Seokjin wipes the sweat from his forehead with a dirty hand, no doubt leaving a trace of dirt there. He sighs, the air blowing his bangs out of his face. Whatever he does, there's no escaping the humid heat of the greenhouse.
The last of today's visitors are disappearing through the door, each holding their little basket filled with strawberries. A little girl turns towards him one last time and waves her chubby little hand in his direction. He waves back cheerfully and plucks a strawberry off one of the plants that he happily plops in his mouth. His work might make him hot and sweaty but it definitely comes with nice advantages, like meeting cute little kids and free strawberries.
"Seokjinnie, it was the last group! Good job again today."
Another benefit of his job: he gets to work with family. His uncle, the owner of the strawberry farm, pats him on the back as they walk back to the reception together.
Seokjin had never thought he'd end up living in the town he'd grown up with. He had dreams of living in the big city, working at a high end store management but going to Seoul for his studies had made evident that he wasn't made for the city life. He'd completed his masters and moved out from his shared flat with his best friend Yoongi to go back to his parent's home, unsure of what his next step would be. He'd been hesitant when his favorite uncle had offered him a place to help market the strawberry farm to the public but five years in, Seokjin has to admit it: his work definitely helped the family business expand.
His first actions had been about renewing logos, contracts, social medias that were dusty at best and none existent at worse. The idea to open the farm to visitors to come pick their strawberries themselves with an additional tour of the greenhouses had been his most successful idea and even if they hire students during the summer period to tour the visitors now, Seokjin still likes to occasionally do it himself.
"Your phone kept ringing all afternoon," His uncle informs him when they approach the little office Seokjin occupies during the day. "Guess someone really wanted to talk to you!"
"Really?" Seokjin asks, puzzled. Most of the phone calls he receives are from his mom and he knows she wouldn't call unless something bad had happened; if it was the case she would have reached her brother first instead of blowing up Seokjin's phone. The only other person he's regularly in contact with is Yoongi but his best friend is averse to calls so it’s unlikely it’s him.
He fishes his phone out of his jacket's pocket and sure enough, he finds several missed calls from Yoongi. He doesn't panic too much because he knows if something bad had happened to him, Yoongi would have called his own mother and Seokjin would already be aware of it by now. The only logical explanation is that Yoongi got a news exciting enough that a text can't be enough to tell him about it.
With a little smile he sits at his desk and reclines on the fake leather chair, wincing a little when his skin sticks to the material. Yoongi didn't even leave a voicemail so the only solution is to call back, something Seokjin is a little too eager to do. He hasn't heard his best friend's voice in a too long while and he misses him dearly now that he's too busy being a popular music producer in Seoul to come visit their little town.
"Hyung!" Yoongi's excited, happy voice makes his heart flip a little bit. Seokjin knows it's a bit pathetic to still be hung up about his first love, but what can he say? Yoongi is his best friend and has always been here for him. It's a little bit difficult to give up on your feelings when the person you're in love with never did anything to prove themselves undeserving of them.
"Yoongichi, it's good to hear you," Seokjin says, hoping it doesn't show in his voice just how good it truly makes him feel. "It's been a while."
"Not for long!" Yoongi laughs. God, Seokjin missed him. "Did you see your emails hyung?"
"Nope," Seokjin says, frowning. Has Yoongi forwarded him plane tickets to come visit him? He'd said that once or twice before. "I was on a visit this afternoon. Should I look now?"
"Yep, please do!" Yoongi exclaims, still cheery. Seokjin puts him on speakers and opens his email box, finding several unopened messages at the top. Three of them are promotional emails from shops he subscribed to several years ago and never got rid of but the last one attracts his attention, especially because the name of the sender is one he hasn't seen in at least ten years.
"Kim Namjoon?" He whispers. It's loud enough for Yoongi to hear and he cackles happily.
"Read the email, hyung!" He says. He sounds a little bit maniac, so Seokjin doesn't tell him he is, indeed, reading the email. He also doesn't tell him his stomach is dropping slightly as he does.
Kim Namjoon, former president of their school's music club, a club Seokjin had joined to follow Yoongi who had been ecstatic about it. Kim Namjoon, the cool top student of their school who had skipped a year and was in Yoongi's class, stealing many of Seokjin's precious hours with him.
Kim Namjoon, Yoongi's former crush, is inviting all the former members from the music club to a ten years later reunion. Seokjin doesn't think he likes what's about to happen, at all.
"Did you know Namjoon still lives in our hometown?" Yoongi is babbling now, unaware that Seokjin hasn't said a thing in several minutes. "I totally stalked his instagram. He still has those killer dimples but he is so hot now hyung, he's got those muscles and his legs are so sexy..."
"I had no idea you were still into him," Seokjin says when he finally finds his voice again.
"Well I'm single and he's hot. It's not like I've had anyone else to crush on in all those years, so..." Ouch. "I'm not not into him, I guess? Back then I never had the courage to confess but now that we're adults I think maybe it's time to make a move, I guess? If he says no, well..." He drawls like the idea of Namjoon rejecting him doesn't hurt, but Seokjin knows him. He can hear the hint of insecurity in his voice. Yoongi clears his throat. "Which is why I thought... You could offer to help him organise the party, hyung. That way you can tell him how sexy and popular and cool I have gotten. And also discover if he's into men. Better maximise my chances, yeah?"
Seokjin chokes. He doesn't do that too discreetly apparently because Yoongi interrupts himself and asks if he's alright. He confirms that he is. His heart is breaking pretty badly.
"Good, good. Hey, I know Namjoon and you weren't exactly close back then so if it's a hassle you don't have to do it, okay? Sorry I got over excited. I know my charms and good looks could seduce any man, right?"
"Right," Seokjin confirms, his voice a bit too high. "I mean, I'll do it, of course."
"Thank you, hyung," Yoongi says softly. His gratefulness is audible in his voice. "You've always been here for me, really. I don't know what I would do without you."
Despite himself, hope blooms in Seokjin's heart at those words. He almost wants to succeed in making Kim Namjoon fall for Yoongi, now. "You're my best friend Yoongi, of course I'll do everything for you." And he does, genuinely.
"Thank you again, hyung. Can I tell Namjoon you'll help him prepare then?"
"Yeah, go ahead! I'll message him as well," Seokjin answers, doing his best to keep a happy tone. Yoongi thanks him several times before hanging up, claiming that he has several projects ongoing that he has to go back to.
Even after they hung up, Seokjin keeps staring at Namjoon's email. He doesn't want to be angry, or bitter, or sad, but the way Yoongi had thanked him so softly and gently proves he really still is very into Namjoon, maybe as much as when they were still students. But can he blame him, really, when he himself never managed to move on even after being Yoongi's roommate for five years, after coming back to their hometown and seeing his friend only episodically?
Deep down he's always thought Yoongi and him were destiny. He was sure one day Yoongi would open his eyes to the person in front of him, the person who had always been here for him as he'd said himself and would realise he loved Seokjin like Seokjin had always loved him.
But Yoongi hadn't seen Namjoon in ten years and a simple email had been enough to make him fall back into his old infatuation.
He's just about to pocket his phone again and call it a day when a new email's notification pops up, Namjoon's name glaring at him. He clicks on it, deciding that this day can't become any worse.
Hyung! Yoongi hyung just told me you're offering to help with the preparation, that's so nice of you! Would you be free to meet up next week at the cafe in front of our old school? ʕ´•ᴥ•`ʔ I can't wait to see you again!
Seokjin decides it's simply too much for the day and goes home. He'll reply tomorrow.
He does end up visiting Namjoon's instagram days later when Yoongi sends him a link to his most recent picture, an admittedly cute photo in a café, Namjoon's dimples on full display. He looks older than he remembers and, Seokjin has to admit it, pretty hot. Still, the picture looks kind of... Date-ish? And a part of Seokjin hopes Namjoon's equally hot partner was the one taking the picture, then hates himself for hoping for something that would break Yoongi's heart. Still. If Namjoon is taken, Seokjin won't have to seduce him for Yoongi and he wishes for nothing more than that.
The day their meetup happens Seokjin recognises the café from the instagram post immediately. It is really right in front of their old school and he wonders if maybe Namjoon's partner is a teacher there, which could explain why so many of his posts seem to be taken here.
Namjoon isn't here yet so Seokjin choses a table outside, back to the café so he can see him come in from any angle. He's still a bit sweaty from his work in the greenhouses as he didn't take the time to go home and change. It might be a bit impolite; he feels quite icky about it, actually. He feels icky about meeting with Namjoon too, though.
Namjoon finally shows up and Seokjin is surprised to find him coming directly out of the school. Namjoon doesn't immediately spot him; his eyes pass over him a first time before Seokjin gives him the silliest wave in the history of waves. His eyes widen as he takes Seokjin in and Seokjin suddenly feels self conscious about not showering before he came. He probably has dirt and strawberry juice all over his face, and...
"Seokjin hyung, wow," Namjoon says when he sits in front of him. "You got somehow more handsome than you were back when we last saw each other so I didn't recognise you, sorry. How are you?"
He sounds terribly honest and even a little flustered about giving Seokjin such a compliment. Yoongi has never said something like that to him, he thinks with a heavy heart. He did talk at length about how hot Namjoon is, though.
He guesses it at least answers Yoongi's first question: Namjoon is either into men or awfully confident in his heterosexuality and manliness that he has no problem calling other men handsome.
"It really is so nice of you to help out, hyung," Namjoon says, his eyes still cutely widening. The waitress puts a coffee cup in front of him that Seokjin didn't see him order, and he thanks her by name. He's a regular, just like his instagram feed suggested.
"Don't talk about it," Seokjin says. Apparently he failed in making his answer fake nonchalant because Namjoon looks slightly thrown off. He quickly recovers with a smile.
"Still. You're still as generous as ever."
Seokjin's ears grow warm over the undeserved compliment. If Namjoon knew... But he doesn't. Namjoon doesn't know.
"We're the only two still living here," He says with a shrug. "I couldn't let you do everything by yourself." Namjoon nods with enthusiasm. He looks a bit like the bear emoji from his email. "Are you still in contact with the others?"
"Mostly Hoseok," Namjoon answers. Those two were really close back then, maybe as close as Yoongi and Seokjin were. Are. "I hear from the youngest through instagram but nothing too personal. You?"
"I still talk to Yoongi at least once a week but that's it, sadly." Something flashes in Namjoon's eyes. He plays with his rings and Seokjin quickly checks if there isn't one on his ring finger. Nothing.
"You two were really close back then," He says, the sentence ending in a lilt that could suggest a question more than an affirmation. Is Namjoon jealous? Seokjin's heart squeezes. What if Namjoon was as into Yoongi as he himself is?
"We were best friends. Still are."
Sure enough, Namjoon relaxes slightly at his answer and leans back into his chair. He takes a sip of his coffee and looks over Seokjin's shoulder to the inside of the café. What he sees apparently makes him grow flustered because he goes red and hurriedly waves his hand at someone inside, clearly asking them to keep quiet. Seokjin is tempted to turn around but he opts to be polite and drinks from his peach juice instead.
"So, do you know where you want to have this reunion?" He asks finally when it becomes clear Namjoon doesn't know what to say anymore.
"Oh, yes! The director is letting me host it in the club room, actually! We weren’t so many members outside of us seven so even if everyone comes we should have plenty of space, and..." He must see the curiosity in Seokjin's eyes because he smiles, bashful. "I work here now. Music teacher."
"Of course you are," Seokjin says. He doesn't want to be unkind but he does sound harsh even to his own ears. Obviously Namjoon has something in common with Yoongi that he doesn’t have. "You should contact Yoongi, he would love to know this. He's a producer now, do you know?" He can't help but brag a little. He's so fucking proud of Yoongi, whether or not he's trying to seduce a man for him.
Once again Namjoon looks at him a little weirdly but still he nods, his dimples showing. "He's very good, yes, he's worked with so many good artists! Of course I follow his career, everyone who loves music does. Do you think he'll sign me an autograph if I ask?"
"He'll sign you all the autographs!" And he'll kiss your mouth. "He's very generous. He's an amazing person!"
Okay, Namjoon is definitely looking at him weirdly now. Maybe he's overplaying his enthusiasm a bit too much.
"The way you made the strawberry farm prosper is nothing short of amazing either," Namjoon says, laying his chin on his palm. Seokjin feels his face warming up.
"Oh it's not comparable to what he does. Or you. Teaching the young minds is amazing!"
"Don't downplay your work, hyung," Namjoon says with a little frown. "I've visited the farm once, the work you did there is so good! Your uncle is very proud of you."
"You asked him about me?" Seokjin asks, immediately feeling a little defensive. Namjoon holds his hands up and shakes his head.
"Not at all! He was the one giving my group the tour. He couldn't stop talking about his incredible nephew who made the family business flourish." He looks so genuine, so eager for Seokjin to believe him. It's a little bit cute.
Seokjin realises it's probably the first time he's having such a long discussion with Namjoon. Now that he thinks about it, the only time they'd spent more than five minutes together was when they'd both been on cleaning duty at the end at the club. Usually if they had to be together Yoongi would beg Seokjin to give him his place and Seokjin would agree easily, though with a heavy heart. This one time Yoongi hadn't attended the club because he was sick and Seokjin had found himself cleaning the music room in a thick silence.
Namjoon who was always clumsy and dropped things all the time had been suspiciously habile, to the point Seokjin had wondered if he was really cleaning or was just sitting on his ass watching him work. When he'd turned around he'd found Namjoon dutifully wiping the board clean. He'd seemingly felt or heard as Seokjin turned around because he had turned around as well, had startled and escaped the eraser that in turn knocked several markers and a small open water bottle. He'd apologised loudly, and then had cleaned everything, softly scolding himself under his breath the whole time. Seokjin had not offered to help him.
He blushes remembering it, his irritation at the poor, kind boy whose only fault was to have unknowingly stolen Yoongi's heart. He doesn't know how Namjoon can call him kind when Seokjin had always made sure to be only on the polite side of casual with him. A weird urge to apologise for his old actions takes over him but before he can say anything embarrassing Namjoon starts talking again, telling him about his plans for the reunion. Seokjin listens and nods along.
They separate an hour later after making plans to meet again the following week to visit different caterers. Seokjin already has several contacts from the farm's partnerships and he promises to call them to book meetings, while Namjoon says he'll take care of contacting his sister for help about the decoration of the room. Seokjin is about to leave, slightly uncomfortable under Namjoon's uncertain gaze, when Namjoon takes a big step in his direction and hugs him. He feels solid against him and smells good and Seokjin tries not to think about the fact that he himself probably smells of strawberries and sweat.
"It was really good to see you again, hyung," Namjoon says. Seokjin remembers him being uneasy with physical touches, awkward even when his best friend hugged him, and he wonders what made him change.
Namjoon's cheeks are red when he draws back. He bites his bottom lip and leaves kind of hurriedly, sending Seokjin a little wave over his shoulder that could definitely compete against Seokjin's in the silliest wave in the history of waves competition.
Belatedly, Seokjin realises he didn't hug Namjoon back.
Seokjin is barely reaching home when his phone rings. He isn't too surprised to find that Yoongi is the person calling him but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel sad about it. In almost thirty years of friendship, Seokjin can count on his fingers the number of times Yoongi willingly called him. Two of those calls had been about Namjoon so far.
"Hey hyung, how was your meeting with Namjoon?"
Truly, Seokjin wishes he was able to be irritated about his best friend not even asking about his day but he's too whipped as always. Just the sound of Yoongi's happy, excited voice is enough to make him forget about his negative feelings and puts a smile on his lips.
"Good, I think. He's a music teacher at our old school now, did you know?"
"That sounds like him," Yoongi answers, voice fond. Seokjin is tempted to remind him that all he knows about Namjoon is his Instagram feed and ten years old memories. Instead he hums noncommittally. "What else?"
"He said you are very cool," He says, skipping the part where Namjoon said he was amazing as well. "He wants your autograph."
"Oh, I'll give him everything he wants!" Yoongi says with a giggle. What the fuck. "What does he look like in reality hyung? Is he as hot as he looks in pictures?"
Seokjin tries to summon images of Namjoon to answer to his friend. What does he look like, really?
Like warmth, his brain offers unhelpfully. Large and secure and warm and…
"Tall," Is what he finally answers in his flattest tone. Yoongi snorts.
"What do you have against poor Namjoon?" He asks, clearly amused.You like him, Seokjin cringes to himself, and I am in love with you.
"I don't like people who are taller than me," He answers. Yoongi snorts again.
"Is this why you love me so much?"
"Absolutely," Seokjin answers, trying to keep his heart from leaping out of his chest. All Yoongi does is hum, beautifully oblivious of Seokjin’s internal struggle.
"Did you manage to know if he's into guys?" He asks at last.
"Nope, it didn't come up in the discussion. He did call me handsome though, make of that what you want." A short groan answers him.
"Hyung, everyone thinks you're handsome, that is not an indicator of anything." Do you? Seokjin wants to ask. He doesn't. "Seriously, did you gaydar say nothing?"
"He didn't give me a straight vibe," Seokjin says. "But who knows. He could be a good straight guy. They must exist." Yoongi laughs, short and soft. "I will resume operation Is Kim Namjoon into men soon, don't worry."
"Thank you again for doing this for me, I know how much work you have to do, hyung." Seokjin makes a little noise that's neither denial nor confirmation. "How are you yourself? I feel like it's been ages since you've told me about yourself. I miss talking to you hyung."
And just like that, Seokjin’s initial irritation disappears. There's a reason he fell in love with Yoongi to start with and every time he acts sweet he is reminded of it. He tells Yoongi about the little kid from the visit he hosted in the morning and the newbie they hired to take care of the farm’s social media, comforted when Yoongi hums and interjects, clearly very into his stories.
Seokjin had selected only two caterers that he really trusts. He's always been known to be very picky with food as he likes nothing more than to eat good dishes, and he has an impeccable taste. Obviously both caterers get their strawberries from his uncle's farm because no one with good taste could choose any other farm over theirs. Namjoon had sent a laughing emoji when he'd said this to him, and he had only moderately been offended. Their strawberries truly are the best of the whole country.
He texts the two addresses to Namjoon with the day and hour and advises he comes with an empty stomach. They decide to meet there directly and Namjoon concludes his own text with an excited-looking bear kaomoji. He texts Yoongi as well about the evolution of mission Namjoon and Yoongi uses several exclamation marks in his answer, so Seokjin knows he's as excited about it as Seokjin is annoyed. He even sends him a good luck text half an hour before Seokjin has to leave, begging him to not forget about his Very Important Mission and wishing him good dishes.
Seokjin rolls his eyes and answers with a thumbs up emoji. It's a real testimony to how whipped Yoongi is that he doesn't catch the irony in his answer; Seokjin would never use a thumbs up emoji sincerely.
The first place they booked at doubles as a restaurant and the chef installs them at a small, secluded table for the tasting. The restaurant itself is a clean and small, old-fashioned place that bears lots of charm. It looks a bit romantic, if Seokjin is being honest, and he suddenly feels a little out of place sitting there with Namjoon looking at him with eager and honest eyes every time he takes a bite of the plates they're sharing. At least he’s not wearing a sweaty, strawberry juice covered shirt this time.
"Is it good?" Namjoon asks after Seokjin takes the first bite of the dish that was just placed in front of them. Seokjin pushes the plate in his direction and gestures at him with his chopsticks.
"Take a bite and see for yourself," He says a little forcefully. Namjoon blinks at him.
"I'm not too peculiar about food," He says, taking a big bite and chewing slowly, as if trying to analyse the taste. "But you've always been so enthusiastic about food, hyung, so I know I can trust you!"
"Well," Seokjin says, feeling himself squirming when he remembers his passionate rants about the school lunch meals. "Maybe that has changed since we last saw each other, right?"
"Has it?" Namjoon asks. He doesn't seem thrown off by Seokjin's harshness, just curious to know if he did changed in the last ten years.
"No," Seokjin grumbles. Namjoon smiles widely at him.
"Then I'll trust hyung's tastes," He says happily. "You were never wrong about delicious food when we were in school, there's no reason this changed either. Is this good?"
"Very," Seokjin grumbles again.
"Good, I think so too. Can I finish it?"
"No!" Seokjin protests, grabbing the plate and putting the last bite in his mouth quickly. Namjoon laughs again and he glares at him, unable to say anything with his mouth full.
"Didn't you say we should not eat too much since we have two tastings to do?" Namjoon asks, tone light and teasing. Seokjin chews and doesn't answer. How dare Namjoon question his stomach’s abilities?
It's only when the waiter comes with the dessert, a small strawberry pavlova, that Seokjin remembers his mission. And realises the kind of intimate feeling that comes with sharing dessert with someone in a small and romantic restaurant. He stabs the small cake with his spoon, separating it in two (irregular) pieces, hoping it will convey how Namjoon and him are very much not romantically involved with each other. He turns the plate around so the bigger piece faces him. Namjoon laughs again. He has a nice, warm laugh.
"It's a nice place," Seokjin comments, trying to keep his tone light. If Namjoon is surprised about his sudden friendliness, he doesn't show it. "Kinda makes you want to come back with someone special, uh? A girlfriend?" He pauses, spoon halfway to his mouth. "A boyfriend maybe?"
He shoves the spoonful in his mouth to avoid watching too closely at Namjoon's reaction.
"Probably," Namjoon says after a pause. "I have neither though so I wouldn't know. And you're special enough for me anyway, hyung." He takes a much smaller bite of the pavlova but still manages to smear cream on his top lip. Seokjin stares. "What about you? Anyone special in your life?"
Seokjin thinks about Yoongi, who's definitely a very special person in his heart. Not special like that, though he thinks, and winces. "Nope. Haven't had a boyfriend in a long while."
A weird little light shows up in Namjoon's dark eyes. "Oh," He says like Seokjin just gave him the secret code to a safe full of jewels when all Seokjin did was to come out to him. Not that he thinks people couldn't tell when he was in high school.
"You're a messy eater," He says to diffuse the tension he feels growing between them. Namjoon blushes and brushes the back of his hand over his mouth.
"Better?" He asks, apparently not at all embarrassed that he wiped his face with his hand instead of the perfectly good napkin in front of him. That's a little bit disgusting but Seokjin has to be nice to him. For Yoongi's sake, he thinks as he leans and wipes the rest of the cream smeared on Namjoon's cheek with his thumb. He sucks it clean.
"All good now," He says, blinking when Namjoon gapes at him and doesn't answer. "It's good, right? We'll still go to the second appointment but I doubt it'll top this one."
"It's very good," Namjoon confirms, shoving the rest of the pavlova in his mouth. Seokjin frowns. That was his piece.
While Namjoon pays and assures the caterer they'll call him back to let him know if they'll book him or not, Seokjin wanders around, looking at the entirety of the small, cute restaurant. Most of the customers are clearly couples and some of them are looking at him curiously, probably because they recognised him from the farm. Seokjin wishes he had a great memory for faces but alas, he sees too many people a day to remember them all. He smiles politely at them anyway, nodding when they smile back. Did those people think he was on a date with Namjoon?
He sighs. He hasn't been on a date in something like... Nine years. He hadn't been lying when he told Namjoon he hadn't had a boyfriend in a long while; actually the only boyfriend he'd ever had was during his first year in Seoul, back when Yoongi was still in high school and Seokjin felt alone in his small, impersonal room in a community housing. His direct neighbour was a nice handsome boy, one year older, who had courted him relentlessly until Seokjin had agreed to go on a date with him.
He was still very much in love with Yoongi but he'd told himself there was nothing wrong with getting a little bit of dating experience and he liked that his boyfriend was so clearly smitten for him, when he'd always been the smitten one before. Secretly, as he kissed his boyfriend, he wondered if Yoongi would get jealous if he knew about it.
Yoongi had come to visit him one weekend and he'd found a hoodie Seokjin's boyfriend had forgotten in the room. He'd looked puzzled about it and Seokjin had panicked and told him the truth. Yoongi had briefly hugged him, had told him he was proud of him and had started talking about Namjoon's last genius lyrics about love being too far away or some crap of the same acabit.
Seokjin had broken up with his boyfriend the minute Yoongi had left Seoul.
"You alright hyung?" Namjoon asks when he joins him out of the restaurant. A little frown of concern shows on his face. It's nice.
"Ah Namjoon-ah, I'm afraid you'll have to do all the tastings for the next caterer, I think I ate too much." A bright grin splits his face and Seokjin momentarily wonders what's so good about his (pretend) bloated stomach but Namjoon opens his little purse and proudly brandishes a tube of meds in front of his face.
"I came prepared!" He says a bit too happily. "You told me we'd eat a lot so I thought it'd be better to be careful, right? Here, take one, I took enough for both of us. Do you want water?"
And so Seokjin pretends he truly has an upset stomach and lets Namjoon fuss over him and give him medicine. Damn Yoongi. He would truly do the stupidest thing for him.
Yoongi thanks him several times for the three pictures he managed to take of Namjoon during their tasting, one where only his hands are visible and the focus is on the plates, the silver rings on his fingers catching the low light of the restaurant, and one he took for Namjoon’s instagram, a sweet smile on his lips, the pavlova forgotten in front of him. The third is slightly out of focus, Namjoon blurry because Seokjin took it just as he bursts into laughter at something stupid Seokjin had said.
He deletes them all afterwards but goes on Namjoon’s account to check whether he posted them or not. He discovers that Namjoon only selected the blurry one and captioned it with a strawberry emoji and A sweet dinner~.
It was lunch, Seokjin starts typing in answer. He deletes everything. Namjoon can’t know he’s been watching his account.
A couple of days later Namjoon calls Seokjin to tell him his sister had finalised the plan for the music room’s decoration and that it involves cutting hundreds of paper flowers. Seokjin starts to laugh at him until Namjoon reminds him he offered to help, and promptly asks him to come after his work is done so they can start as soon as possible. Seokjin grumbles but he relents. Mission Seducing Kim Namjoon is still on.
He wasn’t expecting the melancholy that hits him when he steps inside the school after classes are over and neither the feeling of longing when he enters the music room. There’s still the same old piano Yoongi and he learned to play on during their breaks, the chairs and the tables are the same. Namjoon looks totally at ease, the sleeves of his white dress shirt visibly struggling to contain his biceps as he sweeps the whiteboard clean.
“Hyung!” He greets happily. “Welcome to my room. I made a spreadsheet about the flowers’ making.”
“Such a teacher, Joon-ah,” He says mockingly. But not too mean. He grabs one and whistles. “Damn, that’s some good work! It’s so clearly explained, I feel like I could do it very easily.”
“Thanks.” Namjoon grins. “I have great pride in my spreadsheets skills.”
“Obviously you do,” Seokjin says before he can stop himself. Namjoon looks surprised.
“It’s the second time you say something like that about me,” He says. “I had no idea you had such a clear opinion of me.”
“I don’t,” He quickly protests. Namjoon’s smile grows.
“I see. You don’t.” He sits down at his desk and gestures for Seokjin to sit in front of him, where he’s pushed a chair for him to use. “Well I have an opinion of you. Do you want to hear it?”
“No,” Seokjin says, but he feels himself blushing.
“Yeah?” Namjoon asks. He grabs a pair of scissors and starts cutting petals out of bright pink paper, frowning a little bit in focus. “Well I’m still going to tell you. I think you’re very hardworking, very generous and very smart.” He looks up at Seokjin’s face and holds the piece of paper up to compare its color with Seokjin’s cheeks. “And I think you really don’t know what to do when people compliment you.”
“Well I think you’re garbage at cutting paper neatly.” Seokjin grabs a soft blue sheet of paper and starts cutting very carefully.
“I think you’re very competitive,” Namjoon adds peacefully. He’s trying to cut a smaller petal in the failed first attempt. Mh. Seokjin can appreciate a man who doesn’t want to waste material.
“I think you’re very headstrong.”
“Was that supposed to be a criticism?”
Seokjin glares at him. “It wasn’t a compliment either,” He says. Namjoon simply smiles. He shows up his much better looking petal.
“I think I am persistent. I’m pretty proud of it.”
“You are,” Seokjin agrees, surprising even himself. “Persistent and confident.”
Namjoon directs his smile to the desk, cutely shielding his face from Seokjin’s eyes between a new sheet of paper. “Thanks, hyung.”
They work in silence for a while, the metallic sound of scissors merging with the soft music Namjoon turned on in the background. Seokjin enjoys that. He enjoys that he can stay with Namjoon without talking and doesn’t feel uncomfortable, or like he should be talking.
He should be talking, though. He’s on a mission, right?
"So what do you do in your free time?"
Namjoon looks up and grins, shaking the strips of paper in his hand. "I do paper flowers, obviously." Seokjin rolls his eyes. "When I'm not busy creating hundreds of paper peonies I usually mainly read and bike around. I like to go on hikes, too." He shrugs and spreads as much glue on his fingers than he does on the paper petal. "I go to the city with coworkers to have a drink and dance from time to time as well."
"You go to clubs?" Seokjin asks, surprised. Namjoon's smile falls a little.
"I wasn't expecting that to be your thing, I guess," Seokjin says honestly. Namjoon's eyes widen slightly.
"I don't go to pick up people," He says, defensive. Seokjin feels his own face grow warm. "Just to dance really."
"I wasn't thinking about that, just, I don't know..."
"You don't like it?"
Seokjin shakes his head. "There's so many people and the music is simply not good." A pause. "I think," He adds because he realises he might have offended Namjoon who's looking at him intensely.
"That's interesting," He says, putting his chin on his palm. He smears a bit of glue unconsciously over his dimple. "How many times did you go?"
Once He thinks because after they'd came back Yoongi had said those exact same words There was too many people and the music was trash and even if Seokjin had thought it was alright, maybe even fun, he hadn't wanted to go against Yoongi's opinion. He knew Yoongi wouldn't think less of him if he occasionally enjoyed going to clubs but it felt like... It felt like something more that was them. They weren't like all the stupid young adults who spent nights in stupid clubs.
"Enough times to know it's not my thing," He says finally. Namjoon blinks at him.
"Fair enough," He says. "I agree the music is rarely very good but I think it's another way to just... Feel the music, you know? Not that I'm trying to convince you or anything. It's okay if it's not your thing."
And Seokjin finds him so cool suddenly, with his opinions that he's not afraid to express even when he knows Seokjin doesn't agree with him. He finds him cool even with glue smeared on his fingers and his dimple, bits of cut paper stuck to his hair.
He feels his face growing warm and looks down, relieved when his eyes fall on the little pile of paper flowers in front of Namjoon. He grabs the one on top and twirls it between his fingers.
"Is this what you call a peony?" He asks, happy for the easy way out of that discussion. "It looks like an orchid that lost half its petals." Namjoon closes his eyes and laughs.
"Now, wouldn't that make good decorations? There are orchids that look like little naked men, did you know?"
"Do you want our theme to be ten years reunion porn?" Seokjin asks with all the fake disdain he can muster. Namjoon's laughter doubles.
"Alright, let me send an email right now to inform everyone of the change of theme," Namjoon says, taking his phone out. Seokjin throws the ugly flower to his face.
"Put that down and focus a little so I don't have to make all the flowers myself!"
"Okay, okay," Namjoon says, still laughing. He grabs the offensive flower and studies it from up close. "Hyung, if I take it apart and add petals all around I'm sure it could turn out pretty, don't you think?"
"Tell yourself that if it makes you feel better Joon-ah."
Namjoon's tongue peeks out of his mouth as he delicately tries, and fails, to glue additional petals to his ugly base of a flower. Seokjin is endeared despite himself.
He doesn't know what makes him the happier, to know that Yoongi would believe Namjoon is one of those stupid young adults who go to stupid clubs if Seokjin told him about this discussion, or the fact that Namjoon had so graciously accepted the fact that their opinions were different and that it seemingly didn't change the way he sees Seokjin.
He has to admit it begrudgingly: Kim Namjoon is persistent, and proud, and overall a good person.
Yoongi takes several hours to answer his text containing a picture of Namjoon wearing a kinda wonky paper flower crown. He justifies that by saying he had a dinner outside so Seokjin isn’t too surprised: Yoongi routinely gets too caught up in work and forgets about everything else, even his best friend. There’s no reason he wouldn’t do the same about his crush. He makes an off-handed comment about Seokjin seemingly having a nice evening. Seokjin didn’t even send him his own matching selfie, flower crown crooked on his head, Namjoon’s blurry, laughing face in the background. He doesn’t delete these pictures.
When Namjoon suggests they get strawberries from the farm for the party, Seokjin’s first instinct is to remind him he won’t give them to him for free, even if they’re friends. He wasn’t expecting to see a smile appear on his smile but smile he does, looking a bit like an overexcited puppy. He says, “I would never scam my friends,” and he emphasizes the word friends.
Seokjin blushes fiercely. “It’s not what I meant to say!” He says quickly. Namjoon’s smile doesn’t falter.
“Say it, hyung! Say that we’re friends!” Seokjin groans but he capitulates in the end.
“Fine. We’re friends.”
“If you knew how long I waited for you to say that!” Namjoon says with an eagerness that makes him feel pretty remorseful. He truly was a bitch to Namjoon when they were kids. Still was they first saw each other again. “But even if you would have never admitted I always knew we were friends, you and I. Right?”
Seokjin very much considered him a rival back when they were in school but he can’t simply say that. Instead he gives him a curt nod. “About the strawberries,” He says. “The party is tomorrow. We might as well go and pick them now.”
“That was my plan, actually,” Namjoon grins. “See, I’m wearing my strawberry picking outfit!”
“You look like a child,” Seokjin teases, taking in Namjoon’s denim overall and his polo shirt. Namjoon nods.
“See! Strawberry picking outfit!”
Seokjin rolls his eyes at him but still walks him to his car, smiling despite himself when Namjoon sits next to him. “Your students must have laughed at you so much.”
“They said I look cute!”
“So they were laughing.”
Namjoon puts music during half of the short journey then spends the other half singing a distressingly stupid nursery rhyme he remembers from his childhood about picking raspberries on a sunny day and doesn’t stop even when Seokjin points out that it’s raining and they’re going to pick strawberries.
He has to admit Namjoon looks cute with his big wicker basket, grinning happily in the middle of Seokjin’s workplace. His hands look so big compared with the tiny leaves and tiny fruits but he acts surprisingly delicately, taking care not to squish anything. He’s pretty slow in consequence and the bottom of his basket is still visible when Seokjin walks back to him, his own basket almost entirely filled. He looks at Seokjin like he would compliment him even on his strawberries picking skills.
“Did you taste them?” Seokjin asks him. Namjoon shakes his head and puts two at once into his mouth, his eyes widening at the sweet taste. Seokjin smiles proudly. “Pretty good, eh?”
“Super good!” Namjoon exclaims. He has strawberry juice on his lip. “Did you taste them?” He asks, lifting a strawberry in the general direction of Seokjin’s mouth, holding it tight by its pedicel. Seokjin rolls his eyes at him.
“I work here, I literally eat strawberries at the end of every meal Joonie. I know they taste amazing.” He still obediently opens his mouth and lets Namjoon pop the fruit inside. The strawberry tastes amazing, just like Seokjin said it would.
Namjoon looks slightly disoriented after that but Seokjin isn’t too surprised; they’ve been in the greenhouse for quite some time now and the humid heat can certainly be a lot for someone who’s not used to it. He gently leads Namjoon outside and offers to drive him home. They have more than enough strawberries to feed the twenty guests of Namjoon’s party.
"I was wondering," Namjoon says softly when Seokjin parks in front of his house. He’d been awfully quiet during the ride. "If you'd come to the party with me?"
A small laugh escapes Seokjin's mouth. Namjoon looks up, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. He looks cute, honestly. "Was I not already invited, Joon-ah?"
Namjoon's whole face turns red and his eyes widen. He fidgets with his own fingers. "I meant that more, um. As a... As a date kinda thing?"
Seokjin knows that's not very polite of him but he gapes at Namjoon wordlessly. He can feel his ears turn warm as hurt shows in Namjoon's eyes. He very clearly does his best to hide his uneasiness but for Seokjin, who's been hanging out with him so much lately, it is very evident. He looks down at his feet and keeps rubbing his palms together. His knuckles are white.
"Forget about that," He says quickly. "I guess I, I... I misread the signs. It's alright."
"The signs?" Seokjin can't help but repeat in shock. Namjoon's expression turns even more hurt for a second.
"Offering to help me but being too shy to ask me yourself... Trying to know whether I was single or not... I don't know, I thought maybe... But I was wrong, obviously. Forget about it really. I'll see you at the party, yeah?" And there's a hint of hope in his tone, like even if Seokjin just rejected him he still really, really wants to see him again.
"Sure," Seokjin answers. He remembers he's still on a mission and adds, "Yoongi will be there as well."
"Of course he will," Namjoon says softly. "I'll see you then. Good evening Seokjin hyung."
"Good evening Namjoon-ah," He says. He finds out he regrets it when Namjoon doesn't envelop him in his usual hug before leaving.
He's feeling heavy and kind of sad and he knows it’s not just because he rejected a friend, but he doesn’t really know why. If Namjoon is interested in him it means he's not interested in Yoongi, and that should be good news, right? He reasons as he walks to his car to go home.
Except even if Namjoon isn't into Yoongi it doesn't mean Yoongi will fall for him instead. It just means he'll have to break the news to his best friend himself before he tries to hit on Namjoon and gets rejected. What if Yoongi is mad at him? What if he thinks Seokjin tried to compete with him, to seduce Namjoon for real? What if he realises Seokjin is happy Namjoon doesn't like him back?
He sits behind the steering wheel and drops his forehead against the leather. He curses himself softly. This is a mess.
Seokjin doesn’t text Yoongi about it. More surprising, Yoongi, who knew they were seeing each other that day, doesn’t ask if it went well. It’s surprising but he’s relieved about it so he doesn’t think about it too hard. Yoongi should be driving to their hometown right now so he might be too busy to talk to him anyway.
Yoongi comes to pick up Seokjin for the party and Seokjin can’t help but feel disappointed when he sees Hoseok in the passenger seat next to his best friend. He still looks as joyful as usual so it’s a bit hard to be annoyed at him but even if it’s clearly more convenient for them to share, as Hoseok’s and Yoongi’s parents are neighbours, Seokjin was just really looking forward to spending these ten minutes quickly catching up with Yoongi. Looking at his side profile while he drives, the scenery blurry behind him.
He doesn’t say as such. Instead he catches up with Hoseok from whom he hadn’t heard in years and learns he lives in Seoul just like Yoongi and works at a dance company that’s quickly gaining popularity. He adds that he’s been working with Yoongi’s company recently on choreographing the dances for some of their artists. Seokjin tries to catch Yoongi’s eyes in the rearview mirror, surprised that he didn’t tell him about that, but Yoongi doesn’t look back at him.
The old music room is already full of people when they arrive. They quickly get surrounded by old classmates and team members and Seokjin fails to catch Namjoon to greet him as he walks by, a tray in his hands. He tries several times to catch his attention and though Namjoon smiles and waves back he doesn’t make any special effort to come closer and talk to him. Seokjin regrets the afternoon they spent there together, cutting hundreds of paper flowers that are now covering the wall and talking about everything and anything.
But Namjoon’s plan is clearly to be the perfect host and he’s been busy since the party started, which means he's been fleeting from guest to guest, asking everyone about their lives and not giving one minute of attention to Seokjin.
Seokjin can't blame him because it's his task first and foremost and because he can't ask Namjoon to give him more than that: he was the one who rejected him in the first place, after all. But still; it hurts. It hurts to see Namjoon so handsome and smart, laughing at random anecdotes from the past, looking carefree like he's already forgotten about their discussion. It hurts to see how good Namjoon is at giving his undivided attention to everyone; it makes Seokjin feel a little less unique.
Yoongi and him had what looked like a fun discussion, Namjoon all wide eyes and excited arms movements as Yoongi undoubtedly told him about his work and the stars he's been working with. Seokjin was surprised to find he spent more time looking at him than at Yoongi. He was surprised also to find out he couldn't see Yoongi use any of his usual flirtatious techniques at all. Maybe his best friend got more subtle from hanging out in high end industry parties?
Seokjin finally finds himself in the backroom with the members of their former friends group, Namjoon still busy with other guests, the only missing one. They sit between musical instruments in a circle, grimacing at their aging joints when several cracks are heard as they sit on the floor.
Jeongguk is to Seokjin's right, Hoseok to his left. Though he hasn't heard from most of them in years, he finds their presence comforting.
"I was surprised to find out so many of the former members are together now," Taehyung comments, tilting his beer bottle in the direction of the couple Namjoon was talking to a minute ago. Namjoon grunts and sits down with them. He's practically perfectly in front of Seokjin and both hurriedly look away when their eyes meet. When Seokjin looks back at him after a moment he finds Namjoon looking and nodding at Taehyung.
"I think the club was kind of a dating app but like. From before dating apps was a thing," Jimin says, leaning eagerly toward the center of the circle. "Don't say none of you had crushes on other members, I wouldn't believe you. I know things." Seokjin feels himself sweating.
"I had a crush on Joon hyung," Jeongguk says with a shrug. He's just a bit red. "And Jiminie hyung, and Tae hyung and Hoseok hyung. Jin hyung too, of course. And Yoongi hyung." When he feels six pairs of eyes on him he grows redder, shrugging again. "Not all at the same time."
"I had a crush on Yoongi hyung," Hoseok says, probably to help take the attention of a squirming Jeongguk. Everyone seems surprised, Seokjin first of them. He'd think he would notice a rival, and yet... "Still do, actually." Seokjin's eyebrows shoot up and he looks at his best friend who's just as red as Jeongguk was seconds before. He's sitting next to Hoseok and they're leaning toward each other slightly. He's in shock when Yoongi shyly reaches for Hoseok's hand and laces their fingers together.
Taehyung is the first one to react, pumping his fist in the air as Jimin throws himself at the pair. "So you're together?" Jeongguk squeals happily. Yoongi gives him a sweet smile and a short nod.
He must have said this out loud because Yoongi turns a guilty look towards him, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. "Sorry I kept it a secret from you hyung," He says. "It happened kind of quickly. Hoseokie sent me an email following Namjoon's and we started talking again and since he lives in Seoul too we met up and," He shrugs. "Yeah."
Hoseok is beaming next to him while the three youngest hoot happily. Seokjin feels cold then hot then cold. Yoongi tasked him to seduce Namjoon for him while he went around and started dating Hoseok behind his back? What the hell?
Sorry, Yoongi mouths at him from where he's being smothered in a pile of eager boys. I'll tell you everything later. Seokjin is too numb to answer anything.
"We all know who had the biggest crush here, though," Jimin says once they all calmed down and sat back in their place. Seokjin's heart drops but Jimin looks at Namjoon instead of him.
"Jimin, please don't," Namjoon says softly. He sounds sad but it seems Seokjin is the only one catching it because Jimin just laughs and pats him on the back.
"Joon hyung was so transparent, really," He says. Seokjin frowns. Had Namjoon been into someone back then? In his memories he was too busy being a dork and writing love songs lyrics and... Oh. Love songs. "It's a shame Jin hyung was not interested in him too."
"Jimin," Namjoon protests softly as Seokjin, once again, gapes at him.
"What?" He repeats. It sounds like a yelp more than a question.
"Didn't you know?" Taehyung frowns at him. "We all thought that was the reason you were so harsh with him, because you were hoping he would drop his crush on you!"
"I didn't know," Seokjin says quietly. "I had no idea. Sorry, I need to get out." He gets up and walks past the guests, ignoring the calls of his name. He walks quicker as he reaches the school hall and stops when he's standing on the steps of the school entrance. He sits down quickly and takes his head in his hands.
Namjoon had a crush on him? Namjoon had a crush on him even back then, even when Seokjin would be barely polite with him, would resent him for being the object of Yoongi's affection? Namjoon had a crush on him and he never noticed. Even as they organised the party together, as they hung out together he didn't notice anything even if Namjoon's crush was apparently coming back. How had he been so fucking oblivious.
The door opens in his back but Seokjin doesn't turn around. He doesn't look up when someone sits next to him and slides an arm around his shoulders. The arm is too skinny to be Namjoon's. It doesn't feel as warm or as secure.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Yoongi offers. Seokjin immediately feels guilty for not recognising his embrace. For comparing it to Namjoon's.
"I thought you were interested in Namjoon," He says, not recognising his voice under the venom. Yoongi doesn't seem phased, a bit embarrassed maybe.
"I really am sorry I didn't tell you earlier," He says. "I didn't see it happen. One day I was just talking with him, enjoying his presence and the next he was all I could think about. I wanted to tell you about it but I felt guilty because I asked you to get closer to Namjoon for me and I felt selfish about it, and..."
"I love you," Seokjin blurts out, figuring there might never be another occasion to do it. "I've always loved you."
"Oh," Yoongi says softly. He looks at him in the eyes, not shying away once even if Seokjin knows he wants to. "I'm sorry. You're my best friend. I love you too, but..."
"Not like that. I know. It's been more than twenty years, I should have known it would never happen."
"Still, I'm sorry. You must have hurt a lot when I asked you to help me with Namjoon and yet you did without saying anything. I wish I could be as selfless as you are."
"What good did it give me, uh?" Seokjin comments. He's trying to be sardonic but tears are threatening to spill from the corner of his eyes. "What fucking good in being selfless?" He takes a deep breath and turns to Yoongi, his best friend. His first love. "You would have never loved me back, right?" He asks. Yoongi looks hesitant but he knows it's because he doesn't want to hurt him further, not because he is unsure. Finally he shakes his head slowly, regret dancing in his eyes.
"Thank you for your honesty."
A long silence stretches between them. Seokjin finds that he dislikes the way Yoongi seems skittish now. He's never thought such a thing about him before and he knows it's not due to Yoongi rejecting him, either. Actually he's starting to notice he's been much less willing to find every single of Yoongi's actions cute since he came back. Was it because he unconsciously knew about Hoseok?
"Sorry if I'm indelicate, but... One of the reasons I didn't tell you about Hoseok was because I kinda thought you were falling for Namjoon."
"What the fuck, Yoongi," Seokjin says softly. "That is really indelicate."
"I know, I know. Sorry."
He finds out he also doesn't like the way Yoongi apologises like he's afraid of saying the wrong thing. Yoongi has never been that... Spineless around him.
"You've never been sorry for being indelicate around me before," He says, maybe a bit too forcefully. Yoongi looks surprised at his outburst.
"Sorry. I guess I just don't really know how to act right now."
"Do you think I do?" Seokjin asks.
The truth is that he does, actually. He's used to be awkward around Yoongi and used to have to hide it. Maybe that's why he's so disoriented right now. He doesn't know how to act now that he doesn't have to pretend anymore.
"Okay, then... I guess I got a bit jealous, actually." Seokjin snorts and Yoongi bites his lip. "I know. Sorry. But you seemed so happy talking about Namjoon and all you did together and I felt like you were... Replacing me. And now I think maybe you were but not... Not best friend me, if that makes sense?" He frowns slightly. Seokjin doesn't find it as cute as he used to. "I thought it made sense that you would turn to him because you're both really great people and he lives here too so you could do lots of things together and you seemed to have so much fun with him, and... Yeah, I felt excluded."
His large hand rubs soothing circles on Seokjin's back as he looks up at the stars and sighs.
"I thought you had a crush on him and was hiding it from me because you didn't want to hurt me and I felt terrible because I had Hoseok and you were replacing me, and... Sorry. I'm ranting."
"There's no replacing you," Seokjin says at last. "You're my best friend, no one can take this place. Even someone I can see every day and who’s nice and with whom I have lots of fun."
Yoongi nods, not looking at him once again. He licks his lips, his eyes unfocused.
"But the other... The other place you had for me... Someone else can take this one, yeah? I'm not saying this because I want to get rid of you or anything, but... Fuck, I'm being indelicate again, right?" Seokjin nods and Yoongi laughs, a sad laugh. "I just mean that I'm sorry I was being jealous when you became close to Namjoon. I guess in a way I knew I was... Special to you and I didn't want to lose that and that's fucking unfair of me. I want you to be happy hyung."
"I want you to be happy as well Yoongichi. You are, right?"
Yoongi's face softens as he looks at the stars.
"I'm so fucking happy, hyung." Seokjin's heart hurts a bit, but not quite as much as he thought it would. "I really... I think I love him."
"That's great, Yoongi. I'm really happy for you." He says, and he finds out he means it.
They hug for a long time. He would have killed before for a chance to stay so long in Yoongi's embrace but he doesn't enjoy it quite as much as he thought he would, and he realises it isn't simply because he was just rejected. Along the course of the last couple of months, he's been slowly starting to fall out of love with Yoongi. The idea kind of hurts because he's been in love with him for so long that he doesn't really know how to function without those feelings but he's not really sad, not really relieved either. He feels uncertain mostly.
"I'm going to go home," He says when Yoongi releases him. He doesn't try to convince him to stay, which Seokjin appreciates. "Could you get my jacket for me and drop it to me tomorrow? I don't really want to go back in."
"Of course," Yoongi says. He squeezes his arm silently one last time, like another apology.
As Seokjin drives home through the empty streets of his childhood town he realises he's ready to let go of his feelings for Yoongi. With them, it's the last bit of his childhood that he's saying goodbye to. For the first time in a while, his heart feels light even as tears slowly roll down his cheeks.
Seokjin gets home and immediately goes to bed, feeling only slightly guilty about not taking the time to shower before going to sleep. He lays down, and finally lets himself cry over the death of his first love, one that was never truly born to start with.
The ringing of the door wakes him up late in the morning. His hair looks wild and his face is the ugliest he'd seen in a long while but the tiny cruellest part of him is satisfied to think Yoongi will see the effect he had on him, his eyes puffy from crying too much, his exhausted expression despite sleeping for so long.
He puts on a long cardigan over his pajamas and steps to the front door, reaching his hand out for his jacket before he even says hi. His heart stutters when he looks up and finds his jacket dangling from Namjoon's hand instead of Yoongi's.
"Hyung," He says softly, gently. Seokjin remembers his dishevelled state at once and shame swallows him. "I asked Yoongi hyung if I could come bring this back to you myself. Sorry. He told me about everything."
Seokjin's heart stops again. Did Yoongi went around and told everyone about Seokjin's stupid, useless feelings?
"I feel very embarrassed that I genuinely thought you were interested in me when you were just trying to get informations for your friend. Honestly, I am so sorry. I wouldn’t have burdened you if I knew..."
"Did..." Namjoon looks up when Seokjin starts talking. He looks still warm, still gentle. Worried. "Did Yoongi tell you I was in love with him?"
The shock on Namjoon's face is genuine; Seokjin can tell as such because he's seen Namjoon enough in the last week to know his lying habits. He's not very good at lying.
"You are? And you still went and tried to get informations about me for him? Oh, hyung..." Namjoon makes an aborted movement in his direction, like he wanted to hug him but realised at the last moment it was a really bad idea. "Actually, um. The reason I wanted to see you hyung was to tell you, about yesterday night... I was very embarrassed when Jimin revealed I used to have a crush on you, you know?" He rubs the back of his reddening neck. "Really, back then I had this little bit of hope that the reason you were so distant with me was because you felt as awkward around me as I did because maybe you felt the same... But it was because of Yoongi hyung, right?"
Seokjin nods. He wants to say something, encourage Namjoon to keep going or tell him to stop talking but he finds himself speechless. His naked feet are starting to get cold from being on the tiles for so long.
"Alright. That's not what's important. Focus, Namjoon, you silly bear!" Seokjin smiles despite himself and Namjoon smiles back, tentative and small. "What I wanted to say is that I obviously was very excited when you contacted me but this is not... It's not the reason I asked you to come to the party with me. I was happy to see you again because I've always liked you as a person, hyung. And I wasn't expecting to fall for you again, but... Spending time with, really getting to know you... It made those feelings reappear much too quickly to my liking. And it's okay that you don't feel the same. Really. And if you're okay with it I really would like to keep seeing you even now that the party is over." He smiles again, searching Seokjin's eyes. "I promise I will not try anything other than being your friend. Could we try that?"
Seokjin opens and closes his mouth. Licks his lips. Opens his mouth again. "Won't it hurt you to be friends with me if you have... Feelings. For me?"
"Selfless as ever, hyung," Namjoon says softly. His smile turned a bit sad. "What if you thought about yourself, for once? If you forget about everything, tell me: would being my friend make you happy?"
Seokjin closes his eyes and thinks about all the time he's spent with Namjoon in the last weeks, the caterer tasting, the preparation, the flower making, the strawberry picking. He thinks about doing all of that again with Namjoon. He thinks about never seeing Namjoon again. "It would make me happy," He says finally. "I want to keep being your friend."
"Thank you," Namjoon says. He looks like he's glowing, like nothing would make him happier than Seokjin's answer. "I promise I won't burden you with my feelings. I'm a big boy, hyung. I know how to keep myself from hurting situations so don't worry about me and think about yourself this time around."
"Can you hug me?" Seokjin finally asks, feeling terribly stupid as he does. He's so sure Namjoon will find an excuse to say no but instead he beams happily and opens his arms.
"Of course," He says. "Come here hyung."
So Seokjin burrows in arms, relieved to feel the familiar weight of Namjoon's arms around his waist. He curls his arms between their chests, hides his face in the collar of Namjoon's hoodie and lets himself cry again, soothed by Namjoon's gentle rocking and his soft cooing noises.
"Thank you," Seokjin sighs. "You are the best person Namjoon."
"That's true," Namjoon confirms, making him laugh softly.
"My feet are cold," He adds, pulling a soft noise of sympathy out of Namjoon. "I'm going to step on your shoes."
"They're very dirty," Namjoon warns him. "It's the pair I was wearing when we went picking strawberries."
"Ew, disgusting, get away from me," He says even though he doesn't move. Namjoon hums but he doesn't move either until Seokjin finally draws back, his face puffier, uglier than ever. Still, Namjoon looks at him like he's the most ethereal being on earth. Seokjin's not used to someone marvelling over him.
"Call me when you want to see me okay?" Namjoon tells him before he leaves. Seokjin smiles.
"Call me when you want to see me," He says.
"Okay, let's see each other tomorrow," His cute eagerness makes Seokjin smile. "My coworkers and I are going to the café at the end of the day. Join us? I promise they're all good fun."
Seokjin hesitates. What other option does he have, really? Moping over Yoongi and Hoseok? He feels like he's already starting to be over it and the only reason he wants to mope is so he doesn't feel like he wasted twenty years being in love with someone who never loved him back. He bites the inside of his mouth, then shrugs. "If this is back to normal tomorrow," He says, gesturing around his face, "I'll consider it. I'll let you know, alright?"
"Alright," Namjoon agrees. "Rest well hyung."
Seokjin finds that he wishes Namjoon had offered to stay with him but despite what he'd told him, think about yourself for once, Seokjin can't let himself be cruel enough to abuse of Namjoon's kindness.
He makes himself a big cup of hot chocolate, curls on his couch and turns on the TV to a dumb show with lots of pre-recorded laughter.
Namjoon’s coworkers are all very nice and for the most part much older than him. They greet him with various levels of enthusiasm, call him Joonie’s little childhood friend and tell him all the embarrassing stories about baby Namjoon’s first day at the job. Namjoon goes very red and groans a lot but he seems satisfied to see Seokjin chatting and laughing along. They get separated pretty quickly because his coworkers all swarm around Seokjin, demanding to know all about his childhood stories. Seokjin doesn’t have many because they actually met in high school and he was too busy being cold and mean to him back then, but he invents increasingly scandalous stories that get all the teachers ow-ing and ah-ing. Namjoon looks pretty distraught but he still shoots Seokjin a thumbs up when their eyes meet. Seokjin shoots him one back. It’s not even an ironic one.
“Are you having fun?” Namjoon asks when he finally extracts himself out of the group of middle aged teachers who collectively decided they needed to fill their glasses again.
“I am,” Seokjin says, and he’s surprised to discover it’s true. He’s having lots of fun right now, only two days after having been rejected by the guy he thought he was destined to be with. He widens his eyes and turns to Namjoon, curling a fist in the front of Namjoon’s smart teacher’s button-up. “I am having fun, Namjoon!”
“I’m very happy about it hyung,” Namjoon says with a smile. “Do you want something? A refill of your drink, something to eat?”
Honestly, Seokjin’s plan was to show up, entertain Namjoon for a bit to prove him there was no bad blood between them then going home but now he looks at his empty glass, at Namjoon’s coworkers chattering around them, at Namjoon’s nice and hopeful smile and he says, “I’m going to get a new drink. Can I get you something?” Namjoon’s brows shoot up but he smiles easily. Not for the first time, Seokjin notes that he’s very handsome.
“Another one, please,” He says while pushing his glass in Seokjin’s direction.
He comes back to sit next to Namjoon this time and another happy smile greets him. He tells himself the feeling in his tummy is all because of the bubbles of the cheap sparkly wine he ordered at the bar.
Namjoon and Seokjin see each other pretty regularly after that, at least once every week, and they text almost every day. It helps soothe the fact that he misses Yoongi so dearly: even if his best friend does his best so their relationship doesn't change, the awkwardness lingers. So does the fact that Yoongi is a bit too busy with Hoseok to save for him the same amount of time he did before.
Seokjin isn't mad at him; he thinks this is the best that could have happened, honestly. He doesn't hold any resentment against Hoseok, who he thinks he's genuinely one of the best people ever. He kinda can't be mad at someone for taking Yoongi's heart when this person has liked Yoongi for almost as long as he did, anyway. He respects that.
He does hold a bit of resentment towards Yoongi, though he knows there's nothing he can blame him for. He talked about it with Namjoon, who told him it was only natural to feel this way. He'd spent years putting his best friend on a pedestal, accepting from him anything, never saying anything when Yoongi unwillingly hurt him, whether because he'd been hooking up with random guys or because he'd been too busy with work and had ignored him for weeks. Now that he's not seeing Yoongi with rose tinted glasses anymore he lets himself be a little angry for all the times he was hurt and did nothing about it. He thinks it helps create a clear cut in his heart.
So they still talk often and Yoongi even agrees to have weekly calls with him. It's when he grumbles about it, kinda ranting about how much he hates talking on the phone, that Seokjin truly realises they would be alright. Yoongi's annoyed rantings had never given him such happiness before.
"I'm not in love with Yoongi anymore," He says to Namjoon that exact same night while they're sitting on Seokjin's couch, a movie playing in front of them and takeout bags half empty on the table. Namjoon smiles at him and he leans gently, giving him his shoulder for Seokjin to cry on.
"I don't know why I'm sad about it," He says when he finally calms down. He'd linked both his arms with Namjoon's large one and his cheek is now resting against his biceps. He can tell Namjoon is sitting very straight to not jostle him.
"You've spent more than half of your life being in love with Yoongi hyung. It would make sense if you feel a bit lost now that you don't anymore."
"I guess," Seokjin says. Namjoon smiles down at him.
"Your face is all bloated," He says, to which Seokjin protests out loud. And punches him on the arm, but not too hard. "Do you want me to resume playing the movie?"
Seokjin hadn't noticed he had paused it in the first place but for some reason the discovery makes something warm settle in his heart. He nods.
"Good," Namjoon says. "I really want you to give me your opinion on the movie."
In the end Seokjin thinks the movie was okay, not more, but Namjoon doesn't look offended even if it's one of his favorites. He shrugs and says Okay. You can pick next time and Seokjin believes him. He believes that Namjoon is totally okay with them not liking the same thing. This wasn't something he'd considered before.
He nuzzles back against Namjoon's biceps, tempted to keep him there with him for the night, but he can't be selfish. Despite everything Namjoon said, he can't be that selfish.
He misses Namjoon as soon as he walks out of the front door.
Seokjin never thought he might be inadequate at love but when he learns through Yoongi that Hoseok adores partying and goes clubbing at least once a week, he suddenly realises he might have had everything wrong from the get go.
He watches the pictures Hoseok sends to Namjoon, sees Yoongi on hikes, in crowded bars, at the beach, and he understands that all those years he spent hating what Yoongi hated just to feel closer to him were in vain because, clearly, Yoongi doesn't hate those things quite as much when it's Hoseok doing them.
Worse again, he understands that Yoongi would have never hated or judged him for liking those things. And maybe the fact that he didn't know that previously shows that he truly loved a false version of his best friend; a version that's judgemental, a version that would have never loved him back as he truly was.
He remembers hobbies he sacrificed because Yoongi found them childish. Music he listened to while blushing, hidden under his blanket, and that he never put in his playlists by fear of Yoongi seeing them. Acting like he didn't want to go see the last Marvel movie as soon as it was showing in town. He realises all that he missed in those last twenty years.
But, more shockingly, he mainly learns to accept that the person who stopped him from enjoying all those things was himself, not Yoongi. That he should have trusted that the person he called his best friend would love him even if he knew Seokjin liked fishing, that he was a fan of cutesy girl group's songs, that he loved nothing more than a good Manichean movie with lots of explosions.
He tests this discovery during his next phone call with Yoongi when he asks whether or not his best friend would be up to come fish with him on the lake next to the strawberry farm. Yoongi sighs like Seokjin is asking something incredibly tedious of him and he accepts in a grumble. He says, "I'll go if it makes you happy, hyung." And it makes Seokjin happy, really. It's not his usual Yoongi-happy but it's okay. He feels more loved by him than he ever did and yet his heart doesn't stutter in his chest at the prospect.
Maybe it's the reason the next time he sees Namjoon, Seokjin immediately asks him if he would take him to the city to the club they'd talked about before. Namjoon looks surprised but then realisation dawns on his face and Seokjin quickly looks down, embarrassed at being read so easily.
"It's just," He starts, interrupted by a nonchalant wave of Namjoon's hand.
"You don't have to justify yourself, hyung. I'd be happy to help you make new experiences." For some reason Namjoon's words make him blush, even if he knows he didn't intend anything dirty with those. He discreetly looks up Namjoon's body and wonders just how much experience he has, then quickly casts his gaze down again. "Do you want it to be just us or would you be okay with some of my coworkers tagging along?" Namjoon asks, clearly unaware of Seokjin's internal struggles.
"You can invite them, of course." He can barely imagine something more mortifying than going clubbing just with Namjoon. "Who would join? The ones from the other time?"
"Probably, though some of the younger teachers might want to join as well. Would that be okay with you? Fair warning, most of the girls might end up swooning over you."
"Who would blame them, eh?" Seokjin jokes in a fit of confidence. Namjoon tilts his head but he doesn't answer. Right. Not his smartest move. "You'll need to help me choose an outfit Namjoonie."
"This one's perfect," Namjoon says, mirth dancing in his eyes. Seokjin pinches the side of his oversized faded shirt, a defect from their merch line that says Kim Strowberry Farm above a big cartoonish representation of a winking strawberry; Seokjin likes to joke that the artist was inspired by his handsome face to create their mascot. There are traces of dirt and the clear imprint of chubby fingers where a tiny hand had grabbed him during the afternoon visit.
"If you say so," Seokjin says. "You're the expert after all. Maybe I can style it for a night out." And he grabs the hem of his shirt, tying it so a bit of his stomach is peaking and the shirt looks much more fitting. He knows himself enough to know that it's emphasising how small his waist is compared with his shoulders. He leans back in his chair and grins at Namjoon, then internally panics when he sees how red he looks and how stubbornly he's looking at a point somewhere above Seokjin's left shoulder.
He tugs the shirt down self consciously and bites his lip. What is he doing? Flirting with Namjoon?
"So, um," Namjoon says, still not meeting his eyes. "I can organise that for this weekend if you'd like?"
"This weekend would be fine," Seokjin says, though he knows he's working all morning on Saturday. He's still young, he can manage a short night once in a while.
He tells Yoongi about his weekend plans when they call each other and Yoongi’s smile is clear in his voice as he wishes him to have a good time. He even offers to review his potential outfits with him and though it embarrasses him a bit Seokjin accepts and suggests they facetime as he gets ready. His heart doesn’t skip a beat when Yoongi’s smiling face appears on the tiny screen and Seokjin is once again relieved despite himself.
His relief is short because he quickly realises that Yoongi’s goal is to force Seokjin into raucier and raucier outfits, from fifteen years old shirts whose seams struggle and finally crack as he gets out of them to that one leather pants he bought on impulse and never wore outside of the shop.
“Yoongi!” He protests after he gets out of the pants and inside his walk-in closet again. “Stop already and help me for real!”
"Okay, okay," Yoongi says with a laugh. "What about the dress shirt I gifted you a while ago? The one I stole from that kpop artist who fell asleep on my couch and refused to leave for two days straight?"
"Isn't it a famous brand? I'm not sure I should wear it carelessly..."
"Hey, who cares? You'll be the classiest bitch in that whole second-zone club, that's a good enough occasion."
Seokjin hums, digging through his piles of clothes to find said shirt. The fabric is cold and sleek under his fingers, so clearly expensive. He puts it on before he starts thinking too much and hurriedly tugs the first pair of black jeans he finds on when he hears someone knocking at the door. He grabs his phone with him, holding it at arm's length so Yoongi can see him walking instead of having a view of, said, his chest.
Namjoon is wearing a tight, black shirt with a deep cleavage, several rows of gold necklaces and a smile. Seokjin's brain comes to a screeching halt that Namjoon's seems to reciprocate. He looks bewildered and stares at Seokjin's shoulder, red slowly raising to his cheeks. Seokjin touches his own shoulder, self conscious suddenly, and reddens as well when he feels tulle under his fingertips. "Yoongi!" He groans, suddenly remembering the call is still on, and Yoongi might have a nice view of, well. His tiles. He lifts his phone again to make sure Yoongi can see all of his furious, gorgeous face.
"Making sure you show your assets!" Yoongi cackles happily. My asset is all of me, Seokjin protests under his breath. "Hey Joon-ah, isn't Seokjin hyung looking very good right now?"
"Seokjin hyung always looks good," Namjoon answers. His face is still red but he's looking serious and genuine and not even a little bit ashamed.
"I am going to hang up now," Seokjin says to no one in particular. More laughter comes out of the phone so Seokjin does as it just said, cutting Yoongi in the middle of a particularly evil sounding cackle. Then he looks back at Namjoon and finds himself speechless again.
"Yoongi made you wear this?" He asks. He finally seems to have recovered the ability to look Seokjin in the eyes. Seokjin nods. "He was right, you look good. Are you ready?"
"I am," Seokjin confirms, though he hasn't styled his hair and didn't really check if his outfit truly looked okay. He touches his lobe and realises he's still wearing the long earring Yoongi had made him put on, and that he'd promised himself he'd take off before Namjoon's arrival.
"This looks good too," Namjoon says seriously. He makes a move like he wants to touch it but thinks better of it and retracts his hand. Seokjin regrets it a bit.
They take Seokjin's car and take two of Namjoon's younger coworkers with them. The two women don't swoon over Seokjin's look like Namjoon predicted and he almost feels disappointed until he catches them exchanging a quick kiss on the back seat. They turn red when they notice that he saw them and Seokjin gestures to zipping his lips shut with a wink. He wonders if they'll be able to keep their hands off each other once they're in the club.
This thought is quickly erased when they park at the club. The pulse of the music can be heard even through the sheet steel walls. The place must look pretty ratty under the sunlight but now, with the cheap lasers and the file of people waiting to enter, it looks like the place to be. Much cooler than anywhere Seokjin has ever set foot in, and he's been in Yoongi's cool producer's studio several times.
"What do you think?" Namjoon all but yells in his ear when they finally enter. The music and the bass are so heavy Seokjin feels like his whole body is pulsating.
He leans toward Namjoon and yells back, "I don't know!" And Namjoon laughs. He does that so often. Seokjin really likes it.
"Come on," Namjoon says, grabbing him by the elbow. "I'm buying you a drink."
"I'm driving you home!" Seokjin protests. Namjoon's hand slides from his elbow to his hand, and he holds it delicately.
"It's too easy to lose people in there," He says, swinging their hands together. "I'm buying you a non-alcoholic drink. What do you want?"
Namjoon leans against the bar and calls out to the waitress to order their drinks. He looks nonchalant and cool, like he's the main character of the party. Seokjin can't take his eyes from the jewellery that glistens against the skin of his chest.
Namjoon turns back to watch the dancefloor as he sips his drink, one elbow still resting on the sticky fake marble of the bar. He holds his drink in one elegant hand, occasionally leaning toward Seokjin to show him someone, his index finger raised over the glass. He laughs and leans closer to show him his two coworkers dancing together far too closely for two simple friends. "Knew it!" He says over the music.
Seokjin still can't take his eyes off of him.
"Let's dance," He says. Namjoon looks surprised but he lets himself get dragged to the dancefloor, his glass soon forgotten on the bar.
Really, Seokjin feels stupid as soon as he realises that going to dance requires that he dance. It's not really something he does, on the regular. Not something he's ever thought of enjoying. He sways a bit to the music, biting his bottom lip and looking up at Namjoon, who looks at him like he's a ballet dancer instead of, like, the most awkward man on earth.
"I don't know how to dance!" He yells at Namjoon. Namjoon gives him a large smile and grabs both of his hands.
"Me neither!" He says, and starts hopping up and down. "That's the point! Just do whatever!"
So Seokjin does just that, jumping up and down and laughing with Namjoon until his feet hurt and his cheeks hurt. He imitates every one of his dorky moves, the waves, the victory fingers. He dances so much that he forgets to keep track of the passing time and gets surprised when the music turns mellower, slower. He looks up at Namjoon who gestures to the people around them. A lot of couples have formed, now moving in slow circles. Namjoon's young coworkers are holding each other close, apparently not bothering to hide anymore.
Seokjin hesitates, then he steps closer to Namjoon, asking silently if Namjoon is okay with it. He looks uncertain but still he opens his arms for Seokjin, wrapping them securely around his waist. Seokjin puts his hands on Namjoon's firm chest and rests his cheek on his shoulder like his heart is commanding him to. They bump into other people several times as they twirl and they laugh about it every single time. Namjoon's heart sounds louder than the bass.
Seokjin, once again, realises that he is quite inadequate at love. He doesn't know what he should do, how he should do it, what the consequences would be. It doesn't stop him from leaning away to look up at Namjoon's face, so close. His eyes flicker from Namjoon's eyes to his lips then, when he looks at his eyes again, he finds that Namjoon imitated him and is now staring at his mouth. He slowly starts reducing the distance between them, his lips parting slightly, and...
"Hyung... Are you sure you want to do that?"
Objectively, Seokjin knows that he's sure. Namjoon is warm and handsome against him, their chests are touching, Namjoon's hands feel larger than ever pressed to the small of his back and Seokjin wants to kiss him to know if he would kiss him well or not. Not that he would be the best judge of that because, well. He's not very experienced.
But still, he does know that, objectively speaking, there's not much he would like more in this moment than for Namjoon to kiss him.
But this is not exactly what Namjoon is asking him, right? He is asking him if he wants to do that. Kiss Namjoon, not just... Kiss.
He knows Namjoon reads the answer in his eyes because he steps back and takes Seokjin's hand to drag him to the small outside area of the club. Most of the people here are smoking and Seokjin wrinkles his nose in disgust but carefully adopts a blank expression when Namjoon leans against the wall and looks at him. He feels... Naked is not the word. He feels seen. He feels like Namjoon truly wants to see him.
"Hyung," Namjoon sighs softly. He doesn't sound disappointed or mad. Or sad. "I know you don't mean any harm but I still need to ask you to consider my feelings when you do things like that." Seokjin's stomach swoops a little at the thought of Namjoon's feelings. The feelings he arbours for Seokjin. "If you're not sure you really want to be with me you can't... You can't do something like that, alright?"
Seokjin nods. His tongue feels thick in his mouth. "Sorry," He says softly. Namjoon smiles.
"It's alright," He says, looking up at what is visible of the sky under all the cigarettes' smoke. "I'm kinda flattered you wanted to kiss me, honestly. I'm just trying to look cool right now."
"You are cool," Seokjin says automatically. Namjoon looks down at him, dimples showing up when he smiles.
"Sometimes," Seokjin answers, finding himself grow flustered under Namjoon's intense gaze. "Don't let that inflate your ego though! You're mostly a big dork!"
Namjoon bursts into laughter and Seokjin chuckles along, happy he made him laugh at all. Namjoon's pretty when he's laughing, even if he makes dorky sounds. "Alright," He says, "Wanna go back and dance some more?"
Seokjin nods and takes his hand. He spends the rest of the night wondering what could have happened if Namjoon hadn't stopped him.
Seokjin and Namjoon made plans to meet up at the farm because Namjoon had no class in the afternoon and Seokjin ends up finishing his visit a bit early, cutting through the rows of strawberry plants to speed up some more.
He gets out of the greenhouse, sweaty and hands sticky with strawberry juice, and he finds that Namjoon has arrived already and is currently squatting to coo at his uncle's puppy, a small akita inu that rolled on his back to present his belly to his friend. The little dog hasn't been so friendly to strangers so far but he seems totally entranced with Namjoon, perfectly happy to let him rub his belly, nudging Namjoon’s hand when he stops his petting.
A ray of sun coming from the glass ceiling of the greenhouse falls directly on them, making Namjoon's blond hair shine like a halo.
Simultaneously, Seokjin realises he wouldn't mind letting Namjoon pet his belly, and that he wants to adopt three dogs with him.
Namjoon looks up and smiles when he sees him. Seokjin feels like deep roots are keeping him grounded to his spot, unable to move to join them. Unable to talk.
"You with me hyung?" Namjoon asks, a hint of laughter in his voice. Seokjin shakes out of his trance.
"Yeah. I'm with you Namjoonie."