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2014

Namjoon doesn’t really think about sharing the mixtape with Jungkook - he’s back from college for the summer and he and Junghyun have been hanging out in Junghyun’s basement for most of it, listening to music and playing video games in between shifts at their part-time jobs. Jungkook, Junghyun’s little brother, has always sort of tagged along on their outings to get snacks or go to the record store. He’s their little shadow, always sitting to one side and listening to Namjoon’s (highly edited) stories of his friends at college, and laughing at Namjoon’s shitty jokes, and nodding seriously at Namjoon’s album recommendations. Namjoon thinks he’s actually got pretty decent taste in music (better than Junghyun, who is going through a Coldplay phase) so he really, really isn’t thinking about it when he hands Jungkook a thumb drive with Yoongi’s most recent songs, the stuff he’s still working on back in their dorm in Seoul. “My roommate wrote these,” he remembers saying, “I think you’ll really like them.”

“Thank you, hyung,” Jungkook had replied, wide-eyed and quiet and respectful as ever, and Namjoon didn’t even think...

But now it’s near midnight, and little Jeon Jungkook is standing on his doorstep with his big eyes, biting his lip and looking like he might cry, and saying “Namjoon-hyung, thank you for Suga’s songs, I don’t know how you know about me, but I feel like they’re just for me, these songs,” and it hits Namjoon like a freight train.

Yoongi’s mix was for his boyfriend Jin, and for Namjoon and Hoseok; the songs weren’t polished, they hadn’t gone through some production team, they were raw and honest and not scrubbed clean of all the pronouns that Yoongi wrote without thinking. Namjoon didn’t even register them most of the time - he and Hoseok and Yoongi and the rest of their queer circle just wrote all their shit down and didn’t bother editing it, not for a first attempt, and not for each other. But Namjoon had just handed Yoongi’s gay-as-shit rap music to a kid still in high school. He silently thanks the universe that his dumb move hadn’t backfired spectacularly, but now he’s faced with an entirely different, and equally daunting, problem.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he says, shoving his feet in his trainers. Jungkook, wrapped up in a black hoodie so that only his pale face and the tips of his hair stick out, just nods.

They end up at the city park near the pond. There are a few fat ducks waddling around, but otherwise the paths are empty. Namjoon guides them to a low bench and sits down, stretching his legs out in front of him. After a short pause, Jungkook does the same, mirroring Namjoon with his hands still stuffed in his pockets. He’s only a few years younger, but he looks so young - Namjoon wonders if he looked that young in high school. He was certainly awkward, far more awkward than Jungkook, who is captain of the basketball team this year. He remembers being so terrified of college, of being too strange or too nerdy or too queer for people to like. He’s not sure what would have happened if he hadn’t found Yoongi-hyung, hadn’t gotten a little drunk at a party and told him he was pretty and had Yoongi just roll his eyes and mock his pick up lines and drag Namjoon into his strange little circle. “So, which song did you like the best?” Namjoon asks. It’s a chicken-shit opening, but Namjoon can talk about music way better than he can talk about… other stuff.

Jungkook kicks his heels against the ground a few times, biting his lip again. He’s thinking hard about it, like there’s a right or a wrong answer, and Namjoon really just wants to hug the kid. “I liked all of them,” he finally answers, “but ‘Twilight’ is probably the best, at least for me.”

Namjoon nods. ‘Twilight’ is about Yoongi, and about Jin, and about how fucked up it is that they can't be out in public, not with Jin’s fledging acting career, but that it’s worth it when they get to curl up together at the end of the day, just the two of them. “That’s one of my favorites too,” he says, and Jungkook glances at him sideways, still worrying his lip with his teeth. Namjoon takes a deep breath. “It’s okay, you know. To like… these songs.”

“I… know,” Jungkook replies, and wow, the kid is a shitty liar.

Namjoon shifts on the bench, pulling one knee up and turning so he’s facing Jungkook straight on. “No, it’s really… there’s nothing wrong with…,” he manages, and fuck why is it him on this bench and not forthright Yoongi, or sunny Hoseok? Jungkook is watching his face intently, his whole focus on Namjoon, and Namjoon desperately does not want to fuck this up. He puts a hand on Jungkook’s arm. “It’s okay to feel that way about guys,” he says.

Jungkook nods, his pale cheeks now flushed pink. “Do you…?” he nearly whispers.

“Yeah,” Namjoon replies, and it’s kind of terrifying still to say it out loud, especially in the still-closeted space of his hometown. “Yes, I do, sometimes. I like girls too, but yeah.”

“I don’t think I do,” Jungkook mumbles, “Like girls, I mean.”

“That’s totally fine too,” Namjoon reassures him. Jungkook snorts quietly, and yeah, Namjoon’s been there. “I know this isn’t the best place to… explore… fuck,” he gives out, running his other hand over his face. “Look, this is a shitty little town, and people will be dicks about it if you come out now, but do me a favor, okay? Go away for school. Go away to somewhere bigger than this, where you can just figure out who you are, and meet people who like you for you, and it’ll be scary, but it can also be great. For me, sometimes the scariest things turn out to be the best things. I promise,” he adds at the end, even though he has no idea if Jungkook’s life will turn out okay. He just wants it to.

“Okay,” Jungkook says quietly, still staring at Namjoon with those wide eyes.

“Okay,” Namjoon nods back.

They sit on the bench for a while after that, Namjoon’s hand still warm on Jungkook’s arm, both of them quiet, watching the ducks on the pond.

*

2018

Bringing Hoseok home for Chuseok was a terrible idea, Namjoon is certain. Sure, he charmed the pants off of Namjoon’s grandparents, and helped his mother clean up after breakfast, but now it’s nearing lunch and Hoseok is lounging in the shade in the park wearing a bright pink track jacket and banana yellow shorts and ogling the guys playing basketball on the nearby court. “At least stop licking your lips,” Namjoon hisses at him.

“I’ll stop when they stop sweating through those tank tops,” Hoseok murmurs back, his grin wide and sunny. “Especially that tall one with the arms, damn.”

Namjoon, against his better judgement, turns to look and it’s obvious at first glance who Hoseok is talking about. There’s a guy facing the net with broad shoulders and huge, perfect biceps, easily making a free-throw. His white tank top is clinging to his body in all the right places. Namjoon lets his eyes drift down to the guy’s calves and his thighs and his gorgeous, amazing ass. “Wow, okay,” he concedes. The guy turns around, shaking sweat from his dark hair, and Namjoon hurriedly jerks his eyes up - only to be met by the face of Jeon Jungkook. Little Jungkook, who Namjoon hasn’t seen once since their heart-to-heart on a bench not far from here. Little Jungkook who is very, very much not little anymore.

Jungkook is laughing at something someone said just offsides, but it doesn’t take him long to spot Hoseok’s bright jacket, and Namjoon, right next to it. His eyes widen, and Namjoon raises one hand in a tentative wave. “Namjoon-hyung!” Jungkook says brightly, smiling wide.

“You have been holding out on me, Joonie,” Hoseok says quietly as Jungkook jogs over to where they’re sitting.

“Shut up,” Namjoon says through clenched teeth. He stands up, feeling awkward and off-kilter. He’s thought a lot about Jungkook in the years since their heart-to-heart, wondering if Jungkook had managed to find a place in the world, if he was happy, if he had a group of friends, if he’d found a boyfriend. It had never occurred to him to wonder if Jungkook was hot. But he is - Jeon Jungkook is very, very hot.

Jungkook stops in front of them. Hoseok is still sitting, his eyes blatantly raking up Jungkook’s body. But Jungkook hasn’t noticed. He’s just smiling widely at Namjoon, his cheeks pink from exertion. “Hey, hi,” Namjoon manages. “Wow, it’s been - ”

“Four years,” Jungkook supplies. “I kept thinking I’d see you back at home over vacations but Junghyun said you had a job in LA?” He looks impressed.

“Just a fellowship, no big deal,” Namjoon says quickly. “I only got it because the production company wanted to send someone and my English was okay.” Even after six years around Jin, he’s still awkward and self-deprecating when hot guys talk to him, even when he remembers the hot guy in question as a pimply teenager.

“That’s still awesome, hyung,” Jungkook says, still smiling at him, and Namjoon’s face heats up.

“His English is more than okay, the self-taught bastard,” Hoseok says, finally standing up and dusting off his shorts. Jungkook startles, like he’s just realized Hoseok was even there. “Jung Hoseok, since Joonie is obviously not going to introduce us.” He sticks out a hand and Jungkook shakes it, slowly but firmly. Jungkook glances at Namjoon and then back to Hoseok, opening his mouth and then closing it again. Before he can speak, an arm snakes around Jungkook’s waist, and suddenly there’s a boy at his side, compact and beautiful, with full lips quirked in a mischievous smile. Jungkook blushes.

“And who are these handsome strangers?” the boy asks.

“Jiminie,” he nearly whines, clearly flustered, and the boy - Jimin - laughs at him. Ah, Namjoon thinks, the boyfriend question is answered. “This is Hoseok-ssi, and t-this is Kim Namjoon,” Jungkook tells him, still pink. Namjoon can’t stop looking at where Jungkook’s shirt has been rucked up by Jimin’s arm, a sliver of tanned skin peeking through.

“Oh wow,” Jimin says, his mouth forming a perfect ‘O’ of surprise. “The famous Kim Namjoon.” Namjoon jerks his gaze back up. Jungkook elbows Jimin in the ribs. “Ow, I’m not going to - Ow,” he yelps, as Jungkook elbows him again. The boy huffs and drops his arm from Jungkook’s waist. “Park Jimin, lovely to meet you both,” he says, sweet and over-formal.

Hoseok folds himself into a perfect bow, winking at Jimin as he stands. Jimin laughs. Namjoon and Jungkook both stand there awkwardly. Namjoon is sure he should be saying something important, or at least interesting, or at the very least congratulating Jungkook on whatever excellent life choices have led him to this combination of arms and ass and adorable boyfriend. But that sentence is creepy enough, even in Namjoon’s head, so he wisely keeps his mouth shut. “Okay, well, we should probably…” Jungkook manages, looking between Namjoon and Jimin like one of them is going to bite him. “I mean, my grandmother is expecting us...”

“Yes, we have to run,” Jimin says, hooking his hand in Jungkook’s elbow and tugging him away, “but Kookie has promised to take me to your famous hotteok stand after dinner - you should meet us there!”

“Oh my god, Jimin.” Jungkook looks actively pained.

“Oh, I love a good hotteok, we will be there!” Hoseok calls back, and Namjoon just sighs. “I hope you know where this stand is,” Hoseok says after they turn the corner back toward the Jeon’s house.

“It’s a small town, Hobi, there’s only the one,” Namjoon tell him. “And I wish you hadn’t done that.”

“What, and deprived us both of an evening of grade-A eye-candy?”

“He’s too young!”

“Which - the one with the sex-god smile, or the one built like a brick shithouse? Both looked perfectly legal to me.” Hobi smiles widely.

*

As awkward as it is, standing around with Jungkook and his adorable boyfriend, Namjoon has to admit that Auntie Min’s hotteok are still the best he’s ever had.

“Oh my god,” Hoseok moans around a bite of warm sugar, “who is Auntie Min and can I marry her?”

“She’s eighty-seven years old, and she promised to marry me when I was twelve, so back off,” Jungkook says sternly.

“Damnit!” Hoseok says with feeling, “Fine, but I’m buying two more.”

Jungkook and Hoseok both end up with a hotteok in each hand, arguing over which is the superior filling. Jimin sidles up to Namjoon, his own dessert long finished. “He really does talk about you all the time,” Jimin says, fondly watching Jungkook shove half a pastry into his mouth.

“I don’t know why he would,” Namjoon replies. He’s also watching, and trying not to think truly obscene things about Jungkook’s mouth when his boyfriend is right here.

Jimin looks up at him. “He says that whenever he needs to do something scary, he remembers you saying that the scary things sometimes turn out to be the best things. I think that’s why he started dancing.”

“He’s a dancer?”

“Not professional, at least not yet. I’m working on it,” Jimin says with a sly grin. “He still thinks he wants to be a millionaire.”

“He could probably be a dancer and a millionaire,” Namjoon says, because he’d sure pay good money to watch Jungkook dance.

Jimin just laughs. “Probably,” he agrees.

They end up walking in the park, past the playground and over to the pond. Hoseok still has half of a hotteok with him, and is immediately taken in by the ducks. “Can I feed them?” he asks, his eyes huge and pleading.

“I mean, they’ll probably kill you if you don’t,” Namjoon tells him, only half-joking. Hoseok looks concerned.

“Come on, I’ll go with you,” Jimin smiles and tugs on Hoseok’s sleeve, pulling them toward the edge of the water, glancing back just once to see Namjoon and Jungkook standing on the path.

“Well,” Namjoon says, all the awkwardness flooding back, “this feels familiar.”

“It does.” Jungkook is quiet, his head down and his hands stuffed in his pockets, and for a moment he looks sharply like the kid he used to be. Namjoon just watches as he takes a few deep breaths. “I wanted to tell you… to say thank you, for what you did back then.”

“It wasn’t a big - ”

“No, it was, it was a huge deal to me,” Jungkook cuts in, his voice low and serious. “I was thinking some pretty dark thoughts those days, and you were always… you were a good hyung,” he finishes quickly, a blush blooming across his cheeks.

“I’m glad,” Namjoon says, just as quiet and serious. “And I’m glad your life seems to be good. Happy.” He looks down toward the pond where Hoseok and Jimin are laughing and tossing tiny chunks of hotteok into the water.

“It’s pretty good, yeah.” Jungkook shrugs and smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners. It’s enough to make Namjoon go a little weak in the knees. Luckily, Hoseok saves him with a shout from the edge of the pond, a circle of ducks around him.

“Forget Auntie Min, I think I’m going to marry one of these precious ducks,” he tells Namjoon earnestly.

*

Namjoon only has one more night in town before he and Hoseok have to head back to Seoul. He hasn’t seen Jungkook since that night by the pond, and for some reason he’s uncomfortable leaving town without at least getting to say goodbye. He still has the Jeon’s phone number memorized, and he calls to invite Jungkook and Jimin out for drinks before he loses his nerve.

When he tells Hoseok about their plans later that day, he’s surprised when Hoseok begs off. “I haven’t had a chance to catch up with my sister in a week,” he says by way of apology. “She’s going to Skype in from Tokyo!”

“No problem,” Namjoon tells him. It’s fine, he can handle a few drinks with incredibly hot Jungkook and his adorable dancer boyfriend. No problem at all.

After dinner, he goes to the newest bar in town, a modern gastropub sort of place that mixes Western food in with Korean favorites. When he arrives, Jungkook is already there tucked into a booth, a plate of chicken wings on the table in front of him. “Where’s Jimin?” Namjoon asks, sliding in across from him.

“He’s, ah, busy. No Hoseok?” Jungkook looks around.

“Nope,” Namjoon says, a sinking feeling in his chest. “Looks like it’s just you and me.”

“That’s… fine,” Jungkook says, biting his lip.

He’s so, so handsome, but he’s still the same kid deep inside, Namjoon reminds himself. He can get through one drink.

*

Three beers later, Namjoon is trying desperately to explain the layout of his new recording studio to Jungkook, but Jungkook keeps licking barbeque sauce off his fingers, and it’s incredibly distracting. “So then I figured if I had to share a space that small with Yoongi, one of us would probably die,” he manages as Jungkook’s tongue runs over his lower lip. “Probably me, if we’re being honest.”

“You’re that harsh a task master?” Jungkook laughs.

“No, Yoongi is that big of a drama queen,” Namjoon grins back at him. Jungkook looks down at the table, his long fingers drumming on the wood. “What about you?” Namjoon asks, “Jimin said something about dancing.”

The way Jimin had spoken, he expects Jungkook to roll his eyes and play it off as a joke. Instead, Jungkook takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing now. Before I started dancing, I was on a pretty set path - finance, maybe consulting. I only started the classes because I saw there were some guys who were, you know, like us,” he says, his eyes cutting around the room. “I hadn’t really met anyone in my first year of college, and you’d said to join a group, to try something scary, so I figured why not do both at once?”

“You were always an overachiever,” Namjoon reminds him, tipping his beer toward Jungkook in salute.

“Yeah, well, tell that to my parents. I’m still acing the finance classes, but I’ve been doing dance for three years now, and the idea of graduating and going into a desk job is just - ” he shudders in his seat.

“There are ways to make money in dance,” Namjoon notes. “Hoseok has been managing it for years. It’s great to have a backup, but don’t give up on something you really love before you see if it can pan out.”

“Is that what you did with music?”

“No,” Namjoon laughs ruefully. “That would have meant I had a backup. I just jumped into music and production like an idiot, figuring it would be easy.”

“But you’ve made it - your job, your fellowship - ”

“My tiny apartment that I share with Hoseok, my tiny studio that Yoongi and I can barely pay the rent on,” he adds.

Jungkook studies him for a moment. “But it’s worth it,” he says, and it’s not a question. “You think it’s worth it.”

“What I think doesn’t matter,” Namjoon tries to tell him, but Jungkook is shaking his head.

“What you think matters a lot, to me,” Jungkook tells him, and Namjoon’s heart isn’t sure what to do with that.

*

It’s almost midnight when they leave the bar. “Did you need to get home?” he asks Jungkook, who just shrugs.

“We could take a walk?”

For the third time in a week, Namjoon finds himself in the park with Jungkook. The pond is quiet - even the ducks are mostly asleep - and they fall into a comfortable silence, walking the path around the pond until Jungkook lets out a low laugh.

“Look where we are.” He gestures to the low bench just off the path, the same one where Namjoon had tried to reassure a scared Jungkook that his life could still be awesome, even if he was gay. “You want to?”

“Sure.” Namjoon grins, sitting on the bench and stretching his legs out in front of him. Jungkook sits next to him. It feels closer than last time; he can feel the warmth of Jungkook next to him, seeping through his clothes. Maybe it’s just that this time Jungkook is so much bigger. Or maybe it’s because Namjoon is far more aware of Jungkook’s body than he was four years ago. He tries to relax, to be the good hyung that Jungkook always looked up to and not a weird creepy person who keeps thinking inappropriate things every time Jungkook bites his lip.

He’s doing it now, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Namjoon is not thinking about how much he’d like to do that to Jungkook himself, at all. Not even a little bit.

“Jungkook - ”

“Hyung - ” Jungkook says right over him, and they both laugh. “You go first, as my esteemed elder.” Jungkook grins at him.

Namjoon studies his grownup face, the confident grin, the way Jungkook takes up all the space he needs, not just here, but everywhere. It makes him feel good to have helped Jungkook get here, even if he’s now going to end up on the list of Kim Namjoon’s Unfortunate Crushes. “I’m glad we got to hang out this week,” he says plainly.

“Me too,” Jungkook says, smiling at him again, a soft sweet smile that makes Namjoon ache a little. He looks out at the pond so he doesn’t have to see it.

“And I’m glad you have the life you want, even if you’re still not sure what to do with it. I’m glad you have dance, and your own people, and a hot boyfriend.”

Jungkook goes deathly still beside him. “What?”

“Sorry!” Namjoon says, waving his hands, “I didn’t mean - I mean, Jimin is very handsome and I would never disrespect him.”

“You think… Hyung, Jimin is not my boyfriend.”

Namjoon blinks at Jungkook. “Of course he is. You two - ”

“No, he really, really is not.”

“Oh,” Namjoon manages. “So you’re…”

“Single. Very, very single,” Jungkook replies, and that blush is creeping across his cheeks again.

“Oh,” Namjoon says again. “Me too.”

“I figured.”

“Wait, you didn’t think I was dating Hoseok?” he asks, weirdly offended.

“Well, I thought so for a second, but considering how much he flirted with Jiminie in front of you, he’d be a really shitty boyfriend.”

“That’s… fair.” Namjoon is so off kilter, but Jungkook is hot and blushing and single and, “Wow, okay. You’re single. And I am so, so terrible at this.”

“You really are,” Jungkook says, but he’s laughing, a quiet shake of his shoulder pressed against Namjoon’s. “But I’m not much better, apparently.”

“We can be equally terrible,” Namjoon assures him. Namjoon’s stomach is twisting and turning, but in a good way, like he’s about to freefall on a rollercoaster. “Because one of us has to do this, and I’m the hyung… I feel I need to tell you that I’ve wanted to kiss you since Monday.”

“Oh thank god,” Jungkook groans and suddenly Namjoon has a lap full of him, legs tangling together as Jungkook mashes their mouths together. Namjoon grunts at the weight of Jungkook across his thighs, but he likes it, likes the way Jungkook weighs him down, the way his solid thighs feel under his hands. Jungkook gasps a little when Namjoon tugs him closer, and he takes the opportunity to lick his way into Jungkook’s mouth, to taste him, to finally, finally nibble on his lush lower lip.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do this on a bench,” Namjoon murmurs a few minutes later, with Jungkook’s mouth hot on his neck.

“Shut up, I’ve wanted to make out with you on this bench for four years,” Jungkook pants against his skin, and all Namjoon can do is laugh.