There are three things Seokjin takes with him when he does restaurant reviews: his trusty notebook, his camera, and someone to eat with him. This someone is, more often than not, Jimin, though Seokjin really ought to get some new friends.
"Hyung, do you have to bring that stupid notebook everywhere we go?" Jimin says, covering his eyes with his palm.
Seokjin cradles his notebook to his chest. "It's not stupid, I have to take notes for my blog," he says to Jimin, and then to his notebook, "Shh, he can't hurt you."
Jimin makes a face like he is contemplating running away right then and there. "Why do I go anywhere with you?" he asks.
"For the free meals," Seokjin points out. "Which I can revoke at any time."
"No, no hyung, your notebook isn't stupid at all. Hyung, please."
The restaurant he's reviewing tonight is a bit out of his blog's normal price range. Seokjin's thing is cheap eats. Ten things you can make with ingredients already in your cupboard, the best kimbap restaurants around SNU, the most bang for your buck at the convenience store. This restaurant is new and trendy and had lines out the door for its first week. Naturally, Seokjin wants to know what all the hype is about.
Unfortunately, Seokjin quickly realizes the hype is mostly undeserved. It's Korean-Italian fusion that seems confused about whether it wants to be more Korean or more Italian, and the taste reflects it. When the end of the meal comes, the only positive note Seokjin has scribbled in his notebook is about the decor.
"Final verdict?" Seokjin asks as they exit the restaurant. It's raining now when they step outside. Seokjin tucks his notebook in the inside pocket of his jacket for safe keeping.
"Two stars out of five," Jimin says, clutching his stomach. "I hate those places with tiny plates, I feel like I barely ate anything."
Seokjin throws an arm around Jimin's shoulder. "How about I make us some ramyun?"
"You are the best hyung," Jimin says, "I will never make fun of your notebook again."
The rain has picked up significantly by the time they reach Seokjin's apartment building and he feels a bit like a wet dog when he steps into the lobby, hair plastered to his forehead and jacket sticking to his skin. They slosh their way to the elevator, door almost closed when someone shouts, "Please hold the door!"
An equally wet pair squeeze into the elevator alongside them. It's his neighbor from across the hall, Sujeong, and her boyfriend, and now Seokjin really wishes Jimin had let him pause in front of the mirrored walls in the lobby to fix his hair.
"Seokjin oppa, are you having a nice evening?" Sujeong asks, as pleasant as always even as her bangs drip down onto her nose. She moved in a few months ago when the new semester started, a welcome change from Seokjin's last neighbor who had an affinity for playing saxophone at 3 in the morning. But along with Sujeong came her boyfriend and Seokjin stopped feeling a little less gracious toward her.
Not that there is anything wrong with Namjoon, beyond the fact that he is tall and handsome and Seokjin had felt his heart physically constrict the first time he caught a flash of Namjoon's dimples, laughing at something Sujeong had said.
"We are," Seokjin say, definitely not watching out of the corner of his eye as Namjoon pushes back his wet hair. "I hope you are too."
The elevator chimes at the fourth floor. Seokjin steps back to let Sujeong and Namjoon exit first, wishing them a good night as they pass. It isn't until Seokjin's door is closed and he is beginning to untie his shoes that he realizes Jimin is holding back laughter.
"What?" he asks, suspicious.
"Oh, nothing," Jimin says. "Just that I can't believe you have a crush on your neighbor's boyfriend."
Seokjin aims his most pointed glare at Jimin. "It's not a crush, you can't have crushes on people you've never talked to."
"That's not even true, hyung. Aren't you the one that reads all those mangas?"
"And I am old enough to know that they are all lies."
"Okay fine, I believe you," Jimin says.
"If you believe me, stop wiggling your eyebrows."
Though Seokjin's job is basically a glorified combination of answering machine and coffee maker, and isn't exactly what he'd hoped he would be doing with his college degree, working as a secretary for an entertainment company does have its perks. Like copious amounts of free time in between making copies and balancing trays of non-fat, no-whip lattes to work on his blog. He's able to knock out the first half of his restaurant review before lunch.
Sorry readers, if you're looking for a hip place to impress a date, you'll have to keep looking. This restaurant is all talk and no substance. He types, satisfied. What you are paying for is-
"Seokjin," His boss says, suddenly standing in front of him and interrupting his train of thought. Seokjin jumps in his seat, hand covering his chest. "Can you deliver this file to A&R for me? And while you're up, another latte?"
"Right away, sir."
He stays for a few minutes to chat with Gukjoo noona in A&R, who passes off a box of Japanese snacks he'd requested from her recent trip. She pinches his waist through his shirt as she passes over the box. "Don't forget you owe me dinner," she says, levelling her eyes at him. "You have to try my cooking." Seokjin promises her soon.
There's a long line when he gets to Starbucks and Seokjin pulls out his phone, intending to continue working on his draft, but a new email alert catches his eye.
Seokkeumbap doesn't get email often- most of his readers stick to the comment section- so Seokjin is surprised when he opens it up to find an email with the subject line thanks!!
Seokjin reads through the email two more times, distract enough by his happiness that he is oblivious to the barista calling his name out until she clears her throat. He can't miss her glare when she hands him his latte and Seokjin gives her an apologetic smile.
i'm a certified disaster in the kitchen, but like most humans i still have to eat. your takeout reviews are awesome and the best kimbap restaurants in my neighborhood list has probably saved my life. i'm emailing because i was wondering if you had any basic recipes for someone who is probably a danger to his whole apartment building every time i make ramyun. where can i start if i want to learn how to cook?
thanks again for your great blog,
Back at his desk, Seokjin clicks on this Rap Monster's blog. It's all about hip hop- Seokjin isn't sure what else he expected from the name. Album reviews and soundcloud links to his own music and some rambling blog entries about the nature of humanity. It couldn't be more different than Seokjin's own blog, but hey, everyone has to eat.
Hi, Rap Monster ^^
I am pleased to hear that you find my blog so helpful! As far as easy recipes, have you tried making noodles?
One of my first recipes…
Seokjin is used to seeing Namjoon in passing by now, but he is surprised to find him sitting in the hallway in front of Sujeong's apartment one night on his way home from work. So surprised that he nearly trips over Namjoon's foot, too engrossed in the video he'd been watching (definitely not anime related, no way) to pay attention to where he was going.
"Namjoon?" he asks, tugging out his headphones. "What are you doing out here?"
"Sujeong got held up at the animal shelter and I didn't feel like going all the way home just to have to come back," Namjoon explains. "So here I am."
Seokjin's fingers hover over the keypad on his door. Before he can stop himself, he says, "Do you want to come inside? My couch is a lot more comfortable than the floor."
Namjoon jumps to his feet. "Really? Oh, that would be great, thank you."
It's kind of weird- no, actually it's super weird having someone you've only ever seen and admired in passing on elevators and in hallways standing in your foyer, shrugging off his jacket and stepping into the extra pair of slippers. "Let me help you with your bags," Namjoon says and Seokjin looks away from Namjoon's Air Jordans next to his sensible work shoes, belatedly remembering that he is in fact carrying groceries.
"Have you eaten?" It's practically a reflex. His friends don't call him Seokjin eomma for nothing.
"Well, Sujeong was supposed to feed me," Namjoon says, a little sheepish. It's pretty endearing, his cheeks dimpling and his bangs falling in front of his eyes. "Without her and takeout, I would probably starve."
Seokjin doesn't have to check his fridge to know he's mostly down to leftovers. "Does fried rice sound okay? That's what I was going to make."
"Fried rice sounds amazing," Namjoon says. "Need any help?"
He sets Namjoon to work cutting an onion as Seokjin pulls out the rest of the ingredients, pulling out whatever he has left in his fridge. "Do you prefer spam or chicken?" Seokjin starts to ask, but when he turns around to look at Namjoon, he interrupts himself with a rather undignified panicked noise.
"No, no, don't cut like that," he says, reaching out to still Namjoon's wrist.
Namjoon stops immediately. "What am I doing?" Namjoon asks, sounding a lot like a kid who's just been caught about to stab a fork into an electrical socket.
Seokjin gently takes the knife from Namjoon. If he were less worried about Namjoon chopping his fingertips off, Seokjin might be flustered by the way he's pressed up against Namjoon's back, or the warmth of Namjoon's wrist under his fingers. As it is, with the threat of blood imminent, Seokjin doesn't even notice.
"You're holding the knife all wrong," he says, demonstrating. "It's really easy to cut yourself when you hold it that way."
"Maybe I should just go-" Namjoon points to Seokjin's couch.
"That might be for the best."
It's not like fried rice is hard to fuck up and Seokjin is rarely self-conscious about his food anyway, even when he makes mistakes, but he still feels a touch of apprehension as he watches Namjoon dig into his bowl.
"Is it good?" he asks after Namjoon has taken a few bites. He hasn't even touched his own bowl yet.
"Delicious. Beats the hell out of whatever Sujeong was probably going to make." Namjoon flashes Seokjin a smile. "But don't tell her I said that."
Seokjin finds himself opening his mouth before his brain can catch up again. "You should both come over sometime," he says. "I can cook a lot more than fried rice."
"I'm sure she'd love that. I'll let her know."
"Great," Seokjin says. He stabs through a mushroom with his chopstick. "Awesome."
As usual, Seokjin enlists Jimin to help him review Gukjoo's box of Japanese snacks. it won't be fun if it's just my opinions ㅠㅅㅠ, he texts Jimin.
dinner? ㅋㅋㅋ, Jimin texts back immediately.
Jimin arrives with Hoseok in tow. "I was told there would be snacks," Hoseok says, sniffing around like he's a dog.
Seokjin holds up his box. "What flavor of Kit Kats do you want? Wasabi, apple, or red bean sandwich?"
Despite their best efforts, however, neither Hoseok or Jimin make for good reviewers. "I need you to give me more details," he tells them, tapping his pen against his notebook. "Like, describe the flavor more in depth, or the texture."
Jimin holds the red bean sandwich Kit Kat away from his face, coughing a little as he sticks out his tongue. "Gross."
"More specifically?" Seokjin prompts.
"Really gross. Where did those fried chicken Pringles go? I need to clean out my mouth."
Seokjin turns to Hoseok, hoping for something a little stronger. "What about the apple?"
Hoseok shrugs apologetically. "It tastes like chocolate but a little bit of apple? It's okay, I guess."
"You guys are not entertaining," Seokjin says, closing his notebook with a sigh.
"Hyung, how many people even read your reviews anyway?" Jimin asks, mouth full of Pringles. "How entertaining do we have to be?"
"Lots of people," Seokjin says. He's got plenty of readers, thank you very much. "I've been emailing this one reader who said he would probably die of hunger without my advice."
He's been emailing back and forth with Rap Monster over the last week. After his first recipe, he encouraged Rap Monster to send him the results and any more questions, any time. Still, Seokjin didn't expect to get another email that night with a picture of japchae attached. i think i added too much sesame oil… Rap Monster wrote.
Nonsense, Seokjin emailed him back. You can never have too much sesame oil. You just need to balance it out with the sugar. How did the cooking go? Was it easy?
He's emailed Rap Monster a few more easy recipes, things that even someone who claims to be wholly incompetent at even the most basic kitchen tasks should be able to handle. Seokjin feels like he has his own protege.
Jimin, unsurprisingly, does not seem impressed. "Enough about your blog," he says, laying his hands on the table as he leans into Seokjin's personal space. "Let's talk about what you were doing the other night."
Hoseok claps his hands together gleefully. "Oooh, what was he doing?"
"He was hanging out with his neighbor's cute boyfriend who he has a crush on."
"Yah," Seokjin says, pushing Jimin's chest until he falls backwards, sprawled out on top of unopened candy. "It's not like that. We were eating dinner."
"Homewrecker," Hoseok says, giving Seokjin a proud thumbs up.
Seokjin frowns in return. "He was hungry."
"Hungry...for dick?" Jimin says from the floor. Seokjin throws a caramel candy at him.
"It doesn't matter. I stopped having crushes on straight boys in college," he says, looking between Jimin and Hoseok. "It's nothing."
"Are you sure it's not-" Hoseok twirls his fingers seductively- "something?"
As Jimin attempts a Girl's Day impression while remaining on the floor, Seokjin renews his vow to find some more supportive friends.
Sure, there is something a bit masochistic about inviting the guy you have a not-crush on and his girlfriend over for dinner, but Seokjin chooses to ignore this. He is just being a friendly neighbor. Repayment for the time Sujeong watered his ferns while he was on a business trip.
"Seokjin oppa, you didn't have to go through all this trouble," Sujeong says when they're seated at the table.
"It's a labor of love," Seokjin says, setting a plate in front of each of them. "I haven't made sea snails in a long time."
Sujeong smiles. She's got the kind of gentle, puppy face that Seokjin imagines would be easy to like. "Well, it looks delicious," she says. "Thank you for having us over. He wouldn't shut up about your fried rice."
"Stop," Namjoon tells her, ducking his head. "You should've tried it, it was really good. Better than my mom makes."
The flattery makes Seokjin's cheeks heat up. Not a crush, he reminds himself. Just a mild infatuation. "So, Sujeong," he says, changing the subject, "Namjoon said you work at an animal shelter?"
Sujeong is eager to talk about it, telling Seokjin about some of the dogs that need adopting and her favorite fat, old cat who has the disposition of a grumpy ahjussi and only lets Sujeong pet him. From there the, conversation flows naturally. Sujeong is a college student, five years younger than Seokjin (he pauses internally to feel ancient when he hears this) and she's in the pre-veterinary school. She sucks at physics though, she whispers to Seokjin like they're sharing a secret. "I might need Namjoon to help me with that too," she says.
"Did you guys start dating before you started school?" Seokjin asks.
He doesn't expect Sujeong to burst out laughing. "Oh, no. No. We're not. No."
"Three nos," Namjoon says to Seokjin. "Can you believe that?"
Seokjin looks between the two of them, blinking in surprise. "You're not?"
Namjoon shakes his head. "I'm her English tutor."
"Oh," Seokjin says dumbly.
"He exchanges English lessons for dinner," Sujeong says, grinning behind her hand. "A mutually beneficial friendship."
"My mom honestly thought I was going to starve when I moved out," Namjoon says. "But I told Sujeong I'm learning how to cook. I've been emailing this guy who has a cooking blog and he's sent me some recipes-"
Seokjin drops his chopsticks. They clatter to the floor, rolling under his chair. "Sorry, my hand slipped," he says, "I'm just going to get another -" and he flees to the kitchen.
Of course it had to be Namjoon. The same Namjoon who apparently is not dating Sujeong. How many other hip hop loving guys who can't cook to save their lives are there in Gwanak district?
Actually, probably quite a few. Seokjin is just that lucky.
He can't stay in the kitchen for too long without drawing suspicion, so he steels himself with a deep breath and grabs another pair of chopsticks.
This is fine. This is not a problem.
Seokjin isn't quite sure how it happens, but somehow he and Namjoon become proper friends. They don't have much in common—Namjoon is into hip hop and literature and he's in graduate school for international studies, while Seokjin's biggest passion in life besides cooking and his blog is Mario—but Namjoon is easy to talk to. They end up on Seokjin's couch one night talking about politics and life goals and, somehow, Maple Story characters until Seokjin looks at the clock and realizes it's past midnight. He has to add an extra espresso shot to his coffee the next morning, but it's worth it.
If it wasn't a crush before, it is now. Seokjin's heart is a traitor.
And what's worse is Namjoon is still emailing him under his blog name, while he has no idea it's Seokjin on the other side of the computer.
"I really don't see what the big deal is," Jimin says when Seokjin finally catches him up. His head is lying in Seokjin's lap, fingers in his hair because Seokjin misses Jjanggu and Jimin is a decent substitute for a dog when Seokjin is stressed. "He doesn't have a girlfriend and he likes your blog. Those are both wins. Just tell him it's you."
i understand if you say no or think this is strange, but since we live in the same area i was wondering if i could buy you dinner sometime as a thanks for all your help. there's a new vietnamese place near the university.
i promise i'm not creepy! i just want to say thanks. :)
"But it's like. I haven't told him yet and I've kept emailing and now it just feels weird to be all, 'Hey, it was me all along.'"
Jimin tilts his head up to look at Seokjin. "Hyung, you're overthinking it. I know you're awkward, but not everything has to be."
"That's easy for you to say," Seokjin points out. "But you're right."
"I'm always right," Jimin says smugly.
Seokjin flicks him across the nose. "In your dreams, kid."
In the end, Seokjin doesn't even get a chance to tell him.
Seokjin gets a message on his way home from work that says, hyung ㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜ feed me.
"What do you want me to feed you?" Seokjin asks when Namjoon shows up a half hour later.
Namjoon immediately flops down face first onto Seokjin's couch, grunting out something that might mean anything from "whatever" to "caviar."
"Rough day?" Seokjin asks. Namjoon grunts back affirmatively.
Seokjin throws together some things he has in his fridge, a half-assed recipe he's made so many times he could probably recreate it in his sleep. By the time he sets the pot on the table, Namjoon is at least sitting up now. "Smells good," he says. "What is it?"
"Chicken. It's funny, my friend Jimin- I think I've talked about him right? Last year he was dieting and he could only eat chicken breasts and, like, four other things and I used to cook this for him all the time. We called it chicken titties falling and drowning in chili paste. I've kind of upgraded it now-" Seokjin cuts himself off when he realizes that Namjoon is staring at him. "What?"
"You're the one that runs that blog?"
And that's when Seokjin belatedly remembers one of his first recipes he posted on his blog. The same story. CTFDCP. Oops.
Namjoon has stepped around the couch now, standing right in front of Seokjin. "You're Seokkeumbap?"
Seokjin gives a tiny wave. "Hi, nice to meet you."
"You don't have any pictures of your face on your blog. Wait, did you know it was me?"
"Not until you said something the other day," Seokjin says.
"I can't believe this," he says, shaking his head. "You know, I can cook five whole dishes now. You were really helpful."
Seokjin feels like hiding his face behind his oven mitt, but Namjoon doesn't seem weirded out. He's smiling, dimples out in full force, and Seokjin musters up the courage to say, "You can still take me out for dinner, though. As Seokjin. If you want."
This is why Seokjin is a cautious person, someone who doesn't take many risks, because his heart feels like it might jump out of his chest and run down the block in the time it takes Namjoon to reply. But Namjoon's smile never falters. "Yeah," he says. "I would like that."