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i'm lost (in the same place waiting for you to hold my hand)

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namjoon’s not an impulsive person.

he likes his calendars and itinerary journals.

he doesn’t know if it’s because he simply doesn’t like surprises and feeling out of the loop or just likes the feeling of having everything in order. he supposes those come hand-in-hand but as he stares at the people lined up on the opposite platform like store items on shelves, he realizes he doesn’t want to be here, waiting for the train to work. his sudden nerves make him jittery, head swiveling left and right, unexpectedly waiting for something to happen.

but nothing happens. nothing ever happens.

everything’s just trapped in a circle and life just orbits around regularity.

inexplicably, namjoon ditches work. which he hasn’t done in- ever. he’s never skipped work. skipping work has never been part of the itinerary.

but as he backtracks and sprints down the stairs, watching swarms of people walk by him in the opposite direction he just came from, he feels fire in his legs and a loud, excited humming in his brain. his car! he could take his car and ride away from it all, even for just a little while- but then gas costs money, namjoon, his subconscious tells him so he immediately opts out. instead, he clumsily makes his way to platform nine and takes the train down to busan, squeezing in between the doors before they slide shut. an old woman regards him with curiosity as he bends over, hands on his knees as he pants harshly in an attempt to regulate his breathing.

he feels around his trouser pockets for his phone. “hey, donghyuk? it’s namjoon, yeah.” he injects as much helplessness into his tone as he possibly could. “yeah, hey, i’m afraid i can’t come to my lectures today, could you do me a favor and tell the headmistress?...no, no, it’s nothing big, i just don’t feel too well. must have been yesterday’s dinner...get seokjin to substitute for me, will you? he knows how my syllabus works- yeah, thanks, will do. thanks a million.”

he hangs up, before switching his phone off. the best part of running away is disconnection.

there’s an empty seat next to the woman from earlier and he occupies it. as soon as his thighs hit the edge of the seat, she leans over to whisper in his ear, almost conspiratorially.

“what’s wrong, son?”

“um, oh. nothing. nothing, really.”

she doesn’t seem to believe namjoon’s answer because in the next second, she squints her eyes, purses her lips in puzzlement. “you look like you shouldn’t be going in this direction.” she points a wrinkled finger at his briefcase. “strong job like that, you would have moved to busan already. three hours is a commute no one is willing to do on the daily- i know i wouldn’t.” her gaze turns more calculated but there’s a smidge of concern in the corners of her eyes. “so, tell me, son. where you really headed?”

he gives up. though he supposes he wasn’t putting up much of an internal fight. “i- i don’t know.”

“well, there we go.” he startles when she suddenly smiles. “there’s the honest answer i was waiting for.”

she quiets for the rest of the journey and namjoon reclines in his seat and stares out the window.

it’s white, nothing but pure, unobstructed white and he’s starting to see himself in the mist, in the reflection of the window. his tie is crooked, bags under his eyes more prominent in the white background behind the glass and he’s starting to see his likeness morph into one that resembles something more a ragged man than a man who loves his job and makes a good sum of money.

namjoon wonders why it’s come down to this- him running down to busan.

it’s fucking freezing in haeundae. the beach in february- stellar idea, namjoon . but as he looks around the blue horizon, the fog, the sand void of any footprints except his, he takes himself to be an innovator.

he sits on a patch of damp sand by a fence wrapped around the perimeter of the beach, trench coat blocking the mild breezes, takes out his moleskine, takes out a pen and starts to write. it’s nothing coherent, and he’d ditched the words a short while ago to scribble abstract circles and odd shapes next to verses and one-liners, but he regards it as a job well done, the first writing he’s been satisfied with in a while. there’s a seagull next to him and namjoon draws it, too. the bird gives him a loud squawk before taking flight and once again, namjoon finds himself alone.

until his eyes catch a sharp silhouette wrapped in a large coat, crouched by the edge of the water and dipping fingers into freezing water. he watches them, broad contrast of bright green hair against the blue gradient of the waves and the black of the woolen scarf wrapped around their neck. namjoon’s fingers itch to wrap around his pen.

the man stands, twisting his head side-to-side, seemingly watching out for bystanders before he turns back to the horizon. namjoon watches him take a deep breath before letting out a loud scream. it’s gravelly, deep and baritone and filled with such heavy despair that hearing it makes namjoon’s veins squeeze themselves tight and his head blanks over. it’s the pained sound you bottle up inside you and his empathetic heart hurts at the sound.

it’s short-lived, the green-haired man rapidly running out of breath and he inhales deeply, before squatting again. namjoon sees his shoulders shake madly, head leaning against the knobs of his knees and arms wrapped around his shins. namjoon wonders if he should stand and lend a comforting hand to this stranger but then he remembers that he can barely initiate eye contact with strangers on the train without ducking his head out of anxiety first so he keeps still, leans against the fence. he stays that way for a while, just watching the stranger cry (or laugh. shaking shoulders can be taken in either content, namjoon supposes) before he pushes himself up, packs his things back into his briefcase and leaves the stranger alone to himself and his thoughts.

namjoon stops by an art store he comes across- sandwiched by a diner and a florist- purchasing quite a large pack of markers to satisfy his itch, only interested in all the different shades of green and blue, before jumping to the diner next door.

a girl in a ponytail comes to the booth he occupies and asks for his order. he asks for a coffee and she silently nods, walking away with her hands shoved in the pockets of her pink apron. namjoon likes the apron. it brightens up the place and makes her look younger. he takes a quick second to flip to an empty page, sketching her and her ponytail and her apron, bright pink marker filling in the lines. he keeps the background of the diner as monotone as it feels for a sense of verity.

the bell of the shop chimes and namjoon lifts his head up at the sound that tinkles around the bare walls. it’s the same green hair from earlier and namjoon bows his head, a light flush filling his cheeks. namjoon startles at the warmth. you’re almost thirty , namjoon reminds himself. don’t blush like a twelve-year-old . the stranger slides into the booth two tables away from namjoon’s, facing him. namjoon keeps his head down and continues to color in the waves.

he hears pink apron walk over to his booth. “and what will you have today?”

namjoon hears him clear his throat harshly, probably rough from his pleas to the heavens earlier, he supposes. “just a coffee. the darkest you have, please. thank you.”

namjoon caps the darkest blue, fingers reaching towards the greens. he hesitates before sneaking a glance- just a small one. it’s grass green at the roots, fading into soft mint, blonde undercut. he catches the slight tinges of blue at the tips of his fringe and namjoon all mentally takes these colors into account, ingraining the image of the man into his head. he uncaps the first green marker and starts to delicately fill in between his pencil lines.

“your coffee.” the girl places his mug in front of him, amidst the marker scattered around the marble table. namjoon gives her a thankful smile. he grips the mug in one hand and takes small sips, then larger ones, the smooth burn of the liquid going down his throat making him feel oddly more at peace. before he knows it, the mug’s finished but he hasn’t fully colored in the blue tinges on the tips of the stranger’s fringe. namjoon frowns at the unfinished coloring. thinking he can finish it on the train, he leaves the diner.

he doesn’t get the chance to, however, because the stranger’s there, too. he’s sat by the back of the car, the green-haired man plopping down onto the seat opposite his, facing him. namjoon thinks it’s some sort of twist of fate and it would seem rather odd to be sketching a man a skipping stone away from his seat, so he tucks his moleskine back into his briefcase, forgets the drawing for a while. he gives the man a small, tentative smile when their eyes meet. he gets one in return.

“hi.”

namjoon doubts his ears. “...i- i’m sorry?”

“i just said ‘hi’.” the man waves a loose hand in the air, chuckling lightly.

“oh,” namjoon breathes, “hello, hi.” it’s slightly surreal. namjoon wills his cheeks to stay cool.

“you look a lost sheep. how far’s your stop?” the stranger asks, leaning his temple against the glass and blinking at namjoon.

namjon stops. where is he going? fuck knows, honestly . he’d climbed the platform heading back to seoul with hesitant steps, not wanting to succumb to the fact that he’s going to have to go back to his circle of normalcy. “i’m not sure yet. seoul, probably.” in the end, though, namjoon supposes he always has to go back to the circle.

the stranger’s eyebrows rise. “well, that’s impulsive. getting on a train with no definite stop to end at.” he gives namjoon another smile. “‘m headed for seoul, too. i’ve been away a while and the city misses me.”

“uh, yeah,” namjoon answers, scratching the name of his neck, “today’s kinda void of any plans.”

“i can tell that’s really different from how you usually are,” the man observes. he points at his leather briefcase. “businessman with no plans. you look almost suffocated by the freedom of choices you could make.”

“i’m not a businessman today- or any day, really. i’m a literature teacher, actually, but today, i’m just me. i’m just- just me.”

a wider grin, looking pleasantly surprised with namjoon’s answer that namjoon feels proud of himself. he offers a hand to namjoon, pale skin coming out his coat sleeves. “i’m yoongi. who are you?”

namjoon takes his hand in his own. the contrast in their skin colors intrigues him, yoongi’s pale white and veiny hand and namjoon’s tanned and bony knuckles. “oh, i- uh. i’m namjoon.” he gives yoongi’s hand a light shake before the latter lets him go. he slightly mourns the brief warmth yoongi’s skin gave him.

he receives a head tilt and curious eyes. “that sounds… oddly familiar. you look familiar, too... have we met before, perhaps?... have you ever shopped at living inc.? by namdaemun-ro?”

namjoon’s eyes light up. “yeah, yeah- coincidentally, i have. it’s practically my home.”

yoongi jumps in his seat. “i knew it! i knew i’ve seen you around before.” his eyes are lit with recognition and amusement and namjoon finds it endearing. “i work there- the owner’s pretty soft on me since i’ve practically been living there since i was eighteen.”

namjoon cocks his head to the side, gives yoongi a somewhat odd look. “would have been hard to forget green hair like that, i’m not sure-”

“oh, it-” yoongi gestures to the unruly, green mop on his head, “it changes a lot, the color. this time it’s green revolution. cool name, huh? last month, it was blue ruin.” he lets out a contemplative hum. “maybe i’ll go back to pink next time.” it’s spoken more to himself than to namjoon.

namjoon supposes it all sounds a bit pretentious and wannabe rebellious but he believes in it, finds yoongi too intriguing and too attractive that he’s willing to overlook that fact. “pink.” namjoon sees it. “i see it,” he say outloud, giving yoongi a quirk of his lips.

yoongi chuckles. “stop by living inc. and you’ll see it up close and personal.” his lips turn upwards, grin reaching his eyes. “i’ll be waiting.”

 

 

 

“hey. yoongi.” namjoon leans in closer to the open window, gearshift digging into his ribs. “yoongi!” the man finally looks in his direction after swiveling his head left and right, lips immediately splitting into a soft smile when he makes eye contact with namjoon. “do you want a ride?”

“you’re not attempting to stalk me are you? we just got off the same train ten minutes ago, surely you couldn’t have missed me that much already.” yoongi laughs. namjoon shakes his head, fingers crossing his heart. yoongi stops on the sidewalk, shifting from foot to foot as he shrugs his backstrap higher. he looks at namjoon with a contemplative gaze, eyebrows drawn together, before, “yeah, alright. it’s a tad bit too frosty for me, anyway.”

yoongi walks towards his car, namjoon unlocking and pushing open the passenger door. yoongi slips into the seat with a deep, thankful sigh, shivers wracking through his body. namjoon turns the heater up as yoongi mumbles his address. they ride in silence for the most part, sauf the hum of the engine and namjoon changing gears, yoongi settling comfortably into the shitty leather of namjoon’s car, legs pulled up to his chest and arms wrapped around the tops of his knees.

“why literature?”

namjoon lets out a quizzical hum, eyes not leaving the dark road.

“you told me earlier that you work as a literature teacher. why?” yoongi asks him. his voice is lazy, tired. namjoon glances sideways and finds his eyes closed.

“i like literature,” is what namjoon simply replies with.

yoongi lets out a soft snort. “literature is filled with nothing but lies, namjoon. don’t fool yourself into thinking that anything you read in books can be real.”

namjoon laughs, “i know, yoongi. that’s why i like literature- because nothing’s real but i can pretend that they are and entertain myself with it.” he turns left into mapo-daero and yoongi directs him to take the second right. “and what do you do?” he asks over the sound of heater whirring.

in his peripherals, he sees yoongi sit up straighter, twists his head to the side to look at namjoon’s profile. “i make music. work for a label.”

“anything i might have heard before?”

yoongi chuckles. “not unless you take regular visits to the underground.”

“you sing underground?”

yoongi laughs louder. “i can’t sing for shit, namjoon. no, no, i rap.” he reaches a hand out to tap namjoon’s forearm. “turn left here. third building on the right.”

namjoon follows the order, turning left and counting the buildings on the right. he stops in front of a brown building with a fence surrounding the area. namjoon looks around the dark neighborhood before turning to face yoongi. he’s looking at namjoon with an almost calculated look, eyes narrowed into slits and lips pursed. the light from the lamppost behind namjoon reflects in his pupils and namjoon’s eyes flit up and down from yoongi’s eyes to his lips, eyes to lips. he’s about to ask what the matter for the silence is but yoongi’s voice beats him to the race.

“do you want to come upstairs?” yoongi whispers.

namjoon startles, grip on the steering wheel tightening. upstairs. upstairs? with yoongi? his knuckles turn white. he looks straight at yoongi, mind whirring. yoongi seems to taste namjoon’s shock on his tongue and stutters.

“for a drink, i meant- i have a lot of drinks and not many people to drink it with- no one, really- so, i thought-” his mind seems to catch up with his mouth and it snaps shut. “you know what, nevermind, nevermind- i’m sorry i asked,” yoongi backtracks, grabbing his bag, unbuckling his seatbelt before opening the passenger door, stepping out with hurried steps. namjoon wants to latch onto his coat but his hands are frozen on the steering wheel despite the heater and he can’t move a single muscle. yoongi slams the door shut before turning around, giving namjoon a hesitant wave. namjoon motionlessly watches him make his way inside.

it takes his frozen brain cells a good second, a good thousand milliseconds to realize- to realize yoongi’s the big something he’s been waiting to happen in his circle. to realize he’d be a fucking idiot to simply let him go like this and the way namjoon sees it, he has two options: stay in his orbit and die of cripplingly miserable solitude or bump his circle with yoongi’s and orbit around him instead.

he makes his decision.

“-yoongi, wait- hold up-”

 

 

 

“so, take your pick,” yoongi mutters, leaning against the frame of his kitchen door and giving namjoon a slight quirk of his lips. namjoon sinks further into the couch cushions. they’re old, in a shabbily comfortable way and namjoon gladly lets them consume him, running his hands along the seams. “i have wine- from the lightest to the strongest, i’ve got them all- i have a lot vodka, brandy, too much whiskey and rum.” yoongi grins. “or if you’re feeling a little younger, i can make you a screwdriver.”

namjoon laughs. “i heard you say strong wine. what do you have?”

“pinot noir, mostly- but if you want to go hardcore and drink your ass off, i’ve got some vermouth stashed under my mattress. there’s probably enough for the both of us.”

“under your-”

yoongi waves a hand in the air to brush it off. “for the late night crises- so, noir or vermouth?”

namjoon grins. “hit me with that vermouth.”

yoongi nods before disappearing into the hall, coming out of a room with a bottle in hand. he enters the kitchen with a small chuckle at the slightly astonished look on namjoon’s face. namjoon hears the clink of glass and a minute later, yoongi is waddling back out with glasses balanced in one hand and the tall, green bottle in the other. he dumps them carefully on his coffee table before grabbing one glass, pouring a copious amount of wine, handing it to namjoon with a smirk. he pours his own glass before raising it in the air.

“this wine is to make the seduction process less awkward, really,” he mumbles against the rim of the bowl, raising an eyebrow at namjoon before taking a long sip. “what a better catalyst than some extra-dry vermouth.”

namjoon’s stops himself from taking a sip, the glass sitting unmoving on his lips. seduction . yoongi’s seduction. namjoon hasn’t had a taste of that since jackson and that had been long ago- too long ago that namjoon doesn’t even remember how it goes anymore. his fingers grip the stem of the glass tighter- he worries for a split second that it might snap in his hands and lessens the pressure- before he takes a tentative sip, the taste of dry wine invading his tongue and swirling down his throat. he takes another sip, and then another, and then another until he finds himself with his hand laced with yoongi’s and a head of mint on his lap, his mind only about three-quarters coherent.

yoongi’s knocking back comments about whales and photosynthesis and random crap that pops into the tipsy forefront of his mind- namjoon marvels at his absolutely incoherent thought process- glass precariously balanced on a raised knee, before he changes gears and suddenly starts letting comments about namjoon slip through his tipsy lips.

“i think you’re beautiful, namjoon,” yoongi mutters, eyes closed and fingers feeling the ridges of namjoon’s knuckles. the pads of his fingertips are coarse and they tickle namjoon. “the second i saw you at the beach, i thought you were the most beautiful person i’ve ever laid eyes on. i don’t think you even noticed the fact that i noticed you but i was glad you didn’t. would have seen me with my mouth open and slight drool on the corner of my lips.”

namjoon snorts, raising their joint hands to place a soft kiss on their interlaced knuckles, yoongi’s bony ridges digging into his lips. “is that you talking or the vermouth?”

“i don’t know, i can’t tell right now,” yoongi sighs, “i hope it’s not the vermouth. i’m sorry if it is the vermouth.”

he hums a sad note against yoongi’s cold skin. me too , he thinks.

namjoon’s fingers burn with the memory of sketching yoongi by the beach, his woolen scarf, his green hair, coloring in the green strands with green markers, topping his fringe with blue hues. he glances at his briefcase by yoongi’s foyer. he wants to tell yoongi that he, too, thought the same thing when he first saw yoongi by the waters but before he has the chance to, yoongi’s speaking again.

“i want you to kiss me,” yoongi mumbles, words lazy and slurring. he opens his eyes to blink up at him, eyelashes sitting heavy. “namjoon, i want you to kiss me but i’ve had too much vermouth so, no, i don’t want you to kiss me.”

kiss. kiss? kiss. namjoon’s mouth goes dry and his tongue feels too thick and too heavy in his mouth and he finds it hard to swallow. “it- it’s alright, i suppose. we both taste like vermouth, anyway. it wouldn’t matter.”

“no, no, no.” yoongi shakes his head and namjoon’s heart drops at the gesture before it lifts again as yoongi continues to speak. “it’s not a matter of tasting like dry wine- i don’t mind tasting vermouth on your lips. it’s the matter of remembering. i want to remember how your lips feel against mine and how your tongue feels inside my mouth- don’t want to have to experience it when i’m drunk and have no recollections- no, no, no, not how i want this night to go.”

then why did you bring out the entire bottle , namjoon thinks before somewhat sullenly gulping down another large mouthful. he swallows harshly before detaching his fingers from yoongi’s grasp, setting his glass down onto the coffee table. yoongi sits up when he attempts to move.

“where you going?”

“i- i gotta go,” namjoon mutters, standing up and patting his pockets, making sure his phone and wallet are still lodged inside, his briefcase sits by the foot of yoongi’s couch. “i have to go to work in the morning. i have classes.” back to the circle , namjoon thinks bitterly.

“wait, namjoon, wait- hold on-” yoongi rushes, and namjoon turns to find him with a hand rummaging through a drawer in the coffee table. “-just hold on.” he seems to find what he’s looking for, clumsily bounding over to namjoon by the foyer, briefcase in hand and feet having been haphazardly shoved into shoes. he reaches a hand out, takes namjoon’s wrist. “will you call me?” namjoon nods dumbly. as if he’d be mental enough not to. “i’d really love it if you called me.”

again, namjoon wonders if it’s yoongi or the vermouth. “i will, i’ll call you,” namjoon whispers his promise anyway.

yoongi smiles before scribbling digits down onto the back of namjoon’s hand. when he finishes, his hand rises to cup namjoon’s cheek, giving it a soft pat before heading back to the couch. he falls with a loud sigh.

“shut the door tightly when you leave, will you?”

 

 

 

namjoon shuts the door with a light kick, dropping his coat on the coathanger before slipping his shoes off. rapmon by the door gives him a soft bark in greeting and he bends at the waist to give the dog a tired pet on the head before trudging to his living room. he falls on the floor with a soft thud, face in his carpet. he eyes the phone by the stand.

does he want this? he has an inkling feeling that once he starts something with yoongi, it’s never going to end. even if it does, namjoon thinks he wouldn’t ever forget. yoongi’s too big of a galaxy.

he crawls towards the stand and raises a hand, probes around the surface of the wood before his hands come across cold plastic. he brings the phone down, lies on his back with the phone on his chest, the cord wrapping around his arm. yoongi’s scrawl on the back of his palm is barely legible but he tries his best. he juggles the phone between both hands, psyching himself up. it’s going to be yoongi . yoongi’s going to answer the phone and not think he’s too eager for calling as soon as his feet touched the floorboard of his foyer. yoongi won’t. he calls.

it rings once then a deafening click. “what took you so long?” there’s faux annoyance in his voice and namjoon smiles a small smile at the sound.

he lets out an inaudible sigh. “i just got home.”

“mhm, sure.” even through the receiver, namjoon can hear yoongi’s smirk. “miss me already?”

“you know i do,” he answers, curling into himself, legs folded against his chest, keeping yoongi’s voice close. he closes his eyes. wishes he was still next to yoongi instead of having cowered out and running home. he makes a mental note to retrieve his car from the alley near yoongi’s apartment.

“is that an ‘i do’ i hear?” yoongi laughs. “that’s it- we’re married. namjoon, you are never going to escape from my grasp and i won’t even have the thought of running away from you. we’re married.”

a slow grin spreads across namjoon’s face. “alright. we’re married.”

 

 

 

yoongi takes him to back to haeundae the next weekend, thursday night. something about visiting their roots. namjoon doesn’t understand but doesn’t dare protest- not when yoongi’s smile reaches his ears and his eyes are crescent-shaped and all of this is directed at namjoon and only namjoon. he holds yoongi’s hand as the train speeds south through the darkness, thumbing circles onto the side of knuckles.

“why busan?” namjoon asks him.

yoongi swivels his head to the side and blinks at namjoon. he lets out a quizzical hum.

“why were you at haeundae when we first met?” he repeats.

“oh, that. well, i’ve been going to haeundae ever since i was little and my father used to take me on his runaways from daegu and my mother.” he gives namjoon a wry smile. “he’d sit in his hotel with his mistress and i’d walk to haeundae by myself. i was there as an excuse but i took as an opportunity to befriend the ocean. now, it’s like my home. that, and the fact that daegu has no beaches.”

“daegu?”

“where i’m from.” so, that’s the accent. yoongi squeezes his hand. “what about you? why were you at haeundae?”

namjoon gives him a light hearted shrug. “was just looking for something new. was tired of being in the same place, seeing the same people, doing the same mundane routine. wanted something new, something unexpected, just… something , so i jumped straight to busan when i had my little epiphany on the train platform. made my way to the sea without a second thought.” his answer gains him a wide smile form yoongi. another squeeze of his hand.

“well, you found me,” he laughs loudly, “something new, something unexpected- fuck if that’s not me.”

namjoon chuckles. “that i did.”

the smile on his face doesn’t fade even as they step off the train, onto the platform out the station. they take a taxi to the sea. it’s still fucking freezing, haeundae, even more so now it’s late and the moon’s out in full force, but yoongi’s hand in his is slightly less colder and his erratic heartbeat and pulse keeps him warm. the wind licks at their cheeks and rustles their coats but it only serves to make them huddle closer to each other so namjoon silently thanks the gusts for their company. in the moonlight, yoongi’s cheeks are pink and his lips are parted, ghosts wafting out from between his teeth.

the warmth from his hand is suddenly ripped out and yoongi runs ahead, laughter tinkling. namjoon runs to catch him but yoongi suddenly dives, rolls to lie on his back. namjoon stands above him, watching with a smile.

“sand angels,” yoongi murmurs as he spreads his limbs wide, sweeping the sand around him. namjoon chuckles. “come on, join me.”

namjoon doesn’t hesitate to do so, dropping down onto the slightly damp sand, next to yoongi. he spreads his arms wide and makes his own angels. yoongi leans himself up on his elbows to watch. “beautiful,” he whispers, smiling down at him, all fond, all soft. namjoon’s limbs halt and his cheeks flush. yoongi somehow finds it all the more endearing and waddles closer to him, lays down on top of him. namjoon wraps his arms around yoongi.

the sound of the waves almost lull him into a drowsy state but he doesn’t dare close his eyes, not when yoongi’s cheeks are pressed against his chest and he’s gazing at namjoon’s face like he hung the stars in the sky. namjoon counts the constellations he can trace on the skin of yoongi’s cheeks.

“namjoon,” yoongi mumbles.

he hums.

“my lips are freezing.”

namjoon grins. “and what will you have me do with that?”

yoongi whines, “namjoon, they’re freezing-”

namjoon kisses him first, without the vermouth, but now with the guaranteed memories.

his lips move against yoongi’s in slow waves, like the ones washing over the sand next to them, yoongi’s warmth the only thing keeping him sane. he brings a hand from yoongi’s waist up to his neck, holds him closer so he can deepen the kiss. the noises yoongi make against his lips make him sigh, make him let out small, bewildered exhales, because he can’t quite believe what he’s feeling inside his chest and yoongi’s muttering small, breathy, ‘ yes yes yes ’s and he can’t think. so he just lets himself go, lets himself do instead of think and holds yoongi tighter. the pads of yoongi’s fingertips are tracing his jaw, his cheeks, his temple, his neck, leaves fire in his trails and doesn’t let go of namjoon’s lips.

namjoon pulls away first. he gulps down lungfuls of air. “fuck-i almost passed out.”

yoongi lets out a breathy laugh, warmth washing over his chin. “almost sucked my soul out.” he holds namjoon’s jaw in his hands and places small pecks on his swollen lips.

namjoon takes it all in, breathing in the salt of the sea and yoongi. he opens his eyes, yoongi watching him with his lips still resting on namjoon’s. not kissing anymore. just resting there. as if feeling namjoon was all he wanted. namjoon goes a bit cross-eyed trying to look yoongi in the eyes but the emotion he catches in his irises makes him pull him back in, another deep kiss for the moon to see.

“i could die right now, yoongi,” he mumbles against his lips. “i’m so happy i could die. i’m exactly where i wanted to be. god, you have no idea- i’ve never felt like this before in my entire life.”

“am i the change you’ve been waiting for?” yoongi mumbles back, inquiring but awed.

“you are,” namjoon nods, eyes closing. “you’re the star i’ve been waiting to crash into.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

namjoon relives everything in slow motion.

all the fragments, building themselves up before crashing back down, rising higher with each rebuild.

the pattern repeats in namjoon’s brain.

all in slow motion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"if, by any chance, i wanted to get them back, would i be able to?"

a laugh- it’s cruel. sounds almost mocking. "no, namjoon. you'd never get them back. that's not how it works."

"so, once they're gone, they're gone forever?"

"mhm, precisely."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“now, what lacuna inc. provides, mr. kim, is partial or complete deletion.” mierzwiak adjusts his specs before continuing. “we can take out certain things or just wipe the slate clean. which one would you prefer-”

namjoon doesn’t hesitate. “complete.” yoongi had done the same, didn’t he? “i want him completely erased from my memories. everything i just told you- the beach, the liquor, the train rides, the cafe- i want it all gone. i want it all erased. everything. please.” he pretends his voice doesn’t break at the last word and lowers his gaze to the shiny wood of mierzwiak’s desk.

he doesn’t want to have to wake up one day and remember the way yoongi sings when he makes toast. he doesn’t want to wake up and remember the way yoongi sways from left to right while he brushes his teeth. he doesn’t want to wake up and remember the way yoongi would walk around his apartment in his boxers with only a blanket around his upper-body. he doesn’t want to wake up and remember the way yoongi would lay on his chest every morning and peck his face until he wakes up. he doesn’t want to remember the way yoongi looks next to him in bed. he doesn’t want to remember the way yoongi used to look at him like he was the only thing he was holding onto to.

he doesn’t want to remember any of it.

mierzwiak nods understandingly. “alright. well, mr. kim, do you remember the exact day when everything went wrong?” his tone is somber but namjoon detects the practiced compassion.

he clears his throat. “uh, yeah. it was a friday. i was sitting by the dining table writing when yoongi came home- drunk. he was very drunk. everything he said was slurred. it was past four in the morning and he’d flopped down onto the couch and told me he wrecked my car.”

“i assume that an argument unfolded between the two of you after he came home?”

namjoon nods. “i asked him why he thought it was okay to be home at that hour. he said i was his boyfriend and not his- not his ‘ keeper ’, so he said i had no right to be that angry. how could i not be angry? he comes in smelling like three different types of liquor and then proceeds to tell me that he drove my car on the way home and wrecked it. he could have hurt other people on the road- he could have-” he swallows, “-he could have hurt himself. i could have lost him and yet, he decided i still had no right to be infuriated.”

mierzwiak nods slowly, scribbling something down onto namjoon’s records.

“i blew up, we said a few hurtful things to each other- admittedly, my words hurt more- and then he packed up his things into a duffle bag and left.”

“and then mr. min came looking for our services,” mierzwiak continues for him, namjoon nodding. “who showed you the card, mr. kim?”

“the card?- oh . oh, the card. it was taehyung. he’s legally listed as my next of kin so he was the one who got the card.”

“and how did it make you feel?”

namjoon lets out a dry laugh. mierzwiak scribbles something down. “how did it feel to find out that yoongi had me erased from his memories?” he chokes. “well. the whole thing was definitely a surprise but it was such a yoongi thing to do that it didn’t shock me as much that he’d have the nerve to do something like delete me from his memories. i felt defeated, discarded- like a cup he’d disposed of after drinking from it. that’s how i felt.”

mierzwiak nods, looking up at him with furrowed eyebrows. “what we need you to do now, mr. kim, is to empty your house of yoongi. any papers, photos, memorabilia that have even an inch of an association with mr. min. we want those placed into a big bag and we want you to take those to us on your next appointment.”

“what are you doing to do with those objects?”

“well, first we’re going to test how you react to them, see the different activities they evoke in your brain, create a mind map. afterwards, we’re going to dispose of those objects, dispose of your memories of yoongi. that way, when you wake up, you’ll find yourself with a whole new life waiting ahead of you, ready to be embarked on- without yoongi.”

 

 

 

namjoon kicks the door shut, slipping his shoes off by the closet in the foyer, dragging himself to seokjin’s living room with a dejected sigh. seokjin’s in his arm chair, book on perched on a raised knee. taehyung’s on the floor by his feet, sprawled on his back with his phone clutched in both hands. they simultaneously look up at the sound of the door opening and closing.

“hyung.” taehyung greets him with a smile. namjoon gives him a blank stare. in a split second, taehyung sits up, concerned. “what’s wrong?”

“i-” namjoon flops onto the floor next to taehyung, face-down into the carpet. “i went to living inc. today- to see yoongi. wanted to give him his valentine’s day present. looked like he saw a ghost when he looked at me.” he lets out a small, defeated groan. “and there was this guy- god, this guy - he was there at the counter, but i couldn’t see his face. sitting on a stool next to yoongi with his arms around him like he was so afraid of letting him go. yoongi kept cooing at him- ‘ jimin ’ and ‘ baby boy ’ and- god, it was so sickening- and this ‘jimin’ , he kissed yoongi! right in front of me! and yoongi kissed him back! like i wasn’t standing there in front of him, gaping like a fucking fish-”

“-namjoon, you have to understand that you and yoongi aren’t together anymore. he’s allowed to kiss other people.” his voice isn’t unkind but his words poke at namjoon like a thousand tiny needles. seokjin shuts the book in his hands. he gives him a grunt. namjoon takes it as a sound of admonition. “and what did we tell you? you should have known better than to go to the record store. you set yourself up for more pain by doing that.”

“i know, i know, you told me to move on,” namjoon sighs, fists curling tight as he stops his tears from falling. “but the way he looked at me- it was like we never even happened. it was like i was just another stranger to him asking him about a missing record in the indie rock aisle- and that guy! he had black hair and- what is it?” he turns to see the two engaging in furious whispering, taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed in anger and frustration. seokjin is shaking his head vehemently.

“what? what is it? what’s wrong?”

“listen, hyung,” taehyung starts but before he can continue further, seokjin pulls him back by his forearms.

“no, taehyung, we said we wouldn’t,” seokjin insists, “mierzwiak said it was imperative that we don’t tell him about it while- taehyung, you said you wouldn’t tell him until it was time-”

“tell me what-”

taehyung bursts. “seokjin, i don’t know if we’re seeing the same thing right now, but he’s hurting so fucking much that he looks like he’s on the verge of pitching himself into the han river. yoongi already hurt him months ago, but this aftermath, its- it’s hurting him even more and how can he truly move on if he’s stuck circling around a matter he doesn’t even know an inch about? we need to tell him because he deserves to know- he needs to know. i don’t care what lacuna thinks.”

at this, namjoon sits up. “what don’t i know?” he looks up, bewildered, between taehyung and seokjin. “is anyone going to enlighten me or are both of you just going to continue being vague assholes?”

“hold on.” the youngest sticks a hand into the drawer next to the armchair, fingers reaching in deep. he comes up blank. taehyung glances at seokjin. “where’s the fucking card, jin? where did you put it?”

seokjin seems to give up on telling taehyung what to do and simply sighs. “in the bedroom. sock drawer.”

taehyung stands, walks down the hall and disappears into their room. namjoon is left with a dejected seokjin, sighing deeply in random intervals. namjoon wants to ask but it doesn’t seem like seokjin will tell, with the way his lips are pursed tightly and he seems a breeze away from exploding in namjoon’s face. taehyung comes back with an envelope in hand.

“what’s this?”

“it’s a card, came in the mail a week or so ago.” taehyung places himself on seokjin’s lap, the older man’s arms wrapping around him despite his simmering frustration. the strings of namjoon’s heart tighten at the scene. “it’s from lacuna inc.

“‘ lacuna ’? what the hell is that?” namjoon echoes quizzically, eyebrows pinched. he extends his hand to grab the envelope pinched between taehyung’s outstretched fingers. the paper is rough. the front, printed in intimidatingly dark, block letters, says: ‘ lacuna incorporated ’. namjoon’s heart inexplicably drops to the bottom of his stomach. he guesses it’s the strange feeling of foreboding. “taehyung, what-”

“just open the card, hyung,” taehyung mumbles, settling back against seokjin. he doesn’t sound frustrated. just rather anxious for the storm about to blow. “it- it explains everything.”

namjoon nods dumbly. his fingers lift the flap of the envelope, thumb reaching in to slide the card out. it’s plain white. smooth paper against the pad of namjoon’s thumb. he braces himself.

“min yoongi has had kim namjoon erased from his memories. please never mention their relationship to him ever again.

mierzwiak, lacuna inc.”

okay.

erased.

this is okay.

erased.

this is fine. he’s fine. namjoon’s fine. he’s-

“okay,” namjoon exhales slowly. his eyes are stuck on one word. “okay… wow.”

erased from his memories.

in his peripherals, he sees taehyung and seokjin simultaneously wince. namjoon places the card back into the envelope and shoves it inside his front pocket. his hands are shaking and his palms are sweaty and the room suddenly looks too small and too dark and too much like a place he doesn’t want to be in right now. his heart is beating too loudly and his ears are ringing with the sound of his blood rushing too fast, too quick in his veins and-

“this is a hoax,” he whispers. “an elaborate one, i’ll admit, but a hoax nonetheless.”

“no, namjoon, no,” seokjin responds. his tone sounds soothing and it irritates namjoon to his core. “it’s not a hoax.”

“then what the fuck is this?” he shouts, turning towards the two. he has tears in his eyes- whether from anger or sadness, he doesn’t know. they’re so close to falling but he bites the insides of his cheeks. “this has got to be a fucking joke, this isn’t real- yoongi didn’t get me removed- he- he remembers me- he remembers us- he doesn’t- why would he-”

“yoongi’s impulsive like that- you know him-”

taehyung’s hand shoots out to calm him but he swats it away, stumbles backwards.

“seokjin and i, we visited the place, made some inquiries,” taehyung mumbles softly, as if afraid of pushing namjoon further down the edge. jokes on him- namjoon's already deeply submerged. “the doctor who does the deletion, his name’s howard mierzwiak. he wasn’t willing to disclose anything about the details on the procedure yoongi had done because it’s doctor-patient confidentiality.” he stops, sighs. “we’re sorry, namjoon. i- i don’t know what else to say-”

“-tell me this isn’t real,” he whispers, eyes squeezed shut. “say it’s april fools. tell me yoongi still remembers me. tell me his memories aren’t gone.”

taehyung chokes. “i- i can’t , namjoon, i’m sorry-”

 

 

 

namjoon hasn’t cleaned the apartment since yoongi left, which probably says a lot- but he didn’t want to remove yoongi from his apartment, didn’t want to taint the traces yoongi had left behind. but now, all he wants is to peel everything back and run away.

he starts with his living room.

he grabs pictures frames, yoongi’s books laying around the coffee table and the shelves, throws them all into a black garbage bag. he moves to the shelves, taking out vinyl records and cds and mixtapes that yoongi had made for the two of them for when they drove to busan in namjoon’s shitty car- it all goes into the bag. cds of yoongi’s favorite black-and-white movies. stray post-its of yoongi’s lyrics and doodles. namjoon angrily shoves all of them into the bag before moving to the kitchen.

he grabs the mug yoongi had made for him back when they went to jeju for a weekend. it’s crooked and looks like yoongi made it with his feet but namjoon treasures it- used to. it goes in the bag. namjoon grabs bottles of vermouth, places them onto the counter. he contemplates drinking every drop until he passes out and forgets this reality- just for a moment before unscrewing the top, pouring it down the sink with a strained sigh. the drain chugs it down and namjoon places the empty bottle into the plastic bag.

moving onto the bedroom is a sudden jump into the pits of hell.

every corner, every crevice, every nook and cranny of his bedroom reminds him of yoongi. every step he takes, yoongi’s lingering smell snatches at his nerve ends. yoongi’s forgotten clothes shoved under the edges of his bed, by his closet, under his cheap armchair. namjoon stumbles a little when he remembers that yoongi doesn’t remember. he’s never going to retrieve his forgotten clothes because he doesn’t remember that he left them there, never going to take away the lingering smell. he figures it’s in his best interest to do it for yoongi instead.

wipe his own slate clean. remove yoongi from every corner, every crevice, every nook and cranny of his life. just like yoongi did to him.

namjoon grabs his garbage bag of memories and takes it to lacuna the next day. jinyoung the receptionist greets him with a smile and a ' how are you today, mr. kim? '. he nods and gives him a curt lie: ' good, i'm good '. he's taken to an examination room as soon as jinyoung gets off the phone with another patient. he’s sat onto a bed and namjoon hisses as the cold metal of mierzwiak's stethoscope meets his skin.

his stethoscope roams around the expanse of his back. namjoon refrains from squirming. "there's an emotional core to our memories and when you eradicate that core, namjoon, it starts its degradation process. by the time you wake up in the morning after our technicians have gone through with the procedures, all the memories that we have targeted will have withered and disappeared." here, he gives a small chuckle. namjoon wonders if it was meant to sound as condescending as it did. "you'll find yourself in your own bed, as in a dream upon waking."

namjoon gives a small, dumb nod. he asks tentatively, "is there a chance of brain damage?"

another chuckle. "well, technically, the process is brain damage, but it's on par with a night of heavy drinking. nothing to worry about, namjoon." mierzwiak gives him a pat on the back before ushering him out of the room.

he leads namjoon to a dark room by the end of the hallway, adjacent to his office. there's a man sitting in front of a computer, a map of a brain on the screen. a woman sits on a chair akin to that of one at the dentist's. she's crying to a brahms symphony, small pinpricks on the brain map lighting up as she sobs agonizingly. namjoon wonders if this is how he's going to react to memories of yoongi.

mierzwiak places a hand on the man's shoulder and he turns, looks at namjoon curiously before giving a tentative wave. "this is jaebum," mierzwiak introduces. "he's one of memory-erasing technicians. he's going to be in charge of your memories."

grandma vacates the chair with another loud wail. mierzwiak guides her out of the room with an arm around her. "jimin, please take care of mrs. brown here so we can proceed with mr. kim." another male, shorter than jaebum, appears by the door and takes mrs. brown by the hands.

jimin. the name catches.

"namjoon, this is our other technician, jimin." the man gives a small bow. "he used to work with jaebum here for deletions but it just so happens that it’s his last day as a technician so jaebum will handle your case by himself- but not to worry, he’s the best.” mierzwiak pushes him towards the dentist chair. “for now, please take a seat."

namjoon occupies the chair. the leather creaks his weight. jaebum straps him in before lowering a metal headpiece onto his head. "what we're going to do now is see how you react to the objects you've brought for us. we're going to create a map of your brain and then target those specific places which have yoongi in them. once we’ve targeted them, then the deletion starts." mierzwiak sits on a stool by namjoon, gives him a reassuring nod. "when you're ready."

namjoon nods and jaebum turns to him. "i'm going to place the objects in front of you one by one. i want you to focus on the memories they evoke in your brain." he swivels his chair around to dig inside the garbage bag namjoon's been lugging around. he takes out a red blanket, places it on the tray in front of namjoon in a messy heap.

the corners of his lips lift upwards. "we used to take this blanket around with us during-"

"actually," jaebum interrupts, "i'd get a much better reading if you refrained from any verbal recollecting. just silently focus on the memory, mr. kim."

namjoon nods, takes jaebum's words into mind. he bores holes into the blanket as he recalls.

namjoon and yoongi in an empty field. the frayed blanket underneath their bodies shivering despite coats and scarves. yoongi’s scarf dwarfs him and his nose barely peeks out from atop the fabric. yoongi wedged against namjoon's body with his hands on namjoon's face. namjoon asks him what he's doing. with a soft grin, ‘ i'm mapping constellations .' yoongi's hands are colder than ice.

the blanket disappears. jaebum places howl and other poems on the tray. namjoon's mind whites out before it's filled with the sound of yoongi's morning voice. it recites sunflower sutra . his voice is hushed, gravelly, laced with sleep and fatigue. he's under their blanket, head on namjoon's chest, speaking into the skin. namjoon sleepily brings a hand down to rake through yoongi's pink hair. the latter lets out appreciative hums in between the verses. yoongi's voice suddenly turns dramatic and namjoon laughs at his antics. ' you're ridiculous. ' a grin from yoongi. ' you love me anyway. ' a sound of mock contemplation from namjoon. ' i suppose. ' yoongi laughs, loud and gummy. ‘ you bastard.

the book disappears. jaebum places a picture frame onto the the tray. namjoon has to crane his neck a little to be able to get a glance of the picture. his throat clogs as he sees a picture of himself. he's grinning, hands up, covering the sides of his face. a pale hand is splayed out on his chest and namjoon can hear yoongi's laughter. it rings in every corner of his brain and he wonders if the entire map is lit up like a christmas tree. ' you look beautiful like this. ' to somehow prove his point, yoongi doesn't stop snapping photos. ' yoongi, stop. i'm indecent. ' he's chuckling as he says this. yoongi shakes with laughter from behind the camera.

the picture frame disappears. a cassette tape clatters onto tray. namjoon remembers and then it disappears. jaebum places memento after memento before snatching the memory away.

namjoon gets yoongi back for a few seconds before he's dragged away.

the cycle repeats until the garbage bag is empty.

 

 

 

 

this was the last time i saw you.

 

namjoon sits on their bony dining table chair, foot propped up on the edge. it taps an irregular rhythm. he watches the clock tick three-fifty-eight. yoongi isn't home yet so he resumes writing to keep his thoughts from spiralling downwards and the next time he looks up, the hand is past four. he hears the door knob jingle and in stumbles yoongi, coat around his shoulders. namjoon watches him waddle into the kitchen, take out a water bottle from the fridge and chug down the contents. he acts like he hasn't seen namjoon. namjoon watches him pad to the living room, diving into the couch face-first.

"it's four," he mumbles, shutting his moleskine. he puts his foot down and stands, walks over to where yoongi is sprawled.

yoongi lifts his head up, expression one of surprise. "namjoon, my baby!" he exclaims, a sloppy grin on his face. "had no idea you were awake. would have stopped by the diner to pick up some midnight snacks if i had known. we could have opened some vodka and had a wonderful time." he pushes himself up to a sitting position, legs spread wide and arms splayed out.

"where were you?"

yoongi lets out a short chuckle. namjoon doesn’t see anything in the situation worth chuckling about and it translates onto his face. yoongi’s expression turns stoic. "out."

"it's four in the fucking morning."

"well, i'm glad you can read time," is yoongi's sardonic reply. he gives namjoon a sweet smile.

namjoon grits his teeth. "yoongi, it's four in the morning. i have been sitting here in this apartment for hours waiting for a call."

"a call? from me?" yoongi furrows his eyebrows. namjoon clearly sees the innocence being faked in his expression. "why's that?"

"i come home from seokjin's to find my car keys gone and your boots not in the foyer." he bites the insides of his cheeks to keep from screaming at yoongi. "yoongi, do you have any idea what thoughts came to my mind-"

"oh, yeah," yoongi drawls, not listening to a single word leaving namjoon's mouth, "about your car. i might have crashed it into a fire hydrant on the way home. just a smidge. a really tiny smidge- you wouldn't even be able to tell, honestly-”

"you drove my car home. you drove drunk." namjoon squeezes his eyes shut. "yoongi, that's fucking pathetic. how could you not even have the sense to take a fucking cab home? fucking hell, yoongi, you could have hit someone on the road, you could have killed someone, you could have-" he takes a deep breath, "-you could have killed yourself, you careless bastard. what were you fucking thinking?"

suddenly, yoongi's face morphs into an expression of anger. his lips purse and he stands, pokes namjoon in the chest with a finger. "i'm fucking thinking that you're supposed to be my boyfriend, not my fucking keeper. namjoon, i'm not a caged animal, you can't tell me what to do-"

namjoon splutters, "i never said you were-"

"that's what you're implying," yoongi screams. he’s getting hysterical and namjoon senses that he’s two seconds away from throwing things at namjoon. "god, why can't a guy go out and drink a little? why is that such a big issue?"

"the fucking issue isn't that you went out drinking- i couldn’t give a single damned fuck about you going go out to drink- it's that you drove back home drunk like a fucking moron," he retaliates. "do you have any idea what a fucking reckless decision that was? do you want me to turn on the fucking television for you so we can check if you hit anyone on the way home-"

"oh, don't be so fucking dramatic," yoongi snarls. "the real goddamn issue here, kim namjoon, is that you're angry that i went out drinking without you to hover around me and make sure i don’t stray from your side. in your little twisted head, you're thinking that i went out drinking and i fucked someone- that's what you're really afraid of."

namjoon halts. he laughs, bitter and hollow. "well, isn't that a surefire way to get people to like you? worked for you in the past, didn't it?"

namjoon wants to roll his tongue back in, take back the words. the moment they leave his lips, yoongi's eyes widen and his mouth drops open. namjoon's heart chokes itself and his lungs are capsizing. yoongi's mouth is opening and closing, eyes hazing over. his jaw snaps shut before he walks away.

"yoongi, wait-"

"no, you- you've said enough," yoongi whispers. namjoon watches him grab his coat, grab his spare clothes, grab his duffle bag and shove his belongings into it. he hovers around the scene. a bystander, a ghost, unable to do anything to stop yoongi. the latter walks over to him, grabs his hands and drops cold metal onto his palms.

"here. i'm sorry for wrecking it."

namjoon doesn't get to respond. yoongi's walking out the door. the lock clicks.

 

 

 

"god, yoongi, can't you fucking clean up after yourself? why is that such a fucking foreign concept for you?" he screams, picking up shirt after shirt, hoodie after hoodie, cigarette butt after cigarette butt. "it's like living with a fucking pubescent high-schooler who doesn’t know what a fucking broom is."

yoongi slips out from between the terrace doors at the mention of his name, cigarette between his lips. "why are you acting like my fucking mother? god, this is why i live with you and not in my parents' basement- so, i don't have to hear words like that." he rolls his eyes at namjoon before going back out. “son of a bitch-”

namjoon smells nicotine wafting into the room. he drops yoongi's things, heads out to the terrace. he flicks the cigarette out of yoongi's hand, stubs it against the floor with the bottom of a plant pot.

"you're being a fucking menace."

yoongi snorts. "could say the same about your ass."

namjoon sighs. "yoongi, you need to cooperate with me, dammit. you moved into my apartment. i asked you, sure, but at least you could have the fucking common sense to not litter like a fucking snake shedding its skin."

he seems to sense that namjoon isn't going to let him light another cigarette while this argument is happening so yoongi closes his eyes, breathes out slowly through his nose. "fine," he grits.

"thank you. do i get an 'i'm sorry for turning your place into a pigsty, namjoon'?"

"drop dead."

he sighs. "well, they can't say i didn't try."

yoongi turns, takes out his pack and slips out another brand new cigarette. he places it between his teeth, shakes his head with a disbelieving laugh. "god, you're such an asshole."

namjoon echoes his previous words. "could say the same about your ass."

 

 

 

"yoongi-"

he runs to the door and tears it open, stalks into the hallway to try and grab yoongi but he's gone. not a trace. like he never even walked out of the apartment. the hallway's dead silent, too silent that it rings in namjoon’s ears- and the end of the hall has been devoured by black smoke- it screams the void. a place without yoongi. namjoon stumbles back into the apartment. the lock clicks behind him.

there's a sudden humming from his bathroom. it's yoongi, it's yoongi humming the bohemian rhapsody. it stops, before-

"baby, can you hand me a towel?"

it's yoongi. yoongi in his bathroom asking for a towel. namjoon runs towards the sound, hesitating outside the bathroom. it's silent, except for the sound of the running water. he grabs the knob, twisting it open. the water doesn't stop running. there's a silhouette behind the shower curtain, one very reminiscent of yoongi. the humming resumes, hands running through his hair. namjoon walks closer to the shower, grabs a hold of one end of the curtain. he gulps. he tears the shower curtain back, but there's no one. no yoongi asking for a towel. no yoongi humming. no running water. no yoongi.

so, this is what deletion feels like.

"joon?"

it's coming from the kitchen. namjoon doesn't- he can't - look this time. he doesn't think he has it in him to keep destroying himself. but yoongi's voice keeps calling.

"baby, can you come here, please?"

unwillingly, his feet take him to the kitchen, crossing the carpeted hall. he stops by the door frame. there's the smell of something cooking and it stirs something in namjoon's chest. yoongi's voice calls out for him once more.

"i'm here, i'm here," he whispers. "yoongi, please, stop calling me. i- i can't-"

yoongi smiles wickedly. he doesn't appear to have heard namjoon’s mutterings. can memories hear the present? namjoon wonders. "come here, i made you some stew- at least, i think it’s stew. ninety-eight percent chance it might give you food poisoning but i’ve got an ambulance on speed dial, so don’t you worry." yoongi holds up a wooden spoon to namjoon's mouth, smiles invitingly.

namjoon parts his lips and laps at the small pool of soup on the spoon. he grimaces. it tastes exactly the same as he remembers. "disgusting."

yoongi's laugh is loud and carefree. it makes namjoon want to drown in it and stay in the safe warmth of it forever, better than the cold reality of what’s happening. "i know. come on, i'll pour this poison down the sink and order us something. pizza or chicken?"

"pizza-"

yoongi turns to grab the wall-phone and disappears before namjoon's eyes. namjoon uselessly holds a hand out to grab onto the smoke. his fingers cut through the mist.

"yoongi-"

before he knows it, he's falling.

 

 

 

"namjoon."

he hums distractedly into the receiver.

"come home, please. i'm cold and the bed is lonely. can't sleep." his voice sounds tired, slurring. namjoon knows better and doesn't doubt that yoongi's had more than the shot of vodka he promised him. ‘just for digestion,’ yoongi had said. ‘it's seven in the evening,’ namjoon had replied but knew it was of no use.

he sighs. "yoongi, i can't. i'm still grading papers." he flicks his eyes to the pile of midterms he's going through. "i still have a lot to go. i'm sorry, baby."

yoongi sighs over the receiver. namjoon hears him shuffling around in bed and he wishes he was there, too. he tells yoongi this but all he gets in response is another defeated sigh. namjoon quiets. what else can he say?

"namjoon."

he hums.

"namjoon, do you love me?"

he doesn't miss a beat. "i do, i love you a lot."

a short beat of silence. it almost sounds like yoongi's hesitating, before he says, "if you love me, screw your job and come home. quit."

"excuse me?" namjoon lets out an incredulous laugh. "are you insane? please tell me you're insane."

yoongi sighs. "i am."

"i love you, but you're being unreasonable."

"it's not an unreasonable request if you love me. people do a lot of unreasonable things for people they love," yoongi argues, as if his slurring words made sense. "i've done a lot of unreasonable things for you. all because i love you."

"name one."

"i moved into your apartment even if we've only dated for like two months. i've stolen vinyls for you- norah jones, bob dylan, fleetwood mac. i ate that cake you gave me last week even though i'm allergic to blueberries and went the hospital to get a shot-" yoongi sighs. "you're right. i am unreasonable- and insane- god, why are you dating me?"

‘yeah, you are,’ namjoon thinks, ‘but so am i.’ he caps his pen before slipping a manageable pile of papers into his briefcase, slamming it shut. "i'll be home in an hour max if the trains are full. you can sleep on my lap while i grade these."

"i love you," yoongi says. namjoon calls himself insane for loving the way the words fall out of his vodka-laced mouth. "i'll be waiting by the door."

 

 

 

namjoon lands on hard ground. he collects himself, groaning in pain as he pushes himself up. he's in his bedroom, he's feeling the soft carpet underneath his fingers. his eyes are open, but he can't see. he blindly feels around. he stands when his hands land on hard walls, feels for the light switch. when he flips it on, everything plays.

"joon, what do you like the most about me?"

namjoon's chest collapses into itself. his nails are digging crescents into his palms. the memory continues. namjoon turns to the source of the voice and there's a light shining down on yoongi, illuminating him in the most painful ways. his blond hair forms a halo around his face. he's on namjoon's bed, half-naked with a sheet covering his thighs. his eyes are empty and his hands are gripping the sheets tight. even from his distance, namjoon can see the tears threatening to fall from his eyes. he chokes, remembering his answer to the question. it hasn't changed, of course.

" everything ."

yoongi's reply is the same. "bullshit." he lets out a little exasperated sigh. his voice is choked. "i want a real answer," he demands, almost furiously.

"that's the realest answer i can give you." he watches yoongi let out a loud sob, diving under the covers. his cries are relentless and namjoon's heart aches to hear it for the second time. the sheets shake with yoongi's crying. he walks over to the bed, slides into his space next to yoongi, wraps arms and legs around him.

"what brought this on?"

yoongi turns around in his arms. "when i was little, everyone in my family used to call me the family bastard. they used to tell me i wouldn't amount to anything. people i've met in my life have told me that i'm nothing. people i've slept with have told me i'm just a good fuck for the night before throwing me aside." he swallows audibly. namjoon can see the tears in his eyes fall sideways onto the pillow. a small puddle forms.

"but, you- you're so full of bullshit, namjoon," he whispers before breaking, sobbing loudly.

namjoon laughs. "i know." he holds yoongi closer, hooking his chin on the crown of his head. yoongi sobs against his chest and soaks his sleep shirt. namjoon grabs the sides of yoongi's face, pulls him up close to his own. he gives him a deep kiss, slow and steady and so intimate. namjoon trails down to his neck, giving loving bites to every inch of skin he can reach with his lips and caressing with his hands what he can’t. yoongi lets out breathy cries above him. namjoon looks up.

his cheeks are tinted pink and his lips are swollen red from biting and yoongi looks beautiful.

"god, i love you," yoongi swears, voice wet.

"i know," namjoon whispers. "i love you, too."

with that, everything starts to fall apart.

the walls crumble and there's nothing but the sound of debris falling. yoongi disappears into soft smoke once more and namjoon curls his fingers around the empty space he leaves. he shuts his eyes, cursing softly.

when he opens them, he's at haeundae. it's fucking freezing. ( -god, why is he always at haeundae when the weather's close to freezing his balls off? ) the waves are lapping noisily at the edge of the shore. yoongi lies on his coat-clad chest and he’s wearing his usual black scarf. he's looking up at namjoon with amazement in eyes and his lips are parted.

"your eyes are beautiful," he whispers.

namjoon snorts. "they're like every other brown-eyed person."

yoongi shakes his head firmly. "the wonderment in your eyes sets you apart from others." he raises a hand to cup the side of namjoon's face. his thumb runs soft circles on namjoon's cheeks. yoongi's hand is cold, so is his thumb and he leaves ice in his trail. "your eyes are beautiful," he repeats and namjoon nods like he believes it- and with the way yoongi sounds and with the way yoongi’s looking at him, he just might.

he rolls them over so he can stand but yoongi sinks into the sand and suddenly he's gone. namjoon uselessly feels around the shells for a trace but he's gone. namjoon rolls over on the sand once more to push himself up  and suddenly finds himself sitting on the couch in his apartment. yoongi's eating sweet and sour chicken out of a box with a book over his head. it's raining.

it’s not one of namjoon’s memories, that much he can tell. it seems as if his brain is manifesting images- at least it’s helping him see more of yoongi, so he’s thankful.

"here." yoongi inexplicably hands him an umbrella. he puts the beer in his hand down before accepting it. namjoon confusedly opens it to shield himself from the rain. he opens his mouth to ask something but before he can, yoongi's speaking again.

"everything's falling apart, isn't it?" he whispers, almost in awe. namjoon nods dumbly. "it’s all your fault, you know, for letting them do it- but god, if it isn’t beautiful."

yoongi turns to him gives him a grin before the scene shifts and namjoon’s standing alone, a cold forest with nothing but a threadbare sweater to block the autumn wind. he shifts and the fallen leaves underneath his feet crinkle.

“yoongi?” he calls. the sound of crickets greets him back. “yoongi, they’re erasing you.”

“boo!”

namjoon lets out a loud yelp and turns to face a laughing yoongi, gripping his sides with his mouth open wide.

“yoongi, come on, listen to me. they’re erasing you.”

his eyebrows furrow. “who’s erasing me?”

namjoon waves a frozen hand in the air, fingers crawling underneath his sleeves. “this place called lacuna and this doctor named mierzwiak with his technician named jaebum- but that’s besides the point. the point is that i hired them to erase you.”

yoongi’s arms come to fold across his chest and he looks at namjoon disbelievingly but with curiosity. “and why would you want to erase me?”

namjoon swallows thickly. “because you did the same for me.”

yoongi blinks at namjoon once, twice, thrice before uncrossing his arms, fiddling insecurely with the hem of his windbreaker. namjoon sees an odd look in his eyes. “oh.” namjoon echoes the sound and yoongi steps closer to him. “well, why don’t you just tell them to cancel it?”

he laughs. “i can’t just tell them to cancel it. see, i’m asleep right now and you’re not real- none of this is real. i’m making you up in my head so i don’t miss you- and i can’t wake up.”

in the corner of his eyes, he sees yoongi make his way towards a fallen tree, sitting on the chipping trunk and raising his knees up to his chest. he sends a grimace to namjoon. “well, then you’re fucked, aren’t you?”

“i suppose,” namjoon sighs, walking over to take a seat next to yoongi. they’re silent for a while, the crickets back again with a chorus of birds and the sound of yoongi picking at his nails. then, “you’re a real dickstain for erasing me, you know. i could never forgive you.”

“i’m sorry,” yoongi murmurs. “you know me. i don’t think, i just do- you know i’m impulsive like that.” he turns to look at namjoon with a sad smile. “blessed are the forgetful for they get the better- even of their blunders.”

namjoon whispers, “nietzsche.”

yoongi nods and laughs. it’s the saddest of his laughs. “i just wanted to be holy for once- wanted to be happy with myself. but it seems i hurt you too much in the process.”

namjoon blinks and in the next second, yoongi and the forest are gone and they're in the snow. yoongi's running towards him with a ball of white in his hand. he's wearing his scarf and he looks like a child, the youngest namjoon's ever seen him and he looks absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. namjoon's too frozen to speak or move.

"watch out, loser!" he laughs, before lobbing the snowball at namjoon's face. he hits bulls-eye and namjoon's smothered in snow. he brushes away the snow and takes a gulp of breath.

the scene has shifted.

yoongi sits on his chest, a pillow raised above his head. a look of concern is spread across his face. "shit, are you okay?"

"yeah, yeah, i'm- i'm fine-"

"fuck, i thought i'd really suffocated you to death-"

namjoon shakes his head, tightens his grip on yoongi's thighs. "no, no, i'm fine-"

"great!" yoongi grins, before it turns wicked and he lowers the pillow onto namjoon's face once more and he sees black.

when he opens his eyes, they're on the streets of seoul. the shops are closed and it's past midnight- bordering early morning- and yoongi is circling a lamp-post, one foot on the ground with a hand around the metal. a spotlight shines down on him as he twirls. halfway through his circle, he stops, looks back at namjoon. he beckons him over and namjoon's feet take him closer. placing a hand on the nape of namjoon's neck, he brings him down to whisper in his ear. it's as if he held the biggest secret in the entire world and it was only privy to their ears.

"you wanna know something?" yoongi whispers.

namjoon nods. yoongi's grip tightens.

"i love you like the moon loves the night sky and i love you like the waves love the shore. i love you like i love vodka and vermouth- in the sense that i could never fucking live without them- and i love you like the rain loves falling on the pavement and i love you like the wind loves the autumn leaves and i love you like i love you."

namjoon straightens. yoongi lets him. he stares down at yoongi with wide eyes and tear ducts leaking. yoongi's grinning. he looks relieved and peaceful.

"i love you," yoongi whispers once more. namjoon spots a strand of wind wrapping around him and he starts to fade.

not this one. no, no, no- please please please, not this one, mierzwiak, don't take this, please-

let me keep this, mierzwiak. just this one. let me have this one. don't erase this.

i'm begging you.

his hands grab at yoongi's coat as he slowly crumbles and goes with the wind.

"yoongi, no, no- yoongi, please!- don't go, please, please," he pleads, sobbing as he kneels clutches at yoongi's knees. but it's useless.

yoongi disappears and he's left clutching at empty air.

"i- i was wrong- i made a mistake- mierzwiak!" he screams into nothing, into thin air, "i want to stop this- i- i wanna call it off! can you hear me? i don't want this anymore, stop this, mierzwiak, please! i don't want to erase yoongi, please please please- "

the streets crumble away, the buildings crash and burn. namjoon's left in the void of his mind. it's black, nothing, radio silence before the wash of a wave.

then a whisper.

 

 

 

meet me... at haeundae.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

namjoon wakes up on the couch. odd. he remembers sleeping in his bed. he tries to sit up but a heavy weight rests on his stomach. on his elbows, he looks down and finds hoseok with his head resting on namjoon's middle. he's asleep, warm breath washing over the fabric of namjoon's pajamas. namjoon pokes at his face with a heavy finger.

"hoseok. hoseok. hey, hoseok."

hoseok opens an eye, startles when he realizes it's namjoon.

"jesus, i'm glad you're awake." he sounds relieved, too relieved and namjoon wonders what he might have done to land himself unconscious. "seokjin and taehyung called me over to watch over you. seokjin's at work filling in for you. taehyung's at uni." hoseok grins. "i, your trusty best friend, just so happened to be free from lessons and ran over here."

"why are you guys watching over me?"

hoseok's grin falters for a split second- too short that namjoon figures it was just an illusion. "i guess that fever really got to you good, huh? you passed out during your lecture yesterday- keeled over and almost died in front of your kids. gave them a right fright, i suppose. they called seokjin straight away and he took you home. we've gotten your temperature in control now."

"did seokjin happen to mention what i was teaching?"

hoseok's eyebrows furrow. "uh, something about oedipus, i think. i could be wrong. i don’t usually pay attention to the words that come out of seokjin’s mouth anyway. it probably was oedipus."

"it’s fine, i’ll just ask my kids when i get back. this fever couldn’t have put me too behind on schedule."

hoseok sighs before delivering a punch to his arm. "he's sick and all he thinks about is teaching- such dedication."

namjoon reciprocates. "stop mocking me, you shitty bastard."

"hey!" hoseok lets out a mock gasp. "this shitty bastard took care of you."

" 'shitty bastard' also ordered his boyfriend to make the ramen instead of making it himself because he was too lazy to boil water." jeongguk stalks out of the kitchen with a pot in hand. "i did not run here after my business exam to be a slave." he places the pot onto the table, gives namjoon a smile. "but i am glad you're awake- the table at school has been too quiet and damn, you don’t know the pain of only having hoseok and seokjin to talk to."

“-hoseok’s your boyfriend-”

“-what’s your point-”

"you forgot the damn bowls, jeongguk- and utensils. how could you forget the damn utensils?" hoseok stands. "i'll go get them."

namjoon calls out to him before he exits the room. "hey, wait!" hoseok swivels around to give him an expectant expression. "do you guys know anything about haeundae?"

jeongguk cocks his head to the side. "haeundae? you’re talking about the beach back home, right? not anything in particular that might relate to you. why?"

"i just- i had this dream- or i don’t know, i think it was a dream. this guy- he said he'd meet me in busan, in haeundae." namjoon scratches the short hairs at the nape of his neck. "it was eerie- like a long lost memory or-" he shakes his head, "-i don't know, but it's kinda bothering me."

hoseok smiles at him. "i'm sure it was nothing important. probably just a dream, namjoon."

 

 

 

namjoon goes back to work the next day. he blends into the people crowding on the platform at the station, waiting to take the same seven o'clock train as him. he gets to work at fifteen-past-seven and has to painstakingly remove seokjin from his person. the elder insists he's in no condition to be back but namjoon feels better when he's teaching. it's a distraction and he looks forward to going back to the normal procedure things go through.

but this day seems to exist to contradict him.

he feels like there's a big chunk missing in his head and no one else seems to realize there's something wrong with him. he’s weeks ahead of his teaching schedule and he feels like a stranger in his own classroom.  maybe there isn't something wrong with him. maybe he just woke up on the wrong side of bed today. maybe the fever screwed him over worse than he thought. maybe-

"hey, man, you look like you're about to pass out again." junmyeon shoots him a wary look. he poses as if he's preparing to catch namjoon if he falls, arms spread wide and inching closer to him.

namjoon groans. he picks at his sandwich with a fork like a child. "i feel like i'm about to pass out again." he bows his head, leaning his forehead against the cold cafeteria table. "junmyeon. it's 2016, right?" he twists his head to the side to catch the latter's amused but concerned expression.

"yes- unfortunately so, i might say. the world is inevitably going to shit, everything's disgusting and people are riding hoverboards to the gates of hell- oh, and park kyung is still math teacher of the month, that bastard." junmyeon sighs and his distress is tangible. namjoon wonders if junmyeon will ever give up lusting after the position of math teacher of the month. "it's very much 2016. why are you asking?"

"i feel out of place. like someone pulled the rug out from under my feet and left me concussed on the floor."

junmyeon’s brows come together. he purses his lips in concern and lifts a hand as if to feel namjoon’s forehead for a fever. "namjoon, do you need to see a doctor?"

he groans. "what i need is some liquor. strong liquor."

out of nowhere, hoseok's voice interjects. "take this kid with you." he pushes someone new down onto an empty seat in the table. he looks like he's about to jump out of his skin, blond and round-cheeked- young-faced that gives him the air of a student, not a teacher. hoseok takes the chair next to him. "this kid's too uptight. i've told him that the kids don't bite- well, except for taekwoon, but i've warned him that to get to that stage, you'd have to fuck up pretty bad, so he’s not to worry."

junmyeon gives the guy a warm smile. it's the type of welcoming everyone hopes for, soft and with the promise of an easy time. namjoon knows enough but doesn’t warn the kid because wisdom comes from experience and the kids are great teachers. "don't listen to hoseok. he's just being ridiculous,” junmyeon placates the blond, “don't worry, the kids here are quite nice and of course, they don’t bite. what do you teach?"

the blond clears his throat. "i, uh, i'm the new dance teacher." his voice is soft. he sounds nice, sounds friendly. namjoon can't stop looking at his hair. the blond is familiar- so is the undercut and the way his fringe sways when he nervously looks around the room reminds him of gentle waves. namjoon carefully inches forward.

"what's your name?" he lacks the friendly tone he’d been trying to inject into his voice but it doesn’t matter because he’s not speaking to make friends- he’s speaking to get some answers.

he turns to lock gazes with him. "um, i’m park jimin." he gives namjoon a small smile and it suits him.

"jimin." namjoon rolls the name around on his tongue, in his mind. it catches . it catches in his brain but why? why is the name catching? why does it sound familiar? "i think... i think i once knew a jimin. i can’t remember when and where, but was that perhaps you?"

hoseok laughs at him. "you and half the population of korea. there are like fifteen thousand jimins in this damn country, namjoon. the odds of you coming across a jimin once in your life is very big."

namjoon supposes that's true. it's a pretty common name and he's sure he might have come across six jimins out of the fifteen thousand hoseok had mentioned in his lifetime but this jimin has blond hair and an undercut. it's familiar. everything about jimin screams familiarity at namjoon, almost as if it was waiting for him to catch on and remember some small important detail that would lead him closer to the truth. maybe he’s overreacting but the more he rolls the name around, the closer he seems to get.

then, it truly catches.

‘baby boy.’

‘jimin, my baby boy.’

namjoon's startles at the words that his mind centers around. the voice isn't namjoon's. it's a man's and it's low but softer than namjoon's baritone, slow and velvet and gravelly. the way the words reverberate in namjoon's head sounds delighted, like this man was finally seeing jimin after days on end. the odd thing about it is that it sounds far-off, like a dream, like-

like a memory, namjoon realizes. it sounds like a lost memory. the voice sounds familiar.

something catches again.

‘meet me… at haeundae.’

namjoon’s heart plummets to the bottom of his stomach and his throat suddenly clogs with something akin to a large boulder of shock and fright. amidst his distress, he sees jimin's eyes widen slightly. he's looking at namjoon like he's grown three heads and just told him his grandfather was summoning him from the beyond. "what did you just call me?"

fuck. did he say that first part out loud? "nothing. it was nothing."

"no, no, you called me-"

“-no, i didn’t call you anything- you’re hearing things-” yes, namjoon, accuse the boy of having auditory problems for catching onto your fuckups.

hoseok interjects. he's staring warily between jimin and namjoon. "everything okay?"

"yeah, yeah, it's fine." namjoon stands. "it was great meeting you, jimin- hey, hoseok. please tell seokjin i went home and that i don’t have any more classes until eighth period. i- i don't feel too well."

"namjoon, hey," hoseok stops him with hand on his arm. he places a hand on namjoon's forehead. "your temperature's fine. what's wrong?"

"i don't- i don't feel like myself," he breathes, trying to extract himself from hoseok's grasp. "i don't know what i'm feeling- my thoughts don't feel like my own thoughts - i feel like a visitor in my own head and i can’t figure out which memories are mine- i'm- i’m seeing and hearing things in my own head and i’m going to go insane-" he's sure he looks absolutely ballistic, off his fucking head- about another blink away from sobbing. he bites his lip to keep himself in check but he doesn’t know how long his willpower will hold.

"nothing is the same, hoseok. i’m not me.”

hoseok’s eyebrows come together in a worried mess. “namjoon, you’re not making any sense-”

the noise namjoon lets out is akin to a sob and before hoseok can squeeze another sentence in, he’s gone.

 

 

 

namjoon finds himself on a train to busan about a month later.

quite inexplicably- though not quite so. he’s had nothing but haeundae on his mind, so he supposes it shouldn’t have been that big of a shock when he ditches the train to work and finds himself on a train to a place he's never been to, finds himself going to a place he's only heard of from a voice that keeps echoing in his head. he shifts uncomfortably in his seat when he feels someone staring at him. he turns his head to the side and finds an elderly woman with her head cocked to the side, eyes narrowed and watching him with a calculated expression. namjoon uneasily tears his gaze from hers, looking out the window instead.

he jumps when a hand touches his shoulder. “mind if i sit here?” it’s the old lady. she’s staring curiously at namjoon.

“oh, of course not- please.” he guides her to the vacant seat next to him. she settles in, sighing, but doesn’t move her scrutinizing gaze from namjoon’s face. he hesitates before asking, “i’m sorry but have we met before?”

“sure,” she chirps, giving him a smile, “met on this same train many months ago. you still look as lost as you did back then- oh, and you even have your briefcase with you today.” she lets out a somewhat delighted laugh and doesn’t look a smidge offended that namjoon doesn’t remember their interaction. “where you headed, son?”

“but i’ve-”

i’ve never been to busan. i’ve never gone this way before. he means to say this to the woman but she sounds damn sure that he was on this same train, with the same briefcase, same lost expression months ago.

for some reason, he believes her.

“i’m headed to haeundae,” he mumbles.

she hums. “well, at least you’ve got a destination to go to this time.” her tone is amused and her eyes are lit with something bright and mischievous.

he frowns. “did i not know where i was going last time we met?” odd- too odd. namjoon from months ago surely would not have gotten on a train without an itinerary in mind.

she laughs. “you looked the perfect picture of a lost sheep. told me you didn’t know where you were going.” her hand encloses around namjoon’s knee but it doesn’t feel intrusive, rather just comforting. “i appreciated the honesty, though, son.”

he gives her an awkward laugh, stunted and curt. he turns towards the window with an even heavier feeling in his stomach. the chunk in his brain grows deeper with every thought he has and as he steps off the train, onto the platform, the feeling of deja vu shakes his core. his head spins.

namjoon finds himself in haeundae, by a large beach house- which, unsurprisingly enough, also looks familiar. a quick glance at the windows shows him furniture covered by white sheets so namjoon supposes no one will be there to chase him away for sitting on their patch of beach. there's a fence surrounding the perimeter and he takes a seat on a dry circle of sand in front of it, settling against the wood and breathing in the salt.

the waters are calm and the brightest shade of blue and there's a flock of seagulls by the shore. namjoon takes out his moleskine and sketches them feeding on what seems like fallen shrimp crackers. it feels odd, to be at the place he's in and not having been here before but having been here before. he feels the sound of the water to be familiar, the ambience, the seagulls, the feel of sand between his fingers.

he looks up after he's sketched five of the birds, only to find someone in the middle of the flock. the man is holding a chip packet in one hand, the other stretched towards the birds. shrimp crackers, namjoon chuckles. shockingly black hair against the pale white of his skin, he stands out against the blue of the sea, drowning in his red hoodie and namjoon catches his eye. his hand itches as he ducks his head, cheeks warming slightly.

you just made eye contact, namjoon, it's no big deal. stop acting like a child, he chides himself, tucking his moleskine back into his briefcase. but before he can leave ( where? where was he even planning to go? ), he catches something moving towards him. it's the black-haired guy and he's walking towards namjoon with shrimp crackers in his hand and a curious expression on his face.

"hello," the man says, a smile blooming on his face. his voice startles namjoon. somehow, the soft and delicate-looking features of his face seems mismatched to the low drawl that comes out of his mouth.

namjoon doubts his ears. "i- i'm sorry?"

the stranger laughs, before giving namjoon a wave. "i just said ‘hello’. you new to the area? you look kinda lost and like you don't know what you're doing here. i mean, i’m not from here either but-" he points at namjoon's work attire. "-at least i’m more dressed for casualty than you are. not really the right clothing to go traipsing around the beach, is it?."

"oh," namjoon stutters. "i'm- i'm just here on an impulsive whim."

the stranger's eyebrows rise. "an impulsive whim. a voyager." he grins. "how exciting. i love the unexpected." he holds a hand out towards namjoon. "i'm yoongi."

"n- namjoon," he stutters. he grabs yoongi's outstretched hand, gives it a hasty shake before letting go.

yoongi's head immediately tilts to the side, his eyebrows furrow and something that looks like confusion fills his eyes. "namjoon." a hand comes to rest contemplatively on his chin and he looks namjoon calculatedly in the eye for a long beat before shaking his head, a miniscule movement namjoon almost misses. "well, namjoon, how do you feel about another added factor to your voyage?"

namjoon hums curiously. "i suppose... i wouldn't mind?" it comes out more a question than a firm statement and it makes yoongi chuckle. "what did you have in mind?"

"me!" yoongi grins. "i'm going along for this ride of yours. seems like quite an adventure and what am i if not a fellow voyager?" he raises an eyebrow. "how do you feel about it?"

namjoon splutters. he'd love to. "um, yeah, yeah- okay ."

"great," yoongi says, before pointing to his stuff, motioning for him to grab his briefcase. "i was hoping you'd say yes- i've already got an idea for our first area of conquest."

namjoon curiously watches yoongi for a moment before doing what he's told, grabbing his briefcase and following yoongi's steps. he's going through a small, broken opening in the fence, just barely wide enough for someone to pass through sideways, and that's exactly what yoongi does. he slides himself through the gap and stands on the other side. he beckons namjoon to follow with a hand.

"yoongi, this is trespassing," he hisses, looking wildly around the beach for someone who just so happened to be looking in their direction and possibly witnessing namjoon’s first misconduct.

yoongi tsks. namjoon turns back to him to see him standing akimbo, an expression of disappointment. "come on, namjoon, this is what voyagers do. do you think any explorers discovered any of the things they discovered by abiding to perimeter laws? to get to the good things in life, you have to break the rules- then it actually becomes a good thing . before you break the rules, it’s simply just a thing ." he rolls his eyes before stalking up to the back porch of the house. he pauses for a moment to look expectantly at namjoon.

namjoon sighs. unexpected. impulsive whim. he follows yoongi through the gap, not missing the somewhat proud smile yoongi shoots him.

"there you go."

he huffs, shooting the latter a short-lived glare before following him up the porch and around the house. yoongi seems to be searching for something and namjoon flutters behind him, unsure of what.

"um, what are we looking for?" he asks.

"an alternative entrance, of course," he says matter-of-factly, like namjoon was obviously missing the bigger picture. "we can't go in through the back door- it’s bolted from the inside, i assume- trust me, i’ve tried a handful of times."

namjoon exhales slowly. an entrance. into the beach house. "oh. so, we're not only trespassing into their property but also breaking into their beach house?- and are you telling me you've tried to break in here before?"

yoongi turns to smirk at him. "glad you're catching on."

"yoongi, this is illegal," he hisses again.

"and yet, you're still following me, aren't you?" yoongi counters, folding his arms across his chest. "namjoon, you go big or you go home- go the entire fucking nine yards or don't go at all." he points a hand towards a far end of the wall. "now, i spot a window there and i'm positive i can pry it open." he raises a questioning eyebrow. "are you going to put a regretful halt to your impulsive whims here or follow me inside and get a taste of some adrenaline?"

he makes to counter and say that there are other, less illegal ways to achieve the ‘taste of adrenaline’ that yoongi’s preaching about but instead, namjoon mentally counts to ten, eyes shut. what he wanted was some answers, what he wanted was- actually, he doesn't quite know. why is he here? what did he come here for? he came here because the voice in his head told him they'd be meeting here, but why did he come here? he opens his eyes to see yoongi with an expectant look in his eyes.

go big or go home. namjoon doesn’t particularly want to go home.

"alright," he breathes.

yoongi grins. "i'm so glad you said that." he jerks a thumb in the window's direction. "that bad boy would require quite an amount of brute force to pry it open and-" he lifts an arm and squeezes his forearms with the other hand, "-as you can see, i'm not exactly the person you can count on for 'brute force'." namjoon mentally agrees before walking over to the window.

he grunts as he pushes the small ledge upwards as yoongi mumbles curt words of encouragement. he pries the window open all the way and it slots into its place. he gestures for yoongi to slip inside. “smaller one first,” he jokes. with a withering glare, yoongi does as followed and slides himself into the house, one leg at a time. namjoon follows in shortly after.

the inside is dusty and as namjoon had seen earlier, every piece of furniture is covered with a thin white sheet and the place looks as deserted as it feels. namjoon crinkles his nose at the smell of old wood. yoongi, however, looks absolutely fascinated, head rotating to get a look at every single corner of the house.

“i’ve always wanted to get inside,” he breathes, brushing a hand against the sheet covering what looks to be a couch.

“why haven’t you?” namjoon asks. judging by the thick layer of dust around the place, it seems to have been left vacant for quite a long time and surely, yoongi could have gone

yoongi shakes his head, “no one has ever been insane enough to go with me.” he shoots namjoon a big grin. he walks further inside and spots the spiral staircase leading up to the second floor. yoongi beckons namjoon with a grin and namjoon follows, less wary. the stairs creak under their weight and they leave footprints behind in the dust. namjoon turns to look at yoongi when he lets out a pleasantly surprised noise, reaching the top of the stairs..

his eyes spot a grand piano. it’s pushed against the wall, making the room look smaller than it already is but it’s a beauty, sleek black, if not more than a little dusty. yoongi runs to it, running his hands over the lid. namjoon watches him lift the dusty lid and place the lid prop into place, before brushing his hands across the surface of the stool, clearing a place for him to sit. namjoon stays by the doorframe, just watching. yoongi lifts the fall and sweeps his fingers over the black and white keys. he looks serene, namjoon notes, the softest of smiles on his face and a certain calmness in his eyes as he stills and his fingers splay into position.

namjoon closes his eyes as a soft melody breaks out, filling the silent room slowly and surrounding the two of them. the wooden structure of the room amplifies the sound by a tenfold and namjoon drowns in it. in the back of his mind, he manages to register that it’s brahms, the notes flowing into each other seamlessly. the realization leads to a succession of things: something catches in his head and he sees an image of a woman, in a dentist chair lined with sleek leather, wailing her heart out as a brahms symphony- the symphony yoongi is playing- blares in the background. a blue map of a brain with pinpricks lighting up. namjoon startles.

what was that?

he opens his eyes in shock, and he grips the doorframe to stabilize himself. he belatedly notices that yoongi’s stopped playing, the room back to its eerie silence except for his heavy breathing. yoongi’s worried voice rings out moments later.

“joon? you alright?” the name has namjoon transferring his wide eyes onto yoongi.

"joon?"

yoongi huffs slightly. “well, it fits you.”

“i’ve known you for an hour.”

namjoon watches him shrug lightheartedly. “so, what?” yoongi waves a hand in the air. “regardless, you have yet to answer my question.” here, the concerned expression on his face returns. “are you alright?”

“yeah, yeah,” namjoon breathes, “yeah, i’m fine.”

“you said ‘ yeah ’ three times in the span of point-two seconds. i don’t suppose that means you’re actually fine.”

good guess. namjoon shakes his head, plasters a smile on his face. “really. i’m fine. just remembered something.”

“well, whatever it was, it shook you up pretty bad.” yoongi stands from his place on the stool and walks over to namjoon. he stares up at him, something hesitant in his eyes before he lifts a hand to tilt namjoon’s face downwards. his eyes roam around namjoon’s face, hand unmoving as it cups namjoon’s cheek, seemingly searching for something to assure him that namjoon isn't completely unstable. namjoon watches him open his mouth before it shuts again with a loud clack. yoongi gives namjoon a small smile.

“your eyes are beautiful- sad and heavy, but that’s why they’re beautiful.”

namjoon startles.

it’s not the kind of thing you say to someone you’ve only met- though namjoon supposes you don’t take someone you’ve only met two hours ago to break into a beach house. namjoon’s insides seem to be getting a kick out of yoongi’s words and his mouth drops open, yoongi chuckling softly at his expression.

“shock looks good in them, too,” he laughs and namjoon chokes out a disbelieving breath. the hand he has on namjoon’s face pats lightly on warm skin. “come on, let’s go get brunch. maybe food will put you in a better mood.”

they end up to a diner a couple of blocks away from the house, occupying a booth by the windows. namjoon marvels at the interior- it’s homey without looking too shabby and the black and white scheme eases him into a calmer mood. a server comes up to them, wearing a pink apron with her hair in a loose bun and namjoon blinks owlishly at her for a beat longer than would be polite. ignoring yoongi’s somewhat worried glance at him, he hastily grabs at his moleskine, flips to the start of the pages and-

there it is. the resemblance between the girl standing in front of them and the girl in namjoon’s moleskine with her hair in a ponytail and an apron around her waist, pink marker looking like it had been haphazardly used to fill in between the pencil lines. namjoon looks up at the girl, finds her looking at him with a welcoming smile.

“namjoon!” she greets, pulling out her notepad and pen. “haven’t seen you in a while.”

a while?

unaware of the startled confusion on namjoon’s face, she turns to yoongi, greeting him with the same smile, though brighter and with amusement dancing in her eyes. “i saw you a few days ago, but i’m always glad to, yoongi.” she chuckles to herself for a moment before raising eyebrows at the both of them. “so, your usuals?”

yoongi nods. namjoon turns to the girl with an incredulous stare. “i have a usual?”

the girl laughs. “i guess, that time you took away from busan really cleared your head up, huh? it’s the breakfast plate with extra hash browns and an americano. it’s what you always order.”

namjoon’s head swirls and suddenly food doesn’t sound appetizing. the nausea must show on his face because yoongi’s worried voice springs out. “namjoon? you have that look on your face again- are you okay?”

“i have to go- excuse me- i- i can’t be in here-”

he shakes his head, shakily getting up to his feet. he grabs his moleskine, his briefcase and steps out of the diner, leaving yoongi. he sits on the sidewalk, knees drawn up to his chest and pounding head cradled in trembling hands. namjoon’s fingers grip tightly at chunks of hair, damp with sweat and he shuts his eyes tightly, tight enough that he sees specks of light floating behind his eyelids and his temples throb. he feels nauseous, as if on a boat that’s swaying too far to the right and too far to the left and he can’t quite get his footing.

nothing feels right anymore, nothing feels his. why is he here at haeundae? why does he have a sketch of a woman he’s never met before but claims to be close to namjoon? who was that old woman, lying back on a dentist’s chair and sobbing to brahms? why can’t he answer any of the fucking questions floating around in his goddamn head?

namjoon came to haeundae for answers but now, it seems like whoever’s up there is too selfish to even shed namjoon a single ray of truth.

someone settles down next to him on the pavement and namjoon jumps slightly, before a hand pries the hand he has gripped tightly around his hair away from his scalp and into a cold palm. yoongi’s thumbs traces soothing circles on his knuckles.

“namjoon, what’s really going on?”

he shakes his head. “nothing’s going right. i’m seeing things that aren’t mine- they’re not images, because they feel too...real, too tangible and i feel like if i reach out- nothing is real and i can’t figure out why i’m here,” he rambles, way past the point of caring if yoongi ended up thinking he was insane and had no actual grip on reality.

yoongi purses his lips. “that- that doesn’t make sense.”

he gives a tired laugh. “yeah, nothing makes sense to me either.”

 

 

 

at five, namjoon takes the train back to seoul.

this time, however, he’s got company. unexpected company. yoongi’s odd grip on his forearm keeps him antsy during the entire ride and he feels too hot, too warm in the fast-moving train and yoongi’s knee is touching his and god fucking dammit namjoon, it’s just a fucking knee.

they ride in silence, namjoon not choosing to focus on yoongi at all and yoongi choosing to focus on the sun setting out the window, the trees bathed in orange and his eyes shining with the sun. namjoon sneaks a few peeks at him, so what? his fingers cup around the seat divider in between them and his knuckles are pale and he just hopes and hopes and hopes that yoongi won’t look down and notice how trembly he is.

at about eight, they arrive at the station. it’s dark and namjoon remembers the car he has stashed in the parking lot near the corner. he offers yoongi a ride and the latter readily agrees, following namjoon to his car with fingers pinching his sleeve. namjoon opens the passenger door and yoongi slips in with a polite smile, strapping himself in and pulling his knees up to his chest, arms wrapping around the knobs of his knees. he looks so small and namjoon can’t help the slow smile that slips on his face, reversing out of the parking lot with a grunt of the engine.

“namjoon.”

he hums.

“do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?”

he laughs. “no, no.”

yoongi lets out a sigh. “that’s good.”

namjoon’s laughter dies down quickly. good. was that good? it’s good but why- in yoongi’s perspective- does it sound good? his thoughts halt when yoongi taps his arm, motions for him to take mapo-daero , then a sharp right. the car rumbles and namjoon is thankful for the noisy distraction. the rest of the drive is spent with yoongi giving him directions and soon enough, they reach yoongi’s building, brown with a fence hugging the perimeter.

yoongi sighs when the car stops with a creak, and he turns his head to the right to give namjoon a contemplative stare. namjoon matches it and stares right back.

“how bout another impulsive thought for the night?” yoongi murmurs lowly.

namjoon’s nod is small but immediate.

“want to come upstairs?”

namjoon wills himself to stay together, mentally counting to ten as he looks into yoongi’s eyes. he sees downplayed hope and his heart skips a beat. he gives an affirmative jerk of his head, unbuckling his seatbelt in the process and when he looks up, yoongi’s biting back a grin. he slips out of the car, namjoon following suit. yoongi’s hand comes around his wrist and it stays there until they reach yoongi’s apartment.

when the door clicks behind him and their shoes are off, coats on the hanger, namjoon manages to get a brief look of yoongi’s apartment- oddly mismatched colors and sheets of paper spread out across every surface of the living room- a quick sweep of his eyes before his attention is drawn back to yoongi by his side. the latter slips his fingers into namjoon’s and gives it a soft squeeze, looking up at namjoon with a question in his eyes. namjoon’s lungs capsize and he hesitates, a split-second of a thing before-

“yoongi… can i kiss you?”

he sighs in relief, rising up to his tip-toes. “god, i thought you’d never ask.”

namjoon’s hands come to rest on yoongi’s hips, holding him tight as yoongi presses his body right against his, toe to toe. a hand snakes to the nape of his neck, pulling him down so yoongi can capture his lips.

namjoon would be lying if he said there were fireworks- but the familiarity of it all sweeps him off his feet and he staggers, pulling them forwards and yoongi ends up pressed against his door, leg hitching up namjoon’s hip. yoongi’s lips are chapped from the cold but softer than he would have imagined and namjoon grabs at yoongi’s thighs.

“up, up, up-” yoongi mutters against his lips, tilting his head to the side to deepen the kiss and namjoon doesn’t dare disobey. he hoists yoongi up, hands coming to cup around the swell of his ass and holding him up against the door. the sigh he lets out into namjoon’s mouth is heavenly.

yoongi kisses like he’s trying to memorize, trying to know each and every inch of namjoon’s mouth and lips so he can remember how this moment feels and namjoon reciprocates, opening his lips wider and letting yoongi in. the second their tongues meet, yoongi’s arms come up to wrap around his neck, keeping him close and never letting go.

“do- you- do you want-” yoongi’s sentence is choppy as he doesn’t dare let go of namjoon, “-bedroom- ?-”

namjoon’s answer is to steer them away from the door, walking blindly as yoongi directs him to his bedroom with muttered directions against his lips. miraculously, namjoon bumps into yoongi’s bedroom door and he precariously balances yoongi on him with one hand as he maneuvers the doorknob with the other. he takes them inside, opening an eye to locate yoongi’s bed before throwing yoongi onto it. yoongi bounces up and down with a displeased grunt as they’re separated but it dies down quickly when namjoon crawls up and over him, caging yoongi in with his forearms resting on either side of his head.

looking down at yoongi in the dark, he can’t see much except for the one sliver of lighting coming from outside his window but it still manages to take his breath away. the light reflects off his swollen lips and yoongi’s panting and he looks absolutely beautiful. namjoon’s staring lasts for a beat too long and yoongi squirms under his eyes.

“you alright?” he asks, voice light and breathy.

namjoon nods as he leans down to steal another kiss. “perfect.”

 

 

 

when he wakes up, yoongi isn’t there.

he takes a good long moment before his mind fully processes the situation and he bolts upwards, hand coming down to pat around the empty space where yoongi used to be- a yoongi-sized dent in the mattress and in the pillow beside namjoon's head. namjoon supposes his fear was irrational because, surely, yoongi wouldn’t run out of his own house just because he regretted a night of fucking, now would he? still, his heart stays lodged in his throat as he pulls his boxers up and zips his trousers. he’s about to reach down for his sweater when his ears catch something.

as he pads out the room and into the hallway, the sounds gets louder and it takes him a second to realize it’s yoongi’s voice, agitated and laced with something that sounds like distaste.

“-if i made a wrong move, he would make this face- god, his pathetic, apologetic face- like a kicked puppy and i felt bad for him-”

when namjoon breaches the mouth of the hallway, he discovers yoongi sitting on the couch with a blanket around his shoulders, slipping down slightly to reveal bare skin. his mouth is shut tight and there are tears running down his face and namjoon doesn’t take another step. he clears his throat lightly. yoongi looks up in shock and the look in his eyes shocks namjoon to his core. it’s filled with uncertainty and confusion- but most of all, it’s filled with apologies.

“good morning,” he mumbles, looking unsure of himself. “was wondering where you’d gone.”

yoongi clears his throat. “woke up early so i went to grab the mail on my doorstep.” his voice is wet and so pained that namjoon can’t stand to hear it. “i- i found something.” he reaches across the coffee table for a brown parcel, taking out a small piece of paper from inside it and reading the contents out loud for namjoon to hear.

“to all patients of doctor howard mierzwiak, my name is park jinyoung. you’ve met me before but you don’t remember. i used to work for a company that does procedures that erase certain memories from people- often about relationships. you hired this company to have a part of your life removed.” yoongi sniffs and another fat tear rolls down his face. “after a large turning point that unveiled a lot of things i hadn’t known before, i have since decided that this is a horrible idea-"

namjoon lets out a light laugh, but it’s far from humorous. more nervous. “is this a movie teaser-”

“-and i have decided to set things right. in order to do this, i am sending back the files and tapes of everyone who’s ever had their memory erased by lacuna. i hope you understand why i did this and don’t come to resent my reasoning." yoongi drops the paper back into the parcel and sets it down next to him. he looks up at namjoon and takes a deep breath, hands coming up to swipe at his cheeks. “i got a tape.”

namjoon stays unmoving against the wall, body now rigid and his eyes don’t leave yoongi’s tear-stricken face. yoongi shuffles closer to the cassette deck in front of him and presses the rewind button, glancing at namjoon for a second before pressing play.

in hindsight, he shouldn’t have let yoongi press the button.

“my name is min yoongi-” namjoon eyes dart back up to yoongi’s and he watches as yoongi flinches at the sound of his own voice, fully aware of what’s to come. yoongi on tape swallows audibly.

“i am here to erase kim namjoon.”

erase.

kim namjoon- erase.

that’s him. he’s kim namjoon.

namjoon’s mind comes to a staggering halt and once again, nothing makes sense in his life and he’s back to not knowing anything. yoongi had him erased from his memories. him . kim namjoon. yoongi got kim namjoon erased from his memories- what memories would he even have to have erased? they only met yesterday-

-procedures that erase certain memories from people- often about relationships.

he bolts forward in shock and bewilderment, mouth gaping and he pants in an attempt to steady himself. “yoongi, what is this- what-”

“i- i don’t- i don’t know-” yoongi cries, pulling the blanket tighter around him and hiding his face between his knees.

a different voice plays next, deeper and older than yoongi’s. “and can you tell me why you want to have mr kim erased from your memories?”

a sigh. "he changed me too much.” a hollow chuckle. “it sounds odd when you say it out loud because i get that that’s what relationships are about- changing each other and evolving together- but he didn’t change me for the good... is that a valid reason to erase someone? have you ever had anyone erase lovers from their memories because of a reason like this?” yoongi’s voice is wry and his words are straightforward and namjoon’s chest is starting to feel tight for some reason.

“god, if you knew namjoon, you’d hate him, too.” his statement sounds like a joke but with the way his voice is laced thick with sincerity and cracks slightly at the end, it sounds nothing like one.

a deep breath before on-tape-yoongi’s voice continues. “before i met namjoon, i was carefree- that careless wayfarer aesthetic shit i had on to protect myself from crippling depression. i didn’t give a shit, said whatever the fuck i wanted, did whatever the fuck i wanted- that was how i lived. god, i miss living like that.” his voice trails off slightly at the end and namjoon hears the longing in every syllable.

“-that’s why i’m having him erased. i want to go back to being carefree- my careless wayfarer aesthetic. namjoon confined me, made me swallow my words before they left my mouth and he made me think about the actions i wanted to do before i did them because if i made a wrong move, he would make this face- god, his pathetic, apologetic face- like a kicked puppy and i felt bad for him and i hated that. and moreover, he’s so fucking ethical and boring and self-righteous and he thinks we’re all born to give good out to the fucking universe and i can’t stand that.”

there’s a long silence. yoongi’s trembling hand inches towards the deck and presses the pause button. it clicks and the tape whirs to a stop and the silence becomes too thick for namjoon’s lungs. namjoon attempts to make sense of the words he’s just heard but nothing is connecting and his head is starting to feel heavy and he’s one second away from vomiting. he wants to leave, wants to get out, wants to be out of the fucking joke that yoongi’s suddenly thrown him into.

he chokes, “i can’t believe you’d fuck with me like this. after last night, i-” his hands come up to wring into his hair. he runs back into the room, ignoring yoongi’s cries. he reaches for his sweater, hastily pulling it on before sweeping the room with his eyes in search of his briefcase. he’s pulling his socks on when yoongi barges into the room, hands clutching the sheet around him.

“namjoon, please, wait-”

he spins around, frustrated tears starting to form in the corner of his eyes. “did i look like that big of a fucking joke to you-”

“-god, namjoon, no-”

“then what the fuck was that?” he screams, voice cracking in anger. “why would you fuck with me like that-”

“i’m not fucking with you!” yoongi yells back, stepping closer but namjoon takes a step back. he looks up earnestly at namjoon, a plea for belief in his eyes.

“you’re fucking with me. you are, i know it- god, i knew this was too good to be true- now i’m a fucking circus act and you hate my pathetic, apologetic face-”

“namjoon, i’m not! i don’t know what this is, i don’t know who this person is, i don’t know anything- i. don’t. know,” he pleads. “you have to believe me.”

namjoon takes a shuddering breath. “i need- i need to go- i need to leave- i can’t do this, i’m sorry-” he practically runs to yoongi’s door, slipping his shoes on and bolting out.

he makes it to his car in record time and as he shifts to reverse out of the parking spot, his hands tremble and he feels fat tears of frustration attempting to tear through to his lids. he sniffs harshly, blinking too quickly and runs a hand down his face to calm himself, lest he get into an accident and further wreck his shitty car. the drive home is a lonely one and the low, unsteady rumble of the car does nothing to distract him.

he changed me. changed me too much.

as he rounds the corner and parks into the space before his apartment, namjoon wonders how he could have managed to change an enigma like yoongi. was it a sudden blow or was it a slow boil- too slow for yoongi to even notice until before he decided to get namjoon erased?

when he gets to his floor, he sees a pile of letters on his doormat and dread, nothing but dread and unease fills his guts and he can’t find it in him to step out of the elevator. a strange sense of foreboding. namjoon grits his teeth, takes small trepid steps towards the end of the hall. when he nears, there a post-it stuck to his door, scribbles filling the width of the paper.

stopped by in the afternoon but you weren’t here so i picked up your letters for you. something in there was really heavy and made rattling noises so i made sure to handle those carefully. call us when you get back home, please. seokjin. ps: the spare keys are back where they normally are.

he crumples the piece of paper before shoving it into his pocket. bending down, he snatches his things off the doormat. there’s a brown envelope and something rectangular protrudes from the top of the parcel. lacuna inc., the address reads and namjoon’s heart stops. why would lacuna send copies of the tape to those who got erased from their clients’ memories?

he steps into his apartment and unsurprisingly, it’s as it was yesterday morning. as namjoon looks around, shabby, minimalist furniture and monochrome colors, he wonders where yoongi fits into his place- where yoongi used to fit in his place. did he have books lying around the coffee table? music sheets? did namjoon have sketches of him lying around? did his cushions and sheets smell of yoongi? did yoongi enjoy being a part of namjoon’s life in the beginning?

he digs his cassette deck from out in his storage cabinet, sticking batteries in there. he places it on the couch. the parcel sitting on his coffee table almost mocks him, begging him to open it and as soon as his fingers touch the rough paper, his doorbell rings. namjoon wonders if it’s seokjin.

a look through the peephole reveals nothing but a head of dark hair so he unlocks his door and pulls it open.

“i cheated on you,” yoongi says as soon as the door swings open and at his words, namjoon almost slams it shut but yoongi wedges his foot in between the door and the frame. “i listened to the entirety of the tape and i- i said that i cheated on you to feel something different but then i didn’t feel anything different because you’d affected me so much- i said that you changed me too much that i couldn’t feel anything but you- apparently, that was my number reason for erasing you.”

namjoon drinks in his words, processes it and opens the door wider. he hesitates for a second before carding a trembling hand through yoongi’s hair- it’s damp with sweat- and he lifts his head to glance at namjoon. his eyes are flooding with apologies.

“i got a tape, too,” he mutters, beckoning for him to come inside with a tilt of his head, “want to listen to it with me?”

yoongi takes a good long look at his face, eyes boring into namjoon’s, searching his face for something before he nods. he steps inside, taking his shoes off by the foyer and silently padding towards namjoon’s couch, sitting down against the cushions. as he walks towards him, namjoon thinks that yoongi blends in fine- too fine, too well, too naturally.

“have you listened to any of it yet?”

namjoon shakes his head. “was about to open it when you rang the bell.” he hesitates before taking a seat next to yoongi, reaching for the parcel and fiddling with the flap and ripping it open. turning it upside down, the tape clatters out onto the table, identical to the one yoongi had gotten. he slips it into the deck and leans back, waits for the words to start pouring out.

as before, static silence, then the low rumble of namjoon’s voice.

“my name is kim namjoon.” a pause. “i’m here to- uh… i’m here… i’m here… i’m here to erase min yoongi.”

he sounds pained, as if speaking was physically hurting him and there was nothing harder than having to say those words out loud and namjoon’s hit with a tinge of what it would have felt like. this namjoon didn’t want to erase yoongi- it was just his last resort.

“and why do you want to erase him?” it’s the same older man from yoongi’s tape, voice monotone and dripping with faux sympathy. namjoon thinks he sounds like a right asshole.

namjoon-on-tape gives a tired laugh. “because he erased me- well, i don’t suppose that’s the entirety of the truth. that makes it sound like i’m getting it done to get back at yoongi, but really, i’m just doing this to release myself from this- this hell that he’s left me in after he ran away and left me.” he sighs. “i loved him- well, love. i’m still in love with him. that’s why i want to have him erased.”

“and what was mr min to you?”

a pause. “he was my wildest dreams and nightmares personified. he was everything i wanted to ever be and ever have- spontaneous without a care in the world. it was thrilling to be with him but at the same time, it was like living with a ticking time bomb, always on the edge of bursting. nothing was certain and every move had the potential to set him off and being with him was like ice-skating on eggshells. i guess, at the end of the day, i always knew that being with him would end in shambles but i never thought it’d end with blank slates.”

he feels yoongi next to him shift closer, their thighs touching and forearms lined next to each other. yoongi places a hand on his palm and namjoon interlaces his fingers with yoongi’s, gripping tight and grounding himself. yoongi gives him a light squeeze.

“being with yoongi was beautiful, in the beginning when we were exploring all the possibilities of what we could be and it was exhilarating to be with someone so enigmatic, so nebulous- it excited me to no end that yoongi was something i could never be like.” a pause as namjoon stops to take a deep breath. “but then as time passed, i learned that yoongi was too enigmatic, too nebulous and someone i could never understand. he was like this magic show- his words and spontaneity were his smokescreen and i never knew how to see past that and figure out the real him.” namjoon words die out into a barely audible whisper by the end of his sentence. “where was the real yoongi?”

“and before i could figure him out, he was gone- out the door like smoke.”

 

 

 

“i think you should leave.”

namjoon’s arms tightens around yoongi’s body, completely betraying his words. it brings back memories of how they’d fallen asleep last night, bare bodies pressed right against each other with their arms completely wrapped around each other and legs locked at the ankles. namjoon had no plans of letting yoongi go last night and right now, he still doesn’t.

“yeah, i should probably go,” yoongi mumbles against namjoon’s collarbones, breath fanning over the thin shirt covering his chest. “i can’t think coherently with you in the room. should probably give you room to think about whether or not you still want to speak to an asshole like me after these tapes- this situation needs thinking over, really.”

they’re lying on namjoon’s couch, legs intertwined in a weird twist and yoongi’s right elbow is digging into namjoon’s ribs and his knees are too close to his groin but everything is calm and slow and without the rumbling of their recordings, everything is peaceful. it’s temporary and yoongi will probably leave in a few minutes but for now, namjoon hugs yoongi closer and presses his lips to the crown of his head.

“do we have to think about it?” he wonders aloud.

yoongi sighs. “we could choose to ignore the elephant in the room, but after finding out we destroyed each other in the past and had each other erased, i’m sure this needs a lot of thinking over. on my part and on your part.”

namjoon nods resignedly and takes a deep breath. “don’t leave me again. at least not without a proper goodbye.”

“my gut tells me that the cycle’s going to repeat,” yoongi confesses, “you’re going to hate me and i’m going to get sick of you because that’s what happens with me-”

“okay.”

yoongi’s head rises from his chest and stares incredulously at namjoon. “are you insane?”

namjoon lets out a soft laugh, feeling light, “i said ‘okay’, yoongi. if you end up getting sick of me again, then okay. i don’t know why i said those things that i said on tape- maybe i was angry or just wanted to hurt you as much as you hurt me- but right now, i can’t find anything about you that i don’t like and i don’t have any reasons to not try to build something up with you.” he says firmly. “for now, can we focus on the fact that even through all the shit that we’ve done to ourselves, we found each other again?- i mean, that’s got to mean something, right? someone up there clearly gave us another chance- no matter how sick their method might have been- and i think we should use it. fix things. fix us.”

yoongi’s silent for a long beat and namjoon would have thought that he’d fallen asleep if it weren’t for the sudden touch of something cold and wet on his collarbone. he feels yoongi crying before he sees it, body trembling against namjoon. he chokes out a sob, “okay.” he untangles his legs from namjoon’s and lifts himself up, completely lying on namjoon. he leans his forehead against the latter’s, “okay, okay, okay- okay, we’ll try, we’ll try- okay-”

namjoon presses his lips briefly against yoongi’s, a split-second of a kiss, pulling away just to lean away, breathing in all of yoongi’s incoherent mumblings. “thank you, thank you-”

“god, don’t thank me,” yoongi grumbles, “this isn’t something i should be thanked for- i owe this to you- for running away last time-”

namjoon interrupts. “-we owe this to us. giving us one more chance, that’s what we owe ourselves.”

yoongi raises his head to look him straight in the eye. he looks almost awed and there are unshed tears lingering in the corners of his eyes, sitting on his eyelashes and threatening to fall. his hand comes up to frame namjoon’s cheek, cupping his jaw. he looks so beautiful up close, namjoon thinks, so wonderfully soft and his eyes are wide and they draw namjoon in. his thumb circles namjoon’s cheekbones.

“we owe it ourselves,” yoongi echoes.

“you bet we do,” namjoon whispers.

“okay.”

“alright.”


 

 

 

“how’d you find your way back to haeundae?”

a laugh. fond. “i heard your voice.”

“my what?”

“your voice. i woke up one day- i assume it was right after my deletion- and everything in my head was so disoriented. my only saving grace was your voice. it was the one thing reverberating in my head so i decided to follow it.”

“what was i saying?”

a grin. “ meet me at haeundae.

a pause. then, “you think we’d ever get any of it back?”

“no. mierzwiak told me that that’s not how the procedure works. but that’s alright, i suppose.”

“how is any of this ‘alright’- we’ve lost so much. so many memories and moments we can’t get back.”

“it’s okay- we can make new ones.”