” Namjoon grins, and makes a mental note to send Jungkook an entire bottle of whiskey to thank him for his (unneeded) forethought that had been useful to someone in the end. 

 

“Please get back over here.” Jin says, scarcely more than a murmur. 

 

Namjoon fumbles quite ungracefully, back towards him. He reaches out with a hand to swing the kitchenette door shut; idly wishing that Taehyung or Yoongi weren’t home so that they could properly utilise a bed

 

“Have you ever done this before?” He asks, setting the ribbon of condoms down on the counter in favour of tearing the lube satchel open. 

 

There is a short pause. 

 

“Yes.” The admission is tinged with shame. It surprises Namjoon.

 

“Really?” He whispers, reaching forwards with his free hand to slide his fingers back beneath the waistband of Jin’s trousers. They’re loose enough that slipping them down is easy, and for a second time that evening, he’s so pleasantly surprised at Jin’s lack of undergarments. A full-bodied shiver slips through him, and Jin hangs his head forwards. 

 

“Stop judging me.” 

 

“I’m not.” Namjoon reassures, quickly. “It’s just surprising. That’s all.”

 

His fingers drift across the swell of Jin’s backside, simply marvelling at the fact that he can see him, he can touch him- even if this is a one-off, even if they never get to do this again, even if all Jin wants is a quick fuck-.. Namjoon will give him whatever he wants. 

 

“Who was he?” He finds himself asking. 

 

“Who?” Jin asks, voice tight. 

 

“Or was it a she ?” He asks, brows quirking upwards. “I know people are into pegging--”

 

Joon --!” 

 

“Sorry, sorry.” 

 

He spreads the lube into the pads of his index and middle fingers, reserving half the satchel for later , just in case Jin decides he wants to continue. Namjoon reaches forwards, slotting the curve of his thumb against one cheek to spread him, and not even his most vivid dreams could prepare him for what this is like in reality. 

 

His slick fingers drift along Jin’s puckered entrance. He hears him gasp , and tentatively, he presses his index finger forwards. It slips through that tight ring of muscle unobstructed; swallowed up by his overwhelming heat at once. 

 

For a moment, Namjoon forgets to breathe. 

 

“It wasn’t a guy, or a girl.” Jin says, leaning forwards to rest an elbow against the island before him to steady his trembling knees. “It was just me. It’s more pleasurable for me when I-... when I-...” He trails off again, and reaches back with his free hand to grip the outside of Namjoon’s flannel-clad thigh. 

 

“Do you just use your fingers?” He asks, even though he knows he shouldn’t, knows it’s none of his business. 

 

“No.” Jin answers, much to his surprise. “I’ve got-.. I’ve-..”

 

“What, you’ve got a toy?” Heat swells low, low, low , in Namjoon’s stomach just thinking about it. Jin, stealing away from rehearsals, from dinners out, from important meetings with CEOs and marketing managers, from RUN filmings just to touch himself - and with Yoongi only a few feet away. 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

The answer wrings a quiet groan from Namjoon’s parted lips as he rocks his palm forwards, index finger sinking deep inside him until Jin gasps. 

 

“Fuck.” He breathes out, drawing his hand back, and pressing it forwards again. He’s met with little resistance, and it makes sliding his middle finger in alongside his first all too easy. Jin is tight, he’s warm, he’s wonderful -- and Namjoon just wishes he could see his face. 

 

The little sounds tipping from his parted lips are sweet and half-muffled, broken and breathed into the marbled countertop before him as Namjoon spreads the fingers of his free hands across the fleshy curve of Jin’s hip. 

 

He presses back into each forwards curl of Namjoon’s fingers, effectively fucking himself (shallowly) upon them until Namjoon’s sure that he’s going to pass out. All of this feels too good to be real, like he’s peering into some gossamer fantasy where nothing matters outside of Jin’s warmth, his voice, the softness of his skin, and the bottomless warmth inside him. 

 

A third presses in alongside the second, and it wrings a short cry from Jin. The hand holding Namjoon’s thigh tightens inexplicably, rumpling the fabric of his trousers until he falls still, breaths coming sharp and shallow as his gaze snaps upwards to assess Jin’s state. It’s hard to read him when he can’t see his features. 

 

A few moments pass, and Jin’s hold goes slack. He releases him, and reaches forwards to set that hand flat on the island, alongside his other hand. A thin sheen of sweat has begun to gather along the sway of his spine, shining like gold under the dim glow of their kitchenette’s downlights. 

 

Namjoon’s movements begin tentative and slow, thrusting in and out much like how he’d finger a girl; because he’s done that before, and how different could it be, really? Jin’s breaths are clipped and short, huffed out and breathed back in again as if he’s frightened of making too much noise when he finally reaches back to catch hold of Namjoon’s wrist.

 

“Enough-.. Had enough.” He breathes out. 

 

“Do you want to stop?” Namjoon asks, as though he’d been waiting for Jin to request as much.

 

“No.” He presses his palms down upon the counter, and he straightens up. Namjoon’s fingers slide out of him, and Jin twists around to face him, leaning against the counter heavily, still- he reaches up with an unsteady hand to curl his fingers into the nape of Namjoon’s neck. He pulls him close, and tips his chin upwards to catch his parted lips in another utterly debased kiss that makes Namjoon’s vision swim

 

“Fuck me.” Jin breathes it into his parted lips, swallows it up in their kiss, utters it in the shared air between them while the last operating bastion of Namjoon’s thoughts switches off, and turns in for the night. 

 

“Jin-..”

 

“What?” He draws back, fingers curled tightly in the collar of Namjoon’s shirt. 

 

“Are you sure--?”

 

“I’m positive .” He presses his lips to the hinge of Namjoon’s jaw. 

 

His thoughts hurtle a mile a moment. He’s positive, utterly and completely positive that this can’t be real. He wonders what he could’ve done in a past life to warrant one this good- good enough that he has Jin, huddled in the circle of his arms, asking him to fuck him as if it’s the greatest task he’s ever asked of anyone. 

 

Namjoon’s limbs begin to move quicker than he realises. He manhandles Jin with enough force to elicit a surprised little gasp from the elder as he sinks to the cool tiles by their kitchen sink. Jin follows his movement belatedly; until Namjoon pushes him backwards to lie across two of the cracked and marbled tiles, with his lilac hair splayed out atop his head like a fractured halo. He wants to see him . He wants to see every inch , and he pulls off Jin’s half-rumpled trousers to discard somewhere behind him as he reaches up to snatch the half-empty lube packet and a the strip of condoms from the counter above them. 

 

Jin is moving too, reaching out to push his hands beneath the hem of Namjoon’s shirt- who pauses before reaching out to help him slip it off. A small part of him feels self-conscious; for he isn’t as lean, isn’t as strong, isn’t as well-muscled as Jin. He’s wiry and thin, jaunty and awkward, gangly and strange- offputting, in his mind. But, he doesn’t feel that here, not while Jin’s dark eyes rove across the expanse of his chest as though he’s a man starved, and Namjoon is the first sustenance he’s been granted in years. 

 

It gives him courage as he pushes down the lip of his pajama bottoms to free the length of his cock-- achingly hard and pink-flushed. He tears open one of the condoms without detaching the bottom half from the rest of the ribbon, too eager to feel him that he doesn’t want to stop for a moment. He slips the rubber on with enough finesse that he hears Jin chuckle. He squeezes out the remainder of the lube into the palm of his hand, and strokes it across his length, before brushing two fingers back between Jin’s parted thighs, revelling in how it makes him gasp, and stiffen. 

 

Namjoon reaches out to take hold of his hips. He pulls him closer, settling him partially upon his thighs, while the tops of Jin’s broad shoulders remain upon the cold tiles. He sets one open palm against the inside of Jin’s thigh, while his other hand grips at the base of his length. He gives himself a single stroke, willing himself not to come on the spot, though he knows it’s a big ask. A part of him is glad that he’s had such a rigorous self-pleasuring routine over the months (years) they’ve lived here. He’d never expected that to come in handy here

 

Jin’s breath hitches, his eyes fall shut, he reaches out with a hand to curl his fingers around the base of his own length, still hard and curved upwards, toward his stomach. His cock is as pretty as everything else about him is; pink and full and more lovely than it has any right to be. 

 

Namjoon shuffles forwards, thumb digging into the fleshy curve of Jin’s thigh as he presses the blunt head of his length to his entrance, and cants his hips forwards to press inside. 

 

A drawn-out moan slips from Jin’s parted lips. His eyes peel open to watch Namjoon through his lashes, as if he’s as surprised as Namjoon is that this is really, truly, actually happening. 

 

Such a thought is too astonishing for Namjoon to consider, so he doesn’t. 

 

His mouth falls open. His brows pinch together into a frown of pure concentration. His hips tip upwards, and he sinks slowly into him, inch by inch, agonisingly slowly - when all he wants to do is fuck him until the only thing Jin can do is say his name, over and over like a prayer. 

 

He seats himself to the hilt. He swallows thickly, and he leans forwards, moving his hand to Jin’s hip, and folding over him enough to press an open-mouthed kiss into the cusp of a broad shoulder. He feels fingers fold against the nape of his neck, and drag upwards- into his hair; gentle, encouraging, soothing. 

 

“All right?” Namjoon asks, breathlessly. 

 

“Yeah.” Jin nods, Namjoon feels their cheeks brush with the movement. “Ye-Yes.” Then, “You feel nice, Joon.” 

 

He lets out a shaky breath. A smile steals across his parted lips. 

 

“You can’t say shit like that to me, man.”

 

“Are you really calling me ‘man’ when your dick is inside me?”

 

Namjoon breathes out a chuckle, hips rocking forwards until Jin gasps. 

 

“Yeah,” He draws back again, feels Jin’s hold on him slither away. “You feel good, too.” 

 

“You can move.” Jin tells him. “It’s-... you’re-.. Um-..”

 

“I’m.. what?”

 

The flush to Jin’s cheeks darkens. He lifts a hand to cover his parted lips as he drops his gaze to the dip of Namjoon’s navel.

 

“..-bigger than what I’m used to.” He mumbles the admission. “..-but I’m okay, now.”

 

Namjoon closes his eyes for a moment. He steels himself; tells himself to chase that thread another time, preferably when he isn’t balls-deep in Jin and already dangerously close to coming unravelled. Hearing this will be enough to get him so riled up that he won’t even need to touch himself. 

 

“Right.” Is all he says, in the end. He leans forwards to grip the slope of Jin’s waist as he eases his hips back slowly, and rolls them forwards to sink back inside him. 

 

He moans again, and it sounds like liquid velvet. 

 

Namjoon eases himself into a familiar rhythm; because he’s done this before, too. It feels different, but the moves are the same. It’s less performative, and more meaningful like this- for once, his focus is on Jin’s pleasure, and not his own. He’s never been one to care overmuch for how his partners feel. Sex has always been a matter of convenience rather than intent. 

 

This is so far out of his comfort zone, he’s glad that it’s happening so spur of the moment. He has less time to overthink. 

 

It isn’t long before the lurid slap-slap-slap of skin-on-skin fills the cramped space, until Jin’s quiet moans break off into hitched gasps as Namjoon fucks him. He begins to shift, angling his hips upwards, creasing his features into a look of frustration until he reaches up, setting a hand on Namjoon’s chest to stop his movements. 

 

He says nothing as he eases off him. He pushes him back, pressing his spine into the cupboards behind him until he’s sitting upon the floor, propped up by the cabinets. Jin clambers into his lap, breathing hard and fast- settling above him upon his knees. 

 

Eventually, Namjoon gets the message. He reaches out to steady Jin, to line himself up with a hand at his base, to watch with wide eyes as Jin sinks down upon him, knees digging into the cold tiles, bracketing Namjoon’s narrow waist effortlessly. Again, their hips meet, skin-on-skin, it’s wonderful

 

Jin sets the pace. It’s harder, faster, more graceful than when it had been Namjoon. His hair is sticking to his forehead and his features are bright pink. He’s avoiding Namjoon’s gaze, like he knows he’s looking at him as though he’s just seen God. He reaches out to stroke Jin in time to his uneven thrusts, lifting his hips off the cold floor to harshen each stroke until something happens. 

 

Jin’s features twist. His head tips back. His too-full lips part into a brilliant and pleasure-born ‘o’. A keening cry falls past his lips, sharp and loud- until it sounds like he’s singing. 

 

Namjoon just stares at him; wide-eyed and shocked. 

 

“What--..?”

 

“Again. Like that.” Jin breathes. “Keep-.. Keep going like that.” He reaches out to push Namjoon’s hands away from his length, pressing them to his hips instead. He winds his arms around Namjoon’s shoulders, and buries his face into the curve of his throat. Their skin sticks together, heady and sweaty and so intimate that Namjoon is still, and silent- just for a moment. 

 

His hips hitch upwards. His thumbs dig into the crests of Jin’s hipbones. He fucks into him, hard and deep , he hears Jin bury his wet moans into the curve of his throat, feels his saliva gather in the divot of his collarbone, feels every stroke shudder through him as though it’s as visceral as something he himself is experiencing. He’s tight and hot and wet, and it’s the best thing Namjoon has ever felt.

 

“Fuck.” He breathes out. “Fuck, Jin, fuck.”

 

Every thrust wrings a new little noise from Jin’s parted lips, and all if it is so raw and so perfect that Namjoon knows he cannot last much longer. He feels it all beginning to ebb through him, settling low in his stomach, pulling tight like a rubber band moments away from snapping, taut as a bowstring with pleasure that ripples upwards between his thighs, like a bath overflowing with hot and scented water (water that’s fragrant with vanilla and sandalwood). He’s filling and filling and it’s all settling, hot and earnest, at the base of his length. 

 

But, then Jin wrings out a broken cry that feels louder than it ought to be. His nails bite into Namjoon’s back, blunt and sharp- raking outwards and leaving ribbons of red in their wake as he lifts his head and tips it back.

 

He comes between them, untouched-- he comes hard , it spills across his length, it dapples across the concave dip of his stomach, onto Namjoon’s sternum, intermingling with his sweat in a display that’s so beautiful he doesn’t know how he’s meant to keep going .

 

But, he does- eyes fixed upon Jin’s features as he fucks him through his release, hips hitching, losing rhythm, breaths coming harder, faster- quiet and broken little groans pulling from his lips before he can stop them. 

 

He surges forwards, not releasing Jin, not letting go of him, leaning over him and pressing his back into the tiles again as he fucks him , manhandling him into place and holding him there while he sobs beneath him, blissful, overstimulated, and fucked senseless, arms thrown across his features like he doesn’t want Namjoon to see him so shameless; with his thighs spread so wide.

 

“Joon--..” He breathes out. “Joon, Joon, Joon.”

 

“Fuck-..” 

 

He comes.

 

It crashes over him like a seasalt wave. His body fills and fills like a tumbler of lemonade. He’s a hundred lightbulbs burning out. He’s opening and opening until he feels like he cannot open any further, for he’s coming unraveled- coming hard and fast and coming inside Jin . His movements grow rigid, fervoured, wild and broken. His grip turns bruising, and he’s sure that Jin feels it. He reaches out to pull Namjoon down again, over him, while he milks his release inside him, kissing him earnestly.

 

“I love you.” Namjoon murmurs it into his lips, kisses it upon him like a missive, like a mantra. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

 

His hips rock forwards one last time. Jin gasps. 

 

* * * *

 

It’s the sixth of January. There are three bruises along the column of Seokjin’s throat, as vibrant as rubies. 

 

His hair is still a pale lilac. 

 

It hurts to sit down. The muscles in Namjoon’s thighs (and his shoulders, and the small of his back) ache as though he’d spent the evening at the gym. He doesn’t miss how stiffly Jin drifts through the kitchen, nor how he grimaces when he eventually sits down, sliding into the stool alongside Namjoon so that their knees touch beneath the table. 

 

Hoseok is eating his pancakes in silence, forgoing cutlery in favour of eating them like floppy biscuits. Jimin sets to work cutting each one into tiny pieces, too focussed in equally distributing his maple syrup to notice anything amiss. Yoongi is watching Namjoon through heavy-lidded eyes, too tired to offer any complaint beyond a pointed look . He hasn’t had his coffee yet, and Namjoon knows that marks him as ‘safe’ for the time being. 

 

Still, he doesn’t miss how Yoongi’s gaze moves from the love bites on Jin’s throat, to Namjoon’s chipper-than-usual disposition. Especially given that he isn’t a morning person. 

 

“Good night, Namjoon?” He asks, after a lengthy pause punctuated only by Hoseok’s loud chewing. 

 

Namjoon looks up, feigning a look of momentary confusion. 

 

“I guess?” He says. “Better than normal.”

 

“What did you do?” Yoongi asks, tone entirely flat. 

 

“I went to the gym.”

 

“Since when do you go to the gym?”

 

“Since now.” Jin interjects. “I talked him into it. It’s his resolution for the new year. Isn’t it, Joon?”

 

“Yeah.” Namjoon nods, shoving a forkful of pancake into his mouth. “Jin works hard, and I guess I never knew. It was eye-opening.”

 

“But, Namjoon worked hard.” Jin says, and Namjoon nearly chokes. “I’m sore, too.”

 

“Right.” Yoongi looks between them. 

 

His gaze drops to his breakfast, and Namjoon sees him shake his head in quiet frustration. 

 

He sets down his knife, and lowers his hand beneath the table. He reaches out to set his palm on Jin’s knee, and out of sight from the others - he gives it a gentle squeeze.

 

* * * *

 

“We should go to Busan for a night.” Jin says to him while they linger backstage ahead of a Go Go performance that has Namjoon more on edge than normal- if only because it’s been so long since they’d last taken this number live. His makeup has been applied rather hastily, and it’s evident along the curve of his jawline. 

 

Namjoon frowns. 

 

He steps towards him, and he reaches up to press his thumb into the hinge of Jin’s jaw. Thoughtlessly, he sets about blending the foundation as best he can. 

 

“Why Busan?”

 

“It doesn’t have to be Busan.” Jin tells him, tipping his head back to give Namjoon more room to work as he involves his other thumb in the operation. “Just-... somewhere that we can have a bed that we can both use without having to worry about anybody walking in on us.”

 

“Is that all I am to you?” Namjoon asks, frowning. “An inconvenience you can fuck?”

 

“Hey!” Jin’s eyes go wide. He catches his wrist in one of his hands, while his other grips both of their microphones. “No!”

 

Namjoon grins, resuming his movements, blending the horrible (and too-pale) foundation down the column of his throat. 

 

“I know.” He says. “Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. Maybe for two nights. One doesn’t feel like long enough. We’ll get there and have to leave the second we’re settled.”

 

“You won’t get sick of me?” Jin asks.

 

“No.” He says, quickly. “If you had told me even four months ago that you would propose we take a romantic weekend away, I’d never have believed you. I would’ve jumped at the opportunity, even if we weren’t together.”

 

“Oh.” Jin swallows, Namjoon sees it. 

 

“...are we?” He finds himself asking, drawing his hands away. 

 

“Would-... would you like to be?” Jin holds out his microphone; cheeks pink.

 

Namjoon takes it from him. 

 

“You know what my answer is gonna be.”

 

* * * *

 

“Aren’t you worried about being recognised?” Yoongi asks him while he packs, lounging against the headboard of his bed with his chin angled upwards and his gaze fixed upon the ceiling. 

 

“Not really.” Namjoon shrugs. “I don’t think we intend to leave the hotel room.”

 

Yoongi snorts. 

 

“When you get back,” He starts, “If you need-... time , just the two of you, I can sleep in here just as long as you promise not to fuck in my bed.”

 

Namjoon looks up. “...really?”

 

Yoongi shrugs. “Yeah. Just do my laundry or something as a ‘thank you’, and I’m happy. Really, it’s just nice to see you in a better mood. You’re not brooding every day and writing songs about having your heart broken. I much prefer this.”

 

Namjoon’s smile is faint and rueful, even as he shoves a worn-out box of old condoms into the front pocket of his backpack. He knows he’ll need to buy more- these are well past their expiration date. 

 

“Do the others know?” Yoongi asks.

 

“No.” Namjoon says, “Not yet. I don’t want to tell anyone until we’ve had more time to figure everything out.”

 

“I think Jimin knows.” Yoongi says, inspecting his nailbeds. “I don’t think the others have caught on yet, but they probably will. Either you tell them, or they figure it out on their own.”

 

Namjoon knows that he’s right. They’ve spent the last eight years living in each other’s pockets. It’s easy to know when something is different, or when something is amiss. Just like it’d been easy for Yoongi to deduce that something wasn’t right with Namjoon, it’d been even easier for him to conclude the reasons why. 

 

“Then, they can figure it out.” Namjoon says, folding up his washcloth. “Right now, it’s nobody’s business but ours.”

 

* * * *

 

They manage to make it to Busan without being recognised. The four-hour trip is an easy feat in snapbacks, sunglasses and face masks. They blend in seamlessly, and never earn more than a single glance aside from a momentarily-suspicious barista who turns out to be too busy to assuage his suspicions one way or another. 

 

Getting to their hotel is even easier; and he’s glad he’d had the forethought to do a little research into where they chose to stay. It’s nestled in the upper floors of one of the idyllic high-rises overlooking the water, illuminated by the eclectic city lights and a wealth of portside showcases that reflect onto the water like bioluminescence. 

 

It’s quiet and private up this high, and no part of Namjoon is worried about being caught or spotted by someone or something untoward. 

 

They waste little time in discarding their bags and shirking their half-hearted disguises, and by nine in the evening, they’ve fucked on almost every surface of the hotel room. 

 

Jin is standing on the balcony in nothing but a fluffy white robe embroidered with the hotel’s logo tied closed about his waist. He’s leaning against the railing with his hands neatly folded in front of him, peering down at the glittering city below, and where it vanishes into a dark expanse that separates them from Japan. 

 

Namjoon trails out after him, wearing a pair of jeans that ride low on his waist, and a single unbuttoned shirt he’s sure must be Gucci. He reaches out to wind his arms around Jin’s waist as he closes in on him from behind. He props his chin on his shoulder to follow his gaze out to the city far below. 

 

“It’s like we’re in another world, isn’t it?” He murmurs into the fluffy collar of Jin’s robe. “Like we’re up so high nobody could touch us.”

 

“It’s nice.” Jin agrees, quietly. “I never want to go home.”

 

“Really?” Namjoon asks, brows quirking up. 

 

“Yeah. If my life could be this-... delicious room service, nice views, expensive showers and a naked Kim Namjoon, I think I’d be very happy.”

 

Namjoon lets out a quiet laugh.

 

“You know, you might be onto something. Maybe this is what we can do when we retire.” 

 

“Wouldn’t you get bored?” Jin asks, “You’re not someone who can sit still for very long.”

 

“No. You’re right.” Namjoon draws back. “I’m like that with most things.” His arms go slack, and he releases Jin, reaching up instead to skate the tips of his fingers along the crest of Jin’s cheek, until he turns to look up at him, straightening away from the railing. 

 

A listless and cool breeze drifts toward them, threading its icy fingers through Jin’s hair, illuminated in lilac like the heliotropic lights from the light display below them. He looks extraterrestrial, too impeccable to belong to this earth. 

 

“I’ve never felt like that when it comes to you.” He tells him, as though it’s a promise.

 

“What if I brought a few dogs into the equation. Maybe a sugar glider, or an alpaca or two.”

 

Namjoon’s smile is broad, impossibly fond, framed by his dimples. “ One alpaca.”

 

“Fine.” Jin relents, reaching out to wind both his arms around the sway of Namjoon’s waist. 

 

It’s cold, but Namjoon is so enraptured by Jin’s warmth that he doesn’t want to move- nor retreat back inside for the warm familiarity of their hotel room. 

 

“You’d really want that?” He asks, lifting his brows. “With me?”

 

Jin huffs out a laugh. He ducks his head, shaking it lightly, before tipping it back again to peer up at Namjoon.

 

“Have I told you how much of an idiot you are?”

 

“Yeah. Many times. It’s beginning to worry me a little bit.” 

 

“You’re still an idiot.” Jin insists, with an earnest nod that evens into a small smile. “..and I love you so much.” 

 

It’s the first time he’s said it, and it’s like the last piece of some convoluted puzzle finally falls into place. 

 

Namjoon’s fingertips skate back to settle along the curve of Jin’s cheek. He leans in to catch his lips in a kiss as another icy breeze filters over them, making Jin shiver, making Namjoon stiffen. He pulls him closer, pulls his chest flush against his own, feels the bare curve of his chest find the tilt of Jin’s own. 

 

He tips his head and breathes in that familiar and soothing intermingling of sandalwood and vanilla, that vacant perfume of home while the city burns far, far below them.