“It’s really not a big deal,” says Seokjin, shrugging as he gets up off the edge of Namjoon’s bed. He shoots a grin at his best friend, feeling the way the corners of his lips try to fight the motion. You’re lying, his muscles try to tell him. He ignores them, forcing the smile all the way up to his eyes.
“Hyung,” says Namjoon.
“I’m serious,” says Seokjin again. “It’s fine. It’ll work out.” He reaches over to smooth the bedspread, erasing all traces of his presence. He’s careful to make sure his face is out of Namjoon’s field of view before he drops the smile.
The thing that is “really not a big deal” is this: Seokjin may be failing one of his classes. Which, to any other version of Seokjin who was not a few weeks away from graduation, would be a “take that, toxic education system, who needs you anyway?” But to this current Seokjin, it is really bad and a little terrifying. Because if he does fail, that means his graduation is not going to happen, and neither is the job he has lined up on the other side of the country that he’s supposed to start as soon as they put the diploma in his hand.
Seokjin’s pretty sure it will end up working out, probably, if he grovels enough in front of his professor and scrambles to do some extra credit assignments, maybe retake a few midterms. But he’s not sure of that right now, and everything is up in the air.
The issue with this (aside from the fact that his entire future may be crumbling right before his eyes) is that Seokjin has put years of effort into cultivating this image of himself as the one who always has his shit together. He’s the one who, when something goes wrong, just laughs it off, and things work out. He doesn’t take things too seriously, or stress, or freak out, or—heaven forbid—have a full breakdown about failing this class in front of the person he’s madly in love with.
Oh, yeah. That’s the other thing. Seokjin is ridiculously, incurably, heart-over-head in love with his best friend, Kim Namjoon, who he probably won’t see again after he graduates and moves away, and it’s kind of eating him alive.
What it boils down to is this: Kim Seokjin is a happy, confident, successful man, and he is going to graduate in three weeks, and no one will ever find out that (a) he almost didn’t graduate, and (b) he’s in disgustingly unrequited love with his best friend. Least of all said best friend.
Namjoon grabs his wrist, pulls him back down onto the bed. Right when he had just smoothed out the blankets perfectly. “Kim Namjoon, you have no respect for my hard work,” says Seokjin, pouting dramatically.
“Hyung, what do you mean ‘a bad grade’?”
“Oh, just a test I didn’t study for enough,” says Seokjin. He shrugs again. “I’ll just have to charm my professor into rounding it up, is all.”
Namjoon’s eyes narrow. “You don’t have to hide things from me, hyung.”
Seokjin laughs. “I’m not hiding anything, Joon-ah. What, you don’t think I’m charming enough to get my grade changed? I’ll have you know, between this face and my wit, no one can refuse me.”
Namjoon lets out an exasperated noise, somewhere between a groan and a sigh. “Hyung, that’s not —”
“In only the past four years of my university education, I have convinced no fewer than fifteen TAs to give me perfect scores on homework I didn’t even do.”
“Hyung, I’m not—”
“My last year of high school, I individually told sixteen of my classmates that I was afraid no one liked me and I wouldn’t get any roses on Valentine’s Day. Every single one of them brought me roses. I got more than anyone else in the school.”
“Yes,” says Namjoon, waving a hand around. It’s probably meant to be dismissive, Seokjin thinks, but it looks a little more like he’s trying to wave off a very persistent invisible poltergeist. It’s cute, Seokjin thinks next, and immediately hates himself for being so whipped. “I know you’re ‘worldwide handsome’ or whatever,” Namjoon continues, “and ‘no one can resist your charms.’ But you’re changing the subject. Is the grade really that bad? You’re not, like, in danger of failing, are you?”
Seokjin scoffs loudly. “Failing? Not possible. Failure cannot touch one such as I.”
“You’re acting weird, hyung,” says Namjoon. “You’re definitely hiding something.”
“Excuse you, Kim Namjoon. What motive could I, the Kim Seokjin, pinnacle to which all other beings aspire, possibly have to ‘hide things’?” He garnishes his speech with aggressive air quotes.
“Can I see your grades?” asks Namjoon. “Just to get an idea of how bad it is?”
Seokjin’s brain immediately spirals into a terror-driven downward flush. “You think your self-esteem would survive such a blow?” he spits out, wiggling his eyebrows in what hopefully looks like a challenge and not a desperate attempt to hide his immense panic. “You see, not only am I beautiful, but I am also brilliant. You mere mortals would quake with fear upon seeing objective evidence of my intelligence.”
Namjoon doesn’t say anything, just bites his lip for a second, his eyes narrowed almost into slits. “Hyung, I’m your best friend, right?” he asks, and he sounds...sad. Oh no, thinks Seokjin. Sad Namjoon is one of the most potent weapons ever formed against him. He has revealed to Sad Namjoon on three prior occasions that he is capable of feeling and expressing Emotions.
“Of course you are,” says Seokjin quickly. “What, are you afraid I've replaced you?”
“You know you can tell me things,” says Namjoon. “If you're sad, or worried, or happy, or anything. You can tell me. I care about you.”
Seokjin feels a wave of...something gross start building up. His eyes prick with tears. Oh no, he thinks again. Tears are his final boss-level, his arch nemesis. And he has a strict policy that tears can only be shed in his bedroom, if (a) the door is locked, (b) the blinds are closed, and (c) Girl’s Generation is blasting loudly enough that no one could possibly hear him cry.
“Of course you do,” he says to Namjoon quickly, and jumps up to leave the room before he actually sheds a human tear in front of the love of his life and everything subsequently goes to shit. He starts off running fast, like gazelle-fleeing-from-a-lion fast, so it’s more than a little surprising when Namjoon catches him, one arm around his waist. He’s spun back to face Namjoon, and somewhere between the emotions and the running and the shock of being grabbed by a (pleasantly warm and large) hand, not one, not two, but four tears leak out of his eyes, trailing down his cheeks.
Namjoon’s mouth drops open. “Are you... crying?”
Seokjin snorts. Another several tears stream down his face, and his throat catches with a sob. “No,” he says defiantly, as he very obviously continues to cry. “This is my scheduled ocular detoxification. I can’t have my beautiful eyes marred by irritants and dehydration, you know.” He chokes on another sob.
Namjoon continues staring at him, and then lunges forward to hug him.
Namjoon smells good. Like, really good. He’s warm, and just that little bit taller than Seokjin, and somehow despite Seokjin’s gloriously broad shoulders, they fit together perfectly, in a way that makes Seokjin feel small. Not small like useless or unimportant, but small like safe. For some reason this only makes Seokjin cry more, and soon he’s sniffling and gasping very unattractively into the juncture of Namjoon’s shoulder and neck, a puddle of tears and probably snot beginning to form on Namjoon’s collar.
Seokjin tries to back out of Namjoon’s grasp, hoping to make his escape now and preserve the last sliver of his dignity, but Namjoon doesn’t let him go, just winds his arm more tightly around Seokjin’s waist.
It takes a mortifyingly long time for Seokjin to stop crying, and in spite of his various bouts of squirming, Namjoon doesn’t let him go until he’s done.
Seokjin feels... reborn, or something. Like crying and being held in Namjoon’s arms just released him from some sort of metaphorical chrysalis and now he has emerged a brilliant butterfly. Catharsis, he thinks, is the word for that sort of thing. Only, he’s never been a butterfly before, so he has literally no idea what he’s supposed to do now.
“Your shirt,” Seokjin says after a moment of very uncomfortable silence, gesturing at the pool of saltwater on Namjoon’s shoulder.
“Is the least of my worries right now. First, you’re going to tell me what’s going on.”
Seokjin raises a hand. “Can I opt out of that step?” He sniffs for what he fervently hopes is the last time.
“Absolutely not.” One of Namjoon’s hands traces down his wrist and then, in what is either the worst or best event of Seokjin’s life, he interlaces his fingers with Seokjin’s. “Now, are you going to talk willingly or do you need me to ask you leading questions?”
“Um,” says Seokjin. He goes to stare at the floor, but instead ends up staring at their connected hands. Namjoon is holding his hand. He redirects his gaze to the ceiling, which is fortunately a much safer bet.
“Leading questions it is,” says Namjoon. He tugs Seokjin back to the bed, and they resume their previous positions: Seokjin sitting on the end corner, and Namjoon next to him. Namjoon is still holding his hand. “Is this about your grades?”
“Maybe?” he says, refusing to look Namjoon in the eye.
“Are you worried you’re going to fail that class?” asks Namjoon.
Seokjin stares at him in shock. He knows Namjoon is smart, but, like, he just jumped to the exact correct conclusion on the first try.
Namjoon smiles slightly. “Ah, so that’s what it is.”
“I don’t think I’m actually going to fail,” Seokjin supplements quickly, the syllables tripping over each other in their haste to get out. An extra tear threatens to fall. “I’m sure I can convince the professor, and do extra credit or something. It’s not like...this huge deal, I don’t know why I’m freaking out about it, it’s just one—”
“First of all,” says Namjoon, his voice gentle, “I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out. You’re smart, and resilient, and you always figure things out.” Namjoon’s thumb strokes back and forth on the back of Seokjin’s hand. He almost starts crying again. Screw feelings, honestly. “But, you know it’s okay to worry about things, right? You’ve been working so hard toward graduation, and now there’s this one little thing that could potentially ruin all your plans. That’s scary.”
Namjoon looks at him, his whole beautiful face just leaking compassion. “You being scared about it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or a bad person, or anything. It just means you’re human.”
Seokjin swallows a fresh wave of tears. “So, am I right?” Namjoon continues. “Is that what you’re worried about? Failing the class, and then not being able to graduate?” Seokjin nods, not trusting himself to speak. “See?” says Namjoon, grinning. “Was that so hard? Admitting you’re scared about something that’s totally scary?”
Seokjin flings himself dramatically backwards onto the bed. “Yes, it was. It almost killed me. Please have some respect for a man on his deathbed.” It isn’t even that much of an exaggeration; he does actually feel like his life force is being drained out of him. Emotions are exhausting, he concludes.
Namjoon falls backwards right next to Seokjin, not missing a beat. They’re still holding hands, Seokjin notices, which is probably contributing to his rapid demise.
“So, you’re not actually going to fail,” says Namjoon. “We know that. You’re going to work hard and get your grade up, and graduate, and go kick ass at your job. But, for right now, is there anything I can do to help?”
It’s at this point that Seokjin makes what he would classify as A Mistake: he looks at Namjoon. And okay, Seokjin knows that Namjoon is attractive; that epiphany is long come and gone. But Namjoon isn’t just aesthetically beautiful, right now. His whole face is filled with concern and kindness. He just offered to help, and he looks like he meant it, like he would do anything to help Seokjin.
So Namjoon is objectively attractive, and subjectively beautiful, and his face is, like, right next to Seokjin’s. This is bad, Seokjin thinks, through a haze of pheromones. Very bad.
He sits up before he does something like touch Namjoon’s face or kiss him or say something about Namjoon being beautiful. He has already lost most of his dignity and gotten snot all over Namjoon’s shirt, so he cannot add his unrequited love into this shitstorm and make everything that much worse.
He forces himself to inhale, and then exhale. He pulls his hand out of Namjoon’s. “No, you’ve already let me ruin your shirt, I think that’s more than enough.” He means it, too. He’ll be fine, he’ll be able to get the passing grade, and he doesn’t need Namjoon’s help to do that.
“You’re sure?” asks Namjoon, sitting up beside him.
Seokjin nods. “I already set up a meeting with my professor for tomorrow, I'll just have to do whatever he says.”
Namjoon looks at him intently for a minute before he also nods. “Okay.” He exhales loudly, twisting his hands together. It’s silent for a little while before Namjoon speaks again. “You’d better tell me if you need help, though,” he says, his voice stern and almost a tiny bit threatening. “None of this ‘pretending to be fine’ stuff. I know you too well, hyung, I can see straight through your bullshit.”
Seokjin’s body gives him no warning whatsoever before it immediately starts crying again. Namjoon jumps back a little bit in shock. “What—did I say something? Are you—” He’s frozen for a second before his hands start fluttering all over Seokjin's body, like he’s expecting to find some physical evidence of whatever’s making Seokjin cry. Like he’s going to fix it no matter what it is. Because he’s Kim Namjoon, and he knows Seokjin better than anyone, and he would help Seokjin with anything, no matter how weird or terrifying. Seokjin sobs at the thought. “What’s wrong, hyung?” Namjoon asks, his eyes snapping up to Seokjin’s at the sound. His voice is so careful, so tender, and Seokjin is literally going to drown from how much he loves this kind, gentle idiot.
“ You, ” says Seokjin, suddenly angry or terrified (maybe a mix of both). He leaps up and away, far, far out of Namjoon’s reach. Unfortunately, far, far out of Namjoon’s reach means he throws himself off the bed and onto the floor. His tailbone lands directly on one of Namjoon’s huge thick textbooks, and his head smacks into Namjoon’s dresser.
Namjoon is at his side in a millisecond, one hand on his head and the other back around his waist. “Hyung, what on earth—why did you—are you okay? —your head—you’re not bleeding, are you?” He pulls his hand back from Seokjin’s head to check for blood. “No, okay, that's good. Why did you—” Nothing really hurts that badly, Seokjin thinks. Nothing except Namjoon being so nice and concerned and making Seokjin love him so much he might never recover. Seokjin scoots backwards, trying again to get out of Namjoon’s reach, hoping to keep some part of his heart intact, so that one day in the far distant future he might be able to eventually get over Namjoon and learn to love someone else.
Namjoon freezes suddenly, retracting both hands so he isn’t touching Seokjin anywhere. “Wait a second,” he says slowly, “did you just say me? I asked you what was wrong, and you said me? ”
Seokjin nods. He wipes away a leftover tear. Namjoon looks slightly terrified. “Did I do something?”
“No,” says Seokjin. He closes his eyes. “Yes. I don’t know. You’re just…” he waves a hand blindly, gesturing to what he hopes is Namjoon (he doesn’t dare open his eyes) “...like this, all the time, and it’s ruining my life.” He takes a deep breath, squeezing his eyes even more tightly shut. “No, you know what, at this point, I think it might already be ruined.”
“Hyung,” says Namjoon. He sounds desperate. “What are you talking about? I ruined your life? What did I—did I say something? Did I hurt you?”
“Your textbook did,” says Seokjin in a pathetic attempt to change the subject. He shoves the offending tome towards Namjoon and rubs his tailbone. He catches one glimpse of Namjoon’s face: he looks distraught and worried and still so kind.
Seokjin can’t do this. He really can’t do this. In fact, probably the only way he's going to survive is if he never looks at Kim Namjoon again. So he flops over, face down, onto the floor.
“Stupid History of Civilization,” says Namjoon to his textbook. “You’re nothing but erasure of non-white culture. Screw you. And how dare you hurt my Jin-hyung.” There’s a sound like he’s thrown the textbook to the other side of the room.
Seokjin flips back over, pointing one finger right between Namjoon’s eyes. "That! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Stop being like that.”
Seokjin groans, planting his face back on the floor. “The way you are,” he says, into a discarded sweatshirt. It smells exactly like Namjoon. It takes a Herculean effort for Seokjin not to inhale the scent like he’s trying to get high off of it. “I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to love anyone else ever again in my life, and it’s your fault.”
He’s expecting Namjoon to say something, probably along the lines of “what did you say?” or “I can’t hear you!” considering his last two sentences were mumbled into a sweatshirt. So when several seconds go by in complete silence, it’s enough for Seokjin to look up at Namjoon.
His best friend is staring at him in complete shock, his mouth hanging open like he's a fish. Seokjin watches him for a moment, waiting for a muscle twitch or some other sign of life. There is none. “You didn’t—” Seokjin swallows. “Did you somehow hear that?”
“You—” Namjoon says, moving for the first time in probably sixty seconds. Seokjin is a little bit relieved that he’s not, like, dead, or frozen in time. “Are you—” The words are extra raspy and almost inaudible, like Namjoon is suddenly terrified of the sound of his own voice. “Are you in love with me?” It’s barely even a whisper.
“Um,” says Seokjin, and then he starts laughing uncomfortably. “Am I—um—”
“I need to know,” says Namjoon. This time the words could pass as “spoken,” but just barely. “Are you in love with me?” he asks again.
“Maybe?” says Seokjin.
“Hyung,” he says.
“You know what? Fine!” Seokjin starts spitting out words like he's a sparkler, or one of those little fizzy fireworks that shoot tiny balls of flame in all directions. “Yes! I am! I'm that idiot who fell in love with his best friend, and I literally don't know what to do because you have ruined all other people for me forever! No one is ever going to be as smart as you or as nice as you or know me the way you do and I hate it so much, I'll probably be alone forever because I will never be able to get over you as long as I live!” He can feel his face getting red because (a) he has expressed too many emotions and (b) he might not have taken a breath at any point during that entire speech.
“What?” says Namjoon. His voice wobbles precariously. He looks like he’s about to pass out.
Seokjin runs his hands down his face, exhaling loudly. “I was going to take this to my grave and just suffer quietly in unrequited love for the rest of my life. I’m sorry you had to find out, I really didn’t mean for this—”
Namjoon grabs both of Seokjin’s hands, takes them off his face, pulls them against his own chest. Namjoon’s heartbeat is fast and a little erratic. Seokjin has no clue what is happening right now. “Seokjin-hyung,” says Namjoon quietly. “Sorry, but can you say that first thing again? I need to—there’s something—”
“I was going to take this to my grave—” Seokjin starts to repeat. His hands clench in the fabric of Namjoon's shirt.
“No, no, not—” Namjoon shakes his head vigorously. “The part where you said you’re in love with me?”
Seokjin blinks back a tear. “I’m sorry I ruined your shirt,” he says, “but this is too harsh of revenge for that. This is already painful enough for me, please don’t drag it out.”
“No, hyung, you aren’t—” Namjoon clutches tightly onto Seokjin’s hands, like he’s trying to make Seokjin understand him by squeezing his hands to death. “This isn’t revenge, I’m not trying to hurt you. I just need you to say it again, please.” He looks and sounds sad, almost like he’s in physical pain.
And at the end of the day, Seokjin knows he can’t refuse Sad Namjoon anything, so he looks down at the floor and says, “Kim Namjoon, I’m in love with you, you asshole.”
It’s uncomfortably, miserably silent for a second, until Namjoon makes this awful choked noise and says “ yep, I—holy shit” and then Seokjin (falls? is thrown?) flat on his back and someone is kissing him.
“Namjoon?” he asks, against—oh, those are Namjoon’s lips, Namjoon is kissing him, he—
“You called me an asshole,” Namjoon says in between kisses. He keeps kissing Seokjin, over and over, like he can't help himself, like he doesn't know how to stop. “I can’t believe I didn’t know—”
“Namjoon,” says Seokjin again. He doesn’t want to stop kissing Namjoon, not now, or actually ever, but he does want to know what’s going on. He somehow manages to push Namjoon away. He sits up. “What are you doing?”
“I love you,” says Namjoon, staring at Seokjin like he’s never seen him before. He says the words like it’s the first time he’s ever considered them. “I think I must have loved you for ages, I just didn’t—I didn’t know—” Namjoon leans in again, pressing his lips to Seokjin’s, cupping Seokjin’s jaw in his hand as he kisses him. Seokjin thinks for the third time today that he might be dying.
“Joon-ah,” says Seokjin, pushing him away gently. “Sorry, but, I’m confused.”
“I’m in love with you,” says Namjoon again. He doesn’t look away from Seokjin’s face, doesn’t even blink. “I’ve been in love with you for, I don’t know, years, maybe, and I had no idea until you said something about how you’ll never love anyone else, and it, like, set off this chemical reaction in my head, like ‘does he love me?’ which then turned into ‘do I love him?’ which, apparently, I do. A lot, I think. For a ridiculously long time.” Namjoon exhales, and looks up at Seokjin. He looks all shy, a little bit embarrassed, this tiny hint of a smile on his face, his dimples barely visible. Seokjin has to remind himself to breathe. “I don't know how I didn't know,” says Namjoon. “It's in every part of me, every cell in my body, all my organs and muscles and veins, every single piece, all of me loves you so much.”
“That’s disgusting,” says Seokjin, because it is. “Who says things like that, Joon-ah? I’ve never heard anything more revolting in my life.” But it’s not just Namjoon who feels like that, he realizes in growing surprise. His whole being, also, is flooded with love for Namjoon, and it’s not drowning him anymore. Instead he’s floating on it, all bubbly and buoyant. “You love me?”
Namjoon surges forward to kiss him again, and Seokjin barely has time to prepare himself for it before there are lips on his. He kisses back carefully, because this is still a little bit...sudden, a little bit uncertain. Namjoon doesn’t seem to have the same hesitation, tilting Seokjin’s jaw to give himself better access. Seokjin decides that’s a good enough sign as any, and throws caution to the wind, kissing Namjoon the way he’s wanted to for months, the way he didn’t think he’d ever be able to.
“How long have you known?” Namjoon asks him suddenly, pulling away.
Seokjin pouts at the distance between them. “Known what?”
“That you were in love with me. How long have you known?”
Seokjin shrugs. “A year, probably.”
Namjoon stares at him. “A year? Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
Seokjin snorts. “Me, Kim Seokjin, willingly starting a conversation about my feelings? With you, the subject of those feelings? I don’t think so.”
Namjoon laughs, laughs so hard his body tips forward, his head landing softly on Seokjin’s collarbone. “You’re ridiculous,” he says. Seokjin can feel the warmth of Namjoon’s breath against his skin. “I love you so much.”
Seokjin inhales, gears himself up to say the words again. “I, also, love you.” He exhales. “All right, that’s over with. Now, can we please stop talking so much about our feelings and get back to kissing? If I have to express one more emotion today I think I might actually keel over and—”
Spoiler alert: he doesn’t keel over and die.
Seokjin’s whole family comes to his graduation: his parents, his hyung, his grandparents, a handful of his cousins.
If Seokjin had to describe his family in one word, he would say they’re reserved. Dignified would also be fitting. The type to quietly congratulate him on a job well done, an education well learned, whatever the hell you say to graduates, and move on. So, with them, this whole affair should be relatively low-key.
However, it’s important to note that the following people are also in attendance: his friends, his old past roommates, most of his professors, twelve out of the fifteen TAs he manipulated in the past, Namjoon’s sister.
In the week leading up to graduation, Namjoon threatened (or offered, depending on how you look at it) to do the following things in front of Seokjin’s family/friends/assembled peers/professors: (a) bring one of those massive flower garlands they sometimes have at weddings and ceremoniously drape it all over Seokjin, (b) hire a band to serenade him in the middle of the crowd of graduates, (c) bring a microphone and very loudly recite a poem he wrote about Seokjin’s brilliance and accomplishments, (d) scream at the top of his lungs and fire one of those toy guns that shoot fake money everywhere.
To be honest, any of these options sounds quite nice to Seokjin, who, although attention makes his ears and neck flush a vivid red, secretly loves being in the spotlight. But there’s his family to think of, so he tells Namjoon that under no circumstances is he to do any of those things, that they should keep things dignified for the sake of his parents and grandparents.
Seokjin almost forgets about Namjoon’s threats until the whole thing ends, and he sees the assembled throngs waiting to greet him. He scans through the faces, and everyone is there—everyone except Namjoon. He can usually pick out his boyfriend quickly, because he’s tall, and usually making faces at him or something. But he’s...not there.
Seokjin is just starting to get nervous, waiting to hear the first notes of a mariachi band pick up or something, when Namjoon comes running towards them, looking like he had probably gotten lost. He stops at the edge of the group, bouncing up and down on his heels, waving at Seokjin from behind his cousin’s head. He looks like a little kid on a pogo stick, and Seokjin has to bite his lip to keep from laughing out loud.
He glances around the group of assembled Seokjin supporters, all people who care about him and encourage him and love him. And then he looks back at Namjoon, who has somehow managed to continue jumping even higher, his hair flopping against his forehead every time he lands.
The thing is, no one will ever care about him, encourage him, love him, or support him as well as Namjoon does.
He cuts off the voice in his head that’s going wait, Seokjin, please don’t make a scene, remember your grandma — and he bulldozes past roommates, friends, maybe a professor?, and his cousin;
he launches himself at Kim Namjoon and kisses him like the world is ending.
He hears a scandalized gasp from some relative, because he’s definitely causing a scene, violently making out with his boyfriend in front of...basically everyone he knows. So much for his dignity. But he doesn’t even consider stopping; only smiles into the kiss, only pulls Namjoon closer.
Because, well, what it boils down to is this: Kim Seokjin is a happy, confident, successful man, who just graduated. Only one person knows that he almost didn’t graduate, and that person is his best friend and (recently) his boyfriend, who, as it turns out, was just as disgustingly in love with him all along.