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In spite of the fact that it doesn't really paint him in the shiniest of lights, Hoseok is pretty fond of retelling the story of how Namjoon and him met back in freshman year. Everyone loves a good, fun college story that has just the right amount of self-depreciation.

Hoseok's just getting started when Yoongi comes back from the convenience store, Namjoon in tow, the door beeping behind them as it shuts and they take off their shoes. Yoongi all but dumps the plastic bag on the floor in the middle of the makeshift circle of slightly inebriated college students sitting down. Jimin's the first to reach towards it but Yoongi stops him effectively, nudging hifjungs hand away with his socked foot.

"Gross, hyung."

"I only got Hite and you don't like it, so don't bother." Yoongi says breezily, sitting down next to Hoseok.

"Why?" Jimin asks, petulant, as Yoongi unpacks what they'd gotten on their convenience store run. A 1.5 liter bottle of Hite, 3 bottles of pomegranate soju, 3 bottles of grapefruit soju, 2 bags of these weird honey butter snacks everyone in their group of friends still loves even though the craze around honey butter anything died months ago.

"If you wanted to drink something specific, then maybe you should have contributed money." Yoongi replies smoothly, taking a sip of his cup freshly refilled with Hite to spite Jimin further.

"All the hyungs here treat me except you," Jimin pouts, "you should really learn to be nicer. You got pomegranate soju though, you know I love it."

"Yes, we all know you love it but no one here wants you to drink it again." Namjoon tries to placate the exchange. Jimin had a tragic pomegranate soju induced hangover a couple months back, and no one's really over it yet. He'd cried on the subway ride home, clutching to Yoongi's shirt and squeezing Namjoon's hand so hard that Namjoon had almost went in for an x-ray check the following morning, just to make sure it wasn't broken.

"Now this is just collective bullying." Jimin complains.

"Yeah, yeah." Yoongi says as he lines down a row of seven plastic shot glasses on the floor, carefully pouring grapefruit soju in each of them. "But I guess since we're celebrating, we'll let this one slide and you can drink with us."

Jimin nods, almost sagely. "Good occasion as any to see if I handle grapefruit soju better than pomegranate." He looks determined as Yoongi hands him a shot glass.

Clinking noises seal Jimin's ill-fated future — inhale, swallow down the shot, exhale loudly and slam the glass on the floor, an unsatisfying small plastic noise against the laminate wood flooring.

"Anyway." Hoseok starts off once again when everyone's done taking their shots. If he waits any longer, who knows when he'll get another chance to finish his story. Things tend to derail pretty quickly when they all meet, as most university students — and recent alumni, sure, including Seokjin and Yoongi — involving alcohol consumption tend to do.

Jungkook's already pouring out new shots, always eager to fulfill his role of youngest in the group and suck it up to the hyungs, especially if he can figure out a way to hold it against them afterwards.

"As I was saying," Hoseok doesn't let himself get distracted by the prospect of another shot, "I get to my dorm room on moving day and Namjoon's already there. He's on his laptop talking to someone in English, probably on Skype, I guess, so I just wave hello and start putting my stuff away." Namjoon's sitting right across Hoseok, quite the front-row seat to the retelling of their first meeting, a little over four years ago now.

"So, like, he hangs up the call at some point and I just stare at him and wave again, saying 'hello, my name is Jung Hoseok' in English. To which he just stares back and replies 'hi, I'm Kim Namjoon'. I'm grasping at straws at this point, to think of what to say next, like, remember I was fresh out of high school and English definitely hadn't been my best subject on my entrance exams."

"You weren't too bad." Namjoon argues.

"I was terrible, don't try and paint a whole new reality, Namjoon-ah," Hoseok cuts him off, "but anyway, I try my best with my broken English and we somehow manage to carry conversation throughout the day as we both unpack our stuff. From what I understand, Namjoon's just moved to Korea from New Zealand for university and his Korean is pretty basic."

"Wait, wait!" Taehyung interrupts. "Namjoon-hyung made you believe he was a gyopo and barely spoke Korean?"

"I didn't mean to!" Namjoon's quick to shout back, frowning at his plastic shot glass, now crumpled in his hand. Hoseok had noticed that he'd been fidgeting, something that wasn't unusual, but he hadn't heard the plastic breaking under his fingers with the low bass of whatever Yoongi had put on the speakers blasting in one corner of the living room. Breaking things while fidgeting wasn't unusual either, but it mostly happened when he was nervous. He'd broken an indefinite amount of pens while studying or even taking exams, which had led to Hoseok making sure Namjoon always left for exam halls with a brand new 10-pack of black pens.

"Maybe you didn't mean to, but you kept the joke going until the evening!" Hoseok rebuts.

"You took me out of the blue! You just started talking to me in English and I was just getting off that call with a friend I met during my exchange in New Zealand. I guess my brain just didn't wire itself back into Korean mode and I kept talking in English! I didn't mean—"

"It's alright, Namjoon-ah." Hoseok quells his agitation. "You know damn well I didn't hold it against you once I finally discovered the truth."

"I still can't believe it took you an entire day." Yoongi huffs as he extends his shot glass towards Taehyung, who happily refills it.

"Hey, I'm not the one with a genius IQ here." Hoseok rebuts, giving Namjoon a pointed look. Namjoon raises his glass in sheepish acknowledgement. "You know how great Namjoon's English is, how could I have known?"

"He's right," Jimin pipes in, always one for appeased discussions, "I would have made the same mistake—"

"But you weren't there." Yoongi shuts him up.

"Hey, hey, hey." Seokjin interrupts, finally looking up from the 2 bags of snacks he'd been too busy scarfing down to participate in this prolonged retelling of Hoseok and Namjoon's First Day of Friendship. "Play nice, Yoongi." He throws a curly-shaped chip at him, a peace offering that Yoongi sensibly accepts. "Finish the story, Hoseok-ah, I'm sure Jeongguk wants to know how it ends."

And that's the actual reason why Hoseok's even revisiting this memory: Jeongguk's the only one who's never heard it before, despite having been fully adopted into their group of friends — no, their family, Seokjin would always correct — for a year now. Taehyung had found it outrageous that he didn't know the story of how it went down and he'd insisted Hoseok tell it, capitalizing on the fact that Namjoon was out for the convenience store run and couldn't object to it. Hoseok had obliged because the story was pretty much family history, sure, but also because he looked back on it fondly, warmth blooming in his chest at how such a great friendship had blossomed from one silly event.

Hoseok picks up where he left off. "Anyway, we kinda do our own thing during the afternoon, and then we head out to the cafeteria for dinner and this doofus starts speaking in fluent Korean with the ahjumma working there, downright asking for extra tofu in his jjigae and I just— I mean, if he'd been a hyung I would have probably dropped the honorifics out of surprise but I couldn't do that so I think I just muttered a bunch of curses under my breath and started calling him out on his bullshit." Hoseok pauses, swipes the bottle of pomegranate soju off the floor and cracks it open. He sets it down next to him, opting to wait until he's done to offer up a round of soju bombs. It's a strategic pause in his storytelling, mostly. Always good to keep the audience on their toes and that seems to be working well enough on Jungkook and even Taehyung, who's heard it all before. "And the whole time, Namjoon's looking really flustered and flushed and I can kind of understand why, 'cause I'm causing a scene in the middle of the cafeteria on move-in day, but I eventually calm down a little, I suppose. Not like it was that big of a deal, I guess I just over-reacted and mostly felt dumb that I didn't figure it out earlier."

"You're not dumb," Namjoon interrupts. "It was stupid of me to have it go on for so long in the first place, I should have just told you the truth earlier."

Hoseok prevents him from saying anything more with some complicated hand-waving and finger-wiggling. "It's alright, water under the bridge and all that. It's been three years, you know." That garners a smile from Namjoon, at last, one that Hoseok gladly accepts and responds to with his own.

And— yeah, it's been three years, it's easy to forget it sometimes, with how quickly the time passes and things come to an end. Hoseok and Namjoon are graduating at the end of the school year, and even just a couple weeks into their penultimate semester, it's getting obvious that this is going to be a year full of many Last Times. It's like a wave of lasts crashing into them and leaving them breathless and then coming to crash into them again, rinse and repeat. Seokjin and Yoongi graduated last year and even though they still hang out some, just like tonight, it's all different. The dynamics have changed.

Seokjin doesn't live a block away anymore, ready to add another plate or two to the dinner table to help out his forlorn friends, but instead lives in Incheon, cooking for the high-class patrons of the Grand Hyatt Hotel near the airport. Yoongi's got a studio to call his own instead of haunting the university ones outside opening hours, even got himself some business cards made, Genius Lab embossed on the thick cardboard paper.

Seokjin's budae jjigae still tastes the same when he invites them over and they all trek to Incheon, all complaints stopping once they get their hands on their spoons and can eat to their heart's content. Yoongi still wordlessly pays for Hoseok's coffee and slice of cake whenever they meet at the nondescript chain coffeeshop near his studio in Hapjeong, always one to take care of others through an addition of small gestures, the sum of which are bigger than any grand gesture could ever amount to.

"What was the deal with New Zealand, though?" Jungkook asks, bringing Hoseok out of his melancholic train of thought. Always a sharp mind, this one, picking up on small details.

"I lived in New Zealand for two years before I started high school, I was ending a call on Skype with a friend I met there when Hoseok got into the room. And I guess he assumed I didn't speak Korean just because my English sounded good to him? And things kind of just, you know, spiraled down from there and got a little bit out of proportions."

"And now, Jungkook, you know how this beautiful love story started," Yoongi says in a tone not unlike the one someone might use to end a fairytale story, "and it's time for soju bombs." Yoongi motions towards the bottle of soju Hoseok had set next to him, but Hoseok stops him, batting his hand away.

"Don't even think about it, and don't even try to call my friendship with Namjoon a love story again." Hoseok says sweetly, grin plastered on his face. Yoongi is banned from preparing soju bombs — as is everyone else, actually. It had been established from some long-winded drunken process that Hoseok was reigning king of soju bombs making, and thus should always be the one preparing them. A drunken decision that had stuck, thanks to the handwritten contract they'd all drafted up together in sloppy handwriting that Hoseok had found next to his bed upon waking up. Apparently, he'd managed to retrieve his seal, yes, his actual seal that he only ever used to sign the few official government documents that needed it, and had stamped the contract with it, albeit a little sloppily as well. But there it was, still carrying meaning: Jung Hoseok, King of Soju Bombs.

"You guys moved in together right after your first year, you're pretty much married to me." Yoongi pipes up again.

"We're not the only people to have ever done that." Hoseok points out as he finishes up to line up seven plastic cups and grabs the bottle of Hite, setting out to fill them up equally.

"Maybe, but you're the only ones in this very group of friends to have done it." Yoongi shrugs, as if to mark the fact that his argument is rock solid and not up for debate.

"I don't think it's really appropriate to use empirical evidence for this kind of matter." Namjoon mumbles. Hoseok's glad that he's self-aware enough at this point to not fully launch into a rant on appropriate research methods. This time, Yoongi didn't even have the time to glare at him before he stopped talking. Progress. Hoseok's proud of him.

"Just because no one wants to move in with your mean ass doesn't mean it's uncommon for two dudes to shack up together." Hoseok shoots back, finishing to fill up seven shot glasses with pomegranate soju. "Alright everyone, grab a shot and a cup, and let's get this really started."

There's a small commotion as everyone moves to get their drinking supplies and Yoongi almost trips over Taehyung's legs while making his way to the stereo to switch to what Hoseok supposes is more appropriate soju bombs drinking music.

There's the splashing noise of everyone dropping their shot glass in their beer cups at the same time and then— the classic succession of inhale, swallow down as most as you can, exhale loudly and slam the cup on the floor. The usually unsatisfying plastic noise of the cup is drowned out in the thumping bass this time, and Hoseok figures that Yoongi probably turned up the volume some more when he switched songs, pushing this night past the point of casual hangout and into the precipice.

 

*

 

The thing with living with a sociology major with an undying love and minor in music is that they tend to have playlists for everything. Hoseok has come to know Namjoon's playlists throughout the years, especially because he has his Staples. Playlists that have stuck around since their first year, when they still lived in a cramped campus dorm room and Namjoon always played some music in the background whenever he was around. There's a Cleaning My Shit playlist, a Last Minute Cram Before Exams playlist, a This Essay Was Due Three Days Ago playlist, and so on. There's a Sex playlist, too, which Hoseok came to know once they'd moved to an off-campus apartment and each had their own bedroom. Hoseok had heard it many times filtering out the front door of their apartment, huffing as he was once again sexiled for the night. The prospect of having to put up with Yoongi pretending he didn't want him to stay over for the fourth or fifth time this month wasn't the most pleasant.

On most occasions, Namjoon found the time to send an eggplant emoji on Kakaotalk to indicate that he was getting some tonight at their place. But on other occasions, when he found himself "in the rush of passion", his words not Hoseok's let the record show that, he didn't find the time and Hoseok would be welcomed almost-home by the the sweet voice of The Weeknd crooning "let me see that ass, look at all this cash". Hoseok could appreciate a good The Weeknd song on any other occasion but this.

So when Hoseok wakes up on the cusp of 8am on a Saturday to the sound of SoMo's Ride filtering through the walls of his bedroom, he stops mid-motion. He's halfway out of bed, one feet hanging above the ground and the other still buried under the covers and SoMo can't stop singing about how he's gonna ride on his baby, or whatever. What the fuck, it's early as hell and Hoseok knows for a fact that Namjoon's not one for morning sex. Don't ask, this kind of thing comes from four years of friendship and many drunken nights trading their best sex stories. Hoseok also knows for a fact that Namjoon's a very respectable roommate, who would never do such a thing as… sex-questrating Hoseok on a Saturday morning in his very own bedroom.

Hoseok does the only sensible thing he can think off.

Jung Hoseok
March 30, 8:05am

i can hear your sex playlist blaring out, are you having sex in the kitchen?

He's fairly certain the music's coming from the kitchen or maybe the living room but definitely not Namjoon's bedroom or the bathroom, which, at least, would be kind of acceptable. Shower sex makes for an easy clean-up, but Hoseok would rather not think about the amount of scrubbing and bleaching that would be involved in post-kitchen sex clean-up. When Namjoon doesn't reply in the next two minutes, Hoseok shoots him another text.

Jung Hoseok
March 30, 8:08am

is it safe for me to come out or will i be scarred forever??? who's even here????

Hoseok mentally runs through the list of who Namjoon could possibly be boning on their pristine kitchen counters. That on-and-off thing he'd had with Woo Jiho since the tail-end of freshman year had supposedly been off forever since Jiho had graduated; that first date with a senior biology major named Eun Mirae that Namjoon had gone to a couple days after he'd been back from break hadn't led to anything — in spite of Namjoon's enthusiastic comments about the date when he'd come back home, she'd never texted back and— Hoseok's investigation is cut short when a text from Namjoon comes through.

Kim Namjoon
March 30, 8:09am

i'm just eating cereal and really feeling it
also dying about my thesis

Jung Hoseok
March 30, 8:10am

already??? classes started 2 weeks ago

Hoseok hears a noise above the music — that's switched to Ginuwine's Pony now, a boning background music classic — and it would probably sound like a dying whale-cat hybrid to anyone else, but he knows better. He throws back the covers for good, sacrificing what could have been a long and nice morning lay-in for the sake of Namjoon's well-being. Hoseok's the perfect roommate, really.

"Are you for real?"

Hoseok walks into the kitchen to the sight of Namjoon sitting down on the floor, back against the counters — still pristine, thank the lord — with a bowl clutched against his chest and a mess of papers scattered around him. His laptop's there too, opened up on the university's library search page.

"Senior year, Hoseok, senior year." Namjoon says ominously, as if these two words just carry the answers to the universe.

"Don't be so dramatic this early in the morning." Hoseok mutters as he opens the fridge, reaching for the bottle of orange juice. He pours himself a glass and grabs the box of cereal that's sitting on the counter before sliding down to the floor next to Namjoon who hurriedly moves away some stray sheets of paper. "What's up." Hoseok sets down his makeshift breakfast and turns his head to look at Namjoon, whose face looks way too serious and anxious for the second week of the semester.

"I need to submit my thesis topic by the end of April," Namjoon sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose, "and I have some ideas, but nothing seems good enough and I need to work on my grad school applications too and it's just—"

"Namjoon, stop." Hoseok gets the bowl out of Namjoon's hand and places it out of reach. He wraps a hand around the back of Namjoon's neck next, pressing his thumb and index in the warm skin and feeling the way Namjoon loosens up a little under his fingertips, as if on cue.

There are a lot of things Hoseok is good at: several types of dancing, giving awesome massages, cleaning the apartment, getting weird stains out of literally any piece of clothing. Some of them don't really pertain to Namjoon in any way, but some really, really do and they're not just related to cleaning. If there's one thing that Hoseok's good at, it's getting Namjoon unstuck — unstuck from himself, from his own brain and the weaves of ideas it spins and spins until Namjoon is sort of spinning helplessly, spiraling down and down until. Until Hoseok finds him, most of the time sprawled on whatever horizontal surface is closest to him, the floor being a prime location, as is the case today.

"Hey, hey, Namjoon-ah," Hoseok starts out, "look at me, alright? You're gonna be okay."

"You don't know that." Namjoon is quick to rebut, but this isn't Hoseok's first rodeo. He knows how to get through this, could almost do it with his eyes closed and in his sleep if a good part of the actual process wasn't actually based on, you know, eye-contact, physical touches and talking. "Do you have a sociology bachelor's thesis to hand in by the end of this year?" Namjoon gives him a luxurious two seconds pause, then probably loses his patience and carries on quickly, the snarl in his voice growing with each word that leaves his mouth. "No you don't, and I would know that because I'm your best friend, and you should know that because you're… You're… Fuck, I lost my point, I lost my fucking train of thought just trying to put you back in your place and if I can't even do that, then how do they expect me to write a 75-pages thesis, really? That's just… that's just insane, I'm not—"

"Namjoon-ah." Hoseok cuts him, his voice just a little tighter, harsher — just the little bit of pressure that he needs to apply to the metaphorical wound on Namjoon's brain. "I know I don't have a sociology thesis to hand in, alright, no need to spell that out for me. Got it, I'm a sports medicine major, thanks for reminding me." That earns him a stare from Namjoon, but it's not so much mean as it's endeared, even though Namjoon is clearly trying to stick to its tough brooding front here. "And you are a sociology major, and you can and you will get through this, just like you got through everything else."

Hoseok could almost count down to the moment Namjoon is going to give him a stank face and snort at him, accuse him of reading too many self-help books and spout out stupid bullshit. Hoseok could count down to that moment and get the timing right to the closest millisecond and he'd also get something else right: Namjoon's being full of shit, right now.

So Hoseok almost mentally counts down to it, stays impassible through Namjoon's stank face, as ugly as it is — he already has enough pictures of it in his blackmail collection, anyway — and waits it out. It's all part of the process. Now, someone with less finesse than Hoseok might call out Namjoon on his bullshit right away and try to knock some sense into him with as much sensitivity as that one grand-aunt who keeps asking you why you're still single at all family gatherings, then launching into a tirade listing all the (many) things you'd better change about your entire being if you intend on getting married sometimes when she can attend the ceremony.

Hoseok's not a nasty grand-aunt, though, he's got tact and years of practice in this art. The trick, is to ignore Namjoon's stank face and not remind him that he is the one who runs a blog that he fills with what he calls "reflections on life and other matters", all written in English, of course, and with quotes and colloquial expressions that are no better than the very words Hoseok just used. Ignore him, and carry on fighting until he finds the one hair-thin crack he can slip into to really get Namjoon to fucking listen to him and breathe again.

A thought Hoseok doesn't like to entertain too much is how Namjoon would have fared if they hadn't been assigned as each other's roommates. It's not because he thinks he's a goddamn gem and, on top of that, a gem that's somehow wormed its way into the core of Namjoon's life, no, thank you, Hoseok doesn't need to have its ego struck so much. He does just fine as it is. Rather, it's the simple thought of a universe where Namjoon would have to cope alone with his inner turmoil that sends him in some sort of anxious fondness, a phrase that he supposes applies to many aspects of his friendship with Namjoon.

"What's up with the sex playlist, then?" Hoseok asks in the same tone he'd ask Namjoon his opinion on one of the greatest university students' point of contention: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf vs. Holly's Coffee — which, by the way, no match-up needed, Coffee Bean all the way.

"What?" Namjoon falters.

Bingo, Hoseok gives himself a pat on the back. Classic distraction tactic, always works like a charm, even when Namjoon's brain seems to be side-tracked on one single thing, be it the subject of his master's thesis or the amount of cups that they own — too fucking many, is Namjoon's honest stance on the matter, but that's not going to stop Hoseok from buying all the cups he wants to buy, even if he needs to put up new shelves to be able to keep them all. Yoongi-hyung's good at carpentry, thanks to some obscure chain of events he's always been tight-lipped about, he'd put up new shelves anytime, Hoseok's sure of it.

"The sex playlist," Hoseok nods towards Namjoon's laptop, Birthday Sex filtering out from the tinny speakers now, "I know it's this one."

"It's not a playlist." Namjoon's breath is surprisingly calmer as he says this and Hoseok mentally slaps himself right across the face.

"Don't even try to pretend that when I've heard it way more times than necessary over the past few years." Hoseok retorts, pressing his fingers a little harder on Namjoon's skin to make his point.

"Alright, alright," Namjoon admits his defeat, "Jiho texted me this morning and then I was really feeling like listening to it but I didn't expect to fall into a pit of despair and then— yeah."

"Jiho texted you?"

"Just to tell me he'd went on a trip to Thailand during the holiday season and he'd like 'to catch up and tell me all about it' or whatever. It's dumb." Namjoon shakes his head.

"Did he really just text you to say that when you guys haven't seen each other in like, a billion months?" Hoseok's not too convinced by the casualness of Namjoon's voice, a sharp contrast with his previous distress. The shift's too quick to be genuine to Namjoon, it seems more likely that Namjoon's hiding something and hiding it badly. Facades crumble and get easier to read after some years, with the course of friendship running through the cracks.

Namjoon grumbles, sighs and drops his head to rest against his knees, all in quick succession. Hoseok's hand stays on his neck, his touch getting more gentle, though.

"It was just a stupid reason for him to be able to send me a shirtless selca in between a few pictures of the beach," Namjoon says, voice muffled, "so fucking vain."

"Ah," Hoseok almost triumphs, "there we go, I knew there had to be something sketchy going on. And that made you wanna listen to the sex playlist, uh?" He almost snickers, but decides to be gentle with Namjoon instead.

"Don't judge me, alright, I haven't gotten laid in months."

"I feel like I can kind of judge you for wanting to get it on at 8am in the morning with Jiho-hyung just because of a thirst selca, alright." Not so gentle, then, but Hoseok feels like his point is justified.

He hadn't followed the whole Jiho thing too closely, but what he remembered of it could be summarized as such: friends with benefits usually never fucking works out. Not that any of the two had caught feelings, but rather than their friendship was never really the same once they'd started to involve their dicks in it. The friendly competition they'd had going on prior to it became just a tad more intense, but enough to create friction and fights that weren't that friendly anymore. Jiho's graduation had come almost as a blessing, at least to Hoseok, as it meant the end of whatever hate boners Namjoon seemed to always complain about.

"D'you think it'd be stupid of me to see him again?" Namjoon raises his head from his knees, turning it to look at Hoseok.

Hoseok might be good at a lot of things, but he's never been too good when it comes to giving relationship advice, especially to Namjoon. It was almost an unspoken set of rules between the two of them: hook-up talk was fine, especially when it involved juicy details, but going out together on the prowl, in the hopes of finding someone to spend the night with, or asking the other relationship advice? That wasn't happening, and that was it, really. They respected each other's choices but they'd rather not meddle with it which was really more of a proof of mutual respect when it came to the two of them than selfishness.

Hoseok's a bit hesitant with Namjoon's question, even if deep down, all he really wants to say is: don't you dare get back into the clusterfuck that was your Thing with Jiho-hyung. But, you know, mutual respect and all that, so Hoseok opts for something milder. "Not sure if that would be such a good idea." He gives Namjoon a good-hearted shrug, complete with his best pouty face. "If you just stay friends, sure, but if you end up hooking up again—"

Namjoon groans. "Ugh, no, that won't be happening again."

"Great, then," Hoseok replies, his voice suddenly cheerier, "you can proceed to meet Hongdae's favourite underground rapper again!"

Namjoon gives him a laugh and shakes his head, but that doesn't last very long because his eyes catch the sight of the scattered papers around them and the frown is back.

That's the cue for Hoseok to get back to work and get down to the real business at stake here: Namjoon's mild breakdown over his thesis topic.

"D'you have any ideas? Any topics that you think would be interesting to explore?" Hoseok asks, his voice gentle.

During their first year, Hoseok had quickled learned to listen to Namjoon — not that it was a skill to learn, per se, but rather that no one else had really listened to Namjoon before, and to the never-ending rantings that came out of his amazing brain. Hoseok did, though, he just did from day one and never stopped, didn't take no for an answer when Namjoon tried to brush him off with a "why do you care, anyway" or a "you won't understand". Hoseok listens, gives feedback when he can, and it's really nothing much to do in his opinion, just the basic mechanics of two people engaging in a friendly conversation.

Namjoon had always felt a little weird about not being able to thank Hoseok properly, so he'd offered up to do the same for him and that's how he found himself on the receiving end of great massages from Hoseok, who was then able to practice what he was learning in physiotherapy class. That had almost come to an end after that one time Namjoon got a boner while Hoseok was massaging his lower back, fingers kneading into Namjoon's ass from time to mine. Hoseok had to tell him times and times that this happened sometimes, granted not always, but it wasn't unheard of and what was the big deal, anyway? Just a friend getting a boner from another friend's massage, nothing weird. Namjoon hadn't replied anything, scampering out the apartment to go to some lecture Hoseok knew he didn't have. Whatever, a couple days later he had come back home after class with a sore back and demanded Hoseok's fingers on him, so nothing had been lost.

"Internet communities, maybe, the place of hagwons in Korean society compared to Hong Kong," Namjoon starts listing, "or maybe the geese fathers phenomenon… I don't fucking know."

"These all sound great," Hoseok replies encouragingly, "and you're going to be just fine, there are like, four weeks left until the end of April, you've got time."

Hoseok knows that his words alone aren’t going to be enough to get Namjoon out of the cluster of thoughts spinning in his brain, so he makes up the inadequacy of his words with the tightest hug he can wrap Namjoon into and a couple of sweet nothings.

"You're going to be alright, Namjoon-ah," he whispers into Namjoon's neck. Their position should be uncomfortable, sitting down on the floor, bodies awkwardly intertwined with each other, but Hoseok doesn't find it a single bit disagreeable, instead thinking that their bodies fit just right together. It's comfortable, and it's come to become home over the years that they've lived together. They've shared hugs in more uncomfortable positions, anyway, this is nothing. "We're both going to be just fine, and we'll graduate in a year as planned. We'll make it through, together."

Hoseok hears a noise somewhere between a whine and a yes come out of Namjoon's mouth. "What do you say we go to that Japanese place you love for lunch? My treat. And no talk about school allowed." Hoseok leans back a little, just to be able to get a good look at Namjoon's face.

Namjoon hums in agreement. "That sounds good... I think I'll try to get some work done before we go, alright? Just let me know what time you wanna leave."

"Sounds good." Hoseok says as he gets up to his feet, ruffling Namjoon's hair as he opens up a cabinet to grab a cup. "In the meantime, can you lay off the sex playlist? It's way too early for me to be feeling this kind of way." Hoseok mutters as he pushes his cup under the coffee machine, ready for the caffeine to start flowing through his body.

 

*

 

The thing is, the odds of Hoseok ending up with a gay roommate when he started his first year at Kyunghee University were pretty fucking scarce. Sure, Seoul was The Big City in comparison to Gwangju, but South Korea remained what it was, and being openly gay and proud wasn't that much of a thing.

Hoseok hadn't even spared a though in that direction anyway, too busy with the other many preoccupations that came with starting out university.

He does come back to their dorm room one day after class, a couple of weeks into October and their second semester rooming together, to the sight of a familiar red tinfoil packet on the floor. He recognizes it all too well: it's from Queen, that one gay bar in Itaewon he visits sometimes. Options are slim when it comes to the gay scene in Seoul, and Queen doesn't have the best music but Hoseok can't really complain — it's better than nothing, really.

Queen has truckloads of these red lube packets sitting in giant glass bowls on the bar countertop, available for anyone to grab freely. There's no mistake here — it's definitely from there, the big Queen printed in white font on the packet allows for no confusion. Hoseok wonders for a bit if he should say anything, try to mention it casually in passing, but he figures that it might be too awkward and, above all, an invasion of privacy. Namjoon had probably dropped it on the floor without realizing, there was no use in bringing it up, just like there was no use in bringing up the other ton of stuff Namjoon dropped on the floor on the regular.

So Hoseok doesn't say anything, leaves the packet there on the floor and leaves for class, comes back 6 hours later to it gone and Namjoon on his bed, flipping through a textbook with a highlighter in hand.

"Have a good day?" Namjoon looks up, smiling.

Hoseok has to gulp down before he answers. "Yeah, yeah, I did." It feels a little weird facing Namjoon now, because the implications of the how's and why's he found a lube packet from a famous gay bar that didn't belong to him come crashing down on him and— he's never really given it a thought before, is the thing. It's just plain weird to think about it now, unsettling Hoseok's world in a way he'd never imagined. It's not that it changes everything between them, far from that, Hoseok would even venture to say that it could even bring them to be able to relate to each other's experiences even further and—

"Wanna head down for dinner in a bit? I'm starving, was waiting for you to come back." Namjoon brings Hoseok out of his thoughts, and straight back into reality.

"Yeah, I'm in." Hoseok replies, urging himself to get his shit together a little faster. Pipe dreams are nice and all, but there's spicy stir-fried pork on the menu for dinner, and Hoseok's been dreaming of it all day long ever since he checked out the menu walking to class this morning.

Spicy stir-fried pork is had, and Hoseok doesn't really think about the lube packet incident again, neither does he get any reason to bring it up, until December comes and with it, a bright yellow and black poster plastered around Kyunghee. The Seoul inter-collegiate LGBTQ+ organization is throwing its annual end of the year party at Club Gray in Itaewon, renting out the club for the night and only allowing guests who have pre-bought tickets with the organization, to keep it all safe and discreet.

Hoseok goes with the usual suspects from the dance crew he's joined here in Seoul, Jaehyun and Jichul, clad in black skinny jeans and a shirt with a loud print, tropical flowers and birds and other things that don't really matter — he looks hot, end of the story. He steps onto the curb a couple hours into the night, lighting himself a cigarette, his one true vice when he goes out clubbing, and leaning against the wall, bass still pumping through his veins and pulse throbbing from the series of shots he'd just done with Jichul. Jaehyun had been nowhere to be seen, probably already getting laid in some nearby motel room.

Someone else steps outside and lights themselves a cigarette, coughing after taking the first drag and— Hoseok would recognize that cough in his sleep, has fucking recognized it in his sleep when Namjoon coughs during the night and wakes him up sometimes. Fuck.

Liquid courage in his veins and a hint of something else — mostly the frustration of having known this for the past couple of months but not having been able to act upon it — Hoseok steps forward and speaks up.

"I didn't know you smoked."

Namjoon turns around, eyes widening comically when he takes in who's speaking to him, but then he just shoots back, smoothly.

"I didn't know you came here." Fucking smooth, Kim Namjoon. "Besides, pretty much everyone who goes clubbing as a university student here in Korea smokes, gotta blame packs of cigarettes for being like, 4,500 won. That just makes them too easy to buy."

Hoseok re-calibrates, takes the time to adjust to the sight of Namjoon in front of him, here, outside Club Gray, smoking a cigarette and looking handsome as heck in a white button-down and washed-out jeans, simple but smart.

 

*

 

Not that the night at Club Gray changes anything, really, they've each got their own circles of friends: Hoseok's got his dance crew and Namjoon's got his nerd crew — Hoseok's words, not his, thank you very much — so they don't really end up seeing each other on nights out, as small as Itaewon might be. Namjoon keeps insisting that he's not a nerd, but Hoseok never backs down from his words, insisting instead that he's a cute nerd and that's all that matters, really.

It's mostly just a matter of some weight being lifted from Hoseok's mind, nothing much more than that. It's not like being both gay brings them even closer instantly, it's subtler than that, finding itself in the ability to understand each other a little better, maybe, and also mostly the freedom of saying that this one guy they just walked past had one hell of an ass, without fearing any mocking comments in return.

There are some days, though, like this morning, June of their last year of university, when Hoseok's just eating a banana for breakfast and Namjoon walks in the kitchen walking weirdly. Hoseok knows it's probably morning wood and Namjoon's trying to be subtle about it, but that's not working at all. Hoseok plays dumb, though, it's funnier this way.

"You alright? D'you want me to have a look at your leg or something? I can massage it for you when I get back from class if it's cramped."

Namjoon stills like a deer caught in headlights, a spoon raised in one hand and his other hand holding the door of the fridge opened. "I'm fine, probably was just tense during sleep or something."

"Alright, let me know if it still bothers you tonight." Hoseok says cheerfully, gulping down what's left of his banana as he keeps his eyes trained on Namjoon, who visibly flinches, his left eye twitching. He shuts the fridge with a bit too much force than necessary, mumbling something that sounds like '"m fine" as he busies himself with the coffee machine.

 

*

 

Hoseok's still feeling playful when he hears the front door shut that evening, calling out to Namjoon from his bedroom. "Namjoon-ah! How's your leg feeling?"

There's a grumble from the living-room, and the sound of Namjoon throwing himself on the couch, so Hoseok takes it as his cue to walk in.

"It's fine, 'm just exhausted." Namjoon says as soon as Hoseok crosses the threshold.

"I can still give you a massage, though," Hoseok says mirthfully, "it's a good way to relax."

Namjoon gives Hoseok a look that doesn't seem too enthusiastic at first, but then Hoseok smiles at him, literal ray of sunshine beaming upon Namjoon, and he gives in, shifting to get on his stomach.

"Do your worst, Jung Hoseok."

Hoseok retrieves the bottle of massage oil he keeps under the coffee table and gets into position, legs onto either side of Namjoon's body, straddling him.

"What d'you want? Just your neck and back, the usual?"

"Lower back's been killing me lately." Namjoon says against a couch cushion.

"Let's see what's going on then," Hoseok replies, pumping oil onto his hands and rubbing them together.

Hoseok's not having trouble fending off his boner because, well, he's kind of about to do this for a living on a daily basis, so it's kind of a good thing that he doesn't systemically get a boner from oiling up and massaging a good looking dude. He's having trouble not thinking about the small whimpers of pleasure and pain Namjoon lets out, though, especially not thinking about them in a different context that wouldn't involve the pretense of massages to get Namjoon under him.

Alright, here's the thing: it's not an idea that Hoseok's been toying with, it's— it's a fleeting thought that comes and goes, sometimes, in the blink of an eye, and lately it's been happening more and more often and Hoseok's not too sure what to do with it, so. Massages are fortunately an innocent enough activity given his degree, so that had been his choice. Digging his fingers into his roommate's lower back on a Tuesday evening, just because it had been a while since he'd gotten laid and sometimes, desperate times lead to desperate measures.

Hoseok isn't a proud man for this, but he's not about to deny himself the pleasure of feeling Namjoon's tense muscles relax under the touch of his fingers, his skin glowing under the sheer of the oil and his toes wiggling happily in contentment.

Hoseok's about to do this for a living, there's nothing intimate about this. It's practice.

 

*

 

The second semester of senior year finds them going back to school after summer vacation, getting back to campus and their shared apartment, the heat of September crawling under their skin as the summer drags on. The last crushing wave of Lasts is hitting them in full force, with their last first day of class, the last auditions Hoseok supervises for the dance crew, the last welcome speech Namjoon gives for the sociology student org he's climbed his way up throughout the years, being elected president for his final year.

"This might be one of the last times we eat fried squid at the cafeteria." Namjoon mourns as he picks up a piece of fried squid from his plate and stuffs it into his mouth.

"You never really liked it anyway, why are you so sad about it." Hoseok deadpans in response, digging into his much better choice: kimchi stew.

"But now that it might be the last time, I'm getting all nostalgic about it." Namjoon says plaintively, mouth jutting out into a pout.

"Tragic." Hoseok drawls out.

The first Friday night of the semester is this: the two of them eating dinner at one of the campus cafeterias, not the most exciting evening to say the least but they'd both been too tired to cook dinner at the apartment or, even more daunting, to join the younglings for a night out. Hoseok's already thinking about all the readings he needs to do over the weekend, and that group project he needs to think about, and another million things, each one more exhausting than the previous to think about.

There's the prospect of dance practice on Sunday evening, though, always a good way to cheer him up and fight the Sunday blues, and then the weekend after that, there's Senior Pride Night at Club Pulse. Not technically reserved to seniors, but still very much organized to celebrate them and their last semester in university, Hoseok's been trying to figure out if he should ask Namjoon if he wants to come along with him. They don't usually go the LGBTQ+ organization's club events together: different crowds, on one hand, and on the other hand, the end goal of the night is often to hook up and they just don't really like to play each other's wingman. But this time, it's Senior Night, not just any other random themed night, and it's also one of the last club events and so Hoseok feels like things could just be different this time around.

"Hey, d'you wanna got to Senior Pride Night together?" Hoseok asks after he finishes his soybean soup, slurping the last piece of tofu.

Namjoon hums in surprise, brows rising a little. "I wasn't planning on going, but um, I guess yes?"

"You weren't planning on going? What?" Hoseok mimics Namjoon's expression of surprise. "Why?"

"Just didn't really have anyone to go with, and didn't feel like going alone… Also just a shitton of work to do already, never gonna survive this semester I swear to God."

"This is exactly why you should come with me. Let off some steam right at the start of the semester, have a fun night out and then get ready to kick ass until December. I'll forgive you if you decide to live like a recluse until graduation if you come out with me to Senior Pride, I promise." Hoseok is beaming at Namjoon now, blinking his eyes exaggeratingly, his chin propped up on his hands, the perfect innocent invitation to a night that's been deemed Wild & Unforgettable™ many times in the past, in true university folklore fashion. "C'mon, it'll be fun. I won't even make fun of your flirting skills." Namjoon rolls his eyes at that, but Hoseok doesn't miss the blush creeping on this cheeks.

"See, this is why we don't go out together clubbing much. You always make fun of me when I chat up someone." Namjoon stabs at his pickled radish with his chopsticks, putting a slice into his mouth and chewing aggressively.

Alright, alright: Hoseok isn't an asshole. He's a perfectly nice best friend to Namjoon, has been since day one, in spite of the whole misunderstanding of their meeting, and he's gentle when it comes to making fun of Namjoon, always stopping when needed because he knows how easily Namjoon can feel wounded, and he never steps over boundaries. But like, Namjoon's flirting style? That's the one occasion when Hoseok steps on the boundaries, almost crossing it. Namjoon's hilarious when flirting, be it when he's sober or a few drinks in. He could be charming, is the thing, hell, Hoseok finds him charming when he's not trying. But that's the issue, as soon as Namjoon gets into flirting mode and tries to charm someone's pants off, it's like his brain goes haywire and everything turns to shit, rolling downhill and downhill without stopping. Sometimes, it still works and the awkward charm scenario succeeds in getting Namjoon laid. Other times, people don't even register that Namjoon's chatting them up, mistaking it for just casual conversation, and that's the part that Hoseok has often been snickering at in the past few years.

"You're just…" Hoseok tries to think of the most appropriate wording for this. "You just make me laugh because your methods are hilarious but like, in an endearing way? Not a mean way? It's like, I'd give you advice, but I'm a strong believer that flirting comes straight from the dick, or heart, in rare occasions, and is very subjective to oneself, so. Can't help you, won't help you."

Namjoon rolls his eyes again. "It's all unfair, anyway. All you need to do is dance a little and you've got five guys at your feet. I dance, and people move to give me more space on the dancefloor. You don't even need to talk."

"I want to say that's not right," Hoseok begins, "but that would be lying because that has happened on numerous occasions, so. Sorry." He grins sheepishly and Namjoon just shakes his head in distaste. "I'll give you all the space you need if you want to chat someone up, and all the space you need on the dancefloor for your killer moves, I promise. I won't meddle if you see someone you like and I won't laugh, even from afar. C'mon, Namjoon-ah, it'll be our last college night out together if you want it to be. Just one time!"

Hoseok knows he's won when he sees the smile slowly spreading on Namjoon's lips. "Only for you, Hoseok-ah, only for you."

 

*

 

Senior Pride Night is open bar, so there's technically no use in pre-gaming but Hoseok still stops by the convenience store on his way home from his sports team management elective lecture and grabs two bottles of soju and one of Sprite.

Namjoon's sitting on the couch messing about on his phone with the TV on in the background, muted.

"I come bearing alcohol." Hoseok announces as he drops the plastic bag on the floor, flopping on the couch next to Namjoon. "I think we should leave around 11:30 if we don't want to risk missing the last train, so… dinner in a few and then we'll get ready and drink?"

"Ordered Kyochon when you texted me earlier, it should get here soon."

"Extra spicy sauce and pickled radish on the side?"

"Yup." Namjoon confirms, proudly showing the confirmation email to Hoseok.

"My hero, what would I do without you?"

Namjoon huffs. "You'd be just fine, it's not like remembering your fried chicken order makes me a saint or something."

"It does in my eyes," Hoseok retorts, "I won't tolerate this kind of negativity in my house on Senior Pride Night." Hoseok's tone is playful and he watches Namjoon's face expectantly, taking in the way he bites down on his lower lip, slowly letting go. The doorbell rings, then, and the moment's gone, not that it had ever been one anyway. Namjoon springs to his feet to answer the intercom and Hoseok busies himself with the remote control, trying to find something nice to watch.

Tragically, they make the mistake of not getting ready until they're done drinking the soju as well as some stray leftover of tequila Namjoon had found in some kitchen cupboard or another. Hoseok isn't so sure he picks out his best outfit and he sure as hell can't tell whether he overdid his eyeshadow or if he's looking Fine As Hell.

"You look hot." Namjoon tells him, unprompted, bumping his hip against the bathroom's door frame.

Hoseok takes in Namjoon's look, from head to toe, not even hiding his obvious once-over. He whistles, impressed. "You look hot, too. Want me to do your make-up real quick before we go?" Hoseok checks his phone quickly. 11:35. They're not too late on schedule, really, he expected much worse, already picturing them having to fork over the money for a cab to Itaewon if they'd missed the last train.

"Can you do the same thing you did to your eyes?" Namjoon asks, already sitting down on the closed toilet lid. He lifts his chin when he feels Hoseok's fingers touching him and holding his face in place, and closes his eyes. Hoseok does his best putting on a dash of brown eyeshadow on Namjoon's eyelids, smudging it a little with the brush on the outside corners of his eyes. Once he's satisfied with his work, he can't help but grab his phone and snap a picture, the shutter noise surprising Namjoon and making him open his eyes.

"Pretty." Hoseok murmurs, looking down at the picture he's just taken. He locks his phone and puts it in his jeans' back pocket, eyes meeting Namjoon's once he's done. Hoseok clears his throat, feeling like there's some discomfort in the atmosphere that needs to be shaken off. "All set?" Namjoon doesn't say anything for a few beats, and then he reaches up with his hand and puts his thumb on Hoseok's temple, stroking slowly until he reaches his eyelid.

"There," he says after his hand is gone, "it looks even better smudged like this."

"Thanks." Hoseok blurts out, walking out of the bathroom and into the living-room. He gives his pockets a quick pat-down, making sure he's got everything. "Don't take your phone, I can already see you breaking it or losing it."

Namjoon stops in his tracks, looking down at his phone clasped in his hand guiltily. "You're probably right…"

Hoseok's fairly certain Namjoon broke his phone screen at least thrice last semester, and he doesn't want a repeat of that tonight. Namjoon going out without his phone might mean that he won't try to hook up with someone, then, if he doesn't want to end up alone with a stranger without his phone, but Hoseok doesn't really waste time on that thought. In a way, he's kind of anticipating getting Namjoon all to himself for the night, enjoying their night out together and celebrating the not-so-almost end of university. Kicking the semester off, more like, but Hoseok's trying to live ahead and focus on what's coming up in a couple of months, rather than the upcoming weeks filled with assignments and job hunting.

The ride to Itaewon station is almost an hour-long affair, their thighs and knees pressed together on the subway, Namjoon telling Hoseok all about the latest sociology org meeting. Some first year kid with big ambitions is aiming to be elected VP and Namjoon had to quell his appetite, because there was no way in hell this was ever happening. Student orgs politics were a very serious thing that shouldn't be played with and as long as Namjoon was president, there'd be no compromise made to this.

The line's not too awful once they get to Club Pulse and they pass a few familiar faces that Hoseok can vaguely link names to as they walk inside, making their way down the narrow staircase until they reach the second basement where the main dancefloor is. It's already packed and Hoseok makes a beeline for one of the bars, grabbing Namjoon's wrist so they don't lose each in the crowd. Hoseok orders two shots of tequila and they make quick work of them. It's definitely not top-shelf tequila but Hoseok's had worse and he's not going to complain about free alcohol. Ever. Namjoon's the one who orders the next two shots and oh, alright, this is where the night is heading towards: over the edge of casual comfortable tipsiness and into the precipice of drunkenness. Hoseok's not objecting, if there's a night to go all out, it's Senior Pride Night. Nothing can top that — well, maybe the night they celebrate graduation will, who knows.

Some Korean hip-hop song Hoseok likes to warm up to during dance practice comes up as they make their way through the throng of dancers, and Hoseok whoops, stopping a few steps later into a spot where there's just enough space for the two of them to fit. He gets into it right away, moving his hips to the beat and settling into some nice footwork, nothing much, but enough to get himself started for the night. Namjoon's a little slower to get into it, but Hoseok knows that once more alcohol will flow into his blood, he'll lose some of his inhibitions and his body will get looser. Hoseok might even be able to manhandle him into dancing together if he can stay deaf to Namjoon's protests, which won't be hard given the noise volume of the club.

A good hour passes, with Namjoon slowly finding his moves and seeming like he's enjoying himself more and more, and Hoseok deems that the time's appropriate for another round of shots. Namjoon's quicker to order than him, shouting soju at the bartender. There's a light gleaming in his eyes once he grabs his shot, and Hoseok can only grin at him, suddenly furiously happy to have Namjoon at his side tonight. It takes him aback a little, this brusque feeling of warmth spreading throughout his body, and at first he thinks it's only the alcohol hitting him but then Namjoon speaks up.

"Love shot?" He asks, mouth curving into a grin as he extends his arm towards Hoseok.

"Alright." Hoseok shouts back, and the warmth gets even hotter once Namjoon wraps his arm around his neck, pressing their bodies together. "Ready? Drink up."

They down their shots simultaneously and Hoseok feels a few drops falling on the exposed part of his shoulder that's not covered by his tank top. He's not usually one to complain about someone spilling alcohol on him, especially when it comes to doing love shots with alcohol-impaired coordination, but tonight, he does.

"C'mon, Joon-ah, can't believe you spilled some soju on me."

The glint in Namjoon's eyes isn't gone and they just stare at each other for a few beats, a moment that would be daunting if it wasn't for the loudness of the music and the crowd, and the fact that there's about a hundred people around them. Namjoon licks his lips then and Hoseok feels himself getting hotter, as if that's even possible, images of Namjoon licking his shoulder clean coming up to his brain and almost making it short-circuit.

"Here, all cleaned up." Namjoon says as he finishes wiping Hoseok's shoulder with a napkin, crumpling it and throwing it on the bar.

Hoseok gulps down and avoids his gaze, waving down the first bartender he sees. "Two soju shots." He yells at her, feeling heat creeping up on his cheeks.

 

*

 

Sentimental as he may be, Hoseok's always been highly critical of the way club scenes are portrayed in fiction. People having sex in dark corners and bathrooms? Doesn't happen as often as shown. An empty dancefloor giving you all the space you need to dance with your half-dozen friends? Same thing. Romantic kisses and declaration of love with some romantic song as background music, and the crowd clapping to this display of love? Fucking fictitious myth.

The way things usually go is like this:

1. Find hot person that catches your eye
2. Get close to them on the dancefloor
3. Get some sort of eye-contact approval
4. Do the good old grinding move
5. Kiss hot person in the neck
6. Twirl around hot person and make out with them
7. Make out with them some more and
a. Part ways
b. Go somewhere else (home, motel, street, anywhere outside the club) together

The way things go tonight for Hoseok is pretty similar.

There's a defining moment somewhere in between shots number 6 and 12, where Namjoon really catches his eye. Like, even more that he had when he walked into the bathroom looking like sex on legs and even more than when Hoseok was fantasizing about him licking his shoulder. Step 1, done. They're already on the dancefloor and already dancing pretty close to each other, so fast forward to step 3 and 4 when Hoseok catches Namjoon's eyes and bites down on his lower lip, throwing him the sultriest look he can manage in his inebriated state, and pressing his front against Namjoon's back when he responds in a similar way. Step 4 is easy, Hoseok's an acclaimed dance crew member, he's got grinding down to a T. Step 5 has him throwing all caution to the wind and acting out of pure lust, if he's got to be real honest here. He lets his breath ghost over Namjoon's neck for a split second, hesitating just the tiniest bit, before he leans forward some more and presses his lips to the junction between Namjoon's neck and shoulder, tongue lapping just a little bit at Namjoon's skin. Hoseok's gotten good at recognizing the way Namjoon's body react to his touch, but usually, it's in a perfectly diligent massage situation when Hoseok's practicing on Namjoon. This time, Hoseok swears that Namjoon's knees almost buckle. Step 5, fucking done. Step 6 gets a bit of a switch-up because it's Namjoon who gets out of Hoseok's arms and twirls around, mouthing a "Okay?" to Hoseok, foregoing actual spoken words altogether because the bass of the music is deafening and Hoseok's ears are buzzing so much he wouldn't hear a thing anyway. Hoseok nods along and lunges forward, smashing his mouth against Namjoon. It's fucking messy and it takes them a good minute to figure out a good rhythm and get the kiss really going, but that's step 6 done and—

Namjoon leans back abruptly, throwing Hoseok off with his briskness. There's a fleet feeling of worry and fear washing over Hoseok, the feeling of warmth that had been comfortably enveloping his body dropping immediately to sub-zero temperatures. Before he can say anything or process more of what's going on, Namjoon's grabbing his hand, threading their fingers together and leading them up the two flights of stairs and outside the club. Hoseok bumps into Namjoon's back when he stops suddenly and he can't help the laugh that escapes his lips, dropping his head to rest against Namjoon's back, his arms wrapping together around his middle.

"Now what?" He asks, voice full of expectations and unknowns. His ears are still buzzing and he's certain Namjoon's hearing is as messed up as is so his words are yelled out instead of the low tender murmur that any piece of fiction would have portrayed.

Namjoon gets out of Hoseok's arms again, turning around a little unsteadily on his feet and leaning into Hoseok's space without missing a beat, lips crushing against Hoseok's. The angle's wrong and Namjoon's biting Hoseok's lower lip a bit too much for his liking, but fuck if he's going to complain about it. He's all about being the change you want to be in the world, though, so he brings up a hand to the back of Namjoon's head, running his fingers through his hair and applying pressure to Namjoon's skull in a way he knows will make Namjoon soften and lose control. Thank you, sports medicine degree, for teaching him this stuff. Four years well spent, truly.

"Fuck." Namjoon blurts out in the space between their lips.

Hoseok doesn't leave him the time to catch his breath or say anything more, kissing him again and hitting the right angle on the first try this time, his hand coming to wrap around Namjoon's neck as his tongue presses inside Namjoon's mouth, exploring and licking.

Step 7 is messier than any work of fiction will ever portray.

It takes them forever to hail down a cab back to Kyunghee and when they finally do get there, it takes them forever to be able to move past the bank of mailboxes and into the elevator. Namjoon presses Hoseok against the wall of their building's lobby, trailing kisses against the column of his neck and Hoseok's muttering curses under his breath, thanking all the deities he knows for the security camera that broke down a month ago and hasn't been fixed yet. They only separate from each other because the motion-sensor light turns off, sending them into a fit of laughing. Namjoon bumps his head against Hoseok's shoulder, slumping, his breath labored as he pants out, "We should really get upstairs."

"We really should." Hoseok answers, pushing Namjoon back and into the opposite wall, giving him a close-mouthed peck on the lips before he finally pushes the elevator button.

Step 8 doesn't exist in most works of fictions. Step 8 involves the two of them getting into the apartment as quickly as they can, Namjoon flinging himself onto the couch as he steps in first and Hoseok saying a quick, "Be right back, I need to fucking pee and wash my teeth". When Hoseok steps back outside, Namjoon's fast asleep, still fully clothed, mouth hanging open and smelling like the worst distillery ever, and his snores way too loud for someone who just fell asleep. Hoseok still feels something tug at his heartstrings and he doesn't even have the heart to leave him alone here and go to sleep in his own bed, so he shuts off the light, takes off his jeans and top and lies down next to Namjoon in what little space he left on the couch, curling up and closing his eyes. Hoseok's the best fucking best friend and roommate ever.

 

*

 

"Fucking shut this off." Hoseok groans out, struggling to open his eyes and feeling disoriented when he notices that he's lying face-down into the living-room carpet, in nothing but his underwear and socks. Namjoon's on the couch, he notices, on his back and snoring away still without a care in the world. Hoseok throws the closest object at him, remote control hitting his knee.

"What the fuck." Namjoon splutters, wincing in pain and clutching his knee.

"Your phone has been ringing for like five minutes and I don't fucking know where you left it. Find it and put it on silent, for fuck's sake."

Hoseok's the epitome of kindness, tolerance and all these other nice qualities one should have except when he's hungover. Even Namjoon can't make him go soft and dial down the swearing a little.

Namjoon stumbles off the couch and into his bedroom, a series of curses coming out of his mouth as he finally makes the ringing stop.

"Fucking hell, it's almost 1pm and I was supposed to go home for lunch today at my parents'. Fuck, fuck, fuck."

When Namjoon comes out of his bedroom, he's got a backpack in one hand, apparently haphazardly filled with clothes, and his phone in the other, a cranky look on his face.

"I can't believe I forgot, oh my God. Uh, I'll see you next weekend?"

"Next weekend?" Hoseok asks, confused.

"I'm skipping class tomorrow and Tuesday… It's my birthday and then Chuseok and my parents figured it'd be nice to get the whole family together for a week and just… chill together or whatever?"

Hoseok can vaguely remember Namjoon mentioning this through his hungover daze, but he doesn't really get a chance to say anything before Namjoon's out the door. Well. There's step 9, then.

 

*

 

Nothing much happens once Hoseok wakes up again on the cusp of 5pm, walking around the apartment like a zombie. He showers, puts on clean clothes, orders delivery Chinese food and props his laptop on his bed, catching up on some dancing competition show he's been marathoning. He sends an apology message to the dance crew's Kakaotalk group, receiving a couple of cute emoticons and short messages telling him to rest up and cure his hangover.

Monday and Tuesday come and go, a whirl of classes and group meetings spent with everyone talking about Chuseok break and what their plans are, the final minutes to Hoseok's bus back to Gwangju almost ticking in his mind as he stuffs his suitcase in the bus' trunk.

He feels like he's stepped into a twilight zone when his phone buzzes with a message from Namjoon wishing him a happy Chuseok, complete with a few silly emoticons and some selca taken on Snow with a ridiculous ddeok filter on his face. He'd always liked that his friendship with Namjoon had been based on a good amount of honesty and open discussion, and he's thrown off by the way Namjoon seems to be avoiding what happened at Senior Pride Night. Not that Hoseok's made a move on that either but— At least he's not sending him a message about something entirely different, bypassing the whole situation. Hoseok sets his phone on airplane mode and leaves it in his childhood bedroom, heading into the kitchen to ask his aunts if they need any help with the cooking. He's not about to let this ruin one of his favorite holidays.

 

*

 

The twilight zone extends further than Gwangju, it seems like, because Hoseok gets another message from Namjoon as soon as his return bus to Seoul exits the highway and drives into the city.

Kim Namjoon Hoseok
September 18, 5:19pm

i just got back, wanna go for a walk when you get there?

Hoseok reads the message in his notification panel, deciding that he'll leave it unanswered until he actually gets to the apartment and face-to-face with Namjoon. He doesn't expect Namjoon to stand up hastily from the couch when he walks in, smashing his knee into the kitchen table as he walks towards him.

"Hey, um, you had a nice Chuseok with your family?"

"Yeah, yeah." There's a drape of awkwardness clouding over their conversation that's never been there before and Hoseok feels faintly nauseous, navigating this uncharted territory.

"D'you wanna go for a walk? You didn't reply to my message. There's— there's a nice new pizza place we could check out in Noksapyeong and we could also go to that foreign bookstore, you know, the one—"

"Yeah, the one near the overpass?"

"Yeah, that one."

"Alright." Hoseok agrees feebly, feeling too unsettled to argue or say anything else.

The ride to Noksapyeong involves getting on line 6 and passing Itaewon station — of course it does. Hoseok wills his brain to stay chill and focus on the memory of something pleasant and relaxing, exchanging numbing small talk with Namjoon about Chuseok and how their respective families are doing, who's getting married soon and who's just finished middle school. Hoseok's in the middle of droning out about his younger cousin starting kindergarten when Namjoon just stops dead in his tracks in the middle of the sidewalk.

"You know, we walked across this bridge together so many times and each time, I was always thinking about how I really wanted this to be the place where I confess my feelings to the person I love."

Hoseok has to re-calibrate. Stop thinking about his cousin starting school, finally look at Namjoon, take in their surroundings — that goddamn stupid overpass bridge next to the subway station, cars driving at dizzying speed under them — and fucking reply something to whatever Namjoon's going on about.

"Here? Not Namsan tower or somewhere along the Han river?"

"Here. It's in the middle of the city, Namsan's in the background anyway. It feels alive here. I like it."

"Not so romantic." Hoseok manages to tease him.

"I was never worried about the person liking the place, you know, when I imagined it. I was more worried about them reciprocating my feelings."

There's a pause, almost dramatic, because it's so unnecessary in a scary, unsettling way that Hoseok isn't as worried about as he thought he'd be. Hoseok drags it on longer, staring at Namjoon.

"Are you really doing this? Are we really doing this? I mean— the whole best friends dating each other, it's so cliché and it fucks everything up sometimes and I don't want to lose you and— Namjoon-ah, fuck, after that night at Club Pride, I thought we were just going to not talk about it ever and just—"

"You know what?" Namjoon cuts him again and Hoseok's just never been feeling more inadequate with Namjoon in the four years they've known each other. "I'm not in love with you, I love you, every second of the day, it's a constant state, it's not—"

"Don't you dare fucking launch into a rant about time and space."

"I won't, I promise but Hoseok-ah, you just need to fucking get it. I've been in love with you since the day I met you, I'm pretty fucking sure or well— alright, maybe not the first day but since the beginning anyway, and it's just—"

"I've never noticed, I've never even thought about it, it's so—"

"You've never noticed because I've always acted this way around you, it's just— it's been me loving you all along and you just being you and I've never said anything because I didn't want to lose what we have. I'm so—"

"I'm in, I'm in, I'm just— I can't tell you that I love you like you do, but I know you're my best friend and we've been through so much together and you're just— you know me best than myself sometimes and I feel like I can be my true self with you and you never push me back and shit, Namjoon-ah, let's do this thing, alright. Let's fucking date and show everyone that we can make it work."

Hoseok sees the way Namjoon bites down on his lower lip, obviously swallowing down a grin and maybe even a few emotional tears and then— And then, and then, the most bone-crushing hug of Hoseok's entire life and friendship with Namjoon, knocking the breath out of him in a way he didn't think was actually possible.

"You know you're paying for our first date, right? Since you're the one who asked me out." Hoseok says when Namjoon's done crushing his bones and they've made out for a couple of minutes, making it short and sweet because two dudes kissing in the street, even a stone's throw away from Itaewon, still isn't something that people are ready to see happening in front of their own eyes.

"I didn't even ask you out, I just confessed my feelings, alright."

Hoseok snickers, ignoring him. "I hope that place's expensive, and if it's not, I'm ordering the most expensive stuff on the menu anyway. Get your wallet ready, Namjoon-ah, I've got expensive taste."