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before things come together

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The TA is late for their discussion section again. Namjoon fidgets in his seat, fingers tapping against the desk in front of him to keep himself busy until a girl sitting to his left gives him a less-than-friendly glance. Namjoon grins apologetically, moving his hands into his lap and picking at the inseam of his jeans instead.

It’s the third week in a row that the small recitation for Philosophy 367: 19th Century Social and Political Philosophy has sat anxiously awaiting the arrival of their TA; there’s a boy across the small classroom who keeps loudly announcing how many more minutes they have to wait before they can technically go home, just as he has for the last two weeks, and it’s becoming almost a familiar routine. But just like the last two weeks, the timekeeper’s dreams are crushed when a harried graduate student finally makes his entrance, only two minutes before “we could all go the fuck back to sleep,” as Namjoon’s classmate put it.

“Sorry! Sorry,” the man says, huffing out a breath. He’s holding no less than six folders, a cup of coffee and his computer, but he somehow manages to set it all down delicately on the desk in the front of the room. He lets out another sigh, like he’s shaking off the apparent stress of his commute to the classroom, and smiles at the class, looking a bit frazzled. “The thing about graduate work is that it’s very easy to lose track of time.”

“You’ve got a watch on,” another one of Namjoon’s classmates intones.

“Yeah, well,” he says before shrugging and sitting down on top of the desk, in a clean spot between his stack of folders and his laptop.

On the first day of class, the TA had stood next to the professor (a woman with an expressive voice and a reputation for difficult exams) and waved at the large lecture hall around a bite of a bagel, looking surprised that the professor had chosen that moment to introduce him.

“Kim Seokjin,” he said, standing up from his seat in the front row, swallowing and waving again, like it was more official this time. “Pursuing a master’s degree in Western and Asian history.”

“This is a philosophy course, though,” the kid sitting next to Namjoon had whispered to a girl nearby.

“I would listen to this guy talk about literally anything,” she said back decisively. Namjoon’s neighbor sighed, sounding exasperated.

Namjoon didn’t blame her, exactly. Kim Seokjin (“Please just call me Seokjin,” he had said in an embarrassed voice when someone called him seonsang) was handsome in a kind of intimidating way, between his soft features and broad shoulders and the designer glasses permanently perched on his nose.

“My field of study doesn’t always, uh, match up with the content of this course,” he said a week later in their first discussion section. “Though I promise I’m very committed to giving you all a thorough educational experience here.”

It sounded roughly, to Namjoon’s ears, like “I’m trying my best,” and Namjoon couldn’t really fault him for that. Still, ten minutes late for the third week in a row seemed just slightly to be pushing it.

“Anyway,” Seokjin says in the here and now. “Hello. I hope everyone had a good lunch.”

It’s three in the afternoon. Namjoon glances with a questioning look at the girl who glared at him for tapping his fingers earlier. She just shrugs.

“So, right, let’s talk the Haitian Revolution,” Seokjin announces with a single little clap. The class looks unenthused. The hour-long discussion passes slowly as Seokjin consults his notes copious times, and Namjoon doodles a little picture of Seokjin’s glasses in the corner of his yellow legal pad during lulls.

It must be the fourth time Namjoon raises his hand to give an opinion on the readings that Seokjin gives him a little look, a raised eyebrow and an almost-invisible shake of his head.

“Can I hear from some people who haven’t talked today?” Seokjin aims at the room at large, looking away from Namjoon.

Namjoon’s cheeks pink. He hadn’t meant to talk so much, he just had a lot of complicated thoughts on how the author of the required textbook was judging and measuring morality. He puts his hand back down and Seokjin glances at him again, looking a little amused. He fixes Namjoon with the same look again as they all pack up their bags and head out of the classroom, and Namjoon almost expects Seokjin to say something to him, but then he walks out with his arms full.

“You want any help with that?” Namjoon asks, eyebrows furrowed at the papers that look like they could drop any second.

“I got it,” Seokjin says, sounding confident even as his glasses slip further down his nose. He makes his exit, leaving Namjoon alone in the classroom, feeling a little off-center.

++

“You have to come,” Taehyung whines across the table at Namjoon, giving an exaggerated pout over his big teacup.

“I actually like, really don’t,” Namjoon says, eyebrows raised at Taehyung.

Taehyung keeps pouting, blowing on his mug and making steam rise into his face. “But I really want you to come, and so does Jiminnie.”

“Why?” Namjoon asks, trying to hold back a grin at Taehyung’s antics. “Why on earth do you really want me to come to a gay bar crawl?”

“Well, you’re gay, for one,” Taehyung says, flourishing his hands as if to say need I go on? But then he realizes that he should, since Namjoon just keeps looking at him, and he deflates a little. “I don’t really have any more reasons. You’re gay, we’re pretty gay, we could have a nice, gay night.”

“Taehyung, we are perfectly capable of having a nice, gay night without going to fucking gay bars,” Namjoon says with a sigh. “In fact, by definition, every night is a gay night for me.”

“But none are this gay,” Taehyung says delightedly. “C’mon, you know Jimin’s gonna get drunk and start dancing with everyone.”

Admittedly, that is fun to be around. Namjoon considers. “I’ll come if Yoongi comes.”

“That’s a low blow, hyung. Yoongi wouldn’t go anywhere with a smoke machine if his life literally depended on it.” Taehyung takes a sip from his mug and makes a pained face; evidently, his tea is still too hot.

“Have Jimin pitch it to him,” Namjoon says with a shrug. “You know he’s weak for Jimin.”

“Aren’t we all,” Taehyung says wistfully with a dreamy little sigh. Namjoon can’t help but to nod — it’s the truth.

Namjoon hadn’t expected to run into him today, but it figures that after almost bumping into each other while crossing campus, Taehyung had dragged him to a weird little tea shop and tried to convince him to attend a gay bar hopping event. Pretty classic Taehyung, really.

The thing is, Namjoon has never been big on bars in general, and doesn’t find himself comforted much even if they’re gay bars. Yes, he’s gay, but he’s also kind of over-large and clumsy and weird, which doesn’t usually play out well in scenes of public inebriation. He and Yoongi getting wine drunk on their couch and talking shit about reality TV is pretty much exactly his speed, and he’s pretty pleased with the ritual. Still, he has trouble saying no outright to Taehyung (and like, most people, really.) So fine. Maybe.

 

“Absolutely not,” Yoongi says decisively, looking unimpressed as he leans against the kitchen counters. Namjoon is folded up in the beat-up armchair they keep in their living room, a sociology textbook open in his lap, and he glances in the direction of Yoongi and Jimin.

“But hyung, it’ll be great,” Jimin tries to persuade him. He’s got his sweetest voice on and Namjoon can feel him fluttering his eyelashes from his seat.

“Stop doing that,” Yoongi mutters. Namjoon called it. “I don’t want to go within one thousand feet of whatever you just invited me to.”

He shuffles over to the couch in his slippers (they’re actually Namjoon’s slippers, too big for his feet, but whatever) and plops himself down on it, as if that would end the conversation. But it’s Jimin, so it doesn't.

“I’ll buy all your drunks, hyung,” Jimin says with a big smile, following behind Yoongi.

Yoongi just snorts in response. “No, you won’t.”

Jimin wilts. “Okay, I won’t. I don’t have that kind of money. But I will act as your personal bodyguard for the night.”

“No, you won’t,” Namjoon calls over. Yoongi and Jimin turn to him. “No offense, Jimin, but you’re not very intimidating when you’re drunk.”

“Stop sabotaging me, hyung! Me and Tae just wanna go out with you guys,” Jimin pouts pathetically. Ah. He’d been saving that face.

Yoongi sighs, and Namjoon can practically hear his resolve crumbling as he looks at Jimin’s sad little face. “Fine. Fine. But I’m leaving before one.”

++

“I can’t believe you’re bailing,” Taehyung sighs, sitting with his legs over the back of Namjoon and Yoongi’s couch and his head dangling over the edge.

“I’m sick,” Yoongi mutters defensively. He’s wrapped in a large blanket as he drifts around the kitchen like an unintimidating ghost, grabbing water and tea.

“So you say,” Taehyung says in a skeptical tone of voice. Jimin, from where he’s perched on the arm of the couch, hits him with a pillow.

“Don’t be a dick,” he aims at Taehyung, before turning to Yoongi. “Feel better, hyung.”

“I’m going to send you like 600 snapchat videos tonight,” Taehyung says gleefully.

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” Yoongi sighs in his hoarse voice as he treads down the hallway toward his bedroom. Taehyung just giggles in response.

“So just us tonight, Namjoon-hyung,” Jimin says cheerily with one of his grins. It’s fairly at odds with the whole leather pants and ridiculous scoop necked-shirt get-up he’s got on, but that’s Jimin.

“Let’s fuck it up!” Taehyung yells, turning upright with a very red face.

Namjoon holds back his groan, and only sighs a little bit when Jimin asks him, “Is that what you’re wearing?”

 

It is nice, Namjoon notes as they loiter near the bar in the first club they go to, to feel a sense of commonality. Not belonging, per se — he belongs in this loud technicolor gay bar like Yoongi belongs in one of Jimin’s ballet classes, but commonality. Comfort, if he stretches, though he’s not nearly as comfortable as Jimin and Taehyung appear to be, tucked in close to each other near the bar.

Namjoon orders a drink. Maybe he shouldn’t have, but he does, and the bartender makes it strong. Jimin and Taehyung cheer aggressively as he sips at his mixed drink, apparently celebrating the fact, and Taehyung gets his phone out to record the event, undoubtedly the first snapchat video Yoongi will receive tonight.

The night continues on in a similar fashion; Namjoon sips at a drink (he switches to beer after his first cocktail, unwilling to wake up with a hangover the next day), Jimin dances with a stranger while Taehyung cheers him on, Taehyung takes excited 15-second videos of almost everything that happens. It’s fun; Namjoon has to admit it’s fun. Jimin and Taehyung are always fun, even when they’re dragging him (though it’s less unwilling than he’d like to admit) to another club down a few blocks. It’s a Friday night and Itaewon is busy and Taehyung and Jimin are loud and Namjoon is having fun.

He’s just about to order another beer when he glances back toward the dancefloor where Jimin is dancing near (against) Taehyung, and catches sight of one Kim Seokjin. Namjoon feels his mouth open a little, mostly out of surprise, but not entirely; looking at Kim Seokjin outside the halls of the humanities building is an experience. He’s ditched his usual cardigan-button up-dark jeans ensemble and traded it for a wide-necked t-shirt that leaves an uncomfortable amount of collarbone visible and a pair of skinny jeans that are ripped neatly at the knees. His glasses are gone and his soft blonde hair is pushed off his forehead, styled up in a way that makes Namjoon feel like a big question mark, emotionally.

He must be staring for longer than he intends, eyes focused on the way Seokjin is leaned back against the wall and smiling easily at a boy in front of him, because suddenly Seokjin’s meeting his eyes, countering with his own surprised expression. Namjoon doesn’t know what to do — does he walk over and say hi? Does he go back to ordering his drink? He pulls out his phone in a moment of desperation, opening Yoongi’s contact and feeling better now that he’s broken eye contact with Seokjin.

namjoon (12:13am): hyung wats the procedure for when u see ur TA in a gay bar
yoongi (12:13am): well i would say suck his dick to get an A but it’s you so it wouldn’t matter
namjoon (12:14am): is that an insult to my dick sucking or a compliment to my intelligence???
yoongi (12:14am): it can be both

Namjoon goes to type out a comeback, but before he can, there’s someone clearing their throat in front of him.

“Hi,” Seokjin says in a voice just loud enough to carry over the electronic music.

Namjoon glances up, and learns that the situation is worse up close. He always knew Seokjin was handsome, but this is too much confirmation, with his big sparkling eyes so close to Namjoon’s face. “Hi,” he finally gets out in reply, managing something like a smile.

“I, um,” Seokijn starts, before letting out a little laugh and bringing his hand to rub against the back of his neck. “I can’t remember your name right now.”

Namjoon gives a surprised laugh, grinning down at his hands folded across his chest. “It’s a big lecture, I guess.”

“It is a big lecture. But I really should remember your name, you always talk so much,” Seokjin says apologetically. Namjoon glances up to catch him biting his lip, and isn’t that something to look at.

Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “I talk so much?”

Seokjin sighs, a little exasperated, maybe. “You know you do.”

Namjoon feels his cheeks go pink but he doesn’t argue.

“Namjoon! Kim Namjoon!” Seokjin comes up with suddenly, pointing at him excitedly.

Namjoon cracks a smile despite himself, nodding back at Seokjin. “Yeah. That’s me.”

“Hi, Kim Namjoon,” Seokjin says with another smile. His cheeks are pink and it occurs to Namjoon that perhaps Seokjin is not entirely sober at the moment.

But then again, neither is he. “Hi, Kim Seokjin.” He smiles back, feeling a little dopey from the alcohol and from the...Seokjin of it all. The bright eyes, cute smile, exposed collarbones of it all.

They stay grinning at each other for a moment before Seokjin clears his throat. “Funny seeing you, uh, here of all places,” he says, gesturing around at the club, which is named Queen and in the gayest part of Itaewon. Namjoon understands the sentiment, almost acutely.

“Well, you know,” Namjoon says vaguely.

“I do know,” Seokjin says with a little smirk back.

Namjoon blames his three drinks for next saying, “The girls who gossip about how cute you are would be kind of disappointed if they knew.” It’s a stupid thing to say, that’s for sure, and for many enumerated reasons, but he doesn’t expect the flicker of annoyance that passes over Seokjin’s face.

“Not that my sexual orientation is any of my students’ business,” he starts, raising an eyebrow at Namjoon, who feels himself flush in embarrassment, “but they’d have no reason to be. I’m bisexual.”

“Oh,” Namjoon mutters. “Sorry. That was dumb, to assume. Besides, sexuality is a fluid spectrum, right, and classifications are kind of meaningless —” His rambling is erring on the side of pretentious, he can feel it, he always does this when he’s nervous —

“Mine’s not meaningless,” Seokjin interrupts. He doesn’t look as annoyed anymore though, a little more like he’s fighting amusement.

“Right. Sorry.” Namjoon deflates with a little sigh. “I’m kind of drunk. I should stop talking.”

“So you just talk a lot all the time, huh?” Seokjin asks. Definitely amused now. Namjoon counts that as a tentative win.

“My friends say I have trouble figuring out, um, when people care about the things I want to say.” Namjoon wishes he bought that next drink so he had something to do with his hands. He feels vaguely disastrous, standing here with his bad posture and nothing to occupy himself besides staring at Seokjin.

“Well, at least you have lots of things you want to say. Most of them seem like decent things.” Seokjin is smiling at him, a little kindly, and Namjoon feels himself blush again. When was the last time he blushed this much?

“Thanks,” Namjoon says, hazarding a smile of his own.

There’s a pause, and then Seokjin looks him up and down. “Interesting outfit, for a club,” Seokjin says with a smirk. He takes a sip of his drink; it’s clear-colored with a bit of orange peel in it, which strikes Namjoon as fancy.

“I don’t do this often,” Namjoon offers in explanation of his oversized clothes, beanie and the reading glasses he forgot to take off before he left the house. “My friends wanted me to come.”

He glances over at where he last saw Taehyung and Jimin, and there they still are; Jimin’s wide-cut shirt is venturing nearer to one of his shoulders as he presses close against Taehyung, an arm around his waist. Taehyung looks delighted. When he turns back to Seokjin, he’s still looking at Namjoon, and the attention makes him feel embarrassed for a moment.

It’s Friday night, they’re in a club called Queen in the gayest part of Itaewon and Seokjin is wearing what he’s wearing and he walked over from a boy he was talking to, and he’s still here, standing in front of Namjoon, sipping his drink, looking him over. Namjoon’s brain struggles with the significance of that, tries to fit this into some kind of weird algorithm that will output what this means exactly, but while his gears turn, the corner of Seokjin’s lips turn up, and he takes another sip of his drink.

“I’m going to go back to, uh,” he pauses and gestures vaguely again. “You know.”

Trying to get laid, Namjoon assumes, in that outfit. And he’s not sure if he’s relieved or disappointed that Seokjin’s efforts aren’t being expended on Namjoon. (But how much effort would it take, really, he wonders.)

“Yeah. Totally. Um, see you in class on Tuesday.” It seems inherently awkward coming out of Namjoon’s mouth, as almost everything does, but Seokjin just laughs in response. His laugh is halting and weird, more just an interesting repetitive noise than something traditionally thought of as laughter, but goddamn if Namjoon’s entire heart is not in his ass while listening to it.

“Yeah, you will.” Seokjin had promised to leave, but he hasn’t moved yet, and his continued presence goads Namjoon into saying something else stupid. It’s like his brain tries to fill a quota every time he speaks.

“We should, um — I mean, we could — I mean…” Namjoon pauses to collect himself, doesn’t really look at Seokjin, “If I talk too much in class, maybe we should get coffee or something. Could, not should. Maybe we could.”

It goes over slowly, Seokjin’s face transforming from neutral to surprised to neutral again within a matter of a few seconds. “Maybe we could. As friends, or...colleagues, or something.”

Friends. Colleagues. Okay. Namjoon can work with that. He’s never had a modelesque friend-slash-colleague whose weird laugh made him feel gayer before, but there’s a first time for everything. “Yeah,” he agrees pleasantly.

Seokjin grins back and then looks down at the floor, a little embarrassed. “Don’t pass this onto your classmates, but I could probably do with the philosophy review. I’m a little, uh, out of my depth. You seem a little above yours.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Namjoon says with a little smile.

“Coffee, then. Philosophy coffee.” Seokjin steps away, raising his hand in a little wave, and Namjoon nods so enthusiastically he hurts his neck a little bit as he watches Seokjin leave. Philosophy coffee. Friends. Colleagues. Nice.

“I was gonna say you look unreasonably happy but that dude looks like a prince and he was talking to you, so it’s totally reasonable.” Namjoon doesn’t know when Taehyung appeared behind his back, but his sudden rush of words startle Namjoon into jumping a little bit. He is, admittedly, a tiny bit relieved that Seokjin is just objectively crazy good-looking and Namjoon isn’t suffering more than anyone else in the world.

“Yeah,” is all he says, turning to the bar and to Taehyung. He guesses he should continue on with his night, order another drink, participate in Taehyung’s snapchat videos, but he’s a little off-kilter.

“You don’t usually...talk to people,” Taehyung says, raising an eyebrow at Namjoon like he’s suspicious. “Did he come talk to you? Are you that super hot guy’s weird grungy hipster nerd type?”

Namjoon turns and fixes Taehyung with an unimpressed glare from behind his glasses.

“Sorry, hyung,” he says cheerily with a wide grin. “It’s true, though.”

“He’s my TA,” Namjoon says instead of addressing the list of casual insults.

“Drama!” Taehyung says excitedly, scampering up onto a barstool next to Namjoon and leaning forward eagerly. “Intrigue!”

“Neither of those things,” Namjoon mumbles, and damn it, he can feel himself blush again.

“Are you going to be involved in some academic scandal? Kim Namjoon, the center of a sordid affair?” Taehyung has very obviously been drinking more than Namjoon, and drunk Taehyung is a whole other level of Taehyung that Namjoon is rarely up for handling.

“No,” he answers simply, and then, “Where’s Jimin?” Jimin can and has handled every level of Taehyung, and Namjoon feels his absence in this moment.

“Around,” Taehyung says with a floppy hand motion. “Are you gonna fuck your TA or not?”

Namjoon blushes (again), and then there’s a giggle from behind Namjoon’s shoulder. “Shit, what’d I miss?”

No,” Namjoon says forcefully in Taehyung’s direction, ignoring Jimin.

“We’ll see,” Taehyung sing-songs, spinning around on his stool and laughing happily.

Jimin laughs at him, apparently forgetting the context he’d missed and stepping forward to lean against Taehyung and halt his motion. “Stop, babe, you’re making me dizzy.”

“You’re making me dizzy,” Taehyung says back with an exaggerated wink as he struggles to connect with the straw in his drink without looking.

“Alright,” Namjoon announces flatly as Jimin’s hands work down to Taehyung’s hips, “time for me to head home.” He ignores the sound of Jimin’s responding giggle. He never got to order his next drink, but it’s probably for the best.

Taehyung starts singing a song that repeats, “Namjoon-hyung is no fun,” over and over again while Jimin laughs, slumping over onto Taehyung from the force of it, and Namjoon just nods, accepting.

++

“Namjoon-ssi.”

Namjoon is leaned against the hallway outside the lecture hall, almost half an hour early for his next class. He miscalculated how long getting coffee before lecture would take, and he’s been standing around staring at his phone for five minutes already. He looks up, surprised at the voice, and even more surprised to see Kim Seokjin.

“Seokjin-ssi,” Namjoon says back, taking out his earbuds and pressing pause on his music.

“Hyung is fine,” Seokjin says with a little wave of his hand, before looking a little more serious. “Um, sorry, I just saw you as I was walking through, and I wanted to just…” He trails off with a little sigh.

Namjoon furrows his eyebrows and looks him over, back in his usual smart casual wardrobe. It’s a Monday morning and Namjoon hadn’t expected to see him, since before Saturday, he hadn’t seen Seokjin anywhere than in their discussion classroom, perpetually late. But the universe has a sense of humor, Namjoon knows.

“Namjoon, I would appreciate your discretion,” Seokjin finally says, a little blush on his cheeks. He’s looking down at the ground.

“Oh,” Namjoon replies. He wonders absentmindedly just how drunk Seokjin was on Saturday night, to have approached him, so cavalier, if this was how he felt. “Yeah. Of course, hyung.”

“My job isn’t exactly secure, is all,” Seokjin says with a funny little smirk.

Namjoon nods. “Right. No problem.” He probably wouldn’t have told anyone anyway, if he’s honest; he doesn’t have any friends in this class, and he’s semi-allergic to gossip. Still, it’s a sobering conversation.

Seokjin looks relieved. “Thank you.”

There’s a bit of an awkward pause then, and Namjoon chances a grin at him. “I hope you had a good night, though.”

Seokjin seems surprised, and his cheeks are still pink, but he meets Namjoon’s eyes with a more genuine smile. “Oh, you know.”

“I don’t really go out much, so maybe not,” Namjoon says. He shoves his hands into his pockets a little self-consciously.

“I don’t really either,” Seokjin shrugs. “At least, I haven’t in a while.”

“You seemed like a natural,” Namjoon says without thinking much of it, until his brain catches up with him. Shit. “Sorry, was that too...sorry,” he amends, even though Seokjin mostly looks amused.

He lets out a little laugh. “It’s okay. I’m not sure what that implication is, but it’s okay.”

Namjoon’s not sure either, it’s just that Seokjin looked very at home in his club outfit, his glasses gone and his hair well-styled. He looked really good, is all, in a way that Namjoon himself would in no way be able to pull off. “No implication,” he says, instead of that. Seokjin raises an eyebrow but doesn’t comment on it.

“So are we still on for that coffee?” Seokjin asks instead, eyebrow still raised like it’s a challenge, though seemingly a friendly one.

Namjoon feels himself go pink. “Oh. Right. Yes. I mean, yeah, absolutely.”

Seokjin pulls out his phone then, and it takes Namjoon a second to realize he’s looking at his calendar. Like some kind of adult. “How do your Wednesdays look?” He asks. Surreal.

“Uh,” Namjoon says while he thinks. Truthfully, there isn’t much to think about — he has one class, and then usually spends the rest of the day sitting in his apartment. But Seokjin looked at his calendar, so he’d like to at least have the facade of also being a busy person with multiple commitments. “I’m free after one,” he finally lands on.

“Did you know there’s a cafe in Hongdae where you can pet sheep?” Seokjin asks him. Namjoon is coming to recognize that this is Seokjin — seemingly a little scattered and quick to change his mood. Namjoon doesn’t think he minds, really.

He frowns when he registers Seokjin’s words. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“From a hygiene perspective?” Seokjin asks, looking interested.

“No, like. Do sheep really want to live in a cafe?” Namjoon asks, furrowing his eyebrows. “Seems kind of inhumane.”

Seokjin just looks at him for a second, unreadable, before he smiles. “Yeah. Maybe. Anyway, we can go to a regular cafe, no animal cruelty involved.”

“I mean, I would prefer for no animal cruelty to ever be involved,” Namjoon says. Seokjin gives him another look, a little amused, maybe.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Do you know that place that looks like a renovated hanok?”

“There’s a cafe that looks like a renovated hanok?” Namjoon asks, raising an eyebrow.

“They have the best coffee in Seoul,” Seokjin says very seriously, because apparently this is a very serious matter. “I’ll send you the address.”

“You don’t have my number,” Namjoon points out.

Seokjin smiles at him, warm and friendly, and Namjoon is reminded of the way he felt Saturday night when Seokjin laughed. Out of his depth, acutely so. “Well, I was hoping you would give it to me, Namjoon-ah.”

“Right. Of course.” Namjoon almost drops his phone, but he recovers from it with a smile that he hopes looks calm. “Yes.”

++

Seokjin sits across from Namjoon, with the supposed best coffee in Seoul in front of him, and he looks slightly disdainfully at Namjoon’s tea.

“You could have said you didn’t drink coffee,” Seokjin says like he’s scolding Namjoon.

“Well,” Namjoon mutters. “You seemed excited about the coffee.”

“I am, always,” Seokjin nods. “But still.”

Namjoon showed up late for their...meeting. (Not a date, like Yoongi had called it in passing. Without a doubt not a date, because Seokjin had said friends, colleagues, and he’s Namjoon’s teacher. Not a date.) He consulted the address Seokjin gave him three times and still ended up getting lost, despite living in Seoul for most of his relatively short life. By the time he showed up, Seokjin was already sipping at his coffee and halfway into a piece of cake with lavender icing.

Namjoon isn’t sure why he takes such particular pleasure in analyzing Kim Seokin’s wardrobe, but he notes that his outfit today is somewhere between TA and club-goer; the rips in his jeans are a little high, but his hair is soft and unstyled and his sweater looks oversized and cozy. Seokjin, in general, seems to usually look cozy.

He’s trying not to stare at the exposed skin on Seokjin’s leg when the man in question clears his throat and Namjoon’s gaze is violently drawn away as he practically chokes with embarrassment. If Seokjin had noticed, though, he doesn’t show it. Maybe it was an innocent throat clearing.

“What do you study, Namjoon?” Seokjin asks after a bite of cake. He looks politely interested, his chin resting on one hand.

“Um, a lot of things,” Namjoon says. He stirs his tea, even though he hasn’t really added anything to it. “I was a philosophy major first but I’m trying to finish a sociology major before I graduate, too. And then I minor in creative writing, mostly poetry. I take some music classes sometimes.”

Seokjin looks amused by this. “Interesting list.”

Namjoon just shrugs with a sheepish grin. “The first day of class, you said you study history?”

“Yep,” Seokjin nods around another bite of cake. It’s disappearing rapidly, at this rate. “I did a lot of Korean literature study in undergrad, but right now I’m writing my thesis on westernization in Korean culture in the 19th century.”

Namjoon makes an appreciative noise, bringing his tea up to sip and almost spitting it out when he realizes how hot it still is. He swallows it though, preferring a burned mouth to looking like a complete idiot in front of handsome, put-together, thesis-writing Seokjin.

Seokjin doesn’t seem to notice, continuing on, “I was supposed to assist for a class on the evolution of Japanese culture, which is more my speed, but I got told at the last minute that the philosophy department was short-staffed and I was being borrowed.”

Namjoon wants to say I’m glad they borrowed you, but the thought of it makes him deeply embarrassed, so he just nods. He is glad, though. Despite Seokjin sometimes stumbling through the material, he’s helpful, as an instructor. “What’s the difference between philosophy students and history students?” Namjoon asks with a grin.

“You guys are a lot more intense,” Seokjin says with a worried expression, making Namjoon laugh despite himself.

“I think we can be, yeah,” he says sheepishly, looking down at his tea. “You’re a good teacher, though.”

Seokjin looks mildly embarrassed at that, his cheeks the faintest pink, and he has a funny kind of smile. “Thank you. It’s kind of my first time doing it. It’s my first year in grad school.”

There’s quiet then, Seokjin sipping his coffee, before he says, “Are you hungry? They have great sandwiches here. They make one with bulgogi that’s really good.”

“Ah,” Namjoon says with an apologetic smile. “I don’t, uh, eat meat.”

Seokjin just looks at him for a moment, face blank. “Are you a vegetarian?”

“I’m mostly vegan,” Namjoon explains, running a hand through his hair.

“What does mostly vegan mean?” Seokjin asks. His face is still blank, like he’s been given a real shock.

“I don’t eat milk or eggs or anything but I also don’t check the back of bags of chips to make sure there are no animal products.”

“So you’re a lazy vegan,” Seokjin says with a little smirk.

Namjoon snorts. “I’m a poor vegan who can’t afford to say no to convenience store dinner.”

Seokjin just lets out a little sigh. “Wow.”

Namjoon feels a little defensive at his tone. “Wow what?”

“It’s just, that makes me really sad,” Seokjin says in explanation, looking serious. “What do you eat?”

“Lots of things,” Namjoon defends himself. Usually people ask him that question with scorn in their voices, but Seokjin just sounds depressed, and Namjoon wants to reassure him. “I promise.”

“If you say so,” Seokjin says, not sounding particularly convinced and looking at Namjoon with pity.

“I’m fine! I eat a lot of tofu and multigrain rice. Um, and vegetables,” Namjoon says, trying to think of more things he eats. “I’m really fine. I swear, hyung.”

Seokjin just continues to eye him skeptically as he finishes his coffee with a satisfied little noise. He looks like he’s about to make another comment when his phone buzzes noisily against the table, threatening to vibrate its way onto the floor.

“Sorry,” he mutters to Namjoon with a glance and a little grin before answering it. “Hoseokie,” he says fondly into his phone in lieu of a greeting. He looks to the side, toward the front windows and grins as the person on the other line talks, and Namjoon feels his heart sink a bit. Has he misread this completely, starting with Seokjin at the club? Maybe he was there with someone, maybe he was with someone, period. Shit.

Seokjin is still smiling warmly, making hmm-ing noises in response to the other person (Hoseokie, apparently) before saying, “Well, I’ll be home soon. Do you want me to bring you coffee?”

Namjoon sighs a little, just to himself, and drinks his tea. At least it’s at a drinkable temperature now. At least he has his tea. It cost six thousand won because Seokjin (handsome, put-together, probably-someone’s-boyfriend Seokjin) can apparently afford this upscale cafe, but whatever.

“Sorry,” Seokjin says to Namjoon again. He sets his phone back down on the table, and Namjoon blinks. He missed when Seokjin said goodbye, apparently.

“Sure,” Namjoon says with a shrug. It seems unprofessional, too forward, to make some comment to gauge whether his suspicions are right (and he’s never been the kind of person who could pull off a casual “Was that your boyfriend?” That’s Jimin territory, far too charming and smooth for Namjoon.) So instead he doesn’t comment at all, drinking more of his tea and hoping the silence between them is comfortable.

Boyfriend or no, Namjoon’s not quite sure where he stands with Seokjin. He’s still Namjoon’s teacher, and sometimes he seems a little stiff talking to Namjoon. But there’s something warm and casual about Seokjin that seems purposeful, that makes Namjoon feel comfortable around him.

“It’s weird,” Seokjin starts, shifting in the armchair he’s sitting in slightly, leaning against the arm, “But I can’t remember the last time I actively made a friend.”

Namjoon’s startled into a laugh. “Yeah. I know what you mean.” The last friend he really tried to make was Yoongi, but he wasn’t pursuing friendship really, and it was years ago. Everyone else in his life seems to have just fallen into it, absent one day, present the next.

“Being an adult is weird, right?” Seokjin asks thoughtfully. He smiles a little. “You’re a fourth-year and I’m technically like, I don’t know, a whole bullshit tier of academia separated from you but I just graduated. It’s really weird when people treat you like you’re old and important.”

“I didn’t realize I had been,” Namjoon says with a little grin.

Seokjin waves his hand at him dismissively. “Not you specifically, but. You know? It’s weird. And it’s probably unprofessional or frowned upon or something, but. I want to be friends with you, Namjoon.”

Namjoon feels a little flustered at that, feels himself go pink. “Let’s be friends, then,” he says, which sounds remarkably cool-headed for how completely not cool his head is even at the best of times.

Seokjin just smiles at him, warm and pretty, and Namjoon smiles back like an automatic response. “I want to be friends even though you’re a vegan,” he says, raising his eyebrows like this is a feat.

“So big of you,” Namjoon says with a smirk, and Seokjin nods in agreement.

“I’m very impressive in a lot of regards, Namjoon,” Seokjin teases. The thing is, Namjoon believes it.

++

“So lemme get this shit straight,” Seulgi intones from her place on Amber’s floor, twisting the cap off another beer. “You want to fuck your professor?”

It’s a Friday night, and Amber sent everyone a group text earlier complaining that it had been too long since she’d seen them. It says a lot about Amber as a person that it even guilted Yoongi into showing up at her and Soojung’s cramped apartment. Soojung’s nowhere to be found, but Seulgi and Sooyoung are sitting together on the floor while Namjoon, Yoongi, Taehyung and Jimin pile on the couch. Amber’s stirring something in the kitchen, but she’s chiming in on the conversation every once in a while.

“He’s not my professor,” Namjoon mutters defensively. He’s nursing his own beer bottle, condensation dripping down onto his hands as the group around him smirks at him a little derisively. “He’s my TA. He’s like a year older than me. Totally different.” Seokjin is definitely more than a year older than him, but whatever. “And I don’t want to fuck him.”

“Sure. Still ridiculous,” Sooyoung counters, her eyebrows raised at Namjoon. Her legs are slung over Seulgi’s lap, her phone in her hand.

“You’re one to talk,” Seulgi snorts at her. “You have a crush on a high school student.”

“Scandalous,” Taehyung says eagerly.

“Is that true?” Amber calls from the kitchen.

“Don’t be gross,” Sooyoung says, wrinking her nose. “I don’t have a crush on Yerim, I just think she’s cute. She’s only a few years younger than me, I’m not a creep.”

“Where the hell are you meeting high school girls?” Yoongi asks, sounding slightly appalled.

“I think you’re a little old for them, oppa,” Sooyoung says with a smirk. Yoongi looks unimpressed. “She’s friends with my little sister.”

“Jesus, that’s weird,” Yoongi says, shaking his head. Sooyoung just shrugs, looking unbothered.

“When did we let Jimin and Taehyung become the stable ones?” Namjoon asks, feeling truly at a loss.

“We’ve always been stable as hell,” Taehyung insists. They high-five each other happily at that, Taehyung’s free arm reaching to wrap around the back of Jimin’s shoulders.

Amber emerges from the kitchen with a stack of bowls, passing them to Yoongi, at the nearest end of the couch to her. “That’s offensive, me and Soojung are like ten times more stable than them.”

“Well yeah, that’s a given,” Namjoon replies. “You guys have always been married.”

Amber shoots him a look, but doesn’t look unhappy with the comment. “I made your fried rice vegan.”

“Thanks, noona,” Namjoon says, grinning wide. She ruffles his short hair messily, taking pleasure in the little scowl he gives her.

“Where is Soojung?” Yoongi asks, passing the bowls down the couch until they reach the girls on the floor.

“Work,” Amber shrugs. Yoongi looks a little disappointed; Namjoon thinks that Yoongi likes Soojung the best out of all of them. Once, he came home to find Yoongi and Soojung sitting at opposite ends of the couch, both reading books and not speaking to each other. They both referred back to it as a great day and successful social outing.

“Taehyung, do you still have that sweater of mine with the dog on it?” Amber asks when she brings the large bowl of fried rice. Namjoon isn’t sure when or where she got a pan big enough to make fried rice for seven, but he isn’t complaining. Especially not when she hands Namjoon a separate bowl (with no egg in it) first.

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” Taehyung replies while shoveling rice into his dish.

“So what’s your TA’s name?” Seulgi asks Namjoon, voice quieter than Taehyung and Amber’s conversation, quieter than Jimin and Sooyoung’s bickering over something.

“Kim Seokjin. He’s in the history department,” Namjoon says through a bite of rice.

Seulgi looks like she’s in thought for a moment, then her face clears with a laugh. “Shit. I think I know him.”

“How?” Namjoon asks, confused. Seulgi’s a year below him and a creative writing major. (They met in Namjoon’s second year, when Seulgi was in a poetry workshop with him and called his work “pretentious and overly male,” a definite insult from Seulgi. They got high together one time, she insulted him some more, they buried the hatchet; the rest was history.)

“Sooyoung-ah,” she said instead of answering him, interrupting Sooyoung’s conversation with Jimin. “You know Joohyun-unnie?”

“Is she the grad student you had a crush on forever? The one who looks like a doll?” Sooyoung asks.

Seulgi sighs a little wistfully. “Yeah. Her.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow at her, not sure of the connection. “She’s Kim Seokjin’s girlfriend,” Seulgi finally says. Yoongi glances over at them, and Amber and Taehyung seem to hear too.

“Sorry, man,” Amber says through a wince.

“No, it’s — like, currently?” Namjoon asks, brow furrowed. “He likes girls, I knew that, but…”

“I’m not sure,” Seulgi shrugs. “I gave up hope that they’d ever break up after they hit their second year. Moved on.”

“You’ve hooked up with like, one girl in the past year,” Sooyoung interjected, raising her eyebrows at Seulgi.

“Who?” Amber asks, curious.

“Byulyi,” Seulgi says with a sigh.

“That doesn’t even count. You’re not allowed to like girls on this campus without sleeping with Byulyi,” Sooyoung snorts.

Amber pats Seulgi’s head. “She has a point.”

Namjoon is only tangentially paying attention to the discussion of campus lesbian cliques, and mostly wrestling over the idea of Seokjin having a girlfriend. He can’t, right? He was at that club, in those jeans.

“You’re thinking too hard,” Yoongi mutters at him. They’re close to each other on the couch but Namjoon forgot how close until Yoongi nudges Namjoon with his knee. “Just ask the poor bastard.”

Namjoon sighs and nods. Sooner or later, for his own peace of mind, he will have to ask the poor bastard. For now, he decides to push it out of his head and finish eating his fried rice, and try (not for the first time) to understand gay girl politics.

Soojung walks in the front door after another minute, looking tired and a little worn, and the first thing Amber says to her is, “Soojungie, you’ve kissed Moon Byulyi, right?”

Soojung stops, looking confused, before replying, “Well, yeah.” She hangs her jacket up

“I told you,” Sooyoung exclaims.

“Hi, princess,” Amber adds as an afterthought at Soojung, who feigns annoyance. Amber just grins at her. “Made dinner.”

Soojung’s expression softens, and she smiles back at Amber. “Thanks, babe.” It’s in English, and even though Namjoon’s the only other one who can speak it, all of them seem to catch the sentiment.

“No one can compete with them,” Yoongi mutters when Amber stands up to follow Soojung into the kitchen, and Jimin sighs a little in agreement.

++

“So, uh,” Namjoon starts, not looking up from my laptop. “My friend says she knows your girlfriend.”

Seokjin doesn’t respond. In fairness, they’re in a library, and one of the quieter ones on campus, at that. Namjoon kind of expected the whole “be friends with a guy who teaches you once a week” thing to be a little awkward, but Seokjin seems to compartmentalize things well; there’s no noticeable difference in the way he treats Namjoon in class. But sometimes when class is over, and Namjoon is the last person in the room because he perpetually misses the cue to start packing his things up, Seokjin will ask Namjoon if he wants to get coffee or head to a library because he really needs to catch up on readings and wants someone else there to keep him accountable. It’s like a switch flips as soon as discussion ends.

It’s two weeks after Seulgi mentioned Joohyun, and Namjoon finally felt up to the task. But here he is, still staring at his laptop, fielding silence from Seokjin. He works up the nerve to glance over at him, and is a little surprised to see Seokjin looking...sad. Shit.

“Ex-girlfriend,” he says simply, not really looking at Namjoon. “I’m assuming. If you’re talking about Bae Joohyun. Ex-girlfriend.”

“Ah,” Namjoon says. He feels awkward now, not sure what to say. “Um, good to know, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin says quietly. He still hasn’t looked up from the book in front of him, or higher than the table. Namjoon bounces his leg anxiously.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to — I didn’t know,” he says, biting his lip.

Seokjin shakes his head and finally looks up at Namjoon, putting on a face of...not happiness exactly, but something resigned and content, mostly. “It’s okay. We were together for a really long time. A lot of people don’t know we broke up.”

“Did it happen...recently?” Namjoon asks. He wants to kick himself for asking, but he’s curious, is all. And Seokjin doesn’t look sad anymore, so maybe it’s okay.

“Almost four months ago, I guess? Which is...kind of a long time ago, isn’t it. Shit,” he laughs, not much humor in it.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says again.

Seokjin shrugs. “It’s really okay. I’m fine, mostly.”

The mostly rings in Namjoon’s ears.

“You owe me a breakup story now, though,” Seokjin says with a little grin at Namjoon.

“But I didn’t really get yours,” Namjoon counters.

“True enough, I guess,” Seokjin shrugs. The movement is distracting, Namjoon notices, because of the sheer dumb breadth of Seokjin’s shoulders. “We dated for around three years. Then she got a job across the country and...it seemed like the right time for things to end.”

It strikes Namjoon as a little tragic, if he’s honest, and his first worry is that he doesn’t have a story to reciprocate with. He voices his concerns. “See, that’s intense. All my breakup stories are lame. Like, he was too repressed, or we wanted different things.”

“Classics,” Seokin replies with a smile. “You gotta match me, though. You’re a philosophy student, I know you have some emotional nightmare in your history.”

“I don’t like that generalization,” Namjoon mutters with a scowl. (He does, though, so. Whatever.) “But okay. Fine. It’s not a breakup, but here’s my best: a few years ago I had this really desperate crush on a guy in a music class. I thought he was like, the coolest person alive, and I trailed after him like a puppy for a solid year.”

“I don’t like where this is heading,” Seokjin says, a hand to his chest in concern.

Namjoon grins. “Yeah. It was bad. I was basically in love with him by the time I worked up the courage to confess, and he rejected me outright. He’s a good guy, but he’s not great at...delicacy.”

“Oh no,” Seokjin says sympathetically, but he’s smiling a little. “Poor baby Namjoon.”

“It’s okay. We stayed friends. We live together, actually,” Namjoon shrugs with a matching grin.

Seokjin gives a low whistle, and a few people nearby in the library turn to glare. He ignores them. “Boy, that sounds like it would require herculean effort.”

“Nah,” Namjoon shakes his head. “I just...really admired him. Didn’t wanna toss that, you know? I mean, I still admire him. I’m definitely not in love with him anymore, though.”

“Good to know,” Seokin says with a smile, the kind that Namjoon can never decipher.

Namjoon just nods, mouth feeling a little dry as he turns back to his reading.

 

namjoon (15:48): i have good news and bad news
seulgi (15:49): go on
namjoon (15:54): seokjin’s not dating joohyun anymore
seulgi (15:55): waiting for the bad news
namjoon (15:55): she moved across the country :(
seulgi (15:55): RIP true love :(
namjoon (15:57): are u talking about seokjin and joohyun or you and joohyun?
seulgi (15:58): me and joohyun
seulgi (15:58): obviously

++

The start of autumn passes in a blur for Namjoon, essays and course requirements all running together. He goes to class, he does homework, he sits in the library with Seokjin sometimes, and he has trouble remembering anything more than that. It’s the last week in October when he comes down with something nasty, waking up one morning with a pounding headache and a sore throat, full of regrets.

He pads out to the living room of their apartment, his blanket still around his shoulders, and Yoongi is sitting at the kitchen table, half-eating cereal, half-staring at his laptop. He looks up with vague interest, but when he catches sight of Namjoon, he says, “Hell no.”

“What, hyung?” Namjoon asks, surprised to hear his voice so scratchy and rough. He just woke up, he reasons, and his voice always sounds this scratchy. Right?

Yoongi fixes him with a stare. “You’re sick.”

“Not feeling great, no,” Namjoon mutters, but he continues padding over to the fridge, opening it to grab juice and pour himself a glass.

“You’re sick and I am not getting sick again,” Yoongi declares, shutting his computer and grabbing his cereal to move across the room from Namjoon.

“It’s probably nothing, hyung,” Namjoon tries to assure him, but he questions himself when looking at the fridge light makes him feel a little dizzy.

“Quarantine yourself, Namjoon. Please,” Yoongi calls to him from where he’s backing out of the room. He’s looking at Namjoon with disgust, but before he turns to properly leave, his expression softens. “Also, like, if you need cold meds, I still have some left over.”

Namjoon just nods (the motion makes him dizzy again), and pushes forward in his effort to get juice. He bought a bottle of green juice a few days ago and felt really healthy and cool about it, and it seems like a great decision to make right now, as heavy and achey and tired his body feels. When he takes a swig and realizes that it tastes like nothing, he sighs, and lowers his gaze to the floor.

“I’m sick,” he announces to no one, and then he closes the fridge door on his finger by accident. Because the universe always has a sense of humor.

 

In class on Tuesday, Seokjin looks over at him multiple times when he asks questions to the group, but Namjoon stays silent every time, sipping at his thermos of tea and smiling apologetically at Seokjin. It’s killing him, if he’s honest; he never realized how much he talks in class until today, when he has a hundred things he wants to ask more questions about, but his throat is killing him, and he convinces himself it’s not worth it.

“Your participation grade’s going to go down if you’re not careful,” Seokjin teases him after class. “Why so quiet today?”

Namjoon smiles sheepishly before clearing his throat, the sound of phlegm audible between them. Cute. “I have a cold,” he explains, but the sound of his voice does most of the explaining. It’s croaky and husky, lower-toned than usual, and Seokjin goes from smirking to looking ridiculously concerned in a heartbeat.

“Oh god, you sound awful,” Seokjin says with a frown, eyebrows drawn together with worry.

“M’fine,” Namjoon rasps.

Seokjin looks unconvinced, and he rests a hand on his hip as he looks Namjoon over. The scrutiny feels embarrassing, especially since Namjoon only had energy enough to throw on a (probably dirty) t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants in the morning. He looks like absolute shit from head to toe, but Seokjin stares at him like he’s trying to solve a riddle. “Have you been eating?”

Namjoon laughs in surprise. “Yeah. I’ve been eating.”

“What, ramen? You shouldn’t eat that stuff when you’re sick, there are too many chemicals. You can’t eat chicken soup, what have you been eating?” Seokjin sounds stern, looking unimpressed with Namjoon, and it’s a little absurd, so Namjoon keeps grinning at him.

“The same stuff I always eat,” Namjoon says, defensive through his smile. Seokjin keeps staring at him, eyes narrowed.

“I’m making you soup,” Seokjin says decisively, practically a declaration.

“What? Don’t be stupid, I’m fine —” Namjoon starts, but all the talking is irritating his throat, and it spurs him into a brutal set of coughs that he didn’t see coming. “I’m fine,” he finishes lamely, out of breath and even more hoarse.

“Shut up, Namjoon-ah. I’m making you soup. Should I bring it by your apartment? You really shouldn’t come to lecture on Thursday. Where do you live?”

Namjoon feels helpless under Seokjin’s barrage of questions, and eventually just gives in (this may have been Seokjin’s strategy from the start, now that Namjoon thinks of it) and texts Seokjin his address.

“Now go home, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin scolds him gently, pushing at his shoulder in the direction of the door.

“Okay,” Namjoon agrees weakly with his sad little voice. It’s easy to follow Seokjin’s directions, trudge himself home even though his bones feel heavy and it’s hard to think with his head so foggy. The apartment’s quiet and empty, mid-day sunlight the only thing keeping it lit, and Namjoon doesn’t have the energy to do anything besides flop down face-first onto the couch, throw his backpack on the ground, and pull one of the ever-present blankets (Yoongi’s big on blankets) around himself.

 

He wakes up to someone nudging his shoulder, and he groans, the sound having trouble escaping his raw throat.

“Joon-ah,” a voice calls. “Joonie, wake up.”

“What?” He rasps, rolling over and shoving the blanket down to see Yoongi leaning down over him, dark bangs hanging shaggy over his forehead. The room’s dark, light filtering in from the kitchen and...the front door? Namjoon squints, trying to better understand the circumstances of what he’s waking up to.

“It’s like eight. Also, someone’s here for you.”

“At night?” Namjoon asks. Then the second part hits his brain. “Wait, what?”

“Yeah, at night. And it’s Seokjin,” Yoongi replies, his face mostly blank except a little smirk at the corner of his lips.

“Wait, what?” Namjoon repeats, sitting up and feeling disoriented.

Yoongi turns the light in the living room on as he leaves, and Namjoon realizes there’s light coming in from the front door because Seokjin is standing there, the light of the hallway giving him a halo that strikes Namjoon’s cold-addled brain as fitting. He has a paper bag in his hand, and there’s an amused expression on his face.

“What?” Namjoon asks again, even though he knows what.

“Hi,” Seokjin calls cheerily. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon manages, coughs to clear his throat as he sits up fully and unearths himself from the messy nest he made on the couch (where he had napped for the past four hours, apparently.) He runs a hand through his short hair, and he’s sure it’s a wreck. He’s a bit of a wreck overall, really. “Of course, yeah.”

“Glad you were resting,” Seokjin says, amusement clear in his voice. They meet somewhere in the middle of the room, Namjoon in his sleep-rumped sweatpants and Seokjin in a denim jacket with fashionable rips in it that fits his shoulders well, his glasses reflecting the light from the lamp on the other side of the room.

“Yeah, I. Yes,” Namjoon manages. His brain is having trouble with all of this, tired and struggling as it is.

Seokin doesn’t seem to care, still smirking at Namjoon like this is all very funny. Namjoon doesn’t think it’s very funny. “I made you soup.”

“Shit, for real?” Namjoon asks. His voice croaks on the last syllable, and Seokjin lets out a muffled little laugh, covering his mouth like he doesn’t want Namjoon to see.

“Yeah, for real. I said I would.”

“Well, yeah, but people say a lot of things, Seokjin. I didn’t think you would really…” He trails off. He can feel his face go pink at the sincerity of it. Is Seokjin real? Is this some cold medicine-fueled lucid dream?

“How are you feeling?” Seokjin asks, ignoring him completely.

Namjoon considers. “The same, I guess.”

Seokjin nods, giving him a little consoling frown, and then raises the bag in his hand. “Where do you want me to put this?”

Namjoon’s stomach growls, and Seokjin laughs at him again. “I’ll heat it up, how about that?”

“You don’t have to —” Namjoon starts, padding after Seokjin in his sock feet when he heads for their kitchen. But Seokjin just waves him off.

“I don’t have to do anything, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says with that same teasing lilt in his voice. “I’m choosing to warm up this soup for you, because you are sick and I feel like you’re a little helpless.”

Namjoon stops in his tracks, making an offended noise that’s something like a scoff, but with more coughing. “Helpless?”

Seokjin turns to look at him properly after he sets the bag down on the kitchen counter. He looks up him and down, and Namjoon feels a familiar sense of embarrassment at the motion; something about Seokjin’s gaze makes him feel a little exposed. “Yes. Helpless.”

Namjoon opens his mouth to argue, but he closes it again, choosing instead to scowl at the ground as he finishes walking over to where Seokjin is standing in his kitchen. Seokjin looks pleased that he’s given up.

“I made you kimchi stew, without the pork belly,” Seokjin explains, pulling a plastic container out of the bag in front of him.

“That’s…” Namjoon trails off, slumping against the counter. “That’s so nice.”

Seokjin just shrugs, like this isn’t a big deal, before putting the container in the microwave. “Make it up to me sometime.”

“I can’t cook,” Namjoon says with a wince. “It’s really for the best if I stay away from most things in a kitchen.”

“This is why I called you helpless,” Seokjin says with a little grin.

“I’m perfectly fine, thank you very much,” Namjoon mutters, but it’s punctuated by the sound of him sniffing his nose. “I do need to take more cold medicine, though.”

“Go for it,” Seokjin tells him, shooing him out of the room.

Yoongi’s bedroom door is open, and he peers at Namjoon as he walks by.

“Don’t,” Namjoon mutters, walking over to Yoongi’s dresser and grabbing the bottle of nighttime cold medicine.

“Wasn’t gonna,” Yoongi replies quietly, but he’s smirking.

Namjoon just glares at him before opening the bottle, taking a long swig, and marching out with it in his hand. “Good.”

The kimchi stew is delicious. Kim Seokjin is, on top of everything else, apparently a really damn good cook, and Namjoon finds this fact a little infuriating. Seokjin pats his head while he eats, claiming that you should eat spicy food when you’re sick to sweat your fever out, and Namjoon just nods and keeps eating, willing to believe it.

“I’m not helpless,” Namjoon mutters some time later, rinsing off Seokjin’s container so he can take it back home. He’s drowsy from the cold medicine, but his throat hurts less.

“You’re not,” Seokjin agrees softly, standing with his back against Namjoon’s fridge. “You’re very competent, I’m sure.

Namjoon deflates a little, sighing, and giving up. “No...I’m actually really not that competent.”

“I think it’s time to go to bed, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says through a quiet little laugh.

“‘Kay,” Namjoon agrees easily. He dries off Seokjin’s container, holding it out to him, and Seokjin is just smiling at him. It’s pretty, which is upsetting.

“I’ll see you soon, Namjoon. Sleep well,” Seokjin tells him at the front door, and it’s almost cloyingly sweet, like Seokjin is about to tuck him into bed. Which, in all honesty, he wouldn’t say no to. But he tucks that thought away, instead just nodding sleepily.

“Thanks, hyung.”

Namjoon’s stomach feels warm as he drifts to sleep that night, and he won’t admit it (and he blames the cold medicine), but it’s possible he has a dream about Kim Seokjin baking him cookies. He sleeps soundly and wakes up feeling embarrassed and still a little warm.

++

It’s a couple weeks after Namjoon’s recovery (which is not at all speedy, thanks to his horrendous sleep schedule) when it happens. Namjoon doesn’t remember what triggers it; maybe Seokjin said his name in a way that was more familiar than necessary, maybe Namjoon smiled at him for too long or something, he’s not sure.

Whatever it is, it causes the girl who always sit next to him to thrum her purple fingernails on Namjoon’s desk while everyone’s packing up their things, look down at him with a little smirk and say, “You two are friends, right?” She glances at Seokjin’s back as she says it, voice too loud, before looking back at him. “No wonder you always participate so much. Just how close are you?” There’s a wink in her voice and it makes Namjoon instantly uncomfortable. He feels awkward and embarrassed and he’s desperately, desperately hoping that Seokjin didn’t hear her when he brushes past them out of the classroom, without a second look at them. Shit.

“It’s not like that,” Namjoon quickly defends.

“Sure,” she teases, thrumming her fingernails again so they click against the desk. “Of course.”

“It’s really not,” Namjoon says. It’s more forceful this time, and he stands up after he says it.

She looks a little deflated, like it’s not fun anymore, and shrugs at him. “Whatever.”

Namjoon is irritated but he can’t think of anything good to say back, so he just slings his backpack over his shoulder and walks out of the classroom with a little scowl in her direction.

It doesn’t take him long to catch up with Seokjin (a perpetually slow walker), even if he is a little out of breath from it.

“Hyung,” he calls down the hallway when he’s about ten feet away, and Seokjin’s shoulders stiffen.

Namjoon walks faster until he’s caught up, walking in time with Seokjin, whose face looks tight. “Hyung,” he tries again.

“Namjoon-ssi,” Seokjin sighs back at him, an eyebrow raised.

Namjoon frowns. “It’s — she doesn’t know anything.”

“What is there to know, Namjoon?” Seokjin asks him, sounding tired.

“No, I just meant, like, what does she know, you know?”

Seokjin slows to give him a confused look.

“I mean — shit. I mean, like —” Namjoon struggles for a minute, before Seokjin just shakes his head at him, turns around to see who else is in the hallway. It’s mostly deserted, but there’s an older professor lingering nearby. Seokjin sighs again, stops walking and faces Namjoon in the quiet hall.

“Namjoon, listen. I’m not like, the most professional person, and I’m fine with that.” Seokjin stands with his arms crossed, and Namjoon just looks at him. “It’s not professional to be friends with your student, but academia is fucking stupid anyway, so who cares.”

“Right, and —” Namjoon starts, but Seokjin cuts him off again.

“But,” he says, holding up a finger to Namjoon. “Dating your students…A male graduate student dating his male undergrad...” He trails off with another sigh.

Namjoon feels compelled to mutter, “We’re not dating.”

“Yes, I’m aware, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says with something like a smile. “But it doesn’t really matter whether or not we’re dating if people think we are.”

Namjoon, for one, thinks it matters. He’s been thinking about Seokjin making him soup for two goddamn weeks. But he doesn’t mention this aloud. Instead, he asks, “So what, are we not allowed to be friends anymore?”

“I’m not an asshole, Namjoon,” Seokjin says with a little laugh.

“Well, I didn’t think you were,” Namjoon replies with his own tentative smile.

Seokjin stays grinning at him for a minute before his expression goes a little more serious. “I just...publicly, I think I might need to back off.”

“Back off,” Namjoon repeats.

“Yes. Back off. It’s my job and my education, Namjoon. It’s not personal.”

Namjoon looks across at Seokjin and nods, even though it feels a little bit personal. “Yeah. I get it.”

“Sorry,” Seokjin says with another little sigh. “About all this.”

“No, it’s okay,” Namjoon lies. There’s a funny pit in his stomach. “It’s fine. We’ll talk later, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Seokjin agrees quietly. He doesn’t look happy, per se, but he doesn’t look as weird and drawn anymore either.

They part ways at the end of the hallway and Namjoon is left slumping down the stairs, mulling over what, exactly, has him feeling so off. Maybe it was the way Seokjin said “It doesn’t really matter whether we’re dating or not.” Namjoon doesn’t want them to be dating, not really — he’s not into the idea of dating a teacher any more than Seokjin is into the idea of dating a student. It’s just that maybe, possibly, perhaps, Namjoon is nursing a small crush. A really small one, where he barely even thinks at all about how handsome Seokjin looks in his fashionable little glasses, where he almost never compares their heights when they stand next to each other and thinks about how Seokjin would have to lean up to kiss him.

So whatever, maybe it stings a little bit for Seokjin to brush him off so casually, to not treat the topic of them hypothetically dating with the avoidance it deserves. In his head, Seokjin would laugh and blush (had Namjoon ever seen him blush? Namjoon wants to see him blush) and cough around the phrase, avoiding Namjoon’s eye. But Seokjin is a real human person, not a male lead from a drama or Jane Austen movie adaptation, so instead he was normal, casual. Does that make Namjoon not-casual? He desperately would like to be casual.

“Jesus christ, what are you brooding about?” Yoongi asks him when he gets home.

Namjoon is shaken out of his inner monologue as he finishes kicking his shoes off. “What?” How does Yoongi do that? Namjoon just walked in the goddamn door.

“I can literally see the cartoon storm cloud over your head from here.” The here Yoongi is referring to is the kitchen table, where he has no less than 3 different books open. Rare, for Yoongi.

“When’s your exam?” Namjoon asks.

“Tomorrow. Feel free to avoid talking about it, I guess, but don’t come bursting into my bedroom at midnight tonight because you need to discuss your feelings.”

“I won’t,” Namjoon mutters.

Yoongi glances up at him with a raised eyebrow. “You sure? Because it’s happened like three times in the past six months. I’m trying to tackle this head-on, so I don’t have to threaten to murder you later.”

“As inconvenient as that would be for all of us,” Namjoon says with a smirk, “I’m good.”

Yoongi just shrugs at him, turns back to one of his textbooks in a very convincing act of indifference.

“Thanks, Yoongi,” Namjoon says, because he can.

“Whatever,” Yoongi mumbles back. “Have fun overanalyzing yourself to death, Joonie.”

It would be disconcerting how well Yoongi knows him if Namjoon didn’t know Yoongi right back, didn’t know his big tsundere act was a tiny bit of a cover-up, didn’t know that even if Namjoon did wake him up at midnight to talk about his stupid feelings, Yoongi would swear at him for all of thirty seconds before offering to make him tea. He’ll play along, though. He’ll always play along for Yoongi.

Namjoon gets a text later that night that’s just a prettily posed selca from Seokjin, because Seokjin likes to send Namjoon his prettily posed selcas (though Namjoon doesn’t really think he’s the only one who receives them), and keeps his promise to Yoongi, doesn’t go bursting into his bedroom to wax poetic about Seokjin. Instead, he keeps the little weird bubble of happiness to himself, even though it’s threatening to pop from the needles of their conversation earlier pressing against it.

He sends back a smiling emoji anyway, and a voice in his head that sounds like Yoongi’s snorts and calls him weak. It’s fine, though. It’s fine.

 

An awkward week passes where Seokjin avoids his gaze in class, and Namjoon talks less, takes more notes. It’s strange not waiting up for Seokjin, a routine he didn’t realize he had. They smile at each other, the sort of forced smile you make in acknowledgment of people, when they cross paths in the hallway, but other than that it’s radio silence. Not even one of Seokjin’s selcas, covered in horrible filters and stickers, finds its way into Namjoon’s inbox, and Namjoon finds that he misses them a little.

So he’s understandably startled on the following Friday when he gets a message from Seokjin, riddled with emojis, inviting him to a “party sort of thing but not really a party.” A follow-up message comes seconds later, and Namjoon can read it in Seokjin’s simultaneously confident and self-deprecating voice:

seokjin (10:14): Me & my friends get together to watch movies and drink sometimes?? It’s kind of dumb but it would be fun if you came.

Namjoon stares at the messages for a minute, considering, before he sighs and types a message back.

namjoon (10:15): sorry i have plans with my friends tonight

It’s not a lie, he does have plans with them, but it’s also a good reason to not think about this right now, about what Seokjin is trying to communicate to him. His phone chimes back at him instantly.

seokjin (10:15): You could bring them?
seokjin (10:15): If you wanted

Namjoon sighs again, even though (or maybe because) he’s fully aware of what his response will be before he types it.

namjoon (10:16): ok, sure

He gets four stickers in response, each a different vaguely horrifying collection of hearts. His final sigh is inevitable, but underneath it is something like nervousness, bristling against him a way that he swears is only a little exciting.

++

“I feel like we should have brought something,” Jimin mutters, following behind Namjoon up to Seokjin’s apartment, which is in a building without an elevator, apparently.

“What are we, adults?” Taehyung asks him, sounding offended. “Having a dinner party with...cheese plates?”

“Are those real or just from movies?” Jimin asks back. Yoongi sighs somewhere from the back of the group.

They’re a truncated group tonight, Amber and Soojung off doing whatever it is they do together (stare lovingly into each other’s eyes for hours? Go out drinking with their older, cooler friends? It could really go a lot of ways) and Sooyoung making herself available (platonically, she keeps reminding them, because “I’m not fucking gross”) for Yerim. It’s for the best, anyway — four people is enough to bring with him to this weird event. Party? Happening? Who knows.

They finally finish climbing the second flight of stairs and Namjoon is admittedly somewhat out of breath as he knocks on the door. He doesn’t realize exactly how out of breath until it opens, and Seokjin is standing in front of him in a pair of those fashionable sweatpants (the expensive ones that look soft and fit well somehow) and a thin-looking t-shirt, a warm expression on his face.

“Hi,” Namjoon says around a pant. He can hear Seulgi snicker, and he wants nothing more than to push her down the stairs, but instead he stays looking at Seokjin.

“Hello,” Seokjin greets, sounding amused, glancing from Namjoon to the small crowd behind him.

“Hi,” Namjoon says again.

Seulgi groans, mumbles, “Jesus christ.” This time Namjoon does turn around, glaring at her, and she’s biting down on an overly-amused smirk, holding her hands up in innocence.

Seokjin is still smiling pleasantly when Namjoon turns back around. “Come in. We’re watching Star Wars: Episode I, and Hoseok’s trying to find a drinking game to play with it.”

“Nice,” Taehyung comments happily, grabbing Jimin’s hand and pulling him inside.

Yoongi follows behind them, waving at Seokjin quietly, and Seulgi trails in too. Namjoon stays standing in the doorway, facing Seokjin’s grin. “I’m glad you came,” Seokjin says.

“Yeah, me too,” Namjoon replies quietly, offering back a smile in response. “My friends are…” He trails off, because he can hear Taehyung talking about Jar Jar Binks from the doorway, and he just ends the sentence in a sigh.

Seokjin laughs, his weird, endearing laugh, and shakes his head. “Trust me, mine too. Come on.”

And Namjoon does, follows when Seokjin turns and walks inside, closes the door behind him as he kicks off his sneakers. Seokjin’s apartment is small, but it’s warm and well-decorated in a way that Namjoon’s has never been. Instead of his and Yoongi’s sparse, utilitarian furniture, Seokjin’s living room is full of mismatched chairs and pillows, all of which look lived-in and comfortable. Sitting in one of them is a boy who looks as young as Sooyoung, looking down at his phone with his wide eyes, seemingly uninterested in everything going on.

Then there’s someone yelling excitedly as he carries in two six-packs of beer and a bottle of soju, calling out, “Okay, we’re low on liquor, so this movie’s gonna be a slow burn.”

The boy on his phone groans but takes a beer anyway, shoving his phone in his pocket, and the yeller looks around. “Should we all introduce ourselves? Jin-hyung, what icebreaker did you make your students do at the beginning of the year?”

“We just shared fun facts,” Namjoon shrugs at the same time Seokjin whines, “Hoseokie,” in a way that sounds embarrassed. Something clicks at the name, and Namjoon remembers the first time he got coffee with Seokjin, the phone call he got.

“Boo, that’s so lame,” Hoseok says with a loud laugh. “I’m Hoseok. I live here. I bought the beer and own Phantom Menace on DVD.”

Taehyung, Jimin, Yoongi and Seulgi are all standing somewhat awkwardly behind the couch, but Taehyung steps forward after that. “I’m Taehyung, and I own it on Blu-Ray.”

“Commitment!” Hoseok says in an impressed voice, setting the rest of the beer down on the coffee table with the soju and taking a seat on the floor. “You get the best seat, as a gift,” he says, gesturing to the spot of floor that’s center-most in front of the TV.

Taehyung does a weird little bow before scampering over and sitting next to him. Seokjin is looking at the scene with equal parts amusement and confusion, Namjoon notices.

“Are you Jeongguk?” Jimin asks suddenly, looking at the boy sitting in the chair by himself. The boy looks startled at this, looking up (his eyes are still wide — do they always look like that?) at Jimin before nodding.

“Yeah, I’m Jeongguk,” he says in a quiet voice.

Jimin leans forward over the back of the couch with a smile. “You’re not in my ballet class, but you’re in the one after, and my friend is always complaining that you’re better than everyone else.”

Jeongguk looks around for a second like the comment could possibly aimed at anyone else before grinning in a kind of embarrassed way. “Um, thanks. I don’t think I’m very good at ballet, but it’s cool.”

“Yeah, I’m most trained in contemporary, but ballet is fun,” Jimin says with a smile.

“I love dance majors,” Hoseok says happily. “We’re so annoying all the time.”

“I thought I recognized you!” Jimin says excitedly, pointing at Hoseok.

“I’ve been choreographing more than performing much this semester because I have this weird thing in my knee that acts up sometimes —” Hoseok starts, but Seokjin steps in.

“Okay, I’m cutting this off now, or we’ll be here all night. We’re all very happy that you can dance. This is Namjoon,” he says, gesturing to Namjoon at his side, who waves as he tries not to look embarrassed.

“I’m Seulgi,” Seulgi takes that moment to interject, before sitting down on the couch. Namjoon notices Jeongguk’s eyes follow her and the way she flips her hair over her shoulder, crosses her long legs, and Namjoon feels a little bad for him. Jimin plops down, spurred by her movement, and Taehyung arranges himself half in Jimin’s lap, as per usual.

“And what about you?” Hoseok aims at Yoongi, who’s still standing around, his face its usual muted indifference. He looks surprised to be asked, though, and for Hoseok to be looking at him.

“Yoongi,” he mutters, walking forward and sitting down. “I’m Min Yoongi.”

“Hi, Min Yoongi,” Hoseok says with a smile, almost impossibly wide. Yoongi still seems a little shell-shocked as he seats himself in an empty chair, knees pulled up to himself. “Hi,” he says back quietly.

“Come on,” Seokjin says to Namjoon again, pulling him forward to sit on the couch, tucked between Seulgi and Seokjin. Seulgi’s the only one paying them any mind, and she gives Namjoon an encouraging little grin at the sight of his blush.

“So we definitely need to take shots whenever Anakin says pod racing,” Taehyung is announcing as Hoseok presses play on the remote, the opening crawl starting on screen.

Hoseok makes a noise that sounds like excited screeching, and Seokjin snorts, his body close enough to Namjoon’s for him to feel it. That’s new. “I think they’ll get along well,” Seokjin mutters close to Namjoon’s ear, and the feeling is...also new. He can feel himself stiffen, and it takes him a minute to loosen up again.

“Yeah,” he mutters, hoping his smile looks very chill, because he is. He is very chill.

Seulgi must notice, because she pats his arm in a way Namjoon knows is pity.

 

By the one hour mark of the movie, Hoseok and Taehyung are the most intoxicated by far, and definitely the ones paying the most attention to the TV screen. Jimin’s head is resting on Taehyung’s shoulder, laughing at most things he says, while Seulgi gives insulting little comments about the movie that make Yoongi laugh. Every time he does, Hoseok’s head turns toward him with a smile, and Yoongi looks flustered, every time. It’s an interesting pattern; Namjoon isn’t sure he’s ever seen Yoongi been flirted with so directly, or receive it so calmly, and it’s kind of funny.

Less funny is the way that Seokjin leans over the arm of the couch to talk to Jeongguk, make little noises at him or reach to play with the rings on his hand. It makes Namjoon feel nervous, the same way it did when he said “Hoseokie” over the phone months ago (though that concern was misplaced, he can tell from the way Hoseok keeps making eyes at Yoongi from across the room.) He thinks this concern is misplaced too, at least judging from the way that Jeongguk blushed when Seulgi took off her flannel shirt to tie it around her waist. But it still makes Namjoon uneasy, to see Seokjin to easily affectionate and soft, curled up on a couch and running his hand through Jeongguk’s hair.

At some point in the night, Namjoon goes with Hoseok to the kitchen to try to find proper shot glasses (since Seokjin pointed out that drinking after each other out of the bottle was gross) and Hoseok must catch it, Namjoon must glance for too long at the way Seokjin laughs easily and pinches Jeongguk’s cheek, because he says, “Don’t give it too much thought. He’s like that with everyone.”

Namjoon goes pink, feeling exposed, but Hoseok doesn’t seem to care much. “With everyone?” Namjoon asks back.

“Yeah, he’s a big softie,” Hoseok says with a grin. “Literally, usually. His hair is so soft even though he bleaches it, how’s he do that?” That’s when Namjoon remembers Hoseok is pretty drunk, and he just smiles in response.

“Your friend,” Hoseok says, voice muffled by the door of the cabinet that he’s buried himself in. “Yoongi.”

“Yeah?” Namjoon asks with a smirk.

“What’s his deal?” Hoseok inquires seriously. He pulls his head back to wait for Namjoon’s answer.

Namjoon considers. “He’s a little prickly sometimes. A little shy. He likes coffee.”

Hoseok nods, expression still serious. “Noted.” He delves back into the cabinet, and emerges a moment later with four shot glasses.

“This is all we have, so those with hygiene concerns, feel free,” Hoseok announces as they walk back into the living room, setting them down with a clink on the coffee table that the half-empty bottle of soju is sitting on. Seokjin is opening a new bottle of beer, handing another one down to Seulgi, and Namjoon grabs one for himself as well.

“Your kitchen is very intimidating,” Namjoon tells Seokjin, tipsy enough to give him a little smile.

“Do pots and pans intimidate you, Joon-ah?” Seokjin asks him with a little snicker. Namjoon tries not to focus on the nickname.

Seulgi snorts from his other side. “He has good reason.”

“One day maybe I’ll teach you how to use them,” Seokjin tells him with a little grin, voice only sounding a little wobbly from the alcohol, and Namjoon is glad that it’s dark enough in the room that Seokjin can’t see how pink his face is from the comment, from the way his knee is resting on Namjoon’s thigh with the way he’s sitting.

“Sure,” he says back easily with a smile. Seokjin just giggles at him.

He lowers his voice when he says, “I really am glad you came. I’m sorry about this week. I was weird.”

Namjoon swallows. “It’s okay,” he murmurs back. He doesn’t know what else to say besides that. Seokjin takes a long gulp from his beer, and they’re sitting so close together, and Namjoon has trouble remembering there are six other people in the room. They don’t seem to be paying much attention to Namjoon and Seokjin, anyway.

The movie ends eventually, some drinks later. There’s a loose drinking game in place, and there are rules involved, and Seokjin keeps breaking them, keeps getting a shot shoved into his hands by Hoseok, much to his delight. By the end of the movie, the end credits crawling by in black and yellow, he’s a few shots deep on top of the two beers he had earlier, and Namjoon is inclined to believe what Hoseok told him earlier, that Seokjin is like this with everyone. He has an arm around Namjoon’s shoulder, and his hand keeps brushing against his arm in a way that’s distracting. No one’s really looking much at them, since Hoseok and Taehyung are yelling loudly about something and proving to be very distracting, but whenever Seokjin laughs, he butts into Namjoon, collapsing into him a little bit and hitting Namjoon’s leg for emphasis. It’s kind of a lot, but the alcohol helps.

Seulgi is laughing easily at everyone’s antics, tipping back a beer, still oblivious to the way Jeongguk stares at her with wide eyes; Yoongi looks like he’s trying his best not to be amused by Hoseok, but Namjoon catches the flush in his cheeks, and feels a little proud of Hoseok’s perseverance. Namjoon is sixty percent sure that Jimin has fallen asleep on the floor (it wouldn’t be the first time), and it isn’t long before Taehyung realizes and shakes him awake, leans over to murmur in his ear.

“Jiminnie, I’m gonna take you home,” Taehyung says a little louder, pulling him up off the ground. Jimin, for his part, just looks dazed.

“Kim Taehyung,” he says in a sleepy voice, “You can take me anywhere you want to.” Taehyung laughs back at him, soft and sentimental the way everything with them is.

It’s a wholly familiar scene, and Namjoon, Yoongi and Seulgi are completely immune to it - none of them blink at the sight of Taehyung hauling Jimin up, wrapping a hand around his waist to steady him. Namjoon doesn’t think anything of it but he catches the expression on Seokjin’s face, and he isn’t sure how to interpret it. He looks sad, and a little startled, like he’s seen a ghost. He’s frozen still, staring at the two of them as Taehyung leans in to press a covert kiss against Jimin’s temple, and Namjoon seems to be the only one who’s noticed.

“Joon-ah,” Yoongi calls, slipping his feet into his shoes. “You coming home?”

He should leave with everyone else, but there’s something about the way Seokjin looked at Taehyung and Jimin, something about the way he’s opening another drink, that urges him to stay. “I’ll catch up with you later. I should help you guys clean up,” He aims the second part at Seokjin, and theoretically at Hoseok too, but Hoseok’s sauntered over to give Yoongi his jacket, holding it out for Yoongi to put on (which is ridiculous, but Yoongi just blinks before putting his arm into a sleeve. Namjoon can’t wait to tease him about this for several months, at minimum.)

Seokjin raises an eyebrow but gives him something like a smile, taking a sip of his beer. Jeongguk, who is possibly the most sober out of all of them, is pulling on his jacket and asking Seulgi, “Noona, are you okay to get home alone?” They’re possibly the first words he’s said to her all night.

Namjoon swallows his laugh at the way Seulgi raises her eyebrows at him, slow and a little disbelieving. “I’m sure,” she says firmly, buttoning her flannel shirt back up and grabbing her own jacket from a hook. Jeongguk just nods in response, a little too fast to seem casual.

Taehyung and Jimin leave with her, Jimin whispering things in Taehyung’s ear that make Taehyung smile softly at him, and Jeongguk waits a couple minutes before leaving himself, leaving Yoongi still chatting in the doorway with Hoseok (or, well, Hoseok is chatting, but Yoongi is smiling a little bit. Unbelievable.) Namjoon makes good on his promise and gathers up the shot glasses on the table, wiping it down with a towel that someone brought out after a spilled drink earlier.

“You don’t have to do that,” Seokjin says to him, but he doesn’t move from his spot, curled up on the couch. His socks have little flamingos on them, something Namjoon noticed about an hour ago and has had trouble not noticing since.

Namjoon just shrugs. “You hosted. I’m trying to be a nice guest.”

Seokjin hums at him, leaning his chin on a hand as he watches Namjoon collect empty beer cans, place them back in the housing of the six pack and cart them into the recycling bin. When he’s through, Yoongi has finally left, Hoseok has removed the DVD (which had been playing the main menu for the past twenty minutes) from the player, and is nowhere to be seen. It’s just Seokjin, sitting on the couch, that same strange expression on his face.

“Hyung?” Namjoon asks quietly, coming to sit down next to him. “Are you okay?”

Seokjin seems startled out of it, but his face stays downcast when he turns to look at Namjoon. “I drank too much.”

Namjoon isn’t sure where the turning point was, where affectionate, floppy-limbed Seokjin had turned serious, but it makes Namjoon’s heart kind of hurt. “You should go to bed, hyung.”

“Probably,” Seokjin agrees, giving Namjoon a weird little smile. He sets his half-empty beer down on the end table and stands up, a little unsteady on his feet.

Namjoon, although not a person who should usually be trusted to keep people upright, steps forward, putting a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder. Seokjin looks at him, and his face is so hard to read, and the air between them is tense for reasons Namjoon doesn’t understand.

“Where’s your bedroom, hyung?” Namjoon asks in a hushed voice, not sure why he’s being so quiet but afraid to speak any louder.

“Down that hall,” Seokjin says, gesturing to the left, and Namjoon keeps a hand on his shoulder as their socked feet pad in time with each other.

Seokjin’s bedroom is cozy, framed photographs on the wall, his sheets a soft grey color that stands in contrast with the Super Mario blanket laying on top of them. Namjoon grins at it, enjoys the novelty of learning something new about him, enjoys glancing around at the pictures of Seokjin with people who look like they’re probably his family, including a picture of him and Jeongguk where they both look younger than 15. There are small polaroids stuck up on the wall between the bigger framed photos, blurry shots of Hoseok (hair lighter in the photograph than it is now) dressed up in a skeleton onesie, of trees and flowers and trains, of a pretty girl looking over her shoulder (there are a few of those.)

Seokjin walks forward to fall onto his bed, large and plush and comfortable-looking, which Namjoon thinks fits him well. He curls into a kind of sideways ball, and Namjoon looks down at him with concern.

“Are you okay, hyung?” Namjoon asks again. He hesitates for a minute before stepping forward and sitting down next to Seokjin.

Seokjin is quiet for a minute before he turns onto his back, looks up at Namjoon and asks, “Namjoon-ah, how do you fall out of love with someone?”

Namjoon’s heart sinks, breaks a little for the boy looking up at him with sad eyes. “I don’t know, Seokjin.”

“The boy you were in love with. That’s Yoongi, right?” Seokjin asks him. The room is only softly lit, Seokjin only turned on the strings of white fairy lights that run in stripes across the ceiling, and Seokjin looks so soft in his t-shirt, under a blanket, looking at Namjoon in a way that’s more vulnerable than he’s ever seen him.

“Yeah,” Namjoon says with a nod. His voice is still quiet, because there’s something delicate here. “It was Yoongi.”

“But you live together now. He calls you Joonie. Doesn’t that hurt?” Seokjin’s voice is more serious than Namjoon is used to, his hair is falling back from his forehead, dark roots showing, and god, this makes him ache.

“It used to, sometimes,” Namjoon says. He hasn’t ever talked about this much, he didn’t ever want to alienate any of their friends, who quickly became mutual, those years ago. “It used to hurt. But time kept passing and...I don’t know. It wasn’t as bad anymore. I wrote a lot of probably shitty poetry about it. I journaled a lot, which sounds pretentious.”

“A little, yeah,” Seokjin mutters, cracking a smile finally. Namjoon smiles back softly.

“I kept going, I guess. But we were never...I was getting over something I never had. It’s not like...I don’t know…” He trails off, glancing up at the picture of the girl with long brown hair, her mouth turned up into a smile frozen in time.

“Yeah,” Seokjin says quietly, following Namjoon’s gaze. “I know.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Namjoon asks. He feels like he should.

But Seokjin just closes his eyes and shakes his head, breathing out slow before grinning again, small and kind of sad. “I’m drunk, that’s all. I got too drunk.”

Namjoon nods, even though Seokjin can’t see him. “You’ll be alright, hyung.” It’s a promise he can’t really make, but he wants to make it anyway, because he wants Seokjin to be alright.

Seokjin opens his eyes again, his grin fading, and he nods back at Namjoon. “Yeah.”

It’s quiet again, but then Namjoon asks, “Do you want me to stay with you?”

Seokjin doesn’t say anything for a moment. He closes his eyes, presses his lips together in a tight line before muttering, “Yeah, I do.”

“Okay,” Namjoon responds automatically. “I will.” The concept makes him feel ridiculously out of his depth, but he offered for a reason.

“Do you want pajamas or something?” Seokjin asks, sitting up a little.

“I can sleep in this,” Namjoon says with a shrug. He can sleep in most of his clothes, and his current baggy sweatpants and baggy t-shirt are certainly included.

Seokjin looks him up and down before smirking a little. “Yeah, you can.”

“Don’t be rude,” Namjoon replies, but he smiles. He pulls out his phone, types out a message to Yoongi.

namjoon (1:46): staying here tonight (but not like that.) see u tomorrow hyung

He doesn’t wait for a response before he turns his phone off, leaving it on Seokjin’s nightstand before turning back to the boy in question. “Do you want water?” He asks.

Seokjin doesn’t respond, so Namjoon mutters to himself, “I’ll get you water anyway, just in case.”

The rest of the apartment is quiet and dark, and Namjoon is startled to find Hoseok standing in the kitchen, eating chips right from the bag in his boxers.

“Oh,” he says, blinking, as he keeps chewing. “You’re still here.”

“Uh, yeah,” Namjoon responds. He walks over to where he saw cups earlier, fills one with cold water from the sink.

Hoseok keeps chewing, seemingly unconcerned. “He okay?”

“I think so,” Namjoon says quietly.

“You guys aren’t gonna fuck, are you?” Hoseok asks. Namjoon almost drops the water.

No,” he says forcefully. Hoseok chews. “We are not. I just...he’s sad.”

“Yeah, that’s why you shouldn’t fuck. That was gonna be my advice, if you said yes. Not to.”

“We’re not,” Namjoon repeats.

“That’s good. You seem like a good guy, Namjoon,” Hoseok says. He’s still drunk, but he’s more calm now than he was earlier, and it’s a little strange.

“You too, Hoseok,” He says. “Good luck with Yoongi.”

“Man, is he fuckin’ cute,” Hoseok says happily, sounding a little more excited.

“Don’t I know it,” Namjoon replies, nodding sympathetically and patting him on his bare shoulder.

When he gets back to Seokjin’s room, his breathing is steady and calm, and he’s under the blanket on his bed, flamingo-clad toes poking out of the bottom. Namjoon sets the water down before flipping the light switch, crawling hesitantly onto Seokjin’s bed. He wonders if this is what Seokjin meant, or if he should sleep on the floor or something, but when he moves to get down, one of Seokjin’s hands finds his wrist.

“Stay,” he says, so quiet that Namjoon almost thinks he imagines it, but he’ll take the chance. He shifts so that he’s laying down, the mattress big enough that they don’t have to touch. But Seokjin’s hand is still on his wrist, and it makes Namjoon’s heart pound nervously. It’s nerve-wracking being this close, feeling Seokjin so warm near him.

“Sorry about this,” Seokjin murmurs, thumb stroking against the thin skin on the inside of Namjoon’s wrist.

“It’s okay,” Namjoon whispers back, trying to keep the shiver out of his voice.

The mattress shifts underneath him in the dark, Namjoon can make out Seokjin turning up onto his sides. “Your glasses,” Namjoon says, reaching out before he can stop himself to take them off his face.

“Oh,” Seokjin says with a little breathy laugh when Namjoon sets them on his nightstand. “Thanks.” His face is soft in the dark, probably still warm and pink from the liquor, and Namjoon wants so badly to kiss him, to be kissed by him, to run his thumb across Seokjin’s lips and jaw and the soft parts of his cheeks. It’s all-consuming, the urge to push forward and press himself against Seokjin in his warm, soft clothes, but he doesn’t. He stays in his place, aching and wanting, because Seokjin is sad. He’s sad and he’s drunk and and he deserves someone to keep him company, to let him hold their wrist so gently.

Seokjin drifts off to sleep, his grip going slack, and Namjoon opens his eyes, squints in the shadow to take in the way Seokjin’s lips are parted, the line of his collarbone where the neck of his t-shirt is dipping to the side. He’s so pretty that it makes Namjoon’s stomach hurt, and he feels too warm under all his layers and the blanket, and he wonders how the hell he’s ever going to fall asleep like this.

Life is funny, though, because the next thing that happens is he wakes up. He wakes up and he’s pressed against the broad line of Seokjin’s back and there’s light coming in from somewhere and his hand is hanging across Seokjin’s stomach, and it’s all a little too goddamn ethereal. He jerks to the side, like he’s trying to make sure he’s not dreaming, and he doesn’t wake up for real; the only thing that happens is Seokjin rolls over onto his back, eyes pressing closed as he yawns, blinking open to look sheepishly at Namjoon.

“Oh,” he says in a soft little voice. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Namjoon says back, swallowing hard and trying not to think about how much he’d like to hear that all the time.

“Your hair…” Seokjin trails off with a little laugh, and before Namjoon knows it, he’s bringing up his hand to run through it, to run across Namjoon’s scalp softly, trailing down to the nape of his neck.

“Yeah,” Namjoon mumbles. “It gets weird overnight.” His mouth feels dry and his skin feels too warm, and he wants to go run laps or something. Take a brisk shower. Get all this nervous energy out of his bones.

“Thank you for staying,” Seokjin tells him quietly. “I...thanks.”

“No problem,” Namjoon replies instantly as he rubs at his eyes. “Any time. Really.”

Seokjin just smiles at him, near-brilliant in the morning sun, and Namjoon’s heart pounds nervously, a reminder that it’s possible that Namjoon’s crush is not really small, or even small at all. It’s possible that it’s really, really big, and it’s more than possible that Namjoon will be thinking about that early morning smile so close and so happy to his own face for days, maybe even longer.

++

It always comes as kind of a surprise to Namjoon when fall semester starts to end. He always feels like he’s just barely gotten in a rhythm, only just figured out where he should go and when, when suddenly professors are talking about final exams.

There’s snow on the ground on the afternoon Seokjin says, “As you know, you have your last exam next week.”

The class groans quietly as a collective, Namjoon included.

“I know. But I’m here and I’m grading it, so ask me your questions.” He hops up to sit in his usual place, on top of the teacher desk, and sits with his legs crossed like a kid. It’s disgustingly endearing, and Namjoon stays looking down at his notebook as he writes down the questions that his classmates ask and Seokjin’s mostly helpful answers.

The week passes too quickly, and Seokjin won’t help him study outside of his normal office hours (“It’s not fair, Joon-ah. You don’t get preferential treatment”). The exam is sandwiched between two others on the second of his two-day personal exam hell, and he and Yoongi don’t see each other for a full four days leading up to it.

He and Seokjin see each other a lot, though; the night he spent in Seokjin’s bed was after a week with no contact, but ever since they’ve managed to hang around each other at least a few days a week, occasionally in the cafes and libraries they used to frequent more often and sometimes in Namjoon’s living room, each reading for classes on either side of the couch. Sometimes in Seokjin’s bedroom, with one of his airy acoustic guitar playlists filtering out of his laptop speakers, Seokjin humming along absentmindedly, maybe without him realizing he’s doing it.
It’s nice, it’s good, finding himself in the too-warm burn of Seokjin’s presence so often. But then very abruptly it’s ending, Namjoon waking up from a four-hour nap two days after exams end (a two days he has spent mostly asleep) to find a messages from Seokjin waiting on his phone, several emojis included in each one.

seokjin (13:30): Don’t tell anyone but you did well on your exam :)
seokjin (13:32): Just finished grading them this morning...my hand is sore
seokjin (13:37): I’m heading home for a bit of break, but I’m free this afternoon if you want to do something

It’s assumed, lately, that Namjoon wants to do something. And for good reason, he guesses.

namjoon (14:49): sry hyung...just woke up. theres a new place in hongdae i wanted to try, come with me

It doesn’t take much for Seokjin to accept offers of food, but as they’re walking from the subway stop they met at, Seokjin turns to him and asks, “What kind of place is it, anyway?”

“It’s this cool restaurant that donates a bunch of profits to environmental conservation charities, and —” Namjoon starts, but Seokjin is looking at him with narrowed eyes.

“It’s a vegan restaurant, isn’t it?” He asks, sounding suspicious.

Namjoon gives an apologetic grin. “Well, technically, vegetarian, but —”

Seokjin’s bellow of a sigh cuts his sentence short, and he laughs instead, laughs at the little glare Seokjin sends him, laughs until his shoulder curves inward and bumps against Seokjin’s. Their hands brush against each other, and Namjoon wishes he was holding Seokjin’s hand, not for the first time. He’s developed the bad habit of watching Seokjin’s hands when he’s talking, eyes tracing the crooked bones in his fingers that he wants to run his hands over. It’s embarrassing, truly, but Namjoon can only control so much of what goes on in his brain.

“It’s supposed to be good, hyung,” Namjoon says finally, smiling easily at Seokjin. They’re both in winter coats, Seokjin’s tailored and stylish where Namjoon’s is bulky and loose (he got it from a thrift store last year, and Yoongi always tells him that when he wears his glasses with it, he looks like a suburban dad. Namjoon is kind of into that.)

Seokjin chooses to ignore Namjoon’s comment, and instead asks, “You’re staying for winter session, right?”

“Yup,” Namjoon nods. “I have too many damn credits to fit in before I graduate.”

“Whose fault is that, overachiever?” Seokjin asks him, amused.

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “I’m staying for class, but I might spend a weekend at home or something. My family lives in Seoul.”

“Yeah, you told me once. You have...a sister, right?” Seokjin asks, face contorted in thought before he comes up with it. It’s cute, because almost everything Seokjin does is cute.

“Yeah. She’s in high school still.” Namjoon kicks a cold little rock on the ground as he walks, the scuffed toe of his combat boot gaining a new nick from it.

“I think I’ll be back by Christmas,” Seokjin tells him. It’s windy out and his words get muffled by it, the scarf in front of his face not helping much, either.

Namjoon just grins over at him, pulls his own beanie back down over his ears. “Cool.”

It feels mundane, their conversation, grinning at each other, but Namjoon is reminded (it’s hard for him to not be reminded) that something has changed. Seokjin isn't his teacher anymore; now they’re just two students, one a little older than the other, getting lunch at the weird vegetarian place in Hongdae that Namjoon wanted to try. Namjoon didn’t often feel a barrier between them before, but now it’s truly well and gone, and there’s some novelty there.

Lunch is normal. Namjoon gets a veggie burger and a weird smoothie with avocado in it and Seokjin looks generally displeased with his life until Namjoon convinces him to order (vegan) chocolate cake and he looks happier.

“This place is expensive,” Seokjin mutters, digging around in his wallet.

“Yeah, but they donate money to charity, it’s not like that pretentious cafe where lattes are six thousand won for no reason,” Namjoon says defensively.

“You are the absolute most annoying kind of nerd,” Seokjin deadpans at him. Namjoon just grins in response, wide enough that it makes the corners of Seokjin’s mouth turn up too.

They eat lunch and they go different ways at the subway station and then Seokjin leaves town, sends Namjoon selcas of himself on the train (one with a sleeping face, one with a bear filter, one with an annoyed face, one covered in stickers — the usual spread.)

Yoongi clears out the next day, opening the door to Namjoon’s room in the morning with his backpack more full than normal, rasping out in his early morning voice, “Yah, Joonie. I’m going home.”

Namjoon sits up in bed, t-shirt twisted around him and his hair almost definitely a mess. “Okay, hyung. Say hi to your dog for me.”

Yoongi pauses. “My dog? Not my family, my dog?”

“Them too, sure,” Namjoon mumbles, laying back down.

Yoongi looks amused, but he sighs instead of laughing. “Don’t burn anything down while I’m gone, Joon-ah.”

“As always, I’ll try my best,” Namjoon says, voice muffled by his pillow. “But no promises.”

Yoongi doesn’t respond, and then Namjoon hears footsteps walk over. “Have a good Christmas, Joonie-yah,” he says in a quiet voice, leaning over to move Namjoon’s glasses from their precarious place at the edge of the nightstand.

“What, you want a hug or something?” Namjoon asks, teasing. He sits up, swings his legs over the side of the bed to stand.

“No, I don’t want a hug, you don’t have to —” Yoongi protests, taking a step back, but he’s too slow to avoid Namjoon surging forward and latching onto his narrow shoulders, wrapping his arms around Yoongi so that the shorter boy's eye-level with his chin. “Ugh,” Yoongi complains, but he hugs Namjoon back.

“You’re too tall. It’s unnecessary,” Yoongi mumbles when he pulls away, glaring at Namjoon without much heat.

Namjoon just smiles and stands on his tip-toes, reaches his arm up to touch their low ceilings. Yoongi makes another disgusted noise.

“Have a good trip, hyung,” Namjoon says as a final goodbye, and Yoongi nods, adjusting the strap of his bag before he leaves.

++

It’s always strange to be alone over winter classes, most of their friends gone home. Sooyoung is usually an exception, but she went on vacation with her family instead of staying home in Seoul, so Namjoon is left mostly in the company of Soojung and Amber, in the midst of their weird American Christmas thing. He helps them set up their tree ten days before Christmas, while Amber yells along to Christmas songs that Namjoon doesn’t know the English lyrics for. Soojung just sits around and laughs at her, tolerates the Santa hat Amber puts on her head.

It’s kind of a nice way to spend his time, Namjoon thinks. Amber and Soojung are warm and weird, they have the friendliest cat Namjoon’s ever met, and he’s happy to do his homework sitting in their living room.

Soojung’s sitting with him today, feet propped up on the coffee table as she sketches something and tells Namjoon about a girl she wants to set Seulgi up with, her sister’s girlfriend’s friend.

“She bakes,” Soojung is saying, pencil scratching against paper. “That’s cute, right?”

“Does Seulgi like baked goods?” Namjoon looks up from his textbook to ask.

“She likes cute girls, Namjoon,” Soojung deadpans.

Namjoon shrugs. “Okay, true.”

They go back to their comfortable quiet, but it doesn’t last for long before there are excited voices on the other side of the door, Amber’s tone clear and someone else speaking English with her.

“Dude! Dude, no, because it’s like —” Amber says as she opens the door, laughing in between words, before she catches sight of them on the couch. “Hey! Jackson’s back in town.”

And so he is, with darker hair than the last time Namjoon saw him but the same big dumb grin. “Hey, man,” he calls over to the door.

Jackson turns to him and yells, “Kim Namjoon!”

“Jackson Wang,” he says back, laughing when Jackson all but bounds into his arms (or, his lap, mostly, since he’s still sitting on the couch.)

“I called you, man! When I got back! You never texted me back,” Jackson complains, punching Namjoon on the shoulder.

“Sorry,” Namjoon says, grinning sheepishly. “I was crazy busy with exams.”

“You’re always too busy for me,” Jackson says with a teasing smirk.

Namjoon snorts. “You’ve been in China for a semester, Jackson.”

Jackson is still sitting in his lap, Namjoon’s textbook displaced, because that’s how Jackson is. Too much energy for Namjoon sometimes, but a good guy, under it all.

“Yah, you’re heavy,” Namjoon complains, and Jackson makes a face, but gets off of him anyway.

It’s fun to be around Jackson again, even if he, Amber and Soojung have a tendency to mix languages that makes Namjoon’s head hurt (he’s just barely fluent in English, and when Amber and Jackson throw Chinese words in too, his brain wants to turn to mush.)

Namjoon spends the first week or so of winter classes the same way; he goes to class, does some reading, spends some time lounging around with Amber and Soojung’s, and accepts Jackson’s invitations to hang out most nights. It’s true, he does have a tendency to avoid Jackson’s calls, mostly because Jackson wears him out, but it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since Jackson left for his year abroad, and he would feel bad blowing him off.

He should see it coming, but somehow, with Jackson, he never does. It starts out innocent, the two of them sitting on Namjoon’s couch while they watch a drama that Jackson says he missed when it was airing in the fall, when Jackson turns to him and says, “Namjoon, I miss dating.”

Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “Me specifically, or just in general?”

Jackson laughs easily, his hand resting on Namjoon’s shoulder. “In general. No offense.”

“None taken,” Namjoon says with a smile.

He’s not really anything for Jackson to miss, anyway; they went on a handful dates when Jackson was a first-year that mostly consisted of Namjoon trying to quell several panic attacks because he is deeply, deeply bad at socializing and Jackson is...Jackson (shameless, a little too loud, a little too flirty, a little too blunt.)

“I did miss you a little, though,” Jackson tells him with a grin, coy and a little dangerous.

Maybe it’s the beer they drank with dinner, or maybe it’s just that Jackson’s hand feels warm and nice on Namjoon’s shoulder, but all he can think to say back is, “Yeah?” He licks his lips in a way that he doesn’t realize he’s doing til after the fact, and Jackson is still grinning at him.

It’s familiar, and he should have seen it coming, but somehow it’s always a surprise when he ends up pinned underneath Jackson on the couch. It’s almost a routine, a weird thing that stuck after date five, those years ago — they were bad at dating each other but pretty good at this, they both thought.

This time, though, there’s an undercurrent of guilt in Namjoon’s mind when they end up in Namjoon’s bed. It’s not quite right, in a way that’s setting him a little off-kilter. He thinks about Seokjin’s crooked fingers, the way that Jackson’s toned arms are so far from resembling Seokjin’s soft frame, and it’s not quite right but it’s not enough to stop him. He’s spent three months staring at Seokjin’s hands and as nice as it is, to look at someone and want them, that fluttering feeling, this is real and solid and tangible, accessible. Namjoon realizes, with Jackson’s hand in his hair, that he’s been a little lonely.

So he lets himself have this, despite the sliver of guilt, despite all the ways that Jackson isn’t Seokjin. He lets Jackson sleep in his bed afterward, joke around and show him pictures on his phone, and it’s almost something good.

He ignores the pit in his stomach late that night when he gets a snapchat from Seokjin, turning off his phone screen quickly and sighing to himself quietly enough that Jackson doesn’t hear.

++

seokjin (17:21): Namjoooon
seokjin (17:22): I’m coming back to Seoul tomorrow, do you want to go Christmas shopping with me??
seokjin (17:22): Need to buy a present for Jeonggukkie
seokjin (17:22): I’ll buy you food :)
namjoon (17:27): u know i’ll go anywhere u buy me food
seokjin (17:28): I do know that

++

“So anyway, my brother ends up proposing to her in the middle of the restaurant, which was kind of embarrassing.” Seokjin is carding through a rack of clothes, mostly stupid designer t-shirts, as he tells the story.

“Sounds exciting,” Namjoon comments with a smile.

Seokjin smirks at him. “Unbelievably.”

“Congrats to your brother, though.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Yeah. They’ve been dating forever, so mom’s just been waiting it out, biting her nails in stress every day while she thinks about all the grandchildren she doesn’t have.”

Namjoon smiles at him again, a little hesitantly because he’s not sure how Seokjin feels about that. He looks fine though, unbothered.

“How’ve you been?” Seokjin asks, looking up at Namjoon. And it’s stupid, but Namjoon kind of forgot how much his stupid knees get weak when Seokjin looks at him like that, happy and soft around the edges.

“Good,” Namjoon replies honestly, still smiling. He’s good right now, at least. “Most of my friends are at home, but a few of them were around.”

“Yeah? Do anything fun?” Seokjin’s looking back at the shirts now, looking deep in thought as he goes down the rack.

Namjoon shrugs. “Yeah, I guess. Pretty boring. I’ve been doing homework, mostly.”

“No torrid affairs while I was gone?” Seokjin jokes.

Namjoon laughs, and he doesn’t mean to hesitate before saying no, but. He hesitates. Seokjin looks up and Namjoon can feel himself blush.

“Oh,” Seokjin says, sounding surprised. He laughs a little awkwardly. “Sorry. Wasn’t trying to pry.”

“No, it wasn’t — I mean —” Namjoon starts, but he doesn’t really know how to finish the sentence. Seokjin waits for him for a second before jumping in.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to explain yourself,” Seokjin says with another laugh. This one’s awkward, too, but also something else. A little testy, maybe, which is a mood Namjoon doesn’t often see in Seokjin unless he gets too tired or stressed. “You got laid. Merry Christmas.”

It’s petty, and it stings a little. “Thanks,” Namjoon mutters back quietly, rolling his eyes. It’s tense between them, and Namjoon’s not sure why. What right does Seokjin have to be annoyed with him? He can sleep with whoever he wants to, whenever he wants to. Which, for the past few months, has happened to be “no one” and “never.” Besides...Seokjin. But whatever. It’s tense, and Seokjin’s rifling through shirts a little more aggressively now, and Namjoon is annoyed.

Namjoon blames his poor impulse control, his inability to think before rushing into things, for the way he pauses, looks up at Seokjin, and asks, “What do you care?”

Seokjin stops. “What?”

Namjoon keeps looking at him. “Why would you care, about…” Namjoon trails off with a glance around the store, the group of teenagers nearby.

Seokjin has on one of those expressions that Namjoon can’t read for the life of him. “I don’t care, Namjoon-ah. I don’t in the least care about who you’re fucking. The same way I assume you don’t care about the people I’m fucking.”

The teenagers nearby stare at them, and Namjoon feels himself go pink. Seokjin doesn’t seem to care. “People?” He asks despite himself, a kneejerk reaction that he regrets almost instantly.

Seokjin is back to the racks of clothing, hands pushing hangers out of the way with a little too much force. “Yeah. People. You want a list, or what?”

Namjoon stares at him for a minute. “No. I don’t.”

They continue on in stilted silence for a few moments, before Seokjin sighs. “Sorry. That was weird. I’m sorry.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow at him. “Yeah.”

“I didn’t mean to...I’ve had a weird week,” Seokjin explains weakly. They’re standing next to each other in a clothing store, in front of a display of sweatshirts, not really looking at each other. It’s weird.

Namjoon nods, knows Seokjin can feel it. “Okay.”

“You don’t need to hear about it,” Seokjin mutters, still not looking at him.

Namjoon sighs, turns to Seokjin and offers him a closed-lip little grin. Seokjin stares at him a little bit, but Namjoon just says, “I want to, though.”

“Okay.” Seokjin’s nodding. “I saw the girl I thought I was going to marry again last weekend.”

“Oh, shit,” Namjoon murmurs. It makes Seokjin laugh like he’s surprised into it.

“And then my brother got engaged,” Seokjin goes on. His laugh sounds a little hysterical now. “And I was supposed to be engaged, not right now but...eventually, and I don’t think I’m in love with her anymore? And that’s almost worse because I think some part of me was hoping…” He takes a breath. “I knew we’d have to see each other again, and maybe I kind of thought that everything would fix itself, or something.”

Namjoon’s heart feels heavy. Their conversation is hushed, loud pop music playing overhead, and the absurdity of the situation is overwhelming. “Is that what you wanted?”

“I don’t know. No. By the end of it, our relationship was barely even romantic anymore, more like companionship. Just, you’re around someone for so long, I don’t...I don’t know how to start over anymore.” Seokjin takes another breath, and the air between them is tense with something.

“It’s harder,” Namjoon agrees.

“Yeah. It’s harder,” Seokjin says in a quiet voice.

Namjoon pauses, but decides to take a leap. “The hard choice is usually the right choice and all that though, right?”

Seokjin pauses for a second, still, before nodding. He’s not looking at Namjoon, but Namjoon can see a small, closed-lip smile finding its way on Seokjin’s face. It’s small, barely there, but it’s better than the weird blank face he had on a minute ago. “I guess I could be convinced.”

He leaves it at that, turning around with two nearly-plain white shirts in his hand and walking over to the register. Namjoon stares after him, and wills his idiot brain to just shut off entirely, to save him the agony of thinking about this.

++

The rest of winter session goes like this:

Namjoon invites Seokjin over to Amber and Soojung’s too-cramped-for-this-many-guests Christmas dinner, where they make Western food and speak a lot of English with the rest of the expatriates that they’re friends with, and the two of them mostly sit in a corner getting tipsy on wine and singing Korean Christmas carols under their breath. Soojung seems to like him, though. (Amber’s opinion was never in question since she likes almost everyone, and almost everyone likes her back; Seokjin is no exception to the rule.)

Namjoon spends some afternoons at Seokjin’s quiet apartment (Hoseok still gone visiting home), where they talk aimlessly as Namjoon puts off his reading. Seokjin tells him that he’s known Jeongguk for most of the kid’s life, old family friends, how he met Hoseok in undergrad. Namjoon talks about his sister, his parents, his weird friends and how they fell into his life. There’s a shift in them, a crack in a stone somewhere, and things feel different. More candid. There’s a string pulled taut between them waiting for someone to cut it but no one has yet, so they just keep talking. Seokjin makes him dinner a few times, complaining about not being able to cook meat but also seeming delighted with having to come up with weird vegan substitutions.

It’s a little unreal, overall, to spend three weeks tucked into each other's’ pockets so tightly, the outside world mostly absent, in this strange bubble where everything feels too warm. It’s like plunging into cold water, then, when suddenly it ends. Suddenly Hoseok and Yoongi and everyone else filter back from their hometowns, peer in at them with raised eyebrows and little smirks, like they know something. Maybe they do. Namjoon has always felt a little slow on the uptake when it comes to this kind of stuff, feelings kind of stuff.

Winter session ends and classes start again; Seokjin’s a TA for a first-year history course and significantly more happy about it, Namjoon signs up for six classes with the intention of dropping one but he’s finding he enjoys them all. Things kind of go back to normal. Namjoon is a little more removed from Seokjin’s side than he was for the break, but there’s an undeniable difference between them. They’re a little more woven together, their smiles linger a little longer — everything that’s been building stays, but with the volume turned down a little bit. They go back to spending hours together in the library after class because Seokjin’s job is no longer relevant. Nothing’s hidden anymore (as lackluster as their hiding ever was) and it feels good.

It’s during the first weekend of the new semester, all of them laden with new textbooks and trying to remember new schedules, when Yoongi comes home looking perturbed. He slams his messenger bag down on the table, and Namjoon looks up from his laptop to see Yoongi just standing there, staring at the ground with his eyebrows furrowed.

“Hey, hyung,” Namjoon says hesitantly. “Everything okay?”

Yoongi looks over at him, face blank. “Hoseok asked me on a date.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says. He feels markedly less concerned. “Well, yeah. Had he not, before?”

“We had coffee once. He kept touching my arm,” Yoongi replies. His face is still expressionless. Namjoon fights the urge to laugh.

“How’d you feel about that?” Namjoon asks patiently instead.

Yoongi finally adopts a glare and sends it Namjoon’s way. “I don’t know. Fine. He’s nice.”

Namjoon nods, closing the lid of his laptop and waiting.

Yoongi fidgets under Namjoon’s gaze before giving in with a sigh. “He’s loud,” he complains with a frown. “He jumps around too much.”

“And he asked you on a date,” Namjoon prods.

“He asked me if I wanted to go to karaoke with him next weekend,” Yoongi explains with a sigh.

Namjoon nods patiently again. “And you don’t want to go?”

Yoongi hesitates. “Well, I don’t know. I don’t want to go alone. That’s so much.”

Namjoon can picture it, Hoseok singing loudly in Yoongi’s direction and Yoongi getting stress-drunk until he either ends up yelling at Hoseok or dueting with him, neither of which Yoongi would be happy with the next day.

Namjoon thinks. “How did he ask you? Did he specifically say it was a date?”

“Well, no, but I’m not an idiot, Joon-ah,” Yoongi huffs. “I know when —”

“I know, hyung, but bear with me,” Namjoon cuts him off. “If he just asked you if you want to go to karaoke, just agree but say you’ll bring your friends.”

Yoongi looks at him like he’s contemplating. “Won’t he be annoyed?”

Namjoon shrugs. “He doesn’t seem like an asshole. I think he’ll be able to read between the lines. Give it some more time, vet him a little bit more, maybe eventually he can graduate to one-on-one dates. Besides, karaoke’s more fun with groups anyway.” He smiles reassuringly at Yoongi.

“So you’ll come?” Yoongi asks, biting his bottom lip. It’s rare that Yoongi asks Namjoon for favors; in the grand scheme of their relationship, Namjoon is always the one trying to finagle his way out of some bullshit while Yoongi sighs in resignation before helping him out. It’s odd to be on the other end of it.

“Yeah, sure,” he says easily with a smile.

Yoongi looks significantly more calm than he did a few minutes ago, and he mutters a quiet, “Thanks, Joon-ah,” before sitting on the other end of the couch, digging his phone out of his pocket and tapping at it as Namjoon opens his laptop back up.

“Anytime, hyung,” Namjoon says back happily.

 

Hoseok isn’t an asshole, and he agrees easily to a group outing instead of the proposed date. At least, this is what Seokjin tells him, because Yoongi doesn’t really mention it again to Namjoon until the following Friday (after another tedious early-semester week where not much got accomplished except readings piling up on his to-do list) when he pushes into Namjoon’s room and says, “Yah, you’re still coming to the noraebang tonight, right?”

Namjoon blinks up from the book he’s reading (not a required reading, a procrastination reading) and looks at Yoongi for a minute. He’s dressed in his best-fitting little jeans, a detail that Namjoon can easily recognize as Yoongi putting in effort. It’s endearing, but Namjoon keeps his pleased grin to himself, because it would only make Yoongi annoyed. “Forgot that was tonight,” Namjoon says, closing his book and standing up.

“Yeah, in a couple hours. I think everyone’s coming?” Yoongi picks at a thread coming from the hem of his shirt.

“Who’s everyone?” Namjoon asks as he rifles through a pile of clothes on his floor, looking for something to wear.

Yoongi eyes him with poorly-hidden disgust. “Taehyung and Jimin, the girls too I think. Hoseok said Jeongguk and Seokjin are coming, too.”

Namjoon pauses. “Oh.” He pretends not to notice Yoongi’s smirk.

“Namjoon-ah, do me a favor,” Yoongi says to him from the doorway.

“Hm?” Namjoon asks, distracted.

“Wear a pair of pants you can see your legs in.”

“What?” Namjoon asks, looking up. “Why?”

“Just...for me. Do it for me,” Yoongi says enigmatically. It looks like it pains him to say it.

“What’s so special about my legs?” Namjoon asks. He’s genuinely perplexed — he can think of plenty of times Yoongi has made fun of his clothes, but he can’t recall Yoongi ever giving him fashion advice before.

Yoongi sighs. “You dumb giant idiot. You’re like ninety percent leg, use it to your advantage for once. You’re always in those stupid pants that don’t fit you, it’s such a waste.”

“What?” Namjoon asks again.

“No one’s ever told you you have nice legs before?” Yoongi asks, an eyebrow raised in his direction.

“No? Is that a thing?” Namjoon asks back.

Yoongi sighs again. “Yes, Namjoon. It’s a thing.”

Namjoon pauses. “You think I have nice legs?”

“Okay, I’m done here,” Yoongi replies as he backs out of the room. “I was just trying to do something good for the world. Make your own choices.”

“What other body parts of mine do you like?” Namjoon calls after him with a smirk. “Do you have a list?”

“No, the rest of them are shit,” Yoongi yells back from the hallway.

Namjoon looks down at the pile of pants on the floor, his most-frequently worn clothes, before stepping over them and opening one of his drawers. There are a pair of jeans his mom bought him way in the back, almost never worn because of the way the fabric sits snugly on his legs, but. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t a little flattered.

When he walks into their living room wearing jeans that fit him uncomfortably well (literally — how does Jimin do this all the time?) and a t-shirt and jacket that are arguably his actual clothing size, Yoongi just stares at him.

“This is like when the girl takes off her glasses in movies,” Yoongi says. “Except the glasses are your horrible fucking sweatpants.”

“I just want to be comfortable, hyung,” Namjoon whines.

“It’s okay, Joon-ah. You’re still cute.” Yoongi reaches up to pat his head. It’s embarrassing, and Namjoon just pouts instead of responding.

 

Their noraebang is already filling up by the time Yoongi and Namjoon arrive, with Sooyoung and Seulgi arguing over what songs to pick and Jimin and Taehyung playing with the effects on the controller to make a ballad steadily increase in tempo. Jeongguk is sitting nearby, laughing at Taehyung and Jimin and looking generally less like a frightened rabbit than how he usually looks to Namjoon.

It would be a lie to say that he had forgotten Seokjin was coming, but he gets involved enough with everyone else that by the time Hoseok and Seokjin walk in half an hour later, Namjoon is a little startled. It’s ridiculous, it’s totally absurd, but despite all the time he’s spent with Seokjin in the past five months, sometimes looking at him too close still makes Namjoon feel flustered. His cheeks are pink from the cold as he takes his coat and scarf off, smiling warmly at Hoseok, and his hair is a little damp from snow, and Namjoon feels unbalanced. When Seokjin turns to him, a funny thing happens to his face where it goes a little slack, and in the moment Namjoon spends contemplating that he neglects to realize he’s been caught staring. His face is hot as he finally looks away.

“You look nice,” Seokjin says to him a few minutes later, brushing his bangs out of his eyes. It’s brown now, Namjoon helped him dye it while everyone else was out of town, and it makes him look warmer than he did with the ashy blonde.

“What?” Namjoon asks, mouth moving before his brain does. He hates himself. “I mean, thanks.” Seokjin just smiles, small and amused, and Namjoon swallows nervously. They don’t have a chance to say anything else to each other before Taehyung steps in front of the screen and announces that he reserved the first song.

It’s a fun night. They keep ordering drinks and singing, the highlights being a (very) drunk Seulgi trying to dance idol choreography with Sooyoung and Hoseok (who knows it better than them) and Yoongi drinking enough to belt out a rock song hoarsely while everyone cheers. Hoseok stays close to him all night, and Yoongi’s little smiles at him reassure Namjoon. He’s rooting for them, thinks that Hoseok might be good for Yoongi, but he kind of expected the start to be rough; Hoseok is brash and loud and bright and Yoongi is skittish, ducking for cover easily. They look nice smiling at each other, though.

Seokjin sings a few upbeat pop songs with Hoseok and one with Taehyung, and gets all loose and affectionate that way he has a tendency to when he drinks. It’s still early in the night when he’s sitting leaned over on Namjoon’s shoulder, his hand resting on Namjoon’s knee, and Namjoon hasn’t drank that much but he feels hot the same way he does when he gets drunk, like his skin is burning. His squeaky laugh sounds so loud next to Namjoon’s ear, his breath hitting Namjoon’s throat depending which way he’s turned, and it’s overwhelming.

“Maybe you should take a break from drinking for a while,” Namjoon turns to say to him at one point. “How much have you had?”

“Just a couple drinks,” Seokjin says, his eyebrows raised.

“Are you really that much of a lightweight?” Namjoon says with a laugh.

Seokjin shrugs. “I’m not drunk, I’m just happy.”

Namjoon considers that, considers the way Seokjin is sitting tucked into Namjoon’s side with one of Namjoon’s arms slung around his shoulders, his hand on Namjoon’s leg, the way his mouth keeps getting too close to Namjoon’s neck. “Then why are you…” He trails off, not sure how to phrase the question without sounding rude.

Seokjin seems to catch on after Namjoon pauses for a second, and he backs up a little bit. “I can move, if you want me too,” he says quietly enough for just Namjoon to hear, almost a whisper.

“No, it’s okay,” Namjoon replies quickly. He had almost zero self-preservation to begin with, why not throw the rest of it to the wind? “I don’t mind.”

“You’re warm, is all,” Seokjin tells him, still in that quiet voice. He feels warm, that’s for sure. Namjoon doesn’t say anything, but he shifts over a little so that their sides are flush together, a move that feels bold and embarrassing in his mind. Seulgi glances over at them and raises an eyebrow quizzically, which Namjoon takes as confirmation.

Namjoon decides to stop thinking about it and instead watches Hoseok try to convince Jimin and Jeongguk to do the choreography for the bubblegum pop song he’s singing, and laughs when the three of them, very intoxicated, do quite well.

“Why do you guys know all of these?” Seulgi asks through a laugh.

“Why not?” Hoseok asks back, but Jimin looks embarrassed. Jeongguk looks more embarrassed that Seulgi is speaking to him, going pink when she looks at him.

“Someone should really tell Jeongguk that Seulgi likes girls,” Namjoon mutters to Seokjin.

He just shrugs in response. “He won’t ever act on it. He’s afraid of girls, it’s cute. He’ll just look at her with big moon eyes and offer to carry things for her until he gets over it.”

“You talk about him like he’s a kid,” Namjoon snorts.

“He is! He’s only a baby,” Seokjin says fondly.

“Isn’t he Sooyoung’s age? He’s in his first year, right?” Namjoon asks.

“Nah, he’s a year younger. He graduated high school early.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says. “Me too. Weird.”

“What?” Seokjin asks, picking his head up from Namjoon’s shoulder to look at him.

“What?” Namjoon parrots back.

Seokjin looks at him for a minute. “How old are you?”

“Two years younger than you,” Namjoon says, eyebrows furrowed. “Right?”

“You’re Hoseok’s age?” Seokjin asks, still sounding startled.

“Yes? I think so? Have I not mentioned this before?”

“No, you haven’t. This is so weird,” Seokjin says, crinkling his nose.

“It’s one extra year, what’s the big deal?” Namjoon asks with a laugh.

“Don’t you think I’m old?” Seokjin asks.

Namjoon laughs again. “No, you act like a kid.”

Seokjin raises his eyebrows. “Excuse you.”

“You’re being weird,” Namjoon accuses him, but he’s still grinning.

“Whatever, I’m not the nerd who was too smart for high school,” Seokjin huffs, hesitating before resuming his spot nestled against Namjoon.

“Nice insult,” Namjoon says with a smirk. “Nerd. Never heard that one before.”

“Shut up, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin snaps at him, pinching his leg where his hand is resting (above Namjoon’s knee now, Namjoon is acutely aware.) “I can’t believe I have to deal with all these bratty kids.”

“You must enjoy it, or else you wouldn’t keep us around,” Namjoon tells him, and Seokjin’s thumb strokes across Namjoon’s leg, a move that makes Namjoon feel even more warm and weird.

“Yeah,” Seokjin mutters, “I must.”

By the end of the night, Jeongguk has drank too much, giggling happily into his drinks, getting along very well with Jimin and Taehyung, and trying to initiate conversation with Seulgi, mostly unsuccessfully; Namjoon hears him say something about the weather then get disappointed with her short reply before she goes back to looking through the song book.

“Jeongukkie, I think it might be time for you to go home,” Hoseok says with a loud laugh eventually, and Jeongguk just furrows his eyebrows at Hoseok.

“I’m having fun, hyung,” Jeongguk whines, looking like a petulant child with his big puppy eyes.

It’s then that Seulgi sighs heavily and starts worrying aloud to Taehyung about her date with the girl Soojung’s been trying to set her up with. “She’s just so nice.”

“You’re nice too, noona,” Jimin says brightly to her.

“Yeah but I’m not like, meet your parents nice,” Seulgi sighs. “She bakes cupcakes, what do I have to offer?”

“You’re really hot, unnie,” Sooyoung offers sympathetically as she pats Seulgi’s head, obviously trying to be comforting.

“Thanks,” Seulgi says with another sigh.

Jeongguk looks on at the conversation with a startled expression, like a large realization is just now dawning on him.

“Yep, it’s time to get Jeonggukie home,” Hoseok says again, grabbing his jacket. “C’mon buddy, I’ll help you get back to your dorm.”

He hesitates as he puts his hand on Jeongguk’s still shoulder. “Yoongi-hyung, you wanna come babysitting?” This shakes Jeongguk out of his stupor as he mumbles something about being an adult.

Namjoon expects Yoongi to snort derisively, or simply decline. He doesn’t expect Yoongi to mutter, “Uh, sure,” after a moment of deliberation, or to blush pink as he puts on his jacket. Namjoon shoots him a look but Yoongi just glares back, and no one else has the guts to say anything after that.

Hoseok says goodbye to everyone, pushing Jeongguk out the door with a, “Meet you outside, hyung!” aimed at Yoongi, and Yoongi just looks around at everyone when the door closes.

“Not a word, assholes,” he says, turning to look at all of them, nodding, and then leaving himself.

“Namjoon, if he doesn’t come home tonight, you gotta send out that group text like, instantly,” Taehyung urges him, turning around to face him.

“Hell no,” Namjoon replies with a snort. “Respect his privacy.”

“Weak, he’s scared Yoongi will throw out more of his stuff,” Jimin laughs.

“More of?” Seokjin asks curiously.

“Don’t ask,” Namjoon sighs. “Just don’t gossip about Yoongi.”

“Noted,” Seokjin smiles at him. “I should probably head out too.” He pulls away from Namjoon for the first time in a while, and the air feels cold where Seokjin had been warm against him.

“Oh,” Namjoon says quietly. “Yeah, okay.”

Seokjin looks at him from where he’s standing and hesitates. “You know, your sweater’s still at my apartment.”

“Is it?” Namjoon asks, looking up at him. It’s weak, it’s really weak and everyone in the room knows it, but Namjoon doesn’t question it.

“Yeah. You should come grab it tonight.” Seokjin’s face is mostly blank when he says it, no hint of a smirk or anything. Neither of them have been drinking in a while, and more than anything, Seokjin sounds casual.

“Okay. Sure.” Self-control: 0, curiosity: 1.

Namjoon can feel everyone else’s eyes on them when he pulls on his coat, shoves his hair under a beanie.

“See you guys later,” he says with a wave, glancing around the room as they all give him little smirks (except Taehyung, who is actually beaming.) Namjoon just rolls his eyes as he follows Jin out of the room, out of the building and onto the cold street.

It’s snowing a little as they walk to the nearest subway stop, and it gives the street that strange hush that only happens in winter, in the snow. They don’t make much conversation on their way to Seokjin’s apartment besides small comments in passing. It’s comfortable and easy and Namjoon fights the urge to grin at Seokjin the whole way, just because.

His sweater is, in fact, in Seokjin’s apartment, slung over the back of one of the armchairs where Namjoon left it a week (maybe two) ago. Namjoon rests his hand on it, but doesn’t go to pick it up, and Seokjin looks at him while he hangs up his own coat.

“You wanna stay?” Seokjin asks. “We still have like three episodes of that show to watch.”

Namjoon grins at him. “Of course.”

It’s a stupid reality show, a competition to pick the best model out of a group of twenty, and they originally started watching it as a joke but they got attached.

Seokjin rubs at his nose, red from the cold, and says, “I’m gonna make tea. Do you want some?” Sometimes Seokjin is endlessly attractive, and late at night offering him tea as Namjoon takes off his cold, wet beanie is one of them.

It’s cozy, their little set-up. They’re sitting against the wall on Seokjin’s bed, both holding their tea warm in their hands, the light from Seokjin’s desk lamp dimly illuminating the room as they watch the remaining models argue with each other between photoshoots. Seokjin gives a running commentary that Namjoon laughs at and all of him feels warm, not from the tea or the Super Mario blanket that’s still on Seokjin’s bed but just from everything. From Seokjin, all of him.

Sometime after the tea is finished but the show isn’t, Namjoon dozes off, and doesn’t realize until Seokjin nudges him awake. With his shoulder, because Namjoon fell asleep on Seokjin’s shoulder, apparently.

“Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says quietly again. The room seems darker than earlier, even though that’s not possible, and Seokjin is peering down at him with a little smile. “You can’t sleep on me.”

“Sorry,” Namjoon mumbles, sitting up and stretching the crick out of his neck, glad the darkness might be disguising his blush. “Oh god, I drooled on you.”

Seokjin just laughs softly, his smile making his eyes crinkle up. God, Namjoon is so fucked. He blinks sleepily at Seokjin, shaking his head to try to wake himself up. He was so comfortable and now he has to leave, get back out into the cold until he gets to his own bed.

“You could...stay here, if you wanted,” Seokjin suggests, voice still quiet. Namjoon looks at him. “I mean, I know it’s kind of a long way home. You’d have to take a cab, this late.”

Namjoon winces at the thought of the bill. “Yeah. Um. If I could, that would actually be great.”

Seokjin just nods, grinning at him again. “Make yourself comfortable, Joonie.”

“I can’t sleep in this, though.” Namjoon laughs. His clothes are too tight and...made out of stiff fabrics. Seokjin glances down at him, scanning up his body, and it makes Namjoon blush again.

“Yeah. Let me get you something.”

Namjoon ends up in a pair of fashionable sweatpants that feel like, upsettingly soft and a baby pink t-shirt that hangs loose on him. “You’re so scrawny,” Seokjin laughs at him when he emerges from the bathroom, but the look he gives Namjoon is...a little fond, maybe? “Pink looks nice on you.”

“Thanks. Are all your clothes this soft?” Namjoon asks, walking across the room to turn the lamp off.

“Mostly, yeah,” Seokjin says with a grin.

Then it’s dark, and Namjoon is crawling into Seokjin’s big soft bed for the second time in the past six months, and everything is just so goddamn comfortable. The sound of Seokjin’s breathing is comforting to hear so closeby, and Namjoon wonders what that means. Namjoon wonders what any of this means, being tucked into Seokjin’s clothes in Seokjin’s bed, the way his thumb stroked Namjoon’s thigh earlier, the feeling of his lips just barely on the skin of his throat.

He thinks about Seokjin saying, “I’m happy,” with a smile that looked genuine, and he hopes it was. He hopes Seokjin is happy, above all the other stupid hopes he has about Seokjin.

“Jin-hyung,” Namjoon whispers in the dark. “Thanks for letting me stay.”

There’s the sound of Seokjin moving against his pillow and then he says, “Anytime, Joonie.”

Namjoon falls asleep with his heart still a little swollen and a little aching, but he finds that he doesn’t even mind.

++

There’s ambient city noise outside the window when Namjoon wakes up, and he’s too warm. He’s aware of these things, but he’s not motivated to open his eyes to deal with them. He’s still in the space between asleep and awake, and everything feels fuzzy and nice. Something shifts underneath him strangely, and when he finally blinks himself fully awake, he’s met with the sight of Seokjin’s face too close to his own.

Seokjin has a queen-sized bed but somehow, overnight, they managed to move so that most of Namjoon’s body is on top of Seokjin’s, one of his legs slung across Seokjin’s thighs. His head is pillowed near Seokjin’s shoulder, tucked into the crook of Seokjin’s neck, and it’s...too much. He wants to move, if only for the sake of avoiding the embarrassment when they’re both awake, but he doesn’t know how to without waking him up anyway. In the meantime, in his indecision, he stares at the side of Seokjin’s neck, where there’s a tiny freckle Namjoon never noticed before. He smells Seokjin’s cologne (or laundry detergent, maybe?), the same one he’s always used that smells clean and nice, all around him and that’s when he remembers he’s wearing Seokjin’s clothes. Fuck.

Right when Namjoon has made up his mind that he should move, that he should keep his limbs to himself, Seokjin sighs out a long breath before yawning. There’s a little hum, and then, to Namjoon’s horror, a soft muttered, “Oh.”

Nothing else happens for a moment, but then Seokjin’s arm (the free one, not the one Namjoon is rendering useless by laying on top of it) moves, and then his hand is in Namjoon’s hair, fingers running through the shorter hairs near his neck. Namjoon’s eyes widen, and he tries to stay silent, make Seokjin think he’s still asleep, but then his fingers scratch pleasantly against Namjoon’s scalp, and his breath hitches against his will.

He stops instantly at the sound of Namjoon’s sharp inhale, his hand going still. “Namjoon?”

“Seokjin,” Namjoon mutters back quietly, pulling himself up to lean on one of his elbows. “What are you doing?” He’s reminded of that feeling he sometimes got in the weeks they were alone with each other — a string pulled, waiting for someone to cut it. He looks down at Seokjin, who looks embarrassed and startled.

“I — I don’t know. I wanted to touch you,” Seokjin breathes back at him.

They stare at each other, their faces so close, their breathing sounding loud with no other sounds to distract from it.

“Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says quietly, looking up at him with his hair falling out of his face prettily. He looks puffy from sleeping but he’s so pretty, always so goddamn pretty. “Could you kiss me already?”

Namjoon’s heart beats in overdrive and he takes another sharp gasp of a breath, eyes wide as he stares down at Seokjin.

“Yeah,” Namjoon breathes. “Yeah.”

A smile blooms, bright and heady, across Seokjin’s face, “I’m not getting any younger, Joonie.”

“I’m getting to it,” Namjoon mutters back. He wants to look at Seokjin first, the way his features look so soft in the dimness of the room, the way he’s biting his lip on a smile. Namjoon smiles back for a moment before he leans in close, dropping down so they’re almost flush, and pressing their lips together.

It’s a messy kiss, both of them smiling too much and their teeth clacking together, but god is it good. Namjoon pulls back and goes back to grinning down at Seokjin, feeling overwhelmed.

“You’re real cute and all, Namjoon, but you better get back to kissing me,” Seokjin says with a smirk. It makes Namjoon’s dizzy, to think about and look at and experience, so he just nods.

“When am I allowed to stop?” He asks with his own little grin.

Seokjin just stays looking up at him, happy and a little mischievous. “If I do my job right, you won’t want to.”

Namjin moves so that he’s straddling Seokin properly, something that makes Seokjin lose his smirk for a minute, before lowering himself down on his elbows. “Got it.”

Their next kiss is different, more electric, more real. It’s slow and a little tender, Namjoon bringing a hand over to tangle in Seokjin’s hair, Seokjin grabbing Namjoon by the waist gently. It’s everything Namjoon had been thinking about in the quietest, most desperate recesses of his mind; every soft noise Seokjin makes, how nice his lips feel, his hands so comforting near his hips.

When Seokjin trails down Namjoon’s jaw, Namjoon tips his head back, gives him easier access to his neck. “You really think I’m cute?” Namjoon asks breathlessly.

Seokjin pauses before pulling back. “I think you’re beautiful, Namjoon.”

Namjoon groans at the words, not in pleasure but in embarrassment. “That’s so greasy, hyung.”

“It’s true,” Seokjin says simply with a grin before going back to kissing Namjoon’s neck, biting at his collarbone.

No one’s ever called him beautiful before — he’s gotten cute, handsome sometimes if he dresses up fancy, but never beautiful. It makes him blush in a way that he feels like goes down to his toes, an all-over warmth that flusters him.

Seokjin chuckles. “You got so red. Do you not get compliments enough?”

“I don’t know, what do you qualify as enough?” Namjoon asks.

“Not enough, then. I’ll give you some more. Your dimples are cute,” Seokjin says before surging upward to kiss them, easy to find since Namjoon’s grinning at him. “Your eyes are pretty. Your legs are so damn long it’s unreal.”

“God, really, is that really a thing? Why did no one ever tell me about this?” Namjoon asks, brought out of the moment by remembering the jeans Yoongi forced him into the day before.

“I really don’t know, Namjoon, because they’re fucking fantastic, and I personally have been trying not to tell you about it for months,” Seokjin says with a chuckle. Namjoon is still blushing, which might be Seokjin’s goal here.

“Your lips are pretty,” Seokjin continues, bringing a thumb up to run across Namjoon’s bottom lip. “Your skin looks so nice when you wear white shirts. It really looks nice in anything, but it especially looks nice right now. Do you want me to keep going?” Seokjin is smiling up at him, acting innocent like his finger wasn’t almost just in Namjoon’s mouth.

“Maybe later,” Namjoon breathes before leaning swiftly back down to kiss the words out of Seokjin. He feels tingly and warm and more turned on than he should be at nine in the morning on a Saturday, but he doesn’t care.

They kiss slow and languid, Seokjin’s fingers gripping a little tighter at Namjoon’s hips, and when Namjoon pulls back, breathing heavy, he marvels at the way Seokjin looks. His lips are slick and pink, pupils dilated, and the way his head is tilted back makes Namjoon want to scream.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Namjoon mumbles as one big clump of sounds.

Seokjin has the gall to laugh, more breathy than how it usually sounds. “Thanks, Namjoonie. C’mere, will you?”

Namjoon doesn’t really know what he means but he crowds in closer to Seokjin, leaning down to kiss him again. It has more heat to it now, the image of Seokjin looking a little ravished fresh in his mind and making him move quicker. He doesn’t know when it happens, maybe a few minutes into the kiss or maybe more, but slowly, Seokjin’s hands are leading Namjoon’s hips down until they’re pressed against Seokjin’s, and the sudden contact makes him gasp. He’d been spending the past ten minutes trying not to let Seokjin know that he was hard, but his worrying seems to be for naught, since he can feel Seokjin’s erection pressing into him.

“Fuck,” he breathes out.

“Yeah?” Seokjin asks. It doesn’t really make much sense but it sounds good, the way it comes out rough and low, a pitch that Namjoon isn’t used to from Seokjin.

“Seokjin,” Namjoon mutters, biting his lip as he looks down at Seokjin’s face. There’s light coming in from the window, sunbeams illuminating them, and it’s surreal. “I really like you, you know.”

Seokjin smiles at him, runs a hand through Namjoon’s hair like he did earlier that morning. “I really like you too, Namjoon-ah.”

“That’s good,” Namjoon mutters with a nod. “That’s really good.”

Seokjin laughs, a real genuine happy laugh, and his thumb sweeps across Namjoon’s hipbone, stroking over the bare skin where his (Seokjin’s) t-shirt is rucked up. “You’re so cute.”

“Not now,” Namjoon breathes, arcing back down to kiss Seokjin roughly.

“Got it,” Seokjin mutters between kisses, his hands pulling Namjoon’s hips against his again. He inhales sharply at the friction, exhales unsteadily, before following Seokjin’s lead and grinding down again. Seokjin gasps loud in his ear, and the sound of it makes his heart stutter nervously. He moves over a little so that his thigh is slotted between Seokjin’s, one of Seokjin’s between his own legs, and grinds down again. It’s slow and rough, and it leaves them gasping between kisses, sweating a little as they breathe heavily against each other, their hips moving blindly. It goes on for a while like that, grinding against each other until their gasps turn to groans, Seokjin’s hands fisted tight in Namjoon’s shirt.

“Less — clothes,” Seokjin gasps, pushing Namjoon’s shirt up.

Namjoon just nods. “Yeah. Yes.” He sits up to pull the shirt off all the way, tossing it carelessly across the room, and leans down to do the same to Seokjin’s. Seokjin stares up at him for a minute, eyes trailing up Namjoon’s skinny torso, and it’s a little embarrassing so he looks down at Seokjin, the way his broad shoulders taper down to his narrow hips.

Seokjin must get fed up with their stillness after a minute, because he grabs one of Namjoon’s hands and pulls him back down. “Come back,” he mumbles, pulling Namjoon flush to his chest. There’s more bare skin now and it feels nice. Seokjin doesn’t let go of Namjoon’s hand as he cants his hips up, looking for the friction of Namjoon’s leg, and that feels nice too, Seokjin’s fingers slotted between his own. It’s intimate, them moving together and breathing together, the pulse points in their wrists pressed against each other, and Namjoon has that too-warm feeling again.

They don’t have the coordination to kiss after a while, groaning into the crooks of each other’s necks instead, until Seokjin mutters, “Stop.” Namjoon pulls back, looks down at Seokjin expectantly.

“Just…” Seokjin takes a second to catch his breath. “I don’t want to get off like this.”

“Oh,” Namjoon mumbles, a little dazed. “What do you want?” He bites at his lower lip and runs his tongue over the spot, a nervous habit that he barely even recognizes doing, and Seokjin glares at him.

“God, do you know you do that all the fucking time?” He mutters angrily.

Namjoon blinks. “Do what?”

“You always — you’re always putting something in your mouth, do you know how distracting that is? You chew on your pens, which is gross, by the way, you bite your thumb sometimes when you’re reading, and that week you carried around that bag of lollipops, I swear to god,” Seokjin says in an annoyed huff, narrowing his eyes up at Namjoon.

“It was Halloween candy!” Namjoon says with a little laugh, tightening his grip on Seokjin’s hand.

“I don’t care,” Seokjin snaps.

“Are you trying to tell me you want me to suck you off?” Namjoon asks with a grin.

Seokjin sighs. “I mean, it’ll make up for some of the shit I’ve had to endure.”

“You’re swearing a lot right now,” Namjoon notices. He smirks down at Seokjin.

“It is extremely frustrating to have a crush on you, Joon-ah,” Seokjin grouses.

Namjoon sputters in protest. “Me! I’m not the one who walks around touching and hugging everyone and looking like...I don’t know, a Disney prince or something.”

Seokjin snorts, but he looks like he’s blushing a little bit. “Stop arguing with me and blow me, will you?”

Namjoon opens his mouth to argue, but he just nods instead. “On it.”

He scoots down the bed until he’s tucked between Seokjin’s legs, looking up at Seokjin through his eyelashes.

“Shit,” Seokjin mutters.

Namjoon nods. “Yeah.” He’s at eye level with the bare skin of Seokjin’s stomach, and it looks soft and nice so he leans down to kiss it, the sensitive spots just above the waistband of Seokjin’s pajamas. Seokjin squirms a little, giggles quietly. “That tickles,” he says, and his voice is breathy.

“Oh. Sorry,” Namjoon mutters.

“You gotta be a little rougher,” Seokjin says down to him. It makes Namjoon’s brain slow down a little, like it’s melting or something.

“Oh,” he says again after a pause. “I can do that.”

He leans down again, mouth moving against the soft curve of Seokjin’s stomach with a little more force, bottom teeth scraping against skin when he gets a little more confident. Seokjin’s hips buck upward, a breathy little groan leaving his throat, and Namjoon sincerely thinks there’s a possibility that this is all an intricate wet dream. He keeps moving down, pushing the waistband of Seokjin’s pajamas down as much as he can until Seokjin lifts his hips to help.

Namjoon eyes Seokjin’s grey boxer-briefs for a moment, at first just admiring things, but then he blinks. “Are these Calvin Klein? Do you wear designer underwear?”

“Oh my god, not the time,” Seokjin says with a laugh. “They’re comfortable.”

“Unreal,” Namjoon mutters. “I can’t believe I’m about to suck the dick of someone who willingly spends twenty thousand won on a pair of underwear.”

“Not the time,” Seokjin complains, hips shifting a little desperately.

“Right, sorry, okay,” Namjoon says, shaking his head before getting back into the zone. He pauses again, though. “How many pairs do you own, though? What’s your total underwear drawer net worth?”

“Will you stop and fucking get to—” Seokjin whines in an annoyed voice, but Namjoon shuts him up before he can finish complaining, pressing forward and mouthing at the line of Seokjin’s dick through his underwear. Seokjin’s sentence cuts off abruptly as he exhales slow and heavy.

Namjoon likes giving head, is the thing. Maybe Seokjin’s right and it’s an oral fixation thing, but it’s fun and weird and intimate, and he’s always enjoyed it. He’s fairly good at it too, he thinks, which makes things fun. He kisses the line of Seokjin’s dick through his underwear, mouth leaving the grey fabric dark and wet, until Seokjin starts to whine through his deep breaths. Namjoon pulls back, chuckling under his breath, and nods. “Okay, okay.”

Without much warning he hooks his fingers under the waistband of Seokjin’s boxers and pulls them down where his pajama pants are still bunched at his thighs. He considers for a minute before sitting back, pulling everything down the rest of the way and off, tossed wherever their shirts went earlier. Seokjin’s spread out naked in front of him, breathing heavy, with his hair still tousled from sleep, and Namjoon considers the possibility once again that he may be dreaming. It’s a little far-off as a possibility, though, because he’s certainly never had a dream this lucid.

He gets a little lost looking Seokjin up and down, or at least he must because Seokjin makes another little frustrated noise while Namjoon is sitting on his heels, tracing the lines of Seokjin’s body with his eyes.

“Sorry,” Namjoon mutters as he settles back between Seokjin’s legs. “You just look really nice.”

“I usually do,” Seokjin mutters with a self-satisfied little smirk.

Namjoon snorts. “You’re too much.”

“I’m just enough,” Seokjin argues. He’s grinning, eyes slipping closed for a moment.

Namjoon doesn’t dignify that with a response, instead just pressing forward and biting at a spot on Seokjin’s stomach that’s already red from Namjoon’s teeth. Seokjin gives a little content sigh, hips shifting again, but this time his dick is curved up underneath his belly button, so close to Namjoon’s face, and Namjoon decides to stop teasing. Seokjin’s looking down at him, eyes half-lidded and gaze heavy, and Namjoon looks back at him as he opens his mouth to take the head of Seokjin’s dick in it.

Seokjin gasps, arching off the bed a little bit, and Namjoon would smirk if his mouth wasn’t...occupied. But it is, too busy licking at the underside of Seokjin’s dick, testing himself on how much he can take at once before coming back up and focusing on the head, one of his hands working down Seokjin’s shaft.

“Shit,” Seokjin mutters. “Shit, shit, shit. How do you look so good?”

Namjoon pulls off and looks up at Seokjin with a smile, hand still moving. “You do too, hyung.” It’s true, Seokjin looks uniquely great with his hair a mess, lit up by the sun coming through the window, a little sweaty and messy, chest heaving.

“You don’t —” Seokjin pauses around a groan when Namjoon’s hand twists on his dick. “— have to call me hyung with my dick in your hand.”

“What do you want me to call you, then?” Namjoon asks.

Seokjin is still looking down at him, and he takes a moment before reaching down for Namjoon’s free hand, intertwining their fingers again. “Just call me Jin.”

Namjoon nods, squeezing Seokjin’s hand with another grin before he opens his mouth again, letting the head of Seokjin’s dick sit on the flat of his tongue for a moment. He already tastes like pre-cum, and he gives a choked-off groan when Namjoon swallows around him. Seokjin is vocal, Namjoon learns, quick to let Namjoon knows when he likes something, his grip tightening and a low noise making its way out of his throat.

“So good at this, Namjoonie,” Seokjin mumbles a few minutes later, his hips lifting off of the bed. The words have an embarrassingly strong effect on Namjoon, who feels his dick pulse heavily as it’s pressed against the mattress. He pulls off for a second, breathes a few heavy breaths with his eyes closed and face buried in Seokjin’s hip. Seokjin makes a noise kind of like a laugh, and when Namjoon looks up at him, he does look a little amused.

“You get embarrassed so easy, Joon-ah. It’s cute,” Seokjin says with a crooked grin down at him, his thumb sweeping across Namjoon’s knuckles.

“M’not — I don’t get embarrassed,” Namjoon mutters up at him, but there’s a blush on his cheeks and he knows it.

Seokjin gives another weird breathy chuckle, and Namjoon ignores the burn of his blush, the way Seokjin makes him feel overly aware of all one hundred and eighty-one centimeters of his awkward, bumbling self, and wraps his lips around Seokjin again. It’s not that Seokjin’s smooth, or put-together (though he has his moments), it’s just that he’s so shameless, so confident in every one of his weird idiosyncrasies, and it makes Namjoon feel like a bull in a china shop. It’s not a bad thing, really, but it’s a thing he’s reminded of when Seokjin can murmur things in a low voice down to him that make Namjoon want to hide his face. This, though, his mouth and hand working on Seokjin until he’s moaning a little too loudly, this he can do with a little grace.

It isn’t long before Seokjin lets go of Namjoon’s hand to rest it on Namjoon’s shoulder instead, mumbling in a rush, “Gonna come soon.”

Namjoon pulls off again, nods before he rests the tip of Seokjin’s dick on his lower lip, tongue darting out to lick under the head.

Seokjin groans. “Stop, or I’m gonna end up coming on your face,” he warns.

Namjoon considers. “You could, if you wanted to,” he says, hand pausing on Seokjin, which just makes him thrust up in search of the same friction. It seems to take a moment for Seokjin to process that, because when he does he looks down at Namjoon like he’s thinking about it.

But then he groans when Namjoon’s hand starts moving again and says, “It’s too early for weird shit. Get back to me another time.”

“Will do,” Namjoon says with a grin.

“Like, tonight, maybe,” Seokjin clarifies. “Because you’d look pretty with —” His sentence is punctuated by a surprised moan when Namjoon puts his dick back in his mouth, sucking a little. “Fuck.”

Namjoon doesn’t let up, and Seokjin’s fingers grip tighter at Namjoon’s shoulder, his hips starting to move erratically. It’s a few more pumps of Namjoon’s hand, a few more strokes of his tongue, before Seokjin is coming, falling apart a little bit underneath Namjoon.

Namjoon swallows around him, earning another hoarse cry from Seokjin as he bucks through his orgasm, breathing heavy as he falls limply back against the bed. He goes soft in Namjoon’s mouth and Namjoon pulls off for good, swallows again.

Seokjin is spread like a starfish across the bed, limbs akimbo, and he gives another weighty exhale. “God. God, fuck. Come here.” His eyes are still pressed closed, but his hands reach out toward Namjoon, ushering him forward.

Namjoon does a sort of makeshift crawl up the bed toward Seokjin, his dick painfully hard against the fabric of his own underwear, still trapped in Seokjin’s sweatpants, but he tries to ignore it for the time being as Seokjin pulls him into a sort of aggressive cuddle. His hands come up to run through Namjoon’s hair, across his face, wiping spit away from his mouth, before they run up and down his sides in a movement that feels somewhere between comfort and thanks, a sort of warm kindness to it. He pulls Namjoon closer to him, shifts until they’re laying side by side, pressed together warmly, and Seokjin plants a chaste kiss on Namjoon’s lips. It’s a quiet moment, Seokjin seemingly without the capacity to say much and Namjoon stunned into silence by the weight of his own feelings, how nice it feels for Seokjin to look at him so fondly, kiss him so softly and carefully.

“You’re so hard,” Seokin finally mutters, one hand leaving the side of Namjoon’s ribs to rub against Namjoon’s clothed erection. He thrusts into the touch without meaning to, body desperate, and then he nods.

“Yeah,” he manages. “Yes, I am.”

“What would you like me to do about that?” Seokjin asks him before pressing a soft kiss to Namjoon’s cheek.

Namjoon sucks in an unsteady breath as the heel of Seokjin’s palm keeps rubbing at him through the sweatpants. “You know, just...just, whatever you want.”

Seokjin hums. “That doesn’t help, Namjoonie. I’m asking what you want.”

The feeling of Seokjin’s hand is rough but Namjoon can’t help but buck into it, hips moving on their own. “I just want to come, Jin,” Namjoon mutters a little desperately, eyes screwing closed. Seokjin makes a sympathetic noise, pulling Namjoon closer and rolling them over until Namjoon’s on top of him.

One of Seokjin’s hands is on Namjoon’s lower back and the other is on the back of Namjoon’s neck, and he uses them both to pull Namjoon down into a kiss, a real one this time. It’s just like how it started, except now Namjoon’s mouth tastes like Seokjin, and Seokjin’s urges for Namjoon to rut against him are less cautious and more purposeful. His hand rubs at Namjoon’s lower back, pressing him further against Seokjin’s body. Namjoon doesn’t need much encouragement to grind himself down into Seokjin, breathing heavy as Seokjin kisses at his mouth, his jaw, whatever’s closest. Namjoon’s hips are moving of their own mind, his pace getting faster, his breath getting heavier. He’s more aroused than maybe he should be by something so tame, but the feeling of Seokjin underneath him, murmuring encouragements between kisses, is so fucking much.

“Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says with a little laugh. “You can’t come in those pants, they’re my favorite ones.”

It breaks Namjoon out of the moment and makes him laugh, his hips stilling. “Take them off, then.”

Seokjin complies, still smiling up at Namjoon as his hands push at the fabric, taking his briefs down with them. Namjoon shimmies his legs to get them the rest of the way off, and then...then he’s naked on top of Seokjin, and the slide of his dick against Seokjin’s thigh is so much slicker and easier and hotter, and he’s having trouble keeping his eyes open or his breathing steady.

Seokjin kisses Namjoon’s forehead, pushing his bangs back out of his face. “Come on, Namjoonie.”

Namjoon nods, tucks himself into the crook of Seokjin’s neck as he lets out an embarrassing moan. Seokjin’s hand strokes comfortingly at the nape of Namjoon’s neck, his other arm reaching around to hold Namjoon’s waist, pressing them close together as Namjoon finally comes. He lets out a shuddering breath as Seokjin strokes at his hair and his sides sweetly.

“You okay?” Seokjin asks him after Namjoon just lies there still and heavy for a moment.

Namjoon nods, picks his head up from the warm skin of Seokjin’s neck to look down at him. “Yeah. I’m great.” He grins big and loose at Seokjin, who returns the look.

“Good,” Seokjin tells him, still smiling softly.

Namjoon rolls off from his spot on top of Seokjin, curling up to his side instead and laying his head on Seokjin’s chest. It’s a nice moment, and Namjoon feels warm and good with Seokjin’s arms around him in a way that he hasn’t felt in a while. It’s that rush of liking, the nervous thrum of his heartbeat, but paired with the realization that he’s being liked back.

“You want me to make you breakfast?” Seokjin asks.

“You know, I really, really want that,” Namjoon replies easily, grinning into Seokjin’s side with his eyes closed.

Seokjin laughs quietly. “C’mon, you gotta help.”

Namjoon winces, picks himself up so Seokjin can see his face, but Seokjin just laughs at him again. “No, none of that. Pull your weight, Joon-ah.”

 

Seokjin must think he’s exaggerating until they’re standing in the kitchen, their pajamas back on and their hair still messy, and he has to stop Namjoon from cutting with the wrong side of the knife.

“Oh no,” he mutters sadly. “You were serious, weren’t you?”

“I’ve been trying to tell you,” Namjoon whines hopelessly.

Seokjin sighs a little, but then he looks resolved. “It’s okay. You can’t be good at everything.”

“I’m barely good at anything,” Namjoon says with a snort.

Seokjin just gives him a look. “You’re some freaky kid genius who wants to learn about everything in the world. Spare me.”

“Seokjin, I am two years younger than you, you’re making it sound like —”

Seokjin just shushes him, pressing a finger to Namjoon’s lips. It works. “Just shut up and watch me cook.”

“That I can definitely do,” Namjoon tells him, lips upturned. He pulls himself up to sit cross-legged on the countertop next to where Seokjin’s cutting green onion. It’s mostly quiet as he works, humming something under his breath, and Namjoon watches him and hopes his face doesn’t look too dopey.

“I meant what I said, you know,” he says at some point, making Seokjin look up from what he’s doing. “I really like you.”

Seokjin smiles at him, only slightly blinding, and leans against the counter with his arms crossed. “I meant it too, Namjoon-ah.”

Namjoon just nods back at him with a grin. “Cool.”

That makes Seokjin snort and roll his eyes, but it looks fond. “Yeah. Super cool.”

More quiet then, until Seokjin says without looking at him, “So now we have to do all the in-between stuff, huh?”

Namjoon isn’t sure what that means, so he waits for Seokjin, waits until he goes on to say, “I mean we did the before stuff, but there’s some space between that and the...well, the after stuff. The boyfriend stuff.”

Namjoon raises his eyebrows, amused, but a little flustered. “You want boyfriend stuff?”

“Yeah, I want boyfriend stuff,” Seokjin tells him quietly, lips upturned. “There’s the middle part first, though.”

“What happens in the middle part?” Namjoon asks. He’s leaned forward, chin resting in his hand as he looks at Seokjin.

“Oh, you know,” Seokjin says vaguely. He leans his hip against the counter, arms crossed in front of him as he talks around the little smile on his face. “We go on dates. We don’t know what the boundaries are for anything yet so we feel awkward sometimes. Some experimental sex.”

Namjoon smiles at him easily. “Oh, right. The middle part. Yeah, I guess we gotta do it.”

Seokjin turns away, back to the food. “I haven’t done this part in a really long time.”

Namjoon hops down off of the counter to stand next to Seokjin, looking him over. “Well, I think you’re pretty good at it so far.”

Seokjin’s grin comes back, small but there, and he sets down the knife so he can turn to Namjoon properly and kiss him. It’s warm in the kitchen, and Seokjin has to lean up a little bit to reach Namjoon’s mouth, and it’s so good it hurts a little bit.

“Well, shit,” someone says, and they both turn to find Hoseok in the doorway of the kitchen. Namjoon goes pink instantly, but Seokjin just waves.

“Good morning,” he says, like it’s normal for his roommate to walk into the kitchen to find him kissing someone.

“Apparently,” Hoseok says back. He’s bed-rumpled and sleepy-looking and Namjoon feels a little bad for intruding on the kitchen, but then Seokjin pats Namjoon on the ass with a smirk before picking his knife back up and turning back to the food, and all Namjoon can do is smile happily at him.

“Ugh,” Hoseok mutters from the other end of the kitchen as he puts something back in the fridge. “Young love.”

“Yoongi-hyung will like you,” Namjoon tells Hoseok with a grin, and that effectively shuts him up, pink dusting his cheeks.

Seokjin laughs under his breath, and Namjoon catches his eye and laughs along with him, and Namjoon thinks that he’s really going to enjoy this part.

++

Life goes on. School goes on. Everything continues much the way it had been going, but a little bit differently. For one, Hoseok succeeds in getting a date with Yoongi, and the two of them seem to be hitting it off; once, memorably, they all got drunk together and Yoongi ended the night sitting half in Hoseok’s lap, arms wrapped around his neck as the room looked on in quiet shock. So there’s that — there’s Hoseok in his apartment increasingly often, the two of them doing whatever it is they do together (which seems to be mostly listening to music and talking, Yoongi in his usually-calm voice and Hoseok with his excited tone.)

Then there’s Seokjin. There’s Seokjin asking him what his favorite kinds of tea are and bringing them to him when they’re studying in the library. There’s Seokjin asking him on honest-to-god dates, where they go do things in the evenings like real people. There’s Seokjin kissing him outside his building late at night, in the living room of someone’s apartment, one time against the back wall of a bar. There’s Seokjin spending the night in Namjoon’s bed, smaller than his own and less cushioned but barely even complaining, pressing him into the mattress as they both laugh quietly in the middle of sex sometimes.

They go grocery shopping together sometimes now, Namjoon always slightly appalled at how much money Seokjin spends on food and Seokjin disapproving of the things Namjoon eats. One Saturday afternoon, after Namjoon buys his groceries and walks with Seokjin back home, as he’s trying to find room in their fridge for things, there’s his doorbell buzzing insistently. He pulls himself away from his cabinets, grocery bags still sitting on the floor half-full, to see who it is, and he’s surprised when he opens the door to his mother and sister.

“Uh?” Namjoon manages in a confused voice as they give a chorus of hellos, pushing past him into his living room.

“We were shopping and we were passing by on our way home, so we thought we’d say hi,” his sister says, flopping down bodily onto his and Yoongi’s couch. Frankly, it’s seen better days, and he doesn’t really want his little sister to expose herself to it, but it’s too late now.

His mother glances at the kitchen and tsks quietly. “Did you just go shopping? You know, you need to put those away right when you get home, or else —”

That’s when Seokjin’s voice filters in from Namjoon’s bedroom, where he was plugging in his phone up to Namjoon’s charger. “Joonie, you need to come get all your clothes from my apartment, because they’re starting to pile up,” he says errantly, voice loud enough to carry, as he rounds the corner to come face to face with a Namjoon whose brain is collapsing as he stands in the middle of his apartment.

“Oh,” Seokjin mutters, looking from his sister, who’s now sitting up on the couch with an eyebrow raised, to his mother, who seems surprised. “Hello.” His voice has gotten quiet and his laugh has that slightly hysterical quality it gets when Seokjin feels truly embarrassed, and Namjoon would enjoy it if his brain wasn’t collapsing.

“Seokjin-hyung,” Namjoon manages, trying to get his gears turning again. “This is my sister. And my mom.”

“Wow!” Seokjin says a little too loudly. “Hi! I’m, uh. I’m Kim Seokjin. Good to meet you.”

Namjoon can feel his mother’s gaze on him, but isn’t sure what kind of look it is. His sister just looks vaguely delighted at this turn of events, probably because she can sense Namjoon sweating.

“Wonderful to meet a friend of Namjoon’s,” his mother finally says, breaking the awkward tension in the room with a smile as she steps forward to shake Seokjin’s hand.

“Oh, yeah. Must be good friends, to leave your clothes at each other’s houses so much,” his sister mutters, and Namjoon uses all his mental energy to send her a telepathic threat of murder. “Joonie,” she tacks onto the end with a smirk.

His mother doesn’t pay attention to her really, instead just walking over and collecting Namjoon’s groceries from the floor.

“Eomma, you don’t have to —” Namjoon starts, but his mother waves him off.

“I need to make sure you’re eating,” she says, still waving her hand at him.

Seokjin gives a little sigh. “Not enough.”

His mother glances over with a funny little grin. “Well, if he didn’t have a moral stance against proper nutrition.”

At that, Seokjin rolls his eyes in a long-suffering kind of way. “What doesn’t he have a moral stance against?”

“I don’t appreciate this,” Namjoon interjects, furrowing his eyebrows at the way Seokjin and his mother are sharing a covert little laugh.

“It’s just so easy, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says with a smirk.

“How old are you?” Namjoon’s sister asks Seokjin with narrowed eyes.

“Namseon,” Namjoon says in a warning voice, but she just glares at him.

“Twenty-three,” Seokjin supplies happily, looking at Namseon where she’s spread inelegantly on the couch in a pair of ripped up jeans that their mother would never have let Namjoon wear when he was in high school.

“Wow, that’s really old,” Namseon deadpans. Seokjin just laughs awkwardly. Namjoon wants to melt into the floor.

Their mother is still putting Namjoon’s groceries away, making humming noises at everything she apparently thinks Namjoon doesn’t need, like bags of chips.

“Where’s Yoongi-oppa?” Namseon asks, glancing around the apartment like it will tell her.

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Out.” She looks a little disappointed at that. He would find it hilarious that his sister is suffering from the same awful crush on Min Yoongi that plagued him, years ago, but he’s too busy being horrified.

“Namjoon-ah, you should come home for dinner more often,” his mother sighs, finally finished with the chore that Namjoon never asked her to do. “You’re too skinny,” she says with a frown, looking him over sadly.

“I’m trying to keep him fed,” Seokjin offers with a little grin, making his mother and his sister look over at him (though his sister just looks suspicious again.) That’s all it takes for his mother to give Seokjin a real smile, ask him about cooking. She lights up when Seokjin says his own mother taught him when he was young, and Namjoon is thankful that Seokjin is so brilliant sometimes.

“So,” Namseon mutters under her breath, out of earshot of their mother. “New boyfriend, huh.”

“What?” Namjoon says, intends it to sound quietly amused, but instead it comes out a little too hurried and nervous and she just smirks at him. “Shut up,” he finishes with instead, sighing. Honestly, new boyfriend implies that there have been a list of others, a string of men he’s brought home to meet his family, which is unbelievably untrue. He’s only dated a handful of people in the last couple years, and none were in any way serious, but Namseon is good at snooping, nosy and with a passion for embarrassing Namjoon.

“He’s cute, though.” Namseon says, seemingly as some kind of conciliatory thought. “How do you get such cute boys to like you?”

“I really have no idea,” Namjoon says back honestly, looking over at where Seokjin is talking animatedly with his pretty smile.

“I’m so much prettier than you, and cute boys never like me,” Namseon sighs.

Namjoon looks at her with vague disgust. “First of all, anyone who doesn’t like you is an asshole. Second of all, don’t date anyone until you get out of high school.”

“I am seventeen, Namjoon, and you don’t get to —” Namseon argues, but her hushed little angry voice is cut off when they hear their mother laugh loudly. They both look over and just stare for a minute at how charmed she looks, both a little unsettled.

“Wow, he’s good,” Namseon mutters. Namjoon just nods with a smile, and Namseon makes a little scoffing noise. “Ugh, you really like him, don’t you? Gross.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says, catching Seokjin’s eye as he keeps smiling. “Really gross.”

Eventually Namjoon’s mother and sister have to leave, grabbing the shopping bags they set down when they came in, and Seokjin waves them off happily as Namjoon offers his mother a hug, her head only coming up to his chest. He hugs Namseon too, mussing up her hair, which she responds to by punching him hard in the stomach.

He exhales loudly when the door shuts, fighting the urge to collapse on the floor from stress. “I take it you don’t do that much,” Seokjin comments with a grin.

“The meeting the family thing?” Namjoon asks. Seokjin nods. “I don’t think I’ve ever done it.”

Seokjin gets a funny little amused look on his face at that, stepping forward to rub at Namjoon’s arm comfortingly. “Well, it was fine, right? No worries.”

“Yeah, it was fine,” Namjoon says with a nod. “You’re really…” He trails off with a grin at Seokjin.

“Charming? Handsome? Family-friendly?” Seokjin offers with a smirk, getting closer to Namjoon and putting an arm around his waist.

“Sure,” Namjoon says with a chuckle. “All of those.”

“Moms love me,” Seokjin tells him confidently. “She invited me to dinner at your house, you know.”

“Wow, that’s like...uh, too much, possibly,” Namjoon mutters apologetically, stressed just at the idea.

Seokjin nods. “Okay. Let me know when it isn’t.”

They’re standing pressed together in the entryway of Namjoon’s apartment, just smiling at each other, and it feels a little unreal. It’s been close to two months but it still feels a little unreal sometimes. They keep smiling at each other until Namjoon presses forward and kisses him, hands coming up to hold his jaw. “You’re so good at this,” Namjoon tells him when he pulls back.

“What, kissing?” Seokjin asks with a giggle.

Namjoon snorts. “No. Being, like...a boyfriend.”

Seokjin hums like he’s thinking. “No, I think I’m just good at liking you.”

“Not a very marketable skill,” Namjoon says, the corner of his mouth upturned.

“But at least I’m applying it in a very useful way,” Seokjin argues. He leans in and kisses Namjoon again in that purposeful way he has, always so sure of himself.

It’s nice, it’s all just really nice, and in the back of his head, he’s glad his family seems to like Seokjin. He’s never really wanted that before, but he thinks maybe this time he does, and that feels kind of special. Seokjin, pressed against him so sure, feels kind of special.

++

At Jimin’s spring dance recital, there are enough of them there that they end up just claiming an entire row of the audience. Technically, it’s Hoseok and Jeongguk’s recital too, but sitting next to Taehyung, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than Jimin’s. Taehyung is, of course, holding a giant bouquet of flowers in his lap, bouncing happily as the house lights start going down, and it’s cute. Everyone’s there, though; Seokjin is sitting on Namjoon’s other side, eating a candy bar he snuck into the theater like he’s twelve years old, and then it’s Yoongi, Seulgi, her new girlfriend (cupcake girl, who seems sweet), Amber and Soojung, Sooyoung, Yerim, and a few of Jeongguk’s friends that Seokjin seemed to be acquainted with. It’s kind of an absurd crowd, Namjoon thinks, but Seokjin thinks it’s sweet.

It’s a mix of things, the recital, with students from different years in groups doing different pieces; Hoseok is in one of the hip-hop performances (which Yoongi watches with rapt attention, Namjoon notices), Jeongguk is in a couple contemporary pieces, and Jimin has a lengthy solo in a ballet performance. They all do well, talent and hard work (really, really hard work) paying off, and Taehyung nearly barrels Jimin over after he emerges from backstage after the show, still in his tights with one of Taehyung’s giant cut up sweatshirts overtop. Jeongguk isn’t far behind, wiping sweat off his forehead with a towel and ducking out of the way as Taehyung’s hug finally tips both Jimin and Taehyung onto the floor, both of them laughing. Seokjin pulls Jeongguk in for what seems like a sweaty hug that Namjoon isn’t particularly envious of, and then Hoseok comes screaming out as well, shoved back into sweats instead of his performance clothes. They all go to congratulate him but Yoongi gets there first, pressing himself into Hoseok and kissing him hard. Amber and Seulgi whistle teasingly, but Yoongi doesn’t seem deterred as he pulls back to whisper in Hoseok’s ear.

“Let’s sleep in whichever apartment they aren’t in,” Seokjin mutters to Namjoon, who laughs easily.

They all filter around to each other and give congratulations, Namjoon hugging Jimin and telling him he did well. Hoseok and Jimin seem to shine under the praise, but Jeongguk looks a little shy and embarrassed at all of it, something that makes Seokjin pinch his cheek with a cutesy little noise.

“C’mon, go get changed so we can go out to dinner,” Amber aims at Jeongguk and Jimin.

“Or you could just keep wearing the tights,” Taehyung says automatically to Jimin. “I mean, just a suggestion.” Jimin laughs easily even as everyone else groans, stepping on his (well-practiced) tiptoes to kiss Taehyung’s cheek.

Their table at the barbecue restaurant is crowded, voices loud as they talk over one another, and Namjoon happily eats his noodles as Seokjin and Yoongi are put in charge of cooking the meat, passing portions down the table to everyone. It’s a little domestic, the din and familiarity between all of them, and Namjoon feels good tucked against Seokjin’s side, his hand slapping Namjoon’s leg whenever he laughs too hard, resting absentmindedly on Namjoon’s knee most of the time.

“You seem really happy, man,” Amber tells him in passing when they’re dividing the bill up, smiling at him kindly.

“Yeah,” Namjoon nods. “I think I am.”

He’s happy on the subway ride home, back to Seokjin’s apartment (they rock-paper-scissor Yoongi and Hoseok to decide who gets to go where — Seokjin and Hoseok’s apartment is closer to campus and more comfortable, so it’s the winner’s prize, and tonight Namjoon and Seokjin get lucky), where he goes on a little bit about a paper he’s writing for one of his sociology classes, Seokjin nodding and offering suggestions occasionally. He’s happy when they eat a late second dinner at midnight, standing around in the kitchen in their underwear to heat up snacks. He’s happy the next morning when he watches Seokjin shave in the mirror as he brushes his teeth, the funny faces Seokjin makes as he tries to get the patch of stubble he almost always misses.

“What do you want for breakfast?” Seokjin asks him when he’s finished, rinsing his razor off in the sink and toweling his face off.

“I don’t care,” Namjoon murmurs, stepping in close to bury his face in Seokjin’s neck, his arms wrapping around Seokjin’s narrow waist. “Anything.”

“Mm, okay,” Seokjin says back, and Namjoon can feel the buzz of the words through Seokjin’s chest. “Not very helpful, but I like you anyway.”

The words make Namjoon feel warm, and he smiles against the skin of Seokjin’s neck. “Yeah.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin says back, pulling away from Namjoon and dragging him by the hand into the kitchen, where Namjoon sits and watches the broad line of Seokjin’s back while he cooks, like always. If Namjoon ever stumbled on a way to freeze himself in one moment of time, it’s here and now, Seokjin doing a weird little dance to a song on the radio, looking over his shoulder to aim his squeaky laugh at Namjoon.

“Come on, you gotta dance,” Seokjin insists, pulling him away from the counter, and Namjoon complies, pulling weird faces as he moves, making Seokjin laugh harder.

Namjoon is starting to come to terms, he thinks, with the fact that he kind of always wants this. It’s scary, a feeling he’s never really had to confront before, but in the glow of Seokjin’s laughter it seems manageable.

“God, you’re so talented,” Seokjin manages through his laughter, slumped over into Namjoon.

“Yeah, I’ve trained for years,” he says back through a laugh of his own.

“So impressive,” Seokjin giggles before kissing him on the cheek.

Namjoon feels his own heart beating fast, happy and a little lovesick, and he kisses Seokjin softly. “Mhm.”

Seokjin gives him a little look, like maybe he can tell, like maybe Namjoon’s eyes have turned into real cartoon hearts, but he just keeps smiling, and Namjoon is sure that he wants to live in this space, in Seokjin’s grin, in mornings spent in Seokjin’s kitchen.

“You keep looking at me weird today,” Seokjin says when he goes back to cooking, fixing Namjoon with an intrigued look.

Namjoon feels himself go pink. “I’m just happy, hyung.”

“Oh, just that,” Seokjin says, a grin spreading on his face. “Me too.” He tells him, quiet like it’s a secret.

Other things hang in the air between them, more serious things, heavy words they haven’t said out loud yet and aren’t going to now, but they’re there, and it feels okay. It feels good, even. And Namjoon keeps smiling, and Seokjin just keeps smiling back.