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a little bit like magic

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Everything is loud.

It’s exactly what Seokjin would expect from a party at Jimin and Taehyung’s— colorful, loud, kind of glittery— but he’s still surprised. There are so many people crammed into their small apartment, it’s difficult to move among the mass of sweaty bodies and alcohol, but he manages, he always does. This is the fourth year in a row Jimin and Taehyung have hosted a New Year’s party, and they really outdid themselves this time— glitter is everywhere, they’ve got a fully decked out makeshift bar in their tiny kitchen, there’s even those life-size letter balloons complete with old-fashioned photo booth props in the living room so guests can have a photo op for their social media.

Seokjin doesn’t really know anyone here— there’s a lot of people from Hoseok’s dance crew and some from Taehyung’s work, neither of which Seokjin is a part of. He, Jimin, Taehyung, and Hoseok are college friends who’ve been attached at the hip for a very long time, so it’s only natural that they all gather to ring in the new year together without fail. But now, his three friends are nowhere to be found, probably all drunk off their asses, and Seokjin is standing in the middle of the party awkwardly, stone-cold sober.

Oh well. Maybe he’ll steal some sunglasses from the photobooth and pretend to be a time traveler. He laughs a little at the thought— even if he dramatically screamed, “WHAT YEAR IS IT?” no one would be able to hear him.

Instead, he decides to head to the hallway to his left, feeling a little bit like a lost teenager. He can just watch cat videos on his phone until the clock strikes midnight. That sounds like a perfect idea, Seokjin affirms as he sits on the floor of the only non-crowded part of the apartment. He’s alone, kind of. There’s no one else in the hallway, but the party rages on to his right, and he catches a glimpse of Hoseok and Taehyung dancing to Russian Roulette by Red Velvet at double speed. He grins involuntarily before reaching for his phone in his back pocket—

His hand brushes over a book instead.

Raising an eyebrow, Seokjin twists his body around and feels around in the dark for the object lying next to him. It’s then that he realizes he’s mistaken— it’s not a book, but rather a journal, and a nice one at that. He holds it up in front of him— it’s small with a light blue moleskine cover. Something’s written on the front, and Seokjin holds it up to the party lights to try and read it.

Eventually, the light catches, and Seokjin finally sees it in neat handwriting— Before I Die.

Well, that’s a little morbid to bring to a party. Maybe it’s Taehyung’s, he’s into existential stuff like that. Seokjin flips to the first page to see if someone’s name is on there— there it is, and it’s not Taehyung’s. Property of Kim Namjoon, it reads at the top of the page, and underneath it, a beautiful drawing of a tree.

Seokjin doesn’t know a Kim Namjoon, and he debates getting up and finding him in the crowd. But everyone is so drunk, there’s really no point.

He checks his phone. Forty minutes to midnight. Well, there’s nothing better for him to do— the journal is intriguing, and Seokjin’s curious to know just who Kim Namjoon is, and it’s not invading someone’s privacy if you don’t even know them, right? At least, that’s what Seokjin tells himself as some form of reassurance before turning the page.

And, oh— it’s a bucket list. That makes a little more sense. Seokjin flips ahead, and glimpses at hundreds of entries, all in the same neat, slightly loopy handwriting. He turns back to the beginning and starts reading.

And okay, this Namjoon is definitely an optimist, or at the very least, a dreamer. Seokjin’s never made or looked at a bucket list before, but he’s sure this one strays a little bit from conventional. Sure, there’s big things written on there like go to Japan, learn French, get married, but then there’s stuff like visit ten museums in one day, sight-read music on a street piano (the more crowded the better), shout something obscene in Korean in a foreign city until someone understands and raises their eyebrow at you. Seokjin bursts into laughter at bike from the McDonald’s in Gangnam to the McDonald’s in Ilsan with no breaks and tell nobody just because it’s so random.

Quite a few are checked off too, with the date completed next to it, occasionally a little phrase or doodle tacked to the side of it. Surprisingly, pat a kangaroo has a check mark with 6/14/17 Taronga Zoo written next to it, accompanied by a little doodle of the animal. There’s a lot related to Australia in this little section, and most are crossed off— Namjoon must’ve taken a trip, this journal in his pocket, patting kangaroos, picking up crabs at the beach, actually enjoying an opera at the Sydney Opera House— Seokjin can imagine it so clearly. He smiles at the thought.

He keeps reading, sees find out how long I can sing in a noraebang without water breaks, no phone for a day, adopt a dog, star in Jungkook’s film (check) 4/1/18, but then he pauses. Nestled between do the Love, Actually thing (platonic version) on Yoongi’s birthday (check) 3/9/16 and read all the Harry Potter books in one day, then say a quick “fuck you” to JK Rowling (check) 12/21/17 is an innocently written kiss a stranger on New Year’s. No check mark.

Oh, Seokjin thinks, so that’s why this is at a New Year’s party. Kim Namjoon’s trying to kiss a stranger at midnight, must’ve been trying for a couple of years. Seokjin hopes he gathers up the courage to do so. He hopes at the end of his life, Namjoon has checked off this entire list.

He has to return the journal, Seokjin realizes. As soon as possible, so that Namjoon can keep checking off more and more. And maybe, maybe Seokjin can introduce himself too.

So he slips the journal into his bag to keep it safe, stands up and dusts off his jeans. He probably won’t get it back to Namjoon by midnight, but he can at least find him before the party ends.

He smiles a little, steps forward to rejoin the party—

And immediately collides with someone else.

At first, all Seokjin can register is ow, since he’s pretty sure he just hit his forehead on the other’s chin, and he’d accidentally elbowed them somewhere around their waist.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, are you okay?” The words spill out of his mouth quickly, overlapping each other, as he frantically tries to survey any damage while clutching his forehead at the same time.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, I’m good.” The stranger’s voice is deeper than Seokjin’s, and there’s no hint of drunkenness in his tone. Seokjin looks up and— wow, okay, he’s really cute. He’s taller than Seokjin, with chestnut-brown hair and dark eyes that Seokjin can only describe as looking kind.

“Are you okay?” The man asks him, furrowing his brow. Seokjin lowers his hand from his forehead hastily, if only to smooth out the crease between the other’s brows, and assures him that he’s fine.

“Were you going somewhere important? I’m sorry,” Seokjin says.

“Oh, no,” the man says, “Actually, I was just— wandering? I haven’t had anything to drink or anything.” He gives Seokjin a sheepish smile and— oh, he’s got dimples, and they are adorable. Seokjin kind of wants to boop them. “Yeah, parties aren’t really my thing,” he finishes, and Seokjin mourns the loss of the dimples as his smile fades.

“Me neither,” Seokjin responds, trying not to make it evident that his brain is currently arranging a funeral for the loss of the stranger’s dimples. “Do you wanna— um— I was just sitting over there,” he gestures vaguely to the hallway, “it’s quieter, less people and stuff—”

“Sure,” the stranger says, and suddenly it’s a national holiday in Seokjin’s brain as his dimpled smile returns.

They settle in easily, leaning up against the wall, where Seokjin was moments ago. He brings his knees to his chest and wraps his arms around them comfortably, and the stranger sits criss cross applesauce to his left.

“So, um, how do you know Tae and Jiminie?” Seokjin asks, turning to look him in the eye and offering a soft smile.

“Oh, I work with Taehyung at the coffee shop, and he invited me. It’s my second job, I also work at a bookstore,” he says. “I’m trying to save up for a trip somewhere, so… yeah.” Okay, so maybe Seokjin wants to kiss his dimples.

Instead, he asks, “Where do you want to go?”

“Ooo,” the stranger says, biting his lip. “Okay, aside from everywhere, there’s the staples, like Paris, London, Milan, Amsterdam, New York… but also, New Zealand, it’s so beautiful there— Muir Woods, Iguazu Falls, oh, Athens, Athens, and I guess this last one’s a little silly since it’s rather close, but I’ve never been to Japan and I really want to go, and wow, that’s already a long list, sorry.”

Seokjin smiles. “Don’t apologize,” he says, and it comes out softer, sweeter than he intended, but maybe he doesn’t really mind, not when the man next to him is looking at him like that. (Did Seokjin mention his dimples?) “I really hope you get to go to all of those places.”

“Yeah, me too,” he sighs wistfully, then laughs at himself, and Seokjin is laughing softly too. “How about you?” he finally asks, “How do you know Taehyung and Jimin?”

“Oh, we’re friends from college, have been since freshman year, we’ve got a whole quartet going,” Seokjin says.

“Oh, yeah, Taehyung definitely talks about you guys. Are you Hoseok?”

“No, that’s Hoseok,” Seokjin snorts, pointing to where Hoseok is leading their entire dance crew in a drunken conga line. “I’m Seokjin. Kim Seokjin. Most people call me Jin, though. I’m the untalented and socially awkward one.” He shrugs. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“Hey,” the stranger playfully narrows his eyes at Seokjin. “New year, no more self-deprecation. I’m sure you’re incredibly talented… and it’s literally impossible to beat me in terms of awkwardness.”

Seokjin opens his mouth to argue, but it dies in his throat as the stranger sheepishly runs a hand through his hair and says, “By the way, I’m, um… my name’s Namjoon.”

It takes everything in his power for Seokjin not to visibly freak out, because of course, of course this is—

“Kim Namjoon,” Namjoon finishes.

And, okay, Seokjin can’t help it— a smile creeps onto his face until he’s beaming back at Namjoon.

“Nice to meet you, Kim Namjoon,” he says.

“Nice to meet you, too, Kim Seokjin,” Namjoon says back, and Seokjin’s heart explodes a little. (Has he mentioned Namjoon’s dimples yet today? He’s not sure.)

“So, Namjoon, do you have a new year’s resolution?” Seokjin asks, trying to subtly move closer to him.

“Ah, yeah, I guess. Kind of simple, really. I want to read one hundred books.” Namjoon’s face looks so determined and it’s adorable.

“That is… a lot of books,” Seokjin says, and whistles lowly.

“Yeah, I know, but I think I can do it. I’m a fast reader. I guess working at a bookstore helps,” Namjoon says with a tiny smile. He shifts so that his legs are both stretched out across the hallway. “How about you? Any resolutions?”

“Hmm, not really,” Seokjin says softly. “I think…” He thinks about how shitty the past year has been, and says, “I’m just hoping to be happy next year. Yeah, if I can find something positive in each day, I think that's gonna make it a good year.”

“You know…” Namjoon taps his knee in thought. “Taehyung talks about you at work, talks about the four of you, but when he talks about you, his eyes light up differently.” He pauses for a moment. “I remember him saying once that you never fail to make him smile, and he wished you realized how special you were because he could tell you hadn’t been feeling your best.”

“He said that about me?” Seokjin asks. It’s almost a whisper, but evidently, Namjoon hears it because he’s nodding.

“I know we don’t really know each other,” Namjoon says, shifts a little closer to Seokjin so that their legs are touching, “but I can already see why he did.”

He can’t help it— Seokjin feels the blush creep up his cheeks, and it’s at this moment that he becomes extremely aware of their proximity. If he leaned in closer, he could count Namjoon’s eyelashes, see those dimples up close, smooth out the crease between his brows. And surprisingly, he doesn’t mind it one bit.

Almost suddenly, people around them begin counting down from ten, shouting and watching the fireworks out the window, and Seokjin is reminded of the journal in his bag, and the person it belongs to right in front of him, and number 621 on Namjoon’s bucket list, kiss a stranger on New Year’s, and maybe, maybe Seokjin counts as a stranger, and maybe he can summon up an ounce of courage—

In front of him, Namjoon swallows. “Okay, this is going to sound like a really weird question, and you absolutely don’t have to do—”

“Can I kiss you?” Seokjin blurts out. And his heart races in his chest, what if that wasn’t what Namjoon was going to ask, what if Seokjin wasn’t what he had in mind, what if—

“Yeah.” Namjoon’s smile is blinding. “Yeah,” he says again breathlessly, and everyone around them is chanting, three, two, one, but the world disappears as Seokjin leans in.

It’s a little bit like magic, because the world is yelling happy new year, and the last thing Seokjin sees before the new year begins are the fireworks reflected in Namjoon’s eyes.

And Seokjin kisses Namjoon.

At first, it’s tentative, a little shy. But then Seokjin feels warmth blossom in his chest— Namjoon’s lips are impossibly soft, his breath warm, and his hand finds Seokjin’s knee, and Seokjin melts into it, lets his lips part and wraps his arms around Namjoon’s shoulders to pull him closer.

It lasts a little longer than it should for two strangers on New Year’s, but Seokjin doesn’t mind. His heart even sinks a little bit when they eventually separate, but Namjoon’s softly smiling at him, and Seokjin can’t help it— he brings his hand to cup Namjoon’s face and lets his thumb brush across one of his dimples. Namjoon smiles even wider, cheeks pink.

“I have a little confession to make,” Seokjin says, and reluctantly breaks eye contact with Namjoon to reach inside his bag with the hand that’s not cupping Namjoon’s cheek.

When he takes out the journal, Namjoon’s eyebrows raise, and he blushes harder. “Did you— did you read that?”

“Maybe?” Seokjin asks, reluctantly letting go of Namjoon to hand him the journal. “I hope you’re not mad.”

“No, it’s just— I can’t believe I lost that. Oh no, some of the stuff in there is totally for shits and giggles, did you read everyth— oh. Oh .” Namjoon seems to understand as soon as Seokjin smiles sheepishly.

“You can check something else off now,” Seokjin says. “I’m sorry for reading it, I just think it’s adorable, and beautiful at the same time, I mean, I really really hope you get to check everything off, and, um…” he feels his face going red and looks down. “Yeah, you deserve that.”

He looks back up, and Namjoon’s eyes are bright, understanding. “Thank you,” he says softly. He pauses for a moment, looks down at the journal, then back up at Seokjin. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pen— it’s battered and old, probably the one he’s used to write in the journal, all this time.

Then, Namjoon offers the journal and the pen to Seokjin— “You should check it off for me,” he says with a small smile.

“You’re sure?” Seokjin asks, hesitating to take them from Namjoon.

“Yeah, of course,” Namjoon says. “You’re the one I kissed, after all.”

Seokjin smiles a little at that. “Okay, then.” He flips to the page and wonders when Namjoon wrote it. Maybe at the previous new year, when he saw others kissing? Maybe while watching a particularly unrealistic romantic comedy? Or maybe just one morning, the idea popped into his head, and he wrote it over breakfast with a giggle, a this'll never happen, but whatever.

His heart skips a beat when he realizes that he really wants to know. He wants to know Kim Namjoon, who writes bucket lists in sky blue journals and stays sober at new year’s parties and went all the way to Australia just so he could pat a kangaroo. Who takes risks and tries to live his life to the fullest. Seokjin doesn’t want to be a stranger.

So, he checks off number 621, writes the date, and smiles as he adds his phone number to the side, then fails at doodling a cute balloon. He finishes it all off with: don’t be a stranger.