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into the red morning

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9:41 pm

Namjoon answers the phone because the call comes from Yoongi.

“Joon-ah,” says Yoongi’s voice, “I said no the first time, but he kept asking.”

He doesn’t explain any further. He doesn’t have to, once the phone is handed off and the other voice starts.

“Joonie-hyung,” comes Taehyung’s voice, in the exact tone Namjoon used to hear all the time. “Joonie-hyung,” Taehyung repeats, and again. No change at all.

“Taehyung,” Namjoon responds, unsure what else he can say. I didn’t come out for a reason would be too harsh, It’s been a while too banal. “Are you guys having a good time?”

“Miss you. Wish you were here.” His voice lowers to a whisper. “Miss you lots and lots. Miss you all the time, Joonie-hyung.”

“Had a lot to drink, then.” He means it to be a question, but instead it comes out disappointed. He’d promised himself he’d be nice, or do his best to be, but it’s—not coming naturally.

There’s a fuzzy, hissing rush of air over the phone’s microphone, like Taehyung shushed into it. “Only on my second, Joonie-hyung. Jiminie found a good drink for me. Tastes like apple juice.”

“Tell Jimin he’d better be ready to reap the consequences.”

“You’d better be ready to reap the consequences,” Taehyung repeats in the same flat voice Namjoon used, but he giggles at the end.

On the other end, Namjoon can hear Jimin’s laugh. Then Seokjin, faintly: “He didn’t hang up?”

Namjoon should probably hang up.

“Joonie-hyung,” Taehyung whispers into the phone. “I really want to see you.”

“I’m working,” Namjoon says. “I’m sorry.”

He hangs up.

He works on his own schedule. This doesn’t have to be happening now. But the problem is: he wants to see Taehyung. He wants to see him more than he should.

10:46 pm

The second phone call comes from Jimin’s number. When Jimin saw the picture Namjoon had set for him, he took Namjoon’s phone and replaced it with a selfie taken inches from his face, just his forehead down to his nose in frame, eyes comically wide. Namjoon sees this picture and considers not picking up.

He does, though. “Jimin-ah?”

“Joonie-hyung,” comes Taehyung’s voice. He should have expected it.

“What do you want, Taehyung?” Namjoon asks, and his voice is exactly as harsh as he feels, which is not as harsh as he wants to sound, but it’s hard to adjust for that. He was never ready for Taehyung. He still isn’t.

“Want to see you. Will you come? Will you please? I’ll wait. I’ll wait forever if I can see you.”

“Can you give the phone to Jimin, please?”

“I’ll wait,” Taehyung says, and then there’s Jimin’s voice, faintly: Give me the phone, Taetae. Let go, please. Baby, give me the phone.

“You shouldn’t have let him drink,” Namjoon says, once the rustling noises stop and, presumably, Jimin’s the one on the other end. “You should have cut him off.”

“You should have come out.”

He doesn’t say that Namjoon doesn’t have to be working. He’s too considerate to call him out on that in front of a drunk Taehyung. Or maybe he just doesn’t want drunk Taehyung to know that.

“I’m not ready to see him,” Namjoon says.

“You’ll never be ready like this.” He lowers his voice; in the background, Namjoon can hear Seokjin and Taehyung talking. “Just come,” Jimin says. “Rip the bandage off, come on. He’ll relax about it once he’s seen you.”

“Give the phone to Yoongi-hyung.”


“Give the phone to Yoongi-hyung, Jimin. I heard you.”

Another series of rustles. Seokjin’s windshield wiper laugh. “Joon-ah,” Yoongi says, “just come. You’re making it into a bigger deal than it is.”

“Does he want to see me because he’s drunk, or does he want to see me because he wants to see me?”

“I don’t know that there’s a difference, but the second one.”

“I do want to see him,” Namjoon says. “But I know it’s going to hurt.”

“You decided to be hurt. You’re going to hurt either way until you decide something else.”

“Give the phone to Jimin.”

Yoongi doesn’t argue. Jimin says, “Are you done with work, then?” in a tone that says, Are you done hiding, then?

“Don’t let him drink anything else. Make him drink water. Do some expectation-setting, if you can.”

“That’s Yoongi-hyung talk, hyung. What?”

“I’m coming to catch up. As a friend. I don’t want him to think that I want to get back together.”

Jimin laughs. “But you do.”

“Don’t—don’t let him think that. I don’t want this to—I need this to be a friend thing, okay? Expectation-setting. Please.”

“You’re both exhausting.” Then the phone is handed off.

“Namjoonie,” comes Seokjin’s voice, in a tone like he’s about to launch into a bit. “You have to see this.”

“I’ll be there in ten,” Namjoon says, and hangs up.

There was a period where Namjoon felt confident he and Taehyung would be together forever.

It wasn’t naivety. Even now he doesn’t consider it to have been naivety. They were committed and communicative and cared enough to work things out. It was the right recipe for forever.

Before Namjoon moved to LA, they planned for almost a year: Taehyung would visit at the four-month mark, Namjoon would come back to see Taehyung and visit his family at the eight-month mark, and at the year mark Taehyung would join him. By then he would have been practicing his spoken English for over eighteen months and taken the TOEFL. There were degree programs Taehyung could apply to, certain jobs and internships—he had options. It wasn’t a long shot.

And they weren’t a long shot. They had over two years together to lean on.

Once, because it didn’t feel right to not say it at least once, Namjoon said, “You don’t have to feel chained to me.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows drew together, his mouth a straight line.

“You can do anything. Be anywhere. You don’t have to commit to LA just beca—”

“You’re it for me, hyung,” Taehyung said. He held Namjoon’s hands in his and looked at him very seriously. “I know that, but you’re it for me, so please don’t talk that way.”

So Namjoon felt confident, and Taehyung felt confident. They understood each other. They planned, and they communicated, and once Namjoon left, they had their thrice weekly calls and good morning/good night messages and webcam sex. They made it to Taehyung’s four month visit, and then to Namjoon’s eight month visit.

Then Taehyung told Namjoon he would be moving to New York, actually. They understood each other until they didn’t.

10:58 pm

Namjoon hasn’t seen him in person since their goodbyes at the Incheon international terminal, and he’s braced himself for Taehyung to have grown into a different person in the intervening years. Taehyung should be untouchably beautiful, more mature, maybe dangerous. His shoulders broader and jawline more pronounced than they seem in photographs. He should look like someone Namjoon doesn’t know.

But he’s exactly the same. The same Taehyung who Namjoon knew inside and out, body and heart, even now that Namjoon doesn’t. His hair falls in his eyes like it always did and he holds his lips in the same shape and the line of his jaw to his neck is just as magnetic. He sits next to Jimin on one side of the booth. Namjoon has the option of sitting next to him or next to Yoongi.

“Hi,” Namjoon says carefully, and slides in beside Yoongi.

“The great producer lives,” Seokjin says from Yoongi’s other side.

“I’ve been here all night,” Yoongi says.

“Hi,” Taehyung says. The pendant lamp hanging above the table casts shadows from his lashes down his cheeks. His flushed cheeks. He’s been drinking, Namjoon reminds himself.

“Where are Hoseok and Jungkook?”

“If you hadn’t had to work,” Jimin says, with pointed emphasis, “you wouldn’t have missed them.”

His eyes almost immediately flick back to Seokjin as though called, and the controlled glare he gave Namjoon shifts into something warmer, flirtatious. The kind of look that Namjoon would expect to come with holding Seokjin’s hand across the table, but one of his hands is twined with one of Taehyung’s, and the other rests on his half-empty glass. Then his lips quirk in a contained smile in response to some unseen stimulus. Something with their feet under the table, then.

“Can you believe you almost missed this?” Yoongi asks Namjoon. It’s really directed at Jimin, who makes a face.

Seokjin, amidst whatever he’s doing with Jimin under the table, runs his fingers up the inside of Yoongi’s forearm to his wrist. “You know you can watch anytime, Yoongi-yah.”

“Here, hyung,” Taehyung says, and pushes an untouched glass of beer across the table.

“Oh, it’s fine, I can get my own,” he says, even though his goal had been to cut Taehyung off.

“No, this one’s for you. This one’s mine.” He indicates the tall, skinny glass in front of him and takes a long sip of whatever it is, through the straw.

“In that case.” Namjoon downs a third of his glass in one go. Catching up.

Next to him, Yoongi jerks his hand away from Seokjin, sloshing soju onto the table. “Keep your feet to yourself,” he says—to Jimin? To Jimin.

With this as the only competition for his attention, it is, perhaps, easier to focus on Taehyung.

“How was the flight?” he asks. He’s sure everyone went through all the standard small talk questions already, but that’s the benefit of coming late.

“Took the train,” Taehyung says, and closes his lips around his straw again.

“From New York?”

“From Daegu.”

“Oh.” Namjoon downs another third of his beer. “Saw your family?”

Taehyung nods without releasing the tip of the straw. It’s cute. He’s still really, really cute. “The flight was long,” he says. “Watched four movies. How was your flight?”

“My flight?”

“When you came back.”

“Lonely,” Namjoon answers honestly. He finishes his beer and gets up to get another.

They never unfollowed each other. Taehyung said a whole thing about wanting to stay friends, the last time they spoke. That’s a thing you say when you break up, not a thing you mean, but when Namjoon saw Taehyung’s first Instagram post afterwards and his finger hovered over the unfollow button, that’s what he thought of. Taehyung wanted to stay friends.

He tagged the MMCA as the location, a closeup picture of the flyer for the current exhibition. Namjoon scrolled through a picture of Jimin’s straight-backed posture as he studied a painting, a picture Jimin must have taken of Taehyung posed with a sculpture, a picture of the sky outside. He swiped back to the picture of Taehyung and he stared at it for longer than he would ever want to admit. He thought about tapping the like button, and didn’t.

It had been a couple of weeks since the breakup. A week longer than that since their last video call, and two months since Namjoon had said goodbye to him at Incheon, a series of the longest, tightest hugs as both of them refused to let go. Taehyung was wearing sunglasses in the photo and Namjoon missed his eyes. Namjoon missed a lot of things.

When Namjoon posted photos from his next visit to the Getty, Taehyung liked the post. Namjoon wondered whether he’d hesitated. Whether this was him demonstrating that he wanted to be friends, or whether it was just—easy for him. Whether he saw it and felt positively and tapped the heart with no further thought and that was all it was. Whether he missed him.

Jimin, Hoseok, and Jungkook went to visit Taehyung in New York about a year into it. Jimin flew through LA on his return flight; he was the only one who’d been able to afford to hit both cities. Namjoon asked about the visit as if he hadn’t followed the whole thing through their stories, as if Hoseok hadn’t texted him unrequested updates throughout, and Jimin humored him.

Namjoon thought it might stay like that indefinitely. They’d be friends-of-friends. Social media friends. They could play at being on good terms without ever directly interacting. Taehyung could think they were friends, and Namjoon could imagine that he still had a piece of him, without having to struggle with giving Taehyung a piece of himself back.

There was a continent between them, and when Namjoon returned to Seoul, an ocean. More than enough to keep his heart safe.

11:39 pm

“That’s it,” Yoongi says. “I’m out.” He sets his little soju glass down with as much noise as it can make.

“It’s early,” Jimin says, somewhere between a song and a whine.

“No, I’m done, too,” Namjoon says. He’s not having a third beer, no matter how hard it is to look away from the drape of Taehyung’s silky floral button-up.

Seokjin reaches around Yoongi to flick Namjoon’s ear. “You just got here.” He lets his arm fall over Yoongi’s shoulders instead of taking it back.

“I’m tired,” Taehyung says. “Let’s all go.”

Jimin pouts at him, but Taehyung is looking at Namjoon.

“Where are you staying?” Namjoon asks.

“On our couch,” Seokjin answers.

“You don’t have a place yet?”

“We’re going to look at options tomorrow,” Jimin says. “But Tae didn’t want to pick without seeing any of them in person.”

“Your bedroom doesn’t even have a door on it,” Yoongi points out.

“Can I stay with you, hyung?” Taehyung asks. His voice is soft, just audible from across the table, but his eyes are the most focused they’ve been since Namjoon got here.

And this is—exactly the problem.

“Sure,” Namjoon says.

He’s never been able to say no to Taehyung.

Yoongi and Seokjin look at the table. Jimin raises his eyebrows at Namjoon. This is the opening where one of them could get him out of this. Nobody says anything.

Namjoon digs the hole further. “I have a comfortable couch.”

Taehyung smiles and says to Jimin, “Now you won’t have to keep it down for me.” Right in his ear like a whisper, but not a whisper at all.

Jimin covers his big smile with his small hand. “Tae…”

“As if they were ever going to keep it down,” Yoongi says. Seokjin squeezes his shoulder and Yoongi makes a show of rolling his eyes, but he doesn’t move to detach himself.

Taehyung’s smiling with Jimin, so wide and open, and then he turns it on Namjoon—and Namjoon feels that pull from the base of his stomach, his universe reorienting with Taehyung at the center of it.

11:53 pm

Jimin, stronger than he looks, graceful even at the end of a night out, is able to walk as if he’s not the only force keeping Taehyung upright. Seokjin hovers behind them, a safety net, ready to catch Taehyung the moment he loses his footing.

“He already had a place to stay,” Yoongi says.

Namjoon shrugs. “It’d be weird if I took it back now.”

“It’s already weird.”

Namjoon tries to glare down at him, but Yoongi is pointedly looking ahead. “Is this you helping? Are you trying to help?”

“If this all goes to shit—”

“I’ll tell you I told you so.”

Yoongi grins. “Wouldn’t expect anything less.” His expression sobers, and he looks up at Namjoon now. “Jimin thinks it’s going to be good for you.”

“Is that you comforting, or are you just calling Jimin a dumbass?”

“Jimin is a dumbass,” Yoongi says easily, “but he knows you both the best, so I wouldn’t discount it entirely.”

“Jimin’s an optimist.”

“He’s a raging pessimist. Overall, anyway. A realist when it comes to relationships.”

“It’s all going to go to shit,” Namjoon says. “And before you tell me to just decide not to be hurt—”

“That’s not what I’m saying.” Ahead of them, Taehyung turns and loops his arms around Seokjin’s neck, all three of them laughing at something. “I’m saying—you’ve been looking at this one way. For years. Maybe it’s time to look at it another way.”

“Do you still talk to Taehyung?” Jungkook asked Namjoon, and Namjoon choked on his noodles.

“Why do you ask?” Namjoon asked, as casually as he could after all the coughing and the frantic gulps of water.

Jungkook shrugged. “I saw you liked that picture of the flowers he posted yesterday, and it made me wonder if you guys talk.”

“Likes aren’t talking.”

“So you haven’t heard he’s coming back?”

Namjoon choked on his water this time. “To visit?” he asked when he could.

“To live. He got a—resident artist? Artist in residence? A thing. So he’s coming back.”

“I hadn’t heard,” Namjoon said, unnecessarily.

Then Jimin told him.

“I heard,” Namjoon said.

“He told you?” Jimin asked, looking surprised and, somehow, a little bit delighted.

“Jungkookie told me.”

Jimin studied him for a moment. “So what do you think?”

“I think that’s great for him. And if Seoul is where he wants to be, that’s—that’s great, for him.”

“Is that all?” Jimin prodded.

The only thing keeping Namjoon out of Taehyung’s orbit was distance. “That’s all,” Namjoon said.

Jimin looked disappointed, but he let it go.

12:05 am

Jimin and Seokjin bring Taehyung as far as the door to Namjoon and Yoongi’s building, and no further. Yoongi helps him to the elevator, but not out of it, staying in it to go another two floors. As they cross the threshold, it’s just them, their bodies close against each other.

“Come on, Tae,” Namjoon says, as soothing as he can. “Let’s get you into bed.”

Taehyung clutches at his cardigan. “You, too.”

“I’ll be on the couch.”

“Just wanna hold you, hyung.” He turns and presses his face into Namjoon’s collar. “You smell good.”

Taehyung smells good. He smells like alcohol, like whatever sweetly spiced drink Jimin ordered for him, but underneath that he smells like Taehyung. There’s that pull in Namjoon’s gut.


Taehyung’s weight shifts forward, and Namjoon catches him, straightens him. His hands are at his mouth. Namjoon walks him past the bedroom to the bathroom, instead, and guides him to kneel in front of the toilet.

As Taehyung empties his stomach into the bowl, Namjoon rubs his back, strokes his hair back from his temples. When it seems like he’s done, he goes and gets a glass of water for him from the kitchen.

Taehyung takes the glass from him with his cheek still resting against the seat of the toilet. “Feels like I’m dreaming,” he says.

“I don’t know why you’d dream about puking in my toilet.”

Taehyung just smiles, dreamily. “Can’t believe you’re really real. Right here with me. Wow. It’s you.”

The pull becomes a twist. “Let’s get you to bed, Tae.”

“Always think about you, you know? So happy you’re still real.”

“I’m real,” Namjoon says, despite the sense of unreality throughout this. He watches Taehyung lift his head enough to bring the glass to his lips. “Think you can get up?”

“It’s nice here,” Taehyung says.

“On my bathroom floor?”

“In your place.” He turns until the toilet seat becomes his headrest, and he keeps drinking the water. That much is a success, at least.

“That doesn’t seem comfortable,” Namjoon says. “There’s a bed,” he reminds him. He’s not sure when the bed became the offer. But it makes sense, that Namjoon would take the couch. He’d give Taehyung anything.

“It’s nice,” Taehyung says again. He sets the empty glass on the floor next to him, a loud clink against the tile. “I like it here.” His eyes fall shut.

Namjoon looks at his eyelashes, at how his shirt collar spreads, his top three buttons undone. He lifts Taehyung’s heavy body off the floor.

1:17 am

Taehyung sleeps, and Namjoon doesn’t. Namjoon lies on the comfortable couch where Taehyung isn’t sleeping, puts on his headphones, and listens to a playlist full of acoustic guitar and foreign voices. He thinks about gravitational pull.

They broke up because—

Taehyung didn’t tell him when he applied. He didn’t tell him when he thought about applying. He didn’t tell him when he was accepted, or when he thought about confirming his attendance. He told him when he’d already signed and sent everything in. Not “I might go to New York”—“I’m going to New York.”

They had their thrice-weekly calls and their daily messages and—Taehyung didn’t mention it. Not once. Not until it was already done. Namjoon thought that with a connection like theirs, distance was no object, but in less than a year it had degraded that far already.

If Taehyung couldn’t tell him things—if Namjoon wasn’t a factor in Taehyung’s future—

Taehyung wanted to stay friends. He wanted Namjoon to be in his life. And Namjoon didn’t know how to say no to that, still doesn’t know how to say no to that, because he wants Taehyung to be in his life. That never stopped. His universe hasn’t reoriented; he’s opened his eyes to the way it’s always been. Distance was no object, not for him. Even with four thousand, nine thousand, eleven thousand kilometers between them, Taehyung has been the center of Namjoon’s orbit since the moment they met.

He only wishes, selfishly, that he could be the center of Taehyung’s.

3:26 am

The light in the bedroom turns on. With everything pitch dark, it feels too bright and sudden even in the living room, the light flooding through the half-open door. Namjoon lifts his headphones off his ears and hears the soft pad of Taehyung’s feet on the floor, silence as Taehyung pauses in the doorway.

Namjoon sits up and squints in the direction of Taehyung’s face but can’t make out any more than his outline. “It’s to your right,” he says, “if you’re needing the bathroom.”

“Thanks,” comes Taehyung’s hoarse voice.

He throws up again. Flushes, takes a piss, and flushes again. Namjoon hears the sink, hears Taehyung gargle, and the sink runs again. After all of that, he emerges, and Namjoon waits for him to retreat back to the bedroom, but the footsteps approach the couch instead.

“Can I sit with you?”

Namjoon bends his legs enough to make room. “Sure.”

Taehyung sits sideways too, back to the other arm of the couch, facing Namjoon. Namjoon feels Taehyung’s hand curve around his calf like a stuffed animal. With Namjoon’s cropped pants, he’s touching bare skin.

“I don’t understand what you’re doing,” Namjoon says.

“Sorry,” Taehyung says, and he lets go.

“Not that. Well—yes, that. But you don’t have to stop. I just—I don’t understand why you’re acting like this.”

Taehyung stares back at him. His hair sticks up and his neckline is open and with the light from the bedroom illuminating him from behind he glows, bedhead and wrinkled silk shirt and all. His eyebrows are drawn down, and it’s probably just tiredness, but he looks—intense.

“Like what?” he asks.

Namjoon swallows around the dryness in his throat. “Like you miss me.”

Taehyung’s fingers clutch at his calf again, slide down to his ankle. “I do miss you.”

“I’m not ready for this,” Namjoon says, and looks away from that look in his eyes. “This is—this is why I couldn’t come tonight. Shouldn’t have come tonight.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says, but he doesn’t release his hold. “I tried not to.”

“Not to what?”

“Not to miss you.” In the softest voice.

Namjoon scrubs his hand down his face. “I really don’t understand, Tae.”

“We’re supposed to be friends now,” Taehyung says. Which is—weird. That’s Namjoon’s line. “And I want to be your friend. But I—it’s hard. That’s all.”

“What’s hard?”

“Being your friend.” His fingers tighten on Namjoon’s ankle.

It would be weird, wouldn’t it. To be friends with someone who wants something else from you, something you don’t want to give. “We don’t have to be. If it’s...if it’s too weird.” Namjoon’s breath sits heavy in his lungs and he releases it slowly. “I know it’s weird,” he says.

Taehyung’s hand comes up to Namjoon’s calf again, and his other hand on Namjoon’s other leg. He pulls at both until Namjoon’s feet are in his lap, and Namjoon lets him. “No, I’ll—I’ll get used to it,” he says. “I can’t have none of you.”

You can have all of me, Namjoon can’t say, because that was before.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says. “Is that too much? I don’t want to—if it’s too much, I’ll—I don’t know. You don’t have to be alone with me. I’m sorry I intruded. I’ll go to Jimin and hyung’s place in the morning. My—my stuff’s there anyway.” He says all this with his hands curled around Namjoon’s shins, not letting go.

Namjoon leans forward, and he places his hands over Taehyung’s. “You’re not intruding. I’m—I do want to be friends. Whatever you want.” He means that more than he wants to. “I just have to adjust. It was easier to deal with not having you when you were on the other side of the world. Now it’s—I’ll get over it.”

“‘Get over it,’” Taehyung repeats. “Not—having me?”

It’s just going to take some time, Namjoon wants to say, because that’s supposed to be the answer. But they’ve been apart now longer than they’d been together, and that’s more than the time it’s supposed to take. A lot more.

“I think knowing you were coming back,” Namjoon says, “and then seeing you again tonight—it brought it back. But I’ll...I’ll get over it. All the way over it. You don’t need to worry about that.”

“Can’t you—”

Taehyung cuts himself off, a frustrated set to his jaw. Namjoon feels very acutely, all at once, that they have been speaking right past each other.

“Can’t I what?” he asks, in a voice exactly as cautious as he feels.

“Nothing. You don’t want to. I’ll be okay. I’ll figure it out.”

“Figure what out?”

Thickly, brokenly, frustration built to a summit: “How not to be in love with you.”

Right past each other.

Namjoon closes his hands around Taehyung’s, and he crosses his legs, and he holds their hands between them like a lifeline, like if they can stay connected here and now, they can—

“You’re in love with me?”

Taehyung makes a sound like a sob, and he blinks his eyes closed forcefully, his whole face screwing up. “You know that,” he says, voice thick with tears.

“I didn’t know that,” Namjoon says, in a voice that comes out far too calm in comparison.

“You’re it for me, hyung. You’re my forever.” He hiccups. “You’re my world.”

Namjoon brings his hands to Taehyung’s cheeks, but he brings Taehyung’s with them, and Taehyung shakes with something between a laugh and a sob at Namjoon’s clumsy attempt to wipe his tears.

“And I’m your moon,” Taehyung says, “and I’m circling you, but that’s all I can do. I can see you from this far, but I can’t come any closer.”

“You’re the sun, Tae,” Namjoon says, releasing his hands to hold him properly. “You’re the center of everything. You always have been.”

Taehyung cries harder, but he’s smiling, and he pitches himself forward into Namjoon’s arms. Namjoon wraps around him, Taehyung at the center of him, and—his universe rights itself.

4:03 am

“I thought—what’s another year or two, out of the rest of our lives? What’s four thousand kilometers when we’ve already handled twice that?”

Namjoon bought his couch after sprawling across several and finding that this one was the right scale for him. It’s a bit tight for the both of them, but they fit, lying close.

“You didn’t even tell me you were thinking of it,” he says. It hurts to say, but Taehyung is warm against him, and that helps.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says. He runs his fingers up and down Namjoon’s arm as he speaks. “You always said I could do anything, should try everything, so I thought—well. But I also thought you’d try and move, if I told you right away.”


“To New York, too. Give up everything you earned. And you probably wouldn’t have, but I—I thought of it like a secret. Not like a lie. But it was a lie, too. So I’m sorry.”

“I thought you didn’t trust me anymore. That I wasn’t even a factor in your decision. So I would only get worse, from there. That we needed to stop before it hurt either of us more.”

Taehyung squeezes him tight for a second, two seconds, three. His face pressed deep into Namjoon’s chest. “I thought you didn’t believe in us,” he says, when there’s space to. “I thought you didn’t think we were worth the distance. That hurt a lot, to think that you were forever for me and I wasn’t for you.”

“You’re forever,” Namjoon says.

Taehyung smells like alcohol, and sweat, and faintly of vomit. He smells real. He feels real. Namjoon feels real, too, with his arms around him, with Taehyung’s arms around him right back.

6:01 am

There’s an obnoxious, incessant beeping. Namjoon tries to ignore it, but it only gets louder.

He waves his hand to his right, feeling for his bedside table, but his fingers knock against the corner of something else. His coffee table. He’s on his couch, and Taehyung is here with him.

“Tae,” he says, his throat scratchy around the name. “Tae, what the fuck is that?”

Taehyung wiggles like he’s trying to burrow into Namjoon’s torso.

Namjoon remembers this. Namjoon’s alarms are songs he likes, ushering him into the day gently. Taehyung’s alarms were always as annoying as possible because it was the only way to keep him from tuning them out, but even then he’d do his best.

He feels around Taehyung’s accessible pockets. The back two are empty—Taehyung giggles into his chest as he gropes his ass—but he feels a phone-shaped lump in the front one on the left. With effort, he pulls it out, turns off the sound, and places it on the coffee table.

“Good morning,” Taehyung says, muffled in Namjoon’s t-shirt.

“Nope,” Namjoon says. “Not awake yet. Still asleep.”

“Gotta go to Jimin and hyung’s.” He makes a full-body motion like he’s trying to roll away from Namjoon, but the back of the couch is in the way.

“At six in the morning?”

“It’s six? Damn, I’m sorry.” He pulls Namjoon closer. He says, “This is really uncomfortable, actually.”

“Comfortable for a couch,” Namjoon says. “For a bed, not so much.”

“You have a bed.” Like he’s realizing it now. “Let’s sleep in your bed.”

Namjoon looks down at him, brushes his hair back so he can see his eyes. His bleary morning eyes, beautiful even at this hour. Taehyung blinks those lashes and looks up at him, mouth settling into a slight pout.

“It’s you,” Namjoon says back to him, feeling awed by how ordinary this is. “You’re really real.”

“Sleep,” Taehyung says. He cranes his neck up and kisses Namjoon’s cheek, right where the dimple must be.

“Yes,” Namjoon says, smiling bigger. “Let’s.”

They haul themselves off the couch, careful not to knock into the table with their clumsy morning limbs. Namjoon guides Taehyung to the bedroom again, and this time they both strip down to their underwear. It’s everything familiar and everything new, this person Namjoon used to know inside and out in this home that he built without him, after him. But they’re both here now. Taehyung isn’t his past anymore.

Namjoon turns off the lamp that’s been on since Taehyung woke up in the middle of the night, but the room doesn’t go dark. The dim sky outside is lightening, casting cool rosy tones through the bedroom window. They tuck themselves into bed, together, as the sun rises.