Namjoon has only seen his hometown a handful of times in the last nine years.
At age 11 he was thought to be something of a prodigy and his teachers basically forced him to sign up for a scholarship in one of England's best middle schools.
The school was overjoyed to have him, obviously, but it was also a boarding school in the heart of London - a city far, far away from the quaint little village town outside of Seoul that he was born in.
And from the moment he set foot in London he didn't really leave it at all - until now.
He went to a Middle School with boarding and then to a High School with boarding and then to University and by then he'd landed himself a decent part-time job and he could afford to rent his own apartment.
His parents always visited him in the city and Namjoon only ever really came home for a few days at Christmas.
So when he gets off at the bus stop and feels the heavy heat of the suburbs in the summer for the first time in years, Namjoon smiles kind of crazily (and sorta freaks out an old lady who gets off at the stop with him).
It's good for a while: walking down old neighbourhoods and streets that he used to race along as a child, feeling the sun embrace his cheeks and his back, marvel at how it glistens off of the small gems at the top of the village clock tower.
But after ten minutes he's wishing he didn't bring three bags and wasn't wearing two jumpers.
It's cold in the UK right now how is it so warm here?
Maybe he's just finally gotten used to strange British summers: with mediocre heat in May and excessive rain in June and probably snow too this year considering the weather he just came from. Namjoon still remembers the day he first arrived in London, equipped in shorts and t-shirts, because Korea was having a July heatwave, and finding everyone wearing coats and holding umbrellas because it was thunder storming.
He heard people saying "it's a sign of summer now!" Rain. Slightly warmer torrential rain is a summer for them.
Namjoon stops in the middle of an empty, but somehow lively, street, dropping all three of his bags to the ground and tearing off both of his jumpers with a lot of difficulty and squirming.
Only they get stuck around his head.
And that is how Namjoon ends up stumbling into a pedestrian looking like a large sock puppet because his jumpers managed to pull up his t-shirt as well which is conveniently reversible and on the other side has an upside down smiley face perfectly positioned to make him look like, well, a sock puppet.
Of course, he hears all of this later from his witness after he frees him from his woolen prison.
Which he does so now, revealing pretty pink hair (definitely not a common colour in the little village) and a beautiful, beautiful face as he does.
Probably the most handsome face he's ever seen. And he's met EXO – the most handsome idols on the planet.
"Thank you," Namjoon says with as much city-boy suaveness as he can muster after that.
And then the man hands him back his t-shirt, separated from both of his jumpers.
And Namjoon realises he is, in fact, definitely shirtless.
See, if he was back home (or, back in his other home at least) then he would've known that by the frostbite.
He grabs the shirt out of the stranger's hand and goes to hurriedly put it on, but he stops him, hand on one of his arms.
"Do you deal with all of your clothes so quickly? You might get stuck again," he takes back the t-shirt and Namjoon's so confused that he lets him.
Namjoon can't believe this. Is this man from a drama? Is Namjoon a rebellious, feisty female lead that resists all advances? Or should he try being the crazy, smitten one that goes kind of psycho from time to time?
"I don't-" he begins to say in English before he realises and has to readjust himself with a warning of Korean, Joon, Korean.
"I don't need help to put my shirt on."
The man takes his wrists and gently raises them above his head and he swears to god in any other situation.
But right now he just feels extremely ridiculed and very, very babied.
He lets him put his shirt on for him. Namjoon almost forgets to drop his arms again.
"There we go," the man smiles, "No blockage."
Something about him makes Namjoon smile back, despite the heat, he's very sure isn't from the weather, burning on his face.
Namjoon looks around the street (to avoid his intense but gentle eye contact) and it feels strangely familiar to him. He remembers the post office, he's pretty sure. And then the art shop that he never even bought a pencil at because he's so awful at art. He did used to go in with his friend, though.
Sometimes, even now, Namjoon wonders what happened to him. He was only two years older than him but it felt like a thousand, at least. He was so much wiser and taller and more mature and he really did know everything. He mothered him to no end as well.
There’s a pang of nostalgia in his chest but an even larger pang of longing.
Besides that, everything else on the street seems familiar - but he can't figure out why. He feels as if he's been down here a million times before but-
His eye catches pastel pink lettering with a small bear character beside it, apron on and holding a loaf of bread.
'Kims' Bakery' the sign reads.
That's why the street's so familiar, how could he forget about the bakery? The only one in the entire town? The one his older friend's family owned?
He's getting heatstroke, clearly.
The man's staring at him expectantly. Oh. Did he ask him something? Namjoon has no idea what he said.
"Great! Here you go," The man hands him a box that weighs probably two Namjoons. Maybe two and a bit. And it plummets him into a curved shape, box and Namjoon heading straight for the ground.
Both of these things stop before they crash embarrassingly.
"Ah, be careful!"
The man's smiling - Namjoon ponders whether he's reflecting the sunlight or radiating it - one hand supported underneath Namjoon's on the box, another wedged underneath Namjoon's arm to hold him up.
He had no idea he was so weak.
Or maybe this guy's got superhuman strength. Yeah, that's it.
"You should've told me you can't carry them,” He says, tone almost scolding. Namjoon lets out a huff, “What are you storing in here, bricks?"
"Flour. We go through a lot on Sunday, so we order a bunch of it on Saturday."
"What kind of place needs so much flour?"
The man looks incredulous, something that says ‘you’re not from here, are you?’ and Namjoon supposes that no, he isn’t. He mustn’t be if he has forgotten the potential flour factory.
"A bakery that supplies an entire village themselves?"
Namjoon's eyes scan the side of the box, and naturally, he sees the same bear and pastel pink logo.
"You can carry this one."
The man hands Namjoon one individual bag of flour and waltzes inside, three of the boxes piled on top of each other. Namjoon can't believe it.
He admires the same old 'we're open!' sign with the little bread illustration on it from his childhood. The only difference is that it's been carefully repainted to preserve it. Namjoon feels overwhelming nostalgia as pushes open the door after the man.
Nothing's different inside, at all: it's kind of like he never left.
The bell still rings the same, the fourth floorboard still creaks, there's still a certain life about it - the same glow that Namjoon always thought he imagined as a kid.
It's real. Definitely an angelic glow inside.
Even the counter's the same, with the old Victorian style till and the chalkboard menu on the wall behind it.
Namjoon rings the little bell on the counter. It's still a weird brassy green colour.
The man looks at him with amusement as if to say 'are you a child?' but before Namjoon can explain himself actual children come running out in a bundle of excited "hyung, hyung!"s.
"Hello!" The man greets them cheerfully (it feels almost unnatural to call him a man, as something about his features are so boyish and youthful.) His smile is jovial and has a sense of regality to it that Namjoon can't help but admire. He seems to compose and carry himself in such a graceful, enticing way that Namjoon also can't help but stare even as he picks the kids off of him after a hug-attack and crouches down to them, instructing them to go and play with ‘ahjussi’ instead.
There's something so familiar about it.
"Now," he says, peeling his eyesight away from the scampering kids and onto Namjoon who suddenly feels a little targeted, like his attention is too much.
"What can I get you?"
Namjoon momentarily forgets what he actually came inside for when the man leans against the wall behind the counter and looks annoyingly cool doing so.
"Well, you couldn't carry the flour and I helped you out of your clothes when you were stuck so you at least owe me an order, right?"
Namjoon can't remember anything on the menu. Nothing except butterfly cupcakes which his friend used to make him and - speaking of which where is he? And who is this guy? Has the shop been taken over?
Oh right, order. Well, what else was there? His friend used to read him the menu when his mum went to get… pumpkin bread! Her favourite!
"I'll have one loaf of pumpkin bread."
He's the best son ever this is gonna be such a great surprise.
"Pumpkin bread?" He repeats with an air of surprise in his voice, "I only know one person who ever asks for that - I make a loaf just for her."
His mum still comes here? What if she's always got a loaf of it? What if she's got three already and he's just gonna bring another and they'll all get moldy because no one can eat four loaves of pumpkin bread.
He better ask just in case.
"Is she," Namjoon signals a hand just under his shoulder, "about this tall, brown hair in a semi-bowl cut, constantly wearing plain clothes with really eye-catching scarves?"
"Mrs. Kim! How do you know her? I've never seen you around here before."
Just as Namjoon thought, the guy must be new here. Or, you know, been here for less than nine years.
"She's my mum."
His face drops. Namjoon thinks he's said something weird for a second. Maybe his mother is a dangerous criminal now. Or maybe she pretends not to have a kid. Or maybe she told everyone that he's a dangerous criminal.
"What?" The man asks, completely rhetorically and Namjoon has to stop himself from repeating it, "That's... are you sure? I- she only has one child and he's in London. It must be someone else-"
"No one else would wear her scarves, trust me. I just came back for the summer," He explains, feeling a little bad for dissing her scarves. They suit her! Just no one else on the entire planet. He doesn't know why the man's so shaken by this.
"Then you're... Namjoon?" His face is somewhere between elated and blatantly shocked. He draws closer to him, past the counter, their heights drawing not quite the same from the man's few centimetres under him.
"Yeah," it sounds like a question more than an answer.
The man abruptly grabs his face, bringing his own almost touching distance to it - Namjoon swears he's watched too much anime or dramas or read too many EXO fanfics or something because his heart beats a little faster.
"I didn't even recognise you..." He says and Namjoon thinks are you supposed to?
"It's me - Seokjin!"
The answer to that would be yes. Dear god, yes.
And from that moment on, Namjoon's Summer is a whirl wind- no a torrential thunderstorm - of Seokjin, baked goods and his mum.
It's more exciting than it sounds, honestly.
Seokjin runs the bakery for his parents now, because he's, in theory, the best baker in the region (his words, not Namjoon's).
He also child minds the local children, free of charge as he's naturally gifted in dealing with the little monsters since he basically babysat Namjoon when they were kids (again, his words - Namjoon was an angel).
"Do you... read the menu to them?" He’d asked, trying to act distracted by something just so Seokjin doesn’t call him out for ‘being jealous’ like he always did when they were kids. In fairness, Namjoon was a very very jealous child. But really, he only asks because he used to for Namjoon. He wants to know whether they’re getting the same quality extra tutoring as he did.
That's fine. No big deal. Whatever, it's just a menu.
"Do you... show them how to make butterfly cupcakes?"
That was their special recipe. The very first thing Seokjin learnt and the very first thing he taught to Namjoon. He tried to teach Namjoon a lot of things, but turns out he was not as gifted in the kitchen as he was in school. Those cupcakes were the only things he could make without burning the entire establishment down (not that he ever did that. He came close, however). Even then, the only reason he didn’t was because Namjoon only iced them. Seokjin didn’t even allow him to cut off the top and chop it in half for the wings.
"No, that's our special recipe."
Namjoon nodded contently at the time but inside he let out an obnoxious whoop. He was always kind of bad at sharing specifically Seokjin when they were kids – it was fortunate that Seokjin sort of knew that and made sure to let him know he was his favourite - but he's not like that anymore.
Maybe a little. He does wonder if he’s still his favourite.
He relays all of this information to his mum later who doesn't seem in the slightest surprised that he met Seokjin again so soon.
Of course, he almost forgot: his parents think him and Seokjin are fated.
"Do you not think it was a little bit strange how you just 'bumped' into each other?" She asks him, sitting him down in their cosy little living room with a cup of tea and a slice of pumpkin bread (she'd just ran out, thankfully, so it was much appreciated).
He left out the part where he got stuck in two jumpers and Seokjin pulled him out, leaving him completely topless. She'd be signing a wedding certificate for them.
He doesn’t miss the patronising look she gives him at the uncertainty of his answer because, in reality, Namjoon did think it was a little strange. Just a tiny bit.
She moves on as if she hadn’t said a word.
"Tell me more, what else did you talk about?"
Namjoon takes a bite of the bread when she asks this (unfortunate timing) and ends up mumbling his way through an explanation with the muffling barrier of bread, "Mostly about the last nine years, really. He was offended I didn't call him once."
"That must’ve seemed pretty bad.”
"It's not my fault!” Namjoon defends, swallowing the bread with a compressed shudder (he kind of hates pumpkin). “The headmaster only let people talk to their family."
"That's what happens when you go to elite schools,” She says teasingly and Namjoon laughs it off even though there’s a small, snobby sense of pride deep inside him.
"Exactly. Besides, switching between Korean and English would've been too hard. Every time you guys come over I have to watch nothing but dramas for a week in advance."
Saying it out loud, Namjoon now understands where his comparisons about Seokjin came from. His mother nods as if she sees his reasoning but is still vaguely peeved that he didn’t take note from one of those dramas and ‘sneak around to speak to his childhood sweetheart’ or whatever.
"What's it like seeing him again after all that time, then?"
This is like an interrogation.
"Weird. I missed him,” he admits regardless of the suspicious eyes his mother’s staring at him unblinkingly with. Their suspiciousness multiplies when he says this. She shuffles closer to him, pats his hand like a small child and Namjoon feels like he never grew up. “Do you... like him?"
He almost spits out the tea he’d untimely started to drink, "Mum! No, God, he's my childhood friend."
"You're right, you're right- sorry, honey." She pours more tea as Namjoon sets his cup down to recover, as if replenishing that will replenish his views of Seokjin being ‘just a friend’. Somehow her actions have that kind of eagerness to them. Namjoon hopes being easy to read isn’t something that runs in the family. She cuts another slice of bread he doesn't want as if that’ll urge him on as well.
Maybe it does.
"He... he got pretty handsome though didn't he?" Namjoon mutters behind his cup, immediately slurping loudly to avoid any further comment his mother could demand.
She doesn’t. She sits back in her armchair, seemingly content with the development and says "Mm hm," in a ‘my work’s done for the day’ sort of tone that makes Namjoon feel like he just got played by his own mother.
On Sundays, everything in the bakery is baked fresh. Or, in the process of being so anyway.
Namjoon's mom sets him up with a list of things she absolutely needs from the bakery.
"And don't leave until you get it all!"
Seokjin finds it hilarious as Namjoon tells him this, sitting on a stool in the kitchen as Seokjin smacks dough around a little.
"Ah, our parents always trying to set us up, even now," Seokjin says and Namjoon looks up from the dough to Seokjin who's got a sort of look on his face as if this is one of their in-jokes.
In reality, they never acknowledged it when they were kids - for fear of things being weird, maybe. So it surprises him that Seokjin says it so simply.
People change after being nine years apart with no contact, he supposes. Who could've guessed?
Namjoon laughs with nostalgia, and a memory comes to mind that he never had the chance to share with Seokjin, since they had, well, no contact.
"With my boyfriend, the first thing dad asked him when they met was "can you bake?" And when he said no he told him all about you."
"Boyfriend?" Seokjin stops kneading, fingers stuck in the dough. His face is a mixture of confusion and something that he can't figure out. He used to be able to read him so easily. He sighs inwardly.
Namjoon nods anyway, thinks about the guy and then shakes his head as well, "Yeah, needless to say, that relationship didn't last long."
Seokjin giggles, really, with a slight merge of his window-wiper laugh that Namjoon used to adore when they were kids. His hands start kneading again and the weird look he gave him melts away as he passingly says, "I understand. My parents used to question Yoona all the time."
Namjoon feels some form of dread begin to rise in his stomach.
"Yoona?" He tries (really, really tries) to not sound as interested as he is (he can hear his mother's voice mocking his 'interest' in the back of his head.)
This is when the 'wtf-meter' of Namjoon's brain begins to fill up.
"Oh... Girlfriend," he repeats for no reason than to fill the space (and also so he doesn't say anything else). It's totally plausible that Seokjin has a girlfriend. Of course it is - just look at him. Not that Namjoon would know that his childhood friend was painfully, desperately, cruelly attractive.
That'd be ridiculous.
But, yes, he's heard from various sources that Seokjin is that kind of attractive, and so it's absolutely possible that he has a girlfriend. In fact, Namjoon would've questioned it if he didn't.
Besides, Seokjin always said he was too caught up with the bakery to ever want to date (he was eight at the time but Namjoon figures it was enough), so it's unlikely this relationship well last long anyway.
Of course, that wouldn't be beneficial for Namjoon in his 'I don't like Seokjin' mind-set or in his real one.
But then, he says something. And Namjoon has never understood the expression of 'jumping out of your skin' until then.
"We're running on six years now."
He stands, bangs his hip off of the counter, and maybe he sees Seokjin smirk and that, that is the breaking point because wow.
Namjoon's brain malfunctions around this point because it's then that he starts switching between Korean and English, mashing words together and stuttering in both.
He grabs his hip, begins walking aimlessly around the room (though it's more of a fumble from the pain he's in). "That," he gasps, "that's a relationship." He says in Korean. "I can't believe this," he says in English.
"Not that I'm jealous. That'd be ridiculous." He's aware that he's mixing the two but for some reason it won't stop. His thoughts are merging languages now too.
Seokjin doesn't make a move to station him, not until Namjoon trips over the leg of a stool and almost hits his head off of the pot stand on the table.
He swears, swears his life has turned into a drama over the span of a few days.
Seokjin doesn't just steady him, no, it's a full-blown, caught in arms, dipped down, one arm supporting his back, a hand placed under his chin, a gentle whisper of "are you okay, Namjoon-ah?"
"When did you get hot?" Is his reply.
But as a stroke of good luck, Seokjin can't speak really any English, Namjoon recalls. It was always his worst subject at school.
Judging by Seokjin's dazed look, he can guess he didn't understand a word.
So, he guesses he just has to live with the realisation that, alright, he might have a thing for his friend. Just a little bit - because of childhood nostalgia, probably.
And that's absolutely fine, he can live with that. He could not live with Seokjin teasing him about it.
With that relief, Namjoon's thoughts begin to slow into Korean again.
"So, what's she like?" He forces himself to ask, just to be courteous. Seokjin's confusion melts away and he smiles airily. The kind of carefree, happy smile that in this moment Namjoon sort of resents. He doesn't really want Seokjin to be dating (evidently), and he's not all that confident in 'why' (minus the theory that it's just his childhood jealousy returning from nostalgia for a few days, or his parents' imaginary cheerleading at the back of his head, chanting 'you like him!' repeatedly.)
"Oh, she's great. Pretty, very, very smart. Around the same height as me, beautifully tan, lived abroad for a while, a few years younger, she bleached her hair recently, a clutz, can’t bake at all..." Seokjin's voice trails off and he gives Namjoon a quick glance who musters up the most convincing unconvincing smile he can. "And?" he encourages, but even his voice falls slightly flat, matching how Seokjin's eyebrows seem to go from being arched to flat as well as if he wasn't expecting Namjoon's reaction. He smiles, even more, to try and make up for it (Seokjin's looking at him as if he's a little creepy, though.)
"Well," he drags out in a dramatic breath (dramatic even for him) "my family's set on me marrying her because her parents own an airline and they don't want me to be a small village baker for the rest of my life."
Namjoon chokes on air.
Seokjin smiles mischievously, "Yeah, I don't have a girlfriend."
Namjoon's heart chokes on air.
He nods with an annoying sort of triumphant twinkle in his eyes, "Did you not realise I was describing you?” Namjoon did not. “My family are pretty concerned with me being a baker here, though," he says, as if that justifies the roller coaster of emotions he was just on that Namjoon did not buy a ticket for.
"Oh, that sucks. You should expand," Namjoon says, glad the conversation's gone back to something normal and glad that there's no potential fiancée in Seokjin's life (it's a small puddle of affection, barely even a crush, honestly.)
Seokjin's mouth forms an almost straight line that suggests this is something he's considered before. That figures, Namjoon thinks - he's basically a master baker at this point. He could be the Gordon Ramsey of the baking world. With less yelling and more nagging.
"Maybe eventually. Flights to here and there would be expensive, though," he says, confirming Namjoon's suspicions. He looks at the dough he's basically kneaded to infinity at this point, and sighs, turning to reach behind him to get more flour. As he does Namjoon can see that same smile from earlier begin to grow on his face. "Marrying Yoona would really-"
Namjoon grabs a wooden spoon from the counter and hits his head with it.
"Okay, okay." He laughs, rubbing the spot with faux injury. He sprinkles the flour over his rolling pin, then over the dough and when he suddenly looks up at Namjoon his heart chokes again. He’s beginning to think he should get that checked out.
"Admit it though,” Seokjin says, voice laced with an overconfident teasing tone that used to drive Namjoon mad (fondly), “you were a little jealous right?"
Namjoon hits him with the spoon again.
"It's okay, I'm handsome: anyone would be jealous."
He hates the immediate thought of 'he's right' in his head.
"Aren't you supposed to be baking things, not embarrassing me?"
Seokjin laughs almost devilishly. Namjoon forgot about said laugh. He missed that laugh.
After the bread goes in the oven, is baked at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes and left to cool while Seokjin gathers up the other buffet-worthy amount of things Namjoon's mother asked for, he hands him a cute basket and walks him to the door, flour on his apron (and across his cheek after he made another joke about the fake girlfriend).
As Namjoon leaves, Seokjin tells him to "Have a good one, Joon!"
And it takes him a minute to realise what's strange about it.
He said it... In English.
Namjoon drops the entire basket.
It takes him three whole days to work up the nerve to go back to the bakery because he's so embarrassed.
And even then, it's actually not him that decides to go to the bakery. Seokjin arrives at his door early at 8:30 am.
Namjoon's hair is sticking up in every direction. He's wearing nothing but a t-shirt and cyan briefs (cyan. The universe hates him.) He fumbles to get his glasses on.
Seokjin smiles and greets him with "Oh, good, I thought you were dead," in fluent, perfectly pronounced, scholar/native English.
Followed by "You look cute."
"So, do you want to go bake some bread with me?" Seokjin, apparently having gotten his fill of Embarrassing Namjoon with English for today, asks in Korean.
Namjoon nods, forgetting what words are and almost forgetting that he has to get dressed first too until Seokjin reminds him as he has one foot out the door.
"We're not primary school kids anymore, you can't waltz around in your underwear in broad daylight."
Namjoon had those memories thoroughly repressed up until now. Images of Seokjin chasing after him: the 4-year-old Namjoon that stripped off his shoes, then his socks, then his t-shirt, then his summer shorts before Seokjin caught him and told him if he put all of it back on he'd get him a cupcake (and he did.)
It hasn’t even been a minute yet and Namjoon is already flustered beyond belief. He fans himself as subtly as he can with his hand, ready to blame it on the heat he’s unused to if required. Seokjin doesn’t say anything, just smiles rather adoringly at him. It makes Namjoon’s heart flutters and he really should immediately go get that thing checked out.
What a ridiculous infatuation. Namjoon backs into the porch of his home and pretends that Seokjin’s ‘you look cute’ isn’t still being sang on a loop by a chorus of overenthusiastic angels (that look a lot like his parents) in his head.
“Come in, I’ll only be a minute,” he says over the choir’s sixth run-through. Seokjin does, immediately peering around the place and Namjoon’s unsure why for a second before he realises that he probably hasn’t seen his house in the nine years he’s been gone.
“Wow, the roof’s a lot lower than I remember,” He says, hair almost touching the door frame into the hallway but not quite. Namjoon ducks under it and agrees with him. The first few times he kept forgetting and banged his head.
“That’s because you’ve both grown so much!” His mother’s cheery, song-like tone echoes from the top of the stairs and Namjoon feels all of his organs clench up a little. Seokjin’s face brightens remarkably as he sees her, “Ahjumma!” he exclaims, already racing up the flight of steps to her open arms.
“Jin-ah, I told you that you don’t have to call me that!”
Namjoon stands at the very bottom, mouth agape. Apparently, although he hasn’t been here the two have not lost contact. Namjoon would bet that’s almost entirely down to her wanting them to get together at some point, even if she had to wait about a decade. He supposes that it could’ve been worse, though. She could’ve had him literally calling her his mother-in-law.
“Namjoon, honey – aren’t you going to show Jin your room?” The two turn around to look at him. He closes his mouth. Namjoon fidgets a little.
“Actually I was gonna get dres- “, His mother casts him a look, “Yes, I will show him it right now,” Namjoon corrects himself, reaching the top of the steps in a few strides.
Namjoon’s old bedroom was exactly like he left in when he came back, apart from occasional dusting and polishing that he was grateful for.
The walls are patterned with spaceships and littered with posters of movies he liked and posters of sports people he sort of liked and cut-outs of toys from catalogues he really liked. There was his old bookshelf that was absolutely bursting with books that he had to crush and flatten just to wedge in. Books that ranged from “Harry Potter” to “The Basics of Quantum Physics.” It smells like the shortbread candle his mother used to let him burn on special occasions like a good test result or a birthday. Namjoon notices with dread that it’s because she’s lit it. He hopes it was just coincidence that she did and doesn’t count this as a special occasion.
He’d told her about his embarrassment with Seokjin as soon as he got home from it happening. It took her the rest of the night to get over the elation that perhaps she was right and Namjoon did like Seokjin vaguely. But he was certain underneath that she was plotting something. Namjoon begins to wonder if Seokjin ‘just decided’ to pick him up on the way to the bakery, after all. She did magically appear at a convenient time and didn’t answer the door, forcing Namjoon to get out of bed to do it himself.
Seokjin looks around the room with even more interest than he had downstairs. He parks himself down on Namjoon’s pirate-sheeted bed and breathes out a sound of amusement that’s something along the lines of a “waaahhh.” Namjoon feels awkward in his own bedroom. He can’t understand how a simple meeting after 9 years had their personalities switched: Seokjin who was once an awkward, dorky mess is now an annoyingly suave and professional-level baker. Namjoon on the other hand hasn’t been able to form all that many sentences towards him as of late and blushing has started to become an issue.
“It hasn’t changed at all,” He marvels, taking in all the things Namjoon did on his first day home: the ink blot on his desk from when they tried to make each other a picture, but the pens they used were slightly faulty and burst everywhere, the tape holding up one end of Namjoon’s curtain railing after an over-the-top game of Blind Man’s Bluff, and the little tiny note beside Namjoon’s pillow that Seokjin wrote him at their last sleepover before Namjoon left:
‘Hyung’ll wait for you until you get back, don’t worry.”
And he did, Namjoon realises with a warm wave of that pesky infatuation of his.
Namjoon opens his wardrobe to find actual clothes to wear so they can escape any other surprises his mother might have when he hears Seokjin say “Totally awesome, dude.” In an over exaggerated American accent and his hands liquid-nitrogen-style freeze to the door handles.
How did he remember that he was embarrassed but forget the reason why?
“When did you get so hot?” Resonates in his mind, contrastingly to the choir of angels earlier, like a group of screeching witches.
"I didn't know you spoke English.” Namjoon mutters thoughtlessly, “You were always awful at it."
He’s thankful Seokjin can’t see his – 100% mortified - face right now.
"I had to make negotiations with suppliers for the bakery and I talked to a lot of people about expanding to another location, most of them speak English." He explains, and Namjoon hears him get up from the bed as the sheets rustle, he turns around slowly to see Seokjin stepping towards him. "Sometimes I teach the kids a little." Namjoon swears that Seokjin’s own little tiny chorus of angels and an ethereal glow just appear around him, out of nowhere when he says this.
Namjoon wonders when he’s going to bring up what he said at the bakery. Seokjin leans in closer to him. He can literally smell the floral scent of his hair. Feel the heat from his face reflecting onto Namjoon’s.
Seokjin pokes his finger past the gap between Namjoon’s head and the wardrobe door, “I like this hoodie, wear this one.”
Namjoon’s bones have officially stopped co-operating.
Seokjin takes out the sweater and admires it. It’s a cutesy pastel pink, just like the one Seokjin’s tied around his waist.
“Our telepathy must’ve still been working even from England,” Seokjin smiles with amusement and Namjoon laughs at them both disbelievingly.
It’s probably too hot out for a hoodie, but Namjoon takes it anyway.
Namjoon gets a text from his mother as him and Seokjin are cleaning up after baking three different types of bread: red velvet banana which is just as weird and good as it sounds, his mother’s pumpkin bread and sourdough, which Namjoon previously didn’t know was actually sour or such a lengthy process. Turns out, Seokjin’s sort of been preparing this for a few days now because each step takes one sacrifice to Demeter, Greek Goddess of Bread, and an entire movement around the sun.
“So, basically, you just leave it to ferment until it turns into something?”
“Yeah. You should be good at that. This won’t take around nine years without contact, though, don’t worry.”
Contrary to what Namjoon initially hoped, Seokjin has made numerous references to his ‘crush’ on him.
But yes, his mother. Namjoon almost laughs when he reads her demand that he brings Seokjin back with him so she can ‘thank him for the free loaf of bread’ he supposedly gave her last week. Seokjin gives her free bread a lot, he told him. She doesn’t specifically call him over to thank him each time.
Namjoon gives a huff of frustration, already dreading whatever embarrassment will come. It’s ten o’clock, the summer sun’s just starting to disappear, painting the sky with a lazy cherry red as it sinks below the horizon line. The air’s still hot. Namjoon really just wants to go home and read until he falls asleep out on the patio swing seat in their back yard. But none of that seems likely now.
No, Namjoon has a feeling he’ll be kept awake by recurring nightmares of whatever embarrassment awaits him.
Seokjin carries a small selection of all the things they baked today packed neatly into a box, talking happily about how he wants Namjoon’s mother to try their red velvet banana bread. Namjoon doesn’t hear every word, instead he hears Seokjin’s footsteps – the joy in them – and the intonation of his voice – the cheerfulness in the rises and falls of his words – and his laugh. Not the teasing one, the heartfelt, half-sheepish one he gives as he tells Namjoon about a stupid mistake he made in measuring ingredients the other day, and how the cake rose so much he thought it was going to fill the entire oven.
There’s a feeling of continuing right where they left off and Namjoon’s glad that tradition didn’t change. The time as kids that Seokjin went on a vacation to visit family for an entire month, no contact, and came right back – both of them talking about the newest Spiderman movie just as they had been right before Seokjin left.
They had this sort of talent: as if they could freeze their friendship in time and just unfreeze it later. Nothing ever changed. Even with nine years: nine years that they spent growing up apart, meeting people and learning things, their teenage years. The most influential time of your life and yet, they’ve changed but they haven’t changed.
Right. Zoning out and getting soppy in the middle of a conversation. That’s not something their talents can fix. Namjoon hums as if he’d been listening the whole time and was kind of confused as to why Seokjin called his name.
“We’ve walked past your house.”
He doesn’t bother trying to make an excuse. Seokjin would know.
“What were you thinking about?” Seokjin asks as they turn around and walk back down the extra road they ventured across.
Namjoon isn’t sure how to summarise it: their friendship, he guesses. But that’s the thing: it feels as if nothing’s changed but yet, it has. Because now Namjoon has some form of ‘feelings’ for his friend and that friend knows it. So why doesn’t anything feel different? Has he always looked at Seokjin with this sort of wistful feeling? – like his brain’s turning to mush but he’s vaguely alright with it.
Maybe he always confused his adoration for Seokjin as viewing him with a sort of god-like status for being older and wiser and taking care of him, when in reality his adoration was just… adoration. A crush, so to speak. A child’s crush, obviously - he’s still only infatuated.
Jin stares at him, the concern rising on his features from how Namjoon hasn’t said anything in a minute.
What was he thinking about? ‘How I feel about you’ might add salt to a certain English-outburst-shaped wound. But him and Seokjin never really bottled anything up (not that kids really do) so…
“S-sourdough.” Namjoon feels idiotic as soon as he’s said it. His thoughts are littered with the plead that Seokjin doesn’t get the reference.
“Sourdough, huh? Guess you’re really anticipating how it turns out.”
Namjoon doesn’t know how ‘sourdough’ would even begin to fit their relationship.
Seokjin is nothing but sweet.
(as a surprising upturn of good luck, Namjoon’s mum did just want to thank Seokjin for the bread. As a typical upturn of unfortunate luck, she also looked at all the food they’d baked and said ‘wow, you two are just like a married couple!’ Seokjin gripped Namjoon’s arm, head on shoulder and agreed.)
To be entirely honest, it was mainly payback for surprising Namjoon with an early rise the other day that brought him to the front door of Seokjin's house at precisely 7:35 am. It was earlier than Seokjin had been, sure, but Namjoon knew he had to be earlier than Seokjin would ever have to be to catch him off guard. Namjoon isn't really a morning person.
But, turns out Seokjin is. He's a crack of dawn person, actually.
Because Namjoon was greeted not by Seokjin but by his bleary-eyed younger brother, Seokwoo, in fluffy sheep-printed pyjamas, looking much more like his older brother as Namjoon had remembered him than said older brother had. He had Seokjin's shoulders, but on a much smaller, less-built, frame. He had Seokjin's cute little button nose, but even littler and button-y. But most importantly, he had the same 'have you gone insane, Kim Namjoon?' face that Seokjin nailed when they were six and eight.
Seokwoo's expression only intensified with the slow melting of his drowsiness.
"Hyung... what are you doing here?" He mumbled, wiping a hand across his face as if he was trying to cleanse the sleep from his features.
Namjoon smiled adoringly, but also a little painstakingly because he felt bad for waking the kid up.
Seokjin had already left. Quite some time ago. He finds this story hilarious as Namjoon relays it to him, sitting rather huffily at one of the stools at the bakery's counter.
"Who gets up so early?"
Seokjin shrugs, "We get a lot of elderly people and people traveling to the cities for work in the morning," he explains airily, straightening out his already messy apron as he sorts out yesterday's profits in the cash register.
"This, this is not the morning - this is 'go back to sleep' time."
A laugh bites at Seokjin's mouth but he turns it into a disapproving tut instead. Then his eyes widen as if he's remembered something, he slams down a few uncounted coins onto the countertop and says, "Our sourdough's ready, do you want to try it?" with an over-jovial expression as if it's the best thing in the world.
Namjoon nods just as eagerly.
It is sour, Namjoon’s surprised to find out, and Seokjin actually does laugh at him this time when he voices his surprise.
“A little, right?”
Namjoon’s about to agree, tell him that it’s still weirdly nice before Seokjin holds the remainder of his bread in his hands like a trophy or maybe Simba from that one part in the Lion King and says in a sickeningly sweet tone “I hope our relationship rises as well as this bread-“
“Hyung, oh my God.”
Okay, he got the sourdough reference.
He’d had some sort of sliver left of his vain hope that maybe Seokjin would let the whole ‘infatuation’ gig go. It’s been quite some time since it happened, Namjoon thinks. But supposedly not. Seokjin looks mildly worried, and Namjoon literally forces himself to recover from his coughing fit before he suggests he do CPR. Because then he’d need actual medical assistance.
He puts down the remainder of his bread.
“So,” Seokjin says once the embarrassment has begun to slip off of Namjoon’s face, “Now you can make three kinds of bread.”
It doesn’t sound very impressive but they both know that for Namjoon this is a great, great achievement. So what if he can’t make them without supervision? It still counts. It’s like swimming with armbands or cycling with training wheels. You can do it- actually, maybe those aren’t the best examples since you literally can’t fail.
Okay, maybe it’s not that special of an achievement. It’s a milestone at least. And it’s not like he actually needs to bake – he’s not gonna marry Seokjin and have to help out with the business.
Did that thought… really just go through his head?
He shakes it off, turning his attention back to baking and not domesticity.
“I can,” he confirms, again, the word ‘can’ is used very loosely, “But when are you gonna teach me how to make your special cupcakes?”
Seokjin seems to hesitate. Which is something Namjoon hasn’t really seen since they were kids. It’s not a trait he usually displays so obviously now but there’s something about the struggle to get words out that’s peculiar, putting it lightly.
But then all of a sudden he smiles, the way he always used to at their mention.
Seokjin had been making his special cupcakes for Namjoon and only Namjoon for as long as they’d been friends. They aren’t even remotely related to the butterfly cupcakes – that was merely a special recipe with a touch of sentimental value. These cupcakes, however had actual meaning.
They were a strange flavour – the most amazing, indescribable taste in the entire world. Namjoon had been begging Seokjin to tell him what was in it because he seriously couldn’t ever describe it. They had a soft centre with hand-made fondant lilacs arranged on top (they were/are his favourite flower) and the one he gives Namjoon always had “N&J” iced carefully onto the top in a pretty, cursive white font - a heart outlining the letters.
All of Seokjin’s cakes and pastries and biscuits are worthy of at least winning first place in The British Bake-Off. But his special cupcakes… those belong in an art gallery.
The older boy used to make them whenever Namjoon was sad or frustrated or even when he smiled at him and plainly asked – dimples obvious yet still delicate and with an enchanting twinkle in his eyes that Seokjin always said was something he couldn’t ignore.
He made one last batch for him the night before Namjoon had to go.
Seokjin had arrived at Namjoon’s front door at precisely 11:03 pm which was already past Namjoon’s bed time but his insistent ringing at the doorbell had caught his parent’s attention quite easily from where they were folding his clothes for his suitcase in the kitchen.
His mother wasn’t all that surprised to see him. Seokjin had been away visiting relatives all day. Of all days to pick a family get-together it had to be that one. Perhaps, she was more surprised by the bleary, wet look in Seokjin’s eyes as he gripped onto the bakery box like it actually contained the little, scruffy-haired eleven-year-old about to be shipped half-way across the world.
“He’s upstairs – I doubt he’ll be sleeping. He refused to until you came.” Seokjin didn’t miss the wisp of sorrow trailing along the laughter of her words. It made sense; Namjoon was their only child and although he was going to get one of the best educations possible it was still painful. They’d barely see him grow up. They couldn’t visit that much. They’d watch their son live and develop via a digital screen for the most part.
Seokjin would’ve killed for even that. But Namjoon didn’t understand that at the time. And by the time he was old enough to realise something like that he’d already pushed Seokjin to the back of his mind. Which was okay, because he had to focus on his studies.
Seokjin was hurt.
Back then, though, Namjoon’s mother’s words made him feel almost pleasant; as pleasant as that situation could be. He hadn’t told Namjoon that he’d come to visit him, no matter the time, but he’d known anyway. He trusted him.
It made Seokjin’s thirteen-year-old heart melt.
Seokjin took the steps two at a time, but managed to creep along the hallway to Namjoon’s room, lest he be out light a like despite his mind’s protest. Even little geniuses needed their sleep.
“Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin whispered when he’d opened the door. The lights were out but there was an immediate sound of sheets rustling and it was quite clear that Namjoon was wide awake. He shuffled a lot in his bed when he was just lying there. A few times even reading didn’t help him and Seokjin had opted to climb into bed with him on the nights they slept-over (probably more frequent than nights they were separate) and stroke his hair tenderly until his breathing fell into a sleep-induced rhythm.
“You’re here,” his friend’s sleepy voice came from across the room. His hand outstretched to put on his bed lamp and the room was illuminated in an orange-tinted glow that Namjoon always said reminded him of the sunsets they’d often see when playing outside – the summer ones. Seokjin had felt a weight drop in his stomach at the realisation that those wouldn’t happen anymore.
“Of course I am.”
Namjoon sat up properly, wriggling over in his twin-sized bed to make room for the older boy, patting the space with the clumsiness of drowsiness and not his usual persona. Seokjin got in, box still in hand as Namjoon rubbed his eyes enough for them to finally focus on it.
“What’d you bring?”
Seokjin couldn’t smile without potentially tearing up and if he made Namjoon cry on his last night he would never forgive himself. So he just opened it instead.
They were, in some respect, but much more intricate and cared for than Seokjin had ever attempted with any of his bakes before. It was obvious in the detailing of each petal. In the shimmer of elaborately dusted silver flakes across the petals. The perfect rise of the base. And the N&J iced on, with the word “someday,” underneath. Namjoon had been too taken back to ask at the time what it had meant. Seokjin never got to explain, either.
Seokjin had spent hours and hours and hours trying to get them just right. It was worth all the mess and waste just to see Namjoon’s reaction.
“Hyung… these are-“ There was definitely a threat of tears and as touched as Seokjin was he refused to let them materialise. He picked up the very middle one of the batch – the best one – and took Namjoon’s hand, setting it neatly inside.
“I know I always tell you not to each sugar before bed but just this once. And you better stick to that while I’m not there to nag, okay?”
If not for the fact that he was allowed to eat a cupcake right in that moment it was fairly apparent that the rest of Seokjin’s words would’ve pushed him over the edge. Namjoon wasn’t an idiot - considering the opportunity he’d been given – it was obvious that Seokjin didn’t want him to cry because it’d hurt him as well. But at the same time, he was also a kid who was losing his best friend and he couldn’t help but tear up and allow himself to be consoled so easily and just act like a kid for one last time before he had to start growing up.
Seokjin didn’t intend to, but that night he stayed with Namjoon, stroking his hair as he watched the moon’s light begin to fade out through the curtains and be replaced with a slow-rising end-of-summer sun. Before Namjoon could wake he wrote the tiny little message on his wallpaper – the promise of waiting for him to return. The message on the cupcake went hand-in-hand, but Namjoon wouldn’t realise that for some time with his emotions running wild in the morning along with the haze of just-woken-fatigue that he couldn’t shake. His brain was only functioning at 12% at best and the messages were forgotten about until a home-sick night in London a few months later when he’d realised their connection.
The ‘someday’ itself, however, still remains unclear to him even now.
So Seokjin smiles all of a sudden and Namjoon’s relieved in a sense. Maybe he hasn’t made them since that night – which would make sense because he only ever made them for Namjoon – so it was a momentarily lapse of wait, what’s the recipe again? Or maybe he just thought Namjoon had forgotten all about them.
“You’re not ready yet, Joon-ah.”
He regrets taking a third science instead of home economics, all of a sudden.
Namjoon has the immune system of an inanimate object.
In his entire life he can only imagine getting sick a handful of times - mostly from bad food poisoning at the times his roommate, Hoseok, was at dance practice and he had to cook his own meal in the dorm's community kitchen.
Which is why, when he comes down with the most horrific fever he's ever had, he's a little taken back: somewhere, in between the incoherent thoughts he keeps having.
His parents basically forced him into his bed when he started talking about the hot and cold flushes he kept getting. His dad put a hand on his forehead and his mum stuck a thermometer in his mouth and both of them yelped.
"It was because you were out in that rain the other night, Joon-ah!"
He'd been visiting Seokjin on a strangely cloudy day for the little village. His mum had reminded him to take a coat or an umbrella or something because it was definitely going to rain and Namjoon's reply was something along the lines of 'ah, it'll just be a little rain - I'm not gonna get a fever or anything, am I?'
The universe really does like to pick on him.
Torrential rain. So heavy and rapid that the clouds were almost black and for a second Namjoon thought he was back in the UK, having one of their summers.
He had water in his pockets and shoes when he came home.
"Namjoon! What did I tell you?"
She gave him a slice of her pumpkin bread and some hot tea but apparently that wasn't enough.
He should probably call Seokjin and tell him he won't be over today because it might seem strange considering they've seen each other almost every single day since they first met again. Unfortunately, Namjoon doesn't actually have his number but it's fine because fever-Seokjin is creeping into the room holding a fever picnic basket and Namjoon really hates fevers.
"Namjoon? You're awake?"
Namjoon makes an odd noise that could really be taken as anything, but Seokjin takes it as a yes.
It takes Namjoon a good few minutes of Seokjin talking about how he was worried when he didn't hear the bell of the bakery clink as Namjoon opened it too fast or hear the pull door be pushed all morning. And how he'd remembered about the rain the other night and that he'd told him to not go out in that but Namjoon was rather flustered about something and insisted.
It takes these few minutes for him to realise that this is real Seokjin. Not fever Seokjin. And he noticed Namjoon was flustered, resulting in an entirely unrelated to illness heat to encompass his face.
Seokjin had tugged on his hand. That was it.
But once he does realise, it plants an amount of strange suspicion in Namjoon's mind.
"Did my mum call you?"
Seokjin's eyes widen for a beat before he tries to regain composure by laughing. But his laugh has always been anything but composed. "Maybe," he smiles, "But either way I would've come here to give you this."
Seokjin hands him a short but wide cylindrical object wrapped in a checkered handkerchief of some sort.
Seokjin unties it at the top and lifts a cute little porcelain lid to reveal a... something. It's definitely something.
Namjoon blinks. "What is this?"
Seokjin gives him a look of concern as if it's his fever clearly getting to him and not whatever monstrosity has been crafted in this bowl.
"It's hot and sour shrimp soup."
That's two too many s's for Namjoon's liking. He screws up his face a little but Seokjin promptly ignores it and hands him a cute little porcelain spoon to go with the bowl.
"It'll make you feel better," he prompts, "promise."
He hates how that trivial little word and his warm and caring tone and his unfairly pretty face makes him immediately want to down the entire bowl. He chalks it up to his fever talking and tries to ignore the little stream of 'it's not an infatuation, moron!' relentlessly yelling in the back of his mind.
"And," Seokjin enthuses, digging into the picnic basket again, "I've got just the thing to go with it!”
Namjoon expects some honey tea or medicine or even a bib because someone as clumsy as him should not be allowed to eat soup in bed. But what he gets and perhaps should've been expecting is not any of those.
Seokjin unravels another handkerchief-package and reveals several cut slices of their sourdough.
"Our bread." Namjoon states rather obviously, but it's more of an accidental preliminary for Seokjin's reply.
He supposes it makes sense: sour soup and sour bread - it could be quite good actually but Seokjin's already grinning from ear to ear and fond dread fills his stomach so much that he's pretty sure he won't be able to eat for weeks.
He nods enthusiastically, "Yep! I hope our relationship is as versatile as this bread!"
"Hyung," Namjoon stresses. He hopes this isn't going to become some awful running gag.
The soup is really good. Seokjin tells him not to doubt him next time and Namjoon makes a mental promise to oblige.
The days have become fickle, with the weather knocking back and forth between searing heat and a pleasant, much-needed cool breeze that hinted at signs of an approaching autumn. It is the middle of August, and Namjoon has never felt a summer go so fast in his life, not since that last summer they spent together nine years ago.
“Namjoon,” Seokjin had said suddenly, head peering into his bedroom after his mother had just let him in – no call out to Namjoon or questions asked: something she’d become re-accustomed to over the summer.
Namjoon would be lying if he said that didn’t feel himself flinch more than a little at the sudden entrance. It wasn’t something he had become accustomed to yet. Nevertheless, he swivelled around in his chair from where he’d been reading a random book from his childhood about mystery solving ghosts and faced Seokjin, greeting him wordlessly with an easy smile and being eternally grateful he was not in his underwear (again.)
“I’ve got the day off today because of the Midsummer Festival. Do you wanna go?” Seokjin didn’t really sound like he’d be taking ‘no’ for an answer. Either that or he knew Namjoon wouldn’t dream of declining. Possibly both.
Namjoon had nodded his head so quickly his finger slipped and he lost his place in his book.
The Midsummer Festival is an annual tradition of their village, taking place on the seaside promenade down by the coast. Namjoon hasn’t been in years, but Seokjin and him used to go and spend the whole day there. He has a feeling today’ll be no different.
They walk along the beach, ice-cream in hand (Seokjin had ordered and paid before Namjoon could even blink – he even got him Neapolitan, his old favourite.) Namjoon looks over to Seokjin and finds pride in the few centimetres difference he has over them. It’s not so obvious usually because Seokjin likes to wear boots and shoes with thick soles to them, but barefoot on the sand it’s rather obvious. And rather cute but Namjoon doesn’t want to dwell on that.
And he also doesn’t want to dwell on how he desperately wants to reach out for Seokjin’s hand and intertwine their fingers like they used to do as kids. Because that crosses the line of infatuation, for sure.
But he doesn’t have to dwell on it because Seokjin suddenly grabs his wrist and pulls him across the sand exclaiming something about the fairground games stalls and how Seokjin’s gonna win him a stuffed animal, Joon-ah! He ignores how his heart beats a little bit faster.
Namjoon cracks a smile as Seokjin gets given three baseballs to throw at the milk bottles stacked up on a shifty looking table. These things are always rigged, of course, but Seokjin looks fairly confident – forehead set into a light crease and chin pointed slightly upwards with the cool sort of composure that was both familiar and new to him upon their reunion back in July.
Yes, always rigged, Namjoon thinks. Until Seokjin hits the entire stack down in one go. Which is unheard of because Seokjin used to be unable to even aim in the right direction.
Is he sure this really is Seokjin and not some random guy who took over his friend’s bakery and persona and general life? It’s not that unlikely.
As promised, Seokjin presents Namjoon with a stupid looking stuffed animal that practically resembles the bear mascot of their bakery. A smooth golden brown colour with big black eyes and a pastel pink ribbon. When he looks up from its eyes he’s met with Seokjin’s, who looks expectantly joyful and Namjoon can’t control the blush that rises on his cheeks. But when can he ever, really?
Seokjin makes a move to point it out, but seems to think better of it for once. He smiles sweetly and looks off into the distance towards the Ferris wheel. Namjoon’s life really has become a drama. A Ferris wheel? How clichéd. What’s next, they’ll get stuck at the top together?
They get stuck at the top together.
It’s quite a perfect scene, actually: the sun is just starting to lower in the sky – tainting everything with a light shimmer of orange that’s almost imaginable on their taste buds. A few birds fly lazily and languidly around, the gentle breeze helping them to sway and manoeuvre to an inaudible waltz.
It’s almost too perfect. If Namjoon didn’t know any better, he would say that somebody (his parents?) has paid off the universe to make this the most romantic setting possible.
Seokjin’s laughing disbelievingly (an alluring tinkle that crouches neatly under his breath) as Namjoon sits, bear (now named ‘Monnie’ after a bear character in a show they used to watch) wedged between them both, ‘like our own child’ Seokjin had joked.
Who says that? If Seokjin noticed the intense heat on Namjoon’s face, he chose to ignore it again.
Seokjin says something along the lines of ‘what are the chances?’ and Namjoon gives out a short puff of a snicker, shoulders fairly tense because all that’s streaming through his head are thoughts of isn’t this what happens in films? Isn’t this when people confess? Isn’t this when they kiss? Isn’t this- Which has set a weird sort of tension in the air no doubt only present in Namjoon’s world because Seokjin looks as at ease and laidback as he always is (well, always is now).
Namjoon doesn’t get this flustered. This is something he cannot comprehend about Seokjin: he makes him squirm with embarrassment over the lowliest things. Sure, he’s a little shy sometimes. He’ll blush a bit and look down and maybe even cover his face from time to time but with Seokjin it’s much less a ‘aw no I’m a little embarrassed how cute’ and much more ‘stake me with a fork I want to be buried’ sort of way.
He doesn’t understand why, and in all honesty he’s not sure he wants to understand.
But nothing happens. The ride starts working again and Seokjin makes a light-hearted confession of “I thought that only happened in RomComs,” which Namjoon laughs off along with his breath(s) of relief. He, however, decides to forget about the inch of disappointment simmering in his stomach. It’s probably just the ice-cream settling weirdly, anyway.
The bright orange sunset has delved into a deep red, quickly darkening with each minute by the time they both get out of the ride. It’s 9pm already but Namjoon can’t be that surprised – this day was always the fastest of the summer for them as kids. Even though they’d spend all day together, after the fireworks display when their parents would call them to go home, it still never felt like enough time. That feeling resonates in Namjoon’s chest now as well and he looks over to Seokjin whose newly-dyed pinkish hair is emphasised by the sky’s red. There’s a sense of remorse from the day coming to an end.
There’s always been something addictive about Seokjin’s time, Namjoon thinks.
“We should find somewhere to sit before it gets too busy,” Seokjin breaks the almost weighty exchange of looks between them with such a contrast from the ambiance that Namjoon’s fingers flinch microscopically against the bear.
He says ‘somewhere’ but both of them are led to the spot by pure instinct or muscle memory or perhaps the child version of them, dragging them by their hands in the rushed yet unhurried way that children do.
It’s a spot on a sand dune, just back from the promenade enough to see all of the sky without obtrusion and steep enough that no one else cares to climb it to take it from them; but just close enough to the crowd that they can hear their low murmurs and the excitement of the children. Close enough to hear music leak out from the event speakers and to smell the blend of food that drifts up from below and makes their younger selves’ stomachs gasp and moan.
The atmosphere is heavy in a sleepy, summery sort of way that makes Namjoon realise just how restless the rest of the year is. He recalls many times that he’d tried to keep his eyes open from up here, forefingers and thumbs curved into ‘C’ shapes between his eyelids until Seokjin would pet his hair and pull him into his lap, stroking through the soft strands as Namjoon lost all grip on staying awake.
Later, he’d be back in his own bed, but the ghost of fond lips on his forehead and a seashell clutched in his hand would always tell him how he got there in the morning.
Namjoon doesn’t have to fight off sleep this time. He feels painfully, eternally awake as Seokjin shuffles closer to where he’s sat on the altitudinous sand and leans his head on Namjoon’s tensed shoulder.
He smells like stall food and buttercream icing. Namjoon has the urge to only ever inhale for the rest of his life.
Seokjin mutters something about him being on edge into Namjoon’s shoulder, but before he gets a chance to excuse it the sky’s lit up in the most brilliant array of shocking green, accompanied by an echoing bang.
As the night is illuminated by the only colours that Namjoon deems as important from here on out, he barely notices his own arm slip around Seokjin’s back, hand landing on the elder’s hip.
He does, however, notice how Seokjin leans into him that tiny bit more.
It takes a very, very small event to shatter the glass defence of Namjoon's 'infatuation'. However, in Namjoon's head this is monumental. Revolutionary. It makes his ears blaze red as if sunlight is shining directly through them.
Namjoon is reading a book on his sofa in the living room, Seokjin's head resting easily on his lap, listening to the soft mumbles of Namjoon's narration. It's an English book, one that he'd hesitated to read out at first before he remembered that Seokjin was very confident with said language - the initial revelation of such is still an event he'd rather not relive in, oh, about a hundred years.
The delicate sun rays of a diminishing summer evening stray through the windows, making Namjoon squint slightly. Seokjin has his eyes closed, mouth formed in a permanent upturn. He looks so peaceful and regal that, if not for his comments on the plot or language every so often, he would think he'd fallen asleep.
At one point Seokjin stops with his commentary and Namjoon almost calls his name until he speaks first.
"Joon?" Seokjin says, peeling one eye open and peering up at the younger with an unreadable gaze. The nickname tugs at a few of his looser heart strings (the ones he'd been tugging at all summer) and Namjoon closes his book, thumb stuck in it to mark the page, to listen.
"Do you actually like me?"
Out of all the things he possibly could've expected to be asked, Namjoon was not expecting that one at all. His chest gets unreasonably tight all of a sudden and his denial catches in his throat when Seokjin pleads "Be honest," sounding so strangely unsure of himself that Namjoon feels a little breathless. The elder’s lips are parted just so slightly that he looks uncharacteristically child-like, as if the curiosity is boiling inside of him. Namjoon makes a hummed noise of submissive embarrassment.
He does. Namjoon's known that somehow from the very first flutter in his stomach at the start of the summer. Infatuation is an ugly, deceitful word for like, he's decided at last. And although he thought that admitting it would put a weight so heavy in his gut that he'd sink through the floor, the confession actually makes him feel lighter. So light that he smiles as he nods, like the corners of his mouth are floating away with their newfound weightlessness.
"Yeah," it falls out of his mouth all on its own and Namjoon won't feel embarrassed about it until later. He likes Seokjin. And that's enough.
Seokjin looks elated in a sort of affectionate way and he lets out a twinkling laugh, hair falling in his eyes slightly as the sound ripples and jerks through his body. Eventually it fades out and he closes his eyes again, smile not releasing even a little bit.
"You're so cute," he mutters once Namjoon's picked up his book again, half-way down the page before Seokjin's words almost make him drop it. How did he ever try to pass that off as infatuation? His fingers tremble semi-visibly as he turns the page before he's ready.
He doesn't ask Seokjin why he was thinking about that. He doesn't entertain the idea of whether the joy in his reaction means something or not. He definitely does not even consider asking him if he likes him too.
Because Namjoon doesn't remember how to say those things. All he remembers is Seokjin's sweet humming of 'you're so cute' in his head as the man turns on his side and traces patterns into Namjoon's thigh.
He thinks the thing that clicks in his chest is only metaphorical, but he isn't entirely sure.
There's many old habits that they've picked up on from their younger years this summer:
How they take random trips into the town and talk about all the things in each shop they'd buy if they were rich. How they'd often wind up at one of their favourite ice-cream shops or cafes no matter how they spent the day. How Seokjin would smear leftover batter or food colouring or icing in a line down Namjoon's nose which would evolve into both of them giggling senselessly and covered in leftover ingredients.
But the most regular and simplistic habit is Seokjin walking Namjoon home, regardless of the situation or time or weather. And luckily for him it's one of Namjoon's favourites.
Tonight it's warm as it has been every evening and Namjoon feels even hotter, walking so closely beside Seokjin - something he's never really gotten used to - with their shoulders touching every so often.
The sun's long set - time nearing somewhere closer to twelve than nine and the nights are beginning to get just that little minute shorter. It's barely noticeable but Namjoon can tell. Of course he'd notice any amount of shortened time with Seokjin. Each day drags closer to September and Namjoon shivers when their shoulders bump again, as if he can feel the autumn air already.
And then Seokjin says "I'll show you how to make our cupcakes soon," and Namjoon is filled with the most scorching inferno of heat throughout his body that it takes all of his willpower not to let his smile slip past the boundaries of his face.
"Really?" Is all he can think to say, almost stopping completely as both of their walking paces slow. The excitement in Namjoon's voice certainly isn't the most embarrassing thing he's dealt with this summer but it still makes him feel a little awkward. Seokjin notices, of course - approval at his reaction evident in the warmth of his features.
"Yeah," he confirms, looking away from Namjoon again towards the violet blackness on the horizon. There's a sparkle of stars in the distance, satellites overhead if you squint and the moon - bright and unbashful - just within view as well. There's a romantic haze to it, Namjoon likes to think. Although that's probably just him. He's been feeling rather mushy since he's scrapped the 'infatuation disguise.'
"I wanted to wait until the right moment," he explains, leaving no room for Namjoon to question what that moment is that it took so many years to come, because he shoots a question that makes both of their hearts sink slightly.
In fact, Namjoon's might completely dive to the bottom.
"When are you going back to London?"
London's something they've avoided talking about. It's obvious Namjoon has to go back at some point and it's... worrying, because if he's only been back here briefly once or twice in nine years will anything be different, now? The concern's completely tangible between them.
"Second week of September," he says, instead of 'in two weeks' because that's too soon. This way he can pretend that September is months away and it's July all over again.
It doesn't work. Not when Seokjin looks at him with such disappointment. It almost pains Namjoon to look at. He wonders where the happy atmosphere went that they had one small minute ago.
Seokjin's silent for a beat before he lets out a gentle "Oh," seemingly steeling himself a little after as he pulls a pretty smile and decides that "I'll just have to teach you soon then," as if he's trying to get Namjoon's excitement back. Their pinkies brush and Namjoon's mouth only twitches slightly.
Then their hands properly knock together.
And Seokjin grabs it and laces their fingers together as they come to a halt at a deserted main road.
They both look down, but when Namjoon glances back up again Seokjin's staring right at him.
"Remember how I never let you cross a road without holding my hand when we were kids?"
Namjoon does. He nods as the melancholy begins to be swept away by the sweetness from Seokjin's hand. His heart thumps in approval.
"You acted as if you were five years older than me."
Seokjin laughs. It's the melodic, graceful kind that Namjoon adores.
"You acted five years younger," he recoils, smirking challengingly as he averts his gaze from Namjoon to the road, pulling lightly on his hand to prompt him to cross.
Namjoon pushes his arm unmaliciously, laughing just like Seokjin.
"Hey!" He chuckles, intending to sound annoyed but completely failing when Seokjin looks back at him - eyes full of adoration. He squeezes Namjoon's hand, wordlessly.
London's forgotten for now. And that's all that matters. He looks away for a minute to catch his breath and when he looks back he's no longer thinking of their summer ending. He's thinking of Seokjin and how his smile says nothing but time.
Seokjin doesn't let go of his hand until Namjoon says goodnight.
Namjoon, being an only child and always the baby of his (limited amount of) friends growing up, does not have much experience around younger children. He half expects it to be disastrous when Seokjin invites the ones he babysits into the kitchen where Namjoon is leaning against the counter with barely hidden nerves. But it isn’t so bad. Not for him.
A scuttle of them shuffle into the room – Namjoon counts about five – and they make a strangely systematic sort of line in front of him, still sticking close to Seokjin who towers over them like their own defensive barrier. Namjoon can’t help but smile at that.
He goes to greet them but he doesn’t get a chance before one of them (the tallest one with her hair in straight black plaits and fingers gripping steadily onto the sleeve of Seokjin’s shirt) speaks up in a comically flat, calmed voice.
“Is this your boyfriend, Jin-Oppa?”
Namjoon curdles while the elder has the polar opposite reaction and grins cheekily at him as if he’s taunting his confession last week.
“No, I’m not his boyfriend,” He cuts in before Seokjin undoubtedly tells them something that is only half true and most likely exaggerated about their relationship. All five of the kids’ expressions dim.
“Aw,” another one pouts (fluffy, cropped hair like a duckling sticking out at the top of his head and a shirt that looks three sizes too big for him) “That’s sad – you look like a good couple.”
At this, Seokjin slinks over to Namjoon, past the scuttle, and just as suavely curves an arm around him, directing his attention to the tallest girl again with a knowing kind of wink that Namjoon already dreads, despite no words leaving his mouth.
“Like a good sourdough - right, Seolhyeon?”
Namjoon has no idea on the context. Did they make sourdough – is he trying to make him jealous? Did he tell them the story of them making it – did he exaggerate Namjoon’s obvious crush? Did he gush over their relationship and used the sourdough metaphor to explain it?
He shakes his head at himself from the last one.
She perks up in a rebound from her general disappointment on the status of their relationship as he says this, eyes glimmering with the same look as Seokjin when she says “The best.”
Suddenly everyone’s eyes are on Namjoon and he’s never felt so oddly unnerved in such a non-threatening environment in his life. He reaches for the baking tray they’d taken out of the oven only moments before the kids arrived and-
immediately drops it back down, exclaiming, because God damn it is very, very hot and that was very, very painful.
Seokjin practically leaps to his aid, clutching the hand with the reddening fingertips carefully – eyes full of concern. Out of the corner of his eye, Namjoon can see the kids watching in amazement as Seokjin rushes his hand under the cold water of the tap, all the while lecturing him about being more careful and how is he supposed to let him in the kitchen now and should he take him to the hospital what if it’s serious how can he tell his mother he injured his son when he’s been trusted with him for so many years and that he’s lucky he’s still young because his blood pressure would be through the roof right now, Kim Namjoon.
Namjoon gapes, a muttered apology finding its way out past his mouth. Seokjin looks up, alarm evident in his brows completely dissolving to a smile so dear Namjoon’s heart starts beating at twice the speed.
“You worry me; you know that?”
Namjoon nods, entranced.
After his hand’s all bandaged up (Seokjin refused to let it go untreated) and the kids have been given the cookies that he lost a layer of skin trying to give to them, Seokjin starts to round up the sleepy-eyed bunch and prompts them to say goodbye to Namjoon, which they do in a surprisingly upbeat energetic chorus.
When Namjoon thinks they’ve all been led away, he breathes out heavily and feels modestly content at how he handled the situation (maybe forgetting about the burn incident.) But then he watches a wide-eyed girl that can barely see over the countertop creep back in, thumb in mouth and short bobbed hair framing her face somehow unkemptly – in an endearing way.
“Namjoon-ssi?” She voices – the first time Namjoon’s heard her speak tonight – and Namjoon feels himself crouch down to her level, smiling gently to prompt her on as he says, “Yes, Mirae?”
He doesn’t miss the small beam that tugs at her lips around her thumb when he says her name. She takes an amusingly exaggerated breath and says “Don’t leave Jin-oppa again please. All the stories he tells us from when you were our age make him really happy.”
“They… do?” Namjoon can’t help the grin that surfaces on his face. Mirae looks relieved as if she can tell right away that he has absolutely no plans to.
And then… the clearing of a throat that’s certainly not his or hers. Followed by a hand patting Mirae’s back and coaxing her out of the room again. Namjoon follows it upwards and sees Seokjin’s face glowing a shade of red.
Seokjin’s… embarrassed. Oh, god, this is something he hasn’t seen so obviously in years.
He’s aching to tease him about it. But then he catches the gentle, timid look in Seokjin’s eye as he says “Say night, night Mirae,” and she echoes it after him. And Namjoon freezes. Virtually shuts down. All will to make fun of him crumbles and Namjoon’s most likely the same colour right now.
That look. That’s the look that gives Namjoon a sliver of hope, if nothing else does, that Seokjin’s feelings might not be as platonic as Namjoon thought. Maybe it’s a stupid thing to base it off, but he smiles to himself anyway once Seokjin and Mirae have left. For once, he takes a small amount of pride in the butterflies gracing about in his stomach like scattered icing sugar.
He wonders if Seokjin feels them too.
"I'm so sorry," Namjoon says for what must be somewhere close to the seventh time. They stand outside the entrance of a Chinese restaurant that's surprisingly busy for such a small village, but it's also Friday night which seems to be eating out night for the entire population.
They both smell like burnt chicken.
Namjoon grins awkwardly.
"It could've happened to anyone," Seokjin tries to reassure him but he can't say it without snickering or without a hint of disbelief in his voice.
"Plus I like Chinese food!" He says with a teasing look, quickly adding "And I feel better when you're not around any knives," clearly thinking of the many times he had to grab onto Namjoon's hands to stop himself from potentially chopping off a finger.
'Am I going to have to back hug you and guide your hands?'
That promptly stopped Namjoon from pursuing his vegetable cutting career.
Namjoon's about to hit him or argue back or do something kind of out of place for a fairly established restaurant such as the one they're standing at the door of, when a waiter comes over to them with pretty orange locks and a gleaming eye-smile; and he seems to smile even more when he sees Seokjin.
"Hyung! Ah, I wish you'd have come earlier - we're almost full besides the tiny little booth in the corner," he gestures over his shoulder and Namjoon sees the booth in question and almost thinks that the guy’s kidding. It's crammed into the corner, right beside a huge window (hey, at least the view's nice) and makes a stumpy L shape. Both seats are probably only two 30cm rulers wide.
How is it possible for anyone to fit two pairs of legs under there you’d have to be completely bunched up together there’s no way they can sit there-
“That’s fine Jimin-ah, we’ll take it.”
“Really?” He asks disbelievingly, further proving Namjoon’s point at how ridiculous it is, and when Seokjin nods, Jimin gives a jokingly sympathetic look to Namjoon and says, “Wow, unfortunate you got stuck on a date with someone like this, right?”
Namjoon flinches, ready to deny their relationship before Seokjin jumps in with a sharp (but still playful…ish) “Yah! I’ll have you know I’m a great date.” Jimin guides them anticlimactically to their table and scoffs at this.
“I can’t believe you got a boyfriend and I’m still tragically alone.”
“Tragically pining,” Seokjin corrects, nodding over towards another waiter, much less bubbly than Jimin is. In fact, from a distance they look like polar opposites: the boy is skinny against Jimin’s firm build and has a more delicate prettiness to him against his striking beauty. He has a scruff of blonde hair perched on his head and seems to have a neutral indifferent face. But then he sees Jimin and Seokjin and suddenly he’s grinning at them with a wide, elated smile. The kind that could steal hearts, Namjoon’s sure. Jimin definitely looks like a victim of this.
He dreamily hands them a menu each as Seokjin says “Why don’t you just go ask him out already it’s been, like, two years – seriously.”
“And for our special tonight we have Minted melon, tomato & prosciutto salad, perfect for the summer season,” Jimin starts, opening their menus in their hands to the main course page and completely ignoring Seokjin’s displeased frown, “I’ll be back to take your order in five.”
“Don’t stare at Yoongi for too long, now,” Seokjin calls after him, earning an endearing pout directed at him from the waiter.
They sit down in the booth and – just as predicted – their shoulders are basically permanently attached for the duration of the meal.
Seokjin explains that Jimin is just a year younger than Namjoon, and arrived in town a year or two after he left (“don’t worry Joonie, he didn’t replace you”), and that he might remember Yoongi – the other waiter – as the virtuoso from his year that used to play piano for the choir in elementary school. Namjoon can’t say he does, he usually steered clear of the choir, but he nods along anyway.
Jimin gets teased again when he comes back, and threatens not to serve them at all, but does in the end. In fact, he gives them complimentary fortune cookies with a cute giggle as if he’d forgotten all about it. The meal’s a little too good and both of them feel vaguely sick after it but dessert it always a must in this restaurant, Seokjin reminds him, and they wait on it in a comfortable silence.
Until Seokjin calls his name and Namjoon snaps out of the daze he was in to see Seokjin – but not as he looked a few moments ago. The sun’s officially set now and the older boy’s basked in the glow of the moon, almost angelically. His head’s tilted to get a better view of him from sitting obscenely close meaning that said moonlight also illuminates the lighter parts of his pastel hair. Really, angelic.
His voice is soft and lulling when he speaks, and somehow he hears him through all of the noise of the restaurant, like everything else is drowned out.
“Thanks for tonight, Joon. I had a lot of fun.”
He says ‘tonight’ but the unspoken words resting on his lips suggest that it’s more about ‘this summer.’ A drop in his stomach and Namjoon acknowledges that it sort of feels like a goodbye. Or at least the beginning of one.
Deep, deep in his chest something clicks again at the same moment he thinks ‘I don’t want to say goodbye to you.’ But his brain’s too fogged up from burnt chicken and the afterglow of a good meal to decipher it.
He smiles far, far more effortlessly than appropriate for the moment, saying “You can make it up to me by making some of those cupcakes before I go.” And just like that the strange atmosphere is gone and Seokjin laughs radiantly.
“Right!” he says, “we’ll make them together.”
Seokjin’s practically gone voiceless when they start to make the cupcakes. He rushes about the kitchen with his head ducked, has his shoulders sloped when he stands idly (which are rare moments because in addition to being quiet, he’s also weirdly restless) and talks using a surprisingly small word count considering he’s supposed to be teaching him how to make them.
There’s something off about him. Actually, Namjoon’s pretty sure there’s been something a little off ever since he burned their dinner a few nights ago. As the days went on, drawing closer to this day, Seokjin became more and more restless and subdued.
Namjoon won’t lie – it’s kind of freaking him out. There’s no way it’s because he burned the chicken, is there? It didn’t look that expensive. Or maybe he got food poisoning from the restaurant? Or maybe he’s just sad that Namjoon’s leaving soon. That one warms his heart quite significantly. He’ll go with that.
“Seokjin,” Namjoon puts a hand on his arm to still him as he continues to measure out ingredients in a style so flippant that Namjoon really genuinely is getting worried. He measured half the flour and then started searching the cupboards for sugar.
“Yeah?” He gapes at him, crinkling his nose in confusion as if nothing he’s doing is out of the ordinary at all. Namjoon has to supress an eye roll. He gestures at the mound of ingredients Seokjin’s pulled out from around the kitchen and he’s pretty sure they don’t need all of this but of course he doesn’t know because Seokjin hasn’t said a word about the cupcakes except that he hasn’t made them in a while.
Has he forgotten the recipe? Is that the problem?
“You haven’t told me anything about any of this. I don’t even know what this is,” He rants, picking up a strange carton of a mysterious liquid.
“That’s milk, Joon. I took the label off.”
Well, his point still stands.
Seokjin takes a deep breath and puts down the two containers of more unknown substances, turning to face Namjoon properly.
“Okay,” he says, “I’ll teach you.”
He does, the best that he can anyway. He tells him how to separate the egg whites from the yolk, he tells him just how much is the perfect amount of flour – and how easy it is to go under or over it when Namjoon attempts it – he tells him that salt is needed in cupcakes despite Namjoon’s look of disgust and claim that ‘you must be screwing with me,’ and he also shows him the wondrous ingredient that is vanilla extract which Namjoon immediately falls in love with.
He thinks Seokjin smells like that, coincidentally.
“It smells amazing, right?” Seokjin gushes, tapping the little glass bottle with an affectionate fingertip. Namjoon makes a sound of agreement, “What does it taste like?”
He looks at him with an unreadable expression, suddenly pouring a little onto his finger.
“Try it,” he coaxes and Namjoon blinks at him for a solid five seconds. Then he looks at his finger and isn’t it just a bit weird to lick something off someone’s finger? Seokjin reminds him that his hands are perfectly clean.
It tastes revolting. It’s similar to being punched but instead of it being a fist it’s just a really large, solid block of vanilla. Namjoon shivers from the aftertaste.
He nods, face scrunched up in repulsion.
“I put it in my coffee sometimes,” He hums, setting the bottle back down and not looking away from Namjoon, eyes heavy with a sort of intensity way too out of place for the discussion. Namjoon looks over his shoulder to try and keep from melting on the spot. Or exploding. He doesn’t really want to find out.
“Well, you basically know the recipe now. You could probably run me out of business at this point.”
Namjoon sees Seokjin grinning at him in his peripheral, but his eyes won’t move from where they’ve glued themselves.
“But,” Seokjin says slowly – a physical build of tension somehow being created from his tone – “There’s a secret ingredient.”
Namjoon manages to look at him, his interest piquing so strongly that he forgets what awkwardness is. Seokjin grins even wider when their eyes meet again and he bunches closer to Namjoon almost teasingly.
“What is it, Seokjin?” It’s laughable, the curiosity in his voice, but it seems to fit the strange shift in the mood and, really, who knew making cupcakes was so exciting?
He leans in closer so their noses almost touch and Namjoon is very glad for human adrenaline because if it wasn’t for that his face would literally be on fire. The second time he creates a fire in the kitchen in one week. Seokjin lowers his voice, an eyebrow raised as he asks “Are you sure you want to know? It’s something I’ve kept secret for a very long time.”
Namjoon nods. He can’t remember how words work.
Seokjin’s hand lands on the counter that Namjoon’s suddenly aware of him having backed up against. For a wild minute he thought he was going to kiss him, that that was the reason he’d been acting so strange, but obviously he’s reaching for the ingredient – one of the strange ones that Namjoon’s never heard of.
But then Seokjin’s other hand comes to rest on Namjoon’s waist. Their eyes are pulled together by some otherworldly gravitation and Seokjin leans in, just enough for the warmth of his breath to wash over Namjoon’s mouth. He smells sweet.
“It’s this,” he breathes and immediately their lips meet and Namjoon’s fairly certain the gravitation pulled that together too, and the heat of Seokjin’s mouth is amazing – unlike anything he’s ever felt before. His own hands go to rest on his shoulders, steadying himself because he feels slightly faint and this is everything he wanted, really. Everything he’d been wishing and wishing for for such a long time that he can’t even remember since when because of all the ‘rational’ lies he’d buried it under.
Their lips glide over each other like it was, as cliché as it is, meant to be. They fit so perfectly Namjoon can’t remember why they’ve never done this before. Their teeth knock against each other and it makes them break out into small chuckles at a sudden awareness of what they’re doing. When Namjoon opens his eyes Seokjin is staring right back at him, hands suddenly cradling his face as their foreheads rest together. The only sound in the room is their gentle breathing.
“You taste like vanilla,” Seokjin whispers, voice melting with fondness.
Namjoon hears their breathing. And then he hears that click in his chest again, louder than it was last time as if something’s finally settled where it should be. He feels warm and at home. He doesn’t want Seokjin to let go.
But he does and they eventually get the cupcakes actually made and in the oven after a few more baby kisses that Seokjin steals. His hair, his cheek, his jaw and finally his lips before Namjoon told him that they’d never be done if he kept doing that. Not that he didn’t want to. It kills him to be the nagging one for once.
Seokjin takes the oven mitts off of his hands and turns to Namjoon with a coy smile.
“You know I’ve liked you since I was seven, right?”
That revelation, right there. That blows Namjoon’s head full of clouds – hazy, pinkish ones that reminds him of Seokjin’s hair. He can’t think of a proper reply, not even any noise of acknowledgement or shock. He just stares at him, lips slightly parted to make a circular shape.
Seokjin doesn’t seem phased, he dusts the flour off his apron (thankfully not his ‘kiss the baker’ one as Namjoon thinks that would’ve been too coincidental) and nods contently to himself, “Yeah,” he mutters, “I thought I was maybe sort of over it, but then you just… came back out of nowhere and I’ve had, you know, the best two months I’ve had in forever and we barely spent a day apart and I realised that… there’s no way I’m getting over that,” He looks vaguely shy for once when he finishes and he laughs flusteredly, “No way I’m getting over you.”
Click. There it is again. Namjoon feels his entire body suffer a weirdly hot shiver. He is so, so smitten. And then he isn’t really sure where the thought even comes from but suddenly he’s asking Seokjin, “Did you plan the cupcake thing?”
Seokjin looks kind of caught off-guard, like he hadn’t expected Namjoon to realise. He quirks his lips upwards, “Yeah,” he confirms, “I’ve had that planned since we were little.”
And then, something even more revolutionary comes to his mind and Namjoon almost jumps in the air, feels his whole body tingle because what if he’s right?
“Is that what the ‘someday’ meant?”
He smiles even wider.
“I thought I’d get to confess to you eventually with the cupcakes but then you left,” there’s a moment where a flicker of sadness crosses his expression but then he meets his eyes again and they glow, honestly, “we were too young, anyway, but I knew that one day I’d do it.”
Hyung’ll wait for you until you get back, don’t worry. Someday.
His hand skips along Namjoon’s arm and stops on top of his own hand.
“This is the day,” he says, swiftly taking his hand in his, “This is me confessing.”
One, two, three.
“Oh my God, you like me?”
Namjoon’s very, very slow in the romance department for a super-genius.
Seokjin seems to get a breath or a word or something stuck in his throat because he stops all of a sudden – as if he’s buffering or something – and then clears his throat and nods confidently, “…Y-yeah, I… I like you, Namjoon-ah.”
If Seokjin buffered, Namjoon entirely shuts down. He hates how nervous he makes him.
So for once in their friendship, for once, Namjoon forces himself to be the bold one and he catches his free hand on the back of Seokjin’s head, lets his fingers curl in-between the locks of pastel hair and brings Seokjin’s lips to his. Not as smoothly or as expertly as he’d like, but they’ve always been a little imperfect.
As Seokjin smiles against his mouth he realises he wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s surreal, honestly: his last conversation with his mother as she drives him to the airport and all she wants to talk about is Seokjin.
She freaked when Namjoon told her about their newfound ‘relationship’ (they didn’t actually say anything about that but he’s fairly sure mutual ‘like’ is enough to call it that,) and demanded every single detail about it. He had to leave out the kitchen-counter-make-out, though, no way was he forcing himself to tell her that.
However, it is important to note that Seokjin is very good at not only pecking but all kinds of kissing and also he looks great without a shirt on and his shoulders are even better than he thought they’d be.
Is it unhygienic to make-out in a kitchen? Probably. Seokjin most likely sterilised the entire place after he left.
“I’ll miss him… a lot,” Namjoon sighs, thoughts of their kitchen escapades aside, as he looks distantly out of the window of his mother’s absurdly small car, “A few nights ago he was just… sitting there and all I could think was ‘wow, I’m gonna miss him,’ and I just felt something… like, click, you know?” He tilts his head a little at himself, chin resting on his hand as they pull out of their neighbourhood and begin to travel along the streets that Namjoon has come to relearn as his own over the duration of the summer – with the help of Seokjin, of course: his sort-of-non-official-but-totally-implied, boyfriend.
“I don’t know what it was, but then when we kissed it happened again and then it just felt so final-“
“It kind of felt like something in your chest moving into place?”
Namjoon turns his head to look at her, excitement building up in his bones as he relays the feeling, “Yeah! Like a piece finally fit.”
He doesn’t miss the strange look that washes over her face, or the overly serious tone in her voice when she says, “Namjoon…”
He doesn’t say anything. She looks so serious he hasn’t seen her like this in years – his mother’s constantly light-hearted and joking so what could’ve gotten her like this it’s not like she doesn’t like their relationship; she endorses it so what could possibly make her so unlike herself?
“Do you...” she starts, losing her words like water as soon as she speaks, “are you maybe…”
He has no idea what she’s trying to say. Hell, if he didn’t know any better for a second he’d think that she was implying that he was-
“Oh my God,” Namjoon breathes, everything suddenly (comically) clicking into place in his head and all of his thoughts and feelings and it all makes so much sense and- “Oh my God.”
“Mum,” His hand latches onto her arm and he almost feels bad for probably piercing into her skin but she doesn’t seem in the least bit bothered as he says “Can we stop at the bakery?”
He hasn’t heard her agree to something so fast in his life.
To say Namjoon screeches Seokjin’s name as he enters the bakery, stumbling from the speed that he gained after he decided to evict himself from the car and run down the street because it’d be ‘faster’, would not be a complete exaggeration; he accepts this as he tries to bring himself to a stop before he crashes.
He does, despite his efforts; he crashes into a shocked Seokjin who manages to put down a tray of shortbread and open his arms before Namjoon breaks something (the food, the tray, a bone, Seokjin) and he winds his arms around him as he tries his very hardest to steady them both.
Nobody’s in the shop right now, fortunately – Namjoon doesn’t want to freak out any elderly couples enough to boycott the business.
He doesn’t seem all that surprised at Namjoon’s entrance, more just stunned that he had any entrance at all. “Joon, I thought you were leaving?” Seokjin says very quietly into his ear as Namjoon leans down to rest his head on his shoulder, still not having let go of him despite them both being very obviously stabilised.
The night before they’d had a very lengthy discussion about Namjoon leaving. What they’d do to keep in touch, since the university rules follow suit of its matching high school and still don’t allow any contact from non-family members for the first two years. Seokjin suggested that they get married and Namjoon playfully (and embarrassedly) smacked him as his internal organs flailed around inside of him like gummy sweets.
“Come on, Jimin would kill to catch the bouquet.”
The hopeless romantic waiter aside, Namjoon couldn’t really come up with a solution to that problem (without marriage, but he’s a little too young for that even though he knows he’d have his parents’ blessing) so he simply shrugged and pulled his best lead-bad-boy-in-a-drama smile and said “I guess I’ll just have to do it secretly,” to which Seokjin snorted and told him he was the least rule-breaking person he knew.
And then he kissed his cheek and Namjoon came to the conclusion that he would rob a bank for the boy.
In the end, Namjoon promised that he’d visit at Christmas, if he couldn’t find a way to talk to him before then.
At last, they pull apart, enough for them to be face-to-face while Seokjin waits for an explanation. Namjoon takes a deep breath, it’s now or never.
“About the cupcakes,” he starts, and Seokjin looks sort of bewildered as to how this could possibly warrant him sprinting into his shop like he’d just been attacked, “I have my own secret ingredient that you could add.”
“You… do?” He sounds sceptical – looks ambiguously intimidating which is worse because it’s in a sort of ‘I swear to God, Kim Namjoon, if you don’t have a point to this I’m going to kick your ass for risking missing your flight’ way.
Namjoon nods. Wow, he can hear his heart racing. He’s pretty sure he can literally hear his heart racing can Seokjin hear that is it all in his head why can’t he focus on anything else how is he supposed to say words now Seokjin is going to kick his ass but with love of course all love and-
“I love you, Jin.”
Thank God for Namjoon’s nervous habit of completely disintegrating any form of a filter he has.
Wait, he just said- oh no. Oh should he have waited? Is it too soon oh no what if Seokjin thinks it’s too fast? He called him Jin too he never calls him Jin he’s the only person who calls him Seokjin it’s so weird he just confessed his love and called him Jin.
“That’s the ingredient. My…” oh dear, “love,” Namjoon shrivels up from the inside out and buries his face in his hands making a sound relatively close to an old door that has hinges needing oiled. “That was so cheesey I’m so sorry, oh my God,” he says, voice kind of muffled by his hands; they’re hot – his hands are literally hot from the blood that’s rushed to his face. He’s turned into a radiator.
But then Seokjin peels off his weirdly warm hands off of his very warm face and suddenly they’re eye-to-eye and Namjoon feels a little lightheaded at how beautiful he is – like he has short-term memory loss and re-realises it every time he looks at him.
There’s a light in the older boy’s eyes, but it’s nothing compared to the absolute glow on the rest of his face. He’s smiling, ah, smiling and not repulsed, Namjoon’s never felt more relieved in his entire life.
He doesn’t let go of Namjoon’s hands, just squeezes them both affectionately as he says, “I love you too!” like he’d been holding his breath underwater.
Wait, he does?
“B-but…” He pauses, “you said you liked me the other night?”
“Yeah, do you know how much willpower that took?” he shakes his head fervently, “I didn’t want to scare you off because who falls in love with someone in two months?”
Namjoon smiles because that makes his hesitation a lot more justified. Wow, what a relief that is, he guesses everything’s worked out in the end; they’ve confessed and now they’re having a nice, fairy-tale moment how grea-
“I guess I’m just pretty amazing.”
Namjoon glares (lovingly) at him, “You are,” he admits begrudgingly (but again, out of love) and the word rolls off of his mental tongue so easily that it makes him wonder if he felt it all along. If the bright smiles and excitement when he was a kid, if the longing and stabbing chest pain when he was gone and if the butterflies and ‘infatuation’ this summer were all that one thing this entire time.
“But maybe I’ve loved you for a lot longer than two months,” he shrugs. It’s a hefty claim to throw out there so easily, but they seem to do it with comfort and a childlike-glee in their smiles. “It killed me to lose contact with you, all because of that stupid rule.”
Seokjin waves a hand carelessly with a chuckle, Namjoon acknowledges the loss of heat on one of his hands but he doesn’t lament over it because he knows it’ll be back. No more leaving indefinitely.
“Forget about it. You came back. And even if I had to do a lot of clinging at first to get you to stick around without looking like you were going to implode – you did. And that’s all that matters.”
Namjoon doesn’t know what to say; he feels not a click in his heart – which he now knows is definitely completely complete and won’t click anymore – but a grotesque ball of emotion swelling in it and the only thing he thinks he can do to release it is to tip Seokjin’s chin a little upwards and kiss him, mumbling ‘I love you’ against the calming heat of his lips.
“Ah, how do you expect me to let you leave now? If I didn’t have the shop I’d be like a leech, Kim Namjoon – honestly.”
Namjoon laughs and clichély kisses his love goodbye. But temporarily, this time. That fact makes his fingers tingle with joy.
Namjoon manages to save enough money by busting his ass working numerous overtime shifts in a ridiculously busy corner shop in-between lectures to afford a plane ticket to Korea much earlier than he thought (not quite a return ticket, but he’ll tell his parents that when he gets there.)
So at Halloween, as he steps off at the bus stop and feels the mild breeze of the suburbs in the autumn (again, for the first time in years), Namjoon smiles kind of lovingly (and sorta freaks out the same old lady who gets off at the stop with him).
It's good for a while: walking down the neighbourhoods and streets Seokjin and him held hands and laughed together only a month or so previous, feeling the wind curl through his newly-darkened blonde hair, marvel at how the sun still glistens off of the small gems at the top of the village clock tower.
But after ten minutes he's wishing he didn't bring three bags and wasn't wearing two jumpers because it’s still warm in Korea.
The path leading down from his dorm was frozen the morning he left. Namjoon grumbles mentally about this as he walks wearily down the street, still jetlagged from the flight. It’s not a flight he’s looking forward to taking so frequently but it’s definitely worth it.
And that’s when he sees him.
Seokjin, his best friend, his substitute parent, the boy he’s in love with, locking the door to the bakery. Which is strange because Namjoon could’ve sworn it was only, like, a few hours after opening time.
And then he sees a sign in the door saying ‘closed for Halloween, will reopen under new management in November!’ and his heart sinks. They’re closing the bakery? Did they lose the bakery? Are they in debt? Did they lose it to a man with a gold tooth and a threatening band of lackeys in a poker match?
“What are you doing?!” Is probably not the first thing either of them wanted to hear in their amazing, surprise reunion, but Namjoon doesn’t have time to change it and Seokjin looks shocked enough that he’s even here.
Secretly contacting is not an option, apparently. It resulted in clean-up duty of the communal bathroom for an entire month. Namjoon’s pretty sure the school has snitches because he was so sneaky. It does, however, make for a more RomCom moment between them as Namjoon shows up out of nowhere, no warning. Or, it would’ve had he not gone and said that.
“Namjoon, what on earth are you doing here I thought-“
“I saved up,” he smiles, opening his arms without hesitation and the two rush into a tight, bone-crushing hug that’s perhaps more suited for best friends than lovers but Namjoon wouldn’t want it any different. “But what are you doing?”
Seokjin looks confused for a second before he seems to catch on from Namjoon’s blatant stare at the sign and the look of remorse he’s no doubt conveying. He sighs, a non-verbal ‘you caught me’ coming along with it.
“I’m branching out.”
Is that code for went bankrupt?
“I’m opening a shop in London.”
Namjoon gasps so suddenly he coughs a little, resulting in a concerned motherly rubbing of his back from Seokjin. He’s doing what?
“How can you afford that?”
He stops rubbing his back to look craftily at him, “Mum had a ton of savings stashed away – guess she really wants us to be together, huh?”
Namjoon no longer believes in fate. Everything that happened between Seokjin and him that brought them together again was undoubtedly their parents. They’ve probably got some weird witchy powers.
“Then who’s the new management?”
Seokjin grins, resembling a proud parent, “None other than my little brother – following in his talented hyung’s footsteps.”
Unbelievable. Namjoon scoffs.
They automatically start to walk down the street together, Namjoon’s hand automatically slips into Seokjin’s – earning a glow of a smile from him – and they automatically talk about everything and nothing at the same time. London, what Namjoon’ll do once he graduates, whether he wants to move in with him or not (a casual offer but it takes Namjoon about five minutes to recover) and if they should get a dog or a cat once all of this has happened.
They decide on both.
“Do you know what else is great about working in London?”
Seokjin gets that mischievous look he has when he’s about to make an awful joke or say something to embarrass him and Namjoon braces himself with a fond exhale.
“We can get married and you can help me out and make sourdough!”
There it is.
“Hyung, oh my God.”
Seokjin laughs and pulls Namjoon closer to his side, reaches a little to kiss his cheek and hums, satisfied, as Namjoon blushes furiously. Will he ever get over that?
“Someday, Namjoon-ah, someday you won’t take my proposals as a joke.”
Someday, Namjoon agrees silently, smiling at the coincidental choice of words.
And when that someday comes Namjoon’s life will be a torrential thunderstorm – no, a frozen-over slippery path of Seokjin, three kinds of bread and a not-so joke proposal. And his mother, crying over the phone.
It's more exciting than it sounds, honestly.