Seokjin can see his breath as he walks across campus, fighting with the zipper of his coat that is stuck halfway, huffing in frustration as he does. He typically loves winter, but it’s been a long, exhausting month, and he keeps slipping on ice, and he’s starting to really regret getting out of bed that morning.
He finally fixes his zipper, yanking it all the way up to his chin. He’s behind on a few assignments thanks to the shit show his life has been lately, so he intends to lock himself away in the design studio and crank out as much work as he can.
He’s passing through the literature department area of campus when he sees a familiar figure walking in his direction. His breath catches in his throat and he turns on his heel, walking quickly into the closest building — a small cafe.
It’s warm inside, and several people are seated around circular tables, facing a small stage in the corner. The smell of coffee is almost overwhelming, and his stomach grumbles when he looks over toward the counter where there are bagels on display, reminding him that he hadn’t had breakfast that morning.
“You should probably order something quickly,” someone says. “The show is about to start.”
Seokjin startles and turns, his mind short-circuiting as he takes in the boy who is standing behind him. He’s tall and built, his smile kind and an eyebrow quirked playfully. Butterflies erupt in Seokjin’s stomach, and all hope of being charming or normal is thrown out the window.
The boy gestures to the chalkboard sign near the door that has STUDENT POETRY READING -- 10AM! written on it.
“Oh,” he says lamely.
The boy keeps smiling, his expression turning playful. “You’re not going to leave, are you? Some of the students might take offense to that.”
Seokjin finds himself smiling back. “Are you one of those students?”
“I am,” he confirms. He sticks his hand out. “I’m Namjoon, and I’ll be really offended if you leave without listening to my poem.”
“What if I don’t like poetry?” Seokjin challenges as he shakes his hand.
“Then you just haven’t heard a good poem,” Namjoon states.
They’re still holding hands, Seokjin realizes, and he slowly pulls his back. “I guess I’ll have to stay and find out then.”
Namjoon grins in victory. “Let me get you a coffee.”
“Oh,” Seokjin says in surprise. “You don’t have to—”
Namjoon walks to the counter without waiting for Seokjin to finish, returning just moments later with a steaming mug of coffee. “You can sit with me.”
He holds the coffee hostage, walking over a table with a few notebooks stacked on it. He sits, setting the coffee down in front of the open chair before beaming up at Seokjin. Seokjin battles the zipper of his coat for a moment before giving up and sitting beside Namjoon.
The poetry reading starts, and Seokjin has to admit that most of them are pretty good. Although if he’s being honest, he’s only half-listening, because he’s mostly focusing on trying not to stare at Namjoon too much. Namjoon’s full attention is on the stage, but his lips are quirked in a small smile that suggests he’s aware of Seokjin’s glances.
When Namjoon’s name is called, Seokjin claps with everyone else. Namjoon carries one of his journals to the stage with him, flipped open to a page about halfway through. He gets to the microphone and pauses, taking a soft breath as he glances over the crowd, his eyes lingering on Seokjin for just a moment longer than the rest.
“This poem is titled ‘Know and Love’.”
Another pause. A soft smile as he looks down at the words he has written on the pages of the worn-out journal.
“May I never love who I could be in theory
more than who I actually am.
May I never sink teeth into a future so perfect,
I exclude myself from the plan.
May I never attempt
to abandon my strengths
in the name of taking up
a little less space.
May I never put on
a face that’s so brave
I am actually proving
how very afraid I am
of disappointing the people around me
of saying no,
of admitting I’m drowning,
of taking a break,
of walking away,
of appearing weak.
Instead, may I
and take my time
and listen to my body, my heart, and my mind.
May I show up for myself --
broken, fractured, and bruised --
and may I love others like this --
with grace, patience, and truth.”
Holy shit . Seokjin chokes on his exhale, realizing he had held his breath the entire time Namjoon spoke. He literally stole his breath away. How cliche is that? Seokjin snaps himself out of his trance as Namjoon steps off the stage and returns to the table.
“What did you think?” Namjoon asks, actually looking a little nervous.
“You wrote that?” Seokjin asks, still a little breathless.
Namjoon nods once, slowly. “I did.”
The next person steps onto the stage to read their poem, and Seokjin sinks back a little in his chair. He doesn’t hear a word they say, instead replaying Namjoon’s poem over and over in his mind. His deep voice, his way of speaking. ‘May I show up for myself -- broken, fractured, and bruised -- and may I love others like this -- with grace, patience, and truth.’
Namjoon is sitting closer now, their shoulders nearly brushing. Seokjin can feel the distance closing as if the two of them are being pulled together like magnets. When the last student finishes reading their poem, there’s a round of applause from everyone.
Some people linger, ordering more coffee and pulling out their laptops to do some studying. Namjoon turns toward Seokjin, looking a little bashful. “Are you staying…?”
Seokjin shifts in his seat, a little awkward. “Ah, I should probably get going. I’m behind on some assignments. I’m going to be in the studio all day.”
“Studio?” Namjoon asks, looking genuinely curious.
“I’m a fashion major,” Seokjin says. “Marketing and design.”
Namjoon’s eyes light up a little as he smiles. “Yeah? That’s cool.”
Seokjin blushes and looks down at his coffee. “I guess.”
“It is,” Namjoon insists, and Seokjin’s eyes lift back up to meet his. “You like it, right?”
“I love it,” Seokjin replies honestly. His phone lights up with a text, displaying the time. He sighs. “I really do have to go. But it…” he smiles at Namjoon. “It was nice meeting you.”
“I’ll walk you to the door,” Namjoon says, gathering his own things before Seokjin can protest.
Seokjin stands, straightening his coat and throwing his bag over his shoulder. He discards his now-empty coffee cup on the way to the door. Namjoon holds the door open for him, and Seokjin blushes a little as he steps out into the cold. After a pause, Namjoon follows him out.
“I’ll walk you to the fashion building,” Namjoon offers, falling into step beside him.
“Are you always this charming with strangers you’ve just met?” Seokjin asks.
“I need to walk this way anyway,” Namjoon says, clearly lying.
“Right,” Seokjin teases, brushing his shoulder against Namjoon’s, feeling warm. For the first time in months, he doesn’t constantly look over his shoulder.
They arrive in front of the fashion building, and Seokjin turns to face Namjoon directly.
“Thank you for walking me,” he says as he looks up at him. “I actually appreciate it more than you realize.”
“You never answered my question earlier.”
Seokjin’s eyebrows pinch together in confusion.
“What did you think of my poem?”
“Oh,” Seokjin says. He tilts his head to the side a little as he gazes up at Namjoon, deciding to be completely honest. “I thought it was beautiful. Except that beautiful doesn’t feel like a strong enough word. It was… it was brilliant, and striking, and it made me feel things I haven’t felt in a while.”
Namjoon blinks at him owlishly, clearly not having expected that kind of answer.
Seokjin cringes then, mentally curling in on himself. It’s true, Namjoon and his poem are making him feel things he hasn’t felt in a while. Things he hasn’t let himself feel. Things he’s not sure if he’s ready to feel yet. So, to break the heaviness and vulnerability of the moment, he adds,
“I also thought you looked really hot as you said it.”
Namjoon laughs at that, stepping closer. “Yeah?”
Seokjin bites his lip in appreciation. “Mhmm.” He glances toward the building. “I think I could spare a few more minutes before starting my assignments.”
“Yeah?” Namjoon says again, a little breathless this time.
Seokjin nods and grabs onto Namjoon’s wrist before he can change his mind, dragging him inside the building and down the hall, shoving him into the supply closet. Namjoon laughs as the two of them stumble inside, the door slamming shut behind them.
Namjoon spins them so he has Seokjin pressed against the door, catching the back of his head before it can hit the door, pausing with his lips just centimeters from pressing against Seokjin’s own.
He would have let Seokjin’s head hit the door.
“You sure about this?”
And okay, wow , could he be any more perfect? There’s no way people like this actually exist outside of novels.
“Yeah,” Seokjin exhales, tingly and warm all over, unable to hold back his smile. “I’m sure.”
Namjoon closes the distance between them, kissing him sweetly and intensely at the same time as he reaches for the zipper of Seokjin’s coat, his kisses slowing down as he struggles to pull the zipper down.
Seokjin breaks away with a frustrated groan as he reaches up to try to help Namjoon with the zipper. “I’m going to burn this coat.”
Namjoon laughs, the sound soft and warm to Seokjin’s ears. It’s infectious, and Seokjin can’t help but laugh with him, dropping his head back against the door with a huff.
“Seriously,” Seokjin continues his rant despite the laughter. “I’ve been stuck in this coat all morning. The zipper keeps breaking, and I keep fixing it — I’m a fashion student, I fucking know how to sew and should be able to fix it — but it keeps breaking.”
“Why don’t you buy a new one?” Namjoon muses as he continues working on the zipper.
“Because I’m a fashion student,” Seokjin reiterates. “I’m broke .”
The zipper slider snaps suddenly, causing Namjoon to stumble back with it in his hand while the zipper track of the coat unravels completely. Seokjin looks down at his coat and then back at Namjoon, who is barely visible in the dark supply closet.
The two of them are silent for a long moment.
“Sorry,” Namjoon says meekly.
Seokjin bursts into laughter again, shrugging the coat off and letting it drop to the floor before grabbing onto Namjoon and pulling him close again. “Get back here and finish what you started.”
Namjoon smiles against his lips as he places his hands on Seokjin’s hips, one of them sliding beneath his shirt. “Gladly.”
The party is loud, every inch of the house filled with drunk college students. Seokjin leans in closer to hear Jaehwan over the music, but he doesn’t get a chance because someone is placing a hand on his shoulder and pulling him back.
“It’s time to go,” Minho says.
Seokjin looks at him in confusion. “Already? We just got here.”
“I don’t feel like being here anymore,” Minho says, his hand heavy on Seokjin’s shoulder.
Seokjin is a little concerned now. Minho is never the one to want to leave a party early. Especially when they haven’t even been there long enough to finish one drink.
“Okay,” he says, deciding to ask Minho if everything is okay once they are on their way back to Minho’s apartment. He looks back at Jaehwan. “Text me so we can make plans to go to lunch soon.”
“Will do!” Jaehwan says brightly before smiling kindly at Minho.
Minho wraps his arm around Seokjin’s waist and pulls him in the direction of the door. His grip is a little tight, but Seokjin doesn’t say anything. He can tell Minho is upset, so he lets him hold him tight, wanting to help him through whatever is upsetting him.
Once they are out of the dorm and start walking across campus toward Minho’s apartment, Seokjin looks at him.
“Nothing.” Short. Clipped.
Seokjin frowns. “I can tell you’re upset. Did something happen at the party?”
“Yeah,” Minho snaps. “My boyfriend was flirting with another guy.”
Seokjin steps falter in surprise, but Minho still has his arm around his waist, causing him to stumble a little as Minho keeps walking.
“What are you talking about?” he asks as he regains his balance, looking up at Minho as they continue walking at a brisk pace. “I wasn’t flirting with anyone.”
Minho scoffs. “That Jaehwan guy practically had heart eyes for you, and you totally fed into it.”
“Jae is my friend,” Seokjin attempts to clarify, smiling a little, thinking it’s kind of cute that Minho is jealous. “I’ve known him for years. He wasn’t flirting with me, and I definitely wasn’t flirting with him.”
Minho’s hand on his hip digs in a little more. “Why are you smiling? It’s not funny.”
Seokjin’s smile fades. He leans into Minho. “Hey, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to act like it’s funny. I didn’t realize you were actually bothered by this. I swear I wasn’t flirting with Jae. I’m sorry if it seemed that way.”
Minho stops walking, turning and stepping in front of Seokjin. He grabs his cheeks, tilting Seokjin’s head back to look up at him. “I just don’t like the idea of people thinking they can flirt with what is mine.”
Seokjin starts to smile, part of him feeling happy that Minho is so protective of him, but the next words out of Minho’s mouth stop the smile from appearing.
“It’s just — I kind of have a reputation, you know? And you’re with me now, which means you can’t be making me look stupid by flirting with other people.”
“I wasn’t flirting though —“
“But you know what it might have looked like to other people, right?” Minho presses.
Seokjin’s eyebrows pinch together as he thinks, trying to process. Minho sighs, stroking Seokjin’s cheek and holding him in place as he kisses his forehead.
“Don’t look so sad, baby,” he chides. “It’s okay. You know better now. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.”
He steps back, wrapping his arm around Seokjin’s shoulders this time and starting to walk toward his apartment again. Seokjin remains quiet, feeling more confused than ever as he thinks over his actions that night. Had he been too friendly with Jaehwan? Had it seemed like he was flirting with him? He never wants Minho to think that he would do something like that.
“I’m sorry,” Seokjin says as they step inside Minho’s apartment, kicking off their shoes.
Minho smiles at him, pulling him close. “It’s okay,” he says before kissing him. He pulls back a little. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
Seokjin nods, and Minho resumes kissing him. And if it hurts a little, Seokjin doesn’t say anything.
Seokjin wakes up with an arm around his waist. He squeezes his eyes shut, not ready to face the reality of whoever might be in his bed this time. He usually doesn’t let them stay the night, which means he must have fallen asleep before asking them to go. He dreads awkward morning-afters.
The person sighs softly and stretches beneath the sheets, keeping his arm around Seokjin’s waist. His breath is warm against the nape of Seokjin’s neck, and it’s like he is suddenly shocked awake by the memory of that same breath ghosting his cheek in the supply closet the day before.
It’s Namjoon in his bed. The poetry guy. The ridiculously-hot-yet-sweet guy who he had hooked up with in a supply closet after hearing his beautiful poem. The guy who had hung out with him at the studio while he worked on his projects, asking honest and endearing questions as he watched Seokjin work. The guy who had brought him coffee when he got tired, and then insisted on walking him home to make sure he made it safely. The guy Seokjin had invited in. The guy he had let stay the night.
He hadn’t fallen asleep before being able to ask Namjoon to leave. Instead of asking him to leave, he had remained quiet, letting Namjoon settle in his bed after and spoon him from behind.
It had been the best night of sleep he had in a couple months.
Namjoon shifts, slowly pulling his arm off of Seokjin’s waist. Seokjin is terrified about the fact that he immediately misses the comfort of it. He slowly turns to face Namjoon, who is now lying on his back and appears to be close to falling asleep again.
After a moment, Seokjin blurts, “I don’t normally do this.”
“What?” Namjoon murmurs, opening his eyes all the way and turning his head to look at him. “Watch people sleep?”
“I was not —” Seokjin cuts off at Namjoon’s laugh, narrowing his eyes at him. “I was not watching you sleep.”
Seokjin sits up and hits him with his pillow. “I wasn’t!”
Namjoon grabs the pillow and yanks it, causing Seokjin to fall forward on top of him. Seokjin gasps in surprise, placing his hands on Namjoon’s shoulders and pushing himself up, resulting in him straddling him. Namjoon grins up at him.
“You did that on purpose,” Seokjin accuses, a pink blush spreading across his cheeks and to his ears.
“Maybe,” Namjoon admits, placing his hands on Seokjin’s hips and squeezing, much like he had done in the supply closet.
Seokjin lets go of Namjoon’s shoulders to grab onto his hands, pushing them away. “Nice try, but no morning sex for you.” He rolls off of Namjoon, flopping onto his side next to him. “I don’t usually let boys sleep over, you know.”
Namjoon rolls onto his side, propping his head in his hand with his elbow on the mattress. “Does that mean I’m special?”
“Don’t get cocky,” Seokjin chides, rolling his eyes. “I was just too tired to tell you to leave.”
“Right,” Namjoon says, grinning at him widely. “I don’t believe you, but if you want to say that’s the reason, then I’m not going to argue with you, because it means I was so mind-blowingly good in bed that you were too tired out to make me leave.”
“Oh my god,” Seokjin exclaims, covering his face with his hands as Namjoon laughs.
Seokjin peeks between his fingers to see Namjoon is still smiling at him, his eyes warm and light with happiness. Seokjin’s heart skips a beat, and then drops into his stomach, because he’s not supposed to be feeling like this. He doesn’t want to feel like this.
“You’re adorable,” Namjoon comments before climbing out of the bed, picking up his clothes off the floor, and going into the bathroom to freshen up.
Seokjin's stomach flutters as he watches him go. He rolls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling, quietly muttering to himself, “What the hell am I doing?”
When Namjoon steps back out of the bathroom, he’s dressed and looking much more awake than a few minutes ago. Seokjin pushes himself out of the bed and practically scurries into the bathroom. He knows what comes next — the awkward conversation. This was fun. Thanks for the sex. You can go home now.
He takes his time washing his face and brushing his teeth, part of him hoping that Namjoon will just let himself out. He tries to ignore the other part of him that will be sad if he does. When he can’t procrastinate any further, he steps out of the bathroom to see his bedroom is empty, the only trace of Namjoon being the unmade bed.
Seokjin pauses, staring at the bed. He sighs softly and moves to grab the sheets, deciding to get started on laundry, when he hears a sound from the kitchen. He freezes for a moment before slowly peering out the bedroom door to see Namjoon searching through his kitchen cupboards.
“You’re still here,” Seokjin says in surprise, stepping out of the bedroom and crossing the living room to stand on the other side of the kitchen island, looking at Namjoon curiously.
Namjoon looks at him over his shoulder. “You thought I left?”
Seokjin presses his lips together and shrugs.
Namjoon turns his head back to the cupboard he had just opened. “You have hardly any food.”
“Ah, yeah,” Seokjin says, fumbling with the sleeve of his sweater. Grocery shopping. A simple task that lately has taken too much effort. Takeout has become Seokjin’s go-to. Or going over to his brother’s apartment to make Yoongi cook something for him. “I haven’t had time to go shopping this week.”
Namjoon closes the cupboard and shrugs. “That’s okay. Let’s go to breakfast.”
Seokjin blinks in surprise. “What?”
“Breakfast,” Namjoon repeats slowly. “You know, the first meal of the day? Arguably the most important one, even.”
“Shut up,” Seokjin scoffs despite his smile. “Are you always this annoying?”
“Just when I’m hungry,” Namjoon snarks, walking toward the front door. He turns back toward Seokjin, who hasn’t moved. “Come on. I’m taking you to breakfast.”
“You don’t have to—”
“I want to,” Namjoon cuts in. He notices Seokjin’s hesitancy, and his expression softens a little. “It’s just breakfast. It doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to. But I’d really like to treat you to breakfast. As a thank you.”
Seokjin raises an eyebrow, his hesitancy transitioning to playful defiance. “Thank me for what?”
Namjoon looks at him in exasperation. “For a fun day yesterday? For listening to my poem? For showing me your work?”
“Damn,” Seokjin sighs in resignation, pouting a little even as he starts walking toward Namjoon. “I thought you were going to say it was a thank you for mind-blowing sex.”
Namjoon throws his head back in laughter, placing his hand over his stomach as he catches his breath. He then looks at Seokjin in victory. “So you admit it, it was mind-blowing.”
Seokjin gapes at him before taking a stubborn step back. “That’s it, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going—“
Namjoon snatches onto his sweater sleeve before Seokjin can get any further away, pulling him back. Seokjin laughs as Namjoon drags him toward the door.
“Come on,” Namjoon says. “I’m starving. And there’s a great place just down the street.”
“Okay, okay,” Seokjin relents, and Namjoon grins victoriously.
Seokjin decides at that moment that Namjoon’s smile is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.
“Stop screaming at me!” Seokjin exclaims, his heart thudding in his chest as he watches Minho rage around the kitchen, shouting and gesturing angrily at Seokjin.
Minho closes the distance between them in an instant and rams him backwards into the counter. It hits the small of his back, knocking the wind out of him and nearly making him fall to the floor if he hadn’t caught the edge of the counter.
Seokjin looks at him in shock, his eyes wide and horrified. He tries to push past Minho, but Minho catches his wrist and yanks him back into place.
“Calm down,” Minho hisses. “You’re being dramatic.”
Seokjin’s eyes widen even further. “W—what? How can you say that—”
“People fight, Jin,” Minho says, still holding his wrist. “We’re having a fight, and you’re blowing things way out of proportion.”
“I — I’m not—”
“Jin,” Minho cuts in, letting go of his wrist and instead grabbing his cheeks. “I’m sorry I pushed you, okay? But you were being a little crazy, and I was just trying to de-escalate.”
“De-escalate what?” Seokjin demands. “You’re the one screaming, and throwing things, and shoving me—”
He’s cut off as Minho slaps him.
Minho looms over him. “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.”
Seokjin cowers from him, holding his cheek and squeezing his eyes shut tight, fear racing through his veins and paralyzing him in place.
They sit across from each other in a booth by the window. It’s snowing softly outside, and Seokjin watches the snowflakes drift to the ground with a small smile as he stirs some sugar into his coffee.
“Do you like snow?” Namjoon asks, watching him.
Seokjin pulls his eyes away from the window to look at him. “I do. I know a lot of people don’t. They think of it as cold and wet and a never-ending winter, but I like winter, and I love snow. I think it’s beautiful.”
Namjoon nods as he listens before taking a sip of his coffee.
“Let me guess,” Seokjin says, leaning forward a little as he scans his eyes over Namjoon. “You like Summer?”
“I like it,” Namjoon agrees. “But I don’t love it. I don’t like when it gets so hot that it’s miserable to even be outside.”
“What’s your favorite season then?”
“Spring,” he says. “I like the rain, and I like seeing the blooming flowers while I ride my bike along the river or through the park.”
“Of course you ride your bike along the river,” Seokjin muses. “I can totally see it. Do you write poems by the river, too? It’s like a scene from one of those rom-com movies. You’re having your main character moment.”
Namjoon blushes, and Seokjin grins victoriously.
“I knew it!” he exclaims. “You do write in the park, don’t you? Do you carry your journal everywhere with you?”
“Maybe,” Namjoon says, glancing at his coat, where the journal is tucked into one of the pockets.
Seokjin follows his glance before smiling at him endearingly. “Your poems are good. You know, based on the one I heard. And I might be a little biased.”
Namjoon reaches over to his coat, pulling the journal out and sliding it across the table toward Seokjin. “You can read more, if you’d like.”
“Oh,” Seokjin exhales in surprise, looking down at it. “I don’t have to—”
“I want you to,” Namjoon says. “If you want to, I mean. It never hurts to hear outside opinions.”
“I don’t know much about poetry,” Seokjin warns as he carefully picks up the journal.
“Sometimes that’s the best kind of opinion to get,” Namjoon counters. “I don’t write my poems for other poets. I write them in hopes that they might resonate with someone.”
Seokjin flips through the first few pages, pausing when he sees a title messily scrawled on the page:
Small Good Thing
‘Amidst some of the hardest times of my life,
I have placed my pain deep down inside
where it could not be reached by air or light
and where it certainly could not be seen by eyes.
You could not hear its presence in the tone of my voice,
or feel its weight resting on my shoulders or my back,
and I like to, every once in awhile, remind myself of this,
so I can turn around and do my very best to remember that
just because somebody smiles with their head above the water,
it doesn’t mean their body isn’t tired from treading.
Just because somebody holds their pain with this sense of effortlessness,
it doesn’t mean that what they’re holding isn’t monstrously heavy.
Just because somebody looks okay, it doesn’t mean they are.
Sticks and stones can break your skin and bones,
but words can break a heart.
I hope we can choose our words with care;
I hope our judgements become scarcer.
I hope we approach our own selves with grace,
so we can then be more prepared to
hand out empathy
Leave a trail of love
To be a light
within the darkness,
to be even a small good thing.’
Seokjin reads over it a few times, inhaling slowly through his nose as he does, trying to keep his emotions under control. Namjoon has such a way with words. They grab onto Seokjin and sink in, making a home in his mind with how much he relates to them.
“You’re really good,” he says, forcing himself to lift his gaze from the journal to look at Namjoon. “I don’t know much about poetry and am far from proficient in anything to do with literature, but if you’re wanting an opinion from just regular old me, then I’d say you’re pretty damn good.”
The skin around Namjoon’s eyes crinkles as he smiles at Seokjin. “Thank you.”
Seokjin closes the journal and slides it back to Namjoon. “Do you want to be a poet?”
“I’d like to publish my poems someday,” Namjoon says, pausing when their food is set down in front of them. He thanks the waitress before continuing. “But I’m actually in the literature department to become a teacher.”
“Mhmm,” Namjoon hums as he starts cutting into his pancake. “I’m thinking middle school. Kids that age are kind of gross and don’t understand anything about personal hygiene yet, but they are also still excited about learning. It’s a really impressionable age, and it’s an important time for them to discover what they like and what interests them.”
Seokjin stares at him for a long moment. “Is there anything wrong with you?”
Namjoon pauses. “What?”
Seokjin gestures toward him in exasperation. “You — you write beautiful poetry, and you want to be a teacher, and you — you have cute dimples, you are ridiculously charming and polite, and you’re treating me to breakfast after I basically dragged you into my apartment last night.”
“One,” Namjoon says, lifting up a finger, “You did not drag me anywhere. I happily, and very eagerly, went with you. And two,” he grins, “you think my dimples are cute?”
Seokjin narrows his eyes at him despite the way his cheeks turn pink.
Namjoon laughs warmly. “I’m not perfect, Seokjin. I have my flaws, everyone does.”
“Let me guess,” Seokjin says, scanning his eyes over Namjoon thoughtfully. “You don’t recycle.”
Namjoon’s expression instantly shifts to one of offense. “Excuse me? I said I have flaws, not that I’m a monster . Of course I recycle. Do you recycle? Because if you don’t, that might be a deal breaker for me.”
Seokjin blinks at him in surprise before sputtering, “Yes, I recycle.”
Namjoon visibly relaxes. “Good. Phew. I was really worried for a second there. This is going so well, I’d hate to have to end it over that.”
Seokjin blushes again , and he feels like he has entered an alternate universe. He shut himself off from letting him feel anything like this, and now someone he met only the day before is literally making his heart do somersaults in his chest.
It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time, and it’s igniting something within him he hasn’t felt in a long time.
“Let me see your phone.”
Minho glares at Seokjin and snatches it from his hand, starting to scroll through the messages. With his other hand, he holds Seokjin’s wrist, not letting the other move.
“Who is Jimin and why have you been texting him so much?” Minho demands.
“He’s Jungkook’s roommate,” Seokjin says, trying to keep his voice steady. “He—“
“Are you fucking him?”
Seokjin’s eyes widen and he shakes his head desperately. “No! He’s like another brother to me. He has a boyfriend. That’s why we’ve been texting so much, he’s planning a surprise party for his boyfriend and asked me to help. That’s it. I swear.”
Minho doesn’t say anything, starting to scroll through other messages. He pauses and raises an eyebrow sharply at Seokjin. “You’re getting lunch with Jaehwan tomorrow?”
Seokjin whimpers as Minho’s grip on his wrist tightens. “He asked me to help him put his portfolio together. He’s applying for an internship, and —“
“Why would he ask you?” Minho sneers, scoffing and tossing Seokjin’s phone aside.
Seokjin winces as it lands face down on the floor, probably shattering the screen. But he only gets to think about that for a second before Minho is twisting his wrist painfully.
He yelps in pain, leaning with Minho’s grip, trying to alleviate the pain. “I’m sorry,” he says desperately. “Please—“
“I told you I didn’t want you seeing him anymore!”
“I'm sorry,” Seokjin repeats, tears springing to his eyes as Minho continues to bend his wrist. “Pl-please, Minho, you’re hurting me—“
“Damn right I am!” Minho shouts, yanking sharply until Seokjin’s wrist makes a popping noise.
Seokjin cries out in pain, cradling his broken wrist to his chest when Minho finally lets go of it.
“Great!” Minho continues shouting, starting to angrily pace the room. “Now look at what you made me do!”
“I’m sorry,” Seokjin chokes out, shoulders shaking with sobs that he fights to keep quiet.
Minho only gets angrier when he cries.
After breakfast, the two of them step out into the snow. Seokjin has his coat with the broken zipper on, so he can’t close it against the cold. He wraps his arms around himself. Namjoon notices, stepping in front of him and rubbing his hands along Seokjin’s upper arms to help warm him up.
“Let me walk you back home,” Namjoon offers.
Seokjin is just about to accept when he hears a familiar voice behind him. He tenses at the sound, and Namjoon notices, his hands pausing in their movements as he looks beyond Seokjin at the two boys who are walking toward the doors of the diner.
Seokjin turns to see Siwon and Chanwoo, Minho’s best friends, pausing outside the door. Siwon is the quiet one, but Chanwoo is someone who Seokjin truly hates. He’s like Minho’s little shadow, desperate for the other’s approval and always with a sinister gleam in his eyes. If they are here, then Minho probably isn’t far behind, and just the thought of that is enough to make his heart drop into his stomach.
Chanwoo smirks at him. “Is this your new toy of the week?”
Siwon at least has the decency to look uncomfortable, but he doesn’t say anything.
Chanwoo doesn’t give Seokjin a chance to say anything, turning his smirk onto Namjoon. “You look absolutely clueless, so let me fill you in. Seokjin here used to date my best friend until he dumped Seokjin on his ass. He’s no better than sloppy seconds now and he knows it, so he sleeps with any guy on campus. You’re just another fun night for him.”
Seokjin chokes when he tries to inhale, too shaken to try to defend himself. Chanwoo laughs in his face. Namjoon is standing beside him now, looking both confused and angry. Seokjin starts to back away. Namjoon is going to hate him. Things were going too well, so the universe just had to fuck him over. Because he doesn’t deserve nice things. Minho made sure of that.
Siwon tugs on Chanwoo’s arm, trying to pull him back.
Chanwoo starts to follow, but not without one last look at Seokjin. “I always knew you were easy. Do you think I could get a turn?”
He laughs again and lets Siwon pull him inside.
“I — I’m going to go,” Seokjin chokes out, not looking at Namjoon as he turns on his heels and starts walking in the direction of his apartment. He needs to get out of there as quickly as possible before he breaks down completely. “I’m sorry.”
“Seokjin, wait!” Namjoon exclaims, jogging to catch up with him. “Let’s talk about this!”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Seokjin says as he increases his speed.
Namjoon catches up anyway, reaching out to grab Seokjin’s wrist to try to get him to just wait for one second, but the moment his fingers wrap around Seokjin’s wrist, Seokjin flinches so violently that it makes Namjoon’s steps falter completely and he instantly lets go, eyes wide.
“Sorry,” Seokjin stammers, looking both ashamed and devastated, before hurrying away, shoulders hunched.
Namjoon doesn’t try to follow this time, watching him go, even more confused than before.
Seokjin doesn’t go to his apartment. He doesn’t want Namjoon to follow him there, but he also doesn’t want to risk Minho finding out where he lives. He knows Minho is probably meeting Siwon and Chanwoo for breakfast, and maybe he’s just paranoid, but he can’t risk it. It took him too long to find somewhere he felt safe on his own again.
So he goes to Yoongi’s. His brother answers the door, looking like Seokjin probably just woke him up, but his grumpy expression instantly turns to concern when he sees the state Seokjin is in.
Seokjin steps inside, kicking off his shoes and hanging up his coat on the hook before walking further into Yoongi’s apartment and sitting on one edge of the couch, curling in on himself.
“Was it him?” Yoongi demands. “Did he do something? I swear I will—”
“It was his stupid friends,” Seokjin cuts in. “Chanwoo was just being his typical self. That’s not even what I’m upset about. It…” he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Yoongi sits on the coffee table so that he is facing Seokjin. He studies Seokjin’s face carefully, trying to figure out what has him so upset. Yoongi is the only one who knows about Minho. Seokjin begged him not to tell anyone, not even their younger brother, Jungkook, and he knows it’s unfair to ask him to keep something like that to himself, to not be able to talk about it with anyone, but Seokjin is just too ashamed to have anyone else know.
“I met someone,” Seokjin says finally.
Yoongi blinks slowly. “You met someone?”
“His name is Namjoon,” he adds. “He’s a literature student who writes brilliant poetry, wants to be a teacher, and is basically a six-foot-tall god.”
“Okay,” Yoongi says. “This… this is a good thing, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you interested in anyone since Minho.”
Seokjin curls in on himself more. “I know that what Minho did was wrong, and I know that the things he said to me aren’t true. I know that, but it’s one thing to know it and another to believe it. The thought of being with anyone else terrifies me. I don’t feel good enough to be with anyone else. He made sure of that. And then today, I started to let myself think that maybe it could work out with this random literature student I met because I have never felt a connection so fast with someone, and then Minho’s friends were there to knock me back to reality.”
“Hyung,” Yoongi says softly, reaching out to place his hand on Seokjin’s knee. “Nothing that asshole ever said to you was true. He was abusive, and manipulative, and he did everything he could to hurt you and break you down. He wanted you to depend on him so that you would never leave him. But you did. You did leave him, hyung, and he doesn’t get to control you anymore.”
“I didn’t leave him, Yoongi,” Seokjin says miserably. “You got me away from him.”
“You did leave him,” Yoongi insists. “You may have needed help to do it, but you did it, and you should be proud of that. I’m your brother, and I’m always going to help you. You might be the oldest, but that doesn’t mean that me and Jungkook don’t look out for you. If Jungkook knew what had happened with Minho, he’d be telling you the same thing I am. There is nothing wrong with you. You are an incredible person, and you deserve to be with someone who makes you happy and treats you right. If this Namjoon guy might be that person, then you should give it a chance.”
“This is so stupid,” Seokjin mutters. “I barely even know him.”
“It’s not stupid,” Yoongi argues. “You’re allowed to be excited about meeting someone. You’re allowed to long for that, to want to be with someone and be happy. You’re allowed to feel that, hyung.”
After a moment, Seokjin nods as he wipes away a tear with his sweater sleeve. “Thanks. Not just for right now. For… for everything.”
Yoongi shifts over to sit next to Seokjin on the couch instead, getting himself comfortable. “Tell me about this Namjoon guy.”
Seokjin’s hands tremble as he cowers into the corner of his living room. The apartment is filled with the sound of Minho’s shouting and destruction. He’s destroying all of Seokjin’s projects, tearing them up in front of him and throwing them in his face.
“Stop, please,” Seokjin begs, tears streaming down his cheeks at seeing all his hard work torn to pieces. It’s devastating to see, and his entire body trembles with the devastation.
“Shut up!” Minho shouts. “God, don’t you just ever shut up! I’m so sick of hearing your damn whining. Just shut up! ”
He’s on Seokjin in an instant, slamming him against the wall with his hands around his throat.
Seokjin desperately claws at his wrists, choking for air as he tries to make Minho let go. But Minho doesn’t relent, grunting as he squeezes tighter, features twisted in uncontrollable rage.
Seokjin’s vision is starting to blur and his ears are ringing. He’s still trying to pry Minho’s fingers off, which only enrages Minho further. He keeps one hand around Seokjin’s throat while he balls his other hand into his fist and strikes Seokjin’s temple.
Everything goes dark for a moment, and then it snaps back with painful clarity when he is suddenly able to gasp in a lungful of air. He chokes on it, clutching his chest as he coughs and slides down the wall. He blinks slowly when he realizes no one is holding him anymore, and then the sight in front of him makes his stomach drop.
Yoongi has Minho pinned to the ground and is punching him over and over and over as he curses at him. Seokjin can’t tell what he’s shouting. His ears are still ringing. But he pushes himself to move toward them, crawling and begging Yoongi to stop.
“Yoongi, stop,” he croaks, twisting his fingers into the fabric of Yoongi’s sweatshirt and tugging on it. “Please stop.”
It takes another tug to make Yoongi finally stop and look at him. Yoongi scans his eyes over him, taking in the bruises forming around Seokjin’s throat and the slit in his eyebrow from Minho’s hit. He turns back to Minho, dragging him to his feet and shoving him toward the door.
“Get the hell out of here!” Yoongi shouts. “You better fucking pray to daddy’s lawyers to keep you out of jail! If I ever see you near my brother ever again, I swear to god I will kill you.”
On Monday, Seokjin sips on his coffee as he walks across campus in the direction of his first class. He had stayed at Yoongi’s overnight on Saturday and had procrastinated going home on Sunday for as long as he could, scared that Namjoon might show up and ask for an explanation.
He felt bad for blowing off the other boy at the diner like that, but Namjoon deserves better. He deserves more than someone who is only looking for one-night stands, more than someone who is too scared for anything else.
Seokjin stiffens and slowly turns around to see said boy walking toward him, fidgeting hesitantly with the strap of his bag.
Namjoon looks beautiful with a brown coat layered over a turtleneck sweater and a pair of denim jeans that fit him perfectly. He has a beanie pulled over his hair, and his hand is tightly gripping the strap of his brown leather shoulder bag. “Can we talk for a second?”
Seokjin nods, not trusting his voice quite yet as he takes a step closer to him.
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says, catching Seokjin off guard. “I’m sorry if… the other day, if I hurt you or upset you in any way, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t,” Seokjin says, dropping his gaze as he shakes his head. He takes a deep breath before looking back up at Namjoon. “It wasn’t you.”
Namjoon still looks concerned. “Are you sure? Because I like you, and I thought things were going well, and I don’t care about whatever those guys said. I don’t care if you… if you, um, you know…”
“Are the campus slut?” Seokjin fills in bitterly.
Namjoon blanches. “No! Oh my god, n o. I wasn’t going to say that! I swear. There — there is nothing wrong with safe, consensual sex with however many people you want. Sex isn’t a bad thing, and I hate the word slut. Don’t say that about yourself.”
Seokjin clenches his jaw, trying to will away the tears that are building in his eyes. It doesn’t work, and one spills over and down his cheek. He huffs in frustration, wiping it away with his sweater sleeve.
“Oh my god,” Namjoon says again, looking panicked. “Please don’t cry. I’m so sorry. God, I’m fucking this up so bad. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not you,” Seokjin forces out. “I promise it’s not you.”
“Then what is it?” Namjoon presses, taking a careful step forward.
Seokjin takes a slow step back, hating himself for it when he sees the flash of hurt cross Namjoon’s features. “It’s — those guys were right, okay? You deserve better. I—”
“No,” Namjoon cuts in, looking angry and Seokjin feels a spike of fear. But then Namjoon’s tone softens, even if there is still an edge to it. “No. You think I don’t know a couple assholes when I see them? I know there’s more to the story, and you don’t have to tell me because it’s not my business, but I think I can decide for myself what I deserve.”
Seokjin exhales heavily before bravely looking up at Namjoon. “My last boyfriend hurt me.” He bites the inside of his cheek for a moment before continuing. “He hurt me. And it — it took me a long time to leave. Longer than it should have, but I honestly didn’t see a way out. You’re not like him. I know that. But it’s just — it’s so hard for me to completely let my guard down. To let you in. Because I didn’t think he was like that either, and then he… he hurt me.”
“Hyung…” Namjoon looks heartbroken. “I’m so sorry.”
Seokjin gives him a pained smile before he shakes his head. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” He inhales, breath hitching a little, before adding, “When I was with him, he berated me and talked down on me until I believed him when he said that no one else would ever want me. And then when I left him, he told people that he was only with me for the sex, and that he had left me when he became bored. I… I guess I just went with it. Sleeping around with strangers is easier than trying to be with someone else who will never want me.”
“I want you,” Namjoon says, and the ferocity in his voice has Seokjin looking up at him with wide eyes. “I want you. Not just for sex. Don’t get me wrong, that was very good and I enjoyed it very much, but we could never have sex again and I would still want you. I want you because I think you’re beautiful, and you make me laugh, and you like my poems, and I’ve never clicked with someone like this. I might be a romantic, but I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do believe in connections, though. And we have one.”
“You barely know me,” Seokjin says breathlessly, not quite able to believe Namjoon is real.
“I’d like to change that,” Namjoon says. “I want to get to know you, Seokjin. I… I want to know what your favorite color is. I want to know what makes you laugh and what makes you excited. I want to know where you want to travel, and then I want to make plans to go there with you someday. I want to know what your favorite food is and make sure you can eat it whenever you want. I want to get to know you, Seokjin, if you’ll let me.”
A new wave of tears swells up in Seokjin’s eyes and he doesn’t even try to stop them this time, letting them roll down his cheeks. “I don’t — I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes,” Namjoon says softly.
“You didn’t ask a question,” Seokjin points out, a little of his stubbornness returning.
Namjoon smiles endearingly, taking another step forward and carefully taking hold of Seokjin’s jacket, pulling him a little closer. “Seokjin, will you go on a date with me?”
Seokjin doesn’t trust his voice again, so he nods as he shakily holds back a choked sob. Namjoon’s eyes are soft as he lets go of Seokjin’s jacket to gently wrap his arms around him, pulling him in for a hug.
As he holds him, he promises, “I will never hurt you, Seokjin. We can take this as slow as you need to. I will never push you, or force you, or treat you unfairly. I can’t promise that we won’t fight, but I can promise to never lay a hand on you. To never intentionally hurt you. And to reassure you every single day how amazing and deserving you are.”
“God,” Seokjin exclaims, pushing him back lightly to look at him. He pinches Namjoon’s arm, making him wince in surprise. “Are you sure you’re real?”
Namjoon looks at him in bewilderment before laughing, the sound of it making Seokjin’s heart swell.
“This is going to be fun,” Namjoon decides as he slings his arm over Seokjin’s shoulders, starting to walk with Seokjin.
Seokjin grins up at him. “You didn’t mean the no sex part right?”
“Oh no,” Namjoon quickly agrees. “I very much look forward to more sex with you.”
Seokjin laughs and leans into him, feeling lighter than he has in months.
Seokjin’s neck hurts from leaning over his sketchbook for so long. His fringe hangs in his eyes a little, but he’s given up trying to push it aside. It’s not quite long enough to tuck behind his ears like he used to — he can thank a small mental breakdown that resulted in him taking scissors to his bangs for that. They’ve almost grown out, but they’re still a little choppy.
Namjoon tells him they are cute. They’ve been together for a month, and Seokjin kind of feels like an asshole. He knows he’s hot and cold. One second he’s accepting dates and cuddling on the couch and laughing at Namjoon’s hair when he first wakes up, and the next he’s distancing himself and avoiding talking about anything that scratches beneath the surface or threatens to turn serious. Namjoon is so patient with him, but Seokjin hates himself for being so difficult to be with.
He lifts his head when he hears the door to the studio opening. He’s usually the only one who comes in here on weekends. Most students cram in the studio on the weeknights to avoid coming in on the weekend, which is exactly why Seokjin does the opposite. He likes the peace and quiet.
Butterflies flutter in his stomach when he sees Namjoon stepping inside. He’s carrying a bag of food from the cafe nearby and a drink holder with two coffees.
“Hey,” Namjoon greets warmly as he carefully closes the door behind him before walking over to the table Seokjin is set up at. “I brought you breakfast, because I know you skipped it this morning. I thought we could maybe eat together, but if you still need to focus on your project, I can just drop this off and go.”
“Stay,” Seokjin says immediately, closing his sketchbook and setting it to the side to make room.
Namjoon smiles his signature dimple-smile that makes Seokjin’s heart swell and sets the bag and coffee on the table before pulling a chair up for himself to sit across from him. He slides one of the coffees over to Seokjin — a vanilla latte, his favorite — and pulls out two breakfast sandwiches.
“Thank you,” Seokjin says gratefully, humming happily after taking a sip of his coffee.
“You’re welcome,” Namjoon replies, smiling at Seokjin endearingly. He gestures toward the sketchbook. “How has it been going this morning?”
Seokjin’s shoulders slump. “Slow. I’m feeling a little stuck, I think. Mentally.” He pauses, debating if he wants to say more. Namjoon waits patiently, always so patient, and with an open expression. “I’ve been stuck for a while, actually. My stuff lately has been… it’s been okay. But it hasn’t been to my usual standard, and if I don’t get myself together soon, I’m going to lose my top spot in this program. I worked really hard for that. And then…” he trails off, pinching his lips together and staring at his closed sketchbook.
“Everyone falls into slumps,” Namjoon says gently. “No one can be creative one hundred percent of the time. If you just push and push and push, you burn out.”
“He used to push me,” Seokjin says quietly, and Namjoon stills. Seokjin doesn’t talk about his ex much, and Namjoon never presses. He only wants Seokjin to tell him what he’s comfortable with. “He always had these expectations, always said that I had to be to his standards because he had a reputation to uphold. But then when he got angry with me, he’d destroy my work.” He hesitates before opening his sketchbook and flipping to the first few pages, which have been carefully taped back together after clearly having been torn out. “He stole the joy of this from me, and I’m scared I’m not going to find it again.”
“Can I suggest something?” Namjoon asks softly. “You don’t have to listen to it, or take any advice I give. I’m not — I’m not always the best with advice, and I have no experience with what you’ve gone through…”
Seokjin gives him a small smile. “I think you’re pretty good with advice.”
Namjoon places a gentle hand on Seokjin’s sketchbook. “He didn’t steal your joy, hyung. He… he tainted it. He gave you some bad memories. But your love for this? Your drive and your passion? That’s still there. It’s part of who you are. I think you might be struggling to find your footing again because the wounds are still fresh. The memories are still present.” He taps the sketchbook. “Maybe it’s time to have a clean slate?”
Seokjin considers his words as he looks at his sketchbook. He can’t look at it without thinking of the torn pages in the beginning. None of the designs in it are ones he plans on using anymore, but yet he hangs onto it, and he doesn’t really know why.
After a pause, he slides the sketchbook over to Namjoon. “Can you get rid of it for me?”
Namjoon looks at him carefully. “Are you sure?”
Seokjin nods. “Yes. Please.”
“Okay, hyung,” Namjoon says, taking the sketchbook and tucking it away in his bag with intentions to throw it away. “I’m happy to do that for you.”
Namjoon blinks at him in confusion. “What?”
“My ex,” Seokjin forces out, picking at the skin around his thumbnail. He can’t look at Namjoon, unsure if he wants to see his reaction. “My ex is Choi Minho.”
Namjoon is quiet for a long moment. “He’s in the business department, isn’t he? His father is on the school board?”
“Yeah,” Seokjin says quietly. He leans back in his chair, wrapping his arms around his middle. “I’m grateful you haven’t pressed or pushed me to tell you, but I know you have questions. And it’s okay that you have questions, because you’re… you’re my boyfriend, and you deserve to know these things.”
“Hey,” Namjoon cuts in softly. “Remember the day I asked you on a date? I said to let me decide what I deserve. You don’t owe me anything. I only want you to tell me things if you want to. Minho… he’s your past. And if it’s something that you don’t want to share with me, that’s okay . I’m your present, and I’m hopefully your future. You don’t have to share every second of your past with me.”
Seokjin blinks back his tears and dabs at the corner of his eyes with his sweater sleeve. “Yoongi — my brother. I think I’ve mentioned him to you? He thinks I should talk about it more. He’s the only one who knows. Even Jungkook, my youngest brother, has no idea what happened. He just thinks that Minho and I had a bad breakup. It’s just… it’s so hard to talk about, because I still sometimes feel like an idiot about the whole thing. I should have left the first time he hit me. Or even before that, when he started to become controlling and would say these mean things. But I… stayed. Despite all the bullshit and horrible way he treated me, I stayed.” A tear spills over, and he angrily wipes it away. “I just feel so stupid.”
“You’re not stupid,” Namjoon says without missing a beat. “He manipulated you. This is how he wanted you to feel if you ever left him. You’re not stupid,” he says again. “I think you might be the bravest person I know.”
Seokjin chokes out a sad laugh. “I don’t feel very brave. I’m — I’m terrified of this right now. Of us. I’m terrified of the way you make me feel.”
“Yet here you are,” Namjoon points out. “You’re terrified of being hurt again, and no one can blame you for that after what you’ve been through, yet you’re here. You’re with me. And you make me happy, and… I hope I make you happy.”
“You do,” Seokjin confirms, smiling a little even if his lips wobble.
“Good,” Namjoon breathes out, matching his smile. “And I’m going to continue making you happy. It’s, like, my life mission now. And over time, I hope the happiness outweighs the fear.”
Seokjin’s smile slowly grows. He even blushes a little, Namjoon’s words always having that effect on him, wiping away the last of his tears and taking a long sip of his coffee. Namjoon always knows the right things to say, it’s almost infuriating. Namjoon looks proud of himself for making Seokjin blush, leaning back in his chair and taking a drink of his own coffee with a smug smile.
“You’re cute when you blush.”
Seokjin walks briskly toward the cafe. There’s another poetry reading today, and he wants to surprise Namjoon. He missed the last two due to projects, but he’s determined to be there today. Namjoon is always showing up for him. He wants to show up for Namjoon too.
Someone steps into his path. His steps falter, and his entire being goes cold when his eyes meet Minho’s. It’s like time stands still. He’s stuck, unable to move as he locks eyes with the person who has caused him so much pain.
Seokjin swallows nervously, glancing around. There’s a few people, but campus is mostly empty right now. It’s Saturday morning, and most students are still in bed recovering from the night before.
Minho steps closer, and Seokjin immediately steps back, clutching his new sketchbook — a gift from Namjoon — to his chest.
“Don’t,” he says, willing his voice to be steady.
Minho ignores his request, stepping closer again. He grabs onto the collar of Seokjin’s coat before he can step back again. To anyone else, it seems like a friendly touch, like he’s just fixing Seokjin’s collar for him, but it makes Seokjin flinch and try to shuffle back more, but Minho’s grip remains tight, not letting him budge an inch.
“I just want to talk,” Minho says. “Chanwoo told me that you’ve been getting close with a literature major.”
“It’s none of your business,” Seokjin hisses out.
“ You’re my business,” Minho counters, something dark flashing in his eyes.
Seokjin trembles as Minho steps even closer, still holding Seokjin in place as he leans down toward him.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” Minho continues. “And your brother’s threats don’t scare me. He can’t do anything to me. Not without consequences. You know that.” With his other hand, he grabs Seokjin’s cheek. “I know he convinced you to leave me, but come on, baby. You’re mine. You’re always going to be mine. So stop this and come back.”
“No.” It takes everything within Seokjin not to cower away from him, to stand his ground as he says this. He almost expects Minho to hit him, but they’re in public, and Minho will never make a scene. “Let go of me.”
Two girls walking by slow down when they see the way Minho is holding Seokjin in place, appearing concerned. Minho might be well-liked, but so is Seokjin. Despite the rumors Minho and his friends have spread, Seokjin is still friends with a lot of people, and has a reputation of his own due to his hard work and kind personality. Minho exhales slowly through his nose, eyes filled with fury as he tries to remain in control of his emotions, and he lets go of Seokjin’s coat.
Seokjin immediately steps back, putting space between them. “Just leave me alone. We’re done. I don’t want to get back together. Just — we’re done, okay? So just stop. Please. Just leave me alone.”
Minho clenches his jaw, his irritation growing. He opens his mouth to say something, but someone else speaks first.
Seokjin turns his head to see Jimin walking toward them, looking apprehensive. Jimin doesn’t know the truth about Minho. Seokjin hadn’t let Yoongi tell anyone, not even Jungkook, but the others weren’t blind. They knew that the relationship hadn’t been good, that the breakup hadn’t been pleasant. They might not know the details, but they know enough to know that Seokjin doesn’t want to be around Minho.
“We were just catching up,” Minho says tightly, barely suppressing a glare at Jimin.
Jimin smiles at him, but it’s not warm. It’s not even friendly. Seokjin knows Jimin, has known him for years, so he knows it’s the smile that means trouble for whoever it’s directed at.
“Well, the catching up is over now,” Jimin says, linking his arm with Seokjin’s and looking at Minho dismissively. “Move along.”
Minho’s glare slices over to Seokjin briefly before he shoulders past them with a scoff.
Seokjin exhales in relief, shoulders sagging as he leans into Jimin. “Thanks.”
“Breakups suck,” Jimin says, wrapping his arm around Seokjin’s shoulders. “ But , I hear you might be moving on?” He wiggles his eyebrows at Seokjin. “Jungkook said that Yoongi mentioned you’re kind of seeing someone, which sounds like a rumor, so here I am to verify if it’s true or not. So, details. Now. Please.”
Seokjin chuckles. “Um, well…”
Jimin gasps in excitement, bouncing up and down. “Oh my god, you’re blushing . Who is he? What’s his name? I need to know everything.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes fondly and grabs Jimin’s wrist. “Come with me.”
He pulls Jimin into the cafe, and he glances around before spotting Namjoon at a table toward the front. He’s flipping through his journal, probably deciding which one he is going to read.
“Hyung, what are we doing?” Jimin asks, looking around curiously.
“Joon!” Seokjin calls out, ignoring Jimin’s question as he pulls him toward the table.
Namjoon looks up from his journal, a surprised smile spreading across his face when he sees Seokjin. He stands, and Seokjin lets go of Jimin’s hand when they reach him so that Namjoon can pull him in for a kiss.
“What are you doing here?” Namjoon asks when they separate, holding Seokjin’s cheeks gently.
“I wanted to come hear your poem,” Seokjin replies with a warm smile.
Namjoon kisses him one more time before glancing at Jimin, who’s gaping at the two of them with his mouth hanging open and eyes wide.
Seokjin laughs as he leans into Namjoon’s side. “Namjoon, this is Jimin. He’s Jungkook’s roommate. Jimin, this is Namjoon. My boyfriend. We’ve been dating for a little over a month.”
“One month, twelve days, sixteen hours,” Namjoon confirms smugly before extending his hand to Jimin. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Jimin blinks at his hand before launching forward to hug him. Namjoon stumbles in surprise before awkwardly hugging him back, looking at Seokjin for assistance as he does.
Seokjin only laughs warmly, used to Jimin’s antics. One friend down, five more to go. Yoongi will be the toughest and most critical, but his boyfriend, Hoseok, is a ray of sunshine who always knows the right thing to say to make Yoongi be friendly.
Minho was never close with his brothers or friends. He never even bothered trying to get to know them, instead trying to distance Seokjin from them. He wanted Seokjin to be friends with his friends. To only hang out with people he knew. To be with or be where he had control.
Jimin steps back with an excited grin. “You’re lucky I’m the first one you’re meeting. I’m the nicest.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes. “I don’t know about that.”
Jimin rounds on him, narrowing his eyes a little. “Who is nicer than me, hm? And don’t you dare say Taehyung. He has an evil streak and you know it.”
“And you don’t?” Seokjin snorts.
Namjoon wraps his arm around Seokjin’s waist, rubbing his hip with his thumb. “I’m excited to meet all of them.” He looks down at Seokjin. “When you’re ready for me to.”
Jimin glances between the two of them before settling on Namjoon. “It’s like you’re out of a romance novel.”
Seokjin gestures at him with a happy smile and wide eyes. “Right?”
“I can tell you’re upset,” Namjoon says as he follows Seokjin into his apartment.
“I’m not,” Seokjin insists, hanging up his coat before heading further inside. His anxiety is buzzing beneath his skin, threatening to break through and making him itch all over.
Namjoon follows him diligently. “You are. Just talk to me. Did I do something? Because if I did, I can’t fix the problem unless you tell me.”
He thought the night had gone well. He and Seokjin have been together for three months now, and he has officially met his brothers. Jungkook had been pretty welcoming and had warmed up to him very quickly, but Yoongi had been a bit more difficult. By the end of dinner, he had gotten the older to smile, so he considers that a success.
But Seokjin had gone quiet as they were leaving, and he had barely said a word on the walk home.
Seokjin is quiet again now, not meeting Namjoon’s questioning gaze.
“Talk to me, angel,” Namjoon says softly.
He still remains quiet, stubbornly crossing his arms and pressing his lips together.
Frustration seeps through Namjoon’s desperation, and he exclaims, “Damnit, why won’t you just talk to me? Relationships take work! But I can’t do anything if you’re not willing to put in the effort.”
“It’s not that simple—”
“It is,” Namjoon cuts in. “It’s called communication.”
Seokjin pinches the bridge of his nose before saying, “You wouldn’t let me pay for dinner.”
Namjoon blinks, caught off guard. “I…” he pauses, tilting his head to the side. “I was just trying to be a good boyfriend.”
“But I’m a good boyfriend too,” Seokjin says, gesturing toward himself. “I can pay for things too. But you never let me!”
Seokjin clamps his mouth shut after that, tensing up and looking away again.
Namjoon slowly steps toward him, not missing the way Seokjin’s shoulders tense further. “Why didn’t you ever say anything before?” he asks, careful to not sound accusing. “I didn’t know this bothered you. If I did… of course you can pay for things if that’s what you want.”
“I just want things to be equal,” Seokjin says, looking back at him. “I… I need things to be equal, Joon. It’s important to me.”
“Okay,” Namjoon agrees instantly. “I want things to be equal too. I’m sorry if I made you feel as if they aren’t.”
“I spent my entire last relationship as someone who was lesser than. He made me feel small , and inadequate , and I — I…” Seokjin deflates, running a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. I’m being stupid.”
Namjoon shakes his head, closing the distance between them slowly and placing his hands on Seokjin’s shoulders. “You’re not,” he says. “I want you to tell me when something is bothering you. I… I’m guessing you couldn’t do that before?”
Seokjin nods. He huffs in frustration with himself before saying, “I appreciate that you are so patient with me. That you’ve been so considerate. It means more than I can even express. But I don’t need you to coddle me or treat me like I’m fragile. I… I’ve needed to take things slow because the last time I dived into things too fast, it was a mistake. But you’re not a mistake, and I’m not going to break if you don’t do something for me. You don’t have to take care of me all the time. It’s like you said, this takes effort. You don’t have to be the only one putting in effort.”
Namjoon gently cups his cheeks. “Okay, angel. I’m sorry if I made you feel like you’re incapable or as if I think you need coddling. I don’t think you're fragile. I think you’re incredibly strong.” He strokes his cheek softly. “And you can always tell me anything. I’m not going to get angry or upset with you for expressing to me how you feel. I want you to tell me these things. Do you get upset when I tell you something is bothering me?”
“No,” Seokjin mumbles.
“Exactly,” Namjoon says, booping his fingertip against his nose.
Seokjin scrunches his nose at him.
“Is there anything else I do that bothers you?” Namjoon asks.
“Hmm,” Seokjin hums playfully before smiling softly. “You don’t kiss me enough.”
Namjoon feigns alarm, eyes widening. “Oh no. We must fix this immediately.”
Seokjin laughs as Namjoon starts peppering his face with kisses, simultaneously running his hands along his sides to tickle him. Namjoon scoops him up then, carrying him to the bedroom, determined to kiss Seokjin as much as he can.
Seokjin leans his head on Namjoon’s shoulder, the two of them cuddled together beneath a blanket on the couch as they watch a movie. It’s the end of finals week, and after a stressful month of studying, projects, and exams that made Seokjin want to rip his hair out, he and Namjoon decided to celebrate by eating their weight in pizza and watching crappy horror movies.
“Hey,” Namjoon says quietly.
Seokjin pulls his eyes away from the woman being chased on the screen to tilt his head back and look up at Namjoon, their faces only inches apart. “Yeah?”
Namjoon’s eyes sparkle as he looks at him with so much adoration. “I love you.”
Seokjin’s breath hitches in his throat.
“You don’t have to say it back if you’re not there yet,” Namjoon reassures. “It’s okay. I just… I couldn’t hold it in. These past five months have been the happiest I’ve ever felt, and it’s because of you.”
He almost expects Seokjin to seem nervous or apprehensive at his declaration, but instead, Seokjin is smiling at him in the soft way he does whenever he seems content. He smiles at Namjoon like this when they first wake up in the morning after spending the night at each other’s place. He smiles at Namjoon like this whenever Namjoon reads him a poem. He smiles at him like this when Namjoon holds his hand while they walk together on campus.
It’s a smile that melts Namjoon’s heart, and it’s one of the many things he loves about Seokjin.
“I’m there,” Seokjin exhales.
Namjoon’s eyes become misty. “You are?”
Seokjin nods, shifting slowly to straddle Namjoon’s lap, gazing down at him lovingly as he cups Namjoon’s cheeks. “I am,” he says. “I love you. I love you, and I feel safe with you, and I… I’m blown away by you, Joon.”
Namjoon stretches up to kiss him, tangling his fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck as he kisses him with everything he has. Kissing Seokjin is always the best feeling. He never gets tired of it, each time better than the previous. He’s not sure if they’ll ever be able to top this though. Because this… this is a kiss out of love . Filled with adoration, warmth, and care.
So much care.
Namjoon pulls back enough just to murmur, “You have my heart, Kim Seokjin.”
Seokjin rests their foreheads together. “And you have mine.” He exhales slowly. “I never thought I would give it to anyone again, but I’m so glad to have given it to you. So you better handle it with care.”
“Always, angel,” Namjoon says tenderly. “ Always .”
“Good,” Seokjin says against his lips. “I’m going to hold you to that.”
A scream from the movie blasts through the quiet room, startling both of them, causing them to knock their foreheads together. They both erupt into laughter, Seokjin dropping his face into Namjoon’s neck as they do.
Namjoon holds him tight, smiling when he feels Seokjin press a soft kiss against his skin where his neck meets his shoulder.
Seokjin feels so safe and secure in his arms, and he knows in this moment that this is what it should feel like. This is love.
And he’s never going to let it go.