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Their usually pristine kitchen isn’t exactly a disaster, but it’s getting close. There are three different, large mixing bowls stacked beside the sink. The counter is cluttered with at least half the supplies from their cupboards — jars of different rices and beans, and plastic containers of flours and sugars haphazardly jumbled together. Everything is covered in a fine dusting of flour, clearly visible in the winter-pale morning light.

It could be worse, Yoongi supposes. Things could be on fire.

“How much is half a quart?” Namjoon asks, distracting Yoongi from surveying the state of their kitchen. “Do we have a half-quart measuring cup?” He frowns. “Do they make those?”

Namjoon is standing at their counter, glaring down at the recipe Yoongi printed out for him the night before. He has his flour-covered hands on his hips, and would be getting flour all over his favourite grey track pants if it wasn’t for the gingham apron (yellow, with ruffles around the neck and hem: a housewarming gift from Seokjin) Yoongi had insisted he wear. There’s flour in his hair, too, and some smeared across the top of his cheek. As far as Yoongi can tell he’s oblivious to its presence.

“I don’t know if they make half-quart measuring cups,” Yoongi says, looking away from Namjoon to carefully hull yet another strawberry. His fingers are pink from the juice, and covered in slivers of red and green, from the strawberries and strawberry tops respectively. “I know for sure we don’t have one, though.”

He’s expecting Namjoon to groan, and Namjoon doesn’t disappoint. Yoongi stifles a smile. Namjoon can be so dramatic sometimes. “I agree. Very tragic. If only you had some way to look up a conversion from quarts to cups.”

Namjoon groans again, the tone very different this time.

“Listen,” Yoongi laughs, brandishing the small knife in his hand in Namjoon’s direction. “You’re the one who wanted to do this.”

“And you said you’d help,” Namjoon pouts.

Yoongi refuses to let it sway him, no matter how round Namjoon makes his eyes, or how much he sticks out his lower lip. “I am helping.” He gestures to the three bowls and strawberry-filled colander taking up most of the space in front of him on their kitchen table. “The strawberries weren’t about to hull and quarter themselves.”

Namjoon huffs, his pout deepening as he scratches at his chin. Some of the flour from his hands gets caught on his stubble.

Yoongi refuses to let the performance make him feel bad.

It’s Saturday morning. They could’ve been sleeping in. Barring that, they could’ve at least been in their bed, doing other, non-sleep-related activities. Yoongi would’ve been very happy starting off their morning in bed with other, non-sleep-related activities, but Namjoon, awake at what felt like the crack of dawn (eight was basically the crack of dawn, right?) was having none of it.

We can always do that after, hyung, he’d laughed, kissing Yoongi with his gross morning-breath mouth. Yoongi had kissed him back with his own gross morning-breath mouth, and had sighed instead of pointing out they could also bake after. Namjoon was so eager to get started, and Yoongi didn’t want to make a thing out of it.

He’d stolen a bit more time for sleep by telling Namjoon to at least take their dog Spot for his walk first, but it felt like no time at all had passed before Namjoon and Spot were back, the chill February air clinging to their skin and fur respectively. I’ll get started while you finish getting up, Namjoon had laughed, stooping to kiss the strip of Yoongi’s forehead that wasn’t hidden by the blanket.

The idea of Namjoon attempting to cook unsupervised in Yoongi’s— in thier kitchen, it’s their kitchen, no matter that Yoongi’s the only one who cooks in it, and that Yoongi’s the one who designed it — was enough to spur Yoongi out of bed and into his slippers and housecoat. Well, that and the smell of coffee drifting down the hall. Namjoon might not be great at cooking, but over the years he’d learned how to make a decent cup of coffee.

Some mornings he’d even bring the coffee to Yoongi in bed, but this morning Yoongi shuffled into the kitchen and set himself up at the kitchen table before his mug had even been filled. Seeing the way Namjoon’s face lit up to see him almost made getting out of bed worth it. Having Namjoon laugh delightedly while he made Yoongi’s bed-head worse, and then fixed it, definitely did.

It’s been non-stop activity since then, Namjoon puttering around the kitchen while Yoongi supervised from his seat at their kitchen table with his mug of coffee and later with strawberries to hull. It might’ve been Namjoon’s idea to be so industrious in the kitchen so early on a Saturday but Yoongi isn’t about to let an overexcited Namjoon anywhere near a knife and small fiddly things that need to be cut into even smaller pieces.

Truthfully, Yoongi’s impressed at how well Namjoon has been holding up his end of the bargain so far. This is easily the most cooking Namjoon has done in their kitchen since they finished the renovations, and it’s all on an unfamiliar recipe too. It’s understandable that he’s starting to get tired, worn out, and a bit pouty.

At the same time, it was his idea to do this, and he can look up things like conversion between quarts and cups just as easily as Yoongi can.

Easier, even. Namjoon’s hands might be covered in flour, but Yoongi’s are sticky from the strawberry juice. He’s not about to touch his phone until he’s washed his hands, and Namjoon is so much closer to the sink.

“Can’t look it up anyways,” Yoongi says, aiming to keep his tone light. He holds up his hands and says, “Sticky,” by way of explanation.

Namjoon stares at him for a long moment before he deflates, his prominent pout disappearing. “You could’ve just said so in the first place,” he grumbles, but Yoongi can see an exasperated smile lingering in the crows-feet developing around his eyes, and around the corners of his lips. “You didn’t have to be all dramatic about it.”

“Me?!” Yoongi almost puts a hand to his chest before he remembers: sticky. “Dramatic? Have you looked in a mirr— Oh Namjoon, at least wash your hands first.”

Namjoon freezes in the act of reaching for his phone. “That’s what I was doing,” he says, rotating his body at least thirty degrees so his hand is pointing toward the sink instead. “Washing my hands. See?”

Yoongi levels him his flattest look. At least Namjoon has the grace to look bashful for telling such a blatant lie.

“Just gonna…” Namjoon turns on the water and, after a quick glance to make sure Yoongi is still looking, fishes the soap out from behind the stack of bowls waiting to be washed. “Wash.”

“Hmm,” Yoongi hums, and then refocuses his attention on the colander of strawberries. He’s maybe half-way through. It feels like he should be farther. He sighs and selects the next berry to behead.

This whole situation is their neighbour’s fault. They’d dropped by the day before, saying things like happy new year! and please, have some strawberries, fresh from our farm as they handed Yoongi a styrofoam container packed with what had to be a full kilogram of the things. He’d invited them in for tea of course — his mother had taught him manners, no matter what Seokjin might claim, and it was dreary and cold outside — but they’d politely declined, gesturing to the wagon beside them and citing more deliveries to make.

Of course that was when Namjoon had poked his head out of his study to repeat the invitation, wearing his winsomest smile. For all of three seconds Yoongi thought the neighbours would change their mind, but they were apparently impervious to the power of Namjoon’s dimples. They declined again, smiling politely, and as soon as the door shut behind them Namjoon declared well we’ll just have to bake them one of Joyce’s pies then, as a thank you.

Yoongi selects another strawberry and considers it. Maybe then it isn’t so much their neighbours’ fault then as it is Joyce’s.

They’d lived with her during Namjoon’s time as a writer-in-residence at Oxford, and she’d refused to let something as small as Yoongi’s nervousness about his grasp on the English language be a barrier to enjoying his company. On one warm June day she’d driven Yoongi down a winding country lane to a small farm boasting a sign that said pick your own strawberries!, and then talked him through how to pick them properly (Yoongi might have been to Seokjin's uncle's farm a few times but that did not stop Joyce from correcting his technique), and then taught him how to turn their fresh-picked strawberries into a pie.

The three of them had eaten it in a sun-dappled corner of Joyce’s garden, sitting comfortably close around a wrought-iron table while bees hummed through the flowerbeds and birds sang from the trees. Namjoon ate the pie more slowly than Yoongi had ever seen him eat anything before, lingering over each bite. If it hadn’t been the happiest Yoongi had ever seen him it’d been pretty damned close.

It was a far cry happier than he’d been in December and January, that was for sure. Between the stress from their official move into their house, and Namjoon’s slightly contentious yet-to-be-resolved contract negotiations, and the ongoing revisions he’d been doing, and trying to schedule New Years with both sets of their parents, he’d been wound tight, and a bit snappish. There wasn’t much Yoongi could do beyond be patient, and love him, and make sure he didn’t spend all his time hunched over at his computer chewing on his lip or muttering about dates and distribution rights and appropriate divisions of funds.

And then at the tail end of January, like a gift from the universe, Yoongi had found fresh, locally-grown strawberries in their supermarket. They were small, and the rich, deep red that meant they were ripe clear through. When he squeezed one it was just the right amount of soft over just the right amount of firm. Almost before he knew what he was doing he’d had his phone out to text Joyce, asking for the recipe. He might not be able to finish Namjoon’s revisions, or get everyone to agree to the contract, but he could at least bake a pie.

Alright fine, Yoongi thinks, putting more force behind the knife than strictly necessary on the next few cuts. So maybe it isn’t Joyce’s fault, either. Maybe, ultimately, the blame lies with Yoongi. Namjoon would never have received strawberries from their neighbors and immediately thought oh we should bake them a pie! if he hadn’t eaten one so recently.

Yoongi tries to do something nice, and this is the thanks he gets: a messy kitchen, manual labour, and coaching Namjoon through cooking on a Saturday morning.

He sneaks a look across the kitchen. Namjoon is leaning against the counter now, glaring down at his phone. He has his lower lip caught between his teeth. His hands are clean, although the streak of flour is still on his face. Between the clutter in the kitchen, the framing of the cupboards, and Namjoon’s frankly unfair good looks Yoongi feels almost like he’s stepped into a magazine still. If his hands weren’t covered in strawberry juice he’d be trying to take a picture.

“Why are there two kinds of quarts?” Namjoon huffs, tapping irritably at his phone. “English is a horrible language, and this method of measuring ingredients sucks.”

Yoongi agrees wholeheartedly. If he’d been thinking he’d’ve written the conversions down when he baked the recipe the first time, but he’d been so caught up in the rush to get it done before Namjoon got home from his meetings in Seoul he hadn’t even considered it. Hell, even doing it the night before would’ve helped, but Yoongi’d been working to a deadline, and then they’d gone out for supper, and walked Spot, and got a bit distracted. By the time it’d crossed Yoongi’s mind he had a warm, snoring Namjoon draped across his chest and absolutely no desire to try and do any kind of math.

I’ll leave it for the morning, he’d thought, and now he sort of wishes he hadn’t.

Namjoon squints at his phone some more, then taps on it a few times. “Does five hundred millilitres of strawberries sound right? That would be…” He pauses, scanning the near-disaster that is their kitchen counter to find the glass measuring cup he’d previously used for the flour. He hasn’t washed it out yet of course, so there’s still some white clinging to the inside when he holds it up. “One of these? Right?”

Yoongi nods, biting back a smile. “Although you’ll want to wash it out first, before you use it to measure anything.”

“Right,” Namjoon says, setting the measuring cup down and very clearly forgetting everything about washing it. “Right and I’ll need cornstarch… and sugar…” He trails off, mumbling to himself as he reads over the recipe again. A furrow appears between his eyebrows, then deepens. “It feels like it should be more complicated than this, doesn’t it?”

Yoongi laughs. It’s not that Namjoon has no experience in the kitchen — he can boil water for ramen, or fry an egg without burning it to the pan — but it definitely isn’t much. This is the first time Yoongi can remember him trying to cook from a recipe. “Spoken like a man who doesn’t cook very often.”

“But it’s so tasty!” Namjoon protests. “It shouldn’t taste so good if all that’s involved is mixing things together and heating it up!”

“You weren’t saying that half an hour ago. I distinctly remember some swearing about pie crusts.”

Namjoon sets the recipe down, turning his back to Yoongi while he shuffles some of the jars and containers around on their counter. His ears are turning pink. “Yes, well, that’s the crust. That’s different.”

Yoongi can’t stop the grin that spreads slowly over his face. “Crust is an important part of pie, Joon-ah. Why, without crust we’d just have-”

“You just keep cutting up those strawberries,” Namjoon interrupts. His ears are well on their way to red. It sounds like he’s fighting against a smile. “I don’t need any more commentary from the peanut gallery.”

Yoongi’s grin gets wider. Without the crust, they’d just have jam.

Pie isn’t an easy undertaking. Jam isn’t either — the berries still need to be prepped, and getting the jars to seal can be tricky — but pie involves pie crust, and pie crust is work to get right. It’s a lot of effort to go through for neighbors, even nice neighbors who brought them strawberries.

He’d mentioned that almost as soon as Namjoon had made his bake them one of Joyce’s pies statement, arguing they should buy a nice bottle of wine instead. He’d been working hard all week, the spectre of a hard deadline looming over his shoulder. He didn’t want to spend his Saturday working too.

Namjoon had whined, But it’s gotta be strawberries, hyung! in the playful-but-not-really tone he got when he really didn’t want to hear no.

Yoongi had argued for strawberry wine.

Namjoon had rolled his eyes, his tone less playful, and said, That’s so impersonal! We gotta make it ourselves!

As a last-ditch attempt to avoid pie crust Yoongi suggested jam. Joyce’d sent him her jam recipe too (just in case), and it would meet Namjoon’s criteria of strawberries and made it ourselves.

The words had barely left his mouth before Namjoon frowned and said, no jam with such a sense of finality it almost stung. It probably would have stung too, if Yoongi hadn’t overheard the neighbourhood boys using the same phrase when complaining about the latest pokemon movie being no fun. Hearing the same childish slang from Namjoon, albeit with a different tone and gravitas, had left Yoongi biting back a surprised laugh. He didn’t want to offer any encouragement.

His amusement must have shown on his face, though, because Namjoon’s face flashed from apologetic to almost gleeful. Get it? he asked, Jam is no jam! as if Yoongi could have possibly missed the pun.

Yoongi groaned, which of course made Namjoon laugh delightedly, and then Namjoon started singing like the complete dork that he was, shimmying around their kitchen and humming no jam, no jam, no jam to himself until Yoongi had been forced to kiss him to shut him up.

Yoongi had let it drop (he did have a deadline to meet, after all) but something about Namjoon’s insistence stuck with him, making it hard to focus on his work. Usually when Namjoon got stubborn there was a reason for it, and if he didn’t explain the reason almost immediately (at great length) it was because it was something he might, but didn’t want to, be teased about.

So when Yoongi brought it up at supper, after he’d met his deadline, and when Namjoon was a bit less keyed up about pie, he was careful. Namjoon had blushed, and looked away, and muttered that it didn’t actually have to be pie. Jam would be just as good.

If Yoongi hadn’t had his suspicions before he would certainly have developed some then. He’d shuffled around the mostly-eaten dishes on their table so he could take Namjoon’s hand, Namjoon’s eyes swinging up to meet his, and asked again. Namjoon sighed, squeezed Yoongi’s fingers, and whispered I need them to like us.

As was typical with Namjoon there was a lot of thought (and worry) behind the words. Yoongi listened to the halting, occasionally circuitous explanation about why the neighbours needed to like them (Namjoon was the one who wanted to move out here, away from their friends, and their comfort zone, and they bought a house which is so permanent, and so he has to make sure Yoongi has the best life possible, and part of that is making sure the neighbours like them, and if he fucks that up who knows if he’ll be able to recover, and— and—), and when Namjoon ran out of words Yoongi smiled, as soft as he could, and said, sounds like a no jam situation, if I ever heard one.

It was a horrible pun but it was worth it, to hear Namjoon groan, and watch as his head tipped forward until it was resting on his arm. His hand was still in Yoongi’s, holding fast.

They’d come to a compromise — they’d make the neighbours a pie, but Namjoon would be the one doing the baking. Yoongi wouldn’t have to do more than drink his coffee and supervise from the sidelines.

He’d hummed no jam, no jam, no jam all the way home in retaliation for having it stuck in his head the entire afternoon. He’d avoided humming it while Namjoon was swearing at the pie crust (he liked teasing Namjoon but he didn’t like needlessly antagonizing him) but they’re out of that danger zone. Yoongi is willing to take a calculated risk to tease Namjoon.

“No jam, no jam, no jam,” he sings softly, trying to pass it off as absent-minded eyes fixed on the back of Namjoon’s head to see what reaction he gets. Maybe the red from Namjoon’s ears is starting to creep down his neck? Yoongi’s looking for a glare, or at least a rueful snort of laughter. He tries again, still absent-minded. “No jam, no jam, no jam!”

It’s on the third time that Namjoon’s shoulder twitches. Yoongi knows he won even before he hears Namjoon’s whining, “Hyung!”

Yoongi’s mask of complete innocence in place by the time Namjoon looks at him. “What?”

“You know what. C’mon, I’d just got it out of my head!” Namjoon is trying to pout again, he really is, but Yoongi can see how hard he’s having to work for it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yoongi lies, looking back down at his cutting board and his knife and his strawberries. He’s much better at hiding his smile. “I’m just hulling strawberries.”

The skepticism of Namjoon’s subsequent hum is so thick Yoongi thinks with very little effort he could cut it instead of the next strawberry. He’s already got his next line ready to go (I can stop if you want, only I’m not done yet) when he gets distracted by a gentle but firm pressure on his knee.

He knows what he’s going to find before he looks and is not disappointed. Spot stares back at him, his chin resting lightly on Yoongi’s leg, his tail twitching from side to side. He appears to be trying to convey, through nothing more than twitches of his eyebrows, that he’s never been fed before in his life. Couldn’t Yoongi spare some strawberries?

It really was just a matter of time before Spot found his way to the kitchen to beg for food, no matter that Namjoon had fed him before they went on their walk earlier. He’s not a big dog, but what there is of him seems to be entirely made of curiosity and stomach. If anything, Yoongi’s surprised he didn’t show up sooner.

“Strawberries aren’t for dogs, Spot,” Yoongi says, reaching out automatically to scratch him between the ears. His fur is wirey, and his skin warm. He doesn’t want scratches, though. That much is obvious in the way he shifts his chin on Yoongi’s leg, pressing down harder in case Yoongi hadn’t noticed it before. He even twitches his eyebrows again for good measure.

It’s incredibly cute. “Strawberries are for pies,” Yoongi tells him firmly, reaching a bit further back to scratch between his shoulders too. “If I gave dogs all the strawberries they wanted we wouldn’t have any left for pies, and then where would we be?”

The look Spot gives him contains about as much skepticism as Namjoon’s hum had moments before. Yoongi doesn’t have to speak dog to know Spot is saying what if just one strawberry?

Yoongi wavers. It’s a compelling argument. One strawberry probably wouldn’t hurt anyone, and if Yoongi is any judge they’ll end up with more than enough to make the two pies the recipe calls for. “Alright, just one,” he whispers, going to grab one from the colander, and that’s when he remembers that his hand was covered in sticky strawberry juice. It’s now covered with sticky strawberry juice and dog hair.

He stares at it. He can’t keep cutting strawberries with dog hair on his fingers, but getting up to wash it means uncrossing his legs from how he has them tucked underneath him on his chair, and standing up, and walking across their (admittedly not big) kitchen to get to their sink.

“This is your fault,” he tells Spot, who blinks up at him. “I try to be nice and this is the thanks I get.”

Whatever reply Spot might make is interrupted by Namjoon asking, “You said we had cornstarch already, right?”

“Hmm?” Yoongi looks up and does a double-take. “Cornstar— oh. Oh, Namjoon.”

Namjoon twists to look back at Yoongi. “What?”

Yoongi very nearly puts his face in his hands. He remembers they’re covered in dog hair and strawberry juice just in time.

In Namjoon’s quest to find the cornstarch he’s apparently emptied their cupboards completely. If Yoongi had thought their counters were cluttered before, well. He’ll have to invent a whole new word for how they look now. Even worse, he’ll have to put all those containers back.

Maybe worst of all though is Namjoon himself, who has his knee propped on one of the few free patches of counter in flagrant violation of their no climbing on the counters rule, hands grasping the cabinet doors to help with his balance. It’s not that the counters and cupboards aren’t sturdy — Yoongi had a hand in both their construction and installation, he’d trust them with his life — it’s that Namjoon is prone to dramatic bouts of un-coordination, especially when his feet aren’t firmly on the ground. Yoongi’d build a stool for the explicit purpose of making sure no one, not even Jimin, would have to climb on the counter to see the highest shelf.

Yoongi’s expression must say a lot, because Namjoon looks sheepish as he says, “I am using the stool though.”

Sure, technically he is, but- “Only to boost yourself up high enough to get your knee on the counter. Don’t try and fool me, Kim Namjoon. I can see where your weight is resting.”

Namjoon’s blush deepens. “I couldn’t find the cornstarch,” he says, as if that were some kind of defense. “And I thought— well. Anyways.”

“It’s on the counter,” Yoongi tells him, pointing. He can see the jar of cornstarch from where he’s sitting, tucked behind the flour and the powdered sugar. He’s cooked with it often enough he can recognize the jar without needing to check the hand-written label. Given the angle and Namjoon’s unfamiliarity with the contents of their cupboards he’s not surprised he missed it.

There’s a long moment of silence before Namjoon says, “Oh. Um. By the flour?”

“By the flour.”

“Oh.” He turns back to face the cupboard. Even the back of his neck is pink. “Oh, well then, I’ll just-”

Before Yoongi can say anything like be careful Namjoon has his hands braced on the counter to shuffle his knee off it again. It slides back slowly at first then all at once, and in the split second where he has most of his weight balanced on one leg he wobbles. For a heart-stopping moment Yoongi has visions of the fall, and the subsequent mess in the kitchen, and a trip to the doctor’s to explain how multi-award-winning-author Kim Namjoon had potentially concussed himself while baking a pie.

Namjoon’s flailing foot finds purchase on the stool. Yoongi finds he can breathe again.

He must make some noise, because Namjoon asks, “Really, hyung?” with exasperation colouring his tone as he hops to the floor.

It’s Yoongi’s turn to sound defensive. “It’s not like you aren’t experienced at finding new and interesting ways to hurt yourself.”

Namjoon makes a few indignant noises, his expression screwed up to match, but doesn’t actually refute it. “Are you done with the strawberries yet?”

It’s a graceless change of topic. Yoongi decides not to comment. As much as he loves teasing Namjoon (and he loves teasing Namjoon a lot) he can be generous in his victory and anyways, he did mean to finish up the strawberries. Less than a quarter of the original pile are left. If he picks up his pace just a bit he should be done by the time Namjoon is ready for them.

“Almost,” he says. He uses the hand free of dog hair to drop a quarter of strawberry on the ground for Spot, then uncrosses his legs so he can stand. He remembers too late how his knees have started getting stiff if he sits cross-legged for too long, and doesn’t quite manage to suppress a hiss of pain. Namjoon, now with his head in the fridge, looks over in alarm. “It’s nothing.” Yoongi rubs at his right knee ineffectually. “Everything’s fine.”

It’s a bad lie, one that Namjoon clearly isn’t buying. He looks between Yoongi’s wince, Yoongi’s slight hunch, and the place where Yoongi’s hand disappears under the table. “Your knees again?” he asks, and then, “Do you need some help getting up, ahjussi?”

“You’re only a year younger,” Yoongi grumbles, attempting to straighten his legs again. It feels like someone is trying to drive nails into his kneecaps. There are some perks that come with being older, like accumulated wealth, and an increased ability to manage his emotions, and not having to deal with as much posturing in the workplace, but he can’t say he’s a fan of what age has been doing to his body.

“You sure you’re okay?” This time there’s real worry in Namjoon’s voice as he lets the fridge door close. “I can grab whatever you’re looking for and bring it over, instead of you having to get up.”

With a final effort Yoongi gets his feet underneath him. He might not be standing up straight, and his knees are still shrieking in protest, but at least he’s standing. “I think even you would have a hard time moving the sink,” he says with a wry smile. “And please don’t take that as a challenge to try. This kitchen is supposed to last us for years, I don’t want you wrecking it on purpose just because my joints got a bit stiff.”

He knows it’s the wrong thing to say almost as soon as it leaves his mouth. Namjoon is already on edge from cooking, and wanting to impress their neighbours, and his stressful week. Reminding Namjoon about the future could only lead to him thinking about the future, and- yes, Yoongi can already see the furrow of worry and frown of concern deepening on Namjoon’s face.

If their years together (eight, if he counts only the time they’ve been dating, and fourteen, if he counts the time before too) have taught Yoongi anything it’s that Namjoon — kind, caring, and above all thoughtful, so thoughtful it makes Yoongi’s chest ache — is about to start overthinking again. That won’t do at all.

His legs might still be stiff but he can still make it around Spot, now happily eating his strawberry quarter, and across the kitchen, albeit at a shuffling hobble. Namjoon doesn’t seem to notice Yoongi’s started to move until Yoongi is right in front of him. He startles when Yoongi tsks, eyes wide as Yoongi hooks his wrist around the back of Namjoon’s neck (his hand is still sticky from the strawberries and covered in dog fuzz, and he doesn’t think Namjoon would like that feeling on the back of his neck) to pull him down for a kiss.

It’s soft, slow, and gentle, hardy more than their lips pressing together, but when Namjoon sighs into it it warms Yoongi to the tips of his fingers regardless. A few seconds later Namjoon’s hands come to rest on Yoongi’s hips, and Yoongi can feel some of the tension bleed out from Namjoon’s shoulders. Yoongi has to remind himself that no matter how tempting it is to run his fingers through Namjoon’s hair he really shouldn’t. He has to remind himself of that again, louder, when Namjoon pulls back to plant a kiss on Yoongi’s forehead.

“Don’t think I can’t tell what you’re doing.” Namjoon’s voice rumbles through Yoongi’s chest where they’re pressed together. It’s a nice feeling.

“I’m trying to get to the sink, only there was this giant in the way.”

This time it’s Namjoon’s laugh that rumbles through Yoongi. The tension in his shoulders has disappeared completely. “I love you, hyung.”

Yoongi was expecting Namjoon to say something like no, you’re distracting me or the sink is over there, you went out of your way to come over here, are you sure you aren’t making things up? He isn’t ready to hear a sincere expression of affection, and while saying love you too would be easy, it’s even easier to go up on his toes (his legs are getting less stiff by the second) and give Namjoon another kiss. Namjoon will know what it means.

Namjoon looks a bit dazed when Yoongi pulls back. Yoongi nods once in satisfaction, then shuffles over to the sink and turns on the water. “Stop daydreaming Namjoon, you’ve got a pie to make.”

“Hmm?”

Yoongi grins. “You were looking for something in the fridge?”

“Oh! Oh, right, butter aaaand-” There’s the sound of shuffling behind Yoongi. Namjoon is probably looking for the recipe again. “Ah! Butter and lemon juice.”

By the time Yoongi’s hands are clean Namjoon is holding both the butter and lemon juice, surveying the counter with his lower lip caught between his teeth as he tries to decide where to put them. Yoongi uses the opportunity afforded him to dry his hands on a flour-free section of Namjoon’s apron, delighting in the way Namjoon whines hyung but doesn’t actually put any effort into moving.

Yoongi leaves Namjoon to figure out the puzzle of the counter to returns to their kitchen table and the strawberries. There’s no sign of Spot, but as Yoongi settles back into the rhythm of cutting and quartering he picks out a plaintive squeaking over the sound of Namjoon trying to clear a space to work. From the sounds of things Spot has decided his favourite squeaky toy is more interesting than strawberries.

As Yoongi tosses the last strawberry quarters into the bowl he hears Namjoon listing ingredients again, ending with, “-and strawberries. Hyung, are you almost done?”

“Done,” Yoongi confirms. “Trade you, for a towel and a top-up of my coffee?”

“You drive a hard bargain,” says Namjoon, but he still snags one of the tea towels off the hooks by the sink and brings it and the coffee pot over.

Armed with a fresh mug of coffee Yoongi settles in to alternately watch Namjoon work and scroll through his phone. Namjoon narrates himself through measuring out his ingredients (Yoongi pretends not to see him eat a full spoonful of sugar right out of the container) and putting them into little bowls as if he were on a cooking show. It’s horribly endearing and hard to look away from, even if the proximity of several containers to the edge of the counter is giving Yoongi heartburn.

“Do I crush you with a fork?” Namjoon asks the two cups of strawberries he’s decided will be cooked. “That might take a while, maybe…” He looks over at the jar where Yoongi keeps their wooden spoons and spatulas. “Maybe with a spoon then?”

The mental image of Namjoon trying to crush two cups worth of berries with a fork or, worse yet, a long-handled wooden spoon is too much to keep silent.

“Use the pestle,” Yoongi suggests. “It’s in the second drawer, under the cutlery. And maybe get out a pot too? The flat bottom is easier to crush against.” The flat bottom also minimizes the chances for potential Namjoon accidents, but Yoongi doesn’t have to say that out loud.

“The pestle,” Namjoon says, as if Yoongi has told him the truth of the universe instead of naming a pretty common kitchen implement. “Perfect, hyung. Thank you.” He yanks open the drawer, singing the word pestle to himself to the no jam tune from earlier. Yoongi doesn’t quite regret having brought it up, but something tells him he might soon.

Getting out the pestle, and then the pot, results in yet more things set haphazardly on their counter. The sight of Namjoon trying to cook (“Strawberries? Ah! Aaaand cornstarch and water?”) while surrounded by his mess is enough that Yoongi has to open his camera to take a few pictures. Joyce will probably like seeing what her recipe has wrought, and Seokjin and Hoseok might be kilometres away, but that’s no reason that they can’t enjoy the situation too.

Hoseok texts back almost immediately. His message is nothing but a string of horrified emoji. Seokjin doesn’t, but Yoongi expects that when he does the message will have the same feeling to it. Namjoon got it in his head to bake pie, Yoongi texts Hoseok by way of explanation.

And you had to take it out on me???? Hoseok demands. Yoongi can practically hear him shrieking. Your poor kitchen!

Yoongi snorts.

“What’s so funny, hyung?” Namjoon asks.

“Seok-ah,” Yoongi says, typing back a string of laughter before looking up at Namjoon. “He-” He pauses, watching as Namjoon, now standing at the stove, slowly, deliberately, presses the pestle down into the pot. It looks like Namjoon is trying to crush each strawberry individually. But worse than that... “Oh. Um. Namjoon? Can I give you some advice?”

It’s Namjoon’s turn to look up. His tongue is poking out of the corner of his mouth, and his grip on the pestle is practically white-knuckled. He nods. If Yoongi wasn’t already endeared he would be now.

“Cooking works better when you’ve got the burner on.”

“What?!” Namjoon peers down at the knobs. “I can’t- aish, I’m so-” There’s a click, and one of the burners flares to life. It’s not the one under the pot. “Ah, shit, shit, I always-” There are two more clicks. “There. Good catch, hyung.”

“No problem,” Yoongi says, texting an update to Hoseok. “Just remember to stir occasionally, along with crushing. Don’t want anything burning to the bottom. Gotta keep going until it’s-”

“Thick and clear,” Namjoon says in unison with Yoongi. Yoongi winces as Namjoon sighs, the sigh laced with exasperation. “I know, hyung, I read the recipe too.”

“Sorry. But, well, you did just forget to turn on the stove.”

Namjoon’s lips twitch into a wry smile. “Yeah. I guess I did.”

For the next few minutes Yoongi alternates between texting Hoseok, texting Seokjin, and admiring the view. The apron Namjoon is wearing does good things for his back, slimming his waist in a way that makes his shoulders look even more broad than usual. He’s humming no jam again, swinging his hips from side to side in time with the beat and occasionally rapping sections of the verses under his breath. If Yoongi wasn’t already worried about something burning he’d be sorely tempted to sneak up behind Namjoon and sway with him.

He stays where he is. Namjoon is being so careful about getting everything right that distracting him (and it would be distracting for him) feels like a bad move. Although… Yoongi checks the time, then how high Namjoon has the burner turned. He’s a bit surprised he hasn’t heard Namjoon start to exclaim about how the strawberry goop he’s stirring really does go bright, thick, and clear. It’d caught Yoongi off-guard the first time he witnessed it, and Namjoon is even more easily amazed. He’s expecting the reaction to be spectacular.

Given the forgot to turn on the stove situation of a few minutes earlier Yoongi is hesitant to come out and ask hey did you remember to add the cornstarch. He doesn’t want to sound like he’s nagging, but given that this is a kitchen, and that this is Namjoon, forgotten cornstarch doesn’t feel outside the realm of possibility. Maybe Yoongi will think of some reason to stand and surreptitiously check on things. If he just happens to notice that isn’t nagging, right?

Only Yoongi never has to find out. “How long does the going thick and clear usually take?” Namjoon asks over his shoulder.

It’s all the excuse Yoongi needs to stand and shuffle to the stove. The strawberries in the pot are brighter than expected — they should really be a sort of milky-pink pre-cornstarch reaction— but definitely not clear. “Has it been bubbling long?”

“At least a minute? And before you ask, yes I added the cornstarch and yes I remembered that it’s supposed to be heaping tablespoons.”

“Hmm,” Yoongi hums, because he believes Namjoon, he does, but it’s also clear that something’s not right. He casts his eyes to the counter, in case an answer lies in wait there. He can see the butter, and the lemon juice, and the sugar all ready to go, and-

He looks over to the flour, where he’d told Namjoon to find the cornstarch. The jar of cornstarch is still there, looking for all intents and purposes as if it has not moved, not even to be opened. He looks back to the measured ingredients. It doesn’t take him more than a heartbeat to find the jar of powdered sugar set behind them. The lid is off.

There’s no point in trying to figure out how Namjoon managed to get the powdered sugar and cornstarch confused. All they can do now is try to move forward.

“Well it’s an easy fix,” Yoongi says, determined not to dwell on it. He scoops up the jar holding the cornstarch and unscrews the lid. It takes him a few seconds to locate the measuring spoon, which is enough time for Namjoon to say-

What’s an easy fix?” The frustration in Namjoon’s voice has been replaced by faint alarm. “Did I wreck it? How? I was so careful, I-” He clamps his lips shut, swallowing the rest of his sentence. It looks like he’s biting his tongue to keep from saying anything else. A muscle jumps in his jaw.

“It’s not wrecked!” Yoongi hastens to assure him. The measuring spoon has a film of white powder still clinging to it — Yoongi uses his fingers to brush it off. “It’s just got a little extra sugar in it right now. We’ll add the cornstarch, and we’ll stir, and-”

“But we’re adding it late,” Namjoon laments, his mouth twisting down on the words. “I was supposed to add it before I started heating it up! And in water! And it’s been cooking for so long already!” The I’ve ruined everything goes unspoken, but Yoongi knows Namjoon well enough to know he’s definitely thinking it. He’s got his overthinking expression on again. Yoongi can practically hear him convincing himself that with the pie ruined the neighbours will think them ungrateful, and hate them forever, and then what will they do?

Yoongi reminds himself that Namjoon has far less experience at salvaging dishes in the kitchen as he says,“Let’s try and fix it before we decide everything is ruined, okay?” He dumps the first heaping tablespoon of cornstarch into the pot and nudges Namjoon’s elbow. “Keep stirring. Do you remember how many it wants?”

“Three.” Namjoon is still pouting, but he stirs diligently as Yoongi adds the second and third tablespoons. When he’s done, Yoongi sets the tablespoon and jar back on the counter, then hooks his chin over Namjoon’s shoulder and his arms around Namjoon’s waist so he’s clinging like a human-sized koala. From this position it’s as easy to give Namjoon’s neck a kiss as it is to watch the strawberry goop for signs of becoming thick and clear.

It doesn’t take long. Before a minute is up the ruddy mush has deepened to a deep ruby red. Namjoon’s reaction is more subdued than Yoongi was hoping for, a quiet oh during the most drastic shift in colour, but that’s understandable given the circumstances.

He unwraps himself from Namjoon’s back to gather the other pre-measured ingredients, adding first the sugar, then the lemon and butter, before resuming his position. He watches as the ingredients get fully incorporated, then presses another kiss to Namjoon’s neck. “Take it off the heat now, we don’t want to overcook it.”

Namjoon obliges, letting out a sigh Yoongi can feel with his whole body as he sets the pot on the other burner. He even flicks off the one he’d been using before Yoongi thinks to remind him, earning him a squeeze and another kiss. Namjoon’s hands come up to cover Yoongi’s and they stand like that for a few seconds, the silence of the kitchen broken only by the faint squeaks still coming from Spot’s toy.

“Well. That was fun,” Namjoon says at last.

Yoongi snorts. “It’s not really cooking if you don’t mess at least one thing up.”

Namjoon groans, tipping his head to the side so he and Yoongi are cheek to cheek. His skin is warm, and a bit damp. It’s probably stress-sweat. It’s sort of gross, but Yoongi loves Namjoon and does not move except to sway a bit from side to side, rocking them both.

“It could’ve been worse,” Yoongi adds. “I’ve got the baking soda in a jar like that too, and that would’ve really changed the flavour.”

The noise Namjoon makes isn’t quite a laugh, but it isn’t a sigh either. He turns in the circle of Yoongi’s arms so he can loop his own around Yoongi’s shoulders. Yoongi manfully doesn’t point out this is getting flour all over his clothes, and is rewarded for his silence by Namjoon ducking down to tuck his head against Yoongi’s neck.

“Still would’ve been nice not to mess anything up.”

Yoongi rubs soothing circles on Namjoon’s back. “But it happened, and we fixed it. And, and Joon-ah, you know the neighbours wouldn’t miss a pie they didn’t know they were getting, right?”

Namjoon lets out a rueful laugh. “That obvious, was I?”

Yoongi drops a kiss in Namjoon’s hair. “I love that you care. It just means that sometimes you think a lot.”

They sway together for a few seconds in silence. Yoongi can feel Namjoon thinking in the way he shifts his weight, and nuzzles into Yoongi’s neck. “Sometimes I don’t know how you put up with me,” Namjoon says at last. “I really don’t.”

There’s no putting up with Namjoon, and hasn’t been since the very early days when they’d first roomed together. Yoongi considers telling him that, then quickly discards the idea. Later maybe, when the pie crust has been baked, and the dishes done, and their kitchen put back to rights, he’ll take his time reminding Namjoon of all the good he’s done in the past, and all the ways he makes the lives of those around him better in the present.

Right now though, the best thing to do is keep them on track. They’ve got a pie to finish, and Yoongi isn’t about to let something like a mishap with some extra sugar and delayed cornstarch get in the way of that.

“It’s a mystery,” Yoongi agrees, his smile belying his words. “A big one. Might need to take our time investigating it. Maybe a few years?”

It might be a bad joke but he’s rewarded with a laugh. “A few years at least.”

“Glad we’re in agreement on that. With important things like this we don’t want to be too hasty. Thoroughness will be our watch-word.”

Namjoon is laughing again, his dimples on full display as he straightens up. Yoongi has to tilt his head back to keep them in view but it’s not like he is going to look away. “I don’t know anyone quite as thorough as you, hyung.” Yoongi’s still trying to work out if that’s a compliment or not when Namjoon stoops to press a quick kiss to his lips. “Are we starting that thorough investigation now?”

There’s a glint in Namjoon’s eye that means he thinks he’s said some kind of double-entendre. Yoongi thinks he knows what it is, and also thinks it’s ridiculous. Yoongi loves him so much. “I thought we were baking a pie? The neighbours will hate us if we don’t, you know.”

“Hyung!” Namjoon whines, but he’s still smiling, so Yoongi barrels on.

“We need to put the strawberries in the fridge to cool, and the dough’s been chilling long enough it’ll be ready to roll out, but...” Yoongi makes a show of looking at their cluttered counters. When he’s built the suspense long enough he turns back to Namjoon, one eyebrow raised. “Looks like someone’s made a mess of our counters.”

“It was Spot,” Namjoon says, quickly.

“Spot.”

Namjoon nods sagely. “Very irresponsible of him. Probably part of why it was so easy for me to confuse the sugar and cornstarch.”

Yoongi tries to see if he can make his eyebrow arch higher. “I see. And is Spot going to be putting everything away too?”

Namjoon pretends to consider it. “I’m not sure you’d want him to. He probably doesn’t remember where everything came from, and he suspects you’re particular about your cupboards.”

Particular is definitely a euphemism for picky. He and Namjoon have had discussions about things having correct places before. “He’s surprisingly perceptive, for a dog.”

“He’s very smart,” Namjoon agrees. Yoongi waits. He can see a calculation happening behind Namjoon’s eyes, and he’s curious to know what it is. “But he could do the laundry for you? As a sort of repayment for your efforts?”

Between his work deadline and the excitement of the pie Yoongi had completely forgotten it was his turn to do the laundry. It’s not as big a hassle as it was in their much smaller apartment but that doesn’t mean he likes doing it. He would’ve cleaned the counters anyway — not having to worry about the laundry is a bonus.

“I’ll help him of course-” Namjoon is saying, but Yoongi cuts him off with a kiss.

“Deal,” he says, in case that wasn’t obvious. “And while you’re waiting for the counters to be clear you might as well start on your dishes.” He gives them a significant look, and then remembers-- “Oh, and don’t forget to put the strawberries in the fridge.”

“You’re such a taskmaster,” Namjoon says, but he can’t be too upset about it because he leans in for another kiss.

Yoongi smiles into it. “And you love it.”

“I do,” Namjoon agrees. “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Even after all these years Namjoon can still give him butterflies. For a few seconds Yoongi considers seeing how long Namjoon would be willing to keep kissing him, but-- no. There will be time for that later. With great reluctance he pulls back. “C’mon then. Let’s keep going.”