The day Jeon Jeongguk moves into Namjoon’s apartment is the longest day of his life.
Jeongguk is full of restless, nervous energy. He shifts restlessly from foot to foot, standing in the living room and holding two duffel bags and it stresses Namjoon out.
"I guess I should," Namjoon pauses, rubbing at the back of his neck, "I guess I should show you around? And then you can decide where you want all of this?"
The thing is that Jeongguk has been kind of no-nonsense. Very businesslike. It’s at odds to his wide-eyed appearance, to his sweet, breathy voice. Namjoon isn’t seeing or hearing much of those, anymore. Not since their relationship escalated from “potential friendship” to... business partners.
Jeongguk just looks at him for a second, then lets one of the bags down from his shoulder. He has big eyes and his face looks softer and rounder than the first time Seokjin introduced them or the times Namjoon’s seen him on TV. He sets the other bag down, then looks expectantly at Namjoon.
"Okay, uh." Namjoon breathes in, then motions toward the bedroom door. "That's. That's the bedroom. That's my office," he points at the door on the other side of the large kitchen, beside the guest bathroom.
"May I see the bedroom?" Jeongguk asks. His voice is still lighter and has more breath to it than Namjoon expects, every single time he speaks. His eyes dart around the comfortable space of the apartment, from the stairs to the shut door of the bedroom. The bedroom that he asked to see.
Namjoon clears his throat. "Yes. Of course. I guess you better."
This is the most awkward part. The bedroom is obviously meant for two people. Two closets, king sized bed. The bathroom’s closed off by a pair of French doors with glass paneling. Clearly it’s not only meant for two people, it’s meant for two married people. Who don’t have any problems with the idea that someone could see them in the shower.
“It’s nice,” is all Jeongguk says, probably to try and alleviate the awkwardness.
“Yeah,” Namjoon mumbles. “Well. That closet is for you,” he points at it. "You can put your things wherever you need to in here and the bathroom. I don't do much in here except sleep and shower."
Jeongguk just nods at that, but his body is fidgeting and looking restless.
Namjoon shows him the loft next, walking him up to the cleared out room. It’s not like he ever really used it in the first place. But there’s something about giving someone a whole room of your house—something about giving Jeongguk a whole room of his house that makes this feel realer than it has so far.
"Your coach had your weights brought in yesterday," Namjoon says, motioning to them. He expects Jeongguk to act more interested in that than he does, only receiving a hum of acknowledgment. "But anyway. This is all yours. You can do whatever you want with it. I can have furniture moved, or brought in, or whatever you want."
That's when he finally gets a reaction out of Jeongguk, who perks up almost imperceptibly, taking in the space with an expression that doesn't betray many feelings. The most telling thing is the way the tension releases from his shoulders. "Thank you," he says finally. "This is good." He nods decisively in the direction of the window.
"Okay," Namjoon says.
Jeongguk doesn’t have much stuff, and he wants most of his personal things upstairs. Namjoon probably could have predicted that, but he still feels funny when, after all is said and done and Jeongguk's closet door is shut and packed with athletic gear and his entire tiny wardrobe, the apartment looks no different. He walks Jeongguk to the door and gives him the code. Jeongguk says, "I'll see you at lunch," in his soft voice and Namjoon's stomach feels like someone’s run a feather duster over the inside.
"See you at lunch," he agrees, and shuts the door before he can do something stupid like shake Jeongguk's hand.
Lunch ends up being the awkwardest thing Namjoon has ever done. His parents and Jeongguk’s have made it pretty clear that they see themselves as business partners, and while on the outside the scene probably looks like two happy sets of parents and their engaged sons, it’s full of this surface happiness and tightly strung tension.
Jeongguk stays the kind of blank that looks careful the whole lunch. He answers their parents’ questions perfunctorily: yes, we got all my things moved in; yes, the apartment is lovely; yes, I’d like the fish, thank you.
Namjoon wonders if he’s always this businesslike and serious. He doesn’t think so. He remembers, from before they were engaged or before the idea of being engaged was hanging over them, shy smiles and little laughs. Crinkled eyes. He hasn’t seen Jeongguk smile for real since then.
It fills him with guilt. If he’s the reason Jeongguk is unhappy now, that’s not going to change when they’re married.
Yoongi shows up at Namjoon’s apartment around nine. Namjoon is asleep on his couch and he lets himself in, waking Namjoon up by pointedly setting two bottles of wine on the coffee table.
"What the hell," Namjoon swears as he jolts awake.
"You better get up, or Hoseok is going to be pissed at you," Yoongi tells him.
Namjoon frowns, sitting up and hugging a throw pillow to his chest. "What?"
"He's already mad that you wouldn't let him plan an actual bachelor party."
"He's not my best man," Namjoon groans.
Yoongi shrugs one shoulder. "He's mad that you wouldn't let him plan an actual bachelor party via me. He's gonna be pissed if you're asleep."
"Mmm," Namjoon hums and lets himself tip back over onto the couch cushions, lying in the fetal position.
"He'll be here in an hour," Yoongi says, walking to the kitchen for wine glasses. Namjoon grunts in acknowledgment. "How did it go moving Jeongguk in?" Yoongi asks, sitting down next to him and pouring the wine.
Namjoon sits up all the way finally, and takes the wine Yoongi offers him. "It was fine. He doesn't have a lot of stuff, so." He takes a sip of the wine. "His coach had weights delivered yesterday. Nothing that hardcore, but weights? In my house. Weird."
Yoongi gives a raise of his eyebrows. "The weights in your house are weirder than the twenty-three year old athlete in your house?"
Feeling a little disgruntled, Namjoon leans back. "Hmm."
Yoongi sighs and sets his wine down on the coffee table.
"Oh no," Namjoon says. "You're going to try to give me advice."
"Fuck you," Yoongi says conversationally. "I've done this before."
"That's way different."
"Not that different. And I'm not trying to give you some all knowing advice or something, Joon. I just want... I just don’t want this to suck for you." Yoongi sounds as awkward as only Yoongi can when saying heartfelt things.
"I wouldn’t have agreed to this if I thought it was gonna suck," Namjoon mumbles. “I already know him. I don’t mind him.”
“You know him,” Yoongi repeats. It’s said like a challenge. It’s said like you met him maybe three times before your parents set you up, but Namjoon doesn’t rise to it.
“I’m going to be fine.”
“But will you be happy?”
Namjoon makes sure Yoongi can see the discomfort in his eyes, and he fixes him with a desperate expression. “Min Yoongi. Why are you doing this to yourself? To me?”
Yoongi lets out a breath that comes with a little bit of a growl. “I’m trying to watch out for you. You said this isn’t gonna suck, but it will if you don’t stop being emotionally constipated.” When Namjoon doesn’t say anything, he continues. “I don’t want it to suck for you,” he says again. “Or Jeongguk.”
"Seokjin has been talking to you," Namjoon frowns.
Yoongi scoffs. "Of course he has. He knows you. He knows him. He also knows you won’t listen to him."
"I would listen to him," Namjoon mutters.
Yoongi fixes him with a pointed look. "You've been putting Seokjin off for more than two weeks now. Don’t pretend you haven't been obvious about it, either."
Namjoon leans forward, rests his elbow on his knee and rubs at his face. He tries to breathe in like it'll help him find the words he's looking for. "He's just really young," he says finally, his palm still resting over his mouth.
Yoongi makes a sound that tells Namjoon to go on. Namjoon knows the statement doesn't mean a lot to Yoongi, but it's been tumbling around in his head since the day this was on his radar.
"He's really young," Namjoon says again.
"He's an adult," Yoongi says. "He's been adult a long time. You're not taking anything from him."
Namjoon winces as Yoongi hits his insecurities and internal anxieties on the head.
Yoongi softens. He sets his wine down and reaches out to grab Namjoon's free hand. "You're not taking anything from him, Namjoon-ah," he says again.
"I don't think you're right," Namjoon says too softly. Emotionally constipated, Yoongi said. Namjoon hasn’t dated in years, not since his last serious relationship. He doesn’t know how to do this. If Jeongguk never gets to be in love, it will be Namjoon’s fault.
"He had as much choice in this as you did," is what Yoongi says.
Namjoon grunts disapprovingly. "You mean it was framed as a question but he couldn't have actually said no?"
Yoongi presses his lips together but doesn't say anything. He knows Namjoon is right. They both know there was at least as much pressure on Jeongguk to accept as there was on Namjoon to ask, and probably more.
"What you’re trying to say," Namjoon begins, "is that I'm about to take over his life whether he wants me to or not, whether I want to or not."
"You know it's not that straightforward," Yoongi says. "No one is taking over anyone's life. He's still an athlete, he still has his family and friends. What I wanted to say is that you should try to be friends with him. Try to get to know him. From what I hear, he's a really good—a really good person."
"He won’t want that," Namjoon says. It must be the wine talking now. Namjoon doesn’t usually let his inner confusion or worse, insecurity, out for people to see like this. "He’s been so... businesslike. I don’t even recognize the kid I met last year. He doesn’t want to know me." When Namjoon thinks he just wants my money it’s a reflexive thing; he doesn’t mean to, but he winces anyway. He hates that he thought that of Jeongguk.
"Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi says, “You need to quit looking for the worst-case scenario and think about how you can make this okay for both of you." Yoongi lets out a long breath and leans back on the couch. "I was the wrong person to try to have this conversation."
Namjoon shakes his head. "No, you were the right one. I'm sorry. I'm stubborn and it's hard for me to hear this."
"You're gonna do fine," Yoongi says. "Tomorrow will be hard. But you're gonna do fine."
Namjoon drains his wine.
Hoseok shows up close to ten with tequila, which is very on-brand and is also the moment Namjoon knows he's fucked.
An hour or so later, he's lying on the couch with his legs hanging over one of the arms and his head on Hoseok's lap. "Did you feel like this before your wedding?" he mumbles out.
"Nervous?" Hoseok asks.
Namjoon thinks about it. "Anxious," he corrects.
Yoongi hums noncommittally from the other side of Hoseok. "Yeah, but mostly because we were supposed to be getting best friend married but I already knew I loved him and I was afraid I was taking advantage." Namjoon distantly thinks there's no such thing as best friend married but he's not present enough to say so. "We talked before the ceremony," Yoongi says. "It helped a lot."
"When he says we talked, he means he had a breakdown," Hoseok informs Namjoon. At the top of his vision Namjoon sees a throw pillow hit Hoseok.
He tilts his head back enough to see Yoongi upside down. "What?"
Hoseok laughs and tosses the throw pillow to the other side of the couch. "He had a breakdown and told me he didn't want to do it because it wasn't fair to me and that he loved me."
"Damn, hyung," Namjoon says to Yoongi. "I didn't know that."
Yoongi grunts at him in response. Hoseok says, "Yeah, and I kissed him and said 'I love you like that too. Let's go.' And we got married."
"And started dating at the same time?" Namjoon asks, feeling a little incredulous.
"Sure," Hoseok says. "Sometimes things just happen a little out of order. I wasn't mad about it. Hyung was kind of mad about it, but I convinced him."
Namjoon thinks about that for a few moments. Then he asks, "Did you have sex that night?"
Hoseok yells and rolls out from under his head.
"I'm cutting you off," Yoongi glares, reaching around the Hoseok that has thrown himself onto his lap and moving Namjoon's empty shot glass far away from him.
"Are you planning on getting laid tomorrow night, Joon-ah?" Hoseok asks, righting himself and sitting properly in Yoongi's lap.
Namjoon's eyes widen. "Absolutely not. Maybe never again. I might be celibate."
"Okay, buddy," Hoseok says and tosses the throw pillow on top of Namjoon's face. Namjoon doesn't move it. He falls asleep like that.
Namjoon expected nothing less than extravagance from his parents, and that's what he gets.
The ceremony is blessedly short, and he and Jeongguk speak for a moment while their wedding parties walk down the aisle, which like Yoongi and Hoseok told him, does help. A little.
"You ready for this?" he asks Jeongguk, standing outside the doors to the hall, as if Jeongguk has a choice whether to be ready or not.
Jeongguk looks scared, wide-eyed like Namjoon has come to realize is characteristic of him, and Namjoon thinks fuck it and reaches up to squeeze his shoulder.
His face smooths over. Closes off. Namjoon almost misses the scared one. "Yeah. I think so," Jeongguk says, blowing a breath out through his cheeks.
The aisle feels hundreds of meters long. At the end of it they face each other and Namjoon holds Jeongguk's hands in his. He feels them shaking the whole time. For Jeongguk's sake, he tries to keep a steady look on his face but he feels, constantly, like Jeongguk can look right into his eyes and all the way back into his brain. There's only so much he can do to make this easier and god, he is trying.
When they've said their vows and they're told to kiss, Namjoon pulls his right hand out of Jeongguk's and sets it lightly on his waist, but Jeongguk holds tight to his left hand so Namjoon lets him have it. Namjoon leans forward and kisses him. It's soft and quick. Jeongguk's breath catches and he kisses back, barely, for the second their lips touch.
Then Namjoon’s eyes are open and everyone is clapping. He smiles, but he thinks it may have got lost on the way to his eyes.
When the ceremony ends, they're whisked into the back of a car, both of them sitting silent and rather dazed the whole ride to the reception hall. Namjoon is in the same state pretty much the whole rest of the evening.
He eats very little of the dinner. He doesn't even remember the dance, which is odd because they'd only had one dance lesson, at which they both had to work pretty hard at not stepping on each other's toes. When they've done their due diligence, dancing with each other and their parents, they both beeline back to their seats. Namjoon deflates a little, staring at his champagne, and slowly feels himself come out of the daze.
They cut the cake after a bit. He doesn't like it very much, he thinks, sitting next to Jeongguk. Swirling champagne in his glass. Staring a little too fixedly at the offending dessert.
"You don't like it," Jeongguk says beside him, in that old soft voice that Namjoon can’t get used to. He's still floored by it every time.
He turns to look, and Jeongguk is smiling in a way Namjoon hasn't seen in a while. This one is real, and his eyes squint and his nose crinkles. It looks fond—or more likely, it looks like Jeongguk is amused by his distaste for the cake.
"What is it?" Namjoon asks.
"I think that's the lavender," Jeongguk says. He reaches over to take Namjoon's plate and switches it with his own. "Tastes kind of soapy, right?"
"Mm," Namjoon agrees. "But it's pretentious, which is why we have it, I guess."
Jeongguk laughs a little, but the real smile fades off into a polite one. "This one is lemon." He points at the plate he switched for Namjoon’s. "Try it."
Namjoon does. "Oh," he says in surprise when he gets a gauge of the taste. "Hmm. If we take any home, I want it to be this one," he says.
"I'll tell my mom," Jeongguk says. He leans back in his chair a little, taking his champagne in his hand and taking a really large drink of it.
"You okay?" Namjoon asks, eyes following the line of Jeongguk's throat as he swallows the drink.
"Mhm, yeah," Jeongguk says. "I just need to do some mingling, and I'm extremely bad at mingling."
"Oh," Namjoon says. He is probably supposed to be mingling as well, and coincidentally he is also extremely bad at it. Maybe they're kindred spirits after all.
When Jeongguk stands up, he does too. “Put your hand on my waist,” Jeongguk says quietly.
“What?” Namjoon says even as he obeys. Jeongguk has his tuxedo jacket off now and his waist is small and tucked compared to the rest of his body.
“We’ve been looking moody over here,” Jeongguk says, leaning closer to him. He plants a gentle kiss on Namjoon’s cheek. It lingers, and things snap together in Namjoon’s mind: they’ve been looking moody over here, and they should not be looking moody at their own wedding.
Namjoon squeezes his waist, though he’s not sure if it’s in acknowledgment of Jeongguk’s motives or to further them. “Mingling,” he says then, and there’s a brief moment of solidarity between them, in which they nod firmly and then part ways.
Namjoon means to go get in a few words to his more distant family members, who will probably feel as if they've been snubbed if he doesn't at least say hello, but instead he finds himself making a beeline toward Hoseok and Yoongi, in a conversation with Seokjin.
"Hi, Joon," Seokjin greets easily, as if Namjoon hasn't been ignoring his texts and calls. "Congratulations."
"Hi, Seokjin-hyung," he says, feeling guilty. Seokjin is one of the best friends he could've asked for. Namjoon effectively rejected his advice and input through the entire engagement, but Seokjin will never hold that against him, even if he deserves it. "Thank you."
Hoseok throws an arm around Namjoon's shoulders. "How are you doing?" he asks. "The dance looked good."
"Did it?" Namjoon asks. "That's good." He pauses. "Do you like the cake?"
Seokjin and Yoongi laugh, looking amused, but Hoseok just looks confused.
"Hey, I'm gonna grab your boy for a dance, Joon," Yoongi says. Namjoon's brain is a little slow to catch up with that. Yoongi, his best man, right. Jeongguk, his husband—right.
"I don't think you have to do that?" Namjoon says, frowning. He doesn't know much about wedding reception protocol, much less gay wedding reception protocol.
"You won't be able to talk him out of it," Hoseok tells Namjoon. "He wants to talk to Jeongguk."
"I'm gonna tell him you snore," Yoongi says. He claps Namjoon on the shoulder and walks off to find Jeongguk.
"He is going to find out in literally a matter of hours?" Namjoon questions, looking confusedly from Seokjin to Hoseok. "Why would Yoongi need to tell him that?"
Seokjin smiles a little indulgently. "He's not going to tell him that, Namjoon. He's going to talk to him about you."
"Oh." Namjoon shouldn't be surprised.
"Kim Namjoon," says a voice beside him, and Namjoon turns his head to see Jeongguk's best man. "Your best man is going to make me look bad. Join me for a dance?"
All Namjoon can do is nod. He takes the hand offered to him, and distantly he hears Seokjin saying, "We can't be left out. Dance with me, 'Seok?" as he's led to the dance floor.
Jeongguk's best man is one of his teammates, a man just a little younger than Namjoon named Park Jimin. Namjoon has been intimidated by him since the first day they met.
Namjoon had led his dance with Jeongguk, but when they reach the dance floor Jimin easily places a hand on Namjoon's waist, leading this dance. Namjoon catches a glimpse of Jeongguk and Yoongi, Yoongi looking strangely in his element and Jeongguk looking nervous but interested as he listens to Yoongi talk. Yoongi is leading their dance, and it makes Namjoon wonder if this is why their dance practice didn't go well. Maybe neither of them were comfortable enough to lead.
"Wondering what he's saying about you?" Jimin asks, and Namjoon cuts his eyes away from them to Jimin.
“Oh, I was just thinking about… dancing,” he says, which is true but doesn’t sound true. Jimin gives him a funny smile. "Now I am, though. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I should probably be worried."
Jimin studies him. "I don't know," he says finally. "You seem like a nice guy."
Namjoon can't really say he was expecting that from Jimin. It's blunt, but not in the way he thought Jimin would be. "Thanks," he says anyway. Then, "You scare me."
Jimin looks stunned for half a second, then throws his head back and laughs. "Do I? That's brilliant. My boyfriend tells me I get kind of scary when I think I might need to protect people close to me. I promise, once I like you I'll be very nice to you."
"We're operating under the assumption that you're going to like me?" Namjoon asks. How Jimin decided that, he has no idea.
"Sure," Jimin agrees easily. "Jeongguk already likes you." At the surprise on Namjoon's face, he says, "Kook is really shy with new people. Sucks that you don't already know him better, but I promise he'll open up. You just have to put work into it." He licks his lips, like he's thinking about his next words. "Seokjin told me you kind of shut down when you don't know what to do. With people, that is," he amends.
Namjoon doesn’t say anything.
Jimin continues, "I'm not gonna try to tell you what to do, because you're a grown man and also because in this situation, you can kind of do whatever you want. Which is shitty, but it's true. But just—for Jeongguk's sake, and if you are the good guy I think you are. Don't do that. " He takes a deep breath. "When things in his life don't work, Jeongguk blames it on himself. I'm sure you know some of the shit he's been dealing with the last couple of years, so you can see how that would be damaging."
Namjoon presses his lips into a thin line. He can't tell Jimin the reality—which is that he's prepared to take care of Jeongguk physically, to make sure he has food and a place to live, keep his training going and pay for his competitions and support him, but that emotionally he's not sure how to be in this relationship. Jimin has spoken to him so nonjudgmentally, but Namjoon thinks if he expressed that he would be on the receiving end of Jimin's anger, the scary side that he said comes out when he thinks he needs to protect people close to him. And it's not like he doesn't want to try to know Jeongguk. He just doesn't know where to start.
"I'll keep that in mind," he says softly. The song comes to an end. Jimin bows shallowly to him as they part, but before he can walk away, Namjoon grabs his wrist. "But Jimin? I might need help." He averts his eyes, embarrassed. "I'm not very good at this kind of thing. I want..." He swallows and licks his lips, feeling Jimin's eyes heavy on him. "I want to try."
Jimin's expression slowly shifts to a smile, this a genuine one with little crinkles around his eyes. "Sure, Namjoon-ssi. I'll get your number from Seokjin later, huh?" He pats Namjoon's arm. "And listen. Jeongguk is one of the best, sweetest, most interesting people in my life. It actually kind of hurts for me to let you have him. Take care of him, okay? You can do this."
Namjoon's stomach flips. "Okay. I will." He feels like he has no right to make that promise. He makes it anyway.
Jimin walks away, and Namjoon looks around, eventually spotting Yoongi, who's still talking to Jeongguk but no longer on the dance floor. He sort of wishes he had the balls to interrupt, because Jeongguk has an attentive expression on his face and he can't imagine what Yoongi is saying to him. He looks away, and catches a glimpse of Hoseok and Seokjin still dancing.
He decides he needs another drink, and heads to the bar. He's kept himself to a couple glasses of champagne for the evening, but he knows for a fact that there's a bottle of wine sitting on his kitchen counter at home, a gift from Seokjin, and he's fairly certain he'll be opening it later tonight. When he's got his drink, he turns to look for his family so he can do a quick round of catching up and then hopefully go home, but he's stopped by a stranger who comes up beside him.
"Hello, Kim Namjoon-ssi," the stranger says in a low, smooth voice, smiling at him with twinkling eyes. He looks familiar, but Namjoon can’t place him.
"Hello? Uh—" the stranger cuts him off before he can ask his name.
"Congratulations on the new sugar baby."
Namjoon chokes on nothing. "He's not—!" He stares at the stranger with wide eyes. Who does this man think he is?
"Live-in sugar baby?" the man adds, grinning widely at him. "Hey, he's pretty, right?"
Namjoon takes a step back. "I don't know wh—" He's cut off this time by a desperate call of "Taehyung!" and he turns to see Jimin rushing toward them, grabbing roughly at the stranger and manhandling him away from Namjoon.
"Oh no," Jimin groans, seeing the look on Namjoon's face. "He made the sugar baby joke, didn't he? I told him he couldn't, but I couldn't find him after we danced to keep an eye on him. Sorry, Namjoon. This is Taehyung, my boyfriend. He's also one of Jeongguk's best friends, so it really is a joke. He just likes to cause trouble."
Namjoon just stares for a second. "Okay. Hi, Taehyung-ssi, nice to meet you."
Right. Taehyung. Kim Taehyung. That’s why Namjoon recognizes him—Jeongguk and Jimin are olympic medalists in taekwondo, golden boys, but Taehyung is the golden boy, two-time olympic gold medalist in archery who blew up sometime between London and Rio for being… well, beautiful.
Namjoon knows who he is, but he did not know that Taehyung and Jimin were dating.
"You scandalized him," Jimin chides, slapping at Taehyung's arm. "Apologize."
Taehyung just gives Namjoon another mischievous grin and does not look sorry at all. "Sorry, Namjoon-ssi. For scandalizing you." He winks. "Babe, want to dance now?" he asks Jimin.
Jimin looks at him disapprovingly, but says, "Yeah, let's go. Sorry again, Namjoon. I'll have him on his best behavior next time we see you."
Namjoon has to blink himself back to reality before he can walk away and find his family.
Close to an hour later Namjoon's mother finds him and tells him they can leave. Well, more correctly, she says "We're ready to see you off!" but to Namjoon it feels the same way it felt in university when the professor of his three hour evening humanities lecture finally dismissed class.
Jeongguk, standing about a meter away and speaking with an older couple (relatives of his who Namjoon has met but can't remember—grandparents, maybe?), hears and turns his head. This is the moment Namjoon finds out Jeongguk can't act for shit; the look of relief takes over his face and his shoulders drop a frankly ridiculous amount of tension, like it's washing over his entire body. It takes him a good thirty seconds at least to school his expression to something neutral, and Namjoon would laugh if he didn’t feel entirely the same.
"Ready?" he asks.
"Yes," Jeongguk says fervently. Namjoon can't help but smile, and the MC begins instructing the guests to go outside to see them off.
For a few moments, only their parents, Jimin and Taehyung, and Yoongi and Hoseok are left with them.
It's a little bit of an awkward moment.
Then their fathers shake hands, like the business partners they are, and Jeongguk's nose twitches and the rise of his chest is too controlled. Jimin grabs his arm. He and Taehyung are standing on either side of him, body language protective. Namjoon feels horrible.
Neither of their fathers acknowledge them before they walk outside. Namjoon's mother kisses his cheek and tells him the car is pulled up right outside the reception hall, and Jeongguk's mother gives him a tight hug, and then they're gone, too.
There's a moment where Jimin and Taehyung and Yoongi and Hoseok just take each other in. Jeongguk meets Namjoon's eyes with a concerned look, but Jimin turns his back to Namjoon and his friends, cutting off the line of sight.
Yoongi clears his throat and turns to Namjoon. "We'll see you later, Joon. Next week?"
Namjoon looks away from Jeongguk. "Sure," he says. "I'll text you." He hugs Yoongi, then Hoseok. "Bye hyung, bye 'Seok."
"Bye," Yoongi says, then calls, "Bye Jeongguk-ah." He sends a real smile Jeongguk's way, and Namjoon thinks he sees Jeongguk relax.
"Bye," he says as Jimin and Taehyung walk out in front of Yoongi and Hoseok.
"Have fun tonight!" Taehyung calls back with an exaggerated wink right before they open the doors. Jimin shoves him right out the door and Yoongi looks about ready to take him out.
"Sorry!" Jimin yells and they slam the French doors of the reception hall shut.
Namjoon's lips part in surprise and he looks at Jeongguk, who probably looks exactly like him except with much wider eyes.
"Um!" Jeongguk says in a frantic tone. "I don't—!"
"Uh." Namjoon decides to put him out of his misery. "Don't worry, I—I met Taehyung earlier, I know he's just like that. Don't worry," he repeats and then feels awkward about it.
Jeongguk clears his throat and looks away, at the doors. Namjoon gives him the time he needs to collect himself, until Jeongguk reaches his hand in Namjoon's direction. "Let's go," he says, quiet. Namjoon takes his hand.
Getting home feels a little like an anticlimax after the busyness and excitement of the day. Namjoon feels like he's deflating as soon as he unlocks the door to let himself and Jeongguk inside. He's been filled with this weird anxiety all day, anxiety like waterfalls in the ocean. He can’t say how he’s come across all day. He only knows what’s under the surface.
They're quiet as they get inside. Determined not to let the awkwardness settle over them too heavily, Namjoon makes a beeline for the kitchen, where he pours water for both of them. “You okay?” is the only thing he can think to ask. He hands Jeongguk one of the glasses.
Jeongguk is standing awkwardly far away from the kitchen counter, and when Namjoon holds the water out for him he shuffles forward and accepts it with a mumbled thanks. “I’m fine.” He drains the water.
"Seokjin sent this," Namjoon says, holding up the bottle of wine Seokjin gifted him. "Want some?"
Jeongguk considers the wine very hard. "Yes," he says finally. "I'm a lightweight though. Just a glass."
Namjoon gives a little laugh. "I am too. Seokjin wanted to give me whiskey, but god, I hate whiskey. Yoongi’s the only person I know who can keep up with him."
Jeongguk nods and sits a little hesitantly at the kitchen bar while Namjoon pours their drinks. His body language is still so measured, but he’s acting shyer now. "Jimin keeps up with him pretty well too," he says.
Namjoon's eyes flicker up to look at him. "Why does that not surprise me?"
Jeongguk laughs lightly, a little awkwardly. Namjoon hands him the glass and he just messes with it. "Sorry if he said anything weird to you," he says after a few seconds staring into the wine. "I saw you dancing."
Namjoon leans against the counter, taking a sip of his drink. It's good wine, of course—it's from Seokjin—but he’s not sure he feels like drinking anymore. "Not at all," he says. "Jimin is—" scary? Cool? A "good guy", like he'd described Namjoon? None of this seems good enough. "He cares about you a lot," he settles on. "I can tell." Then, "Sorry if Yoongi said anything weird to you. He told me he was gonna tell you I snore."
The smile on Jeongguk's face at that seems real, like there's a laugh somewhere behind it. "Full disclosure? I snore a little too."
“Full disclosure,” Namjoon says with a crooked smile, “I’m terrible about folding my laundry.”
Jeongguk laughs softly. “That’s okay. I’m good with laundry. Full disclosure,” he says and looks like he's steeling himself, then takes a sip of wine. "I'm really nervous and I don't know what I'm doing." He looks deeply uncomfortable having admitted this.
Namjoon looks at him for a second. He won't meet Namjoon's eyes. "Full disclosure. Me neither." He takes a deep breath and remembers what Jimin said and remembers the way Jeongguk's body had reacted when their fathers shook hands. He looks at Jeongguk, who’s messed up his previously perfectly set hair and looks tired, not just in a sleepy way but in a dead-on-his-feet way, and with a pang in his chest he realizes he wants to watch out for him. “You would probably rather be at home right now.”
Jeongguk’s eyes go far away and melancholy. “I’m just tired,” he says finally.
Namjoon nods. “You want to go to bed?” He nods in the direction of the bedroom, and Jeongguk's face takes on an anxious look again.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says so quietly it’s almost a whisper. He follows Namjoon to the bedroom.
Jeongguk changes into his pajamas in his closet, which is fair enough because all his things are in there and it's well big enough for a person. Namjoon changes quickly while he's still in there. He brushes his teeth, moving aside to let Jeongguk shuffle hesitantly into the bathroom with him to do the same. When they go back into the bedroom, Jeongguk hovers by the edge of the bed.
This is so strange. Like an alternate universe. Namjoon always imagined that if he shared this space one day, it would be with someone he loved, someone he knew. Someone who would smile at him and kiss him before bed. Not someone who can hardly look at him, but has a ring on his finger anyway.
“I’m going to sleep on the couch,” says Namjoon. He says it matter of fact, like he’s been planning to all evening and not like he just decided this.
“No,” Jeongguk says quickly. “This is your bed. I can sleep on the couch.”
Namjoon tries not to frown. “It’s your bed too. Sorry.” He’s not sure if he’s apologizing for being awkward or for the fact that his bed is now also Jeongguk’s bed. Maybe both.
“It’s fine,” Jeongguk says with a little huff. He looks so tired.
Namjoon feels all wrung-out emotionally, and he’s sure Jeongguk does too. They’ve been together all day but hardly said a meaningful word to each other. They’ve hugged, they’ve danced, they’ve kissed. They can put off sharing a bed another night.
“Jeongguk-ah,” Namjoon says. He waits for Jeongguk to look at him before he speaks. “You need sleep. We can try... sharing the bed... tomorrow. Please get comfortable for tonight.”
Jeongguk licks his lips, and then nods. Just like when Namjoon’s mom told them it was time to leave the reception, he can’t hide the relief on his face. “Thank you, Namjoon-ssi,” he says.
“Jeongguk-ah,” Namjoon groans, in the doorway ready to pull the door to the bedroom closed. They went over this weeks ago. Jeongguk couldn’t be calling him that when they were engaged, much less now married.
When Jeongguk’s lips press together now, it’s in a little smile. “Sorry. Goodnight, hyung.”
“Sleep well.” Namjoon pulls the door shut and breathes in deeply on the other side.
He makes up the couch, but when he lies down he finds he can’t quite fall asleep.
When Namjoon wakes up the next morning it’s nearly eleven, which means that he and Jeongguk slept really a lot. Assuming Jeongguk is still asleep.
He gets the idea that being the center of attention is hard for Jeongguk. Which is odd, considering that he's a world-class athlete, but in any case Namjoon can't blame him for being tired after yesterday. So many of his relatives had asked him about his lovely new husband, and Namjoon hadn't really known what to say. Jeongguk's experience had probably been similar.
Namjoon gets up and makes coffee. He’s not sure if he should check on Jeongguk and ask if he wants some, or if he should just assume Jeongguk will come out of the bedroom when he’s ready to come out. He decides the second one is the safer option, but if he’s honest with himself he probably just isn’t ready to face this.
His mom stops by shortly to have his and Jeongguk’s gifts from their families brought up. He’s taken aback for a second, but he remembers now, distantly, a conversation with her that happened yesterday, while he was struggling with his cufflinks and she was busy not helping him with his cufflinks, wherein she informed him she would be bringing their gifts by today.
He manages to get away without having to wake Jeongguk up, and after his mother leaves he collapses onto the couch with a long breath out.
He looks at the boxes of things, gifts their parents and siblings picked out for them, and groans a little to himself. He’s not looking forward to going through them. At least, he thinks, this gives him and Jeongguk something to do so they aren't just awkwardly hovering in each other's space all day.
The time is creeping closer to noon when he decides he should check on Jeongguk.
Jeongguk opens his eyes when he walks in, like he's awake but not awake enough to get up. "Good morning," he mumbles.
Namjoon pushes down a rogue impulse to say hi, sleepyhead and says instead, "Hello. Do you want some coffee?"
Jeongguk looks so, so young and soft and sleepy as he rolls onto his back and scrubs his hands over his face. "Yeah," he says. "Just let me brush my teeth, I'll be right out."
Namjoon nods. Jeongguk pushes the covers back and swings his legs out of bed. Namjoon goes back to the kitchen and pours Jeongguk a cup of coffee. It's a couple minutes before Jeongguk comes into the kitchen, looking considerably more awake.
"How do you take your coffee?" he asks.
"Do you have any almond milk, by any chance?" Jeongguk asks.
"Uh, maybe." Namjoon opens the fridge to look. Yoongi and Hoseok dragged him through the grocery store a few days ago and the two of them had done most of the actual shopping, consulting a list procured from Seokjin of things Jeongguk likes. Sure enough, there's an unopened carton of almond milk on the top shelf. He pulls it out and hands it to Jeongguk. "Sugar?” he asks, and pulls it down at Jeongguk’s nod.
“Those are the gifts?” Jeongguk asks, frowning at the boxes in the living room. It’s not a lot, just what looks like suits and shoes, maybe a few kitchen things because Namjoon’s own collection is dismal.
“Yeah.” Namjoon is overtaken by his own awkwardness almost immediately. “I think it’s mostly suits and things.”
Jeongguk just nods and sits to drink his coffee, looking a little blank. Off to a great start, Namjoon thinks, berating himself a little.
They’re quiet as they get around, having coffee and eventually food. Then with some measure of resignation, they turn to the gifts.
It’s all as Namjoon expected; functional items they need but wouldn’t have thought of, and clothes. The expensive kind of clothes.
Jeongguk is given a gift from Namjoon’s parents, and his body’s tight with tension as he opens it. It's two full suits. Namjoon's mother must have used his measurements from his wedding tux to get them made. Jeongguk's face doesn't betray much, but Namjoon can tell he doesn't like it. Aside from the suits is a box, also with Jeongguk's name on it. He opens it, and it's a brand new taekwondo uniform.
"Wow," he says, then again. "Wow."
"Is that a good one?" Namjoon asks. He doesn't know a single thing about taekwondo uniforms.
Jeongguk looks up at him. "I—yeah. Yeah." Something is wrong and Namjoon can't quite tell if it's about the uniform. Jeongguk stands up. "Do you mind if I take a shower?"
Namjoon presses his lips together. "It's your shower."
Jeongguk makes a surprised little sound in his throat and leaves quickly.
Namjoon leans back on the couch, feeling very confused. Obviously something happened or he said something wrong, but he has no idea what. It also bothers him that Jeongguk asked to take a shower, though he knows it's a lot for him to expect Jeongguk to feel that comfortable living here on the first day.
Still—they knew each other a little bit, talked a little bit, before marriage was in the cards for them, months ago when Seokjin first introduced them. They got along back then. It wasn't like they were strangers. Not friends yet, maybe, but not strangers. This Jeongguk seems like a stranger, and Namjoon feels a little frazzled. He decides to make some more coffee and start figuring out what to do for dinner.
They end up ordering in for dinner. Afterward Jeongguk looks like he’s a few seconds away from asking Namjoon if it’s okay to go upstairs, and Namjoon doesn’t think he could handle that, so he excuses himself to take a shower, just so he can have something to do.
It seems like he was right, because when he comes out of the bathroom Jeongguk is nowhere to be seen.
Namjoon sighs and curls up on the couch. He puts on a movie that he can’t really pay attention to, and doesn’t see Jeongguk again for hours.
When they go to bed, they don’t talk about it. They both hover for a minute, and when they get under the covers Namjoon can tell he’s not relaxed at all. The bed is massive, sprawling, big enough for two grown men to sleep in without really knowing the other is there.
But they do know. Namjoon knows Jeongguk is next to him, knees drawn up close to his chest and muscles rigid, breathing shallow. Jeongguk knows Namjoon is next to him, on his back, hearing him breathe.
Namjoon is not entirely sure what to do, so he turns on his side, his back to Jeongguk, and hopes they can both get some sleep.
The next two days are fine.
Monday is weirdest. It rains most of the day. They don’t talk much until late afternoon when Jeongguk emerges from upstairs and they start to talk about dinner. Namjoon turns on a movie after they clean up, and Jeongguk hovers for a bit before settling in the big armchair, huddled up under a blanket, to watch too.
It's not until Tuesday that either of them feels like leaving the apartment. Namjoon thinks they have similarly long social refractory periods. They get up a little earlier, have coffee, and go out for lunch.
Jeongguk is surprisingly talkative that day, which isn't necessarily talkative by most standards, but it's enough for Namjoon. They have hotteok and walk around and pretend they don’t see people photographing them.
Then Namjoon goes back to work, and Jeongguk goes back to practice.
The first morning is really difficult. They get up around the same time, which is earlier than Namjoon expected Jeongguk to get up. He's in the shower by six thirty, and when he gets out there's a tentative knock at the bathroom door.
"Yeah?" he calls, voice a little scratchy.
"Can I grab my toothbrush out of there?" Jeongguk asks, sounding a little rushed. He must need to leave earlier than Namjoon thought.
"You can come in," Namjoon says, wrapping his towel around his waist. "It's fine."
Jeongguk is already in track pants and a t-shirt when he walks in. He brushes his teeth faster than anyone Namjoon has ever seen and leaves quickly.
They continue to bump into each other in the kitchen. While Namjoon is making coffee, Jeongguk points at the blender and asks, "Can I use this?"
"You can use anything," Namjoon mumbles, because he doesn't feel like answering that question again. Jeongguk hesitates before opening the freezer, and he opens his mouth again, but Namjoon cuts him off. "Literally anything." He doesn't have the energy to remind Jeongguk that this is his home. Not this early in the day.
While Namjoon struggles to consume anything other than coffee in the morning, Jeongguk puts away two eggs and makes himself a smoothie for the road. The sound of the blender in the morning is kind of jarring for Namjoon, who likes to spend what little time he has available before he has to leave drinking his coffee quietly.
Jeongguk leaves a little before him, and Namjoon's shoulders slump as he walks out the door. Fuck mornings, he thinks.
His mood worsens shortly after he gets to work. The week before the wedding, Namjoon and had successfully pitched a contract to buy out a smaller company, with help from his sister. It was something that had been a long time coming. But this morning, he's immediately informed they're having legal problems with the company, and since he’s the boss’s kid and was technically in charge of the project, he's called in to deal with it. He groans to himself just thinking about how many meetings this is going to mean.
When he finally manages to drag himself out of the building that evening, it's after seven. He feels exhausted. Bone-tired. People have been on his back all day. He wants to go home to an empty apartment, eat some food that's bad for him, sprawl out in his bed, and go to sleep. He leans his head against his steering wheel to collect himself before he leaves.
He walks in the door and immediately smells something cooking. A few steps further inside and it's clearly Jeongguk, standing at the stove. Cooking. He turns around and gives Namjoon a little smile. "Hi."
"Hello," Namjoon says. They never talked about cooking. "You cook?"
Jeongguk gives a soft little laugh. "Sure, I cook. Are you hungry?"
He has to consider the question, but he realizes that yes, he is. "Yeah."
They eat together. The food that Jeongguk cooked. Namjoon has not regularly had food made by a person in a home since he lived with his parents. This is different.
"How was your day?" he asks Jeongguk, partway through eating when he realizes he should probably say something.
"Good. Jimin joined me in training, for a little bit. How was yours?"
Namjoon doesn't particularly want to answer that question. His day was really bad but he doesn't want to talk about it. It takes him too long to figure out how to respond, because Jeongguk frowns and says, "That bad?"
"It was," Namjoon begins, "not good." He scrubs at his face with one hand. “I’m just really tired.”
"I'm sorry," Jeongguk says and presses his mouth into a line. He doesn't press for information. Namjoon does the dishes after dinner even though Jeongguk wants to do them, and then he spends the rest of the evening trying and failing to not think about work.
He starts to nod off sitting on the couch, at some point when Jeongguk has disappeared doing something or other. He's shaken lightly back awake around ten-thirty. "Don't go to sleep out here," Jeongguk says gently. "Come on, hyung. Go brush your teeth."
Namjoon hums in agreement but it takes him a second to get up off the couch. He brushes his teeth and gets in bed, and his last thought before he falls asleep is that Jeongguk is not there.
For a while after that, it feels to Namjoon like time is stretching out, and days are stretching out, at the same time too long and not long enough. He works late, goes home and eats, and tries to relax for a few hours. It doesn’t work. There is something so inherently unrelaxing about having another person in his house.
Jeongguk makes dinner every evening. When Namjoon tells him he doesn't have to, he says, "I finish before three every day. What else am I gonna do?" and they leave it at that.
Namjoon sees Jeongguk then, and while they eat, and then he almost always disappears upstairs for the rest of the evening.
They see each other in passing, ask about each other’s days, and go on. But they live together. It still feels like they are acquaintances. Roommates. Roommates who share a bed, if Jeongguk actually came to sleep in their bedroom, but he doesn’t.
After that first day when Namjoon went back to work and Jeongguk went back to practice, he sleeps somewhere else, probably upstairs. He still appears every morning as Namjoon gets out of the shower, comes in and gets ready while Namjoon combs his hair or shaves or puts his contact lenses in, zips around the kitchen and leaves, always a good fifteen minutes before Namjoon does.
This can’t be good for him, right? He’s an athlete. He needs proper rest. He needs support for his spine.
But time passes, and Namjoon can’t get himself to say anything.
They start to talk more, but not like people who know each other—like familiar acquaintances. People who run into each other and make small talk.
Even with time, day to day they don't seem to do all that much better, not from Namjoon's point of view. They probably don't spend enough time together and they probably don't talk enough. They don't do all that much better living together, they just sort of get better at working around each other. Which is probably not what Jimin meant for Namjoon to do. Jimin would probably kick his ass.
But his life slowly gets less miserable; slowly things start to come together at work. Namjoon comes home earlier and a little less beat down—notably one day, he gets home before Jeongguk has even started dinner and helps him chop vegetables.
It feels like the tiniest step in the world to stand there and take direction from Jeongguk, chopping an onion slowly and precisely as Jeongguk hums under his breath. It feels like the tiniest step, heel to toe, and he wonders if he should just stop grasping for straws.
On the weekends, Jeongguk does homework. He works upstairs a lot of the time, but sometimes he sits at the kitchen table with coffee or tea in front of him.
At first it’s jarring to Namjoon to be reminded that he’s married to someone who’s still working on his degree, but it’s actually kind of nice. He used to spend weekends alone by default. So it’s nice that someone is sitting at his kitchen table, doing work, making little noises under his breath.
One Saturday, just a few weeks after their wedding, Namjoon sees Jeongguk scrubbing at his face in frustration. His first impulse is to leave him alone, to disappear a little and let him work things out on his own. But then he remembers: Jeongguk is getting a business degree. He has one of those.
“Um. Can I maybe help you with something?” he asks.
Jeongguk looks up at him. He looks mildly surprised. “Yeah, actually. You probably know a lot about economics, huh?”
Jeongguk laughs. “Yeah. You know the pain of being a student.”
“Yeah. Probably tougher for you, doing things online.” Namjoon pulls a chair closer and sits next to Jeongguk. “Alright. What are we working on?”
It’s more than an hour later when Jeongguk pushes his chair back with a little groan and says, “Okay, I’m hungry,” and starts some rice.
It’s strange, even more than normal, to have just helped him with his homework and now see him moving around in the kitchen, cooking.
Namjoon stands up. “How can I help?”
Jeongguk holds up a pepper. “Cut this?”
“Heads up.” Jeongguk tosses the pepper his way. Namjoon squeaks a little in his rush to catch it. Jeongguk’s face breaks into a little smile.
Namjoon tries to convince himself this isn’t awkward, but he has to admit it when Jeongguk clears his throat and says,
“Um. Good week?”
“Yeah. It was just the usual. How was yours?” Namjoon narrowly misses slicing his middle finger as he cuts the pepper in half.
“Good.” It’s quiet for a moment, awkwardly quiet. Then Jeongguk says, “I had a checkup for my knee.”
“Oh,” Namjoon says in surprise. “I didn’t know. How did it go?”
“Good. Everything is as it should be.”
“That’s great.” Namjoon licks his lips. “How do you feel about your competition coming up?”
Maybe it’s the wrong question. Whatever easy thing was here as they worked together dissipates. “Fine,” Jeongguk says. He doesn’t look away from the stove.
Feeling a little hopeless and disappointed in himself for messing up, Namjoon goes back to the pepper. He’s not very good at this
“Where do you go?” Jeongguk asks after a moment. “On Saturday mornings. You always leave before me.”
"To the library," Namjoon tells him. Is it weird that Jeongguk didn't know that? Probably. Maybe it's information he should have offered. He knows that Jeongguk goes to the gym with Jimin and Taehyung on Saturdays.
"The library," Jeongguk repeats.
Namjoon understands the question even as Jeongguk focuses on the food. "They do kid storytime on Saturday mornings. I volunteer. They get me to read at it."
Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. "You read at kid storytime at the library?"
"That's great," Jeongguk says, and if Namjoon were more confident in reading his facial expressions he would say Jeongguk is genuinely delighted. Then he says, "You have a nice speaking voice. I'm sure it's good for storytime."
Namjoon doesn't know how to respond to him. "Thank you," he settles on. There are so many things he wants to say, here and now. He wants to say I hope you aren’t cooking because you feel like you have to do something to be allowed to be here. He wants to say I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable and haven’t been sleeping in a bed. Wants to say we can change things, I’ll find somewhere else to sleep. He feels desperate to make something better. Anything. But he doesn’t know where to start.
“Thank you for your help,” Jeongguk says after dinner, when he goes back to his homework.
Namjoon puts a hand on his shoulder, then rethinks. He’s not sure if that’s okay. “Of course,” he says. “If you ever want help again, just... let me know.”
Jeongguk gives him a little smile. Not the real one, but close. “I will. Thank you.”
Namjoon goes to his office to read, mostly because he’s not sure what to do.
The first six weeks of being married closes out, and then comes Jeongguk's competition.
Namjoon takes a couple days off to fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Jeongguk is already there with his team, practicing and running drills and getting used to the bare time difference, and Namjoon is alone and unsure what to do until Taehyung and Seokjin find him.
"Hi," Taehyung says with a grin when Namjoon opens his hotel door. "Jeongguk told us where to find you. Wanna come out to dinner?"
At this point, Namjoon would rather to anything than sit in his hotel room, so even with what he feels is a rather concerning combination of people, he agrees. He hasn't seen either of them since the wedding, so it's nice to catch up with Seokjin and to take the time to get the idea that Taehyung is, in reality, a very intelligent and feeling person who enjoys joking around with people. Namjoon can tell he really loves Jimin just from how he talks about him, but then he usually follows up his nice comments with something about Jimin's ass.
When they sit down for dinner after walking around the city awhile, Namjoon hesitates, then says, "Can I ask, what are—what are people expecting? From Jeongguk?"
Taehyung and Seokjin exchange a look. It makes Namjoon feel bad. It's a look like maybe they expected him to know about this already. Like maybe they expected Jeongguk to talk to him about this. He can't understand why—Jeongguk, so far, has been very private. If they're so close with him, why don't they expect that? Namjoon knows about Jeongguk's injury last year, but only very basic information, essentially what was available to the public. Of course Jeongguk doesn't talk to him about it. If it weren’t for the injury, they might not even be married.
"Well, Namjoon-ah," Seokjin starts, "you know after he dislocated his knee last year a couple sponsors pulled back."
"Which is bullshit," Taehyung adds. "The doctors even released a statement saying Jeongguk's knee would make a full recovery, and it did."
"Yeah, of course I know," Namjoon says, pushing his food away from him.
Taehyung sets his chopsticks down and levels Namjoon with a careful look. “A lot of people are looking at him like the underdog here. Or worse, just a sad story. A lot of people think his athletic career is on its way out and you guys,” he waves meaningfully at Namjoon, “were a move for public sympathy.”
Namjoon’s breath catches.
“Which is bullshit,” Taehyung continues.
“It’s bullshit,” Namjoon repeats. It is, but it’s not that bullshit. He’s not sure about sympathy. But favor—if they were anything, they were a move for public favor.
“The bottom line is he’s going to do fine,” says Taehyung. “People will say anything to get attention. And people will say anything about gay people.”
Namjoon can’t eat anymore. “So,” he says, trying not to feel sick to his stomach. “What do you think?
"He has a way better chance than people think," Taehyung says. "His knee is completely better. His training took a small hit. I won’t say I think he’ll make gold, because I don’t, and Jimin doesn’t. But Jeon Jeongguk can do a lot out of just willpower. So, maybe an underdog story, but people only ever thought he was the underdog. You know?"
"He's way tougher than all that," Seokjin agrees.
"And thankfully he didn't try to push himself too hard during his recovery," Taehyung says. "Jimin told me the doctors said the only reason he should have further problems with it is if he worked it too hard too soon. So he'll be fine."
Namjoon nods, satisfied.
Later, Taehyung says goodbye to them outside the hotel so he can meet up with Jimin for a little while. Seokjin goes inside with him. "You’re still stuck on that, aren’t you?" he asks as they get in the elevator.
"Stuck on what?”
Namjoon frowns. “What are you talking about?”
“You build up a lot of walls, Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin tells him. “You’re building one now. You’re telling yourself you and Jeongguk can’t be friends. His injury is not the reason you’re married.”
That doesn't make sense. "But it is," Namjoon says. "Sponsors dropped him. Things were too expensive. He had to do this." These are the facts, the only ones Namjoon has known since the arrangement.
"I thought maybe you'd moved past this," Seokjin says. He sighs.
"Moved past what?" Namjoon asks, feeling frustrated and annoyed that Seokjin seems to be expecting him to figure out some puzzle.
"Moved past the whole..." Seokjin waves a hand vaguely. “The whole ‘this sucks for Jeongguk’ thing.”
Namjoon feels distinctly like he’s not going to get anywhere in this conversation. He stares at Seokjin and doesn’t say anything.
Sure enough, Seokjin keeps talking. “I wanted to set you up,” is what he says.
The elevator stops on Namjoon’s floor. He tries to understand what Seokjin is saying. “What?”
Seokjin gives him a deep sigh as they walk into his room. He goes straight for the minibar and holds up a bottle of something, probably whiskey. Namjoon sits down on the couch. After a minute, Seokjin sits next to him and hands him a glass of whiskey.
"I wanted you and Jeongguk to meet a long time ago. Like, because I wanted you to date."
It takes a beat longer than it should for Namjoon to hear that. "Oh." He pauses. "But we did meet? You introduced us."
"Yeah," Seokjin says like Namjoon is being slow. "I never told you to date him. Because ever since what's-his-face, that guy your parents wanted you to marry, you get all weird anytime anyone brings up your dating life."
Namjoon grunts and crosses his arms. Seokjin is right. That was his only long-term relationship. It lasted his senior year of university, the whole time he was working on his master’s degree, and almost another year after. His parents weren't thrilled it was with a man, but they really just wanted him to get married. Namjoon hated that breakup more than almost anything that's ever happened to him. Plus he's busy. So yeah, anytime Seokjin—or anyone else, for that matter—brought up dating, he always shut it down.
"But yeah," Seokjin says, "I thought you two would be good together.” He says it in the awkward way he says anything to his friends that might expose him for being invested in their happiness. He leans his head back and fills his cheeks with air. “I never thought you'd be like, married before you were even friends, but I do think I drunkenly ranted to Jimin one time about how you're rich and if only you and Jeongguk were together both your problems could be solved." He winces at himself.
"I—okay," Namjoon sputters.
"And then next thing I know you're calling me and telling me your parents told you to ask him to marry you," Seokjin says. "I guess things come around, right?"
"If you say so." Now Namjoon is remembering that day. It was such a bad day. He was embarrassed and felt like a little kid and his parents sent him to meet Jeongguk alone, and ask him alone, and neither of them had been able to look the other in the face. He's never talked about that to any of his friends. It still makes his stomach twist uncomfortably.
"Are you upset?"
"What?" It hits him belatedly that some people might be upset about this. Maybe Jeongguk is upset about it. "No." He grips at the fabric of his jeans, trying to figure out what he's feeling, or if he’s feeling anything. "Confused, maybe. Why would you want him to be with me? I'm like... emotionally unavailable. At all times. For no reason."
Seokjin flicks him on the head. "No you're not," he says. "You're just... you just exist on another emotional plane. You're emotionally available. It's just harder to tell." Namjoon hates that that makes sense, and he hates that it's probably right. Seokjin continues. "I thought you'd get along. I thought you'd understand each other. You’re both awkward as hell.”
Namjoon snorts. “Thanks, hyung. Evidence suggests that mutual awkwardness is not the best grounds for a relationship.”
Seokjin laughs and pats his thigh. “Get comfortable with him, Namjoon-ah. He’s so fun and weird. And so cute. Don’t you think he’s cute?” He turns and pokes Namjoon in the ribs.
“Yah!” Namjoon jerks away from the tickle-poking. Seokjin tries to tickle him all the time, but usually it hurts more than it tickles.
“Isn’t he cute, Namjoon-ah?” Seokjin presses, pushing himself onto one of his knees to get better leverage trying to tickle Namjoon. “Don’t you think he’s cute?!”
Namjoon does think he’s cute. Objectively. What he says to Seokjin is, “Why didn’t you marry him?” and grabs at the ticklish spot above Seokjin’s knee and stands up while he’s incapacitated.
Seokjin pulls one of the couch pillows onto his lap and hugs it. “Take him out, Joon.”
Namjoon sits down on the end of his bed. “Huh?”
“Take him out,” Seokjin repeats. “That’s what I would have told you after you started hanging out and you inevitably started angsting about liking him.”
“I don’t angst,” Namjoon says.
Take him out, he thinks.
Jeongguk takes bronze at this competition and though it's not gold, Namjoon can see the relief melting over him as his shoulders drop, even from where he sits in the stands.
"He was great," Taehyung tells him.
"Yeah, he was," Namjoon agrees.
The three of them take Jimin and Jeongguk out for dinner that evening, and when Namjoon looks across the table at Jeongguk he sees his eyes shining with some fiery happiness. When he looks at Namjoon there's something almost defiant there, and for a second Namjoon wonders if maybe Jeongguk doesn't want him here.
A beat, and then Jeongguk smiles at him, this little thing that's very filled with happiness and nothing bitter, and Namjoon relaxes.
One Thursday a few weeks later, Namjoon gets home earlier than normal and Jeongguk is nowhere to be seen.
He never gets home until at least six, but even on the occasions he's been home earlier Jeongguk is usually in the kitchen or the living room. He frowns, but decides not to think too much about it, loosening his tie and walking into the bedroom to change. Once he's changed into something comfortable, he thinks about dinner.
He may as well text Jeongguk—if he's out, Namjoon should find out if he'll want food when he's back. But he pauses with their text thread pulled up, his eyes drifting toward the stairs of the loft as he exits the bedroom.
Of course, Jeongguk goes up there in the evenings and on the weekends, but this is the first time Namjoon has considered that maybe he spends time up there during the day. He pockets his phone and starts upstairs.
He hasn’t been in the loft since Jeongguk moved in, he realizes. He pulls the curtain aside.
The loft isn't changed much, except the little personal pieces of Jeongguk scattered in it—a stack of books on the table beside the armchair, a couple very used-looking throw blankets tossed over the furniture, a laptop and earbuds, a tangle of medals that have been half sorted sitting on the counter of the wet bar, just stuff. For some reason it's a relief to Namjoon to know that this stuff is here. That these little indications of the life being led by the other person living in his house actually exist.
The couch is made up with unfamiliar sheets, and something in Namjoon aches with the idea that Jeongguk isn’t even comfortable enough here to ask him for sheets. Like he thinks that if he speaks out loud that he’s sleeping up here it’ll become real.
But that’s not what’s happening now; what’s happening now is Jeongguk is asleep on the couch, and the rest of the room is covered with art.
There's an old sheet spread across a big portion of the floor. Over top of it, there's a standing easel with a canvas on it. There's no paint on it yet, just lightly drawn pencil lines. There are pages lined up along the side of the sheet, maybe drying, maybe in progress.
On the three walls that aren't taken up with windows, there are paintings and pencil drawings and pen drawings, some black and white and some filled with color. The art style is significantly consistent, even through the different and mixed mediums, and Namjoon is struck when he recognizes one of the pen drawings easily as Jimin and Taehyung.
Without thinking about it, he takes a couple more steps into the loft to see it all better, turns around to see if there's anything closer to the stairway, and then he hears movement behind him. He turns back around.
Jeongguk is sitting up on the couch. His face looks puffy with sleep. Namjoon hasn’t seen this before. He’s never seen Jeongguk shake himself from the last dregs of sleep. It feels oddly intimate, and he feels badly for intruding on this—intruding on Jeongguk sleeping, intruding on this space he's made his own.
Jeongguk does not seem to be as bothered. As soon as he blinks Namjoon into focus, he says, "Oh, hello."
"Hello," Namjoon repeats quietly.
"Is it late?" Jeongguk asks, rubbing at his face.
Namjoon shakes his head. "Not quite five. Sorry. I wouldn't have woken you up if I'd known you were sleeping."
"Oh, no," Jeongguk waves off, then yawns and arches his back into a stretch. Namjoon looks away. "I shouldn't have been asleep anyway, not this late." He settles back on the couch and blinks into the spring sunlight streaming in through the windows. "You're home early."
"Yeah," Namjoon agrees. He doesn't elaborate. He was just... at work, and he sort of realized he wanted to go home, and subsequently realized he'd put in a kind of ridiculous amount of overtime in the last month and a half or so, so he'd left.
"Long day?" Jeongguk asks. He pulls one of the throw pillows on the couch over his lap and pats the spot next to him in what is frankly an extremely endearing gesture. Namjoon is coming to realize that on top of being objectively cute, Jeongguk is very endearing. Who is he to say no?
He sits, and says, "Not too bad, actually. I just wanted to come home." He surveys the room, all the drawings and paintings. "You?"
"Long day?" Namjoon repeats Jeongguk's question.
"Oh. Not long, I guess." Jeongguk shrugs. "I worked a little too hard, probably. I came up here to draw like an hour ago and just fell asleep."
Namjoon wonders if he slept alright last night. He thinks about asking, but he doesn’t. "You're really good at this," he says instead, looking at the easel. He pauses. "Sorry. Can I look?"
Jeongguk looks down at his lap. His cheeks are a little pink. "Yeah, you can look. And thank you. It's just a hobby, though."
"Did you do art in school?" Namjoon asks.
"In high school, yeah," Jeongguk says. "But I was training all the time, so I've never had the time to do it more than casually." He pauses. "I think it's something I would have liked to study. But now I have time, so." He motions around the room.
"I like that one a lot," Namjoon says, pointing at the drawing of Jimin and Taehyung on the wall. Their eyes are closed and they're both smiling wide, with a baby blue sky as the backdrop. It makes Namjoon realize that they have very distinctive smiles. It's a pen drawing, but the lines are filled in with paint in bright colors. "Is that watercolor?"
"Yeah," Jeongguk says. "Thank you. It suits them, doesn't it?"
"It does," Namjoon agrees. Jimin's hair is a powdery purple color and Taehyung's is light yellow. "You have a good eye for people. I know that's really hard."
"Thank you," Jeongguk says again and gives an awkward little laugh. "You're too nice. It's just something I do."
Clearly a lot, Namjoon thinks. Something squeezes a little in his chest. "Are you bored?" he asks.
Jeongguk looks at him and blinks blankly. "Oh. No?" He sounds unsure.
Namjoon's quiet, looking around the room. "You don't use the weights," he says.
"Oh," Jeongguk says again and this time it sounds kind of disappointed. "Don't worry. I'm serious about training. It's just, the gym is one of the only places I can go anytime, and I go with Jimin and Taehyung on Saturdays, so."
"What," Namjoon says, trying to parse that and understand what Jeongguk is saying. "No, I wasn't trying to question you as an athlete. That's silly. You work so hard. Just, that’s what I thought you used this room for."
“No,” Jeongguk says, sounding unsure. “It’s art. Sorry.”
Namjoon looks at him with his lips parted, ready to say something but not sure what. How he can make it clearer that he isn’t upset.
Tell me what I can do to help you, he thinks. Jeongguk won’t.
“It’s okay,” he says. “Of course it’s okay. I’m not—” your parents, the sentence would end if Namjoon had the balls to follow this through. If he had the balls to follow it through, he’d say it and he’d tell Jeongguk everything is okay and maybe give him a hug and then he’d ask him on a date. Take him out, just like Seokjin said.
He does not have the balls to follow through.
Namjoon rubs his hands up and down his legs, trying to figure out what he wants to say. He blows out a breath. "Are you lonely?"
He’s almost surprised at himself for asking, and he sort of expects Jeongguk to shut down at the question, but he doesn't, not entirely at least. "I... I have Jimin and Taehyung," Jeongguk says. It's unconvincing.
"Yeah," Namjoon says. "Um. Speaking as someone whose best friends are also a couple, I know how that can be. And I mean, you live over here on the other side of the city, and you're not with your family, and I'm, you know."
Jeongguk looks down at his hands. "Why are you asking me this." He sounds uncomfortable, but he still hasn't shut down, and Namjoon counts that a win.
"Because I... I care about you," Namjoon says. He feels awkward but he also realizes that it's true. He wants Jeongguk to succeed, but more than that he wants him to be happy. Like he’s his friend, friends like they could have been if Seokjin’s plan had worked.
For a long moment Jeongguk doesn't do or say anything, but then he completely blindsides Namjoon, leaning over and resting his head on Namjoon's shoulder. It's probably the most affectionate gesture they've shared since they danced at their wedding. Namjoon holds his breath without realizing it.
"Thank you," Jeongguk says, still holding onto the throw pillow in his lap. "I'm okay though, Namjoon-hyung."
Namjoon's stomach gives a little twist when Jeongguk says his name. "Okay," he says softly. "But if you ever want anything. Please tell me. I mean anything. If you want a desk for in here. If you want to have Jimin and Taehyung over. A dog. Whatever."
Jeongguk sits straight up and looks at Namjoon with wide eyes. "Are you serious?" he asks.
"Am I—? Yeah? Which part?"
"The dog." Jeongguk pushes himself onto his knees and grabs Namjoon's hand. "Are you serious?"
Namjoon laughs in surprise. "I'm serious about all of it."
"Do you want a dog?" Jeongguk presses, urgent and looking more and more excited.
Namjoon grins. "Yeah. Yeah, I've wanted a dog forever, I've just never spent enough time at home for that."
Jeongguk deflates. "Oh, good point."
"No," Namjoon says quickly, "let's get a dog! You get home in the afternoon. We can hire some kid to walk it in the morning. Do you want a dog?"
"I want a dog so bad, oh my god," Jeongguk laughs. He lets go of Namjoon’s hand abruptly, like he probably hadn’t meant to grab it. He covers his mouth.
"We're doing it," Namjoon says. He's not sure he's seen Jeongguk look this happy at home ever , so hell yeah they're getting a dog.
"Okay." Jeongguk smiles a goofy little smile. "Great." A moment passes, and then he says, "Hey, also? Yes to those other things, too."
"The desk?" Namjoon asks. "And Jimin and Taehyung?"
"Great. Next weekend? We can feed them dinner, if you want."
"I'll ask them," Jeongguk says. He smiles a little with his eyes. "But what about you?"
"What about me?" Namjoon asks.
Jeongguk lips his lips and lets out a breath. “You said ‘you know.’ And I think you mean that you’re...” his nose twitches. “That we’re not close.”
“It’s hard for us to be,” Namjoon says. He realizes he’s giving way for Jeongguk’s hangups, but not his own.
“We’re both kind of withdrawn,” Jeongguk says softly. "Not so emotionally accessible"
"Ouch," Namjoon says. But Jeongguk is right. "You got me that easy, huh?"
"Well," Jeongguk laughs a little. He messes with the strings at the waist of his pants. "Seokjin told me we're a lot alike. I didn't believe him for awhile, but I think he's right."
Namjoon studies him for a second. "Yeah, I think so."
"And anyway, I said I'm kind of ‘you know’ too," Jeongguk says. "Which is probably why we've been like," he stops and looks away.
"Acting like college roommates?" Namjoon offers.
Jeongguk gives an awkward little smile. "Not talking about the fact that we're not roommates, we're—" He cuts off and laughs at himself.
"Husbands," Namjoon finishes. His stomach flips.
"Yeah." Jeongguk looks up at him.
Namjoon is quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he says. “Maybe it would be better if we really were acting like roommates. You live here. But I don’t know you.” Namjoon’s heart is in his throat. They’re finally having a real conversation about the way things are.
“Yeah. I live here,” Jeongguk repeats. “I think... it would be better if we knew each other.”
“I know. I’m sorry that hasn’t happened.”
“It’s not your fault,” Jeongguk says. “I wish all the time that we knew each other more before this. And I should have told you this. I just didn’t know how.”
“I’m sorry we never got to be friends,” Namjoon says. “But it’s not too late.”
“It’s not too late,” Jeongguk agrees. “Just. It’ll be hard for me.” He looks at his hands.
“I know,” Namjoon says. He can hear what Jeongguk is really saying: you have so much power over me; you can’t blame me for hesitating; I don’t know if I trust you. “It’s okay, Jeongguk-ah. I don’t know if this will mean anything, but... I’m sorry.” His voice cracks. The apology that’s been sitting in his chest since the day he knew that they were getting married pours out. “I’m so sorry.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. His eyes are watery but Namjoon pretends not to notice. “This wasn’t your fault,” he says. “I was mad at first. But your parents are using you just as much as they’re using me.”
With that, everything hits too much. Because Jeongguk is right. But Namjoon isn’t ready to have that kind of solidarity yet. “Right.” He stands up from the couch. Looking at Jeongguk like this he’s reminded that he’s young, but that he’s so strong.
Do you want to go out, Namjoon thinks.
“Let’s get a dog,” he says.
Jeongguk smiles. “Yeah. Let’s get a dog.”
After they eat that evening, Jeongguk looks up dog shelters in their area. He insists they need to get an adult dog, and Namjoon reluctantly agrees, mostly because they don't have time for a puppy.
"Let's do some looking around, then we can go visit sometime soon if you want," Namjoon says.
Jeongguk agrees with him and spends most of the evening looking at pictures of dogs. It's cute. He's very cute.
Okay, Seokjin. Whatever.
Namjoon is in bed the next evening, tired from a long week, ready to fall asleep watching a drama, when Jeongguk pads into the room quietly.
“Sorry,” he says. “I left my tape in the bathroom.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Namjoon tells him.
When he comes back out of the bathroom, Jeongguk glances at Namjoon with a little smile to say goodnight, but then backtracks. “Are you watching Fight My Way?”
Namjoon scrunches his nose. “Yeah. Seokjin recommended it.”
“To me too. I haven’t started it yet.”
Namjoon blinks up at him. He’s slow, but not too slow to catch Jeongguk, asking, “Do you want to join?” He gestures to the empty side of the bed. He isn’t sure if he thinks Jeongguk will say yes or not.
Jeongguk hesitates, but he steps closer to the bed. “Okay.”
He shuffles onto the other side of the bed. Namjoon starts the show, just to cut through the awkwardness they always seem to have when they share space like this. Jeongguk doesn’t seem all that comfortable. He’s sitting on top of the blankets, and the room is chilly, so it doesn’t take long before he’s shivering a little.
“If you’re cold, get under the covers,” Namjoon tells him.
Jeongguk is still for a moment, but then he moves and slides under the covers next to Namjoon. He curls up and hugs one of the extra pillows to his chest.
They watch mostly in silence, with the occasional comment. It’s been a long week for both of them, so they’re both tired—so tired that Jeongguk falls asleep. Namjoon looks over one moment and he’s drifted, snuggling the pillow, eyelashes brushing his cheeks.
He doesn’t look uncomfortable anymore. Actually, he looks very peaceful. Namjoon hesitates to wake him up, but he’s not sure how Jeongguk would feel about the idea of falling asleep in bed with him. It seems like it was difficult enough for him to get in the bed in the first place.
He’s not sure what kind of sleep Jeongguk has been getting, upstairs on the couch, but the bed must be much more comfortable. So he decides to leave him.
As a master overthinker, Namjoon worries that if Jeongguk wakes up, in the dark, in bed with him, he’ll panic. So he leaves the bedside lamp on. It’s surprisingly easy to fall asleep.
After that night it happens—only once in a while, but it happens. On Friday nights they end up both in the bed, watching their drama. Sometimes Jeongguk stays in bed, and sometimes he doesn’t. They don’t talk about it.
Jimin and Taehyung come over that Sunday. Namjoon and Jeongguk cook for them, Namjoon following Jeongguk’s instructions a little clumsily. They talk more easily now; Namjoon is still awkward, not to mention still a little afraid of Jimin. But for a couple of hours, it feels like things are starting to fit together.
“We’re getting a dog,” Jeongguk tells Jimin and Taehyung with a cute smile. God, okay, you’re cute, Namjoon thinks. He looks a little too long. Jimin catches his eye and smiles.
Jeongguk seems happy even after they leave. He hums while the two of them clean up the kitchen together and spends the afternoon working on homework and drawing at the kitchen table.
The cheek kissing begins shortly after the conversation Namjoon starts thinking of as the Dog Talk.
Jeongguk puts on one of the suits Namjoon’s parents bought for him, and Namjoon puts on a suit he’s had for a couple years. They’re attending this charity event on behalf of Namjoon’s parents. It’s a fundraising event, so Namjoon is ultimately there to write a check.
And, apparently, to show off his husband.
He has the good sense to take Jeongguk’s hand and place it at his arm before they enter, a foresight he thanks himself for, because people start taking photos of them as soon as they get there. Jeongguk grips his arm a little more tightly at the first flash of cameras, but when Namjoon looks at him he seems collected.
When they get inside, a photographer stops them and asks, “Mr. Kim, can I get a photo?”
Namjoon can’t really say no, so he just smiles and pulls his arm away to wrap it around Jeongguk’s waist. Jeongguk is stiff. It’s not enough. They look together, maybe, but they don’t look married. So Namjoon kisses his cheek.
It’s a good photo. It makes its way onto the internet because Jeongguk is very interesting to the general public, not just nationwide but worldwide, and it makes its way to Namjoon because Seokjin texts it to him late that night with a couple heart emojis. Namjoon saves it to his phone.
“I’m sorry about that,” he tells Jeongguk at home. “I should’ve checked what you’re okay with first.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “It’s fine. Just. Next time, maybe put your hand on my back, okay?”
That’s the first time. After that, it’s how they appear in public. Jeongguk takes Namjoon’s arm, or holds his hand, and Namjoon kisses his cheek, or sometimes his temple. Photos usually make it online and Seokjin usually finds them and texts them to him. Jeongguk is always smiling, sometimes more than others, sometimes with the eye crinkle and sometimes without.
All in all the events tend not to be all that interesting. People approach them to talk, but they’re mostly interested in Jeongguk, who they inevitably realize is a man of few words.
Yoongi and Hoseok are there a good portion of the time, and sometimes Seokjin, who on such occasions takes his own version of the cheek kissing photo when it happens.
And Namjoon isn’t stupid. He knows the internet likes it. That doesn’t make it any less weird when it wiggles its way from their public lives into their private lives.
Namjoon’s instinct when his arm is around Jeongguk’s waist becomes to kiss his cheek.
Seokjin asks the two of them and Jimin and Taehyung to brunch one Sunday, and afterward Jeongguk leaves with Jimin and Taehyung. And it’s weird; Namjoon will wonder about it for a while. They aren’t touchy. Maybe it’s because they’re in public. Maybe they’re just not paying attention. He couldn’t really say.
In any case, he and Jeongguk go in for the side hug at the same time. Namjoon’s arm goes around his waist and he presses the instinctual kiss to Jeongguk’s cheek. A little high, more on his cheekbone. They both just sort of stand there for a second. Namjoon has to wipe a confused look off his face.
“See you later,” Jeongguk tells him, and leaves with Jimin and Taehyung who are barely containing laughter.
As soon as they’re out the door, Seokjin bursts into laughter of his own, so much and for so long that he’s almost crying. If he weren’t beautiful and famous there’s no way he would get away with this in public.
“You’re ridiculous,” Namjoon says. He takes advantage of Seokjin’s distraction and picks up the check for him.
“I’m ridiculous? You should have seen your face!” He laughs more. “God, that was adorable. Yah! Did you just pay?!”
“Okay, I found something, and I need you to hear me out.”
Namjoon looks up from the book he’s reading and at Jeongguk, who’s holding his laptop and wearing an expression that’s a weird mix between hopeful and sheepish.
“What’s up?” he says, closing the book and setting it down.
The webpage he shows Namjoon is a Naver cafe page, which right away makes Namjoon frown. “Hear me out!” Jeongguk says again.
Namjoon shuts his mouth and nods and looks at him expectantly.
Jeongguk clears his throat. “‘Meri is a three year old golden retriever that was a gift from my husband’s late best friend. She is house trained and knows how to sit, stay, lay down, and heel. She also understands if told to go to her bed or kennel. She is intelligent and energetic. We need to rehome her as we are moving in with our daughter whose husband and children are allergic. She is free to a trustworthy and loving home.’” He enlarges the photo on the page. It’s of a happy looking golden retriever, sticking her face up at the camera with her mouth open and tongue out in a doggy smile.
“Oh no,” Namjoon says, wounded.
“I know, right,” Jeongguk agrees. He looks at Namjoon expectantly. “So?”
“Um,” says Namjoon. He already can’t say no to this dog’s face, apparently. “We can call them tomorrow?” he offers.
“Waaahhhh!” Jeongguk does a little dance that mainly involves twisting his upper body and pumping his fists. It’s weird and cute, just like Seokjin said.
“We can meet the dog,” Namjoon tells him, putting a light hand on his knee for a millisecond.
“Meri,” Jeongguk corrects with a little grin.
Ahhhh, is what Namjoon thinks. “ Meri, ” is what he says. “We can meet her and see if she’s a good fit for us.”
They meet the couple and the dog that Friday evening after dinner. It’s an older couple, and from what Namjoon gathers, they’re moving in with the daughter because of health problems. They’re very nice and don’t seem to know who Namjoon is or even who Jeongguk is, which eases the pressure Namjoon didn’t know he was feeling.
The dog is perfect. She’s sweet and happy and whacks Namjoon over and over with her tail while Jeongguk crouches to pet her. She sniffs his face and Jeongguk giggles while she licks his ear. Namjoon doesn’t even try to hide his smile.
They sit on a couch and the woman brings them tea and the couple asks them about themselves. The man’s eyes fall on Jeongguk’s wedding band, and he asks, “Are you married, then?”
Namjoon and Jeongguk answer, “Yes,” at the same time.
The man frowns and opens his mouth to ask another question, but the woman pats his leg and says, “To each other, dear. They’re married to each other.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen. Namjoon reaches over and pats his knee in a gesture that he hopes is comforting.
The man just looks abashed. “Of course. Sorry, boys. How long?”
Namjoon moves his hand as Jeongguk’s shoulders relax. “Um,” he says, and tries to do the mental math quickly.
“Three and a half months,” Jeongguk says before he gets the math done. He’s petting the dog’s ears.
“Ooh, congrats on the marriage, then!” the woman says. “What do you two do?”
“I work for my father’s company,” Namjoon says. “He’s an athlete.”
The man snaps his fingers. “I thought I knew your face!” he says. “Taekwondo, right? You took gold in Rio.”
Jeongguk looks up with a bashful little look on his face. Namjoon can’t help but smile. “Yes, sir,” he says.
“How did you find our Meri?” asks the woman.
“Ah, we had been talking about getting a dog, and I happened on your listing,” Jeongguk says.
“Not a puppy?”
“We think an adult dog is more our speed,” Namjoon says. “We’re not sure we’d have time to train a puppy.”
“But you have time for a dog like Meri?” the man asks.
Jeongguk looks at Namjoon and seems a little nervous, like he thinks these people are going to tell them they can’t have the dog. Namjoon knows better. The couple already like them.
“He’s home during the afternoons,” Namjoon says. “And both of us are during the weekends. We’re confident we can keep a dog happy.”
When they leave, the couple lets them know the dog is theirs if they want her. Namjoon says they’ll let them know, but Jeongguk is beaming and practically vibrating, so he’s sure they can tell that they want the dog. Jeongguk gets down on the ground and hugs the dog before they leave.
“We’re getting that dog, right?” Jeongguk asks as they take the stairs down to the outside of the apartment building the couple live in. He jumps down the last three steps and turns around to look at Namjoon excitedly. His smile is so beautiful. His eyes sparkle overwhelmingly.
Namjoon laughs. “Yeah, we can get that dog, sweetheart.” His eyes immediately widen at himself. He’s never called Jeongguk any kind of pet name.
Jeongguk just grins and, when Namjoon reaches the ground, he leans over and pecks him on the cheek.
On the ride home Namjoon wonders if Jeongguk even caught it, the little sweetheart just tacked onto the end of his sentence. He realizes that he did at a stoplight, when he glances over and sees Jeongguk already looking at him, his cheeks the slightest bit pink.
The rest of the ride, Jeongguk talks about the dog, and Namjoon thinks about the little cheek kiss and how it’s so dumb that it affected him when Namjoon kisses him on the cheek all the time. They’ve kissed on the lips, for god’s sake. They’re married, and his stomach still flips thinking about Jeongguk waiting at the bottom of the stairs to kiss his cheek.
That night there’s no skirting around it; it just happens. Namjoon closes his laptop after two episodes of their drama, and Jeongguk makes no move to leave. He scoots down and lies on his side. Namjoon turns off the light.
There's a thought that keeps rolling around in Namjoon's head like a conviction he knows he has to respond to. So before Jeongguk has a chance to fall asleep, he says quietly, “Hey.”
Jeongguk, like usual, is curled up on his side. He peeks at Namjoon with one eye. "Hey."
"Do you want to go out? On a date," Namjoon says. He presses his mouth into his pillow.
Jeongguk opens his other eye and blinks to focus. "Oh," he says. Namjoon can't quite tell in the dark, but he thinks he's a little pink. He also thinks he looks rather pleased. "Oh." He smiles. "Yeah."
"Okay," Namjoon whispers. "Okay."
a couple things to look forward to: namjoon angsting, heavy talks of yoon2seok, an injury makes an appearance at the end
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Really, it’s not that hard.
It’s not like most first dates, all unfamiliar and trying to put up some kind of front for each other. It can’t be like that; it’s impossible from the very beginning, because they get ready together.
There wasn’t a way to get around it. They share too much space. Through the open door of the bathroom, Namjoon catches a glimpse of Jeongguk pulling a pair of light colored jeans on over his… thick thighs. God, those are good thighs, and they look just as good with the jeans on. Jeongguk doesn’t wear jeans much, mostly joggers and sweatpants and some shorts.
And, well. Objectively, he has really nice legs.
Jeongguk looks good, in those jeans with a light yellow button up tucked in and a pair of boots. Namjoon feels kind of long and maybe noodly next to his built, athlete husband. He finds he’s not really upset about it.
He drives them to the restaurant, a favorite of Jeongguk’s he managed to get out of him yesterday. It’s nothing that fancy, which is what he expected from Jeongguk, and it helps with the low pressure atmosphere.
The host is, judging by his last name, either the owner or related. Jeongguk seems to know him, and he greets them with a friendly smile and leads them to a table deep in the restaurant, in a dimly lit corner. He congratulates Jeongguk on his last competition and says that he and Jimin were great; Jeongguk thanks him and says he’ll come back with Jimin sometime soon.
“Well, Kim Namjoon-ssi, Jeon Jeongguk-ssi, I’ll let you look at the menu. Can I get you a bottle of wine?”
Namjoon looks at Jeongguk. Jeongguk hesitates, so Namjoon says, “Water will be fine for now. Thank you,” and smiles at the host.
Jeongguk nods. “Me too. Oh, but—”
The host smiles at him. “Dumplings?”
Jeongguk grins, and the host laughs. “Right out.”
“Dumplings?” Namjoon asks when he’s gone.
“The house dumplings,” Jeongguk tells him. “They might be my favorite food in the world. Jimin and I started coming here just for the dumplings a while ago, before Rio, before Taehyung and before either of us had money to buy anything else.” He smiles a funny little smile.
“You and Jimin have been together for a long time, haven’t you?” Namjoon asks.
“Yeah.” A server comes by and sets waters in front of them. Jeongguk runs his thumb through the condensation on the glass and looks down at the table. “Yeah, Jimin and I met a long time ago, in middle school. We started training at the same place when I was…” his eyes flicker around and he purses his lips, trying to remember. “I guess thirteen. It was before I was in high school.”
“Wow, ten years.”
Jeongguk looks surprised. “Huh. I guess so. Sometimes I get confused and think I’m still twenty. It’s like I haven’t aged since Rio.”
Jeongguk talks about Rio like he lost something there. Namjoon wonders if they will ever get to the place where Jeongguk can tell him about that.
“He hated me at first,” Jeongguk continues.
Namjoon smiles. “Did he?”
“Yup. We worked for our black belts at the same time, and I earned mine first. I wasn’t a good sport about it.”
“So how did you becomes friends?”
Jeongguk’s smile softens. “We went to the same high school back when we still trained together. So we saw each other every day. Some kids were picking on me, and I guess maybe I reminded him of his younger brother, or he felt protective of me, because he stopped them. He told them he had a black belt in Taekwondo and he would kick their asses.” He giggles. “I got mad at him and said ‘I had a black belt first, asshole,’ and we got in a fight and our parents had to come get us. They made us hang out because our coach said we’d probably never get rid of each other.”
“And he was right,” Namjoon says. “Are you one of those people who’s really competitive about everything? I feel like you are but you hide it until people know you. Like Yoongi.” To him, it sounds wildly like he’s saying I don’t know you well enough yet.
Jeongguk looks like he’s been found out, but just grins. “Guess we’ll have to play a game sometime and you can find out yourself.” Which sounds like an offering. If you want to get to know me.
“Are you sure?” Namjoon says. “I’m very good at games.”
Jeongguk leans forward and puts his elbows on the table with a little sparkle in his eyes. Namjoon fucking loves it. “We’ll see.”
Their server comes by and brings a plate full of mandu. Jeongguk watches as Namjoon’s face changes at his first bite.
“Oh, wow,” he says in surprise. He’s never been much of a dumpling person, but these are incredible and he can see what Jeongguk’s excitement was about.
“Really good,” Namjoon agrees, starting in for a second one.
Jeongguk nods once, firmly, and says, “Good.”
After his third dumpling, Namjoon sets his chopsticks down for a moment and looks at the menu. “Okay, you tell me what to get, cause I’m awful at this kind of decision.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says, and looks like he’s assigning a lot of weight to this decision. “Hmm.” He leans over his own menu and his brow crinkles. “Well you don’t like seafood,” he says, “and you like spicy things.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says. How interesting that Jeongguk has taken note of those things.
“Anything else I should keep in mind?”
Namjoon ponders, then shakes his head. “No to seafood, yes to spice,” he affirms with a shrug of one shoulder.
Jeongguk orders for both of them, and by the time they finish the plate of dumplings, their food has come. He tells Namjoon he chose Jimin’s favorite dish for him, because it’s spicy and Jimin doesn’t eat seafood either. It’s good.
“Good call,” Namjoon says after trying it. “All around good choices. You know what you’re doing.”
Jeongguk grins. “When it comes to food, yes.”
“Oh, definitely,” Namjoon agrees emphatically. “I’m sure you’ve realized by now, but I have no experience cooking.” He wrinkles his nose self-deprecatingly.
Jeongguk huffs out a little breath that resembles a laugh. “I think we’re compatible.”
“I think I’m getting the better end of that deal,” Namjoon says, which is a mistake.
Jeongguk snorts in a way that seems very uncharacteristic to Namjoon. It’s cynical. “Hardly. You’re the one with the money.” Then his eyes widen and he drops his chopsticks. “I’m sorry,” he says.
Namjoon blinks, freezing with his glass in his hand. Jeongguk looks shocked and vaguely mortified at himself. Namjoon sets his glass down and reaches over to touch his hand. “You’re fine,” he says. When Jeongguk doesn’t look at him, he says again, “You’re fine. Don’t worry about it. You’re right, and it’s okay that that bothers you.”
“It’s life,” Jeongguk say. His eyes are cast down to where Namjoon’s hand is covering his. “It’s how things are.”
He looks so, awfully serious. Namjoon wonders with an anxious thrum in his body if getting a dog is a bad idea. If they are always going to be like this, under the surface, all messy emotions that can’t touch each other.
“Um, I should thank you,” Jeongguk says then.
Namjoon frowns. “What? No, I told you, you’re fine.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “Not that. Um, just. You’ve really put your, your best foot forward. Especially lately.”
Namjoon looks at him in surprise. “Have I?”
“Yeah.” There’s a long pause before Jeongguk starts to explain. “You are so… nice to me.” His cheeks go a little pink.
“Oh.” Namjoon just looks at him for a moment. “I mean. Of course I’m nice to you. But I don’t feel like… like I’m doing that well.”
Jeongguk looks at him with a kind of vulnerability in his expression that Namjoon has never seen before. It feels like the kind of moment where Namjoon is going to choose to step up or not, and either way things will change.
He moves his bowl to the side so he can lean forward on the table. He feels like he needs to start at the beginning."Did I tell you about what happened at work?" he asks.
Jeongguk shakes his head.
"Yeah, I didn't think so. So like, right after the wedding, the day I got back, they told me some shit went down with this project that a partner and I were heading up, during the two days I was out of the office. And, you know, my parents, so. I had to basically clean up the mess and assert dominance over those who were not conforming to my will, which is pretty exhausting." At least his dry humor makes Jeongguk smile a little. "Anyway. That only started to resolve in, I think the week right before your competition. That's why I was home late every single day. I didn't tell you that, did I?"
Jeongguk licks his lips and presses them together, looking altogether more vulnerable than Namjoon has seen him. "I thought you were avoiding me," he admits.
Namjoon reaches out and touches his arm. "I'm sorry," he says. "I haven't been in a... in a relationship for a few years," he hesitates at comparing this to a relationship, which is silly because they're married, "and the last several months of that were kind of terrible, and since then I've just, been alone most of the time. So I'm not used to having to think about how what I do everyday affects another person."
Jeongguk looks down and picks at a loose thread on his sleeve and mumbles something.
Jeongguk huffs. "I said I've never been in a relationship."
Namjoon feels his eyes bug out. "What."
"You heard me," Jeongguk says. He puts his face in his hands, hiding it as much as he can. “I mean. There was this one guy. But he didn’t get ‘the Taekwondo thing,’” he says with air quotes, “and anyway it was so long ago now it barely feels real.”
Namjoon nods slowly. “That’s... it?” He doesn’t mean to embarrass Jeongguk, but he feels like he’s having a crisis, now more than ever, about how young Jeongguk is. About how he’s married to Namjoon. About how if he never gets to be in love, it’ll be Namjoon’s fault.
Jeongguk looks away. "I was always too busy with training. I went on a few dates, but never with anyone I liked enough, and it was just tiring to think about doing that over and over until I did find someone." His ears are pink. Namjoon doesn't know what to say.
"I feel that," is what he says.
Jeongguk scoffs at him. "Shut up," he says, looking distinctly embarrassed.
"No, I'm serious!" Namjoon says. "Dating is exhausting for me too. I was... twenty-four when I got out of that relationship, and I've barely dated since."
Jeongguk hums an indifferent little noise, like he thinks Namjoon is humoring him, but says, "Well, anyway. Thanks for telling me that. It's good to know you weren't, uh, avoiding me."
"I wanted to do well," Namjoon says, remembering his conversation with Jimin at the wedding. "I still want to." Four months in, and is he? Did he ever even figure out where to start?
“Okay, I think that’s unfair,” Jeongguk says. He doesn’t sound shy or insecure anymore, and he’s frowning.
“That’s not fair,” Jeongguk repeats. “And you’re not the only one who says stuff like that, either. Jimin and even Jin-hyung, who’s your friend too, both act like… like if this doesn’t go well it’s because of you.”
Namjoon’s lips part in surprise. “Oh,” he manages. “Um.”
“You think so, don’t you?” Jeongguk accuses. Namjoon doesn’t know what to say. “It’s like they think that I’m —I don’t know. Perfect or something.” He looks a little flushed and maybe embarrassed about saying all this.
“Um,” Namjoon says again. “I think they kind of do.”
“Well,” Jeongguk says, “I’m not. And I didn’t—the fact that you and I are still barely friends after we got married to each other almost four months ago?” He pauses to let that set in. “It’s at least as much on me as it is on you. Probably more.”
“Are you serious?” Namjoon asks. This is the first time he’s ever considered this perspective. It’s the first time he’s considered Jeongguk was ever doing anything less than his best.
“ Yes, ” he says. “I feel like a kid, sometimes.” This, quieter. “I feel like I can’t do this sometimes. Maybe you don’t try to, but you come across really, um. Really steady. It’s kind of intimidating.”
“ Intimidating, ” Namjoon repeats. His voice is higher than usual.
Jeongguk is clearly embarrassed. “You said you want to try, and that’s more than I’ve done.”
And, well. Namjoon realizes that everything so far has been offered by him. A dog, a date. Spending time together. “You’re okay,” he says.
“No,” Jeongguk insists. “I want to—I want to—” to try .
“We are,” Namjoon tells him. He reaches out to touch Jeongguk’s hand again, but then instead he takes it and holds it. “We are.” He squeezes, and lets go.
“We are,” Jeongguk repeats.
“We’re getting a dog tomorrow,” Namjoon reminds him.
“Oh, fuck, yeah we are,” Jeongguk says and sounds surprised, then looks sheepish, probably for swearing.
Namjoon smiles. “How do you feel?”
“Great.” Jeongguk grins back. It hesitates a little but it’s still there, bright and full. “I love that dog. I was really scared for a second, when they asked if we were married. I thought they might be, you know, homophobic.”
Namjoon presses his lips together. Growing up he was the boss’s kid, and mostly untouchable. His parents weren’t happy about him wanting to be with men, but their influence protected him from cruelty and sometimes even speculation in the limited circles he lived in. There was always the distant judgment in college, after he was out, but it wasn’t like other people face. His sexuality only started to be a big deal publicly when people decided his parents were using it to push him out.
Jeongguk, though. He was out by the time he went to Rio. Namjoon remembers because it was a big deal; it’s always a big deal for Olympic athletes to be out, so people talked about it. About the golden boys: Jeon Jeongguk, twenty, gay; Park Jimin, twenty-two, ambiguous but definitely into guys.
There’s not a lot to protect Jeongguk from cruelty. Or at least, there wasn’t; now there’s Namjoon. Still, as a famous athlete, Jeongguk has surely experienced infinitely more homophobia and general cruelty directed toward him than Namjoon has. It’s spectacularly unfair. He is such a gentle person.
He wants to say, you don’t have to worry about that anymore, but it would be a lie. He wants to say, I will protect you or I will watch out for you, but he can’t promise that, so he doesn’t.
“Nah, they liked us,” he says instead, lightly. “So did the dog.”
“I love her.” Jeongguk beams. “She’s perfect.”
“I think she’ll fit in,” Namjoon agrees.
“I can’t wait.” His smile goes soft. “We’re good, right? I mean it. I want to. Try.”
“I know,” Namjoon says, and he does. Jeongguk has a kind of sincerity that’s special and unmistakable. “I know you mean it. We’re good. We’re here, aren’t we?”
“Yeah.” Jeongguk pushes the last of his food around in his bowl. “And later,” he says suddenly, “I’m going to kick your ass at a game.”
“Oh?” Namjoon raises his eyes in challenge. “What game?”
Jeongguk shrugs indifferently. “Doesn’t matter.”
“ Oooh, ” Namjoon laughs. “He’s cocky. So that’s how it is.”
When Jeongguk grins at him, it’s with that glint in his eye from earlier, and it makes Namjoon’s heart thud.
"This is kind of weird," Jeongguk admits as Namjoon unlocks the door.
Namjoon looks at him with a frown. "Oh?"
"No!" Jeongguk says quickly. Namjoon motions for him to walk inside ahead of him. "It was great, it was really nice." His cheeks are pink in the dim light. "Just the going home to the same place part. Uh, usually after a date I would. You know."
Namjoon bites back his smile. "You would what?"
"You know," Jeongguk says again, flushing. "Go home. Lie on my bed. Think about it." He looks away from Namjoon. "Text Jimin and Tae, maybe." He pauses. "Actually, there's a fifty-fifty chance they'd already be there to talk about it."
Namjoon laughs, in amusement but also in surprise that Jeongguk is sharing this with him, that he's even suggesting he wants to treat this like a regular date with someone he chose to go on a date with. "Do you want me to stay out here and you can go lie on the bed and think about it?" He asks. The bed, not your bed. Because Jeongguk’s bed is his bed.
Jeongguk smiles a little, happy thing that makes Namjoon's heart stutter. "That's okay. Um, since we didn't get to do the whole parting ways thing," he moves closer and Namjoon stops breathing without realizing it. Jeongguk sets a hand, so light, on his hip for just a second and leans in and kisses Namjoon's cheek so softly that Namjoon barely registers the touch of lips to skin before Jeongguk is gone, lips and hand both removed. "Thanks—thank you," he says quietly, his gaze turned on the floor.
You're twenty-six years old, Kim Namjoon, he tells himself, grow some balls. He feels inexplicably nervous. "Thank you, " he says. He puts an arm around Jeongguk and kisses his cheek, too. “Want to play Uno? I think it’s like, the only game I own.”
Jeongguk grins. “Hell yeah.”
Jeongguk beats him four times in a row. It’s not that exciting with just the two of them, but either way when Namjoon is down to his last card on their fifth round Jeongguk gets antsy, and flops onto the ground dramatically when Namjoon beats him. On the seventh round he cheats to win, and when Namjoon realizes it, he cries out in indignation and reaches out to poke Jeongguk in the ribs.
Their cards scatter, and Jeongguk jerks, laughing in surprise. He’s ticklish. Namjoon is delighted. He tickles Jeongguk until he topples over, gasping through his laughter. Namjoon hovers over him and can’t help laughing. When he lets up, Jeongguk looks up at him and grins.
“I had you right, you cheater,” Namjoon says. “You are that competitive.”
“If you say so,” Jeongguk laughs.
He’s leaning back against the couch, and Namjoon is braced above him, arms on either side of his ribcage. He finds himself wishing, just for a second, that this was the type of date that ended in kissing. Jeongguk is gorgeous, and he’s looking up at Namjoon with dark eyes, through thick eyelashes, lips parted as he smiles.
But it’s not. They have too many emotional hang-ups between them, especially Jeongguk. They might never go on a date that ends in kissing, but if they do, Namjoon thinks, it will have to be Jeongguk’s decision.
And that’s okay. It’s enough just to get to know him more.
They stay up late talking and really, the whole evening is better than Namjoon hoped for. Jeongguk says a sweet goodnight late, far after midnight, and goes upstairs. Namjoon goes to bed and finds himself wishing Jeongguk would have stayed.
Meri becomes their dog the next day. After Namjoon gets back from the library and Jeongguk gets back from the gym, they do a sweep of the whole place to make sure everything is dog-proof, even though the couple said she’s good about not putting things in her mouth that aren’t hers. There’s a brand new dog bed by the living room fireplace and food and water bowls on a mat in the kitchen. They’ve got a collar and a tag with both their phone numbers stamped onto it.
The couple bring her over and Namjoon and Jeongguk politely ignore how wet their eyes are when they leave. Meri is excited and happy to see them, but after a couple hours she starts sniffing at the front door and whining for her people.
“Come here, baby,” Jeongguk calls from his spot on the ground, and claps to get her attention. She trots over to him and shoves her soft, golden head into his arm. She lies down with her head on Jeongguk’s lap while he pets her.
Namjoon reflects on that, on ‘come here, baby’ and it gives him a weird feeling in his stomach.
You disaster, he tells himself, then changes his mind. There are worse disasters than liking your husband.
After they get the dog, Namjoon starts coming home not just to Jeongguk in the kitchen, not even just to Jeongguk and Meri in the kitchen, but often Jimin or Taehyung or both.
Jeongguk asks first midway through the week when they take Meri for a walk after dinner. “Do you think she’s used to us enough to meet other people?”
Meri still sniffs around and whines for her people sometimes, usually at night before Namjoon and Jeongguk go to bed. But she seems happy, and she loves Jeongguk. She follows at his heels when he walks around the house and lies down at his feet, sometimes on top of them, when he sits on the couch.
When Namjoon enters a room Meri is in, she sits. It’s like the way people who work for him stand up when he comes in a room, but the opposite. He didn’t understand for a while, but Jeongguk told him,
“It’s because she sees you as the leader.”
“The leader of what?”
Jeongguk smiled. “Her pack. You and me and her.”
“So why don’t you sit when I walk into the room?” Namjoon teased.
“Yah,” Jeongguk groaned and rolled his eyes and sort of flung his body onto Namjoon, his entire back pressing into Namjoon’s stomach.
“Oof,” Namjoon grunted. “I’m just a fragile, bony man, you can’t put all this muscle on top of me.”
Jeongguk wiggled on top of him, and Meri walked over to sniff his forehead. He reached up and ruffled her ears.
Now Namjoon says, “Yeah, it should be fine. You’re talking about Jimin and Taehyung, right?”
“I don’t think they’ll overwhelm her. Have them over anytime you want.”
So the next evening he comes home and Jimin and Taehyung are sprawled out on the living room floor with Meri rolling around on her back between them, rubbing her belly.
“Hi, Namjoon-hyung!” Taehyung greets him with a grin.
“Hi Taehyung-ah, Jimin-ah,” Namjoon smiles and walks into the kitchen. Jeongguk is at the counter, seasoning meat for dinner.
“Hey,” Namjoon says and puts a gentle hand on his lower back in greeting.
“Hello,” Jeongguk says and smiles at him, the smile that wrinkles his nose. Something that feels like a tiny firework happens in Namjoon’s stomach.
“How are you?” he asks, getting himself a glass of water as Jeongguk washes his hands.
“Good,” Jeongguk says. He dries his hands and reaches over to tap at Namjoon’s ass, hurrying him along. “Go change and come help me. Are you okay with them staying for dinner?”
“I’m going,” Namjoon grumbles, trying to keep his face from heating up. “Of course.”
And then Jimin and Taehyung or some variation thereof start to pop up in the house at least twice a week and sometimes stay for dinner.
One day, Namjoon gets home early and the kitchen is empty and Park Jimin is sitting cross legged on his living room floor, with his back against the couch and Meri sprawled over his lap. His head is tipped back against the cushion and his eyes are shut, but he looks up when Namjoon comes in. “Hi.”
“Hi, Park Jimin,” Namjoon says. “Nice to see you. Are you and I hanging out tonight?”
“Your dog and I are hanging out,” Jimin corrects with a lazy, tired looking smile. “You just barely missed Jeongguk. He ran out to get some stuff for dinner. Hope it’s okay for me to hang around.”
“You and Taehyung can be here anytime,” Namjoon says. He takes off his blazer and undoes the top couple of buttons of his shirt, then sits down next to Jimin. “Hi baby,” he says when Meri lifts her head and starts sniffing at his hand. He reaches over and pets her.
Jimin closes his eyes and leans his head back again.
“You alright?” Namjoon asks quietly. “Long day?”
A smile that doesn’t reach his eyes flickers over Jimin’s face. “A bad one,” he murmurs. He lets out a long breath. “Usually Tae and I just hang out when one of us has a bad day, but he’s out of town for a competition.”
“I’m sorry.” He feels his mouth twist looking at Jimin. Jimin’s always seemed, he thinks, more how Jeongguk had described him. Steady. “About your day. And about Taehyung being gone.”
“It’s alright,” Jimin says. “Your dog and your husband are not so bad.”
“No, they’re not,” Namjoon agrees.
“How are you?” Jimin asks then.
“I’m… I’m good,” Namjoon says. “I’m good,” he repeats, and realizes that he’s telling the truth.
Jimin lifts his head up and reaches over to pat Namjoon’s thigh. “I’m glad. Jeongguk is too, I think.”
Namjoon smiles and looks down. “You going to be okay?”
There’s a pause. “I’m really happy,” Jimin says, turning his head to look at Namjoon. “Today was bad, but I… I’m really happy.”
“Good.” Namjoon considers this. Apparently he is very comfortable talking about feelings with Jimin, which is a little bizarre, but he is. So he settles in, with his hand on Meri’s head, and asks, “I guess I don’t know already. How did you and Taehyung start dating?”
Jimin grins down at the dog on his lap and Namjoon knows it was the right question. “Ah, well we met in Rio,” he says. “He would talk to me and Kook in the village all the time. I didn’t know what to make of him. He called me ‘Fireball,’ which I just thought was him being skeezy or something.” He smiles fondly. “But later I found out that’s just Taehyung, and that’s just what he thought of me.”
Namjoon laughs. “Cute.”
“Ahh,” Jimin says a little louder, almost a growl. “He latched onto me and never let go.”
“Are you trying to be tsundere?”
“Is it working?” Jimin huffs and smiles. He settles back. “Kim Namjoon-ssi. I’m going to propose to him.”
Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “Are you? That’s great.”
“I have no idea how.”
Namjoon huffs at him. “Park Jimin. I am not someone who can help you with this.” He feels his face heating with embarrassment. He still has never been able to talk to anyone about the day he proposed to Jeongguk.
Jimin groans. “I know, I’m sorry.”
“You know,” Namjoon says quietly. “I’m sure it’s a lot different when you’re in love. You love Taehyung. And he loves you. And no matter where you are, or what you do, when you say ‘Will you marry me?’ to him, it’s going to be right.”
Jimin lets out a long breath. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I’m still terrified.”
The front door opens and Jeongguk walks in with a couple bags of groceries. When he sees Namjoon, his eyebrows lift. “Oh, hello,” he says. “You’re early.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees and jumps up to help him take the bags to the kitchen. He puts his arm around Jeongguk and leans in to kiss his cheek.
This time, Jeongguk goes to kiss his cheek at the same time. Their lips brush. Namjoon steps back with wide eyes.
“Oh,” Jeongguk says.
“Oh,” Namjoon repeats in an even higher tone.
There’s a giggle from the living room, and Namjoon turns his head to see Jimin with a hand over his mouth. “Sorry,” he says, not looking sorry at all. His eyes are sparkling.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk says, and he does look sorry.
Namjoon just laughs. “It’s fine.” He kisses Jeongguk’s cheek.
Jimin leaves after dinner, before they go on their walk with Meri. “He had a hard day,” Jeongguk tells Namjoon. “He doesn’t do well when he’s by himself on a hard day.”
Namjoon hums. “Yeah, he said it wasn’t good. You’re a good friend to him.” They walk in silence for a few minutes. Meri stops to sniff at a street sign, and Namjoon waits patiently on the other end of the leash. “He told me how Taehyung called him ‘Fireball’ in Rio,” he says with a smile.
Jeongguk laughs. “It got Jimin so flustered! It was cute to watch. Taehyung was gone for him from the very beginning. Jimin liked him, but he was mad about it.”
“Sounds about right,” Namjoon smiles.
“What was it like for Yoongi and Hoseok?” Jeongguk asks.
They haven’t seen much of those two lately, but Namjoon let them know they can come see the dog soon, and they both love dogs so it’s inevitable.
“It was a disaster,” Namjoon says solemnly.
Jeongguk lets out a surprised laugh.
“I’ll get Yoongi and Hoseok to tell you the whole story whenever they come over, but basically Yoongi’s family was putting a lot of pressure on him to get married,” he begins.
“That’s shitty,” Jeongguk says.
Right. Jeongguk knows how that is. “Yeah, I know,” Namjoon says. “It was shitty for Yoongi too, because he was like… head over heels for Hoseok, already. I don’t know the details of it, but one evening while I was out of town on business they went out together, and when I got back, they were just like, oh, we’re getting married.” He laughs, remembering the hysteria Yoongi cycled into the closer the wedding got. “They kept calling it ‘best friend married.’ Like that’s a normal thing. Like if me and Yoongi just decided out of nowhere to get married. Or you and Jimin.”
At that idea, Jeongguk laughs. “Gross.”
Namjoon continues. “Yoongi was the disaster in that scenario. Hoseok was completely fine with the whole thing. Um, without spoiling the funny part of the story, they’re obviously together, in a romantic sense now.”
“Don’t forget to have them tell me the rest,” Jeongguk says.
“I won’t,” Namjoon smiles. “I didn’t find out until, um. The night before our wedding, actually.”
Jeongguk’s cheeks, like always, go pink at the mention of their wedding. He’s quiet for a minute, then says, “I remember that day. Not the wedding,” he clarifies. “The day before. When I moved in. God, I was so freaked out.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says, “I was too.” Jeongguk keeps looking at him like there’s something he wants to say, so he asks, “What is it?”
“Um, I just. Remember the day you… you asked?”
“I asked?” Namjoon repeats. He looks at Jeongguk, who’s biting his lip.
“You asked me to. Marry you.”
“Oh.” Instantly it feels like a bag of rocks settles in Namjoon’s stomach, the cold pang he gets anytime he thinks about that day, which he tries not to. “Well, yeah,” he says.
“Why is it so hard to talk about?” Jeongguk asks, really quietly.
“I don’t know,” Namjoon admits. “It’s hard for me to even think about. I was, um. Really embarrassed. In a really deep down way.”
“You probably more,” Namjoon says, even though he can’t imagine it being worse. “I never told anyone about that. I couldn’t get myself to talk about it.”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “Me neither.”
They’re quiet the rest of the walk.
Parties like this have always been a special kind of hell for Namjoon.
For years he’s been expected to socialize and make connections with men who are dismissive of his identity and only talk to him because of who his family is, people who are sexist and homophobic but can get away with it because they have money.
Now Namjoon is married to a man and everyone here who pretended to celebrate with him is judging him silently.
His sister greets them as they walk in. “Jeongguk-ah, you remember my sister Jiwoo, right?” Namjoon says.
“Of course,” Jeongguk says. “It’s nice to see you again, Jiwoo-ssi.”
“Can I get you two something to drink?” she asks. “Champagne?”
Namjoon glances at Jeongguk, unsure what he’ll be comfortable with.
“Champagne is fine, thank you,” Jeongguk says.
“Me too,” Namjoon says. Jiwoo disappears and then Seokjin is approaching. “Hyung,” he says in surprise, “what are you doing here?”
“I’m Yoongi’s plus one.” Seokjin sweeps Jeongguk into a hug.
“Mph,” Jeongguk grunts. “Hey, hyung. Good to see you.”
“What about Hoseok?” Namjoon says.
“What about me?”
Namjoon turns to see Hoseok with Yoongi in tow.
“His plus two,” Seokjin says, letting Jeongguk go.
“I technically asked him first and he won’t let it go,” Yoongi says. He’s trying to look miserable, but there’s a fond sparkle in his eye. “I told him it’s usually assumed that your husband is your plus one, but here we are.”
“Hey, you can’t assume anything. As far as I’m concerned, I am your plus two,” Hoseok says.
Yoongi gives Namjoon a desperate look. “I can’t win.”
Jeongguk laughs, and Jiwoo reappears, handing him and Namjoon glasses of champagne.
“Hello!” she exclaims. She puts a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. “Yoongi-yah. Good to see you. Hoseok-ssi, Seokjin-ssi. Can I get you champagne too?”
“Ah, I’ll get drinks, Jiwoo-ssi. Can I get you anything?” Seokjin says. Namjoon huffs and shakes his head. Seokjin’s charm is on.
“Let me join you,” Jiwoo says. Seokjin offers her his arm. Yoongi and Hoseok watch intently as they walk away.
“Are you looking at his ass?” Hoseok says, bumping Yoongi’s shoulder with his own.
Yoongi snorts and presses his lips together in a familiar unimpressed expression. “Are you?”
Hoseok gives him a little hum and raised eyebrows.
“What?” Jeongguk says quietly enough that only Namjoon hears.
“I have no idea,” Namjoon mutters.
Mingling is always a little easier just knowing that Yoongi and Hoseok are there, and Seokjin helps even more. It’s also... not that bad to have Jeongguk by his side, even if it’s because he has to be, because Namjoon has to show him off.
The whole evening is not so bad, even the part where they have to talk to Namjoon’s parents and Jeongguk’s body is rigid with tension. It’s fine, until—
They’re talking to an old partner of his dad’s. He hasn’t been especially polite, and Namjoon is ready to take any opportunity to edge out of the conversation. He notices Namjoon’s empty glass and says to Jeongguk, “Why don’t you refresh your husband’s drink?”
Namjoon frowns. “No,” he begins.
Jeongguk stops him with a hand on his arm. “It’s fine. I want something too. I’ll be right back.” He takes Namjoon’s glass and slips away.
Namjoon can feel himself being distracted the whole time he’s gone, hoping Jeongguk isn’t upset, doesn’t think that Namjoon would allow this man to demean him, so he’s not paying a whole lot of attention.
Until, “Hope you’re getting your money’s worth on that one,” the man says.
Namjoon’s mouth opens in shock. “I’m sorry?”
“Athletes are expensive, aren’t they?”
Namjoon hears a sharp intake of breath to his right. He turns his head and Jeongguk is there, looking frozen. His chest inflates with the anger he feels. “You can’t talk about him that way,” he tells the man, who just snorts.
“I know how these things work, Namjoon-ssi.”
Jeongguk turns his back to them, probably to collect himself. Namjoon hardly spares the man a nod before he turns away. He puts his hand on the small of Jeongguk’s back and guides him away.
“I am so, so sorry,” he says, leading him away from where all the people are, in the direction of the offices. He takes the champagne flutes from Jeongguk and sets them on the receptionist’s desk.
Jeongguk shoves his now free hands in his pockets. He closes his eyes tight and purses his lips, taking several measured breaths. He is trying not to cry, and Namjoon doesn’t know what to do. “Can I leave, please?” he says finally. He opens his eyes and chews at his lower lip. “I’ll call a taxi.”
“No, it’s not safe. We’ve stayed long enough, we can both leave.”
Namjoon hopes what he’s seeing in Jeongguk’s expression isn’t the I can’t be around you right now that he thinks it is. But he’s not very confident. Jeongguk just nods.
“Do you want to go downstairs and wait by the entrance to the parking garage?” Namjoon offers. “I just need to tell my parents and Jiwoo that we’re leaving.”
He gets a nod again.
“Okay. Give me ten minutes.”
Namjoon finds his parents and doesn’t leave any room for arguing when he tells them he’s leaving. His mother gives him a disapproving look. Jiwoo squeezes his arm.
When he rounds the corner to the second-floor entrance to the parking garage, he hears voices and freezes.
“I know he’s a good person, hyung,” Jeongguk is saying. “That doesn’t change that I’m here to make him look good so he can be CEO.”
Namjoon steps around the corner. “I’m not going to be CEO.”
Jeongguk is standing by the wall, arms folded and shoulders hunched inward. Seokjin is with him.
For a moment Jeongguk just looks at him, a little guilty expression on his face. Seokjin squeezes his arm, walks over to pat Namjoon’s shoulder, and leaves.
His footsteps fade into the stairway and Namjoon faces Jeongguk. “I think we should talk,” he says. “In the car?”
They’re silent as they walk to the car and for several moments after they’re inside. Jeongguk folds his hands in his lap and looks down at them.
As soon as he knows how to say what he wants to say, Namjoon breaks the silence. “This isn’t about CEO,” Namjoon says. “I’m not going to be CEO. Jiwoo is. No one knows. But Jiwoo is.”
“Okay.” Jeongguk licks his lips.
“This wasn’t... my parents trying to make me look good so I can be CEO. When my dad was in the hospital, and Jiwoo stepped in for him...” Namjoon shakes his head. “No one anticipated that.”
“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees. “I remember. There were so many headlines about you getting pushed out. Because you’re gay.”
Namjoon laughs bitterly. “Ironically, that’s not even true. I never wanted to be CEO. We’ve known for years it’s going to be Jiwoo. So she was the natural choice for when my dad was sick, it just backfired, that they let people think for years it would be the son.”
“Sexist,” Jeongguk says.
“Exactly,” Namjoon agrees. “It was stupid. But the point is, it wasn’t so they can make me CEO. It was to make the family look better in the public eye.”
Jeongguk nods. “Yeah. And I’m good for sympathy. And favor.”
“You are. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. It’s the truth. The golden athlete with the jacked knee and money problems, right?” Jeongguk’s voice isn’t hard, it’s just tired.
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says again. “And I’m so sorry for what he said. Please know I never thought of you that way. I would never let someone say those things about you.”
Jeongguk doesn’t look at him, he just shakes his head. “Everyone says those things about me. I don’t know how people can’t see that you needed me to look good.” He inhales sharply and glances at Namjoon. “I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re... you’re right,” Namjoon says. “My parents might have decided to use you in this. But I let them.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “There’s nothing you could’ve done. And I shouldn’t be so upset. I needed what you could give me, too.”
That shouldn’t hurt, not considering everything, but it does. It makes Namjoon angry at his parents, again, for being able to make opportunities people can’t turn down. For being able to make opportunities sweet, hard-working athletes with beautiful hearts can’t turn down.
Namjoon’s parents might be using him too, but they are using Jeongguk far more. Jeongguk will never be able to trust him, not really. And Namjoon can’t blame him.
“Let’s go, okay?” he says. “I want to go home and forget that people are shit. Especially my parents.”
Jeongguk nods. “Me too, hyung. Yeah, let’s go. I’m tired.”
When they get home, Jeongguk hangs up his suit jacket and goes to get in the shower. Namjoon takes Meri out, and when he gets back, Jeongguk is upstairs. The lights are off.
Namjoon’s whole evening is stained now, by the way things ended. But, he supposes, he needed the reminder. If he and Jeongguk are friends, that’s as much as they’ll ever be. Jeongguk is good, and sweet, and funny, and so beautiful, and he will never really trust Namjoon.
Namjoon can’t blame him.
Things are a little tense over the next week. They’re not hostile, and they’re not nearly as awkward as they were months ago when they first got married, but they’re strained. The thing Namjoon feels the most is melancholy.
He’s sad that this is how things are. Everyone was right—Jeongguk is a great person. He’s sweet and weird and cute and funny. But he’s pulling back, and Namjoon understands.
Then on Friday, after spending the whole week sleeping upstairs, Jeongguk comes into the bedroom and gets under the covers without a word.
Namjoon didn’t think they were going to watch anything tonight, not with the way things have been. He tosses the blankets off his legs. “I need to get my laptop.”
“No,” Jeongguk says and grabs his wrist. “Hyung.”
He needs something. Namjoon frowns and looks at him. He looks small and tired. “What, sweetheart?”
Jeongguk closes his eyes, and his mouth twists. “Can you touch me?” he asks. His voice breaks and something in Namjoon fractures. “Just... touch me.”
Namjoon doesn’t know what to say, so he doesn’t try to talk. He reaches out and puts his hands on Jeongguk’s knees.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk says. His eyes open and there’s insecurity deep in them. “Nevermind. We can watch something. Or... I’ll go.”
“No, no. You tell me what you want,” Namjoon says, finding his words as he places his hands where Jeongguk’s neck meets his shoulders. He smooths them down, over his arms, and takes his hands. They’re in fists.
Jeongguk’s hands go lax as Namjoon takes them. They’re shaking.
“Shh,” Namjoon says even though Jeongguk hasn’t said a word. He runs his hands over Jeongguk’s to uncurl his fists. He drags his fingers over Jeongguk’s palms, then up his forearms. Jeongguk shivers and the muscles in his arms tense, so Namjoon runs his fingers all the way up, up his biceps and back down.
Namjoon doesn’t know exactly what Jeongguk needs. But he hasn’t moved, and his body is still tense, so he keeps going. He wraps his hands around Jeongguk’s arms and rubs up and down, all the way. Up his shoulders. Thumbs across his collarbones. Slides one hand across his chest.
Then he takes Jeongguk’s hands to move them to his own shoulders. “Can I touch your waist?” he asks.
“Yes,” Jeongguk says on a soft breath. His eyes are still closed, brow furrowed.
Namjoon does. He settles his hands there, then stalls. That’s when Jeongguk moves; he leans forward, slides his hands to the back of Namjoon’s neck, and drapes himself over him.
Namjoon makes a content sound without meaning to. He wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s back and rubs it with one hand.
Jeongguk shuffles forward so close he’s almost in Namjoon’s lap. He rests his head on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he says. His voice trembles just barely. He moves one hand to the back of Namjoon’s head and curls his fingers to feel his hair.
There’s something sweet but hungry happening here. Namjoon often doesn’t realize how much he needs to be touched until someone is touching him, maybe Hoseok, smoothing a hand over his hair or rubbing his arm. He’s never felt it as viscerally as this; his whole body is screaming at him to touch and be touched more.
“Thank you ,” he says back, so quietly he isn’t sure if Jeongguk hears him. Maybe they’re a sad combination, the two of them, thanking each other for touching them. Namjoon doesn’t know. All he knows right now is that Jeongguk’s chest is solid against his, and his breath is sweet against his shoulder, and his fingers are gentle at his neck.
Being close to him feels absurdly good. Namjoon can’t stop feeling like something is breaking. Like something in him is cracking and seeping into Jeongguk. And maybe, too, something in Jeongguk is cracking and seeping into him.
He presses his hands to Jeongguk’s back. He feels grounded, he feels here more than he has in a while. He wants to touch Jeongguk. He feels like maybe he has always wanted to touch Jeongguk.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” he asks softly.
Jeongguk doesn’t answer for a moment. When he does, he says, “Yeah. But not now.”
“Okay. Whenever you’re ready, I’m here.”
“I know.” Jeongguk sounds like he’s going to cry. He turns so his forehead presses to Namjoon’s neck. “Can you touch my hair, please?”
Namjoon’s hand goes to hold the back of his head before he knows what he’s doing. “Here,” he says. “Like this.” He leans back to move their pillows around with one hand. Still holding Jeongguk close, he lies down.
The shift means that Jeongguk’s head tucks beneath his chin. It’s comfortable for Namjoon, but Jeongguk tenses.
“Is this okay?” Namjoon asks, and brushes his hair away from his face.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says.
“Okay.” Namjoon runs his fingers through his hair. Jeongguk relaxes, and when Namjoon scratches over his scalp he lets out a little hum. “Scratching?” he asks.
“Mhm,” Jeongguk groans. “Good.”
“Can I turn off the light?” Namjoon asks. “You want to sleep like this?”
“Is it okay?”
“I got it, then.” Jeongguk leans up and reaches over to shut off the light. When he comes back, he slides one leg over Namjoon’s and pulls the covers over them. “Goodnight, hyung.”
Namjoon breathes in his hair. “Goodnight, Jeongguk-ah.”
When Namjoon wakes up Jeongguk is still asleep. They’re not wrapped around each other anymore, but his body is still curled toward Namjoon, head so close to his that Namjoon can feel his breaths against his chin.
Namjoon hates to get up. If he could live in the way they touched each other, he thinks he would. He needed that, he realizes—he needed it probably as much as Jeongguk who asked for it. He pulls himself out of sleep slowly.
Jeongguk doesn’t get up until Namjoon is about to leave.
“Good morning,” Namjoon says when he comes into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” he says back. He licks his lips. “I’m sorry about last night.”
It hurts more than it should to hear that. Namjoon’s lips press together. “Are you?” he says and then he’s moving toward Jeongguk and Jeongguk is moving toward him. They don’t stop until they’re chest to chest and Jeongguk is tucked under Namjoon’s arms.
“No,” Jeongguk says softly. “As long as it’s okay with you. No, I’m not sorry.”
Namjoon presses his nose to Jeongguk’s hair. “It’s okay.” He knows they aren’t going to talk about it, even though they both feel the same. Neither of them is going to say sometimes you don’t know how much you need to be touched, even though both of them are thinking it.
“I’m going to stay home from the gym. I might go back to bed,” Jeongguk says when he pulls back.
“I’ll stay home too,” Namjoon says immediately. Back to bed repeats in his mind. Going back to bed with Jeongguk is more appealing than he imagined. So is curling up on the couch with him, reading or watching a movie.
Jeongguk smiles a sleepy little smile at him. His nose gets the little wrinkles in it that make Namjoon smile, too. “Go to the library, hyung. I’ll see you when you get back.”
“Okay.” Namjoon blushes a little at himself, abashed at feeling clingy with Jeongguk. “See you.”
“Hey, will you get mad if I let the dog in bed?” Jeongguk calls as he opens the door.
“What?” Namjoon says. His voice hits an abnormally high register. “Are you kidding?”
Jeongguk throws his head back and laughs, a happy kind of cackle Namjoon’s only heard a few times. “Yes, I’m kidding.”
When Namjoon gets back from the library they make lunch and Jeongguk seems a little out of sorts still. They sit cross-legged on the couch, dishes on their laps. Namjoon says, hesitating a little, “Do you still want to talk? About... anything?”
Jeongguk licks his lips and sets his food on the coffee table, half finished. He pulls his knees up to his chest. “My parents are moving,” he says.
Namjoon is quiet.
“They’re downsizing. They’re moving out of the, uh. The house I grew up in. Into an apartment. I think they’re gonna give away my old stuff.” He rubs a hand over his forehead. “They called yesterday to tell me, but it was more to let me know not to come home.”
Namjoon makes a soft, upset noise in his throat without realizing it. Jeongguk lifts his head and wipes away a tear Namjoon is surprised to see there. Namjoon puts a hand on his back, but he knows it won’t help anything.
“And I get it,” Jeongguk whispers. “I get it. Money has been tight for a long time, and I’m your responsibility now, they’re free to do what they want.” He takes a few controlled breaths like he can’t say anything else until he does. “Everything is about money,” he says. “ Everything. ”
Especially you, Namjoon hears in his head. Especially you, especially you, especially you.
“But they made me into this,” Jeongguk says. “ They put me in taekwondo and they decided I should stick with it when it turned out I was good, and then they… they tried to make it look like being an athlete made me worth something and pawned me off as soon as someone was interested.”
Ouch. Ouch. Namjoon’s stomach feels like lead, and he feels overwhelmingly self-conscious. This isn’t about you, he reminds himself. This is about Jeongguk.
“And that man.” Jeongguk’s voice breaks then. He tips his head forward to rest on his knees, and Namjoon can see the tears running down his cheeks. “What he said... I know that you’re the only reason I can still do what I’m doing. And I know I’m only here because I’m an athlete. And I know there’s nothing I can give you. I’m only worth anything because I’m an athlete.” His face screws up, but he turns his head to look at Namjoon when he says, “So I should be on my knees for you, right?”
“No,” Namjoon exclaims before it even fully registers. He jerks his hand back. Jeongguk shuts his eyes right away, but Namjoon can see the shake of the anger he had to ride to say it. “No, no, Jeongguk-ah, no, I would never—”
“I know,” Jeongguk says. “I know you wouldn’t. But that’s what everyone thinks. That’s what... it would be, hyung. If it weren’t you.”
“You don’t know that,” Namjoon says. “You would be okay no matter what.”
“You know that’s not true. I needed you. I still need you. I would be nothing without you. I wouldn’t even—”
He cuts off when Namjoon drags his whole body into his arms. “That is not true, Jeon Jeongguk. You would have made it because you’re strong. You can do so much just by willpower. And even if you weren’t an athlete, you would be worth the entire world because you work so hard and you care so much. You’re wrong. ” He whispers this last one. “You’re going to be okay. And I’m sorry that being with me makes you feel like this.”
“Why are you being so nice to me?” Jeongguk is shaking, just enough for it to be noticeable. “I’m being mean to you. And you’re just letting me.”
Namjoon feels like he is going to cry, and this is uncharted territory. Namjoon does not cry. Namjoon can’t remember the last time he cried. “You’re not being mean to me,” he says and yeah, his voice is thick. “You’re hurt.” He wonders if maybe he isn’t supposed to acknowledge that out loud, but he knows it’s true. He takes a deep breath. “I care. I, um. Care what happens to you. And how you feel. But if you don’t want me to—” he starts to loosen his hold and pull back.
“No!” Jeongguk says quickly and grabs for Namjoon’s wrists to hold them around himself. Like he’s afraid he’ll come untethered if Namjoon lets go of him.
“Okay,” Namjoon says carefully. He’s holding himself a little tense now. “I don’t know what you want, Jeongguk-ah,” he says.
“I really—” Jeongguk starts, then knocks his head forward against Namjoon’s shoulder. “I don’t know either,” he says. Then a few moments later, “No, I do.”
“What?” Namjoon asks. He brings a hand to Jeongguk’s hair and scratches at his scalp, remembering how that comforted him last night.
“I just want…” he trails off and lets out a strangled noise Namjoon realizes belatedly is a sob. “I just want someone to want me with them. My parents don’t. I was forced on you. I feel like I’m… stuck. Like I’m always going to be in this place where no one—” He doesn’t finish, but Namjoon hears what he doesn’t say. Where no one wants me.
It feels like it’s gotten harder to breathe. Whether that’s because of Jeongguk leaning against him or Namjoon’s own head, he doesn’t know. He feels like his chest is compressing under the weight of hearing the way Jeongguk feels.
“Jeongguk-ah,” he says. His voice is low and a little scratchy. “Please believe me when I say this.”
Jeongguk makes a little questioning sound.
“I do want you here,” he says. He can hardly believe this is him, Kim Namjoon, sitting here and holding a boy and talking about his feelings. “Um,” he says awkwardly, “if you don’t like that, feel free to forget it, but I—I like having you with me.”
There’s a moment of quiet, and then Jeongguk says, “Why would I want to forget that?”
Namjoon feels almost as self-conscious as before, exposed like he’s pulling things out of himself and giving them to Jeongguk to look at. “Well,” he begins, uncertain, “because you don’t like being here? Because being… if being married to me is making you unhappy?” There’s so much more he could say, but nothing will straighten out into words.
“Namjoon-hyung,” Jeongguk says, and his name is mostly a soft breath that hits his neck. It’s quiet, but he sounds distinctly disappointed in the space of the almost-whisper.
Something in Namjoon’s stomach coils tightly.
“Being with you does not make me unhappy,” Jeongguk says. “You have nothing to apologize for. You’ve been perfect.”
“I have not,” he says, feeling very nervous. “I have been far from perfect. I’ve been far from even good enough. ”
“You got a dog because you were afraid I was lonely,” Jeongguk says. He sits up to see Namjoon better. “You’re more than good enough, hyung.”
That hits Namjoon in the stomach. Jeongguk deserves so much more than he has given him. How can he not know that? “You’re more than good enough,” he says back. Tell me how I can help you , he thinks. And this time: “Tell me how I can help you,” he says.
Jeongguk tips his head over to lean on Namjoon’s shoulder. “This is good,” he says. A deep breath, in then puffed out in the air between them. “I like being married to you.”
Namjoon huffs a little laugh. “You like being roommates?”
Jeongguk turns his head to smile against Namjoon’s shoulder. “Yeah, actually. I like spending time with you.”
And it’s gross— gross —how Namjoon’s stomach erupts with some dumb, tickly butterflies. He’s twenty-six years old and this is gross.
“I like spending time with you too,” he says.
When Jeongguk disappears upstairs that afternoon, Namjoon gets it—he let himself be so vulnerable today, and in front of Namjoon of all people. He must want to not be looked at for a while. Namjoon is okay with that. He still feels like his ribs are being pulled at from the inside, but more than he has in a long time, he feels like he’s doing okay.
And Jeongguk reappears, reappears before bed looking tired but happy, eyes bright, asking to watch a movie. So they do. They watch a movie in bed, and when they fall asleep they’re both curled toward each other.
That’s when it starts to happen, the slow move from two people who are kind of touch-starved, who hesitate toward each other, to... touching.
Suddenly Jeongguk is sleeping with Namjoon more often than he sleeps upstairs. Suddenly being on the couch together means Namjoon is leaning on Jeongguk’s shoulder or Jeongguk has his head on Namjoon’s lap. Suddenly watching a movie means Jeongguk on the floor in front of him, Meri pressed to his side, his head tipped against Namjoon’s knee, Namjoon running his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair.
There’s the sad touching—the strange, touch-starved kind of thing like that first night, or like when Namjoon has a bad day and feels like he’s floating aimlessly, and Jeongguk’s fingers in his hair bring him back. But there’s the happy touching, too; there are hugs and hand touches and aimless lying in bed pressed against each other.
It’s not unnoticeable, either.
Yoongi and Hoseok’s anniversary is in August. They have a small party at their apartment. It’s all close friends, so Namjoon isn’t embarrassed to walk in smiling cheekily with his husband, their dog in between them.
Yoongi gives them a look of disbelief and disgust. “Did you bring your dog to my anniversary party?” he asks as Hoseok shrieks and drops to the ground, throwing his arms wide.
Meri gets excited and lets out a small bark, jumping at Hoseok and knocking him off balance onto his ass, then climbing into his lap.
Namjoon looks at Jeongguk, who’s grinning. Then he holds out the bottle of wine he brought for them. “Happy two years, hyung. Hoseok-ah.”
“Happy two years,” Jeongguk echoes quietly.
Yoongi takes the wine and gives it a long look.
“I was going to bring you whiskey,” Namjoon says, “but I figured Seokjin would have that covered.”
Yoongi and Hoseok look at each other at the same time. Yoongi looks back at Namjoon, pats him on the shoulder, and says, “Thank you for the wine, Namjoon-ah.” He turns away to take the wine to the kitchen.
Namjoon frowns after him and looks at Hoseok, who’s still on the ground hugging Meri, but still now. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Hoseok says lightly. “Seokjin is in the living room if you want to say hi. Your dog is my captive, though.”
Namjoon glances at Jeongguk, who shrugs, and then they make their way into the living room. He spots Seokjin before Seokjin spots them, but the person he’s with sees them.
“Yah, Namjoon-ah,” she exclaims and stands up to bow to him.
“Joohyun-noona,” Namjoon says, surprised to see her. She and Hoseok have been friends for years, but she’s been slippery about going to events for the last couple of years.
“Wow, and this boy’s face is even sweeter in person. Hi, Jeon Jeongguk-ssi,” Joohyun says with a smile to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk’s ears go pink. “Nice to meet you, Joohyun-ssi.”
“Don’t embarrass my little boy, noona,” Seokjin says from his seat on the couch. “Jeongguk-ah.” He holds his arms out in a clear gesture for Jeongguk to sit on his lap.
“He’s been drinking since before I got here,” Joohyun tells Namjoon.
Yoongi chooses that moment to arrive, with Meri beside him. “Do you two want drinks? I’ll get you something.”
“No thank you, hyung, we’re not drinking tonight. I thought Hoseok had the dog. Stop being irresponsible with my child.”
“You brought your dog to their anniversary party?” Joohyun asks.
“She deserves to be here.”
Yoongi clears his throat. “Sorry. Hoseok had to go get something. No drinks? Sorry, noona, drinks? Hyung?” He seems frazzled.
Seokjin holds up an empty glass that Yoongi takes with a nod of solidarity that comes from sharing taste in drinks.
“Some wine would be fine,” Joohyun says.
“I’ll come with you, hyung,” Jeongguk says, probably sensing that Yoongi’s not quite there. He takes Seokjin’s glass and follows Yoongi to the kitchen, calling for Meri to stay when she tries to go with him.
Namjoon sits next to Joohyun. “Meri, come.” She comes to press herself against his legs and thump her tail on the floor.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Joohyun says, taking Meri’s face in her hands and rubbing her ears. “How long have you had the dog, Namjoon-ah?”
“Mm, a month and a half, maybe.”
“You know, I didn’t know you were seeing anyone at all, much less Jeon Jeongguk, ” she says, petting Meri’s head.
Namjoon freezes. “Yeah,” is all he can say, throwing a nervous glance at Seokjin. Thankfully, he catches it and changes the subject for Namjoon.
“Get her to tell you about her athlete,” he says.
“I don’t have an athlete,” Joohyun frowns.
“Her sexy athlete lady,” Seokjin prods, nudging Joohyun with his elbow and laughing.
“You have a sexy athlete lady?” Namjoon asks, interested.
“She is not my athlete lady.”
“We’ll see about that,” says Hoseok, coming around the side of the couch. He holds a champagne flute out to Namjoon. “Joon, champagne?”
Namjoon blinks at him. “I’m not drinking tonight, but thanks, Hoseok-ah.”
Hoseok frowns at the drink. Then he looks at Seokjin. “Hyung?”
“All yours, Hoseok-ah,” Seokjin says, and then he pushes himself up off the couch and breezes past Hoseok, toward the kitchen.
Namjoon sees something flash across Hoseok’s expression, but he closes it off right away. “Alright, I guess it’s for me.” He sits in the spot Seokjin was in. “You were telling Namjoon about your sexy athlete lady, noona?”
Joohyun gives him a stern look. “He was telling me about his sexy athlete husband, actually.”
“Right.” Hoseok’s smile fades a little and he flickers his eyes at Namjoon. It’s a tell her? don’t tell her?
Namjoon clears his throat. “We both really wanted a dog,” he says, clumsily avoiding Joohyun’s original question. By the kitchen, he sees Yoongi and Jeongguk headed back their way. Seokjin passes them and intercepts the glass of whiskey Yoongi was bringing him. It looks like he’s going to disappear around the corner, but Yoongi stops him with a hand on his chest.
Yoongi leans up to say something close to Seokjin’s ear, frowning a little. Jeongguk edges away from them, looking uncomfortable. He looks over to the couch, and his eyes dart from Namjoon to Hoseok. He comes over with a glass of red wine he hands to Joohyun.
“Thank you, Jeongguk-ssi. Ah, I’ll move over for you—”
“No, no,” Jeongguk hurries to stop her shifting closer to Hoseok. He looks around the room. There are no empty seats, so quickly he sits on the ground in front of Namjoon. Meri shoves her nose into his neck. “Shh, stop that,” he laughs. He leans over and rests his arm on Namjoon’s leg, his other hand on Meri.
Hoseok does better pulling them into a real conversation than Namjoon could on his own, which he’s thankful for. He doesn’t want to have to make the split second decision to tell Joohyun that he and Jeongguk were never together, and he especially doesn’t want her to realize it just because of how caught-out they look.
After a while, they get up to drag Hoseok into the kitchen and corner him and Yoongi to open their anniversary gift, which is a collection of t-shirts with cheesy puns that make Hoseok laugh and Yoongi pretend to glare at them.
Seokjin stands next to Namjoon as Jeongguk holds the shirts up proudly to laugh over them. He leans over and says, “You guys seem good.”
Namjoon turns to smile crookedly at him. “Yeah. Actually, yeah. We’re getting somewhere.”
“Good.” Seokjin looks almost surprised, but mostly proud. “You’re doing well, Namjoon-ah. He looks happy.”
Namjoon looks at Jeongguk, laughing with Hoseok, and swallows around something thick in his throat. “Yeah, he does.”
They’re quiet a moment. Then Seokjin slaps his shoulder, too hard, and says, “Alright. There’s no liquor in my hand.”
Namjoon snorts. “Okay.”
The weird thing is, it seems like Seokjin has liquor in his hand all night. Hoseok approaches Namjoon and Jeongguk before they leave and pulls them together to say, “Can you please make sure hyung is okay? I don’t think he should be alone.”
Namjoon doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get any of it. But Jeongguk seems to, because right away, he turns his head to call to Seokjin.
“Jin-hyung! You’re coming home with me.” He holds his hand out to Namjoon. “I’ll take him to the car. Say your goodbyes, bring Meri with you, huh?” His eyes are oddly serious.
“Okay,” Namjoon agrees and hands him the keys. He watches as Jeongguk goes to pull Seokjin outside. He’s not sure what’s happening, but Jeongguk is the last person he’s going to question.
When he turns back, Hoseok is looking closely at him. “I saw him leaning on you earlier,” he says.
“Oh,” Namjoon says. He shouldn’t feel caught-out about this, but he does. “Well. We spend... a lot of time together. You know. Sometimes you just end up,” he stops.
“Touching?” Hoseok prompts.
Namjoon shrugs. He doesn’t want to say anything about the way they’ve been touching. It feels too vulnerable.
“Hey, I’m glad,” Hoseok says. He squeezes Namjoon’s arm. “I mean. That you guys are getting closer.”
Namjoon licks his lips. “Yeah. Happy two years, ‘Seok.”
Hoseok smiles. “Min Yoongi,” he yells. Yoongi waddles over, and Hoseok drags both of them into a hug.
Namjoon has known Yoongi forever, but he’s only known Hoseok since college, and this kind of touching didn’t start until they had Hoseok. He and Yoongi don’t really know how to do it. They hold onto each other awkwardly. Namjoon laughs a little into the hug. “Love you,” he says.
“Love you, Namjoon-ah.” Yoongi messes up his hair. “Get out of here.”
Namjoon ducks away as they both try to ruffle his hair, calling behind him, “Happy anniversary!”
Jeongguk’s put Seokjin in the passenger seat and settled himself in the back with Meri. Namjoon still isn’t sure what’s going on, but they take Seokjin home with them. Inside, Jeongguk sits him down on the couch and makes him drink a glass of water.
“Hyung, do you want to sleep upstairs?” he asks.
Seokjin hands him the glass and tips himself over to lie on the couch. “Here,” he groans.
“No, the upstairs couch is much more comfortable,” Jeongguk says. “Come on. I’ll get you a change of clothes.” He runs his fingers through Seokjin’s hair, then tugs him up. He looks at Namjoon. “Take Meri out?”
Namjoon follows without question. When he gets back inside to put Meri to bed, Jeongguk is coming down from upstairs. He tugs him by the wrist into the bedroom.
“They’re doing something,” he says seriously.
“Seokjin and Yoongi and Hoseok.”
Namjoon frowns. “They were all acting kind of weird today, weren’t they?”
“No, hyung.” Jeongguk puts a hand on his arm. “They’re... doing something. Together. All three of them.” He studies Namjoon, and seems to decide he doesn’t get it. “Like, sex.”
Namjoon’s lips part in surprise. “What?”
“I thought before, maybe... but they definitely are.” Jeongguk hesitates. “Maybe not just sex. I don’t know. Maybe there’s romance there, too. They all seemed out of sorts tonight, not just Seokjin.”
Namjoon inhales sharply. “You’re right. They did.” His mind is working fast, remembering Seokjin and Hoseok dancing at the wedding, thinking about the way Yoongi stands close to Seokjin, almost in his shadow. “Oh my god,” he mutters, remembering the work party those weeks ago. “They were looking at his ass.”
Jeongguk lets out a sharp laugh. "They were looking at his ass,” he agrees. He unbuttons his shirt all the way and steps into his closet. Namjoon gets a good view of his chest without meaning to. That’s overwhelming.
They crawl into bed together, this new normal thing. Jeongguk rests his head against Namjoon’s.
“It kind of makes me sad,” he says. “It would be hard to be with married people.”
Namjoon doesn’t understand any of this. Doesn’t understand the idea of Seokjin having sex with Yoongi and Hoseok, doesn’t understand the idea of him maybe having feelings for them, them maybe having feelings for him. If he’s brave enough, maybe he’ll ask Yoongi about it. “Weird,” he says. “I barely know how to think about two of my best friends being together. Much less three.”
Jeongguk puffs a laugh. “That’s fair.” He reaches over to shut off the light. “Night, hyung.”
“Night, Jeongguk-ah,” Namjoon says, and they fall asleep almost touching.
Seokjin doesn’t wake up the next morning until after they’ve finished eating a late breakfast. He comes down the stairs looking confused. “Ah, hey,” he says awkwardly when he sees them in the living room, shoulder to shoulder, watching tv.
“Hyung, there’s food and coffee left in the kitchen,” Jeongguk says. Meri gets up and trots over to say good morning to Seokjin.
“Thanks, Kook,” Seokjin says. His voice is a gravelly. “Aspirin in the cupboard?”
“Same as always,” Namjoon says.
Seokjin moves around in the kitchen a little before coming into the living room and collapsing into the armchair with a bowl of food. “This domestic thing looks good on you two,” he says through a frankly disturbingly large bite.
Namjoon looks at Jeongguk, who’s already looking at him. “Thanks, hyung,” Jeongguk says, but he doesn’t look away from Namjoon.
When Namjoon looks at Seokjin again, there’s something startlingly sad in his expression. Namjoon has never seen this on Seokjin. It almost scares him. “Are you okay, hyung?” he asks.
Seokjin licks his lips. “Yeah. Thanks for letting me sleep here. I won’t stay long.”
“You can stay as long as you want.”
“I know,” Seokjin says. He looks down. “I won’t stay long.”
He leaves before the afternoon, and Jeongguk flashes Namjoon a look with a little worry in it.
“How are you doing?” Yoongi asks as the bartender sets their shots in front of them.
“I’m fine.” Namjoon braces himself for the shot, screws his face up, and sets the glass down.
Yoongi hums. “You and Jeongguk?” he prompts.
“Good,” Namjoon says and pauses to evaluate whether that’s true. “Yeah, good. We’re... friends? Or something like that.”
“It seems like it. You both seemed pretty happy last week. You and your dog. I still can’t believe you brought your dog to my anniversary party.”
“Yeah.” Namjoon messes with his empty glass. “Something happened recently that upset him, though.” He lets out a long breath. “He hates having to depend on me, hyung. He hates...” Namjoon stops. “It’s just really complicated,” he settles on. He feels the increasingly familiar, desperate feeling of wanting to be close to Jeongguk start to pull at his ribs.
It’s just like him to long for someone who’s this close, so close. It’s just like him to be touching Jeongguk, now, but to want to touch him more. It’s just like him to slip.
Yoongi is watching him with a frown. “Have you talked to him about that?”
Namjoon shrugs. “A little.” He changes the subject. “Can I ask you something?”
“It’s about Seokjin.”
Yoongi looks at him. His eyes move, studying Namjoon’s expression, until he’s sure he knows what Namjoon is asking about. “Ah,” he says finally. “Okay.” He leans back. “Yeah, that’s... that’s complicated. We’re usually okay. The... the three of us, you know.”
He’s not meeting Namjoon’s eyes. Namjoon nods jerkily.
“But this week has been weird. He and Hoseok got in an argument right before our anniversary. I don’t know.” He shrugs, looking uncomfortable. “We’ll figure things out.”
Namjoon isn’t sure he trusts that. If he knows anyone less likely to communicate their feelings than Yoongi, it’s Seokjin. And he can see it playing out: Hoseok pretending to be the mediator, just to keep himself from having to talk about his feelings.
But it’s none of his business. “Okay.”
“Anyway,” says Yoongi. “Your birthday is soon. You know what you want to do?”
Namjoon just groans.
“Hmm, that’s what I thought. Jeongguk’s is soon too, right?”
“Yeah, before mine.” Namjoon blows out a long breath. “We’ll probably have to go to a terrible family dinner. Hopefully I can get away without a party.”
“You should talk to him,” Yoongi says. “Maybe he doesn’t have plans. You could do something together.”
Namjoon’s instinct is to frown, but that doesn’t sound terrible. He files it away.
The first couple weeks of September are a little hectic and full of odd celebrations. On Jeongguk’s birthday Jimin and Taehyung throw him a surprise party full of friends and teammates and Namjoon, Yoongi, and Hoseok slightly out of place but pleased to be there. Jeongguk is happy all evening. He hugs Namjoon tight and kisses his jaw before he leaves to go home with Jimin and Taehyung for the night.
The next weekend they have dinner with both their parents and Jiwoo. It almost mirrors the lunch they went to the day before they got married but things are so, vastly different now. Namjoon feels almost intensely protective of Jeongguk, especially remembering what’s happened with his family and how they’ve hurt him.
They leave as early as they can manage. Namjoon spoons Jeongguk to sleep that night, and when Jeongguk cries they don’t talk about it.
Namjoon insists it’s for both of them when they have only their closest friends over. Jeongguk tries to get in an argument with him, saying that they should each make half the food for the evening since they’re celebrating both birthdays. Namjoon almost has to beg him not to try to make him cook on his own, but Jeongguk laughs at him and gives in and then spends the afternoon bossing him around in the kitchen.
Jimin and Taehyung show up with enough of Jeongguk’s favorite dumplings to feed all of them three times over, and when Yoongi, Hoseok, and Seokjin get there it’s bearing cake and a frankly concerning amount of alcohol.
There’s a chorus of happy birthdays and their friends insist on singing once for each of them. Taehyung feeds Jeongguk all evening, and Jimin pops a bottle of champagne that bubbles out all over his clothes.
When everyone leaves, Jimin plants wet kisses on both their cheeks, which Hoseok seems to think is a great idea so he does, too. Taehyung grins fondly at Jimin and Yoongi rolls his eyes while Seokjin laughs at Namjoon’s discomfort, and then they’re all gone and it’s just him and Jeongguk.
It feels loaded.
Namjoon wonders if he’s making up the tension caught in the air between them. Somewhere, distantly, he thinks if they had gotten to date like normal people, maybe now would be about the time he kissed Jeongguk, or Jeongguk kissed him, or one of them finally asked the other out, or something.
It makes him wonder if they would have dated normally. Seokjin said he wanted them to and that they were compatible. But Jeongguk is…
Well. Jeongguk is everything anyone told Namjoon he was and more. He’s sweet and funny and weird and adorable. He’s driven and feels deeply.
He is so goddamn beautiful.
How could Namjoon have ever been compatible with someone who is all that? How can he be now?
Jeongguk shuts the door after everyone. He takes the leash off its hook by the door and calls Meri over. “Meri! Come!”
He hooks the leash to her collar and looks up at Namjoon. “I can take her out if you want to get ready for bed.”
Namjoon shakes his head. “I’ll come with you, if that’s okay.”
“Of course.” Jeongguk gives him a sleepy little smile.
It’s cool outside tonight. With the sun down, it hovers the edge of uncomfortable, but Namjoon welcomes the feeling of the chilled air on his skin. He feels overheated, almost impervious to cold.
“You okay?” Jeongguk asks. Meri sniffs around in the grass outside their building, the same grass she sniffs several times a day.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Namjoon says. He smiles, and means it. “I don’t think I’ve ever done something for my birthday and actually enjoyed it. This was a first for me.”
“I’m glad you had a good time. I think next year the hyungs are gonna pry our joint celebration away from us, though.”
“Mm, they were upset that we did the work,” Namjoon agrees. He gets stuck on that, though, on the idea of ‘next year.’ He’ll have Jeongguk for every foreseeable ‘next year.’ It makes his stomach twist ticklishly.
He looks at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk is already looking back. He has this funny non-smile on his face, like he’s smiling but only with his eyes, like he’s keeping some secret that will get out if he’s not careful.
“Did you have a good time?” Namjoon manages to ask.
“I had a great time,” Jeongguk says.
He lets Meri pull him a little further into the grass. Namjoon puts his hands in his pockets and looks up at the moon. It’s full and bright. He has to give his eyes a second to focus in so he can see the craters.
“I liked the surprise party Jimin and Taehyung planned, but I think I liked that better.” Jeongguk seems to be sitting on something he wants to say, fidgeting with the cuff of his jacket.
Namjoon looks away from the sky and back to him. “Oh?”
“You and the hyungs,” Jeongguk hesitates. “You seem like you’re. Like a family.”
Namjoon can’t help smiling. “I grew up with Yoongi,” he says. “I met Hoseok in college They know me better than anyone.”
“You can tell,” says Jeongguk. “You can tell by the way they talk to you.”
Namjoon is mildly surprised. He didn’t realize Jeongguk paid that much attention.
“I think I want that.” It sounds like a confession. Jeongguk looks up at the sky, now, instead of at Namjoon.
“I think you have that,” Namjoon says, thinking of Jimin and all the times he’s talked to him about Jeongguk. “Jimin and Taehyung love you a lot.”
“No, I mean—” Jeongguk cuts himself off. Then he laughs softly. “Nevermind.”
The vulnerability of his tone hits Namjoon all of a sudden, and he turns to look at him. “Oh.” He hears what he’s saying: impossibly, I want to know you like that.
Jeongguk laughs again, and the sound is distinctly self-deprecating.
“Stop laughing,” Namjoon says. He reaches out and catches Jeongguk’s free hand.
It’s his left hand. Namjoon holds it up a little and looks at the gold wedding band on his ring finger. He brushes his thumb over it and looks from the ring to Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk shivers, a little but noticeably.
Namjoon tugs at his hand and pulls him closer. Their shoulders knock together, and Namjoon turns their hands and laces their fingers together. The metal of Jeongguk’s wedding band is skin warmed, but it’s hard against Namjoon’s fingers, and it makes holding hands both gratifying and a little nerve-wracking.
He’s married to this person, he realizes all over again. He is married to this goddamn beautiful person. He can share his bed with him all the time and still not quite remember, know that in theory he belongs to Jeongguk and Jeongguk belongs to him but get lost in the disconnect between theory in practice. Get lost in the disconnect, instead of trying to close it.
He turns his head to kiss Jeongguk’s cheek and ends up kissing somewhere around his jaw. The heavy feeling in his stomach gets heavier.
Jeongguk smiles a closed-mouth smile that Namjoon sees in his side profile. “I think she’s ready for bed,” he says.
Meri has quit sniffing around and finished doing her business, and now she’s looking at both of them with her tail wagging and her mouth open in the same doggy smile that made Namjoon fall for the first photo he saw of her.
This is new—things are making him emotional tonight. He loves this dog. He loves how much the dog loves Jeongguk. He maybe sort of loves Jeongguk too. He feels sort of like useless mush.
They go back upstairs. Jeongguk locks the door and hangs up Meri’s leash. They send her to bed, then go to their room.
It shouldn’t surprise Namjoon that the tension settles on them again even thicker. It’s strange and weighty and inevitable. Which is fair, he supposes. They are married.
He changes and brushes his teeth all like normal. When he comes out of the bathroom, Jeongguk looks up at him and his breath catches. The tickle in his stomach happens again.
Jeongguk is sitting on the edge of the bed. He’s wearing a big black t-shirt and a pair of red shorts, worn looking Nikes that lay loosely halfway up his thighs. His thick, soft looking, pale thighs.
Namjoon is looking at his thighs. He realizes this and jerks his head up to look at Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk is watching him already.
Namjoon opens his mouth to say something, though he’s not sure what. Anything he might say dies when Jeongguk grabs both his wrists, gently, and tugs him forward.
Namjoon goes, with a soft noise in his throat. He lets Jeongguk pull him until he stands in between his knees.
Jeongguk shuffles forward on the bed just a little, still holding onto Namjoon’s wrists. Namjoon knows what’s happening. He doesn’t look away or move, he just holds his breath for it. Jeongguk moves Namjoon’s hands with a gentle grip and sets them on his thighs.
Namjoon has to tell himself to keep breathing. His heartbeat is too fast. He strokes his thumbs over the skin under his hands, as soft and smooth as he imagined it would be.
Jeongguk’s hands move from his wrists and travel all the way up his arms, skim over his shoulders, settle behind Namjoon’s neck. He pulls him down, toward himself, more of a suggestion than a real tug, with his hands as tender and careful as ever.
And Jeongguk, after breathing in and out just a little shaky, with eyes sparkling and searching Namjoon’s, tilts his face up and kisses Namjoon.
He pulls back almost immediately, to look at Namjoon and ask, “Okay?” in a soft voice.
“Okay,” Namjoon says just as softly. He moves one of his hands to Jeongguk’s face and brushes his fingers over his cheekbone for a second, then he kisses Jeongguk back.
This is the sweetest Namjoon has ever been kissed in his life. Jeongguk is so soft under his hands and mouth, tilting his face up and giving and giving. He kisses slowly, attentively, like he’s figuring something out. His lips are a little bit chapped, but soft, and he tastes like mint from brushing his teeth just minutes ago.
The kiss breaks, far too soon, when Namjoon tries to move the hand that’s still on Jeongguk’s thigh to hold his waist. He only succeeds in sliding it underneath his shorts and getting it caught—and tickling Jeongguk, apparently.
Jeongguk jerks back and his knee comes up. A surprised laugh bubbles out of him. “My thighs are so ticklish, oh my god,” he giggles.
Namjoon is so fond of him it hurts. His chest feels all warm and full and glowy and he shuts his eyes tight and puts his hand over his solar plexus.
“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks.
Namjoon opens his eyes. “You’re so cute, ” he manages.
Jeongguk laughs and covers his mouth with one hand.
And then—Namjoon can’t help it. He reaches out and runs his fingers over Jeongguk’s thighs to test exactly how ticklish they are.
The answer is very, because Jeongguk immediately squeals and rolls over onto his stomach, and then he stands and reaches to tickle Namjoon’s ribs in retaliation.
Namjoon laughs and tries to bat his hands away. Jeongguk is stronger than he is, though, so he grabs Namjoon around the waist and pulls him against his own body. He laughs, happy and bashful, and leans in to kiss Namjoon again. It feels so good. Jeongguk’s body is firm under his hands, and he’s insistent in the sweetest of ways, kissing firm and not even pretending not to be eager. He darts his tongue over Namjoon’s lips and presses closer.
They stumble into the bed, and Jeongguk collapses over Namjoon. He pushes himself onto his forearms and searches Namjoon’s face. When he kisses Namjoon again, he doesn’t hesitate. He kisses deeper and opens his mouth more, but he slows down after a minute or so and lets Namjoon take over the pace.
The position is a little awkward; Namjoon’s ass his halfway off the bed and he’s keeping himself from falling off with his legs, so he pulls back and nudges Jeongguk off him.
Jeongguk’s eyes go wide and he looks nervous for a split second, before Namjoon pushes him farther onto the bed. “Mmph,” Jeongguk grunts with a dramatic sprawl of his limbs. He gets serious again as Namjoon leans over him. He puts a hand at the nape of Namjoon’s neck again, and rubs his thumb gently under his ear, which feels weird but really nice.
“Okay?” Namjoon asks, an echo of Jeongguk earlier.
Jeongguk seems to place gravity in the question, even though he asked it himself already. “Please,” he says.
Please. “Oh,” Namjoon breathes, and then kisses him.
No one has ever opened up underneath him like this. Jeongguk takes Namjoon’s face in his hands, and he strokes Namjoon’s jaw with the tips of his fingers and breathes, his chest rising deep and heavy under him. Namjoon holds himself up on one arm and runs the other hand over Jeongguk’s side, teasing at the hem of his shirt after a moment.
Jeongguk all but melts under him. His mouth falls open the very moment Namjoon licks at it, and Namjoon shivers. He slides his hand under Jeongguk’s shirt and feels warm, soft skin.
He pulls back and Jeongguk looks at him with parted lips and blown pupils, breathing hard. He smooths his fingers over Jeongguk’s stomach. “Okay?” he asks again.
Jeongguk nods and lets out a sound that’s just barely too low in his throat to be a whine.
His skin is so smooth. Namjoon brushes his fingers over it, just to feel. Jeongguk jerks, and the muscles in his lower stomach twitch. Ticklish. Namjoon bites back his grin and leans down to kiss him. He runs his fingers over Jeongguk’s skin, and the muscles there contract again, in a tiny isolated shiver. He can’t hide his grin and it seeps into the kiss as Jeongguk makes a tiny sound in his throat.
“Stop that,” Jeongguk says, sounding far too pleased to be serious. “Stop laughing at me. I can’t help how ticklish my skin is.”
Namjoon laughs low in his throat, feeling happy in a consuming way. He doesn’t remember feeling like this before, giddy and unrushed and in bed with a person who makes his head spin with how beautiful he is.
“Shh,” Jeongguk reprimands, trying to hide his smile. “Come back.”
Namjoon does. He kisses him again, and Jeongguk kisses back hard, like he can’t get enough, but somehow still so attentive and sweet. There is no disconnect between the Jeongguk he sees every day and sleeps with every night and the Jeongguk he is kissing.
And, well—it’s a little mindless, a little thoughtless, when Namjoon gets one of his thighs between Jeongguk’s legs, and presses forward,
“Oh, oh, okay, okay,” Jeongguk gasps.
Namjoon pulls back. “Sorry, sorry, you okay?” he asks. He feels disoriented.
“I’m just,” Jeongguk breathes. “A little too good, maybe?”
Namjoon looks at him and blinks.
“I need to slow down,” Jeongguk clarifies. He doesn’t look nervous, though, just sheepish. “I’m—I’m starting to—”
“Oh,” Namjoon says suddenly. “ Oh. You’re getting hard?”
Jeongguk whines in embarrassment.
“Hey, hush,” Namjoon says with a breathless laugh. “What, do you think I’m offended ? It’s normal. I get hard too, believe it or not.”
“Shut up,” Jeongguk laughs and shoves him over.
Namjoon lets himself be pushed. He rolls onto his side and grins at Jeongguk. He feels goofy and thinks he probably looks goofy, but he can’t bring himself to care.
Jeongguk doesn’t look at him for a second, turning his head and glancing slowly like he doesn’t want Namjoon to notice he’s looking. Like a kid, a little bit. Then he does look at Namjoon, and he starts to giggle.
“Hey, am I that funny looking?” Namjoon asks teasingly, poking his hip.
Jeongguk turns onto his side too, and he smiles. “No, you’re gorgeous.”
“Oh,” says Namjoon. He didn’t realize he wanted that affirmation, that Jeongguk is attracted to him, until he had it. “Thank you. You are too. So, so beautiful.” He tilts his head forward and kisses him another time, and Jeongguk meets him with a little rush of breath like he’s relieved to find that Namjoon wants to kiss him again.
Namjoon pulls back much sooner this time, not wanting to get Jeongguk worked up when he’s not comfortable.
“We can do that again, right?” Jeongguk almost whispers. His lips are red, even redder than normal.
“If you want to,” Namjoon says. He wants to, god, so badly, but he won’t do anything Jeongguk hasn’t asked for.
“But I’m asking you. ”
“Um,” says Namjoon. Damn. “Yeah, I guess so. I want to kiss you. I liked that.”
Jeongguk smiles. “Okay. Good. I want to kiss you too.”
“Nice,” Namjoon grins.
“I love when you smile like that,” Jeongguk tells him quietly. He reaches out and runs his fingers over Namjoon’s cheeks. “Your dimples.”
“You’re sweet,” Namjoon says.
“ You’re sweet,” Jeongguk says back.
Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Shh,” he says and then scoots a little closer to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk moves in, too, and sort of tucks into Namjoon’s side. He smushes his cheek against Namjoon’s shoulder. “I think,” he begins very quietly, “that I’m more comfortable with you than I realized.”
They’re not kissing anymore, but Namjoon’s stomach still feels all funny and tingly. God, he likes Jeongguk even more than he thought he did. He doesn’t know how or why or when this happened but he wants him—he wants him all the time. Sometimes he just wants him close, sometimes he wants to get his hands on him, but right now he wants to know him. He wants to know him so badly it feels like it’s choking him.
Calm down, he tells himself. Jeongguk is right here. Take your time.
“Good,” he says and nuzzles at Jeongguk’s hair. “Please keep being more comfortable.”
Jeongguk laughs and throws his arm over Namjoon’s stomach. “Okay.” He shuts his eyes and murmurs, “You’re on my side.”
“You’re on my side,” Namjoon says.
Neither of them move.
Kissing keeps happening. It happens all the time, every day. It’s not something they talk about, until—
Four sharp knocks on the front door. Namjoon’s in his pajamas. Jeongguk’s out with Jimin and Taehyung, so this could be him, but Namjoon isn’t sure why he’d be knocking.
He looks through the peephole first, then opens the door to Jimin and Taehyung with a sleepy looking Jeongguk leaning on Taehyung.
“He can’t remember your code,” Jimin says, rolling his eyes, nudging Jeongguk in the door.
“I remember it,” Jeongguk protests. “Just, my,” he holds his hands out in front of himself and looks at them for a long moment. He finishes belatedly, “hands aren’t working.”
Namjoon looks at him in amusement. “It’s fine, I just got back from taking Meri out. Thank you for bringing him home.”
Jimin gives him a close look, but before he says anything Jeongguk is stepping forward to take Namjoon’s arm and pull it over his shoulders. “Hi, hyung. Are you going to bed?”
“Jimin and Taehyung are still here,” Namjoon says.
“I know,” Jeongguk says indignantly, then shimmies himself back out from under Namjoon’s arm and slides his hand down it. He grasps Namjoon’s wrist.
Jimin and Taehyung watch them for a second. “Anyway,” Jimin says. “He had a lot to drink. Even more than this asshole.” He reaches up and pats Taehyung’s cheek.
Taehyung whines a little in protest and lets go of his hand to halfway back-hug him, one hand pressed to his stomach. “Don’t call me that.”
“Sorry, baby.” Jimin takes his free hand and presses a kiss to it, which makes Namjoon hope they’re about ready to leave. But then Jeongguk moves his hand from Namjoon’s wrist, slides behind him, and winds his arm around his waist.
Namjoon’s hand flies to Jeongguk’s, pressed to his stomach, before he realizes what he’s doing. Jeongguk tips his head against the back of his shoulder, and Namjoon feels frozen.
Jeongguk is copying Taehyung, he realizes. He didn’t quite make it on the hand-holding, but Namjoon’s wrist was close enough.
Namjoon and Jimin look at each other for a second. Jimin looks as caught-out as Namjoon thinks he must look, which is confusing. Namjoon clears his throat. “Why don’t you say goodbye and go get ready for bed?” When Jeongguk doesn’t seem to realize he’s being addressed, Namjoon pats his hand.
“Mhm,” Jeongguk hums against his shoulder. “Bye hyung, bye hyung,” he says to both of them. Then he turns Namjoon’s head with one gentle hand and kisses his mouth.
Jeongguk is slipping into the bedroom by the time Namjoon’s mind unsticks itself enough to look back at Jimin and Taehyung.
“Please, god, tell me you’ve kissed before,” Jimin says.
Namjoon opens and closes his mouth. He licks his lips. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” he says slowly. “Alright. Well. We’ll... see you later.” Jimin tugs Taehyung out the door.
When Namjoon gets to the bedroom Jeongguk is on the bed, lying with his limbs splayed. He looks like he didn’t have the energy to get under the covers. Namjoon hands him a glass of water and sets an aspirin on the bedside table.
“Drink all of that,” he says.
Jeongguk sits up to drink the water. He sits there, staring at his lap for a moment, then says, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Namjoon laughs. “Go ahead.”
Jeongguk moves slowly and forgets to shut the bathroom door. Namjoon waits for him on the bed. When he gets back he collapses, and Namjoon has to tug the covers out from under him. “Hyung,” Jeongguk says and reaches out for him.
Jeongguk’s taken to wrapping himself around Namjoon affectionately, breathing him in, rubbing circles on his stomach. Everything feels closer, and heightened, when he’s drunk like this. Namjoon’s afraid to let him touch because he’ll remember everything, but Jeongguk might not.
Namjoon reaches over to turn the bedside lamp off. Jeongguk doesn’t even let him lie all the way down before he curls into his side and smooths his hand over his stomach. “This was easier than I expected,” he mumbles.
“Hmm?” Namjoon questions and rubs his arm.
“This.” Jeongguk tips his head up and kisses him.
“Easy?” Namjoon says in surprise. Part of him can’t believe they’re talking about this. The rest of him doesn’t understand what Jeongguk means. “Are you calling me easy?” he jokes, to deflect. He half hopes Jeongguk is hazy enough he’ll forget what they were talking about.
Jeongguk snorts. “You? I would never. I would be ridiculed.” He smiles against Namjoon’s shoulder. “Being close to you is easy. You make me feel comfortable.”
Namjoon’s heart thuds uncomfortably. He knows that usually Jeongguk measures everything he says. He worries that if he realizes how much he’s saying he’ll feel like he’s giving away too much.
“I’m glad,” he says softly. “At first I was afraid you never would be.”
“Yeah,” says Jeongguk. “Me too. You’re a really good person.”
“I don’t think so,” Namjoon says. His throat is tight. He doesn’t think so. He constantly feels guilty for having Jeongguk like this. He constantly feels like he’s taking advantage. He let this happen. “You should go to sleep now. You’re drunk.”
Jeongguk rests his head in the crook of Namjoon’s neck. “I trust you.”
Namjoon shuts his eyes tight and wishes, wishes Jeongguk hadn’t said that. “Go to sleep, Jeongguk-ah.”
Jeongguk is quiet for a moment. Then in a small voice, he says, “I’m sorry.”
“No, you don’t have to be sorry,” Namjoon says. “I just don’t want you to tell me something you don’t want me to hear.”
“I always want you to know that,” Jeongguk says. “I just usually don’t know how to tell you.”
Namjoon rolls over onto his side. “Okay,” he says. He reaches out to stroke his thumb over Jeongguk’s cheekbone. “Thank you. Now go to sleep, huh?
“Mmhmm,” Jeongguk hums. “Goodnight. And please don’t forget what I said.”
“Okay, sweetheart. I’m always listening to you.”
Jeongguk falls asleep still tucked against him.
Jeongguk comes out of the bedroom late the next morning, grunts in response to Namjoon’s “good morning,” shuffles around in the kitchen for a few minutes, then comes to sit on the couch next to where Namjoon is reading.
“Hi,” he says, looking bleary.
“Hey,” Namjoon smiles. “How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad,” Jeongguk says, face set in a frown that says otherwise. “Did I say anything weird to you last night?”
Namjoon looks up at him. He thinks for a second about what to say. “You were very sweet,” is what he says. “You snuggled me.”
Jeongguk wrinkles his nose. “Sorry.”
“No, it was nice,” Namjoon says quickly. Then he remembers. “Oh, but you did kiss me while Jimin and Taehyung were still here.”
Jeongguk snorts. “Yeah, I had a couple texts about that this morning. Sorry again.”
“Not a big deal to me,” Namjoon says. “Unless it is to you.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “Not a big deal.” He chews at his lower lip. “It’s normal, isn’t it?” he asks hesitantly. “It’s not weird?”
“No, it’s not weird,” Namjoon says. It’s not weird. But he doesn’t know how to say he’ll always hesitate toward this because he’s afraid to take advantage of Jeongguk.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees decisively. “And it’s you and me, isn’t it? For... a long time.”
Namjoon’s stomach feels feathery and ticklish. “Yeah, for a long time.”
Namjoon tries to be careful with himself, but he catches himself off guard thinking that being married is really making him happy. He didn’t know how much he wanted the companionship of another person until Jeongguk was here, being with him.
Now he always wants to be close. Now on Sundays they lie in bed together until one of them groans and says it’s probably time to take the dog out. Now Namjoon spends every evening in the kitchen with Jeongguk while they make dinner, and Jeongguk hops onto the counter and Namjoon stands between his legs to kiss him. Now in bed they always gravitate toward each other. Now they kiss so much, kiss sometimes until Jeongguk, and sometimes Namjoon, is hard against him and clutching at his shirt just to ground himself.
But where does this end? Sex? Love? Surely not. Namjoon has been through this with himself. There’s no room for love here. This won’t be love. This can’t be love. Namjoon tells himself over and over. Jeongguk never is going to fully trust him, and he’s definitely never going to love him.
He feels himself slipping anyway.
This is okay, anyway. He’ll take it; maybe he’ll take years of this, maybe he’ll take forever of this. However much Jeongguk will give him.
It’s nice. Generally it’s slow and sweet and a little languid. Not the kissing, just—life. Together. They go out and talk and cuddle a little and make out a little. They go out with friends and walk their dog and get familiar with each other. Namjoon watches out for all Jeongguk’s little mannerisms that make him the most precious person he has ever seen, and he loves being with him.
And it’s easy. Being with Jeongguk like this is easy because Jeongguk is soft and sweet and quiet. Lovely, and warm, and full of gentle touches.
So it’s good. It’s good, and Namjoon is happy, and then Jeongguk dislocates his knee again.
hey please look forward to discussions of an injury, surgery, and recovery. also sex. and angst oh my god this is the angst chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Namjoon is on his lunch break, talking on the phone with Yoongi, when he gets the call.
"But do you think Hoseok will like Paris?" Yoongi asks. He has already asked the same question worded differently twice.
"Listen, hyung," Namjoon says, a little tired of the agonizing. "Anyplace you are is a place Hoseok is going to be happy. Do I think he'll like Paris? Definitely. Do I think he cares where you go? Not really."
Yoongi blows out a long, frustrated breath. "I'm gonna look at Switzerland again."
"Uh huh," Namjoon says. "You do that. Why are you even asking me about this? Why not ask Seokjin? He'd probably be way more helpful."
"Oh, yeah," Yoongi says awkwardly. "Well, I—"
Namjoon's phone beeps with another call. He pulls his phone away from his face to see who it is, jolting a little when the caller ID lets him know it's the hospital across town. "Hey hyung, I need to take this call," he says. "Sorry. Call you back later." He hangs up before Yoongi even says anything and answers, "This is Kim Namjoon."
The woman on the other line says, "Kim Namjoon-ssi, you are the husband of Jeon Jeongguk?"
The air whooshes out of Namjoon's lungs and he's on his feet instantly. "Yeah I am, is he okay?" he asks.
"He's going to be fine," the woman assures him. Dread settles in the pit of Namjoon's stomach, hoping, hoping it’s not— "His knee is dislocated. The doctor is evaluating whether or not he'll need surgery."
Oh fuck, oh fuck. His fucking knee.
"Okay. Please tell him I'm on my way," Namjoon says, grabbing his keys and nothing else and booking it out of the office. He texts the administrative assistant on his way out to cancel everything for the rest of his day, then all but sprints through the parking lot to his car.
When he gets there, Jeongguk is speaking with the doctor. He looks up at Namjoon with a passive expression on his face, and Namjoon almost feels it hit him physically: Jeongguk is angry.
Namjoon has seen Jeongguk a lot of things. He's seen him happy, surprised, upset, deeply sad. All these emotions that seem to roll over him like waves, real and always deep and true; like Namjoon realized way back at their wedding, Jeongguk can't hide his emotions for shit. And this anger is like the others, rolling over him and carrying him away.
Jeongguk’s coach is there. He catches Namjoon and tells him what happened—it was a routine exercise and Jeongguk’s knee just sort of gave out. He seems anxious, and Namjoon tells him to go, and that he’ll give him a call tomorrow.
It’s a long time before they can leave the hospital. They do an x-ray and talk through the results with Jeongguk and Namjoon, then schedule Jeongguk for an MRI early next week.
“With recurrent dislocations, there are multiple concerns,” the doctor says. “More commonly, and in your case most likely, the medial patellofemoral ligament will probably need to be reconstructed. You’ll need to consult with an orthopedic surgeon about the results of the MRI, and I’ll refer you to one, but you may also want to do some of your own research.”
“Okay,” Jeongguk says. It sounds like he already knew all that, like he was already prepared for the possibility of this happening again, which is awful and painful.
“Thank you,” Namjoon says. The doctor gives them the information of an orthopedic surgeon and prescribes painkillers, then leaves the nurse to get them set up with the splint to keep his leg immobilized and a pair of crutches.
Jeongguk is angry and silent the whole time the nurse gives him instructions regarding the splint, the whole time Namjoon fills out his paperwork. The whole way to the car. The whole ride home.
"Jeongguk-ah," Namjoon says softly after he pulls into his parking space at their building.
Jeongguk tips his head back against the headrest of his seat and shuts his eyes tight. Namjoon looks away. His chest feels tight.
It takes some time for them to get inside and up to the apartment, because Jeongguk is on crutches and he isn't used to them. He won't let Namjoon try to help him, won't even really look at Namjoon. He goes straight to their bedroom. Namjoon thinks he needs to cry, so he gives him space.
He stands in the kitchen feeling a little aimless and sad, which isn’t fair, because Jeongguk is the one injured, not him. It takes a few minutes before he snaps out of it, and goes to locate his phone, which he eventually finds in his jacket pocket.
He has a couple texts from Yoongi, checking on him, and six total missed calls from Jimin and Taehyung. Namjoon doesn’t feel much like talking right now, so he sends them texts. He tells Yoongi he’ll give him a call later then braces himself to speak to Jimin and Taehyung.
Sorry I missed your calls. Has Jeongguk spoken to you?
no, he texted us hours ago and just said “dislocated my knee haha”
what the hell is going on?
He dislocated his knee
are you with him?
He’s home if that’s what you’re asking. I went to the hospital as soon as I heard
no, like, are you WITH him?
don’t leave him alone for too long
remember I told you he blames himself for shit.
this is absolute bullshit and he WILL blame himself
I don’t know what to do
we won’t be enough for him this time
we weren’t enough the first time.
he needs you, hyung.
Namjoon buries his face in his hands. He thinks Jimin is wrong, but he also thinks Jimin wouldn’t be telling him this if he didn’t to for his peace of mind. So he texts back.
To: Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung [17:01]
If Jimin and Taehyung believe Jeongguk needs him, he has no choice but to believe it too.
For a little while he just sits in the living room. Meri comes up to him and sniffs his hand and whines like she knows something is wrong. Feeling tired and soft in an uncomfortable, vulnerable way, he lets her up on the couch with him. She settles with her head on his knee, and he pets her absently for much longer than he realizes.
It’s close to six before Namjoon thinks of the fact that neither he nor Jeongguk has eaten since breakfast. He gets up and goes to look through the pantry and fridge for something he can make for dinner. It’s not a lot, because they kind of need to go grocery shopping, but he manages to come up with something.
When Namjoon goes into the bedroom to check on Jeongguk, he’s awake and lying on his side of the bed, staring at the ceiling.
Namjoon sits down carefully at his side. "I made some dinner," he says. "Do you want to eat in here?" Jeongguk shakes his head, and Namjoon says, "You have to eat something." But he makes no move to go get the food or try to convince him.
Instead he reaches out and brushes Jeongguk's hair away from his face. It's a little dirty from the day and a little sweaty, but it's soft. He runs his fingers through it, gentle, and Jeongguk's eyes slide shut. He reaches out for Namjoon's wrist. Namjoon hesitates, ready to pull his hand away, but Jeongguk just pulls his arm until his palm rests on his cheek. He holds Namjoon's hand there, against his skin, and hot tears start to run over his fingers.
Over the next hour Namjoon doesn’t accomplish much other than getting Jeongguk to sit up on the bed and eat. He looks so small and tired and on the verge of tears pretty much constantly.
Namjoon has a vivid fantasy of laying him back against the pillows and running his fingers through his hair, scratching over his scalp and at the nape of his neck; he imagines Jeongguk’s eyes fluttering shut, the way they seem to when he has his hair touched. He imagines tucking his body into Jeongguk’s side, kissing his cheek and forehead, stroking a hand over his chest and stomach. He wants Jeongguk to relax into him. He wants to be someone who can make him feel better.
Namjoon doesn’t do any of those things. He just takes Jeongguk’s dishes to the kitchen, then takes Meri out for a walk.
When he comes back, Jeongguk is sitting up on the bed. He looks exhausted. There are bruises under his eyes.
It’s only about nine, but Jeongguk needs to sleep. “I’m going to sleep in the living room,” Namjoon tells him. He’s terrified to accidentally kick Jeongguk’s leg in his sleep.
Jeongguk looks like he’s going to cry. “The upstairs couch is much more comfortable,” he murmurs, lying back, sounding miserable.
“I want to be here if you need me.”
Jeongguk just nods.
Namjoon pulls Meri’s dog bed into the room, by Jeongguk’s side of the bed, and lets her stay there. Then he sits on the bed and runs his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair and rubs his hand up and down his arm until he falls asleep. The meds Jeongguk is on mean that it doesn’t take too long, but Namjoon stays a while, watching him. His mouth turns down and his forehead creases, even in sleep. He must be hurting.
With a deep sigh, Namjoon kisses his forehead and goes to the living room. Meri lifts her head as he leaves, and he calls a quiet, “Stay!” to her and goes to sit on the couch. He pulls his knees up to his chest and knocks his head forward against them, and just tries to breathe.
His heart is beating so heavily, like even the physical thing of it is sad.
For a little while he just sits, trying to convince his brain to move his arm so he can call Yoongi. When he finally manages to, Yoongi picks up quickly.
“Namjoon-ah,” he says in greeting. “Is everything okay? You haven’t texted me back all day.”
“No, hyung,” Namjoon says. “Jeongguk got hurt again.”
Yoongi takes a sharp breath. “What happened?”
“Dislocated his knee,” Namjoon murmurs.
“Oh, shit,” Yoongi says. “Again?”
“Namjoon-ah, I’m so fucking sorry,” Yoongi says.
Namjoon laughs. It comes out humorless and too loud in the quiet apartment. “I don’t know why you’re worried for me. It wasn’t even me that got hurt.”
“You sound messed up about it,” Yoongi says quietly. “What’s up, Joon?”
“He’s barely said a word to me,” Namjoon tells him after a long moment of not saying anything.
“We’ve been… hyung, we’ve been kissing,” he confesses.
When he doesn’t add to that, Yoongi says, “Okay,” in an uncertain voice.
“I guess that’s not all,” Namjoon says. “We’ve just been spending a lot of time together. And kissing. And we have a dog.” He feels like he’s not making sense, but Yoongi makes a soft sound of understanding.
“And him retreating like that scares you?”
“Yeah.” He presses his hand to his forehead. His hand is cold and his skin feels hot. “I just want to make things better.”
“I know, Namjoon-ah. You’ve always been that kind of guy,” Yoongi says. “I think you need to get some rest now so you can talk to him in the morning. Have you eaten?”
“Okay. Do you need anything?”
“No,” he says. “Thank you, hyung. Goodnight.”
When they hang up, he lies down on the couch and pretends to himself that he’s trying to sleep. It takes him a long time.
Namjoon wakes up the next morning to his preset alarm and groans to himself. He feels wrung out.
He swings his legs off the couch and manages to push himself up. He walks quietly through the open door of the bedroom to check on Jeongguk. He’s still asleep, with his upper body twisted as if he’s tried to roll over and sleep on his side, like he always does.
Meri perks up, and he tells her to stay while he brushes his teeth in the bathroom, then comes back out and pats his leg for her to come. He takes her out for a walk before the sun has even risen, burrowing into his jacket and watching his breath puff in the cold morning air.
While he’s outside, he lets the office’s administrative assistant know he won’t be in today and then stares at his dad’s contact in his phone for a long time.
He chickens out of calling and writes him a text. Jeongguk is hurt and I may need leave for a while. I’ll let you know as I find out more. Before he sends it, he selects Jeongguk and erases it, replacing it with My husband. He’s not sure why, but it makes him feel better. He’s sure his dad is not going to be very happy about Namjoon ducking out, and he hopes the reminder that Jeongguk is his husband—and maybe, the reminder that his father is the reason Jeongguk is his husband—will keep him quiet.
He takes Meri back upstairs and starts some coffee. She starts to get excited about being awake and having Namjoon home, so he shuts the bedroom door and indulges her with some tug of war. She gets bored of it pretty quickly because Namjoon won’t let her win, and then he spends several minutes helping her search for her stuffed bear toy, though he’s not sure whether it’s the bear she’s sniffing for or Jeongguk.
Jimin and Taehyung come by a little after nine. When he lets them in, Jimin holds out Jeongguk’s car keys and says, “I parked it in the parking garage, is that right?”
“Yeah, thank you,” Namjoon says. Jeongguk’s car still being at his training facility hadn’t even crossed his mind. He hangs up the keys next to his own.
“Anything,” Jimin says. “Where is he?”
Namjoon nods toward the bedroom. “Still asleep.” He checked on him about fifteen minutes ago and debated waking him up so he could get him to eat, but decided to leave him for the time being.
“He can’t be taking it well,” Taehyung says. His mouth twists.
Namjoon shakes his head. “It might help for him to see you though. Want to go check on him?”
Jimin looks at Taehyung. "Go," Taehyung says. "I'm gonna keep Namjoon company." Namjoon knows Taehyung really wants to allow Jimin to talk to Jeongguk alone without making a thing of it, but he smiles gratefully at him anyway.
"Are you hungry?" he asks him.
Taehyung shakes his head. “Jimin and I had breakfast together. Thank you, though.”
Namjoon decides not to say anything about them missing practice and just walks into the living room with Taehyung. He sits on the couch, but Taehyung opts for the floor so the dog can sprawl out on his lap.
“How are you, hyung?” he asks, ruffling Meri’s ears.
“I’m fine,” Namjoon says. Inside he feels like he’s fighting himself not to say something flippant to protect himself. He didn’t quite realize he felt like he needed protecting, and as soon as he thinks that he wonders what it is exactly that he thinks he needs to be protected from.
That seems like a dangerous road. Probably something better considered later.
“Uh huh,” Taehyung says.
Namjoon looks at him and frowns at his skeptical tone. Instead of letting himself get annoyed, he asks, “How are you? You guys were with him the first time this happened.”
Taehyung presses his lips together in a serious expression. “Well,” he says, “yeah, but. It’s going to be a lot different this time.”
Namjoon feels a little sick to his stomach. He knows what Taehyung means—knows now. That Jeongguk’s first dislocation was bad news, but this one is worse. “I know.”
“Hey.” There’s a hand on his thigh. “Don’t worry about what you can and can’t do, hyung.”
Namjoon blows out a frustrated breath. “I can’t help him,” he says. Nearly growls.
“ I know ,” Taehyung says forcefully. “I know,” he repeats. “I know exactly how it feels to not be able to do anything except be there for him. Jimin and I both know. It’s enough that you love him, okay?”
Namjoon opens his mouth, stunned, as soon as Taehyung says that, but nothing comes out.
Taehyung doesn’t seem to care. “No, stop, shush, you do. I don’t care if you’re not in love with him, you definitely love him.” He watches Namjoon’s face change, and frowns. “Or maybe you are?” He shakes his head at himself. “No, that’s not my point. I don’t have time to process your emotions with you, Kim Namjoon!”
The bedroom door opens, and Jimin walks out and says, “Why are you yelling at Namjoon, Taehyung-ah?” in an overly pleasant tone.
“He’s being an emotional wreck,” Taehyung says.
“I’ve said five words to you, Kim Taehyung,” Namjoon says with an affronted frown his way.
“I think he’s projecting,” Jimin says. He comes to drape himself over Taehyung’s back. “Jeongguk is awake. He’d like to brush his teeth and come out here?” He looks to Namjoon.
Being the one in charge here stresses Namjoon out a little. It was fine when he was responsible for Jeongguk from a financial stance because it was more distant. Now that Jeongguk needs his help with everything, it all feels so up close and just… vulnerable.
“Okay,” he says anyway. He stands up and goes into the bedroom.
Jeongguk is sitting up with the covers thrown off his legs, propping himself up with his hands.
“Good morning,” Namjoon says.
“Hey,” Jeongguk says back. He looks at the splint.
“Jimin said you want to get up.”
“Yeah. Will you… help me to the bathroom?” he asks. He looks a little sick over it.
“Of course,” Namjoon says. “Come here.”
Jeongguk leans into him and lets him help. At least half his weight is on Namjoon, who’s careful to make sure he never leans toward his bad leg.
In the bathroom, Jeongguk leans against the counter and grips the edges tightly. He lets out a controlled breath and looks like he’s in pain.
“I’ll get you your pain meds after you brush your teeth,” Namjoon says. He feels bad for not waking him up earlier to take them.
Jeongguk nods. “Okay,” he says, then again, “Okay.” He picks up his toothbrush and nearly drops it, his hands shaky. He’s leaning hard against the counter, forward and to the left, away from his bad leg.
It looks awkward, and Jeongguk is shaky, and he looks exhausted and frustrated and tries to lean all his weight onto his hip against the counter to squeeze his toothpaste.
Namjoon clears his throat. “I’m going to help you,” he says. Jeongguk catches his eye in the mirror and doesn’t react or say anything, so Namjoon puts his arms around him and back-hugs him.
Jeongguk inhales sharply and goes stiff against him, but he doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t tell Namjoon to stop, so he doesn’t stop. He clasps his arms together across Jeongguk’s stomach and holds him carefully while he brushes his teeth and washes his face.
“Thank you,” Jeongguk says quietly when he’s done.
As badly as Namjoon wants to pull him tighter to his body and hold him, he does not think that would be well received, so he doesn’t. He also doesn’t press a kiss to the back of his neck, which is even more tempting.
Be Jimin, he tells himself. Be his friend who is taking care of him and it is not weird. So he says, “Come on, bud,” because Jimin calls him that, and he hands him his crutches to help him into the living room.
“Jeonggukie,” Taehyung says as they come out of the bedroom. He helps Jeongguk sit lift his leg onto the couch.
“Morning, hyung,” Jeongguk says. His breathing is labored. He gets his leg propped up properly beside him, and then Namjoon starts hurrying around for his painkillers and some ice.
Jimin beats him to the ice, and Namjoon sends him a grateful look. He gives Jeongguk the painkillers, and then Jimin and Taehyung decide to head out.
“We’ve got to go actually put in some work today,” Taehyung says with a grin. “We just wanted to bring your car by and see how you’re doing. We’ll be back, okay?” He looks at Namjoon when he asks that.
“Oh,” says Namjoon. “Yeah, of course.”
“See you later, bud,” Jimin says and ruffles Jeongguk’s hair.
“Bye, Jimin.” Jeongguk’s voice cracks. “Bye, Tae.”
“What do you want to eat?” Namjoon asks.
Jeongguk leans into the sofa and looks small. “Just rice, and an egg?” he asks. “My stomach feels kind of,” he wrinkles his nose.
“Okay,” Namjoon agrees. “Do you want coffee?”
“Yeah, please.” Jeongguk’s voice is muffled against the cushion.
Namjoon brings him coffee first and refills his water while the rice cooks.
When Namjoon brings the food to him, Jeongguk says, “Can you put my phone on the charger? I think I lost it in the covers while I was sleeping, it died while I was trying to text my mom last night.”
Namjoon gives him a little smile. “Yeah. Need anything else from in there?” Jeongguk shakes his head, and Namjoon goes to look for his phone. He finds it, like Jeongguk thought, in the covers. He brings the charger to the living room and plugs it in by the couch. “Have you talked to your parents?”
Jeongguk grimaces. “No. My mom left a voicemail and they both texted, but. I’m not really looking forward to it.”
He looks so miserable. Namjoon frowns. “Hey, it’s going to be okay,” he says. He’s not sure why he says it; he can’t guarantee that nothing will be terribly wrong with Jeongguk’s knee or that he won’t need surgery or that he’ll be able to keep doing taekwondo or that he’ll get to go to Tokyo. Maybe what he’s saying is ‘you have me,’ even though he knows that’s not enough.
Jeongguk doesn’t respond. “Have you talked to your parents?”
Jeongguk asks it like it’s relevant, but Namjoon isn’t sure he knows why it would be. “I sent my dad a message, but I haven’t heard back. I’m not really worried about what they have to say.”
At that, something in Jeongguk seems to paradoxically both tense and deflate at the same time. He looks at Namjoon, face to face finally, for probably the first time since he brought him home yesterday.
Namjoon wants so badly. He wants to kiss Jeongguk, just softly, just to let him know he’s safe and okay. He wants to be allowed to hold him tight from behind and hold him up when he needs it, without Jeongguk retreating.
He’s going to say something, he thinks, or do something, but the lock on the front door beeps and it opens. The girl who walks Meri in the mornings is in the doorway, wearing a t-shirt from the group she works with and looking alarmed to see them.
“Ah!” Namjoon exclaims when he realizes what’s happening. He only knows who she is because of the t-shirt she’s wearing—he has only met her once, Jeongguk was the one to talk with her. He can’t remember her name. “Ah,” he says again, trying to call it to mind.
“Hyunjin-ah,” Jeongguk says for him.
“Hyunjin-ah!” Namjoon repeats. “Sorry we completely forgot to let you know we would be home today. Things have been a bit crazy. You can go ahead with Meri, it’s been several hours since I took her out.”
“Of course, Namjoon-ssi,” Hyunjin says. She calls Meri to her, and Meri wags her tail excitedly as Hyunjin greets her. She leaves quickly, probably uncomfortable finding them there.
The moment from before is broken now, but hopefully not lost forever.
“You didn’t have to stay home with me,” Jeongguk says when she’s gone. He’s back to not looking at Namjoon.
Someone had to stay, Namjoon thinks with a frown. Jeongguk can’t walk. Someone had to stay. Why should it not be him? “Okay,” he says unsurely. “Did you want someone else to stay with you?”
Jeongguk shakes his head. He leans forward and sets his bowl, still half full of rice, on the coffee table. Namjoon’s eyes linger on it and he frowns. Jeongguk has barely eaten for the last full day. He’s going to have to watch for his appetite to kick back in.
He must want to be alone.
Namjoon makes himself scarce. He goes to his office to catch up on emails and make sure all his appointments are canceled. He’s not sure when Hyunjin brings Meri back, but she does sometime while he’s in there, and she comes through the doorway to lay down at his feet.
“No, honey,” he says softly, “go back to Jeongguk. Where’s Jeongguk?”
A few weeks ago, Jeongguk tried to convince Namjoon that Meri knew their names. She responds to “where’s your ball?” and “where’s your bear?” but Namjoon thought it was a stretch for her to respond to “where’s Namjoon?” She had, though—she’d bounded from the living room to where Namjoon was in the kitchen when Jeongguk asked her “where’s Namjoon?” in the same tone of voice, and while Namjoon doubts she knows their names, he does think she probably understands what they want from her.
When he says, “where’s Jeongguk?” she gets up and starts sniffing back out to the living room, and he can hear a soft, “Hi, baby,” from Jeongguk.
God. He knocks his head forward against the wood of his desk. Someday that’s going to get to be too much, and he’s going to turn into some gross puddle because of how fond he is of Jeongguk.
Namjoon’s phone vibrates with a text back from his father. All it says is Talk at lunch. Cool. Great, his dad is going to call him. Exactly the person he wants to talk to right now.
He purposely leaves his office around lunchtime so he can avoid his dad’s call, at least for a while. He leaves his phone sitting next to his computer.
In the living room, though, he feels awkward.
Jeongguk is either asleep or trying to be asleep, but probably more on the trying side, because his brow is furrowed and he looks uncomfortable. After not too long, he lifts his head up in resignation and asks for the remote. Jeongguk puts on a movie, and they don’t talk.
Namjoon makes some food a little later than lunchtime, and Jeongguk eats a little more of it than he did the rice, thank god. In the afternoon, Namjoon takes Meri out for an extra long walk to give Jeongguk time to talk on the phone with his parents, and when he gets back he can’t tell if the call was good or bad.
It’s weird. The atmosphere feels like the first few days they were married, alone together and in each other’s space. Not sure how to act or how to talk to each other. He thinks if Jeongguk could walk, he would be upstairs by himself.
That reminds him. “Do you want your drawing things?” Namjoon asks before he can talk himself out of it. “I can bring them down.”
Jeongguk blanches. “I—” he seems to resign himself to something. “Yeah.” Namjoon starts up the stairs, and he says nervously, “Don’t look at what I was working on.”
“Oh, uh, okay,” Namjoon says. He doesn’t know what Jeongguk thinks he needs to hide, but he’ll respect his privacy anyway.
It turns out to be impossible not to look at what Jeongguk was working on. His sketchbook is open to the page, sitting on the desk upstairs.
It’s a drawing of Namjoon with Meri. It’s light pencil lines, but wholly recognizable. In the drawing, he’s crouching down with a wide smile on his face, tilting his chin up as Meri reaches up and licks at his face.
He only looks at it a moment before closing the sketchbook, but he feels his eyes prickling with inexplicable tears.
He takes Jeongguk’s things downstairs and sets them on the coffee table, then awkwardly says, “Sorry.”
Jeongguk looks up at him with his eyes a little wide, but mostly looking resigned. “You saw it?”
Namjoon nods. “It’s really nice, Jeongguk-ah.”
Jeongguk glances to the side and doesn’t respond.
The only explanation Namjoon can think of is that Jeongguk is embarrassed. He wishes he weren’t, because he loves the drawing, but if Jeongguk is this bothered he won’t try to talk about it.
They continue to not talk, and Namjoon has a missed call from his dad but no voicemail because his dad isn’t a voicemail type of guy; he’s too important for people to miss his calls in the first place.
He gives in and calls back before dinner. He wouldn’t be surprised if his dad didn’t take his call outside the office, because that’s what his dad is like, but he does.
“Namjoon,” he says in greeting.
“Dad,” Namjoon says. He shuts his office door. Before his dad can start talking and probably assert an opinion, Namjoon says, “I appreciate that you want to talk, but this is non-negotiable. I’m going to be at home with Jeongguk as long as he needs me.”
“Namjoon,” his dad says again, “be sensible. This marriage was hardly mutually beneficial in the first place. Take you out of the workplace, paying Jeon Jeongguk’s hospital bills, taking care of an athlete who may or may not go back to his sport, where does that leave you?”
Namjoon clenches his teeth. “Dad, I really don’t care.” He pauses, and it doesn’t feel like enough. “I really don’t fucking care. You can tell mom I said that if she asks. I’ll be back when Jeongguk doesn’t need me here anymore.”
There’s a heavy, angry silence on the other end. Namjoon’s father isn’t used to being spoken to like this, and especially not by Namjoon. After a long moment, he asks, “Do you love your husband, Namjoon?”
He asks it like he’s disappointed.
It’s been easy to forget, living in this world just apart enough from his parents, coming home to Jeongguk and their dog every evening, even becoming physically tangled up in him, that this marriage was a deal. This marriage was a deal, and in Namjoon’s family love is regarded as a weakness; not just romantic love, but all love. Family is almost as much about business as friendships are.
Bringing Jeongguk into the picture was a move for public favor, a marriage both of them knew was never about love, but Namjoon isn’t much more than a face, either, and he never has been. What he says to his dad has never mattered, and now is no different.
“I’m going to go, dad,” Namjoon says. He realizes he didn’t answer his dad’s question, but he doesn’t really care. He feels like the answer is obvious enough. “I’ll let you know when I’m going to be back in the office.” He hangs up.
He sighs deeply to himself and rubs his hands over his face, then goes back to the living room, feeling lost. He’s nearly told his dad to fuck off and Jeongguk has still barely talked to him, and he’s confused. He knows what he’s feeling, he knows. But he can’t even let himself think about it.
“Hey, um,” Jeongguk says when he comes out of his office. “It’s been two days since I washed my hair. Would you… help me?” He looks like he’s been steeling himself to ask for a while.
“Where?” Namjoon asks. “Sink? Bathtub?”
Jeongguk frowns. “I think sink would be easier if I can sit on a chair in front of it.”
“I think the barstools are high enough,” Namjoon says.
So they wash Jeongguk’s hair in the kitchen sink. It’s awkward, with him and his leg stretched between two barstools, leaning forward while Namjoon tests the heat of the water.
“It might be a good idea for you to take your shirt off,” Namjoon says before they start, averting his eyes.
“Oh,” Jeongguk says. “Oh. Right. You’re right.” He pulls his shirt off and folds it in half once and lays it over the back of the chair his leg is resting on. Namjoon is careful to keep his eyes off Jeongguk’s chest.
Jeongguk leans back, but won’t relax his head. His neck is tense, and he keeps turning his head like he wants to see what Namjoon is doing. It must be unpleasant, and Namjoon is annoyed that he won’t just let him help.
Finally, he says, “Will you relax, please?” His heart starts thumping as soon as he says it, because the next words in the queue to come out of his mouth are, ‘Let me take care of you,’ which is something he better refrain from saying to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk makes a frustrated noise. He tries to sit up, and Namjoon stops him with a hand on his chest before he remembers Jeongguk isn’t wearing a shirt.
You’re fine, Namjoon, he tells himself. You have touched this chest before. Get over yourself.
“Relax,” he says again. “You’re fine.” He tries to finish wetting Jeongguk’s hair, running the warm water over it with gentle hands.
“I’m embarrassed,” Jeongguk says through gritted teeth.
Namjoon squeezes his eyes shut. “I know.” He is still holding Jeongguk’s head, cradling it in his hands. “Please don’t be.” He presses a quick kiss to Jeongguk’s forehead and leans back to focus on his task.
Jeongguk loosens up a little. He doesn’t relax all the way, but he lets Namjoon wash his hair and run his fingers through it to make sure all the shampoo is out. He sits up and even lets Namjoon towel it gently for a second before he takes the towel himself. “Thank you,” he says, avoiding Namjoon’s eyes.
Namjoon watches a few drops of water make their way down Jeongguk’s neck and shoulders and chest. “You got it,” he says, and then tries to distract himself. “Anything you want for dinner?”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “No. Whatever is fine. But let me stay here so I can help.”
Namjoon rolls his eyes, but he’s not going to tell him no. He already knows Jeongguk is worse when he feels like he can’t do anything.
They eat, and it feels a little closer to normal, the kind of companionable dinners they started to have after their first date rather than the awkward ones right after they first got married. Namjoon is used to Jeongguk talking more and laughing more and sometimes kissing him, so it’s weird and difficult, but better than the suffocating kind of silence they were in most of the day.
A little later Namjoon helps Jeongguk into the bedroom. He holds onto him again while he brushes his teeth, and Jeongguk doesn’t say anything. When he helps him into bed, though, Jeongguk grabs his arm.
“Can you—” he begins, and licks his lips. “I don’t know if I’m going to sleep very well.”
Namjoon sits. “Do you want me to get you something? Tea? Where’s your laptop? You could watch something until you fall asleep.”
Jeongguk looks ahead, a little blankly. Then he nods. “Yeah, okay.”
Namjoon gets his laptop from the living room. He makes him a cup of tea, too, and by then Jeongguk has started a movie.
“Thank you, hyung,” Jeongguk says softly. Namjoon pats his hand and he grabs it. He doesn’t let go.
It takes Namjoon a long moment to realize Jeongguk is asking him to stay. When he does realize, he feels himself go tense, but then something diffuses in relief. He slides under the covers, staying not quite in Jeongguk’s space but close enough, hopefully, to be comforting.
They fall asleep like that. Namjoon wakes up sometime after two in the morning to find Jeongguk’s head tipped onto his shoulder. Gently he moves one of the pillows propping Jeongguk up to lay him back a little more.
Jeongguk stirs and rolls onto his side. “Hyung,” he says in a groggy voice.
“You okay?” Namjoon asks. He reaches out and smooths Jeongguk’s hair.
“No,” Jeongguk whispers. He lets his eyes shut. “Namjoon-hyung, I,” he begins.
Namjoon waits, but whatever Jeongguk wants to say, he isn’t going to finish. “You don’t have to talk,” he says and leans forward to press his lips to Jeongguk’s temple. He tries to ignore how fast his heart is racing. “You don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to be okay.”
Jeongguk starts to cry a little bit, then. His tears run over his nose and onto his pillow. “I’m scared,” he says thickly.
“Hey,” Namjoon says. “Worrying now isn’t going to help. Whatever the orthopedic surgeons say, it’s going to be okay. If you need your, um,” he pauses, “if you need your... knee band... reconstructed, we’ll do it.”
A laugh blubbers out of Jeongguk. “I’m not scared about that,” he says. Then, “No—I am, I’m scared about that, but I…” he trails off again. “This is embarrassing,” he says. His voice is still thick from crying. “Every part of this is embarrassing.”
“No, hush,” Namjoon says, his eyes opening quickly to look at Jeongguk. “Don’t you dare be embarrassed.”
Jeongguk turns and grabs Namjoon’s shirt, hiding his face in it. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. He’s shaking as if he were crying, but there are no tears. Namjoon isn’t sure what to do. He just rubs his hand over Jeongguk’s upper back until he stops shaking and relaxes.
Namjoon pulls back a little, and Jeongguk puffs a little laugh against him. “Knee band,” he repeats.
“You’re really laughing at me now?” Namjoon says, unimpressed.
“It’s called an MPFL.”
“Yeah, well,” Namjoon says, “I got a lot of words thrown at me yesterday.”
Jeongguk looks at him with this unreadable expression. His grip on Namjoon’s shirt tightens. “Yeah,” he agrees. “And you were so good.” He looks nervous, almost sick. Namjoon doesn’t understand.
Jeongguk must believe, for some reason, that his injury means things aren’t how they were anymore, that they can’t kiss anymore, that he doesn’t want to be close anymore.
If anything, Namjoon wants it more. If anything, he’s surer now and he’s more inundated, now, with these sharp prickles of feeling that he loves, he loves, he loves Jeongguk.
He loves him.
They see three separate orthopedic surgeons, but Namjoon knows by the time they’re finished with the first appointment that Jeongguk is going to have the surgery. Jeongguk looks less nervous and more resigned as time goes on, and before the last surgeon examines him, he catches Namjoon’s eye and mouths, knee band teasingly.
Namjoon has done his research. He’s read up on MPFL reconstruction, and he knows that if Jeongguk needs it at all it’s not optional, not as an athlete, and he knows the recovery is going to take months. That’s months that Jeongguk is going to struggle with his injury, probably in his head just as much in his body.
The surgery is scheduled a couple weeks out and Jeongguk upgrades from the splint to a brace with strict instructions to go easy on his knee and use crutches liberally. With the state his MPFL is already in, the surgeons have told him, his knee could dislocate again tomorrow if he’s not careful.
He seems to take that seriously, thankfully, and follows the instructions. Namjoon goes back to work, which he hates, but will endure so he can get things in order for time off post-surgery. He comes home early as often as he can, and nearly every day there’s someone in his house with Jeongguk, more varied visitors now than just Jimin and Taehyung.
A few times there’s Hoseok or Seokjin, sometimes both. Usually Jeongguk is sitting in the living room or at the table, drawing or reading or looking desperately bored while one of them keeps him company or bustles around in the kitchen, or while both of them sing or bicker loudly while cooking something.
Once, Namjoon walks in to the distant sound of gentle humming. Jeongguk is in the living room, sitting in the armchair with his leg stretched out, holding his sketchbook in his lap and frowning in concentration at something in the kitchen. He seems not all there.
Namjoon shuts the door quietly, and Jeongguk meets his eye and nods him over. From where Jeongguk sits, he can see where Yoongi is standing at the stove, cooking something, with Seokjin beside him propping himself up on the counter with his elbows, and Hoseok chopping vegetables precariously. It takes Namjoon a moment to realize the humming he’s hearing is coming from Yoongi.
He wonders, briefly, if this minus Seokjin is what Yoongi and Hoseok’s apartment looks like in the evenings—and then he thinks maybe not. Maybe not minus Seokjin. Maybe this is just what Yoongi and Hoseok’s apartment looks like in the evenings.
He sits on the arm of the chair and Jeongguk rests his arm on top of Namjoon’s thigh, hand on Namjoon’s knee. They watch the scene in front of them in this odd, distorted silence, and Namjoon realizes vaguely that Jeongguk has begun drawing it.
Then Hoseok turns around and sees them watching, and he startles. “Oh! Hey.” Seokjin takes the knife out of his hand.
“Hey,” Namjoon says back in a this is my house what did you expect sort of tone.
“Dinner will be ready soon,” Yoongi tells him.
Namjoon looks at Jeongguk. Jeongguk just shrugs. “Okay. I’m going to change, then.” Jeongguk squeezes his knee and moves his arm so he can get up.
After Namjoon has shut his bedroom door and unbuttoned his shirt, there’s a knock on his door. He pauses. “Come in,” he calls.
The door is opened and Yoongi walks in. “Hey.”
“Hey, hyung,” Namjoon says. He takes his shirt off and undoes his belt.
Yoongi sits down on the bed.
“Hyung,” Namjoon says quietly. Yoongi doesn’t look at him. He abandons changing and goes to sit next to Yoongi in his slacks and white undershirt. “What are you doing?”
Yoongi shakes his head. “When I find out, you’ll be the first one to know.”
“No, Yoongi-hyung,” Namjoon says, “I mean with Seokjin, what are you doing?” He trusts Yoongi.
“Ugh.” Yoongi groans and buries his face in his hands. He laughs humorlessly. “We’re really trying here. It’s, just... we love him, you know?”
Namjoon huffs, a little in disbelief. “That’s... that’s a lot, hyung.”
“So, the Switzerland trip—”
“Oh, so you settled on Switzerland?”
“— the Switzerland trip,” Yoongi repeats, annoyed at being interrupted, “is, like. Well. You know. It’s a gift for him too.”
Namjoon’s lips part in surprise. “What? Does Hoseok know?”
“The Switzerland trip, no. That’s a surprise for both of them. But we talked about Christmas. We said we want him to be with us, whatever we do. We don’t, um. We don’t want him to feel like he’s our... third. We just want,” Yoongi cuts off awkwardly.
“The three of you,” Namjoon says softly. He doesn’t know what that feels like, but if Yoongi and Hoseok want Seokjin anything like he wants Jeongguk, he thinks he gets it.
“Yeah. The three of us.”
It’s a lot. Namjoon doesn’t know what to say. All he ends up with is, “Goddamn, hyung.”
“That’s helpful,” Yoongi says, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.
Namjoon’s impulse has never been to hold Yoongi before, mostly because Yoongi usually rejects physical comfort and has never really needed it from Namjoon, especially since he’s had Hoseok. But now Namjoon’s impulses have evolved around Jeongguk and his need for touch, so without realizing it he starts to reach across Yoongi’s back to pull him closer.
He stops himself with a frown and puts his hand at the base of Yoongi’s neck. He thumbs across the baby hairs there.
“What are you doing.”
Namjoon clears his throat. “Sorry. I was about to hug you, I think.”
Yoongi gives him a humored look. “You’re a changed man, Kim Namjoon.”
“I know,” Namjoon groans.
And then, strangely enough, Yoongi leans into him. Namjoon lets his arm wind around him like he tried to do in the first place. “This is really fucking weird,” Yoongi says.
“Yup,” Namjoon says, rubbing his hand up and down Yoongi’s bicep. “Do you want to cry more?”
Yoongi laughs out loud. “Absolutely not.”
“Hyung, I really had no idea for so long,” Namjoon says. “And I definitely didn’t know you were in love.”
“I felt like we were so obvious,” says Yoongi. “Especially Hoseok. I felt like his body language was always screaming about it. I’m sure it was mostly paranoia, but. I also think the signs were there.”
Namjoon thinks back. Seokjin has been leaving with Yoongi and Hoseok for a long time, now that he thinks about it. “Yeah, maybe,” he says.
“Well,” says Yoongi, pulling away. “Now you know the most ridiculous thing of my life.”
“That’s so false,” Namjoon shakes his head. “The most ridiculous thing of your life is that you were going to best friend marry Hoseok.”
“Oh my god,” Yoongi says. “That says so much about me.”
“It really does,” Namjoon agrees gravely. His mind wanders to the scene from earlier, Seokjin leaning against the counter and looking at Yoongi. “Fuck, he loves you,” he realizes.
Yoongi makes a funny little sound. “That’s terrifying.”
“You’ll be okay,” Namjoon says.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, “and so will you. You two,” he clarifies. “You, um,” he looks at the door awkwardly. “Better now?”
Namjoon sighs. “I mean. A little. But it’s just—it’s never going to be—”
“I know,” says Yoongi. When Namjoon looks at him, his eyes are hurt as deeply as Namjoon thinks his must be. “I know. You care about him a lot.”
I love him, Namjoon thinks. I love him I love him I love him. He doesn’t say it. Even if he wanted to he doesn’t think the words would come out. “I’ll be fine, hyung,” he says. “No worries.”
When he looks back, Namjoon will think he felt it, the countdown that starts right after Jeongguk’s surgery. He’ll think that the moment Jeongguk’s recovery becomes a real thing that’s happening, the tug starts. The tug of Jeongguk, everything in him, asking to be set free.
Namjoon won’t be mad. He can’t be mad. Jeongguk didn’t choose him. He never would choose him.
So when it finally comes down to it, to the thing of it, Namjoon feels like his words have been in his throat a long time.
The surgery goes well. It isn’t long before Jeongguk can put more weight on his leg, and he starts to focus on regaining mobility. And then it’s time to talk about the rest of his recovery.
Jeongguk has a physical therapist from before, from the first time he dislocated his knee. But this time is so different. This time he has a tired knee with new parts in it and a leg that’s lost a lot of muscle mass. So the idea that he goes away, goes someplace known for and trusted with this kind of recovery, comes up naturally.
The idea starts in Namjoon’s head then. The maybe begins to take over. The thought that Jeongguk could want to leave, could want to spend several months being not here, being out of the public eye, being... not with Namjoon.
So when they talk about it, he watches Jeongguk’s face carefully. He makes sure he knows that whatever he wants, Namjoon will make it happen.
And when it comes down to it, Namjoon starts to know what he’s going to do as soon as the press starts covering Jeongguk’s injury.
In the end, it’s simple: a headline, “Kim son steps back from company to care for injured husband.”
Jeongguk, frozen in front of his laptop, looking like he doesn’t know if he’s allowed to be angry.
“What the hell is that,” Namjoon says lowly.
“That’s publicity,” Jeongguk says, face carefully blank.
“That’s bullshit,” Namjoon tells him. “I’m sorry.”
Jeongguk finally looks at him. “What did they say that wasn’t true, hyung?”
Namjoon starts to know, then, what he’s going to do—what maybe he has wanted to do for years, what maybe he should have done before Jeongguk was ever dragged into this.
It feels strange when Namjoon finds himself at Seokjin’s apartment. They never go to his apartment. Namjoon thinks Seokjin hardly even sleeps here.
“What do you want to drink?”
Namjoon grimaces. “Probably nothing you have.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes and hands him a beer. “You’re terrible.”
“I know,” Namjoon groans. “I’m sorry. I’ve been like this.”
Seokjin motions him into the living room. They sit, and he pours his own drink.
“How are you, hyung?” Namjoon asks, settling back.
Seokjin takes a long drink and a deep breath before answering. “Being in love is terrible.”
Namjoon feels himself start to sulk. “Yeah,” he agrees.
Seokjin lets out a hmph. “So you’re in love, then?”
“You were right, hyung.” He knows Seokjin will love to hear that.
“About which part?”
“All of it. You were right about everything. I love him.”
“Ah, Namjoon-ah,” says Seokjin in an uncharacteristically soft tone of voice. “You’re going to be okay, you know?”
The thing is, Namjoon knows with an odd, removed kind of certainty what is going to happen. He’s going to be okay, sure, but he’s not going to be with Jeongguk. He also knows that Seokjin, if he really wants to, is going to end up with Yoongi and Hoseok. Seokjin thinks Namjoon is the one who is going to have his love. But Namjoon knows it’s Seokjin. “Jeongguk is going to leave,” Namjoon says.
“What?” Seokjin frowns. “What are you talking about?”
Namjoon tips his head back against the couch. “I can see the future,” he says, emotionless. “I’m going to leave my parents’ company. He’s going to go away. We’re not going to be married anymore.”
“You’re leaving?” Seokjin asks. “You talked about this?”
Namjoon shakes his head. “Not yet. But we will. And when we do he’s going to ask to leave.” He knows how he looks, all lax and sad and vulnerable. But he doesn’t really care.
“Namjoon-ah, I’m sorry,” Seokjin says after a moment.
“I’ll be fine,” Namjoon tells him. He lifts his head. “So will you.” He thinks about it for a second, thinks about what Yoongi said. “What do you want from them?” he asks. “Like, for you. What do you want your relationship to be?”
Seokjin doesn’t answer for a long time. “I just want to be with them,” he says finally. Namjoon is almost surprised he got that much of an answer. Seokjin doesn’t like talking about things like this.
“You’ll be okay, hyung,” Namjoon says again. He means it.
So Namjoon can see the future, and he knows what’s going to happen.
Jeongguk is always reduced to a thing when people talk about him. Nothing makes Namjoon angrier, but he will never be able to stop it, because he’s part of it. He’s part of it.
Before Jeongguk was his husband (before Jeongguk was his ), he was this person: strong and autonomous, independent and unashamed to be who he was. This boy who was just twenty when he went to Rio as an openly gay athlete, everyone’s eyes on him. This boy who fought through an injury and public skepticism all on his own.
So he’s distant now, and he’s tugging, and Namjoon understands, so he lets it happen. So when he goes in to meet with his parents and sister, deep down he knows how it’s going to end, and more than that he knows the end of the end.
He knows that by the time he leaves he’ll have given up his spot in the company, maybe cut ties with his parents. And he knows it’ll be the end of his relationship with Jeongguk.
It’s a fight, even more than Namjoon expected. He’s sharper than he means to be when he tells them he’s unhappy with the press coverage and sharper still when they tell him this is what his relationship with Jeongguk is for.
Namjoon should feel like he’s on a precipice when he hands in his formal resignation and walks away from his parents, but he doesn’t. He just feels kind of numb.
Jiwoo follows him as he walks out. She hurries to keep up with his long stride. “Namjoon-ah,” she calls at him sharply. “You’re not really leaving.”
Namjoon stops. “Noona,” he says. “I can’t stay. This is all yours. You deserve it. And I need to go be myself somewhere mom and dad can’t use it. Or use someone else because of it.”
She presses her lips together. “You mean Jeon Jeongguk, huh?”
He doesn’t say anything.
“Namjoon-ah,” she begins, and then halts. “You’re going to give up your family for a boy?”
Namjoon feels himself twitch. “No. I’m going to walk away from my family because they can only stand to acknowledge who I am for a story. To make them look good. There’s a real person behind that story, and he’s at my house, and he doesn’t want to be looked at.”
“Kim Namjoon,” Jiwoo says. She leans back to regard him better. “Do you love him?”
“It wouldn’t matter either way, Jiwoo-noona. I’ll see you if you want. But I’m leaving.”
She takes a deep breath. “You’ll see me. Good luck out there.”
He nods toward the building. “Good luck in there.”
The way home gives Namjoon time to think, but not enough. By the time he’s pulled into his apartment’s garage he’s begun to process the reality of what he’s done. His hands are shaking.
He knows what comes next.
And come it does. In the apartment, Jeongguk is holding his laptop. He sets it aside, and everything goes distant as he says, “Hyung. I want to go away for physical therapy.”
“Jeongguk-ah,” Namjoon says. He hears his own voice like it’s far away, and it’s shaking. “You can go wherever you want. We can be done with this.” It’s easier if he offers it, he thinks. Jeongguk would dance around it, wouldn’t know how to ask. It’s easier this way.
Jeongguk regards him carefully. “Done with what?”
Namjoon feels too choked up to answer. He holds up his left hand, flashes his wedding band.
Jeongguk’s eyes go wide. “Are you—what?”
Namjoon shakes his head. He realizes with disturbing clarity that he’s about to cry. He needs to escape. “We’ll talk about it later,” he says. “I need to make some calls.”
“Okay,” Jeongguk says, and there’s something guarded and shining in his eyes. He must be so ready to go and be his own person and not have a husband.
Namjoon goes to his office. He sits at his desk to cry.
He manages to dodge Jeongguk until the next afternoon.
“What about your family?” Jeongguk asks cautiously, coming into the office where Namjoon has been more or less hiding since yesterday. He’s walking much better now. He’s gaining muscle back in his leg, slowly but surely.
Namjoon looks up. Jeongguk looks so nervous, and for half a second Namjoon sees him again: that stranger who moved into his apartment nearly a year ago, the boy who asked permission to use everything and wouldn’t sleep in his bed.
But then there’s Jeongguk; then there’s a spark of concern, an earnest look on his face, and there’s Jeongguk, the boy he’s been kissing and touching and slowly, slowly knowing.
Namjoon lets out a breath and gestures toward the empty chair by his desk. Jeongguk sits. “I left,” Namjoon says. “I gave up my spot in the company.”
Jeongguk’s jaw goes slack. “What? But—that’s your job. That’s your life.”
“I know.” Namjoon folds his arms in front of himself protectively. “My life is my family. What’s good for the family. What makes the family look good.” He can only look at Jeongguk for a second. “Even if it means they take advantage of me. Even if it means they take advantage of people who never asked for it, like you.” His eyes are blurring with tears. He rests his forehead in one hand. “But that doesn’t mean anything to me now. I should have done this a long time ago. Before you were ever dragged into this.”
“Hyung,” Jeongguk says. When Namjoon looks up at him he seems almost frantic. “You can’t give up your whole life because of me.”
Namjoon shakes his head. “It’s not because of you, Jeongguk-ah,” he says. His voice is soft and weak. “It’s because I’m always going to be gay, and I don’t want them to own me anymore. I’m sorry I let them own you. ”
Jeongguk moves forward and puts his hands on top of Namjoon’s. “No one owns me,” he says firmly. “I never thought this could be good. But it was, because it was you.” He leans forward and pecks Namjoon’s cheek. “I couldn’t make it through this without you,” he says quietly. Namjoon’s heartbeat falters for a second, but then Jeongguk says, “I’m going to feel like I owe you for the rest of my life.”
Namjoon pulls back. He can’t say anything to the words which blatantly mean I couldn’t make it through this without your money. “I’ll make dinner,” he says, choked.
Time slips by. Namjoon takes Jeongguk to checkups to make sure things are healing properly, and Yoongi goes away with Hoseok and Seokjin for Christmas, and that’s the only mark of the passage of time—otherwise it’s a haze of taking the dog for walks, picking up books, watching movies, cooking and baking and having friends in his apartment.
Namjoon tries not to be hurt that they don’t touch anymore. He understands. When they thought they would be together, the two of them in this thing they didn’t choose, for a long time, and maybe forever, it was easier to settle into it. It was easy to create routines around each other and easy to slowly ease into the kissing and the touching. Maybe, with more time, it would have been easy to slowly ease into sex. Maybe Namjoon wouldn’t have been made to wrestle with the idea that he’s in love, and it would have all just melted into something indistinguishable, something so close to love he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Namjoon thinks that would have been okay.
He thought that being with Jeongguk like he was would be settling, but it was so much more. Weeks of kissing and company and idle touching were so much more than settling. It was foolish to think he could have it forever. It was too good to last.
Now he dreams of it. Now he wants and wants and wants. Now, he knows, he is going to go back to being alone and Jeongguk is going to go back to being Jeongguk, that strong, independent, beautiful person, without Namjoon to drag him down.
It was never settling. It was something he couldn’t have deserved in his wildest dreams.
So time passes, and Namjoon tries not to be numb. He sees the nerves in Jeongguk’s eyes when he talks about the future, the driven sort of fear when he thinks about his recovery, but it’s excitement, too. And Namjoon aches, but he’s happy.
Jeongguk deserves this. If it takes Namjoon giving him up, giving him back to the world without anything to hold him back, he’ll do it. Anything. Anything for Jeongguk.
The day Jeongguk leaves creeps closer and there’s more to do. There are arrangements to make and papers to sign, accommodations to find and details to talk through.
“Where will the dog go?” Jeongguk asks.
“She loves you,” Namjoon answers without hesitation. “Can she go with you?”
“I don’t think the place has a policy against pets,” Jeongguk says, and then he’s absorbed with scrolling through something on his phone.
Namjoon watches him idly, bluish light hitting his profile. He’s thinner all around. Still strong, especially in his arms, but noticeably thinner. If he tried, Namjoon could probably pick him up. The idea sends a pang through his chest.
The place Jeongguk is staying will allow Meri. “Are you sure?” Jeongguk asks when he finds out.
“Do you want her?”
Jeongguk’s eyes drop and his expression is one Namjoon hasn’t seen before. “Yeah, I do. What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Namjoon says. Not having Jeongguk and Meri around will take a lot of getting used to and probably a long time of sadness, but he’ll be okay. “She loves you most anyway.”
“She loves you too,” Jeongguk says, but the conversation is over. It’s already decided.
Time passes, and Namjoon hates it, but it comes. The day before Jeongguk moves away, for good, he feels quiet and aimless, just asking how he can help and following Jeongguk’s directions tiredly. Jimin and Taehyung are flying out with him to get him settled in, and they spend the late afternoon and a lot of the evening at the apartment, helping him pack and get Meri ready to fly.
They leave after they all eat a rather chaotic takeout dinner and get the last of Jeongguk’s things ready, and then Namjoon and Jeongguk are alone. It’s tense in a new, sad way. But maybe Namjoon is making that up. He is the one in love, after all.
Jeongguk goes to get ready for bed early, but Namjoon stalls. He takes Meri out, and in the grass, he kneels down and hugs her. “I love you, you silly dog,” he tells her, and then he’s crying. He cries so much, shaking and sobbing into her fur. He didn’t know he had this many tears in him.
It’s cold out, but Namjoon sits on the ground for a while after he finishes crying, so that when he goes inside he’ll have an excuse for how red his face is.
He brings Meri back upstairs. His heart feels so heavy with the thought that he is letting go of her, too.
When Namjoon finally comes into the bedroom, Jeongguk doesn’t hide that he’s been crying too. It’s on his face that he’s scared—scared of leaving and what the future holds, scared of whether his career is going to fall apart and whether is body is going to betray him.
Namjoon wants very badly to touch him. He wants to take him in his arms and hold him. He wants to tell him everything is going to be okay.
But he has no right to Jeongguk. Even the feeble thing he had, the marriage that was only real because it had to be, the relationship they only have because they live together, means nothing here. So he’s surprised when he slides in bed and Jeongguk turns to look at him and says,
“Hyung. Would you kiss me?”
He asks it like he thinks Namjoon is going to say no.
Namjoon turns to look at him, and he looks so small but he looks like he wants. And, well.
Namjoon wants, too.
He turns his body to lean in closer to Jeongguk, to see his face better, to press them arm to arm. “Sweetheart,” he murmurs much lower than he means to.
“You don’t have to,” Jeongguk whispers. His eyes are searching Namjoon’s face.
“I’ll kiss you, baby,” Namjoon says. Jeongguk shivers. Namjoon kind of knew he liked to be called baby, but it’s always felt like too much, like it doesn’t belong to him. But tonight—
Yeah. He’ll call Jeongguk baby. He’ll kiss him. It’s the last night they’ll spend together. He can let go of—not everything he’s been holding back, but some of it. Enough.
Namjoon kisses him and gets lost in it instantly. He finds out how much his body has yearned for Jeongguk in the weeks and weeks they haven’t touched. He can’t get enough.
Jeongguk pulls him closer with shaky fingers on his cheek, at the back of his neck. He licks into Namjoon’s mouth bolder than any time before, sucks at his lower lip, runs a hand down Namjoon’s side.
They kiss and kiss and it all swirls together hazier than any time Namjoon can remember. Jeongguk’s hands wander; they feel his body, make him light up in places he didn’t know he wanted to be touched.
Jeongguk gets on top of him. Namjoon wraps his arms around his back and his body is so firm under his clothes, so hard, still so strong.
He sits up, pulling their chests flush together, and presses wet kisses to Jeongguk’s neck. They’ve never gotten this far before. They’ve never touched this much. Namjoon’s never had Jeongguk on his lap, never kissed his neck with intent like this. So he’s not surprised to find that Jeongguk is hard.
“Hyung, please,” Jeongguk breathes. Namjoon can feel him pressing against his hip.
He pulls back to look at him. “What do you want?”
Jeongguk looks nervous, but still he says, “More.”
Namjoon wants more, too. He wants to lay Jeongguk down, spread him out, put his mouth all over him, put his fingers inside him , get him writhing with pleasure until he comes. He wants to fuck him, wants to be fucked by him, wants to kiss him and fall asleep kissing him. He wants.
But there’s so much he can’t ask for from Jeongguk. So he focuses on the thing he wants most.
Namjoon presses a hand to his lower back, right above his ass. He pulls until Jeongguk’s hips twitch, and his cock, hard and hot, rubs against him. “Do you want to fuck me?”
Jeongguk’s whole body shudders. His hips jerk and he whines as his cock rubs against Namjoon’s thigh.
That feels so fucking good. Namjoon hasn’t had sex with anyone in a long time. He almost wants Jeongguk to rub off on his leg, feel him hard against him working his hips until he comes. He wants to touch his cock, take it in his mouth. He wants Jeongguk to fuck him.
“Don’t get off on my lap, baby,” he says. He runs his hand soothingly up and down Jeongguk’s back, feeling his thighs tremble as he works to control himself. “Do you want to fuck me?”
“Yes.” It comes out in a groan. Jeongguk presses his mouth to Namjoon’s neck, wet and clumsy. “Please, please. I want you.”
“Okay,” Namjoon breathes. “Okay. Let me go... get stuff, okay?”
Jeongguk moves back off of him. His eyes are wide and his chest is rising and falling sporadically. He nods and huffs.
Namjoon goes to the bathroom to dig through a drawer for his lube and a box of condoms. He checks the expiration date, muttering ‘pleasepleasepleaseplease’ under his breath. As soon as he’s sure they’re good he braces his hands on the counter, breathing in and out deeply.
Okay. Okay. Is he ready to have Jeongguk’s dick up his ass? As far as he knows, it isn’t that big, but it’s been... it’s been a long, long time since he’s been fucked.
When he goes back to the bed he hesitates more. “I need a minute,” he says, more breathless than he expected. “To prep, I mean. It’s been a while.”
He doesn’t think he really wants Jeongguk to see this part. It feels like too much. He isn’t expecting it when Jeongguk’s eyes go wide and longing and he lets out a little groan. “Let me, let me, please.”
Namjoon’s mouth goes dry. “Okay.”
For a second they just look at each other. Like they’re both processing the intimacy of the idea of Jeongguk opening Namjoon up.
Namjoon has no idea how to go on until Jeongguk says, softly, “Lie back.”
Namjoon does, and then Jeongguk is over him, between his legs, kissing him, pressing his mouth to Namjoon’s neck and leaving a love bite there. He pushes his shirt up and pulls it over his head. “Hyung,” he breathes into Namjoon’s mouth. “So beautiful.”
Jeongguk pulls Namjoon’s clothes off him and runs his hands over his chest, over his hips, over his thighs. Namjoon is distinctly overwhelmed. He can hear his breaths coming unevenly. He’s sensitive, so sensitive everywhere. It’s been so long since anyone has touched his bare skin. His hips lift when Jeongguk smooths his hands over his stomach. His touch is so gentle, filled with some kind of awe Namjoon can’t understand.
“Namjoon,” Jeongguk says shakily. “Namjoon-hyung.” He runs his hands from Namjoon’s knees to his inner thighs. The moan that tears from Namjoon’s throat when Jeongguk slides his hand over his cock surprises both of them.
“Take off your clothes, please,” Namjoon manages, shuddering at his touch.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes, but his eyes are glued to Namjoon’s cock, hard against his hip. “Wow.”
Namjoon huffs in disbelief.
Jeongguk gets shy when his clothes start to come off. He kneels naked on the bed, the muscles in his thighs and stomach and arms tensing and shuddering, eyes bright.
“Wow,” Namjoon says back and pushes himself up on one arm. “Okay, alright.”
“Alright?” Jeongguk repeats. “You’re... still good?”
“All you, babe,” Namjoon says. He leans back and has to breathe through how vulnerable he feels. He wants this, he wants it so badly. That probably makes it a bad idea.
Jeongguk is so gentle when he puts a hand under Namjoon’s knee and pushes his leg back. “Namjoon,” he breathes, and then his fingertip starts to rub over Namjoon’s asshole.
“Go ahead,” Namjoon murmurs and shuts his eyes tight.
Jeongguk presses the tip of his finger in and kisses the side of Namjoon’s knee as he does. He goes so slow, moves so hesitantly, that before he’s knuckle-deep Namjoon wonders if he’s done this before.
Has Jeongguk ever had sex? With anyone? Namjoon is pretty sure they haven’t talked about that. He would remember. This isn’t Jeongguk’s first time, is it? Surely not. He’s... he’s never dated anyone, but surely.
This really isn’t the moment to ask. Not with one of Jeongguk’s fingers pressed inside, not with Jeongguk’s lips working absently at the tender skin at the side of his knee, not when they’re both this hard. So Namjoon doesn’t, he just breathes in and tries to loosen his grip on the sheets around him.
He feels exposed like this, his tender parts in Jeongguk’s hands. But Jeongguk is looking at his body intently, his gaze dragging from Namjoon’s chest down to where his finger is working into him. He’s holding Namjoon’s leg up with a tender grip, and it’s—it’s so true to him. He always touches so carefully.
“Does it hurt?” Jeongguk asks, starting to move his finger.
“Not really,” Namjoon says. He works his hips toward Jeongguk without meaning to as he starts to move. He makes an embarrassed noise. He forgot he liked this. He forgot he liked this enough to chase just one finger. Namjoon covers his eyes with one hand.
“Please look at me,” Jeongguk whispers. He pulls Namjoon’s leg up more, hooks his knee over his shoulder, and runs the fingers of his now-free hand over Namjoon’s chest and stomach.
The muscles in Namjoon’s stomach tighten at his touch, and he moves his hand away from his eyes slowly, letting it rest on his forehead. “Keep going, baby,” he says.
Jeongguk makes a little sound in his throat and wraps his arm around Namjoon’s leg, gripping tighter at his thigh and pulling his finger out only to press two against him. “Two?” he breathes and turns his head so it rests against Namjoon’s knee. Like he’s as overwhelmed by his fingers in Namjoon as Namjoon is.
“Go ahead,” Namjoon agrees and relaxes his muscles. He circles his hips without meaning to when Jeongguk’s fingers press inside.
“You like this, don’t you?” Jeongguk asks, hushed, maybe awed, when he gets to working two fingers in and out of him.
The words could be dirty talk, but it’s Jeongguk, so they’re not. He just wants to know, just wants to hear. Namjoon doesn’t know when he shut his eyes, but he opens them to see Jeongguk looking so intently at him, it makes him laugh breathlessly. “I like it,” he agrees. “Feels good.”
“I’m—” Jeongguk doesn’t finish, he stops and licks his lips and looks nervous. He pulls his fingers out.
Namjoon tries not let the alarm hit him. “What’s wrong, baby?” He pushes himself up enough to look at Jeongguk’s face.
“I don’t know if I’m very good at this,” Jeongguk says softly. “Um. Your prostate?”
“Oh,” Namjoon breathes. He lets his arm slide out from under him and hits the pillows again. “I still like it, even if you’re not on my prostate.”
“Okay, but.” Jeongguk still looks like he wants something. Reassurance? Or... guidance.
“I’ll tell you what to do,” Namjoon says, and he sees it when Jeongguk’s breath catches. “Put your fingers back in.”
Jeongguk makes a small, broken sound that he presses into Namjoon’s knee. His hips twitch, and Namjoon can feel him again finally, his cock against the side of his ass. He’s so hard, and so wet. Namjoon gets it now.
“You’re doing so good,” he tells Jeongguk. “You’re so hard, Jeongguk-ah. You really want to fuck me, yeah?”
“Yes,” Jeongguk moans.
“I know. You’re so good. Worrying about me and not thinking about yourself. Put your fingers back in me, Jeongguk-ah.”
Jeongguk does. He presses them back in slowly, and it really does feel good now. Namjoon’s always liked the feeling of having something in him, but he’s not sure he remembers it feeling this intense before.
“Good, that feels good,” he murmurs. “Okay, now just curl your fingers a little toward— oh, hell.” Jeongguk is quick to follow directions, quick to get it right on the money, and a groan shudders through Namjoon as Jeongguk curls his fingertips right over his prostate.
“Oh,” says Jeongguk, breathy, and moves his fingers over it. Namjoon feels tossed right to the edge, this tight, curling pleasure jerking through him.
Namjoon’s thighs are shaking when he pulls himself out of the pleasure enough to say, “Okay, that’s great, but maybe ease up so we can get to the part where you fuck me.”
Jeongguk huffs. His cheeks are so pink. “I like that.”
Namjoon laughs breathlessly. “I like it too. Come here, baby.”
Jeongguk lowers his leg and leans over to kiss him. Namjoon welcomes it, taking Jeongguk’s face in his hands and kissing deep. He’s almost relieved to distract Jeongguk from his body. He feels so hot and flushed all over.
Jeongguk kisses him for a long moment. Namjoon is surprised by his concentration until he feels the little circular movements of his hips, and realizes he’s grinding his cock against the bed as he leans over to kiss Namjoon. He’s seeking some kind of relief, on edge for so long.
“Sorry,” Namjoon says against his mouth. “I’m keeping you waiting.”
Jeongguk makes a noise of disagreement. “It’s good. I like this.” He pulls away and shimmies down Namjoon’s body to lie between his legs and push them further apart. “Is three okay?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says.
This time, as Jeongguk eases his fingers in, he kisses at the skin of Namjoon’s hips. He drags his teeth and sucks over the jut of his hip bones, where Namjoon didn’t even know he was sensitive, and he kisses over the soft little dip. The three fingers are starting to feel good when Jeongguk pulls back and looks at Namjoon for a second, then dips his head back down and mouths over the head of Namjoon’s cock.
“Oh my god,” Namjoon groans, and his thighs shake and try to pull together involuntary, his legs pressing against Jeongguk’s shoulders, against his strong arms.
“Is that good?” Jeongguk asks. He sounds so breathless, so wrecked, and he hasn’t even got inside Namjoon yet.
“Yes, but,” Namjoon begins but before he can say any more Jeongguk’s mouth is back on him.
Jeongguk pulls back. “Sorry,” he says. His cheeks and ears are pink. It seems like he just couldn’t help himself. Like he needed to get his mouth on Namjoon’s cock.
It’s so ridiculous. Namjoon laughs in disbelief. “I was just going to say,” he starts. “I’m ready when you are.”
He feels a little silly and a lot exposed, but Jeongguk freezes. “Yeah?”
Jeongguk leans back and Namjoon sits up. His hands shake and Jeongguk makes a low, punched noise as hands him a condom and settles on his hands and knees. There are hands on his back, smoothing over it gently, but Namjoon feels removed for a moment, nervous and feeling even more vulnerable now. He’s in his head, enough that it takes him a minute to tune in to Jeongguk’s hesitance.
He’s running his hands over Namjoon’s back and hips, kneeling behind him, like he’s waiting for something.
“It’s all you, baby,” Namjoon says. His voice breaks on the baby, because Jeongguk’s dick is about to be in his ass. Jeongguk, Jeon Jeongguk, the beautiful, sweet boy he married nearly a year ago—Jeongguk, the boy he fell in love with sometime between then and now, the boy who’s leaving in the morning.
Then Jeongguk is pressing into him, so, achingly slow. By the time he’s all the way in, Namjoon realizes he’s groaning low in his throat and probably has been the whole time. It’s kind of embarrassing. He’s overwhelmed before Jeongguk can even move.
“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks, holding onto Namjoon’s hips like he’s going to pull out. “Not good?”
“No, good,” Namjoon says and chokes as Jeongguk shifts behind him. He can feel every centimeter of Jeongguk inside him. Namjoon was right, he’s not that big, but it’s enough. “I just need,” he begins and doesn’t finish, moving his hips back in little circles and trying to adjust.
Jeongguk lets out a shuddering moan as he does. “Hyung, oh god.”
“You can move,” Namjoon says. He doesn’t think Jeongguk is going to last long.
“Okay.” Jeongguk takes a steadying breath, runs his hands over Namjoon’s stomach and back to his hips, then starts to thrust.
He’s slow at first, and Namjoon thinks it might be more overwhelming like this. He can feel Jeongguk’s thighs twitching, feel his hands gripping tight, and he decides to give him a push. “Is that all you’ve got?” he asks. It comes out weak, but he tries.
Jeongguk groans. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he says, so soft it’s almost a whine. His hips jerk like it’s involuntary.
“You’re not going to hurt me,” Namjoon says. He braces himself and reaches down to grip his cock. “You’re doing so good, sweetheart. Come on.”
He means to jerk himself off, so hopefully he won’t be too far behind Jeongguk, but as soon as Jeongguk starts thrusting, really thrusting, he loses track of what he was doing. He has to use both hands to hold himself up and his head drops, eyes squeezing shut, because Jeongguk’s thrusts are long and powerful.
“Good?” Jeongguk asks him. There’s something desperate in his voice, asking to be told he’s good.
“Yes, good,” Namjoon manages. “Good, keep going.”
Jeongguk does, holding him by his hips and fucking him like that, and Namjoon loses track of time, just letting it happen, just feeling. He reaches for his cock again, but nearly faceplants. Jeongguk catches on, that time, and he reaches around to jerk him off himself.
A groan is punched out of Namjoon, Jeongguk’s hand on his dick, hitting a good spot inside him, and it’s good, good, good, and then Jeongguk stops.
He drops down to press his forehead to Namjoon’s back and wrap his arms all the way around his middle. His weight is a lot. Namjoon can hardly hold them both up. Something wet hits Namjoon’s bare shoulder—sweat, maybe.
“Baby, you okay?” Namjoon asks. He reaches back to try and put his hand on Jeongguk’s waist, but ends up grabbing at his ass.
“Yes,” Jeongguk says, nose pressed to his spine. “Just, really close.”
“It’s okay if you come,” Namjoon tells him.
Jeongguk makes a noise of dissent. “I want—” he begins.
“What do you want, sweetheart?” Namjoon moves one of his hands over both of Jeongguk’s where they’re clasped across his stomach.
“Will you turn over?” Jeongguk asks, voice quiet like he thinks Namjoon is going to say no.
And Namjoon thinks about it. He thinks about saying no. He’s afraid of how overwhelmed he is already. He’s afraid of how much love will bleed out of his body if he’s on his back, if he has Jeongguk over him, looking at his face. But, “Yeah, okay,” he says.
Jeongguk pulls out and lets Namjoon turn over, then holds his body up over him. He drops his head to Namjoon’s neck.
And this is—this is what Namjoon wants, really. Jeongguk pressed against him, so sweet. Just wanting to look at him, just wanting to be closer to him. He can feel everything Jeongguk’s body is saying: that he wants to be touched and held, to feel good and make Namjoon feel good, that he wants to feel wanted.
That will not be very hard. Namjoon does want him.
“You’re doing so good,” he tells him, because that’s the only thing he knows Jeongguk wants from him. He reaches up and runs his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, and lets him breathe. Lets his chest rise and fall against his own, lets his breaths shudder out against his neck. “You okay?” he asks, running his hand over Jeongguk’s back.
“Nnnnn,” Jeongguk groans into Namjoon’s neck. He rubs his nose against it. “I’m okay. Can I...?”
“Come on, baby,” Namjoon encourages. He threads his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair and tugs, pulling Jeongguk’s mouth to his. “So pretty.”
Jeongguk whines, but he pulls back enough to line himself up and push back in. It feels different, it feels like a lot, but so good.
Jeongguk holds out longer than Namjoon expects, with how wound up he’s been and for so long. He’s good, too—focused and powerful, and when he pushes his sweaty hair back to keep it out of his eyes, his exposed forehead and furrowed eyebrows make him look older and bigger and more in control, not to mention so, so handsome. Then he drops to his elbows over Namjoon and groans, “Hyung, I’m going to come.”
“Good,” Namjoon tells him again. “Come for me, baby.”
Jeongguk collapses on top of Namjoon and shakes out his release buried inside him with a long, drawn out moan. He trembles and his hips keep jerking, then still. He lets out a weak sound as Namjoon strokes the back of his neck, and when he lifts his head his hair flops back over his forehead. He looks flushed and tired. Namjoon’s chest inflates with something hot and humid.
“You alright?” He runs his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair.
“Mhm. Sorry.” Jeongguk looks sheepish. “Um, I’m gonna,” he gestures to where he’s still inside Namjoon, letting him know he’s going to pull out.
Namjoon smiles reassuringly and pets his hair. “Don’t be sorry. I’m good.” He lets out a little grunt as Jeongguk pulls out.
Jeongguk sits up to get rid of the condom, and then for a second he looks at Namjoon and just breathes. Then before Namjoon can process what he’s doing, Jeongguk is leaning in and kissing him hard. His hand sneaks down and finds Namjoon’s cock, jerking him off at an awkward angle. Namjoon wants to make him move, would even just get himself off, but he’s so goddamn close. It doesn’t take long.
“Oh god,” Namjoon pants after he comes over his stomach with a long groan. “God, Jeongguk.”
“Was that good?” Jeongguk asks.
“Yeah,” Namjoon says. “ Yes. Good.”
Jeongguk puffs in embarrassment and a little breathlessness and goes a little pink. “Even the part where I came too soon?”
Namjoon can’t help himself; he laughs, feeling so, so fond. “You’re fine, baby. I’m serious.”
Jeongguk leans back on his hands. He looks so beautiful. It hurts deep in Namjoon’s chest how much he wants him. He wants him like this, again and again. He wants to keep kissing him and sleeping with him. He wants to eat dinner with him and take walks with him. He wants to explore his body and let his own body be explored.
He wants... to be married to him, and that hurts. God, that hurts.
“I’m going to put on some clothes now,” Namjoon says quietly.
Jeongguk just nods. He looks smaller and sadder. He shivers like he’s cold. “I’m going to take a shower.”
Namjoon catches him before he gets up off the bed. He pulls him close, and Jeongguk lets himself be pulled. His nose presses to Namjoon’s bare collarbones. “You’re good,” Namjoon says. He doesn’t really know what he means this time, but he says it again anyway. “You’re so good.”
When Jeongguk gets up, he wipes at wet eyes. He doesn’t say anything, but before he goes into the bathroom the look he gives Namjoon has something bruised in it.
Namjoon cleans himself off and gets dressed while Jeongguk is in the shower. He remakes the bed for them to sleep in, then crawls under the covers and tries to process through the fact that he and Jeongguk just had sex.
After his shower, Jeongguk approaches the bed, wearing a yellow long-sleeved t-shirt that nearly comes down to the hem of his black boxers. He scoots onto the bed, on his knees, and starts to cry.
“Hey, hey, hey,” says Namjoon, taking his hands right away. “Do you want to be alone? I’ll leave if you want.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t leave,” he whispers. He slides down and curls up on his side, facing away from Namjoon.
“Okay. I’m here.” Jeongguk is still crying when Namjoon wraps his arms around him from behind and pulls him in close.
Jeongguk curls up even smaller, tucks his hands up by his face. Namjoon hears what his body is saying as loudly as if he used words—that he wants to be small and held.
“You’re okay,” Namjoon says softly. Jeongguk’s head is pressed to his collarbones. He pets his hair. “You’re going to be okay, sweetheart. You’re so strong.”
Namjoon’s arm rests awkwardly under Jeongguk’s head, and tears drip down onto it. It puts a bad feeling in his stomach, like even though he’s holding Jeongguk he’s letting him be alone. Jeongguk asked him not to leave.
“Baby, please turn over,” he says quietly. A lot of him does not expect Jeongguk to do it, but he does.
There’s a second of pause before he does, one where Namjoon’s heart beats a little erratically. But then Jeongguk turns over. His eyes are closed, and they stay closed, but tears still leak from the corners. Namjoon pulls him closer, arms around his shoulders. Jeongguk holds onto him like they’re hugging, and he presses his face to Namjoon’s chest. Namjoon adjusts himself so neither of them have to scrunch, and now when the tears fall they fall onto Namjoon, soak into his shirt, right over his heart.
It must be better this way. He needs it to be better this way.
Namjoon pets his hair and lets him cry and holds him close. “I’m scared,” is what Jeongguk whispers into his shirt, and the words reach into his chest cavity and squeeze at his heart.
“You’re going to be okay,” Namjoon says again. He tangles his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair and scratches at his scalp. He moves his hand to thumb over his cheekbone. Jeongguk doesn’t open his eyes, but his brow tenses. “Go to sleep,” Namjoon says. “I’m here. Go to sleep, baby.”
Jeongguk’s mouth twitches and his lips press together. A little sob sounds in his throat, the first sound he’s made since he started crying. He clutches at the back of Namjoon’s shirt.
He falls asleep like that, face pressed to Namjoon’s chest. But Namjoon lies awake a long time, cradling his head in one hand, memorizing how it feels to hold him.
Namjoon wakes up to the sound of heavy rain, low voices, and Jeongguk moving in his arms.
“We have to leave in twenty,” one of the hushed voices says. It’s Jimin.
Namjoon’s not aware enough to realize that one of the most intimate moments he and Jeongguk have ever shared is coming to an end with people watching, so in that blissful moment of ignorance he pulls Jeongguk back toward him.
“Get out,” Jeongguk says to Jimin, and apparently to Taehyung too. The bedroom door shuts in a moment. Then he takes Namjoon’s hands and pulls them from around his waist. “Hyung, I have to go,” he says. He kisses Namjoon’s nose, then gets out of bed.
Namjoon sits up, feeling disoriented. It’s dark—Jeongguk’s flight is early, so it’s nearly the middle of the night, plus it’s raining hard. One of his arms is numb. His body feels cold without Jeongguk pressed against him.
Jeongguk pulls on pants and then goes into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Namjoon feels distinctly bereft. He wants more than anything to go in and wrap his arms around Jeongguk from behind. Rest his head against the back of his shoulder. Push his hands under his big yellow shirt and feel his skin. Pull him back to bed and hold him again, hold him until the sun rises and even longer.
Instead he says, “I’ll go make coffee.”
Jeongguk nods, eyes fixed on the sink.
Jimin and Taehyung are in Namjoon’s kitchen, looking awkwarder than he’s ever seen them. They keep trading little glances.
“Do you guys need coffee?” Namjoon asks them, moving on autopilot to get some made.
When he turns around after starting the coffee, they stare at him. “What?”
“You have. Uh,” Taehyung motions to his own neck.
Namjoon slaps his hand over the spot on his neck. He tries to look down, and he can’t see it, but he remembers Jeongguk’s mouth pressed there. “Right. Okay.” That’s going to be a bitch to cover up for work.
When Jeongguk comes out of the bedroom, pulling his suitcase behind him, they don’t have much time until the three of them have to leave. He accepts the coffee Namjoon gives him, fixed the way he likes in a travel cup. His expression shutters when he catches sight of the purported hickey on Namjoon’s neck.
“Can you give us a minute?” he asks Jimin and Taehyung, voice a little scratchy, before they leave.
“Yeah. We’ll be downstairs.” Jimin grabs Jeongguk’s suitcase and Taehyung grabs his backpack. They leave quickly, taking Meri with them.
Jeongguk turns to Namjoon, and the moment he thought would be awkward is not so awkward; he hardly moves his arms before Jeongguk tucks himself into him, resting against him.
He pulls back just a little to look at Namjoon with his big, feeling eyes and say, “I’m glad it was you.”
Namjoon pulls him back into the hug, one hand on the back of his head. “I’m glad it was you.”
The way Jeongguk’s abdomen contracts lets Namjoon know he’s crying. He squeezes once around his waist and says, “You’re going to be okay, I promise.”
“Thank you for giving me strength,” Jeongguk says. He drops his arms and steps back. His nose is red.
Namjoon squeezes his upper arms and lets him go. He’s not sure what to say. None of it seems good enough, and he’s not sure if anything can squeeze past the unsanctioned I love you building in his throat.
“Goodbye, hyung,” Jeongguk says. He kisses Namjoon’s forehead, then his nose, then his lips.
“Goodbye,” Namjoon says.
The door shuts behind him and something in Namjoon’s chest comes untethered. Floats away.
HEY SO I PROMISE THEY WILL BE OK AND THE LAST CHAPTER IS GOING TO BE HAPPIER THAN YOU THINK IT IS I LOVE YOU ALL
also I read up on mpfl reconstruction but couldn't find very much specific information on what recovery looks like, just that it takes a long time, so please forgive the vague handwavy timeline stuff on that end
hey wow this is finished ?? !! ?! !!!!
this chapter took me some time and a lot of love. I think it's very healing and cathartic and the ending these boys deserve. I hope you feel the same!
also just want to add there is an instance where jk observes mild weight gain. it’s not a big moment but if you want more info/to skip that feel free to ask!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Namjoon and Jeongguk are in the same country for the first time in a year and a half and Namjoon is watching him on television.
The questions being thrown at him are things like, how do you feel about Kim Namjoon being here? are you and Kim Namjoon still together? have you spoken since your separation?
Jeongguk is visibly shaken. The attention is always hard for him, but this attention must be so much harder. He’s holding an ice pack that his fingers are visibly tight around. He clears his throat, eyes darting toward the camera. “Um,” he begins, “I don’t feel like my recent performances have been all they could’ve been. But I’m proud of the progress I’ve made since my injury. Thank you.”
And he leaves.
Namjoon’s heart is in his throat. He wants to apologize. He should’ve warned Jeongguk when he found out he was going to be here. If he’s honest with himself, he thought that maybe he could stay under the radar. It was a silly idea. Rumors have been flying about him and Jeongguk since the day Jeongguk left. Neither of them ever confirmed anything since legally they are still married, and now he realizes that’s probably why there’s such a frenzy over this.
He thinks he should probably text Jeongguk. He thinks he should have before. But every time he pulled up their text thread he was faced with the last conversation they had, months ago, this detached exchange of details about their divorce. Namjoon can’t stand to look at it.
He’s ready to suck it up and apologize, but before he does a text comes in.
Namjoon’s breath catches.
Yes, I’m so sorry. I should have given you a heads up
Jeongguk doesn’t respond to him. Five minutes passes, then ten, and Namjoon feels terrible. Then,
Can I see you
Namjoon is surprised. He expected Jeongguk to feel weird, maybe annoyed, that he’s here. Not to ask to see him.
Just let me know when
Where are you staying?
Namjoon sends him his hotel’s information. Jeongguk doesn’t respond for another several minutes.
Ok, be there in an hour or so
Panic shoots through Namjoon. He’d expected later, in a few days, once Jeongguk is done competing. Not now, not in one hour. He can’t read Jeongguk’s tone at all. He has no idea if he’s upset.
Namjoon waits what feels like forever for the knock at his hotel room door, like he’s stuck in a purgatory: being with Jeongguk, not being with Jeongguk. Then there it is, and then there is Jeongguk, standing in his doorway in track pants and a black t-shirt, hair cropped closer than the last time he saw him.
“Hey,” Namjoon says, trying not to stare at him too blatantly.
“Hey,” says Jeongguk and steps inside.
Namjoon reflexively takes a step back. Jeongguk shuts the door and then for a moment they just look at each other.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk says finally. “I don’t know why I asked to see you.”
“Did I psych you out?” Namjoon asks before he can consider the implications of the question.
Jeongguk licks his lips. “You psyched me out,” he agrees. He looks down. “I haven’t—I didn’t expect to see you. It’s been a long time.”
“A long time,” Namjoon repeats. “I’m sorry. I should’ve let you know I’d be here.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. He says, “You wouldn’t have thought.” But Namjoon did think. All day yesterday he thought.
“I’m sorry for psyching you out. Can I do anything?”
“No,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head, looking very serious. Then, “Yeah. Um. Can I have a hug?”
Namjoon is taken back, more than a year ago. ‘Would you kiss me?’ he hears Jeongguk asking him. ‘Yeah, sweetheart,’ he hears himself saying back. Today is worlds different, but none. “Of course,” he says and opens his arms.
So many things in Namjoon seem to deflate when Jeongguk tucks himself into his arms. He closes his eyes tight for a moment, not sure how long this hug is going to last at first. But Jeongguk leans into him so much, and Namjoon puts his hand on the back of his head as he rests his chin on his shoulder.
“You’re doing so well,” he tells Jeongguk. “You’re doing so well. I knew you would be okay.” Before he finishes he feels the tears hit his neck. “You’re so strong,” he says. He can’t seem to control his mouth, but Jeongguk is crying, so he doesn’t know what he expected. “You’re so good. I’m so,” he breathes out the breath the word proud wanted to take, and finishes instead with “happy. I’m so happy for you.”
Jeongguk pulls back and wipes at his eyes. “Thank you,” he says a little brokenly. “God. Okay. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I wanted from you, I just.” He looks down, and if Namjoon knows anything, he thinks that the way Jeongguk looks right now he is asking not to be alone.
“It’s late,” Namjoon says. “And you compete all day tomorrow.” He doesn’t realize until after he says it that it sounds like he’s telling Jeongguk to leave.
Jeongguk looks down. “I mean, yeah,” he says, and then his words hover. He looks up at Namjoon with vulnerable eyes.
“Can I,” he begins.
“Do you want to,” Namjoon says. The question in his mouth is unbearably awkward.
“...stay here tonight?”
Namjoon regards him. “Are you sure?” he asks, even though that was the end of his question, too. “People probably know you’re here. Might be a story.”
Jeongguk shrugs. “It’s all a story.”
“You can stay,” Namjoon says. “Of course you can stay.”
They order room service for a late dinner and Jeongguk takes a long, long shower while they wait.
“I haven’t been sleeping well,” he tells Namjoon when he comes out of the bathroom to start picking at the food. “In the Olympic Village.”
Namjoon smiles crookedly at him. “Only you, Jeongguk-ah. Olympic Village or someone else’s hotel room.”
“It’s not the same this time,” Jeongguk says quietly. “I was kind of scared in Rio. But this is different. This is way scarier. It’s not fun this time.”
“I’m sorry,” says Namjoon, feeling that closely. He wants to protect him from everything he feels like he has to be scared of.
“It’s okay,” Jeongguk says. “It’s almost over. Then back home.”
Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “Really? Seoul?”
“Mhm. I need to find somewhere to live, though. Jimin and Taehyung tell me I can stay with them until I do, but you know.” He shrugs. “They’re getting married.”
Namjoon does know. “And Seokjin. He moved in with Yoongi and Hoseok.”
Namjoon does it before he can check himself. He licks his lips and says, “Jeongguk-ah, you know... you know I won’t be back for a month or so. The apartment is empty. You should stay there.”
Jeongguk doesn’t hide his surprise. “The... apartment?”
“Yeah. Same place. Same code. It’s all yours, if you want.”
Jeongguk hesitates. Namjoon expects to have to argue with him, tell him it’s not a big deal, but he doesn’t. Jeongguk says, “Yeah. Okay. I’ll just... have to find a place before you come back.”
The thing is, Namjoon really wasn’t angling for this. But then again, maybe he was.
“No big deal,” he says, forced casual. “It wouldn’t bother me if you... if you needed to stay a little extra.” If you were still there when I got back.
He’s not sure if he imagines the way Jeongguk’s mouth twitches into a little smile. Jeongguk’s looking at his lap, so maybe. Maybe not. “Okay, hyung. I’ll stay in the apartment, yeah. Take the dog home.”
Namjoon’s heart does a horrible tumble. “Oh,” he says, wounded.
Jeongguk smiles. “You miss her?”
“Yeah.” It’s kind of embarrassing that Namjoon’s eyes are pricking with tears at the thought of their dog—of Jeongguk’s dog.
“You can see her whenever,” Jeongguk says. He leans back and stretches his legs out in front of him. “Whether we... whether I’m still staying in the apartment or not.” He says it carefully, and he doesn’t look at Namjoon. He’s extending friendship, Namjoon thinks. It’s a relief, the kind that nearly chokes him, that Jeongguk wants Namjoon to be in his life.
“I would love to,” he says.
“I wanted to see you, hyung,” Jeongguk says, leaning back against the bed. “I wouldn’t have picked now—”
“Sorry,” Namjoon says, wrinkling his nose.
“Shh. I wouldn’t have picked now, but I wanted to see you. I wanted to see how you’ve been.”
If that’s a question, Namjoon isn’t sure how to answer it. He doesn’t know where to begin with how have you been. He answered it to his sister, a few weeks ago, and he can’t even remember what he said, just that she didn’t buy it.
He can make up some bullshit about how hard it’s been for him to get used to being away from his parents’ company, but it really hasn’t. He feels like he’s been living, and learning and growing, more than he ever did before since the moment he walked out of that building for the last time.
But the other part of that truth is that it took him a long time to work through his feelings for Jeongguk. He doesn’t say that. He wouldn’t. Maybe someday he can tell Jeongguk that—that he loved him, that he wanted him, that it took him way longer than he expected to get over him—but not in Tokyo, not at the Olympics, not with Jeongguk sitting on his hotel bed and looking like he just needs comfort.
“I’ve been okay,” he settles on. “How about you?”
“Okay,” Jeongguk repeats and studies him. “Okay,” he says again. “Then where have you been? It’s not Seoul, so where?”
“Ah,” Namjoon acknowledges. He settles back, next to Jeongguk. “I’ve been here, for a while. Not Tokyo. Nagoya, mostly. Brushing up on my Japanese.”
“Do you like it here?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says, which is true. He likes Japan just fine. “But I miss home.”
Jeongguk shifts to look at him better. “So do I.”
I miss home holds a lot for Namjoon. Maybe more than for Jeongguk; he can’t tell. For him I miss home feels like I miss my apartment; I miss my dog; I miss my husband. He only has one of those things now, and he has no right to miss the others.
Suddenly the idea of going home and living alone in his apartment feels like it could choke him. He wants to say ‘don’t move out, don’t move out, don’t move out,’ but he can’t.
The thing that brings him back is Jeongguk’s hand on his arm. “I can’t wait to be home,” he says earnestly, and Namjoon won’t ask, but he thinks he hears I miss you, too.
“I should apologize,” Jeongguk says after they finish eating.
Namjoon hums. “What for?”
“I used you to make myself feel better. I asked for things I had no business asking for.”
Namjoon goes cold as he realizes Jeongguk is talking about sex.
He thinks of himself, ass up, on his hands and knees for this boy, this boy who’s so incredibly good and has worked so hard. He thinks of Jeongguk’s forehead pressed to his spine, his hands running tirelessly over his body. He thinks of being turned over, Jeongguk looking strong and powerful, propped on his elbows above him. His labored breaths into Namjoon’s neck—him after, leaning back on his hands, naked and flushed and beautiful.
Namjoon shakes his head. He feels his mouth press into a line. “You didn’t ask me for anything I didn’t want, too.”
Jeongguk’s expression shutters at that. “Okay,” he says. He looks down and his ears are pink, and that’s how Namjoon knows he’s remembering it, too. He wonders what Jeongguk’s memories of it look like.
They settle in to go to bed around ten. Namjoon’s just barely ready to go to sleep; he didn’t wake up as early as Jeongguk must have, but the day has exhausted him with worry.
This bed is smaller than the one at the apartment. It’s almost comforting, that even though Namjoon and Jeongguk will not sleep touching each other, Jeongguk will be close enough for Namjoon to feel his presence.
They go to bed curled in each other’s directions, like they used to, when they weren’t spooning or when Jeongguk wasn’t lying against Namjoon’s chest.
And time passes. Jeongguk’s breathing doesn’t even out.
“You’re awake, aren’t you?” Namjoon asks after a while. He doesn’t know how long it’s been; it just feels like time is passing interminably. An hour, maybe more.
Jeongguk draws in a breath so deep Namjoon can see his chest rise with it even in the dark. “Yeah,” he says. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Namjoon says. “Can I do anything?”
“You can try,” says Jeongguk, and that doesn’t really mean anything to Namjoon until Jeongguk is rolling over with his back to Namjoon and reaching back for his arm. He takes him by the wrist and pulls his arm across his own waist.
Namjoon holds his breath. His heart rate picks up. Jeongguk wiggles back until his back is pressed to Namjoon’s chest.
It’s this moment, Namjoon thinks, that answers the questions that have been tumbling through his head since Jeongguk texted him. What does he feel for Jeongguk? Does it end with wanting to protect him and comfort him? Has he really worked through all the love that was growing in his heart when Jeongguk left?
It seems like what he feels doesn’t end with wanting to protect him—doesn’t end, period. Doesn’t end, doesn’t end, doesn’t end. Because right now Namjoon wants to press his lips to the back of Jeongguk’s neck, wants to turn him over and press him into the bed and kiss him, deep and slow, until they both get too sleepy to carry on. He wants to be there tomorrow; he wants to be the person Jeongguk goes to hold hands with and be held by, no matter what happens.
It’s scary how much he feels still, a year and a half after accepting that he was going to have to move on. There was a time, late last year, when he thought he might be ready to try things in a new relationship—something new, faraway and different from anything he’d done before, when he was under his parents’ thumbs. But he was wrong, and he realized it ungracefully when his impulse was suddenly to pull all the way back. And he crashed back down, alone again to process through his emotional unavailability.
It took him a long time to feel like he wasn’t hung up on Jeongguk anymore. And okay, maybe he didn’t think enough about how it would affect him to see Jeongguk here, choosing to defer to how he might knock Jeongguk off-kilter. And okay, maybe he wasn’t exactly being careful with himself when he told Jeongguk he could stay in the apartment.
And yeah. There’s a warm, ticklish thing blooming in his chest. He reaches up to brush Jeongguk’s hair back from his forehead. It’s a motion he knows. He’s done it before, every time he’s spooned Jeongguk, really, in that period of a month or two that they were doing that. He pets his fingers through his hair and smooths his hand over his forehead.
Namjoon almost thinks he’s imagining it when he hears, softly, “I missed you.”
He tilts his head forward and rests his forehead against the back of Jeongguk’s neck. “I missed you too,” he says, and the emotions come flooding in. God, he missed Jeongguk. He feels like something in him has been tugged on, something rubber that’s ready to snap. Everything feels too much, deep and languid and aching. If Namjoon moves he thinks he will end up doing something he’ll regret, giving himself away. So he doesn’t move.
Jeongguk relaxes back into him. It’s comfortable. It’s so good. Namjoon feels, briefly, like he’s allowed to protect Jeongguk, even just like this.
When he wakes up, neither of them have moved.
“Are you awake?” Jeongguk murmurs, covering Namjoon’s hand with his own where it’s pressed to his chest.
“I need to eat and get back.”
Namjoon gives in to the urge to bury his nose in Jeongguk’s hair. “Okay. Just order some food. I’ll get you a car.”
“Are you coming with me?” Jeongguk squeezes his hand.
Namjoon pauses. He gives his brain a moment to wake up before answering. “Not yet. But I’ll see you later, if that’s okay with you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jeongguk breathes.
“Sure,” Namjoon agrees. He lies still and quiet, just feeling Jeongguk breathe against him. A year and a half ago they were kissing each other awake. Jeongguk was lying content in Namjoon’s arms. Namjoon was in love.
“You can sit with Seokjin, probably.”
“People are going to talk,” Namjoon reminds him.
“I know,” Jeongguk says. “We’ll be a story whether we’re seen near each other or not, hyung. We both know that.” He turns over. He reaches out and traces his fingers over Namjoon’s jaw.
Namjoon holds his breath.
“I want you there.” Jeongguk withdraws his hand and turns abruptly onto his back. “Thanks for letting me stay with you.”
Namjoon hums. “Of course. You sleep okay?”
“Better than I have in a long time.” Jeongguk’s voice sounds distant, like he’s lost in thought.
“Good.” Namjoon sits up. He pats Jeongguk’s thigh. “I’m going to take a shower. Order some food, yeah? And get coffee, too.”
He looks back to see Jeongguk’s nod and gets distracted, dragging his eyes over his stretched out figure. His hair is messy. He looks sleepy. “Thanks, hyung.”
Namjoon showers and they get ready slowly, picking at the food Jeongguk orders and moving around each other comfortably. It’s still early when Namjoon walks Jeongguk downstairs. He was right; they were both right. There are cameras pointed in their direction. It’s not a surprise.
“See you later,” Jeongguk breathes his way before he gets in the car.
“See you,” Namjoon agrees. His heart is in his throat with that promise, that see you that both of them mean.
Jeongguk gets in the car and a knot unties itself in Namjoon that he didn’t know was there.
He gets to the stadium a couple hours later and spends a while looking for Seokjin. He catches sight of him after what must be at least ten minutes and goes to join him.
“Hey, hyung,” he says mildly before Seokjin notices him.
Seokjin looks up. “Namjoon-ah,” he squawks. “Hey. You’re here.”
“Yeah. Jeongguk said I could sit with you.” Namjoon finds his face smushed to Seokjin’s shoulder.
“How are you? You talked to him? Jimin said he disappeared yesterday evening. Was he with you?”
“Nngh,” Namjoon grunts. “Fine. Yes, and yes.”
Seokjin holds him back by the shoulders. “You slept with him?”
Namjoon frowns. “Yeah?” Then his eyes bug out. “Oh. Oh, god, no. He just slept in my room, hyung.”
“That’s not... that’s not weird for you?”
“We were married. We slept in the same bed every night for months.” Namjoon knows he’s not really answering Seokjin’s question. He doesn’t plan to.
“If you say so,” Seokjin says. His tone is passive-aggressive enough that Namjoon has to stop himself from rolling his eyes.
They sit there in silence for a moment, before Namjoon asks, “How’s the new apartment?”
Seokjin flushes. This story is a long one, one Namjoon only knows the bare bones of. He knows that way back when, Hoseok told Yoongi he didn’t want to have an anniversary party because he didn’t want Seokjin to feel left out, not when they wanted to have something more than just sex with him. He knows Seokjin found out, got defensive, and fought Hoseok about it.
He knows Yoongi made them talk, and Yoongi delivered open feelings to Seokjin, and since then they’ve been slowly coming together. Together enough that they found a new apartment, big enough for a dog, and big enough for Seokjin, too. Together enough that... they live together. That’s still weird for Namjoon. Good, of course, but weird.
“It’s good,” Seokjin says. Namjoon thinks that’s all he’s going to end up getting, so he lets it go. “You looking forward to being home?” Seokjin asks him then, and Namjoon has to bite down on an impulse to tell him he offered for Jeongguk to live in the apartment.
It feels more reckless in the daylight. When he thinks about it, he can’t believe he said it so easily. He can’t believe how bold he was, saying it’s okay if we live together again. He doesn’t know what made him so brave.
“Yeah,” he says. A short answer, like Seokjin’s.
Taehyung finds them then. Namjoon wasn’t expecting to see him, but he’s gladder to than he realized he would be.
“Hyung,” Taehyung says, eyes lighting in surprise. “Hey!” He gives Namjoon a quick hug, then something that’s not quite a frown. “Were you... with Jeongguk last night?”
“Um,” says Namjoon. “Yeah.” This is strange and uncomfortable. He keeps feeling like he’s being judged.
Taehyung nods and looks serious, but maybe it’s just for the competition starting soon.
“He said he was feeling better today than he has been this whole time,” Taehyung tells him before Jeongguk’s first match. “He was really nervous.”
Namjoon isn’t surprised. Jeongguk has been through so much since his first Olympics. If it’s spending the night with Namjoon that helped ease his nerves, Namjoon isn’t going to begrudge him that. He’s glad for it, and somewhere in there, selfishly, there’s relief that he can still be someone who helps Jeongguk.
Jeongguk makes it to the finals. His first opponent psyched him out at first, but his quick movements stopped catching Jeongguk off guard after a minute or so. Jeongguk’s light on his feet, and a lot of the time Namjoon doesn’t see his movements coming. His second opponent grabbed at him a lot and lost points for hesitating too much. In his head, Namjoon could see the way Jeongguk’s jaw must be tensing.
Taehyung disappears after the semifinals and Namjoon doesn’t see him again until right before the finals, with Jimin, who doesn’t speak to Namjoon, just gives him a cold look. Namjoon and Seokjin eat together, a little, but as time goes on Namjoon’s more and more nervous for Jeongguk.
He ends up taking silver. He loses just barely to an Italian a little younger than him. He fights well. He looks proud and tired on the podium.
Namjoon sees him that night, just for a second. He’s with Jimin and his eyes are wet, and he ignores everything around him and comes to hug Namjoon. People take photos. Namjoon doesn’t care.
Namjoon has to leave Tokyo before the closing ceremony, so he doesn’t see Jeongguk again. He doesn’t hear from him until several days later, when he calls to talk for just a few minutes to make sure Namjoon is really okay with him staying in the apartment.
Jimin and Taehyung have found a new place, Jeongguk tells him, and they say he’s welcome to stay but he knows they’re ready to christen every flat surface and he’s not looking to be traumatized like that again. Namjoon doesn’t know what the again means, and he’s not sure he wants to.
So Namjoon tells him to go ahead and stay there. As time passes, he gets a little frantic with the idea that Jeongguk could have found a place to live before he gets home. He wants so badly for him to live in the apartment. He feels vaguely helpless with the want for it.
A week out, he gives in and texts Jeongguk.
Hey, I’m back in a week. What’s up?
Hyung... I’m so sorry keke
I haven’t done enough looking... I’m still here
Is it okay?
Namjoon lets out a long breath.
Of course! I’ll see you Saturday then
Saturday comes quick. Namjoon’s flight runs early, and before he knows it he’s in a cab on his way back to his apartment, for the first time in seven months, and to Jeongguk , for the first time in a year and a half.
He opens the door holding his breath. The apartment is silent. He thought Jeongguk would be here, Jeongguk and Meri. He pulls his suitcase into the bedroom, pushing open the door, and—there’s Jeongguk, curled up on the bed, hugging a pillow to his chest.
Namjoon leaves his suitcase by the door and approaches the bed quietly. Jeongguk looks so lovely and sweet asleep. Namjoon had almost forgotten. He sits on the edge of the bed to look at him, not sure whether or not he should wake him up. He wonders where Meri is.
In the end he doesn’t have to wake Jeongguk up. He stirs on his own, looks up at Namjoon.
“Hyung,” he exclaims, and sits up abruptly. He nearly leaps at Namjoon, throwing himself at him and tackling him onto the bed.
“Hi, hi,” Namjoon laughs breathlessly. His hand comes up to Jeongguk’s back.
“You’re early!” Jeongguk exclaims. He holds himself up over Namjoon, enough to see him. “Right? I wasn’t just asleep forever?”
Namjoon laughs. “I’m early. Hi,” he says again, realizing that Jeongguk’s chest is hovering over his, their lower bodies pressed together.
“Hey.” Jeongguk grins. He rolls back off Namjoon and sits up. “Come here! I think the dog is in your office.”
Namjoon sputters. “She what?”
“Yeah, she keeps sleeping there. She’s waiting for you, I think.”
“What? No she’s not. No way she remembers me.”
“Come here,” Jeongguk repeats. He grabs his hand and tugs him off the bed, into the other room. “Baby,” he calls. “Meri, baby!”
A second later she comes trotting out of Namjoon’s office, just like Jeongguk said. She barks once, loudly, and Namjoon realizes he’s only heard her bark a handful of times. She beelines for him, jumping up to paw at him and whining high and loud.
Jeongguk hits him on the arm. “She’s crying, hyung.”
Namjoon’s eyes fill with tears. He remembers the night before Jeongguk left, before they took each other to bed and touched each other. Sitting in the grass, burying his face in Meri’s neck. Now he drops to the floor to hug her. She tries to climb on his lap, still whining. “Hi baby,” Namjoon chokes out, trying to hold her wriggling body still.
He’s embarrassed to cry in front of Jeongguk, embarrassed especially to cry over the dog, but anyway he lets out a punched sound, somewhere between a sob and a laugh, and lets Meri climb all over him.
“You guys hang out,” Jeongguk says. It seems like he’s purposely ignoring how emotional Namjoon is. “Do you want coffee? Was your flight early? How hungry are you?”
Namjoon can’t help laughing. He feels some strange mixture of fond and longing. Jeongguk has so much to say, so much to ask. “I’d love some coffee. And yeah, I could eat.”
“Okay.” Jeongguk beams at him. He leaves them into the living room and disappears to get things ready in the kitchen.
Unprompted, Namjoon’s eyes fill with tears again. Possibly he didn’t realize the way it could hurt to hear Jeongguk moving around in the kitchen and have a lapful of dog. This is where you fell in love with him, he reminds himself.
It feels good, though, too. To come home and not be alone. Namjoon dries his eyes and hugs the dog close, then gets up to go in the kitchen.
“You need help?” he asks Jeongguk, and it’s embarrassingly croaky. He clears his throat.
“Nope! Here, coffee.” Jeongguk hands him a cup and turns around to lean against the counter. Namjoon imagines setting the cup down and moving forward, leaning in and pressing him back against the counter, kissing him deep and slow. If he concentrates his mind can conjure the sounds Jeongguk makes, the soft little ones in his throat.
He has to catch his breath. “Thank you,” he says.
“Sure!” Jeongguk’s eyes are bright as he moves into the living room. Namjoon trails behind him and follows as he sits down on the couch.
It’s funny—this time it kind of feels like Jeongguk is the one who lives here, and Namjoon is the one being made comfortable.
“How was your flight?” Jeongguk asks. He sits leaning one side against the back of the couch, knees pulled up to his chest. He’s close enough that when he lays one arm over the couch cushions, his hand settles comfortably on Namjoon’s shoulder.
“It was good,” Namjoon manages, trying to convince himself his heart is not really in his throat. He looks around the living room. “Hey, you—wow.”
The changes are small; the living room has always been this comfortable, but it used to be a little barer. Jeongguk has a couple plants by the windows, little written notes taped up above them (water 3x a week, Namjoon can barely make out from here), and on the walls are a few drawings and paintings. He recognizes a few of them, ones that used to be hung on the wall upstairs. He’s a little embarrassed to realize he never went into the loft after Jeongguk left. He doesn’t know if these are things he took with him or not.
Then—on the wall by the bedroom door, the one Jeongguk was working on when he was hurt. The one of Namjoon with Meri.
“Is that okay?” Jeongguk asks hesitantly. He seems to steel himself for something. “I mean. I know I’m only here temporarily, but I—”
Namjoon’s eyes widen. “Oh my god,” he exclaims. “The bed.”
Jeongguk looks at him, eyebrows furrowed. “What?”
“I forgot,” Namjoon groans. He hides his eyes, embarrassed. “I’m. Wow. I forgot there’s only one bed here. I’m so sorry.”
Jeongguk’s lips part. “Um.” His ears are bright red. Namjoon feels terrible. He didn’t mean to put Jeongguk in an uncomfortable position again. He thought he was done putting Jeongguk in uncomfortable positions.
“God. I’m so sorry. I can sleep upstairs for now, Jeongguk-ah.”
Something shadows Jeongguk’s expression. “Oh.” He drops his legs and sits on the couch normally, feet on the ground. Meri comes over to lie on them. “Hyung, it’s really okay.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Namjoon assures him. He hates that Jeongguk ever slept on the couch. He’s not going to ask it of him again.
“Hey,” Jeongguk says. He looks at the floor. “I mean. We used to sleep in the same bed all the time. I could... um. I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. But if you would...?”
Namjoon goes still. He really hadn’t thought of this. After the night they spent together in Tokyo, he thought sleeping together was too much. But he supposes Jeongguk must not have been affected by it like he was. Namjoon, after all, was the one with the feelings in the first place.
“I just.” Jeongguk clears his throat. “I don’t mind sharing beds.” His cheeks are pink.
Namjoon gets it. Jeongguk showed him before, when they were married, how he likes touch. He likes closeness. He likes to be near to people he’s friends with, and for better or for worse, Namjoon is his friend.
“No,” he says. It’s delayed. “I mean, I don’t mind either. Yeah, it’s fine. We can do that.” He shuts his mouth before he can start babbling.
“Okay.” Jeongguk looks embarrassed. Maybe for asking for physical touch.
Namjoon decides he needs to let him know it’s okay. He leans over and wraps his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders.
Jeongguk leans into him and lets out a slow breath. “I’m happy to see you,” he says quietly. “I don’t like being alone.”
Namjoon thinks about that. He spent a month here by himself after Jeongguk left. Jeongguk spent a month here by himself before he got back. And the whole time between, they were both alone. He didn’t like it, either. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m glad you’re here.”
Jeongguk tips his head onto Namjoon’s shoulder, and a countdown starts. Five. Four. Three. Two.
Jeongguk sits up. “I’m going to take Meri for a walk,” he says. “Do you want to come?”
Namjoon kind of wants to take a nap. Then he remembers, so many walks, so many conversations. “Yeah, I’ll come,” he says.
That night they slide in bed together and it’s easy. It feels more like coming home than coming home ever has. Namjoon lies on his back, breathing in his bed, his bedroom, Jeongguk. His hand is resting on his stomach. Jeongguk reaches over and touches it.
It takes Namjoon a second to know what he’s getting at. But his thumb drags over Namjoon’s left ring finger, and—catches on his wedding band.
Namjoon tenses. His heart thuds like he’s been caught out. Maybe he has been. He doesn’t think about the wedding band anymore. He never made a conscious decision to leave it on. Just a lot of subconscious decisions not to take it off.
But Jeongguk doesn’t say anything. He just takes his hand back and reaches over to turn out the light.
The day after Namjoon gets home, he and Jeongguk go out for dinner.
They spent most of the day in the house, except for when they took Meri out. It was this strange, easy companionable quiet that mirrors the time they spent living together, but not quite. Something freer, if Namjoon had to put a name on it. But they drag themselves out for dinner, knowing they’ll end up being a story, not really caring anymore.
“It’s been a really long time,” Namjoon says when they’ve got their food. “Tell me about the last year and a half. How was recovery? Physical therapy?”
“It was really hard,” Jeongguk says. His eyes are honest. “Not just the physical stuff. I was really lonely. I met some new people, but mostly it was just me and Meri.”
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says softly.
“It’s okay. I made it. I’m better. My quads are killer, just so you know.”
Namjoon laughs. “Yeah, I know. Are you glad to be back here?”
“Yeah. I missed home a lot. I missed... yeah.” Jeongguk looks like there’s more he wants to say, but he doesn’t.
“Have you spent much time with your family?” Namjoon hesitates in asking it. But Jeongguk’s family always affected his head.
Jeongguk’s smile goes wry. “No. I’ve seen my parents a handful of times over the last year and a half. It is what it is. I have Jimin and Taehyung.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees. But he dwells on that a little. It’s sad, he thinks, that neither he nor Jeongguk has a family to go to. “What are you doing now?” he asks. “You haven’t said anything about training.”
“Right. I’ve been taking some time off. Going in, but not every day. I’m...” Jeongguk hesitates, clearly wrestling with how to say what he wants to say next. “I’m considering whether or not I’m going to go back to competing.”
Namjoon’s breath catches. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Jeongguk’s tone and expression say he’s not prepared to talk about this more, so Namjoon doesn’t push it. It must be a heavy point of discussion for him. After all, he has been defined by taekwondo for a long time.
Namjoon wants to say something, something like who you are isn’t tied to taekwondo or you’re worth the entire world no matter what you decide. But he’s not quick enough to figure out how to phrase what he wants to say, and before he can Jeongguk is asking him about his time in Japan.
Namjoon isn’t sure if he’s making it up, but he feels like there’s a warm breeze blowing through the whole apartment that evening. The summer sun is up long and everything is brighter than usual. Meri presses close to him and he and Jeongguk eat and laugh and talk happily.
They brush their teeth in the bathroom together. They go to bed together, facing each other, and it’s like Tokyo but better. It’s like Tokyo, but in a bed it feels like they both belong in, without the nerves that rattled him that night. Namjoon has a hard time getting it to stick in his head that Jeongguk is here, Jeongguk is so close he could reach out and touch him at any moment.
But he is. Before they go to sleep he reaches out and touches Namjoon’s arm and smiles at him.
The first few days of cohabitating again, Jeongguk talks a lot. He chatters like Namjoon has never known him to. He talks about anything and everything—anecdotes from when he was away or from earlier in his day, something he read online, his opinion on something Namjoon has brought up. It makes Namjoon think he has spent too much time without anyone to really talk to.
Jeongguk is talkative, and he’s also smiley. Sometimes Namjoon looks over at him and he just smiles, like he’s so happy to be there. It’s horribly endearing.
At first Namjoon thinks Jeongguk must soon want to move out and be on his own, get on with his life. He doesn’t want that; he just thinks Jeongguk must.
But the truth, as he comes to know it, is that both of them are kind of alone, more now even than when they first got married. They have their friends, yeah, but they don’t have their families. Worse—they were so close, once, to being each other’s family.
They both settle easily into the feeling of having someone to be with. For Namjoon, it mirrors the way he came to like Jeongguk, came to like being with Jeongguk, but ten times the speed. It feels like relief, and distantly he knows he’s setting himself up to be hurt more later. He’s letting himself slide too easily back into the artificial warmth of being wanted.
It would be easier to deal with if he didn’t have to talk about it, but it doesn’t slide. Seokjin calls him out on it.
“What are you doing?” he asks lowly. His mouth is too close to Namjoon’s ear. He cringes away.
“Wow, ew, don’t do that.”
“Don’t be rude.” Seokjin flicks him on the temple.
Fourth-wheeling is weird, but it’s Namjoon’s game now, apparently. Across the table, Yoongi and Hoseok are scrolling through something on Yoongi’s phone. Most of the evening Seokjin has been watching them with this distracted fondness, which has just been terrible for Namjoon to experience. Seokjin’s fondness is different than anyone else’s fondness.
“What are you trying to ask me, hyung?”
“Jeongguk,” Seokjin says.
When Seokjin started bugging Namjoon to come out with them, they had a brief conversation about whether Jeongguk should come. Maybe Jimin and Taehyung. But it felt too strange. It felt too much like before. Something that didn’t belong to Namjoon.
“What are you asking?” Namjoon says again, more wary already.
“Are you watching out for yourself, Namjoon-ah?”
Namjoon doesn’t know how to answer that. “I don’t know what you mean,” he says finally. He might even believe, for a second, that he doesn’t understand Seokjin’s question.
“You told me you loved him,” Seokjin says. No ceremony to it. Just facts.
“It’s been a year and a half,” says Namjoon distantly.
“And I know how you were after he left.”
That’s the annoying thing about not only his two best friends being in a relationship, but all three of them. They have annoying, heartfelt conversations about Namjoon’s mental and emotional state. Hoseok spent the most time with Namjoon of all of them in the month he was still in Seoul following their separation. For a while Namjoon had assumed it was because he was the least busy, but now he thinks it’s because Yoongi and Seokjin and Hoseok had decided together that he was best equipped to deal with Namjoon and his feelings. But regardless, whatever he was thinking or feeling when he was working through his feelings about Jeongguk and marriage and being separated, at least one of the three of them knew about it.
So yeah, annoying.
“It’s fine, hyung,” Namjoon says. “I’m fine.”
Yoongi and Hoseok are watching them now. Namjoon tries not to get annoyed.
“Are you watching out for yourself?”
Namjoon is not. He doesn’t think he can live with Jeongguk and not be in love with him again. But he feels a little reckless. Having Jeongguk now and being hurt later is better than never having him at all. Sometimes he’s dismayed at the dramatic thoughts he has, but this one he means.
“Don’t worry about me,” Namjoon says. “I’m... doing fine.” He was going to finish with doing what I want. But he thinks that might have gotten him a lecture.
“How is Jeongguk?” Yoongi asks. His eyes dart to Seokjin, and Seokjin sits back, looking almost defeated. Namjoon shakes his head in something like disbelief. He can’t believe Yoongi and Seokjin are having eye conversations now.
“He seems good,” Namjoon says. “He said he had a hard time with recovery, but his knee’s as good as new.” ‘My quads are killer,’ he hears in Jeongguk’s voice. He smiles to himself.
“That’s great,” Yoongi says mildly. He hands over the meat he was grilling to Hoseok.
“Yeah.” There are a lot of things Namjoon could say. I like living with him. We get along. We’re comfortable with each other, still. Worse, more difficult —we spent the night together in Tokyo. It was good, it was too good. I told him to move in. I told him to stay. I wanted this, I want this.
Thankfully he doesn’t have to say anything. Hoseok pulls out his phone to show Namjoon photos of their new apartment, the one all three of them live in together. “We’re getting a dog,” he says.
“Really? I thought Yoongi didn’t like dogs.”
Yoongi frowns and pouts his lips. Hoseok laughs, slinging an arm around his neck, and when Namjoon turns to look at him, Seokjin is watching them with sparkling eyes. They’re happy, Namjoon realizes. They’re really happy.
“So this place you’re starting at,” Jeongguk says. “It’s a nonprofit?”
“Mm.” They’re barefoot, in shorts and t-shirts, moving around each other in the kitchen to get a late lunch ready on the last Sunday before Namjoon starts work.
“And you’re doing finances.”
“Right.” Namjoon tries to discreetly toss Meri a bite of meat, but Jeongguk catches it and makes a tch sound at him, flicking a dish towel his way.
“How do you feel?”
Namjoon considers. “Kind of nervous, actually,” he tells Jeongguk. “I’ve never really had to start a new job.”
“It’ll be good,” Jeongguk says. “You like helping people.”
“Sure,” Namjoon agrees. “But I kind of have a reputation. I’m nervous these people might have ideas about what I’m like.”
“Oh, this LGBTQ+ resource center has ideas about a CEO’s kid who married a man and left his family’s company, hmm?”
Namjoon’s not sure exactly how that makes him feel, but he supposes Jeongguk is right. “Okay, that’s fair.”
“Mhm.” Jeongguk’s hand brushes his back as he moves around him, but he drops it right away.
They’ve both been doing this same thing, leaning toward each other, touching without realizing it, then pulling back. Impulses left over from before.
“Is there anything you want tomorrow? To eat, I mean,” Jeongguk says. “I’ll stop by the store.”
“Oh. I’ll give you grocery money?” Namjoon says unsurely. Before, Jeongguk had a card—Namjoon’s money, for things like groceries. He’s not sure where the boundaries are now that Jeongguk isn’t supposed to be his husband anymore.
“No you won’t.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes at him. “I’m not a freeloader. Plus someone needs to make sure you’re eating real food. I’ll get the groceries.”
“Okay,” Namjoon agrees. It seems sensible. Maybe... maybe they’d talk about rent if Jeongguk were staying longer than—well, however long he’s staying. But he keeps saying he’ll move out soon. Namjoon’s not looking forward to it.
“So, dinner tomorrow?” Jeongguk prompts.
Things relax into something normal quicker than Namjoon expected. It’s not a familiar normal, or the one he expected—it doesn’t mirror the comfortable yet emotionally distant normal of before. It’s something different, and something more.
They live well together. They did before, but they do more, now. Jeongguk hesitates less and says what he’s thinking more. He tells Namjoon to pick up after himself, which is a little embarrassing, but Namjoon’s pleased.
They still brush around each other, still start to touch and stop themselves. Sometimes when it’s late, Jeongguk will join Namjoon in bed and they’ll move toward each other like they’re going to kiss, then pull back with murmured apologies. Having been married is part of what they are, and so many leftover things just won’t go away.
Namjoon comes home one afternoon, changes clothes, sits down on the bed for a second, and falls asleep without realizing it. He’s awakened some amount of time later by another body rolling onto the bed beside him.
“Hyung,” Jeongguk whispers loudly.
Namjoon opens his eyes. His head is fuzzy and tired. “Hey, sweetheart.” His eyes drift back shut, and his brain catches up. “Sorry,” he says. “I don’t know why I called you that.”
Jeongguk is looking at him. Just watching him. “You used to call me that. A lot.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees. Just a habit, he thinks.
“It’s nice.” Jeongguk sits up. “Do you want to get hotteok? That’s what I woke you up to ask.”
Namjoon sits up. “Oh, hell yeah.”
He still checks himself later when his body starts to gravitate toward Jeongguk like he’s going to try to hold him. But the next time sweetheart slips out, he lets it.
“Do you mind if Jimin and Taehyung come over later?” Jeongguk asks.
“Oh, not at all,” Namjoon says. He feels a little awkward about the idea of seeing Jimin after he was so cold to him in Tokyo, but he’s valued him ever since they started to become friends, so if things can be fixed there, he wants them to be. “I’m meeting Jiwoo for dinner, but I can at least say hi.”
He does get to say hi, and it’s not as awkward a he expected, but it’s close. Taehyung seems happy to see him, but Jimin is more withdrawn. Taehyung pinches his side when he thinks Namjoon’s not looking. He wonders what Jeongguk has told them.
When he leaves to meet Jiwoo, Jimin catches his eye in a glance that reads something like we’ll talk later. Namjoon tries to pretend it doesn’t make him nervous.
They do talk. Not a week later, Seokjin invites him over. Yoongi and Hoseok are out doing a married couple thing, he says, and Namjoon tries to read his voice for any trace of hurt, because he’s a fool who doesn’t know when he’s being played.
When he gets there, Seokjin calls him into the living room, a warm room with comfortable furniture. He’s handing Jimin a glass of whiskey.
“Oh, hi,” Jimin says flatly.
“Hi Jimin-ssi,” Namjoon says without meaning to, then feels embarrassed.
“Namjoon-ah, I totally forgot to get anything other than whiskey,” Seokjin says, and because Namjoon is a fool, he believes him. “Let me run and get some beer or something, yeah? Just down the street. You two catch up.”
He’s out the door before Namjoon can protest.
Namjoon opens his mouth to embarrass himself, probably to greet Jimin again awkwardly, but Jimin just holds up a finger. He sets his whiskey down and goes into the kitchen.
He comes back with a bottle of beer and a glass. He pours it for Namjoon.
“Son of a—” Namjoon bites his lip and shakes his head. “Well.” He sits down on the couch, across the coffee table from Jimin.
Jimin snorts. “I kind of have a problem with you right now,” he says. “He’s trying to mediate.”
“I know you have a problem with me. You want to tell me about it?”
Jimin leans forward with his elbows resting on his knees. “We talked about this, Kim Namjoon. It’s the first thing we ever talked about. I watch out for Jeongguk,” he points at himself, then Namjoon. “You watch out for Jeongguk.”
Namjoon’s at a loss for words. He wants to say I did watch out for Jeongguk, I am watching out for Jeongguk. “Um, yeah,” is what he says.
“You have to talk about how you feel,” Jimin tells him, loud and accusatory. “You were friends with benefits and you never talked about your feelings.”
“We weren’t—” Namjoon starts to defend himself, to say that they weren’t friends with benefits, but he can’t. They were. They were friends who kissed and touched and eventually had sex, but only just knew each other.
“You were.” Jimin finishes his drink and sets the glass down loudly on the table. It could be for dramatic effect, Namjoon isn’t sure. “I don’t know what you felt about him, but I know it was more than you ever let him know.”
Jimin’s taking no prisoners this evening. Namjoon crosses his arms and leans back. “If you want me to apologize for how I felt for him, it’s not going to happen.”
Jimin shakes his head. “You were dishonest, and you never thought about what that would do to him.”
Namjoon lets out a long breath. “I hear what you’re saying, Jimin-ah, and I get it, but I loved him. And I would have done anything for him. I did everything he asked for.”
“I think if you talked to him you would feel differently,” Jimin says. “And whatever this is now? This living together, ‘we’re technically still married but not really’ thing is not going to work.”
“We’re not doing anything. He just needs someplace to stay, and I should be watching out for him.”
Jimin studies him. “I want to agree with you,” he says. “But you know if you don’t change something you’re going to have to let him go.”
Namjoon doesn’t know what that means, and he isn’t sure he wants to. So he’s thankful when Seokjin gets back, breezing into the living room and pretending not to be caught out when he sees the beer in front of Namjoon.
Jimin texts him later that night.
Sorry. I know I was hard on you
I know you’re doing what you feel like is right
Please take care of him. And yourself too.
“What’s something you’ve always wanted?”
Namjoon looks over at Jeongguk. He’s sprawled over the foot of the bed, one arm resting over his head. Namjoon’s propped against the pillows, writing last minute notes for his morning meeting tomorrow. “What do you mean?”
“Just, like.” Jeongguk is holding a book on his chest. He lifts it up to look at it. “Is there anything you’ve wanted since you were... a kid? Or that you’ve wanted as long as you can remember?”
Namjoon considers. He isn’t sure how much he feels like he can tell Jeongguk. He decides not to hide anything. He sets his notes on the bedside table. “When I was younger,” he begins. “Through high school. And college, really. I just... wanted my dad to be proud of me.” He crosses his arms over his stomach.
Jeongguk makes a soft sound in his throat. He rolls onto his side.
“Or. Not even proud, I think,” Namjoon says. “Maybe just happy.” He takes in a long breath. “But I realized in college that he never would be. That... I just wasn’t ever going to be good enough for dad.”
“Ah, hyung,” Jeongguk says softly. There’s an apology in his voice. He reaches out, touches the top of Namjoon’s foot.
Namjoon shakes his head. “It’s okay. I came to terms with that before I came out a long time ago.” He’s quiet for a second. “He always wished Jiwoo were the boy, I think.”
“That’s terrible,” Jeongguk says.
“I know. But he sees her for who she is now, I think. She’s awfully good at what she does. Much better than I ever was.”
“She’s cool,” Jeongguk says. “She was always super nice to me.”
“She’s great,” Namjoon agrees. “She wouldn’t let me lose touch. She called me a lot the whole time I was gone.”
“Wish I had a sister,” Jeongguk says. “Or, family. You know.”
“Yeah.” Namjoon does know. He wishes he had family other than his parents. A brother or a sister who’d have stuck by him when he was hurt and used and sad. “Is that your thing?” he asks. “That you always wanted.”
“No. I wanted that more when I was younger.”
“What’s your thing?” Namjoon asks. “What did you always want?”
Jeongguk’s quiet for a long moment. “A husband and a dog,” he says finally.
Namjoon feels the wound of that right away. “Jeongguk-ah,” he says quietly. The apology in his voice is so loud.
“No, don’t apologize,” Jeongguk says. He puts his hand on Namjoon’s foot again. He slides it up to his ankle and squeezes. “It was good. You were always good.”
“Not enough,” Namjoon says. “It wasn’t what you want, was it? You want to be in love.”
Jeongguk hums. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like if we had decided to stay married?”
Namjoon is surprised at the question. “Well. Not really,” he says truthfully. “There was a time I thought we would be, for the foreseeable future. But I don’t think of it now. Why? Do you?”
Jeongguk sits up. He moves over to lean on the pillows, next to Namjoon. “Sometimes I do, yeah. Just how things would be different.”
Namjoon wonders if things would be all that different. Jeongguk didn’t touch him or kiss him after he was hurt, not until the night they had sex. If things had stayed like that, with Jeongguk pulling away and Namjoon living in this aching want, he thinks things wouldn’t be that different now. Worse, maybe. Harder.
“Sometimes I think about if we’d never been married at all,” he says. He thinks back a long time ago, to first meeting Jeongguk at dinner with Seokjin. How Seokjin told him later he was trying to set them up. He wonders about that a lot—wonders if they ever could have fallen in love that way. If things hadn’t gotten out of control with his family and landed them here.
“Do you wish that?” Jeongguk asks.
There’s a frown on Jeongguk’s face. Namjoon doesn’t know why until he realizes, feeling dense, that Jeongguk can’t see into his head. He can’t see Namjoon’s pitiful, in love heart wishing for a past and a future that might have happened, might not have.
“Okay,” Jeongguk says. “Well. I’m going to take a shower.” He gets up and goes into the bathroom.
“Jeongguk-ah, I don’t mean—” He’s in the bathroom before Namjoon can call out for him. For better or for worse. Namjoon’s not sure what he could have said. I wish I could have fallen in love with you on my own terms. I wish you could have loved me back.
Namjoon lies back against the pillows and blows out a long breath. Something’s got to give, he thinks. He didn’t think he was in danger of hurting anyone but himself, but now he realizes he never really took Jeongguk’s feelings into account.
They don’t return to the conversation where Namjoon doomed himself; they just get on with life. Jeongguk is gone some evenings when Namjoon gets home, out with Jimin and Taehyung or whoever, but a lot of evening’s he’s there, and he asks about Namjoon’s day, and they take the dog for a walk, and they talk.
“I’m going soft,” Jeongguk says through the open bathroom door one evening. “In the stomach.”
“I don’t believe you,” Namjoon calls back. He peeks his head through the door.
Jeongguk yelps and holds his shirt over his chest.
“I’ve seen your stomach before,” Namjoon huffs. Stomach and a lot more, but he doesn’t say so.
Jeongguk puts the shirt down and pinches his belly, right above his bellybutton. Namjoon smiles to himself; he’s telling the truth, there’s softness there now that he hasn’t seen before. The skin there is still so soft and smooth, and everything in Namjoon wants to touch him.
“Yeah. You’re right. It’s cute.”
“I’m not getting enough exercise,” Jeongguk complains. “Go to the gym with me.”
Namjoon scoffs. “That’s not happening.”
“Please?” Jeongguk pouts.
“No,” Namjoon says firmly. “But. I would consider biking with you. If you were into that.”
Jeongguk looks delighted. “Are you a biker, hyung?”
“I don’t hate biking. But you won’t get me to the gym anytime soon.”
“Nice,” Jeongguk grins. He pulls on his shirt, which is a little disappointing. Namjoon misses his soft belly right away.
They start biking together, a couple times a week, late in the evening. Half the time they end up stopping for food, and Jeongguk complains that they’re not actually doing his belly any good, but he seems pleased anyway.
They’re down by the Han River, eating ramen Jeongguk pretended to be reluctant about. Jeongguk says, “Hey. I’ve got a plus-one for Jimin and Taehyung’s wedding. They’ve been bugging me to invite you, so it’s yours, if you want it.” He clears his throat. “I couldn’t sit with you or anything, since I’m Jimin’s best man, but they—we’d really like for you to be there.”
Namjoon’s chest goes tingly. “I’d love to come,” he says. He misses a lot about Jimin and Taehyung. He especially misses the steady friendship he was starting to find in Jimin.
“Good,” Jeongguk says. “They’ll be happy.”
Taehyung and Jimin’s wedding is nothing like any of the weddings Namjoon has been to. Namjoon thought be reminded too much of his own wedding, and that might be hard, but he’s just not.
It’s outside, and things are worlds more casual than they were at his and Jeongguk’s wedding, or Yoongi and Hoseok’s. The ceremony is short, and there’s a small acoustic band. Namjoon sits with Yoongi and Hoseok and Seokjin, but Jeongguk finds him later. He looks beautiful, in his suit and the flower crown Jimin picked out for him.
Some people have trickled away, a lot have stayed to drink and dance. It’s a beautiful night.
“You want to dance?” Jeongguk asks as he approaches, a little smile playing at his mouth.
Namjoon huffs. “Why not?”
Jeongguk takes his hand and leads him onto the dance floor. They both reach up at the same time, reaching for each other’s shoulders.
They stop and laugh.
“Sorry,” Jeongguk apologizes. He looks a little bashful, but he takes Namjoon’s hands and places them on his waist. He winds his arms around Namjoon’s neck.
It’s strange, it’s different; they’re dancing like people who love each other. They didn’t even dance like this at their own wedding.
“What do you think?” Jeongguk asks.
He shrugs. “Anything.” The smile in his eyes is sparkling now in the low light.
“Beautiful,” Namjoon says honestly. He means it, in every vague way it could be taken. The wedding was beautiful. Jimin and Taehyung are beautiful, dancing on the other side of the room, looking pleased and so in love. Jeongguk is beautiful. “You look good in the flower crown,” he adds.
Jeongguk laughs. “Thank you. You look good too.”
It’s a strange moment. Namjoon feels pressured to say something, to do something, even though Jeongguk is living with him and he sees him all the time. It feels like an important moment.
But nothing comes to mind, or at least, nothing good enough, so Namjoon decides to just embrace the moment. It’s not every day he has an excuse to hold Jeongguk, especially with Jeongguk pulling him closer and smiling sweetly at him. He wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s back.
The music slows down, and when it does Jeongguk leans in to rest his head on Namjoon’s shoulder. They’re swaying now, more than dancing, and it’s oddly so comfortable. Anyone could see them. Anyone could photograph them. Anyone could send in photos of them and then people would be talking about them again, speculating. But Namjoon isn’t worried.
Over Jeongguk’s back Seokjin catches Namjoon’s eye. He raises his eyebrows, asking silently, are you okay? are you protecting yourself? Namjoon smiles, but he doesn’t think the smile answers the questions Seokjin wants to ask him. He doesn’t really care. If protecting himself means he doesn’t get Jeongguk holding onto him, head on his shoulder, then he doesn’t really care to.
“You’re married now,” Jeongguk informs Jimin and Taehyung, later into the night.
“Married as fuck!” Taehyung agrees loudly. Jimin laughs and holds a hand over his mouth. He peels it away. “I’m ready to go home and get r—”
Jimin yells out loud and tries to tackle him.
“Oh my god, please get out of here before you end up doing it in public,” Jeongguk tells them, looking horrified.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” Jimin assures.
“Eugh.” Jeongguk wrinkles his nose.
Jimin and Taehyung leave. Namjoon hangs around to let Jeongguk gather up his things so he can drive them both home.
“You okay?” he asks, catching sight of the distant look in Jeongguk’s eyes as they leave.
“Yeah. Just. Wow. My best friends are really married.”
“They really are,” Namjoon agrees. They get in the car. He buckles up and puts his hands on the steering wheel. Jeongguk looks, distractedly. Namjoon follows his gaze and realizes he’s looking at his wedding band.
He doesn’t know why he still hasn’t taken it off. He just hasn’t.
Namjoon looks over.
Jeongguk reaches up to his collar. Out from under his shirt, he tugs on a little chain, just long enough to hide under his collar. He holds it out for Namjoon to see. It’s threaded through his wedding band.
What is there to say in a moment like this one? There’s nothing. It’s too rich and too heavy to think of any words that mean anything.
Jeongguk lets the chain drop. The ring hangs heavy against the dip of his collarbones.
Namjoon drives them home.
One thing Namjoon doesn’t know how to deal with are the dreams.
The truth is, for the small stretch of time after Jeongguk moved out and before Namjoon left, Namjoon would have these dreams. He could never remember them after; he doesn’t know what happened in them, just that he would wake up thinking Jeongguk was beside him—sometimes reaching for him—and find that he wasn’t.
The fact that they’ve started up again is disconcerting. Waking up reaching for a husband who isn’t there is one thing; waking up reaching for someone who is there but is not supposed to be his husband is another entirely.
It happens a time or two and Namjoon turns over, his back to Jeongguk’s sleeping face, feeling vulnerable and trying his best to go back to sleep.
But this time is different. This time he reaches out, to the side of the bed that should have Jeongguk but might be empty, teasing, and this time there is another person, warm and soft, the very one he was looking for. He pulls him closer.
Namjoon’s pulled from the drought of sleep by a ‘hey’ breathed softly against his face and a hand on his chest. He is clutching at Jeongguk’s back, arm tight around his waist. He comes back to himself. “Sorry.” He lets go. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“Did you have a bad dream? You grabbed me. You... said my name.”
Namjoon rolls onto his back, so he doesn’t have to look at him. “I used to have those almost every night. I woke up thinking you were there, but you weren’t.”
The night must be making him honest. He wonders what time it is, but doesn’t look. He feels like the second he looks this will become real, brought gracelessly into the waking world—as if the night can hide the fact that he has been calling out for Jeongguk.
“I’m here,” Jeongguk says, and Namjoon burns with something: maybe embarrassment, maybe shame—surely longing. Jeongguk keeps his hand on his chest, and Namjoon falls back to sleep holding it there.
The dreams start to taper off, after that. Namjoon would like to say it’s not because of Jeongguk, but it is. The next time he wakes up from one he turns over, turns his back to Jeongguk to try to go back to sleep. And after a moment, there’s a firm, broad chest pressed to his back, a hand hesitating on his side.
He takes the hand. Pulls the arm over his waist.
It happens again and again. Not every time, but most of them; Namjoon wakes up, feeling cold and vulnerable. He turns over, and Jeongguk spoons up behind him. Holding him to sleep.
Time passes so easily like this. It’s syrupy slow, languid and sweeter than it seems like it should be. Namjoon’s husband; Namjoon’s ex-husband; Namjoon’s friend. The boy he thought he lost forever a year and a half ago.
But Jeongguk is here, and now he smiles wide, eyes and nose crinkling, all the time. He laughs at Namjoon’s jokes, tells jokes of his own, teases him and grins at him so wide Namjoon forgives the teasing immediately. Namjoon realizes quickly that he’ll let Jeongguk get away with anything, especially seeing him so happy.
Before he knows it, it’s been more than a month since he got home. It feels like days, but the weeks keep passing, quicker than it seems like they should.
Namjoon starts to think about it again, the idea of settling, the thing he held onto and let himself be enamored with forever ago.
He had to walk himself through that. He knows it was an unhealthy idea, thinking it would have been okay if they were never really in love, if they were together and things just kept moving and became so close to love he couldn’t tell the difference.
He tells Yoongi about it. It’s embarrassing.
“I used to think if Jeongguk and I were together long enough, and liked each other enough, it would be okay that he didn’t love me,” he says.
He’s on Yoongi’s sofa. Seokjin and Hoseok are gone somewhere, some weird quality time thing, as Yoongi explained it. Namjoon’s pretty sure it’s how they do dates, but he isn’t strongly inclined to learn the minutiae of their relationship.
“Can I ask you to clarify something?”
Namjoon lets out a tired sigh. “I guess.”
“You say Jeongguk didn’t love you.”
Yoongi inclines his head. “Okay. I’m not going to argue that, not because I think he didn’t, just because I don’t know. But that’s not what I’m getting at. You said that, not ‘we weren’t in love.’ So you loved him, yeah?”
“Hyung, you know I did.”
Yoongi gives him a smile that goes sideways in one corner of his mouth. “I just wanted to hear it from you.”
“I was in love with him.”
“Okay. And you say you used to think it would be enough.”
“Yeah. I know it wasn’t a good way of thinking about things. I wanted to hold onto him. I tried to not want to, but I did.”
“Okay,” Yoongi says again. “I hear what you’re saying, but I think the important thing isn’t that you wanted to hold onto him, it’s that you let him go.”
Namjoon considers. “I guess,” he says. He’s never really thought about it. There was never a question of whether he would let Jeongguk go where he needed to go.
“Namjoon-ah. I think you need to tell him how you feel.”
“How I feel,” Namjoon repeats.
Yoongi levels him with a no-nonsense look. “Do you still love him?”
Namjoon couldn't have anticipated how healing it would be to be with Jeongguk like this. He didn’t know there was anything to heal from, but there was, and so much—halfway being in love with Jeongguk, less than halfway knowing him. Wanting him but knowing there were too many parts of him he could never have.
Being close to each other—being roommates, being friends—without the idea of marriage hanging over their heads, is so good. Richer than he could have imagined.
Jeongguk is beautiful, and he's funny and mischievous and weird like Namjoon never really got to see before.
Until now, Namjoon thinks he didn't really know how much pressure their inhibitions placed on their relationship. Before he was so scared all the time, scared of their power imbalance, scared of pressuring Jeongguk into doing or being something he didn't want, scared of taking advantage. And Jeongguk was holding a lot of himself back, because of course he was. There was so little to keep him safe.
But now Namjoon gets to see him laugh every day. He gets to hear his jokes, and he gets to be the butt of them, which is more rewarding than it should be.
They still sleep in the same bed. It's still not like before, and Namjoon still sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night reaching for Jeongguk. But maybe it's better. He knows Jeongguk now. He only knew the barest pieces of him before.
He's in love. In love still, or in love again. He doesn't know. All he knows is he's in love.
And then they get into a fight.
Jeongguk has mentioned looking for apartments at least once a week since Namjoon has been back. Namjoon bristles every time, but he tries to let it go. He just really doesn’t want Jeongguk to move out.
They’re in the kitchen after dinner, cleaning up, making tea, leaning against the counter and talking. Jeongguk says, “I might try to get into teaching.”
Namjoon hums. “Teaching?”
“Yeah. Taekwondo. I think I could do that.”
“Yeah, of course you could,” Namjoon agrees. “You would be really good at it.”
“Thank you.” Jeongguk crosses his arms and leans back. “I need to make money somehow. I won’t be able to pay for things anymore after a while. And I’ve got to find somewhere to live.”
Maybe he’s looking for advice, or maybe he’s just looking to hear yeah, that’s a good idea or yeah, it’s tough. Namjoon doesn’t know. All he knows is that his instincts are fixing instincts, so he wants to fix things for Jeongguk. “You don’t have to leave,” he says. “You can stay here.”
“I can’t stay any longer without paying for it, hyung. You’ve already done enough for me.”
Namjoon pushes. It’s a mistake. “You don’t need to pay me anything.”
Jeongguk goes tense. “I won’t take anything else from you.” This is a sensitive subject. It always has been. “I already feel like I owe you. I’ll never stop feeling like I owe you.”
“It’s not all about money,” Namjoon says. It doesn’t come out how he means it. He wants to say that there is more to their relationship than just money. He wants to say that there is friendship between them, and so much care, and some kind of love. He wants to say that he loves to have Jeongguk around and he doesn’t want to stop having him around, but it doesn’t come out. It’s not all about money.
“It kind of is.” Jeongguk’s voice is hard. “I don’t know how you can say that. You must just not get it.”
“I just want to make sure you have what you need,” Namjoon says.
“You’re the one who said we shouldn’t be married anymore,” Jeongguk snaps. “You have no right.”
Frustration rises in Namjoon. “Because you didn’t want that! And it was my fault. Let me help you. It was my fault, and you never should have been in that position, and I just want to—”
“You’re such a fucking martyr,” Jeongguk bursts out. “You held me and kissed me and let me fuck you—”
“I wanted all of that,” Namjoon disagrees. His voice is firm, harder than he means it to be.
“Shut up, I’m not done!” Jeongguk’s chest heaves and he looks ashamed for shouting. But he goes on. “You never said a word about how much it costs to keep me around. You never asked for a single thing from me. You just let me take and take and take.”
Namjoon feels like he’s being ripped apart from the inside. He wants to growl and shout that Jeongguk is wrong, that he was the one taking what didn’t belong to him.
“I literally would not have made it through this injury without you,” Jeongguk says. “It would have destroyed me. I barely would have been able to pay for the surgery. I never would have been able to go to Tokyo. That—god, that sounds so shitty. It sounds like I only wanted you for your money. Fuck.” He reaches up and grips his own hair like he’s upset.
“Stop,” Namjoon says. He grabs Jeongguk by the arms. “Everything about this was fucked up, okay? You can’t help that you needed that. But you never would have been happy. You never would have loved me.” Belatedly he feels like he’s reaching into his own guts and twisting them up. He’s never said those words out loud, just believed them. Believed them forever.
And for some reason that’s what makes Jeongguk break, too. His eyebrows pull together and his mouth screws up and he starts to cry.
Namjoon cries, too. He doesn’t know when he starts, but he does. Jeongguk wraps his arms around him and clings and cries against him.
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says. His voice breaks embarrassingly and it’s obvious that he’s crying. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Stop,” Jeongguk blubbers. “I’m—I’m just scared—” he sobs and his chest rises erratically.
“Don’t be scared,” Namjoon says. He puts a hand on the back of Jeongguk’s head.
“No.” Jeongguk takes a long breath and calms down enough to say, “I’m just scared that you’re always going to blame yourself. Or feel like you messed something up. Feel like you messed me up.”
Namjoon barely breathes.
“See,” Jeongguk says softly. “You do think that.” He pulls back and brushes his fingers over the hair at the nape of Namjoon’s neck. “Hyung, we’re never going to not have been married. But just know that I know you spent every minute of that trying to protect me.”
Namjoon doesn’t know how to stop crying. “It wasn’t good enough,” he says, his breaths coming shakier. His throat is tight and sore from crying. “You were still hurt.”
“You couldn’t have stopped that. It would have happened no matter what. My knee band was damaged.”
“No,” Namjoon sobs, with a wet laugh. “Not that. Just—you were hurt.”
“Stop,” Jeongguk says again. He puts his hands on the back of Namjoon’s neck. “You always made sure I was taken care of. You defended me to your family. That man, at that party, tried to talk about me like I was a thing you owned and you shut him down and took me home and told me you would never let someone talk about me like that. You were worried I was lonely and you got a dog and told me I could have anything I wanted. I’ve never,” Jeongguk sobs as he says this, “I’ve never had someone fight for me like you did.”
Namjoon drops his head to Jeongguk’s shoulder. “You never should have needed that.”
“You don’t get it,” Jeongguk says. “It was fucked up, yeah. It could have been shitty. It should have been. But it wasn’t. Because you were so good to me, always. I know you worked so hard to be good. You said I never could have loved you. I used to think that too. But if there was anyone I could have loved, it was you. You’re so good, hyung.”
That hurts more than anything else. That I could have. What about now? he thinks, and has to double check that he didn’t desperately say that out loud.
“You have a lot going on in here,” Jeongguk says and taps at Namjoon’s temple. “Stop telling yourself you’ve done bad.”
It’s hard for Namjoon to believe him. He spent every waking moment while they were married—and some sleeping ones, too—thinking about the power imbalance between them and trying to fight it. Convincing himself that even though Jeongguk would never really trust him, he needed to give him as many reasons to as he could, and that even though Jeongguk would never love him he needed to be good to him, a good person and a good friend and a good husband.
He’s not sure why he can’t accept now, two and a half years since they got married, a year and a half since they separated, that he was good.
“Us being married was not your fault,” Jeongguk says. He smooths his hand through Namjoon’s hair. “And to the point that it might have been, you made up for that and more. You’re my friend. You were a good thing that happened to me, hyung. I wouldn’t go back. You said that you wished we never got married—”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Namjoon says.
“—but you made my life better. You’re my friend,” he says again. “Okay? I trust you.”
Namjoon wants to stand his ground and tell Jeongguk exactly how he meant it when he said he wished they had never been married. He wants to let it all out and tell him he just wants to be in love with him.
He just wants to be in love. He just wants to be loved back.
His eyes are wet. He turns his head to wipe at them.
Jeongguk looks the tiniest bit defeated when Namjoon turns back to him. “I’m going to look at apartments,” he says.
“Okay,” Namjoon whispers.
He thinks about what Jeongguk said the whole night. You were a good thing that happened to me. Stop telling yourself you’ve done bad. He thinks about it in bed, with the lights off, after Jeongguk leans over and kisses his cheek and tells him goodnight.
He lies awake in it. He should be anxious about not getting to sleep, but he’s not. He feels like he’s more at peace than he has been in a long time; something shaking up in him for a long time has finally burst.
He wakes up in the middle of the night, but not because of a dream. He rolls over anyway, and in just moments Jeongguk’s warmth is pressed against his back.
Jeongguk has an appointment for an apartment walkthrough that Saturday afternoon. They take the morning slow, and Namjoon tries to live in the small things—in their walk with Meri, the breakfast they eat that’s really lunch, folding laundry together in the bedroom.
Namjoon’s sitting on the edge of the bed, matching his socks. “Do you really want to move out?” he finds himself asking. It might be risky, since the last time he pushed this they ended up yelling, but if there’s a time to take risks, it’s now. Jeongguk is looking at apartments. Soon he’s going to leave and they’re going to sign their divorce papers and that will be the end, for real.
Jeongguk looks at him and his eyes are soft, but melancholy. He picks up his yellow shirt. The big yellow shirt he wore the day he left. “No. But I have to.”
Namjoon licks his lips. “Why?”
“Hyung,” Jeongguk says softly and doesn’t look at him as he folds the shirt. The big yellow shirt. “You know why. We’re two single men living together and sleeping in the same bed.”
“We don’t have to.” He can hear himself beginning to sound desperate. “We can get a bed for the loft. We can clear it out. We can just be roommates.”
“Hyung,” Jeongguk says again. He looks like he is going to say something. He knows. He must know. He knows Namjoon loves him.
Namjoon closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath. He resigns himself to what’s about to happen. “I have to tell you something,” he says.
Jeongguk looks at him, biting at the inside of his lip. After a second he sets the shirt he’s folding aside and comes around to sit next to him. “Okay,” he says. It’s a decisive okay.
He’s closer than he probably meant to be. His body is tilted toward Namjoon. He looks at him intently, seriously. Like he knows they aren’t going to be able to go back to this casual, pseudo-platonic closeness after this.
It takes Namjoon a moment to work himself up to say it. He thinks his body is going to rebel and his throat is going to tighten too much to get it out, but he manages. “I love you,” he says.
He feels like there’s something else he should say—a followup to that, something like ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘it’s okay that you don’t feel the same’ or ‘I’ll stop trying to make you stay.’ But all of it feels so empty and so disingenuous. Namjoon is not sorry that he loves Jeongguk, even if Jeongguk doesn’t want his love and even if he doesn’t love Namjoon back. Jeongguk should be loved. He should have love poured all over him.
It’s a second before he can look at Jeongguk. When he does, Jeongguk is looking at him.
He is looking at Namjoon, but then he isn’t. Then they’re kissing.
The startled leap that happens in Namjoon’s stomach is almost unbearable. It’s like tipping over the edge of something. It’s like the climb up to the first drop of a rollercoaster, right before you tip over and your stomach goes flying. Achingly slow, tense, all nerves and anticipation. That’s what the last month has been.
And this is the drop.
It’s horrible, it’s terrible, it’s affronting, how much Namjoon has fucking longed for Jeongguk. They’ve been sleeping next to each other for more than a month, spending more time together than they ever did when they were married, but Namjoon has just fucking longed for him.
He doesn’t think he knew, until now, exactly how much he has wanted him. Like taking a sip of water and realizing how thirsty you are. He wants to drink Jeongguk in.
Jeongguk leans into Namjoon. He grips his shirt with one hand. His tongue grazes Namjoon’s lips and the sound Namjoon lets out is startled and so clearly into it.
Namjoon pulls back. “Jeongguk-ah,” he gasps. “What?”
Jeongguk’s eyes are wide, dark with his pupils blown. “I’m sorry.” He moves back a few inches and lets out a steadying breath. He clutches at the comforter with absent fingers. “Was that—was that not okay?”
“I’m.” Namjoon’s chest is heaving. “Why did you do that?” he breathes.
There’s so much tension between them it’s clawing at Namjoon, taking him by the collar and dragging him toward Jeongguk. He wants to kiss him again. Wants to get his arms around him and tip them both over and lie on the bed, in their piles of clean laundry, and kiss him for hours. For days. For the rest of his life.
Namjoon stands up. He has to put physical distance between himself and Jeongguk. It’s like a dam has been broken. All the want he’s been holding back comes rushing in.
Namjoon holds a hand over his eyes. “You heard me, didn’t you? I’m in love with you.” His voice breaks. His hands are shaking.
Jeongguk doesn’t say anything. It’s several long moments, and then there is a gentle hand on his waist.
“Namjoon,” Jeongguk says. “Namjoon.” His other hand comes to the other side of Namjoon’s waist.
Namjoon does not want to be looked at. Being touched seems okay, but being looked at might pull him apart. When he doesn’t move, doesn’t even drop his hand from his eyes, Jeongguk slides his hands from his waist across his stomach and rests his head against the top of his spine.
Maybe Jeongguk doesn’t want to be looked at, either, because it’s pressed against Namjoon from behind that he says, “I love you too. I love you.”
Slowly Namjoon drops his hand. He grips both of Jeongguk’s, where they lay against his stomach.
“I want to be with you.” This is quieter, said with a cheek pressed to Namjoon’s shoulder.
Namjoon tries to say something, but nothing comes out. His breaths feel tight. Jeongguk is wrapped around him, and he can’t process this, and he doesn’t know what to do.
“Please, I want to kiss you again.” Jeongguk’s voice is soft and pleading.
Namjoon catches his breath and turns around. Jeongguk loosens his grip, but doesn’t let go. Namjoon puts his hands on his biceps. “Can you say it again?” he finds himself asking.
“I love you, Namjoon-hyung.” Jeongguk kisses him softly on the mouth.
Namjoon thinks he starts to cry because he’s overwhelmed, maybe because he’s relieved. Anyway, he starts to cry, and it’s almost funny how quickly Jeongguk starts to cry, too, after he sees.
Jeongguk pulls him into a hug. “I want you so much,” he says. His hot breath hits Namjoon’s neck.
“I want you,” is all Namjoon can say back, arms wrapped around Jeongguk’s shoulders. He can feel himself shaking.
“You okay?” Jeongguk asks when he pulls back. He reaches for Namjoons face and thumbs at the tears still on his cheeks.
Namjoon nods. Jeongguk tips his head forward, and Namjoon’s eyes slide shut as their foreheads touch. Jeongguk nudges in for one kiss, then two, then steps back.
He takes both of Namjoon’s hands in his. “Do you want to talk?” he offers. He looks like it goes against his instincts to ask. Namjoon knows it does; Jeongguk’s instincts are touch, touch, touch. Namjoon’s are talk.
Even so, it takes a little while before he has any words.
Jeongguk pulls him out of the bedroom, away from their piles of laundry. He moves him onto the couch, and Namjoon goes with no protest.
He sits down a couple feet away. He looks restless. His limbs don’t stop moving. He looks up at Namjoon, and his eyes are wide and nervous.
Namjoon makes a sound somewhere in his throat. He opens his arms, and Jeongguk’s face smooths over with relief. He moves closer and tucks his arms around Namjoon.
“You okay?” Jeongguk murmurs. “You have any words in there?”
“Somewhere,” Namjoon says, breathless. For some reason, on his quest for something to say, what comes out is, “Your appointment.”
Jeongguk huffs a laugh. “I can miss it.” He grips the fabric of Namjoon’s t-shirt. “Hyung, I love you.”
Namjoon makes a strangled noise. “I love you,” he says back. “Okay. I want to talk about this. We should talk about this.”
Jeongguk sits up and looks at him expectantly.
“I... I want to be with you,” Namjoon says, and is already choked up. “I don’t know what that looks like, but I—”
“That’s okay, hyung. We don’t have to know right now.” Jeongguk takes Namjoon’s hand and holds it on his leg, smoothing his fingers over the back of it. “I want to be with you, too. Who knows how to date when you’ve already been married, huh?”
Namjoon takes a shaky breath. He’s kind of a perfectionist, sometimes. He likes to have a plan. He likes to know where he stands, and where he’s going. Right now, he barely knows what he’s doing. And he definitely doesn’t know where he’s going.
“You’re thinking too much,” Jeongguk says. He squeezes Namjoon’s hand. “Don’t tell me what you think. Tell me what you feel.”
It seems like it shouldn’t be, but that’s easy for Namjoon. He’s know what he feels (felt? Feels) for a long time now. “I loved you a long time ago now,” he says. “I loved you before you left.” He feels like he’s had the wind knocked out of him. “So much, Jeongguk-ah. I spent a month here alone just trying to not feel so in love with you anymore. I thought maybe I would—but, I didn’t—” His words stop cooperating. He closes his eyes in frustration.
Jeongguk turns his hand over and threads their fingers together. “Can I tell you something?”
“Before Jimin and Taehyung left, after they helped me get settled, I told them, ‘you want to know something fucked up? I was falling in love with him.’”
A sob shudders through Namjoon’s chest before he can check himself.
“I didn’t really know, before that,” Jeongguk says. “I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realize. Then when I saw you in Tokyo...” he shakes his head. “It took me some time to process through it, but all I can remember feeling is I want him, I want him, I want him. I thought I was going to you to feel closure, but. I didn’t feel relaxed once until I was with you.”
“I want to be—” Namjoon chokes out.
“Hyung, I know. You want to take care of me, I know. That’s why we fought the other day. You can give me what I want and take what you want, too.” He squeezes Namjoon’s hand. “It’s the same thing.”
Namjoon wants to love Jeongguk. So much. But there’s more than that. He wants to be loved. It hurts to acknowledge it and it hurts to know that Jeongguk just wants to be loved, too.
Jeongguk seems to sense the mess of feelings in him. He puts his arm around Namjoon and pulls him until his head rests on his shoulder. “You were always so good,” he says, playing with the hair at the back of Namjoon’s neck. “You tried so hard, before I ever did. I remember lying on the couch upstairs being all self-pitying, and then I thought ‘there is a nice man in a nice bed down there, and you could go and join him and he wouldn’t say a word.’ So I did, and you didn’t say a word, and that’s the first time I can remember thinking he’s good.”
Namjoon can’t keep himself from crying again. Having Jeongguk hold him is different to the normal, but—it’s them. It’s who they are, looking out for each other.
“Stop crying,” Jeongguk says with a smile in his voice. He tugs at Namjoon’s hair until he lifts his head, then kisses him. “This is good. We’ll figure us out.”
Namjoon takes a deep breath and winds his arms around Jeongguk. “This is good,” he says.
Namjoon feels jittery the rest of the evening. He shakes while he helps Jeongguk get food ready, while they put away laundry. Jeongguk takes his hand or tucks himself closer to him, and he relaxes some tension he didn’t know he was holding.
He can feel himself being afraid this isn’t real, even as Jeongguk leans up to peck his lips or sits nearly on his lap in the living room. He craves the touch, is desperate to know this is not in his head.
“Sweet hyung,” Jeongguk laughs softly at him, when he makes a wounded, bereft noise as he gets up to do their dishes. “I’m coming back. I’m all yours.”
And as much as Namjoon likes the sound of that, he wants to be close. So he goes to the kitchen with him. They wash the dishes side by side and then kiss against the kitchen counter.
Even bedtime is more overwhelming. Jeongguk gives him a shy little smile when he follows him into the bathroom, and Namjoon drops his toothbrush when he takes off his shirt.
Jeongguk cackles at him and doesn’t bother to put a new one on before he comes up behind him and wraps his arms around him. “You like it?” He nudges his nose against Namjoon’s neck.
“Stop teasing me,” Namjoon mutters. He finishes brushing his teeth to the sound of Jeongguk’s humming. He puts his toothbrush in the glass by the sink, and then freezes.
Jeongguk’s wedding ring, on its thin gold chain, is laying on the counter, next to Namjoon’s watch. Namjoon picks it up without really being aware of what he’s doing; one moment he’s looking at it, and the next he’s holding it, looking at the shine of the gold, realizing Jeongguk has taken care of it well.
Jeongguk puts his hand on Namjoon’s arm, touching softly right by his elbow.
Namjoon feels himself flush. He goes to set the necklace back down, but Jeongguk stops him with a soft sound in his throat.
He turns his back to Namjoon. It takes a moment for Namjoon to understand, but he does, and he reaches up to thread the chain around Jeongguk’s neck. He clasps it in the back and smooths his hands over Jeongguk’s shoulders.
Jeongguk turns back around. Namjoon reaches out to touch the ring like he’s magnetized. Jeongguk just lets him, watching. “I wore it,” he murmurs, reaching out and touching Namjoon’s hip like he’s anchoring himself. “Because you were always—you were what I needed. I knew you just wanted me to be okay.”
“I want you to be happy,” Namjoon murmurs. He’s not sure what he’s saying. Just talking.
Jeongguk reaches up and puts his hand over Namjoon’s where he’s touching the ring. “I’m happy.” He reaches for Namjoon’s face and thumbs over his cheeks. “Hyung, I didn’t know—I didn’t know if I would be happy again, before I came home. You make me happy.” He blinks back tears.
“Baby,” Namjoon says. He wants to say more, but he can’t, and anyway he thinks his eyes are saying enough.
Jeongguk smiles and tilts Namjoon’s head toward himself. He rests their foreheads together.
“You like being called that.”
“I like it when you call me that.”
Namjoon lets out a little huff and presses a kiss to his mouth. “Baby.”
Jeongguk gives a low giggle and kisses him back. They trade kisses, soft, wet little things. Jeongguk drops his arms to hold Namjoon around his waist and pull him closer, smiling against his mouth and biting at his lip when Namjoon laughs at him. Then Jeongguk lifts Namjoon up by his grip around his waist and turns them around.
Namjoon yelps in surprise. Jeongguk laughs. “Hyung,” he says and kisses Namjoon’s neck.
Jeongguk doesn’t stop manhandling him, but Namjoon kind of likes it. Jeongguk puts his hands on Namjoon’s hips and backs him into the bedroom, kissing him intently until Namjoon trips. He doesn’t manage to catch himself, so he tumbles back onto the ground with a sharp laugh.
“What did you even trip over?” Jeongguk giggles. He follows Namjoon down and straddles his hips.
“What are you doing?” Namjoon huffs.
Jeongguk kisses him again. Namjoon’s stomach tingles as he presses closer. He reaches around his back to hold him closer and kiss him deeper.
They get lost in it, kissing like that on the bedroom floor for so long. Jeongguk keeps pressing forward like he can’t get enough, and Namjoon can’t hold both of them up, so they collapse backward. Namjoon’s hands go to Jeongguk’s waist automatically, and Jeongguk makes a pleased sound in his throat, so Namjoon slides his hands up his shirt and runs them up and down his warm, warm sides.
Namjoon feels hot with want and anticipation. He rolls them over and gets between Jeongguk’s legs, kissing him deeper. He’s not surprised when he lowers his hips and finds Jeongguk hard against him, or when Jeongguk right away throws a leg over his hips to pull him closer and grind on him.
Namjoon missed these soft noises, the ones Jeongguk makes in his throat whenever Namjoon kisses him. And this is so different to before, to the weeks that dripped by where they made they made out lazily and touched a little, or to the heavy night where they had each other in every way.
There’s nothing lingering over them. There are no strings. There’s no Jeongguk the athlete and no Namjoon the CEO’s son. There’s just them, Jeongguk and Namjoon, determined to melt into each other.
Jeongguk gets frantic quick, grinding hard against him, so fast Namjoon is afraid he’s going to come like this.
“Hey, hey,” Namjoon laughs against his mouth. “Slow down. Don’t come in your pants. We have plenty of time.”
Jeongguk lets out a little whine. “I want you.”
“Yeah, baby,” Namjoon agrees. “I want you too. How?”
Jeongguk groans at being made to decide. “Just. Namjoon.” He kisses up Namjoon’s neck. “Really want you inside me,” he breathes.
Namjoon pushes him up. He goes with a grunt of protest. “Okay,” Namjoon says. “I know this is not cool of me right now. But have you done anything like that before?”
“I fucked you once.” Jeongguk reaches for him.
“Stop,” Namjoon laughs. He stands up and pulls Jeongguk with him and settles them both on the bed. “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.”
“It’s not the talking about sex,” Jeongguk huffs. “It’s the not having sex.” He throws his legs over Namjoon’s lap and strokes the back of his neck. “I was not a virgin when we had sex, thank you for asking. Never had a dick in my ass, though.”
“Okay. I,” Namjoon has to breathe through his nerves. “I’ll finger you, yeah? I’ll fuck you—I’ll fuck you when you want. Tomorrow, even. But I just.” His words get stuck in his throat. He just wants to take care of Jeongguk. He just wants to take his time.
Jeongguk seems to get it, thankfully. He studies Namjoon with something fond in his eyes. “Okay,” he says. “I—I love you.”
It hits Namjoon in the chest. He closes his eyes and lets it wash over him. He didn’t realize the depth of how he wanted this until he felt it. Until he was being loved, open and unafraid. He hears Jeongguk hum and feels him reach out to put his hands on either side of Namjoon’s neck. “I love you too,” he says.
Jeongguk kisses him. Namjoon winds an arm around this one and he makes this time slower. Deeper and more thorough. Jeongguk melts, leaning back and pulling Namjoon over him.
Namjoon sits back on his heels, knees on either side of Jeongguk’s hips, and just looks at him for a second.
Jeongguk puts his hands on Namjoon’s waist, thumbing at the skin right under the hem of his shirt. “What?” he asks softly when Namjoon has been looking too long.
Namjoon smiles and leans down. “I love you,” he says, his breath ghosting Jeongguk’s lips.
“I love you,” Jeongguk breathes back and kisses him. He kisses so eagerly but sweetly, constant and sweet and fervent under Namjoon.
Namjoon starts to tug the hem of Jeongguk’s shirt up, and Jeongguk raises his arms to help. He doesn’t let their mouths disconnect for more than the split second they have to, and he runs his hands down Jeongguk’s bare stomach to the waist of his shorts, slides his fingers under the waistband.
Jeongguk pulls away and almost whines, “I want to see you, I want to see you.”
Namjoon looks at him in alarm. “I’m right here, babe.”
He shakes his head, eyes wide and dark. “No, no, I want.” He sits up and pushes his hands up Namjoon’s shirt and pulls it off of him so fast Namjoon barely registers it.
“Oh,” is all Namjoon can say before Jeongguk is manhandling him back, and he lands with a little bounce on his ass. Then Jeongguk has his hands on Namjoon again, hooking his fingers in the waist of his shorts, pulling them down and catching his underwear on the way.
“Oh my god,” Namjoon says, suddenly all the way naked when just seconds ago, Jeongguk was the one on his way to being undressed. He pulls his knees toward his chest with his head spinning.
Jeongguk puts his hands on Namjoon’s thighs. He’s gentle, but his eyes are focused and intense, and Namjoon feels weak and limp and exposed. He lets his legs fall open anyway, and he is no less turned on, does not want any less than he did before.
Being looked at like this feels oddly like being touched. Jeongguk looks him up and down, his lips parted and a dazed expression of hunger on his face. Then Namjoon is being touched; Jeongguk shifts forward and runs his hands over Namjoon’s shoulders, his clavicles, down his chest, over his stomach and hipbones. He stops with them at the very tops of Namjoon’s thighs, and Namjoon can feel himself grow harder at the proximity. Jeongguk rubs his thumbs over his inner thighs. It makes Namjoon shudder.
“Okay, you too,” he says, ready to move back to Jeongguk.
It takes a long moment for Jeongguk to drag his eyes off Namjoon’s body and register what he said. “Oh. Sorry, I just. You’re so—” His eyes are earnest and serious in a way Namjoon can only believe if it’s Jeongguk. “You’re so gorgeous.”
Namjoon has to take in a good, steady breath. “There’s no way,” he says. He doesn’t mean to be self-deprecating, it’s just— “You’re the most, the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Jeongguk shuffles forward on his knees and leans over Namjoon, taking his face in his hands and kissing him hard, the kind of kiss Jeongguk gives to say I miss you most times. “I love you,” he says, “and I really, really love your body, believe me.”
Namjoon believes him. He can’t even pretend he doesn’t; Jeongguk’s eyes are too honest and his gaze is too fervent for him not to.
He swallows thickly. “Hey so,” he begins, “I don’t think we’re very good at this foreplay thing.”
For a second Jeongguk’s face is all surprise, round and wide and maybe a little embarrassed, but then he laughs and his eyes crinkle. “Maybe not,” he admits. “Did you like my teenage boy impression? Taking off all your clothes before you could even blink?”
Namjoon laughs, too. “It was flattering, if nothing else. I was trying to get you naked, but we can take care of that now.”
Jeongguk goes serious and a little nervous at that. “Sure, yeah,” he says. He speaks softer now. It’s seamless how the atmosphere comes back—nothing heavy, just these sweet undertones of want.
They get Jeongguk’s pants off him, and then for so long they just kiss. Jeongguk tangles their legs up together and winds his arms around Namjoon. They kiss and touch until Jeongguk is too hard and leaking against Namjoon’s hip to keep it up.
“Baby,” Namjoon says fondly when Jeongguk has to forcibly pull his hips away from Namjoon. Jeongguk goes pink but doesn’t look embarrassed. Namjoon kisses down his neck. “You want me to make you feel good, sweetheart?”
Jeongguk tightens his grip on Namjoon’s waist. “Yeah, please,” he breathes.
Namjoon didn’t realize how excited he was for this. He nudges at Jeongguk’s legs until he parts them, runs his hands over Jeongguk’s thighs, the soft skin on the insides of them, then focuses in between them.
“Have you been fingered before?” he asks. Jeongguk twitches at the light touch of the pad of his finger.
“Only myself,” Jeongguk says. His thighs are tense. Namjoon moves his free, dry hand back to his inner thigh, hoping it’s a warm, comforting touch, and presses his mouth to that softness on his lower stomach. “Please,” Jeongguk says then, high in his throat.
“Well, alright then,” Namjoon says with a teasing grin. He ducks his head to kiss Jeongguk’s thigh, the most accessible skin to him, and he starts to push his finger inside.
He goes nice and slow, not pressing in a second finger until Jeongguk is asking for it himself, breathing out, “Another one,” shivering under his touch.
“You feel okay?” he asks when Jeongguk’s eyebrows crease at the intrusion.
“Mm,” Jeongguk affirms. “It’s—I like it, just.”
Namjoon considers him a second. He takes Jeongguk’s half-hard cock in his hand, which makes him shudder and tilt his head back, and then he sucks the tip into his mouth.
Jeongguk cries out and twists underneath him. Namjoon doesn’t let up. With two fingers, he searches out Jeongguk’s prostate. It’s clear when he finds it; Jeongguk jolts under him and starts to push back for the first time, so Namjoon pulls his mouth off of him and pets his fingers gently near that spot and props himself up to watch.
God, Jeongguk is so beautiful like this. Namjoon liked being fucked by him, and he’s sure he’ll enjoy fucking him when the time comes, but there’s something about this. About seeing Jeongguk slowly let go underneath him, about doing everything with just the purpose of making Jeongguk feel good. Jeongguk, his pretty, sweet, strong husband. Yeah—his husband. Jeongguk, flushed and a little sweaty, spread out underneath him. This is good. He loves this.
“Tell me when you want me to touch you,” he says when Jeongguk’s brow starts to knit more tensely and his torso starts to twist as he moves against Namjoon.
Jeongguk opens his eyes. “Don’t know if I’m going to need you to,” he says with a little huff of a laugh. “Can you please,” he breaks off in a little, breathy sound as Namjoon’s fingers ghost back over that sweet spot, “can you please kiss me, though?”
It takes some maneuvering, but Namjoon just about leaps to follow his request. He holds himself over Jeongguk as much as he can and kisses him, deep and sweet. “Mm, you look so beautiful,” he says against Jeongguk’s mouth.
“Me?” Jeongguk huffs in amusement. “You’re so—” he breaks off in a little whine. “God, you’re so hot,” he pants. “Seeing you like that, between my legs looking all focused,” he groans and presses his chest flush to Namjoon’s, particularly affected by a stroke of his fingers. “Are you sure you don’t want to fuck me now? Last chance, because I think—I think,” he stops.
Namjoon raises his head to look at him. “I really like this,” he says.
“I really like this too,” Jeongguk says in a strained voice. “Okay, please touch me.”
So Namjoon does; he strokes him only a few times before Jeongguk is clenching around his fingers and coming.
“God,” Jeongguk breathes after he comes down, “God.” He reaches out for Namjoon, and Namjoon goes. They tangle together, naked and sweaty, kissing lazily. Jeongguk runs his hand down Namjoon’s chest and stomach, and Namjoon thinks he is going to jerk him off, but he doesn’t. That’s okay. Namjoon’s in no hurry.
He’s in no hurry, so they kiss and he grinds against Jeongguk’s hip, for so long he loses track of time.
“Okay,” Jeongguk breathes after a while. “I’m going to suck you off.”
So he does. He puts his mouth all over Namjoon, and then he takes his cock into it and mouths obscenely at it. He doesn’t ever do more than mouth over the head and dip it a little further into his throat, but Namjoon is gone, his breathing ragged and muscles tense against the urge to move.
Jeongguk pulls off right before he comes. He gets some on his nose. He makes a face and wipes it on the sheets. “You good?” he asks.
“Mhm.” Namjoon pulls him back up. Jeongguk collapses over him, covering him with a leg and half his chest, breathing right onto his neck. They’re sweaty and Jeongguk’s breath is hot, but Namjoon doesn’t mind. He squeezes him around the waist. “So good. I’m so happy you’re here.” He feels silly for saying it. He isn’t sure his point comes across—that he is so happy Jeongguk is living here, yes, but he is also so glad that Jeongguk is beside him, on top of him, naked and content.
“I’m so happy,” Jeongguk says back between kisses to his neck. It’s exactly what Namjoon needs to hear.
“I don’t want you to move out,” Namjoon murmurs. His eyes are slipping closed.
“I don’t want to move out, hyung, but we should talk more about it later, huh?” Jeongguk leans further onto the bed, plastered to Namjoon. “We need to think about what will be healthy f—do you hear that?”
Namjoon frowns and listens. It’s Meri, whining. They both let out puffs of laughter.
“Noo,” Jeongguk groans, rolling onto his back. He sits up. “I’ll take her out.”
“I’ll come with you.” Namjoon sighs, but it’s for show. He doesn’t want to be away from Jeongguk for a second.
They walk Meri outside holding hands and kiss while she walks around. When they finally get back upstairs, Jeongguk drags Namjoon back to the bedroom and starts stripping the bed.
“Fuck,” Namjoon whines as they remake it. “Sex is messy. We’re just going to do it again tomorrow.”
Jeongguk throws a balled-up sheet at him. “Put this in the wash now, then.”
Namjoon grumbles, but obeys, and nothing in the world compares to the feeling of collapsing onto a freshly made bed with Jeongguk wiggling closer to him.
For a minute they just look at each other. Namjoon reaches out to touch the wedding band where it lies against Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Love you,” he says. He’s becoming a little choked up.
“I love you, Namjoon,” Jeongguk says back. He traces his fingers up and down Namjoon’s arm. He leans in to press a kiss to Namjoon’s mouth. “I want to be with you.” A kiss. “I want to move on.” A kiss. “I want to be... I want to be just you and me.”
“Just you and me,” Namjoon manages before he has to shut his eyes against tears.
Jeongguk knocks their foreheads together. He winds his arm around Namjoon until they are pressed together comfortably. He kisses Namjoon softly. “Go to sleep, hyung.”
So Namjoon does. Tomorrow, they’ll wake up, and together, they’ll move on.