When Yoongi said before that he would do everything to ruin Namjoon's life after Namjoon had 'gifted' him with a year-long membership in the gym that the 'object of Yoongi's wildest and kinkiest desires' frequented, Namjoon didn't think Yoongi was actually serious.
'Serious' meaning Yoongi dragging his own ass out of bed just so he could sign Namjoon up for a dating service and actually take time to fill out the form without bugging Namjoon for information. 'Serious' meaning Yoongi making time to sort through a long list of people who'd already liked Namjoon's profile just three hours after Yoongi had made it for him. "You're a hit among school boys," Yoongi yelled over his shoulder, and Namjoon's solemn response was to raise his middle finger in the air as he busied his other hand with typing the rest of the script. He had to send it off to Joonmyun for approval at four in the afternoon. It was already two. Joonmyun was going to kill him if he ever screwed up, but Yoongi was probably going to stage an even more painful death if he didn't listen to Yoongi's live commentary of the 'hits' Namjoon's dating profile was getting. "There's 'victorysecs' and 'parkyoutoo' from the same uni, then some... kid who looks way too young for a thirty-year-old like you, so nope. There's a 'bendyboy69' who seems to be pretty eager to talk to you, though. Hasn't stopped sending messages since–"
"Not interested. I don't want to know. And don't even describe how the guy looks. I don't care," Namjoon murmured, then waved Yoongi off. He dropped his raised hand back to his keyboard and rephrased another sentence. He was going to host a wedding, not an honor's convocation or an official government function or something. He made a mental note to send Joonmyun an email, saying, 'Unless the wedding you're organizing is an event involving the heads of state, you probably shouldn't say you would like to acknowledge the presence of our esteemed primary sponsors.' "And what the hell is that username even? Bendywhat?"
"Boy with a 'y', not 'i'," Seokjin called out, then reached over to fluff the tuft of Namjoon's hair. Namjoon shivered. On most days, he liked Seokjin enough to just speed walk past Seokjin and his flatmate making out on the couch, but when Seokjin and Yoongi were combining powers to plot Namjoon's ultimate destruction ("We're doing your dick a favor, okay. God knows it's all wrinkly and shriveled up already." "Excuse me! It is not–" "Of course, he'd know, honey," Seokjin had said, then offered Namjoon a solemn pat on the back. "Nice to know you're making an effort to keep the forest alive."), he hated Seokjin more than anything else in the world, Yoongi included. And that said a lot. "Come on, it could have been worse with an 'i'."
"I don't know you," Namjoon groaned. He hit the 'save' button faster than he could chuck a pillow at Yoongi. Or Seokjin. Or maybe he should throw something at the evil duo. That would make his life ten times better for the next two minutes. A brief respite from the two would do. "I do not know you. Why are we friends again?"
Seokjin shrugged. Beside him, Yoongi called out, "We're friends? I thought you didn't know us. How can we be friends when we don't even know each other?"
Namjoon heaved a sigh. It was only two in the afternoon and the event he was set to host was at six.
It was going to be a long day.
♥ ♥ ♥
Either the world hated him or the world really hated him – Namjoon had come to that conclusion a long, long time ago. It began when he met Yoongi back in university, during one of their sound classes. Yoongi was what some people would call a 'musical genius' – he could play the piano, the guitar, some obscure instrument Namjoon didn't even know existed, could even play with people's minds. And Yoongi was pretty good with words. The problem was that Yoongi didn't have rhythm in his lyrics, and apparently – or at least their sound professor thought – Namjoon was the best person who could fix Yoongi's lack of rhythm and somehow turn beautiful lines into meaningful lyrics. Namjoon was the best person to commiserate with Yoongi and Yoongi was, in turn, the person who could offer the best pats on the back and muted sympathy in the slow bob of his head as he said, Yeah, totally. I understand, and groveled over their lackluster music together.
Apparently, that also meant Namjoon having to decode Yoongi's thoughts and emotions by reading the lyrics he wrote and listening to the music he composed at least five times. It meant many sleepless nights filled with frustration and realizations. It meant... Namjoon having to help Yoongi coax those feelings out and translate them into words because the mofo wasn't comfortable enough stating emotions for what they were. The whole 'dealing with Yoongi thing' was difficult at first, primarily because Yoongi was a prick and deliberately made Namjoon's life hard by bombarding him with thoughts, concepts, ideas, but reading Yoongi became ten times easier as time went on. It had to get easier somewhere along the way, else Namjoon would have tapped out at the first opportunity and given up on understanding Yoongi completely.
Yoongi never gave up on him, though, stuck with him through the toughest challenges – in university, during internship, in all of the weird and twisted flings that they never knew they had because they were drunk off their asses half the time, and even as they moved from one employer to another. They'd started out in the same industry, but eventually took two different paths – Yoongi producing music for idols and for public consumption, and Namjoon playing those hit songs on the radio. So it made sense, didn't it, for Namjoon to say 'yes' to Yoongi the very few times that Yoongi asked for a favor? It made sense for him to actually agree to meet up with the guy – not 'bendyboy69', thank God – since the wedding got called off at the very last second because the bride had run off at midnight of the day of the wedding?
"I know it sounds like something straight off of a telenovela and an excuse to not pay you, but it isn't," Joonmyun had clarified over the phone earlier. Then, heaving a sigh, he added, "I'll make it up to you over coffee. You don't have anything planned tonight, right?"
Namjoon had reconsidered. He could use Joonmyun as an excuse to bail out of his 'date', but between refusing free coffee and facing Yoongi's disappointed face for the next few hours, turning down Joonmyun's offer was the better option. So he said 'no, maybe some other time,' and hung up on Joonmyun even before he could think of thunking his head on his equalizer. Poor knobs. Poor sound equipment. Poor him.
"Sorry for being late," said the man at the doorstep of Namjoon's little studio in the radio station. He bowed slightly before looking up to meet Namjoon in the eye, before stepping inside even if Namjoon had already opened the door for him. Namjoon had tried to ward off the man by telling him through the dating app – "I still can't believe you didn't reply to him until... two hours after," Seokjin had said, "All it takes is a few keystrokes." "The app was lagging, okay," Namjoon reasoned, but Yoongi was quick to mutter under his breath, 'your brain's lagging, yeah'. "Why don't people just text each other or something? Why do you even need mobile messengers? Do you have– His number should be in his bio thingie, right? Right?" – that he was 'kinda caught up in work' in his studio in Hapjeong, but the man didn't seem to mind, only replied with a smiley and a message that read, 'No prob. Send me your address? Or are you planning to make me go on some treasure hunt to keep things interesting?' Namjoon's first thought was I can't believe the asshole actually included that in my bio, can't believe he made an effort to make me sound cool. On a dating app or site or whatever. His second, I can't believe the guy in the picture and the guy right in front of me are actually real. "The directions to your studio were actually very clear, but–"
Namjoon gulped hard. The man was holding up two paper bags right in front of him, putting more space between them. It smelled faintly of the rough commute and smoke and yummy bibimbap. It smelled faintly of... hope.
"I promise they're good. And I remembered the extra yellow radish," said the man, then winked. "Made sure to double-check your profile. Nice touch to the bio, by the way. Makes you even cuter."
Namjoon snorted, but for the most part it sounded like a really ugly gurgle. He made a mental note drink as much water as he could as soon as they got settled down. He made a mental note to thank Yoongi after strangling him after this date-slash-poor attempt at pushing away someone he'd met in a dating site. And then, almost an afterthought – to stop grinning at the man when he caught his reflection in the mirror of the sound booth.
"Thanks," he whispered, then shut the door behind him. He made sure to click the lock and leaned back against the door as he watched the man make himself comfortable in his cozy little studio. It was strangely comforting.
You're not so bad, yourself.
♥ ♥ ♥
Namjoon should really stop calling the man 'sk8erb0123' in his head.
To be fair, the man – Hoseok, Jung Hoseok, Namjoon had to keep reminding himself – kept calling him 'sapmonster' the first five minutes they spent waltzing around each other. "My friend's idea, not mine. And I told him not to go with my radio handle– Wait, wait, it's not actually my radio name. It's a really, really bad variation of it and–" Namjoon had reasoned then, and Hoseok only rolled his eyes in response and mouthed what seemed to be 'whatever, still cute, also pretty cool that you're actually doing radio stuff'. It could have been anything, though. Hoseok's mouth was stuffed with food and he seemed neither uncomfortable nor fazed by it. If anything, it was the gochujang sticking his lower lip that made Hoseok feel uneasy, if the way he kept twisting his mouth was any indicator of it. But for the most part–
Hoseok seemed to be completely at home in Namjoon's little studio, enough that he was sitting cross-legged on the computer chair.
Hoseok seemed to not be as disturbed as Seokjin was by the chaos sprawled all over Namjoon's work station.
Hoseok still seemed to find something peculiar or new about the studio even if it was the fifth, sixth time he'd looked around with squinted eyes and a curl of wonder tugging up at the corners of his lips. "I've never been to a music studio before," Hoseok began, pausing to swallow down whatever food was still left in his mouth, then cleared his throat. "And not once in my life have I ever met a radio jock before, but I never knew–"
"That jocks were into using dating apps?" Namjoon laughed. Hoseok's face scrunched up in thoughtless response and wow, that was really cute. Cuter that the kitten that Yoongi and Seokjin had recently adopted. Cuter than the intern who had recently taken a liking to working exclusively with Namjoon and bringing Namjoon coffee when he needed it most. Cuter than all the pictures Hoseok had in the app. They were supposedly the best he had in his arsenal. In Hoseok's defense, though, he'd posted workout photos and picture where he was either halfway through doing a dance step or halfway through taking off his shirt that stuck to his skin because of sweat. Not cute, but definitely hot. They had the same effect on Namjoon, though – they made him scream to the gods above, How the hell do I tell Yoongi that I hate this guy's face now? Why must life be so cruel to people like me? Why must this be the life I've been born to live? "Told you, it was my friend's–"
"Idea, yeah, I know. That's what I've been telling everyone for the past six months, until–" Hoseok shook his head. Slowly, he wiped the sauce off the corners of his lips with his thumb and licked its tip before sucking on it. Half of Namjoon wanted to yell himself hoarse and do hysterics and leave the studio in a mad dash, run straight to the flat he shared with Yoongi, and strangle his friend 'til Yoongi passed out in a fit of laughter. The other half of him, possibly the less sane between the two, wanted to lean in and lick the remaining sauce off of Hoseok's lips, instead. Both weren't really good ideas, but since when did Namjoon get the best ideas when he wasn't working on his music or running his radio program? Since when was he able to maneuver his heart the same way he was able to control his mind? "I mean, I never knew studios were actually this cool and... packed? Completely unlike the studios and booths you see in dramas. Those are always extra... I dunno, they seem... rigid or something. Like, if those were booths for news radio programs then fine, be serious and all. But the booths in shows just lack... personality."
Cool. Namjoon's insides lurched. His mouth quirked up a little, completely out of his volition. The last time he heard anyone call a studio and being a jock cool was... back in university, where everyone wanted to either produce music or make sure they rest of South Korea heard those beautiful beats. The drought in appreciation for the profession dwindled after graduation. It had shocked him at first, but after his first six months and first three failures as a drive-by jock in many different programs he'd already grown accustomed to taking the profession for what it was – a marketing tool, something to bolster idols to fame. Not an art.
He gulped hard. Hoseok didn't need to know that, though. What the hell did people do on their first date? Namjoon had no idea whatsoever; all the had in the past was one drunken hook up after another that never evolved into relationships.
"Booths are never that neat and organized, lemme tell you," Namjoon said after a while. He looked to his side, at the piles of papers on his workstation, then at the messy tangle of cords and cables on the other side of the booth where recordings were done. 'Personality' – that was it. The mess all around them was what made the studio so uniquely Namjoon. "I mean, sure, we're supposed to clean up after we board and stuff, take our scripts with us and all, but when you have the next set of jocks ready to board in a minute because the next show's supposed to start already, it's just... everything's just chaotic? Too many people in the booth, too many print outs of spiels lying around. Too much noise–"
"Music, I think you mean music," Hoseok offered, then nudged Namjoon a little in his side. There was a peculiar glint in Hoseok's eyes that, Namjoon was pretty certain, was supposed to be illegal. Strangers who wanted nothing but his body weren't supposed to be this attractive and endearing. It wasn't fair. "Or sound. Too many layers of sound in one song makes the whole thing sound... weird and chaotic."
Namjoon's breath hitched. You did not just call my mess 'music'. Who the hell even does that? he wanted to say, but instead he murmured, "Yeah, that." A heartbeat, then, "It's pretty complicated, but–"
"Tell me about it, then?" Hoseok said, voice lilting as he inched closer and propped his chin on his clasped hands. Half of Namjoon was concerned that Hoseok was going to lose balance and topple over, but the other half of him was worried that there was too little distance between them, that they were too close, too intimate. First dates weren't supposed to go like this, but then he had to be the worst judge of that.
Maybe it was time to change that.
"I mean, your job, producing music for broadcast and working with all sorts of sound directors when you board, so I can live vicariously through 'multi-awarded radio jock Kim 'Rap Monster' Namjoon'?" Hoseok leaned back a little, inched away, and Namjoon's immediate response was to choke on his own breath. "How does that sound?"
Dangerous, Namjoon was tempted to say, but he pushed that thought further back until the right words surfaced to his lips. He took a deep breath, nodded, and whispered to life, don't you dare cockblock me this time. "Fun."
♥ ♥ ♥
In all three decades of Namjoon's life, he had had many different definitions of 'fun'. The most common was probably diving into his bed after a long day in the studio or hosting too many events, both of which involved dealing with too many people and being zapped of all his energy. Another was waking up to the scent of Seokjin's cooking and of Yoongi's extra-strong coffee instead of to soft knocking on the door of his studio (courtesy of the kind security guards who knew he considered his studio his second home), reminding him that it was one in the morning, he was supposed to be home already and no longer working, and that shit, he should have sent the mastered music tracks to 'insert name of current demon of a client here' hours ago. Then, underlined thrice, seeing client approval emails flooding his inbox and the words 'you may pick up your check tomorrow' smiling at him in big, bold characters.
A new addition had to be going through his entire history as a radio jock and not feeling guilty about 'wasting Hoseok's time' talking about his humble beginnings because every single detail he'd dropped was met with a gentle bob of the head, a bright smile, a faint 'wow' that was more visible in the glimmer in Hoseok's eyes.
"You had to what?" Hoseok blurted out, face scrunching as he leaned even closer. Namjoon laughed a little and shifted in his seat, then flexed his fingers. It was funny the first few times, seeing Hoseok react to every single thing ("Y'know, I tried editing music before but the hell? You need to be able to read sound waves to do that properly? And wha– Okay, if this were dancing then I'd probably be ace already and I'll have to hold your hand through the whole thing but why do you even need to know where the faintest noise in the sound is? It doesn't make sense, but it does, but–") but after a while it had become more... endearing. He was so used to seeing people already accustomed to him magically trimming two whole minutes from a five-minute song. He was so, so used to hearing people pass off mastering sound and making music 'meatier' by adding more layers of instrumentals to it already. Making and selling music were already 'normal' and everyday things to him that he'd long lost the wonder he had for the many magical things that music was able to do to him, like breathing color into his otherwise insipid existence. And now Hoseok was performing tricks on him – simple tricks, but effective enough to coax him to keep talking, to dig up stories from his past and bare himself to Hoseok little by little. "So the extra layer of guitar in the band's latest track... that was the suggestion you made to the producers to improve the music?"
"Well, it was a minor fix–"
"A minor fix that helped the band sell millions of copies of their debut single, right. No biggie. Anyone can do that. You don't have to be a 'Kim Namjoon' to do something as amazing as that, of course." Hoseok rolled his eyes. He reached over, tapped a beat on the bridge of Namjoon's nose, then gave it a light pinch. "You should give yourself more credit, you know. Not everyone can produce music. People make sounds, yes, but music? Sounds that actually tell a story?" He laughed. It was low and rough, though, unlike most of Hoseok's laughs. Not that Namjoon had been trying to create a catalogue in his mind, but Hoseok sort of made it easy to focus, to tune out the noise and to just listen to the music of his voice. "It takes passion to create that. Passion and years of hard work and talent."
That I didn't think I had for the longest time because, y'know, we're made to think we're never good enough to be top-class producers, Namjoon groaned to himself. It was a small voice, though, faint enough that he could ignore it if he wanted to. He could push it down if he just made an effort to gulp hard, clear his throat, brush off the thought, but it was something that had been ingrained in him since his first day in university. Whether or not to push him – them, every single person who dreamt of producing music that could transcend languages and races and ages – hard until he was at breaking point, until he could break free from his own doubts and finally flap his wings, he wasn't certain. All he knew for sure was that old habits died hard, and his habit of continuously pounding his own hard work to the ground even if part of him believed it was outstanding already was going to gnaw at him, eat him up, and spit him out a complete mess.
He laughed to himself. He could feel his lips trembling. It probably wasn't the best first impression and he was probably much, much closer to driving Hoseok away now, but hey – the sooner he found out whether or not Hoseok was willing to stay and live with whoever he was, the sooner he could move on to the next person, then the next, then the next.
So you can hurt yourself again. Very wise, Namjoon. Really wise move. Thirty-something and still fucking yourself up. Screw feelings and emotions and attachments. Screw finding someone he could finally connect with, someone who actually showed interest in more than his long fingers and his dick. This was why he preferred casual hookups over dates. This was why he'd been attached to nothing but his own dreams in all three decades of his existence.
"Don't even try to deny that," came Hoseok's voice, calm yet firm, warm yet with sharp edges meant to tear down Namjoon's walls. And Namjoon was the weakest when he was tired from work, when all the wanted to do was to curl up in bed with his pillows and rest. "You know, your bio should have come with a warning–"
"About me being a drama queen? Sure, that would attract people. That would be perfect," Namjoon mumbled. He could feel bubbles of laughter spilling from the corners of his lips, but they felt more like acid trying to score lines and scars on his skin. "Leave, then, if it bothers you so much. Just– Walk away now while you still can–"
Hoseok snorted. He pulled away just a little and stared, his eyes tracing the contours of Namjoon's features. It was a bit unsettling and Namjoon could feel insides turning, but soon Hoseok was breaking the spell with a pinch to the tip of Namjoon's nose. Then Hoseok was leaning in, moving much, much closer until their foreheads bumped. From this distance, with nothing but the hitch of the breath between them, Namjoon could make out how Hoseok's bangs just brushed over Hoseok's eyelids, hiding some of the little red dots on his forehead, could make out how long Hoseok's eyelashes were, and how Hoseok couldn't–wouldn't stop nibbling his lower lip like he was trying to buy himself time – to think, to string his words together, to collect himself because Namjoon had a habit of breaking things, people, and never putting them back together. "'I stick to people like a fucking leech', that's what my profile said," Hoseok whispered after a while, then he was craning his neck and pressing a soft kiss to the crown of Namjoon's hair. What am I, a kid? Namjoon wanted to ask, but Hoseok was warm and the fit of their bodies felt... night. It felt right. "So if you're thinking of getting rid of me after telling me all those then sorry, you'll have to do better than that."
Namjoon froze. He took a deep, shaky breath, gulped hard in an effort to ease the tightness in his throat, but to no avail – the crippling sensation had already crept to his chest, making it grow heavier. Was it because Hoseok had a hand on his chest, or because Hoseok was pulling away little by little only to press a kiss to his forehead? Namjoon wasn't sure. The last time anyone ever held him like this was when he went home for Christmas and gave his grandmother a notebook filled with handwritten lyrics of songs he would never let anyone else hear.
That was five years ago. The last hook up he had was around that time, shortly after Yoongi stopped hitting bars with him and started penning songs for Seokjin, instead. He couldn't even remember the names of half of the people he'd found himself sneaking into some secluded place with, and maybe that was what made this, what made Hoseok, feel much more real – the fact that Namjoon didn't need to feel around blindly in the dark for a semblance of companionship, and the fact that Hoseok kept pulling him closer even if Namjoon's body language was screaming, go away, go away, go away because the moment I cling onto you, Jung Hoseok, I swear to God I'm not letting go–
"Like what, kill you?" he asked after a while, when the felt the thundering pulse at the base of his throat come to a gradual calm. Not for too long, though, because the next thing he knew Hoseok was laughing on his skin, the vibrations bleeding onto the back of his eyelids, the bridge of his nose, the corners of his mouth where Namjoon could slowly feel a violent tug maneuvering his lips into a smile. The tightness in his chest hadn't eased yet, but there was warmth blooming across his skin, coaxing the little loose nerves in his body to fall back into place. "Skin you alive and take away everything that matters to you–"
"Try again," Hoseok said, then shook his head. Namjoon could feel the slow-forming smile on Hoseok's lips burning on his skin. He found himself nodding in thoughtless response. 'Again' sounded really, really nice. "Try again."
("Would you... want to see a real, live broadcast sometime?" Namjoon asked much later, as they made their way to where Hoseok had parked his car. The streets were covered in snow and it probably wasn't the best idea to walk three blocks in only two layers of clothing ("I can't believe you actually get out of your house in just– Whatever. We can split gloves and you can have my bonnet, but you'll have to return those sometime. Those are my favorites. So you'll really have to–" "Yeah, I get it. You can't live without them." And yet you're lending them to me.), but the fit of Hoseok's fingers between his own in his pocket kept him warm enough to not freeze out in the open. "If you're free, at least. I mean, I can only imagine how crazy teaching dance to kid can be and–"
Hoseok stopped in his tracks. He looked to his side, furrowed his eyebrows, tilted his head. Gripped Namjoon tighter until Namjoon could feel the quickening pulse on Hoseok's palm. If this was code for 'what the actual' fuck then Namjoon was pretty damn proud for being able to decipher that even if they'd only met a few hours ago. Through a dating site or application or Yoongi's evil plans gone right. If not, then–
"Only if I get to board with you."
Namjoon bit the inside of his cheek. He probably looked stupid with the weird grin on his lips. But then, so did Hoseok.
"I can't believe you're even more gross than I am."
Namjoon looked over his shoulder and waved his hand, shooing Yoongi away. He made it a point to check and double-check if he looked presentable enough to people in the mirror before leaving for work, but today wasn't any other work day. It was the first day of his program running for three hours instead of the usual two. He was going to have SNSD on his show to promote their new album. Tablo was coming over for a visit, as well, which actually meant Namjoon getting to spend at least ten minutes on air with one of the greatest music icons he'd ever come to know. Maybe he could ask for an autograph and a special video greeting for one of his nieces during commercial break. Maybe he could even... ask Tablo if he was interested in a collaboration. Or maybe he should just answer his phone that had been buzzing in his jeans pocket for a good six, seven seconds now.
He was boarding with Hoseok on the second hour of his show, as well, and they'd prepared a special number that they'd been working on the entire week. So instead of slipping into his usual threadbare shirt and loose coat, he pulled on a sweater, then a cardigan, then topped off the ensemble with a coat thick enough to get him through even the coldest of Seoul temperatures in winter.
He deliberately tossed the gloves he'd stuffed in his coat pocket earlier back in his drawer, though, and instead took two scarves. There were some things that he could live without, and Hoseok's warmth wasn't one of them.
Another: the smile that bloomed on Hoseok's lips whenever Namjoon forgot to return his things but remembered to give something of his own, instead.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be there," he said into the receiver when he drew his phone close to his lips, then shut the door behind him. Made a beeline for the front door even before Yoongi and Seokjin could call after him, keep us posted on the post-boarding sex! It was going to be a long and tiring day, but that was alright. He had music to get him through the crazy hours. He had the promise of another date, and another, and another, (and good cooking to come home to because Yoongi and Seokjin actually knew how to take care of him, especially in winter) to make his day better.
He had Hoseok. So maybe it was going to be a distracting day at work and it was probably going to be hell trying to keep his hands to himself, but hey – he didn't mind. Some people were worth going through hell. Hoseok was worth the long and sweet wait.