In its natural habitat, the hermit crab avoids the sun by staying in its hiding place to only come out to scavenge for food after sunset. This is because its skin is so thin and delicate that it risks getting sunburnt. While Namjoon doesn’t have particularly delicate skin, he does avoid the sun (unintentionally for the most part) and only comes alive at night.
The 4-hour shift at the fish store starts at the strike of 10pm, coursing all the way to 2 o'clock the next morning before he can drag himself back home and sleep until midday. Why does a pet fish store need to be open 24/7 anyway? For what purpose? Which mad man would decide to come and purchase a goldfish after dark?
No one, and that's exactly who Namjoon sees every night.
That statement is only literal to a certain extent, come to think of it. The streetlamps along the darkening roads would sometimes reveal a few pedestrians here and there; solemn businessmen, drunk teenagers, and other individuals who don’t seem like they belong to this time of day. Other than that, the fish store sits directly adjacent to a strip club.
Yes, a strip club.
Namjoon has never seen the interior of “Nocturnalists”; only dark brick walls stained with too-bright neon lights framing large banners with women and men in skimpy, right-on-the-borders-of-being-socially-unacceptable clothing. Sometimes those said men and women would be sitting on dinky stools just outside the building, either having a smoke break or just chatting. The music from inside could hardly be muffled by the large black doors, vibrant lines of light seeping out from the bottom and some from the top, trying to escape whatever is happening inside.
Though there are a few familiar faces (there has to be some, seeing them almost every single night), this hermit crab never bothered to strike up a conversation or engage in any way with the other nocturnal animals of the night— why would he?
Every night consists of him sitting at the very back of the store, eyes flickering from one tank to another. Some are vividly filled with fish, all identical in size and colour, swimming and flapping around with neon lights reflecting off its fins. Some are completely dark, one tank in particular has a black angelfish moping around back and forth. And maybe that’s him right now, Namjoon thinks, shuffling around in the dark where next door seems to be packed with light and movement. Although the quiet, save for the low whirring of the oxygen tanks, is quite nice and calming in a way— or at least he has learned to live with it, accepting that this is the closest he’ll ever get to silence here.
Namjoon has to redefine silence in order to cope with habitat he has been put in.
Hermit crabs scatter around in a dark tank near where Namjoon sits at the back. It’s quite fun, looking after creatures that only seem to come alive at night, trashing the whole tank and decorations set for them. They’re like lively friends that never seem to run out of energy and it helps to take Namjoon’s mind away from the many worries he has.
People think hermit crabs are easy to care for, what with its tiny size and basic habitat. It’s simple— just provide them a few things and they’ll do fine. They have such a linear lifestyle, nothing could possibly go wrong.
That’s what it seemed like too with Namjoon, whose grades would always rank the highest in class with his extensive knowledge in probably everything, particularly marine biology. He can tell a fish’s gender from the length of its tail, and was the only one who wasn’t surprised by the fact that the Chinese soft-shelled turtle pees from its mouth when it came up in the exam.
It seems like a no-brainer— Namjoon is going graduate to a good college and come back to visit the school years later as some renowned marine biologist. What could go wrong?
It’s actually pretty difficult to properly care for a hermit crab, as its environmental needs are so specific, much like how easy it is to say that Namjoon is going to graduate with some neat degree in marine biology when it’s taking years to study in several classes that don’t seem to have anything to do with fish as well as somehow maintaining his mental and physical well-being despite the pressure and workload.
The specific requirements for proper hermit crab care also come with a hefty price, and Namjoon himself needs to find a stable job in order to pay for his college tuition. But what kind of job can a marine biology student do that would help him in any way?
The question molded itself into footsteps, clicking on the pavements and into the tile floors of Bang’s aqua store .
It’s relatively simple— just look after a few animals, memorise the specific requirements for each tank, watch out for rats, and service any live specimen who would want a new goldfish at dawn. Needless to say, there wasn’t much competition over the job.
And so here Namjoon is, sitting at the back of a dimly lit excuse of a fish store at ass o’clock after checking that all the tanks are running.
This time of day is when people are alone. Mostly because theyʼre in bed. In Namjoonʼs case however, itʼs because he needs the money and no one wants to buy a fish at fucking two in the morning.
The isolation gives him time to reminisce about old memories of times he did favor companionship— whether that’s a good thing to think about or not is still up for debate.
It was just Namjoon, a few barely-friends and this dumb crush on the prettiest boy in school.
Ah, yes. The Jung Hoseok.
The Jung Hoseok who would fill the corridors leading to the empty classroom every lunch break and after school with eager audiences. The Jung Hoseok who Namjoon got the privilege to spend his high school years admiring from afar, just a little crush that he doesn’t expect anything out of, nothing more than a little something for Namjoon to see and freshen up and smile. Just that.
He had a nice smile, Namjoon remembers, the prettiest of all, especially when he was showing it off as he danced in that small, sweaty room at the end of the corridor.
It would be nice if that smile was still around and not disappear as soon as high school’s chapter came to an end, but it’s alright. It was just a crush (that he likes to bring back up years later).
Jung Hoseok is probably out there performing on stage, surrounded by passionate screaming and love, far away from this mucky pre-morning street.
With the pretty boy from high school tucked back into his mind, Namjoon glances back at the clock. It’s just touching midnight.
Ah right, two more hours to go and he can finally tap out.
And itʼs almost comical how quickly his thoughts can be overturned after he has put it there.
As quick as the jingles of little bells from the glass door that swings open, to be exact.
Namjoon shoots up in his seat after slouching for hours and mutters out the customary welcome greeting.
“Hello...weird question, but is it okay if I just sit around here for a bit?” Says a voice, “It's hectic in there”
The first sense, auditory, registers in Namjoon’s brains and his wheels are already turning. Maybe it’s not used to processing speech at this time of day but something about the stranger’s voice seems odd— not necessarily odd, actually, but almost… familiar?
The night is dimly lit by the street lamps and the neon lights installed in the store that honestly don’t do a good job at illuminating anything other than the specimen put on display, so Namjoon doesn’t know who it could be until they step far enough into the shop for the storeʼs lights to hit his features and well...outfit, or at least the remnants of it.
Looking at the stranger’s face with his hazy mind, he’s quite attractive and seems young enough for them to be the same age. The first thought that comes to Namjoonʼs head is that heʼs just another customer from the club next door, but as his eyes unconsciously drag down the rest of his body, it clicks that this stranger has just come straight out of his work shift. It’s definite, with the way he’s clutching onto the hem of his fake leather jacket that almost completely hide his tight shorts— if a faux leather garment that rises above crotch-level could still be classified as shorts.
Namjoon doesnʼs give himself long enough to focus on the details as soon as he sees the fishnets that cling to the manʼs legs and clears his throat. He gives a short “Sure” to the question and shifts an empty stool around for him. Maybe a bit of company at times like these won’t be so bad.
The oxygen tanks seem louder from how quiet the both of them are, sitting next to each other— it’s still silence though, in Namjoon’s book. He steals a glance at the boy next to him as he sits back and glides his eyes around the aquatic surroundings. From shells to small turtles to a giant fish who needs its own exclusive tank.
There’s an unusual itching feeling that crawls its way up, all the way to the front of Namjoon’s consciousness. Something about the stranger’s face that is just awkwardly poking at an unusual spot in his brain, figuratively speaking. The slope of his nose, outlined by the whites and blues of the fish tanks all the way down to the small tip, bridging itself to the curve of his lips, almost historic and nostalgic in a sense.
After a minute of scanning, the boy’s eyes direct back to meet Namjoon’s with an unreadable expression.
“Iʼm Jung Hoseok,” he speaks up, cutting through the buzzing sounds of the tank lights, “I work next door.”
It clicks then, like the immediate flick of a lightswitch in the early school mornings, the shift from dark to bright all too quick that makes you squint and whine while your brain throws a tantrum trying to catch up with your overwhelmed receptors. Everything connects like a missing puzzle piece that completes the whole picture— Jung Hoseok has completed the puzzle piece in Namjoon’s working mind with the simplest uttering of his name.
Looking directly at him now, that is most definitely Jung Hoseok. The Jung Hoseok who Namjoon had expected to be anywhere but here, right in front of him. Their interactions back in high school were brief at most, with Hoseok throwing in pleasantries from time to time because that’s just the friendly, open-minded human-being he is. Of course Kim Namjoon would fade along with all the irrelevant memories in his life.
“Kim Namjoon.” Namjoon wills himself not to stutter as he clears his throat again. “I’m Kim Namjoon.”
There seems to be a pause, but Hoseok is probably taking a moment longer to process things at night.
“Namjoon-ssi, how long have you been working here?”
And he’s right. As expected, they’re starting off as strangers again.
“Almost a month already.” Namjoon swallows back the useless disappointment. Is he the only guy in the world who has ever felt disappointed for guessing something right? “It's not like I do much though. What about you?”
“This is my second month here.” Hoseok smiles shyly. “Iʼm not used to it yet but Iʼm getting by. How old are you?”
Hoseok’s face lights up at that, “Oh, we're the same age! No need to be so formal then I guess.” He chuckles again, a nostalgic sound. Some people have terrible laughs— the kind of laughter that rings in your ears uncomfortably and makes you impulsively muffle it. Hoseok’s laugh however, as loud as it is, seems to lift the tension between them, and Namjoon can feel himself sitting more comfortably on his stool.
“Tell me about these guys then.” Hoseok starts, referring to all the other lives that are in that tiny shop.
There really isn’t anything else to do and it’s technically his job, so Namjoon gets up and starts guiding Hoseok through all the different friends he has.
“Oh,” Hoseok points at a particularly odd setting, “these guys are in different bags. Like in Finding Nemo.”
“Ah, yeah, they’re betta fish,” Namjoon explains. “You can’t keep two in the same tank or they’ll fight. They’re naturally aggressive guys.”
“Isn’t it uncomfortable though? The bags are so small,” Hoseok says, worry coloring his tone as his eyes scan the many bags of pink and blue in the tank.
“It is,” Namjoon admits, “I tried asking for bigger containers for each betta, but they said it’d cost too much and there’s not enough space. I suspect that they also think that they’d be fine since they’re pretty strong. People think bettas can live in small containers and mucky water since wild bettas lived in pockets of water in rice paddies, but those areas are actually really wide so there are plenty of room for them to swim around. The water was muddy, but these guys are selectively bred for nice colors and fins so they are susceptible to infections if the tanks are not filtered properly-” He catches himself a paragraph too late into his spontaneous ramble that is definitely not interesting to anyone. “Sorry,” He mutters weakly as he slaps his own mouth as punishment for losing himself in front of a possibly new acquaintance, and a pretty one at that.
“For what?” Hoseok sounds confused.
“Rambling,” Namjoon fixes the glasses on his nose, “I do that sometimes. I guess all this stupid fish knowledge is just so pent up that I just spill everything to any other living specimen that I interact with. Really sorry.”
It’s silent for a moment before Hoseok laughs, louder and brighter, twinkling around the buzzing sounds of oxygen tanks.
“You’re funny,” Namjoon feels his right shoulder being squeezed. “Spill it all out. I’m always up for a bit of trivia.”
Despite the unexpected reassurance, Namjoon hesitates for a moment. But then Hoseok is giving him this little nod accompanied by a small smile that just makes him continue, “The common name for them is the Siamese fighting fish since they were originally bred to fight in Thailand, like cock fighting. Although that was the kind of entertainment they had in the past, now they’re usually selectively bred for their physical appearance since they vary in color and fin length. They have a pretty complex way of breeding and it shows through the way they change colors and the way they move around each other like a dance.”
He turns to see Hoseok smiling at him, eyes teared away from the tank and directly meeting his. Hoseok’s eyes curve smoothly and droop at the end, his cheeks scrunching them into little crescents from the way he’s smiling fondly, softly colored by the rather harsh light from the betta fish tank. It takes Namjoon back to highschool, or at least the better parts of it, when he was too big for his age, too confused, too naive most of the time. It makes him blush, makes him fidget and sputter and he suddenly doesn’t know what to do with his hands.
For the many seconds that the smile lasts, Namjoon feels like a teenager again.
“I like them,” Hoseok hums as his gaze shifts back to the tank for a second after realizing that Namjoon has finished. It quickly returns to Namjoon when he adds, “You’re not so bad yourself.”
That does something to Namjoon.
Those five words stick to him even after Hoseok has returned to the different world adjacent to him. He ends up spending his final hour replaying the three-second scene in his head, oblivious to everything else that could be happening in the dawn around him.
He recalls briefly the betta fish fact that he forgot to tell Hoseok in the spur of the moment. You can tell when a betta fish is happy when their bodies become brighter and more colorful.
He imagines himself back in highschool, hearing those words. He never really tried to reach for Hoseok back then, knew better not to, yet Hoseok just came to him on a silence-filled night like an unexpected thunderstorm that rains the past all over him with the widest of smiles and the kindest of words. It happened so quickly, so easily that Namjoon contemplates whether he could’ve had this years ago if he had stepped up and done something, if he could’ve gotten that wide smile and twinkling eyes from as young as fourteen if he had at least tried.
Wallowing over the different possibilities of something definite is no use, of course, so Namjoon tucks the stool Hoseok sat on back under the desk as his eyes wander around the whimsical soft neons in front of him.
He wonders for a moment if this dull store has always been so colorful.
Namjoon spent a lot of his time in school studying and running to cram schools before coming home to review everything. Looking back shamefully as he realizes that he can only recall a few incidents where he had fun— it’s as if he didn’t live his youth at all.
Maybe that was why Hoseok had struck him as someone so captivating. He lived his youth in the most colorful way, and Namjoon’s list of the few things that made him enjoy highschool included his name.
Hoseok visits the next day at around the same time. His work attire this time seems pretty formal, with a gray vest and a pretty decent pair of slacks like some Western butler. Namjoon chokes on his drink when Hoseok turns around to scan a few newcomers in the tank.
That is… a back.
The vest turns out to be only half of what it appears to be at the front, held together by two dinky strings tied into a neat bow. It feels wrong to gawk at so much skin when Hoseok is completely oblivious, so his eyes shift back up to the back of his head, minutely worrying if the minimal amount of clothing is helping him keep warm at all.
“Wow,” Hoseok’s pitch suddenly shifts when he turns back around. He’s pointing at the commotion in the hermit crab tank. “What’s happening here?”
“Hermit crabs are nocturnal,” Namjoon explains, “they hide in the morning and come out after sunset. I don’t think they’re used to living in such a confined space yet.”
“I can tell,” Hoseok comments, “they’re flipping over their little houses. It’s wild.”
“They basically have to make do with what they have since they’re held captive. Hermit crabs can live up to 30 years in its natural habitat, but these guys probably won’t make it past this year.” Hoseok turns back to look at him with a worried look.
“Poor things,” He whispers.
“I’m trying to convince the owner to stop selling them, but I can’t do much other than that,” Namjoon sighs.
Hoseok’s eyes widen at that, “Wait, you’re not the owner?”
Namjoon cocks an eyebrow, “No?”
Hoseok snorts into his hand, “I thought you were! You seem to know everything.”
“Well I’m studying marine biology in university,” Namjoon explains when the other makes his way back to his stool.
“I knew you were smart, and it’s not just the glasses,” Hoseok grins, “I like you.”
“I’m a fish nerd who knows a lot of fish trivia,” Namjoon manages out before those words register into something beyond what it is meant to be, “it’s not that impressive.”
I like you.
“It is!” Hoseok argues with another fond smile.
I like you.
Namjoon chuckles, “You’re easily impressed.”
I like you.
“Maybe I am,” Hoseok huffs in defeat, arms crossed above his chest as he slumps back into his chair, shoes idly tapping the dirty tile floors, matching the beat of the song playing from Namjoon’s bluetooth speaker.
The music is there sometimes when Namjoon feels that he cannot stand the buzzing silence for another three hours. Hoseok seems to like it, bopping his head lightly as his fingers messily conduct the instruments. There’s a smoothness to his movement, in the way he places himself. There’s a dynamic to Hoseok in everything he does; the gilde in his steps as he waltz around the little store to look at the different fish, the swift way he falls back into the stool and the way his expression dances into different shades of joy as he laughs and talks.
“Hey,” Hoseok says after a while, voice softer than any humming machinery in here. “We’re friends, right?”
“We met yesterday,” Namjoon deadpans, though it’s not exactly true.
“What, do I have to take you out to dinner first before we can be friends?” Hoseok jokes, and that pulls out a laugh from Namjoon. “I don’t mind. I’m already dressed for the occasion.” He says, gesturing to his ‘formal’ attire. “These slacks do rip off, by the way.”
“Good to know,” Namjoon nods. “And sure. Friends.”
Hoseok’s face lights up as if that’s the best thing Namjoon has ever said to him. He quickly reaches down to where his phone is tucked between his waist and his rip-off pants, “Let’s exchange contacts then! Would love to see you somewhere less smelly.”
“You get used to it after a while,” Namjoon explains, ignoring whatever alarms his body is setting off as he reaches over to type in his number.
And that was how Namjoon got his highschool crush’s number.
“Okay?” Yoongi says with an arched eyebrow after Namjoon concludes his story. “Why aren’t you calling him then?”
“How do I even start?” Namjoon whines into his coffee, “Do I just invite him somewhere? I don’t even know his work schedule!”
“What does he do?”
“He’s-” Namjoon clears his throat.
As he takes a quick glance around the quiet cafe, there are only a few other sleep-deprived students lying around but not too close to them to overhear.
Turning back to a confused looking Yoongi, he says,“He’s uh, a stripper. He works nextdoor.”
His friend’s face is blank for a moment before something seems to dawn on him, “You mean at Nocturnalists?”
“Ah,” Yoongi snaps his fingers, “my boyfriend works there.”
Namjoon blinks, “Like… as a cleaner?”
“No, though I do know one of the cleaners there, Taehyung.” Yoongi recalls, “But no, Jungkook’s a stripper. The guy who owns the club is my friend, and that was how we met.”
“Oh,” Namjoon whispers, “I thought you said Jungkook is shy. Also, why is this my first time hearing about this? You two have been dating for months.”
“Of course he’s shy,” Yoongi rebuts him, “but not when he’s up there working the pole, oh no.” A devious grin takes over Yoongi’s expression for a second, “Anyway, just thought I’d share a bit of my experience since you’re going to be on the same boat soon enough.”
“What, you mean-” Namjoon sputters, “we’re not dating!”
“I’d like to entertain the possibility. He’s your high school crush.”
“I think the keyword here is high school.”
“Do you still like him?”
Yoongi smirks, “Thought so.”
“Why would I not like him?” Namjoon grows defensive, “There’s no reason to dislike him. I can’t just dislike him just for the hell of it, that’s not fair!”
“If you’re so confused then just settle it,” Yoongi points at Namjoon’s phone. “Get a date and see how it goes.”
Namjoon seems hesitant and it’s probably clear on his face when Yoongi nags him, “If you go for it and the illusion’s broken then whatever, back to your regularly programmed single nerd life. If it works then yay hot boyfriend, good on you.”
“It’s not that simple,” Namjoon frowns.
“Of course it’s not, you don’t have to tell me that. That’s an entertainer you’d be dating,” Yoongi murmurs. “But that all comes later. Just get this part over with first.”
After another minute of silently staring at his phone, Namjoon sighs, “I’ll just talk to him about it tonight.”
“It’s your crush, not mine,” Yoongi shrugs nonchalantly. “Now, about yesterday’s lecture that I missed…”
Sure, Namjoon may have told Yoongi that he’ll ask Hoseok out that night.
But he didn’t promise.
At least that’s his justification for how much he’s procrastinating on the issue anyway. Besides, Yoongi didn’t ask about it at all the next day.
So due to several obstacles from university and pure cowardice, it takes Namjoon a total of two months to muster up the courage. With a little free time before his work shift started, he had written down what he’d say in bullet points and rehearsed it again and again, each time adding a different flare to his speech. He realized a bit late after that Hoseok probably wouldn’t appreciate a ten-minute speech just asking him out for brunch or something, so he threw all his notes away on his way to work.
Hoseok usually comes in at around midnight, so he does have two hours to shake the adrenaline out of him and possibly make any last-minute changes.
The songs that play from his phone seems to all be love songs even though it’s on shuffle. It makes Namjoon contemplate the amount of cheesy love songs he actually listens to.
Five minutes before midnight, the bells at the door jingle, which snaps Namjoon from his wandering thoughts.
“Hoseok?” He hesitantly asks after a while when the usual sounds of Hoseok’s footsteps don’t come.
“I told you we’re at the right place,” A whisper sounds instead, and the deep voice sends Namjoon into a brief state of panic. What does that mean? Is it someone who knows Hoseok? His boyfriend? Some obsessed client who has heard of Hoseok’s little getaway here and is so jealous he’s here to beat him up?
The alarms come to a halt when the same voice lets out a soft ‘Wow’ , probably at one of the fish tanks.
“Oh, they’re pretty,” A slightly higher voice sounds, but then the multiple footsteps start to make their way to the back where Namjoon is sitting.
The first boy whose face shows up under the light is wearing a large sweater, hair a mess as if it has been ruffled multiple times, eyes big and bright as he greets Namjoon with a wide, rectangular smile.
“Is the goldfish for sale?”
“Tae, are you seriously going to buy a goldfish?” Another boy catches up to him from behind, hair dyed a light pink and the costume… Namjoon instinctively reaches back to crank the heater up a notch as he wonders how he’s moving around half-naked during winter.
The bells jingle again as someone enters. Though Namjoon had hoped that it may be Hoseok, a familiar wide-eyed boy appears behind them with just as less clothes, but he has a coat wrapped over his shoulders to shield him from the weather.
“Taehyung hyung is gonna get a fish? I thought we were here for something else.” He says, and the sound of his voice prods further at something in Namjoon’s mind, but he can’t seem to wrap his head around what it is exactly. “Oh, I know this song.”
“You said you wanted a goldfish?” Namjoon refers his attention back to the potential customer, who nods eagerly despite his friends’ protests.
“This guy here,” Taehyung points at the rather round goldfish languidly swimming in a corner of the tank.
“Ah, the ranchu,” Namjoon hums, not used to actually doing his job as he never really thought someone would actually buy a fish at midnight, but here he is. “That’ll be 16,000 won.”
“I think we should think about this logically first,” One of the boys warns him, “what would Jin hyung say about you being impulsive?”
“Hyung will support me because he loves me,” Taehyung answers easily. “We’re gonna have a bunch of ranchu babies in no time.”
“Jin hyung only let you come here to scope out Hoseok hyung’s b- friend though.” The other boy reminds him.
Namjoon almost drops his fish net at that, “Excuse me?”
He stares at the three men crowding him who look dumbfounded for a moment before the shortest one pipes up, “Let’s sit down first. Taehyung’s fish can wait.”
Namjoon manages to find enough stools stacked in the back room for all three of them to sit when one of them starts singing to the song, humming along at some parts. When Namjoon turns to see the boy with the coat on, it clicks.
“Jungkook?” He says to the singing voice he’s heard too many times from Yoongi’s phone during their drunken nights when Yoongi would start going off about his humble and multi-talented boyfriend.
“Yes?” Jungkook automatically replies before the rest of his awareness catches up. “Wait, how did you know?”
“I’m friends with Yoongi hyung,” Namjoon says, “in university.”
Jungkook seems to blank out for a moment before his eyes widen even further, “Oh, it’s the same Namjoon. Wow, it’s nice to finally meet you,” He smiles. “Not in my least embarrassing state if I’m honest. I thought we’d meet through Yoongi hyung somehow.” A blush is creeping up his face when his smile waters down to a smaller one as he consciously pulls the coat over himself more. So he is shy, somehow.
“Wait, you already know Namjoon-ssi?” The other boy who seems less ashamed of his attire asks, exasperated, “That’s not fair!”
He abruptly sits up, letting the gold chains bounce around his bare torso and forearm as he extends a hand forward, “I’m Jimin,” he chirps, “it’s nice to meet you!” He jerks his chin at the other boy behind him, “Your potential customer over there is Taehyungie.”
“We came here to interrogate you, but I got distracted by the fish,” Taehyung admits.
“See, about that,” Namjoon points out, pushing his glasses up his nose, “is something the matter?”
“I didn’t think Hoseok hyung would be into nerds,” He hears Taehyung whisper.
“You’re a nerd and you’re dating Jin hyung,” Jungkook hisses back before Jimin steers Namjoon’s attention back to him.
“Nothing’s wrong! Don’t worry,” He waves his hands, “We heard Hoseok hyung has been coming over here a lot during break, so we wanted to see what was so special about this place, and we think we’ve found it,” he grins.
“Ah, well,” Namjoon clears his throat nervously, “Hoseok just wanted somewhere quiet to sit, and I could use some company. That’s it. It’s nothing special.”
The door jingles for the third time that night, and this time it’s actually Hoseok.
“Joon-ah~ it’s warmer in here- oh,” Hoseok pauses when he notices Jimin, “you’re all here. What’s happening?”
Hoseok is wearing something similar to Jungkook and Jimin, but what exactly they are wearing didn’t actually register completely in Namjoon’s mind before he’s looking at Hoseok.
His upper half is bare, covered only by thin golden chains knitted together in an intricate pattern that almost complements Hoseok’s tanned skin too well.
Hoseok himself isn’t incredibly lean, though there are some clearly toned muscles while his frame is rather small.
The pattern of the golden belt matches the chains, connecting to a sheer gold fabric that is slit up all the way above his upper thigh at the sides, provocative enough to make Namjoon hold his breath every time Hoseok moves around carelessly, not seeming to pay any mind to how much the skirt is covering, how many glimpses of tanned thighs he’s showing.
“I turned up the heater,” Namjoon blurts out when he realizes that he might have been spacing out for too long, “that’s why it’s warmer in here.”
“Aw, he’s sweet,” Jimin coos. “I get why you like him.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Hoseok deadpans before he pouts at Namjoon. “They stole my seat.”
“They didn’t,” Namjoon pulls out Hoseok’s usual stool that he didn’t offer to the three of them for some reason, “it’s here.” Hoseok smiles, squeezing Namjoon’s shoulder as he moves to take his usual seat.
“This place is kinda nice,” Jimin hums.
“And warmer,” Jungkook adds. “I might just come spend my break here.”
Hoseok whips his head around, “What?”
“What?” Jungkook parrots.
“The dressing room is better,” Hoseok says. “This place is smelly and the oxygen tanks are loud. You’re better off at the club where it’s cleaner.”
“As if the dressing room isn’t louder,” Taehyung counters, “You can see the ceiling shaking from the bass sounds. If it breaks down, it wouldn’t be the first time.”
“I’m sure we’re already bothering Namjoon enough today. We can’t just come and loiter around his store like this every time. Right. Joon?” Hoseok turns to Namjoon for confirmation.
“It’s no trouble, really,” Namjoon admits. “I think the company is kinda growing on me.”
“See?” Jungkook says, “Our little get-together here is fine.”
“You have to sit on these little backless stools though,” Hoseok rebuts, “the dressing room has couches. Jin hyung just got us new ones a few weeks ago.”
“If you like the dressing room so much, then why are you here?” Taehyung asks, though his tone is purely curiosity and nothing sinister.
Hoseok pauses for a moment before he throws an arm around Namjoon’s shoulder, “Because Namjoonie is my friend,” there’s another pause before he throws another arm around Namjoon’s waist, giving him an awkward side hug, “We’re the same age. I like hanging out with him.”
“Then isn’t it a bit mean of you to say all those things about your friend’s workplace?” Jimin points out, “You called it smelly and dirty.”
At that, Hoseok quickly turns to Namjoon again, “Joon, did I hurt your feelings?”
Namjoon is only half registering everything, overwhelmed by the sudden contact and too paranoid to move in case it somehow ruins Hoseok’s costume.
“It’s nothing I can’t get over,” He says as he reconsiders Hoseok’s words, which were kind of unexpected and not necessarily the nicest things to say.
“Wait, really?” Hoseok sounds worried. He suddenly hugs Namjoon closer, pressing his cheek against his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” He mopes, “I didn’t mean it.” Namjoon can feel the chains digging lightly into his arm as Hoseok sways them around, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
“I think your costume is hurting him,” Taehyung points out.
Hoseok flinches away at that, “Shit, sorry.” He gently rubs at the red indents on Namjoon’s arm. His hands slide down to Namjoon’s when he’s done, and they stay there, grasping. “I keep hurting you.”
“It’s fine,” Namjoon pats Hoseok’s hands, “I’ll let you off this time.”
Hoseok laughs, “How nice of you.” His hold on Namjoon’s hand tightening before it loosens again. “These costumes are a hazard.”
“This one’s pretty though, I like it.” Jimin says as he stands up and does an impromptu spin, the golden beads and sheer silk skirt swaying along his lean body. “Today’s concept is belly dancers. Although some of the guys don’t know how to belly dance.”
“What I lack in skill I make up for hype and enthusiasm,” Jungkook quickly defends himself, “besides, Hoseokie hyung taught me some basic moves.”
“I didn’t say it was you,” Jimin corrects him, “I was thinking more of Jin hyung.”
Namjoon frowns in confusion, “... I thought ‘Jin hyung’ was the owner of the club?”
“He is, but he also strips,” Taehyung answers immediately with an excited smile. “He says it’s because he can’t find enough strippers, but really he secretly likes it.”
“Jin hyung doesn’t even have to dance to be entertaining,” Hoseok speaks up, “he can just talk to people.”
Jungkook suddenly laughs, “Did you see his artistic interpretation of belly dancing this afternoon?” At a few shaking heads, Jungkook stands up to imitate an unhinged door, followed by an uproar of laughter and the other two joining, hopping around the store in a flurry of orange and gold.
“This could be an original dance move in itself,” Hoseok manages through giggles as he spins around.
“Ah, be careful,” Namjoon speaks up, eyeing worriedly as he starts spinning around near the fish tanks. All of them seem to acknowledge him, diluting the intensity of their moves a little.
“So about the goldfish,” Taehyung directs Namjoon’s attention back to him, cupping his mouth with his hands to whisper, “you’ve got a deal.”
Namjoon nods, “I’ll get right to you when they… settle down a bit.”
Taehyung turns to watch the figures with a wide boxy grin and chuckles, “Yeah.”
Watching the three of them dancing around as the rest of their flowy costumes follow after their bodies, Namjoon is reminded of the movements of a goldfish during feeding. They move determinedly, with their long fins following the ripple they make with their bodies, drawing it out through the light translucent sheet that almost dissolves into the scenery behind them.
Jimin almost slips on the coat Jungkook has discarded from his back, somehow stopping himself just before he lodges himself into one of the shelves of guppies. He turns to Jungkook with wide eyes as Hoseok scolds him. Even the little movements he makes seems sparkling, the little golden chains catching the light in twinkles as he turns to shoot Namjoon an apologetic look and a pout.
Namjoon waves him off with a smile.
“Did you know that a group of goldfish is called a troubling?” Taehyung speaks up.
“People generally call all groups of saltwater fish a school,” Namjoon says, “but ‘troubling’ is a more poetic word for it I guess.”
They both turn back to the three dancers who are now bickering over something, the colors of their costumes warming up the atmosphere of the store.
Namjoon smiles as he watches the troubling of goldfish in front of him.
A large dark figure approaches the shop, peering inside through the store’s window with his arms crossed.
The commotion comes to a sudden halt as they notice the figure outside coming up to enter the store slowly.
“... Jin hyung,” Hoseok sounds nervous, “what an honor for you to join us.”
“Break time’s over,” the figure says, “were you guys doing my move?”
“It’s great for unwinding,” Jimin suddenly says, “come meet Namjoon hyung!”
At that, Namjoon sits up to greet the new visitor as he catches sight of bleached blonde hair.
“Is this…” The man turns to look at Jungkook. At the boy’s nod, he turns to face Namjoon with a warm smile, “A pleasure to meet you, Namjoon-ssi. I’m Kim Seokjin, I own the bar next door. Come and visit sometime.”
Seokjin has a light pink robe wrapped around him, but the gold choker around his neck gives away that he’s wearing a similar costume to the three of them.
“Ah, he’s not that type of guy,” Hoseok pokes him.
“He doesn’t have to come as a customer,” Seokjin counters, “he can just come hang out for a few drinks at the end or something. We’re technically neighbors, aren’t we?”
“Oh, that’s really nice of you,” Namjoon quickly says, “but I have class tomorrow morning, so I’ll pass. But thank you.”
“Ah, a responsible one,” Seokjin suddenly points at him as he turns around to the other three for an impromptu lecture, “take note, you youngsters. Now, back to entertaining horny rich men for another hour.”
Jimin snorts, but makes his way towards the door anyway, with Jungkook and Taehyung following at his heels. Namjoon notices Seokjin’s hand on Taehyung’s lower back for a second before he heads off too.
“Hey,” Hoseok’s voice makes him jump as he turns to see his laughing face. “When does your shift end?”
“At two, so uh,” Namjoon looks down at his watch, “in about 90 minutes.”
“Ah, mine ends at half past one,” Hoseok frowns as he thinks, “I guess I can help Taehyung clean up. See you in a bit?”
“What?” Namjoon makes a confused noise, “You mean-”
“Let’s walk home together or something,” Hoseok says, “do you take the Night Owl bus? The 2:30 one?” He smiles at Namjoon’s nod, “We can go together.”
Hoseok doesn’t wait for a response as he happily hops out and away from the fish store.
The remaining work hours pass in a flurry, with a short visit from one of the fishermen from the shore nearby buying a few equipment before hastily leaving. Namjoon starts to gather his things when he hears someone buzz in for the next shift.
The cold wind feels like a slap to his face when he walks out, pushing his glasses up his nose as an attempt for them to not be gone with the wind.
A few drunks are still helplessly carrying each other out of the street, gathering their remains to get themselves home. It vaguely reminds Namjoon of himself on some nights, but instead of drunkenness it’s the exhaustion that weighed his body, making his feet feel like bricks as he drags them through the pavement to collapse into his bed in hopes that he wakes up in time for the afternoon classes.
His stream of thought is suddenly interrupted by a slap on his shoulder.
“Daydreaming?” A voice asks, “Well, it’s still night time, sorta.”
It takes Namjoon a moment to realize that it’s Hoseok with a lot more clothes on. It’s nothing excessive to be exact, but compared to what little he has seen Hoseok wear, a thick coat is a definite contrast.
“Oh hey, you’re…”
“Dressed normally?” Hoseok laughs, “I can only stay in that scratchy outfit for so long, now I’m cold and sweaty. Sorry to ruin the fantasy.”
Namjoon chuckles, “Nothing’s ruined.” He shoves his hands into his pockets, “Do you wanna go wait for the bus?”
After a short pause, Hoseok smiles again, “I’m kinda hungry. Are you?”
As if on cue, Namjoon feels his stomach growl all too loudly, eliciting a just as loud laugh from Hoseok, “There’s your answer.”
The convenience store is the only other place that is alive at this time of the night. With its intensely bright light, it looks the same as it would in the daytime, or any time at all.
The store is empty when they enter, save for someone digging in on instant ramen in the corner and an unenthusiastic cashier.
They separate for a bit to browse for snacks. When Namjoon has finally decided on a hot bar from the selection of many, he walks up the microwavable goods section to see Hoseok staring at the different packets of tteokbokki before he chooses one.
“Go on,” Hoseok says as he makes way for Namjoon to pay first, “hot bars taste better when they’re hot.”
“So does tteokbokki,” Namjoon counters.
“Just go first man,” Hoseok pushes him as he digs around his own pockets for cash.
As the cashier turns to microwave the hot bar and read out the total, Namjoon takes one last glimpse at Hoseok before he says, “The tteokbokki too, please.”
Hoseok jumps when Namjoon takes the food from his hand, giving it to the cashier who turns to operate another microwave to heat it up. As Namjoon digs out money to cover the two things, he hears Hoseok protest.
“I can pay for that,” He pokes him.
“It’s fine,” Namjoon assures him, “my treat today.”
“For what occasion?”
“Because I want to?”
“That’s what you do in return to someone who was rude to you? Be nice?”
“I told you it’s fine.”
“Then there’s no reason to pay for me,” Hoseok lightly pushes away the now hot tteokbokki when Namjoon hands it over to him, “just eat it yourself.”
“Nonsense, you worked hard,” Namjoon hands it over again, “here.”
“No,” They’re still bickering even as they’ve left the convenience store, “you paid for it. It’s yours.”
“Fine, I’ll eat it,” Namjoon huffs as he pops a piece into his mouth with a toothpick, “since you so badly insisted.”
“Good,” Hoseok laughs, “argument over.”
It turns out that simultaneously eating a large sausage on a stick and tteokbokki isn’t the most practical activity ever. Namjoon’s nose twitches when he feels the cheese stick to his chin in a long string.
Hoseok chuckles from beside him, “This is a mess.” He reaches up to brush the offended piece of cheese away with his thumb, smiling at Namjoon’s wide-eyed reaction.
“Thank you,” Namjoon grumbles, “here, have some.” He holds out another piece with his tooth pick for Hoseok to take.
Hoseok reaches for his wrist instead, pulling his hand closer until he can eat the tteokbokki directly, setting Namjoon up into this unplanned feeding.
“Ah, spicy food tastes so much better at night.” He hums, seemingly oblivious to Namjoon’s system shutting down from the shock.
As they wait for the bus on the uncomfortable plastic seats, Namjoon feels Hoseok bump his shoulder, “I really am sorry though. I always thought it would be a little something with just us, and I guess I got a bit defensive of it when Jungkook said he wanted to tag around. It was really selfish of me.”
“You’re not selfish,” Namjoon bumps his shoulder in return, “You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re right, even.” He chuckles lightly. “It’s a pretty shitty place to be in for hours. I do clean it from time to time, but it always feels wet and it smells like shit-contaminated tank water to the point that I feel paranoid that I might smell like shit-contaminated tank water as well.”
“Still,” Hoseok says, “that wasn’t nice of me to say.”
“Sure it isn’t,” Namjoon admits, “doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I’m actively trying to find a different job, but the salary for this isn’t that bad since it’s a late shift.”
Hoseok nods at that. “The same goes for me too, I guess. I was trying to audition to become a dance teacher, but I haven’t gotten any luck so far. This will have to do for now. Stripping… but it’s not forever.”
“It doesn’t sound easy, what you do.” Namjoon comments, “I never really dug too deep into it, but you all seem pretty happy.”
“Gotta keep the morale up somehow,” Hoseok chuckles, “I think we all know that this won’t be a permanent thing, and we all need the money for something, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to enjoy it. Sure it’s hard, but it can also be a lot of fun.”
“How long have you all been doing this for?” Namjoon asks.
“I think Jin hyung opened the club earlier this year. Jimin’s boyfriend joined first if I’m correct, then Jimin himself tagged along, then Jungkook, then me.”
“Taehyung joined at the same time as Jimin I think,” Hoseok tries to recall, “it was supposed to be a part-time cleaning job he was gonna do for a few months, but then he and Jin hyung started dating so he never left.”
Namjoon makes a noise, “You mean Taehyung’s not…?”
“He’s not a stripper, no,” Hoseok chuckles, “with an ass like that, you’d expect him to be one, but nope. He does the cleaning. Insists on cleaning only.”
“Well,” Namjoon sits back a little, “it’s a nice little family.”
“I’m glad you think so, since you’re now part of it,” Hoseok chuckles, “it was hectic in there, I’m surprised we didn’t break anything. I know you don’t really like a lot of commotion.”
“I really didn’t mind it actually,” Namjoon says, still taking in the implications of Hoseok’s words, “I liked it. I never really had a lot of friends to begin with. Only Yoongi hyung.” He laughs as he recalls, “I pretty much spent my youth studying to get into a good university, I thought I’d be happy then. But I’m here now and it’s miserable,” he says, “it’s miserable, and I’ve already wasted away my youth without even realizing it.”
Just as he is about to apologize for oversharing, he turns to see Hoseok smiling at him again, that same bright one that lights up the night in soft luminance. Namjoon’s youth flashes in the back of his mind from the sight, and it makes him duck his head, staring down at his feet with a blush.
“You always talk like you’re some grandpa in a retirement home,” He teases, “Namjoon-ah, you’re twenty three, you’re still young. Your youth hasn’t gone anywhere.” A hand comes up to squeeze his knee, “Youth isnʼt over until you decide it is, so letʼs live it a little more, yeah?”
Hoseok’s words relight something that has long been put out in Namjoon, a new sudden flare of brightness in that dark street. It lights him up, sets off a faster rhythm in Namjoon’s heart as this epiphany, the realization of how stupid he has been, hits him.
The one who made his youth then has brought youth back to him now, like a second chance for Namjoon to know better and hold on this time.
“Also,” Hoseok suddenly slumps onto his shoulder, nuzzling close and taking an obnoxiously loud sniff before he pulls away, “Nope, no shit-contaminated tank water here.”
“...Thank you?” Namjoon says in an embarrassing tone, “Ah, bus is here.”
The bus doesn’t feel alive at this time of day, unlike the other nocturnal places. The lights feel too dim, dimmer than the bright street lamps on the sidewalk that casts rectangular shadows dividing each person in the seats.
Namjoon recognizes a lot of the people here; the convenience store worker, the sailor, the guy from the noraebang, and a few businessmen. With so little people in so big a bus, it was an unspoken rule to sit at least two rows away from each other. They’re all nocturnalists, but something about the cold darkness and exhaustion just doesn’t persuade one to make friends or to strike up a conversation.
In his lonelier nights, Namjoon would sit on the seat two rows away from the door, divided from the others by the rectangular shadows casted by the windows and streetlamps.
Hoseok doesn’t seem to notice at first when he takes the empty seat at the front, that Namjoon has unconsciously moved in to sit two rows away from him, occupied by something on his phone.
Namjoon stares out at the same yellow-blue scenery he sees almost every night with a blank expression, earphones snug in place as he barely listens to the music playing, exhausted from doing absolutely nothing in the dark.
After tiring his eyes out by the bright neon signs of other nocturnalists on the streets, he shifts his gaze to the flooring of the bus where the contrasting light and dark rectangles move like machinery. He watches his shadowy figure appear and reappear, blinking between slumber and wakefulness.
It isn’t until something warps the systematic shapes, a figure that isn’t round nor straight, too detailed to fit in.
Hoseok’s figure casts a complicated shadow, carefully maneuvering past the barriers that the shadows have casted, breaking through the figurative separation to plop himself down right next to Namjoon.
Namjoon looks up at him in disbelief, almost offended that Hoseok just broke this unspoken rule that he was never a part of, that he has just suddenly imposed himself into Namjoon’s life once again.
Hoseok just smiles at him, like he hasn’t done anything wrong (he hasn’t) and asks, “Whatcha listening to?”
Namjoon shows him his phone screen where the song title drifts across. Hoseok hums at that, and suddenly pulls out one of Namjoon’s earphones, not even hesitating to check for any earwax before he pops it into one of his ears.
“We should meet up sometimes,” He says then, head slowly bopping to the song, “in the morning. At a cafe, maybe?”
“Sure,” Namjoon murmurs, belatedly remembering the hours of preparation he went through to hype himself up enough to ask Hoseok out. Head buzzing, he blurts it all out, “Uh, I really like talking to you, and I thought it’d be great if we could go get something to eat, like brunch or something, whenever you’re free, that is. No pressure.”
He turns to see Hoseok staring at him blankly before it breaks into a chuckle, “I just asked you that, you dummy. Choose a date.”
“Oh,” Namjoon mentally slaps himself, “I’m free next Friday.”
“I sleep in a lot on Friday so I’m probably free, but let’s see,” Hoseok pulls out his phone and checks his schedule. A yawn manages to escape him and he tilts his head back as he easily leans in to rest his head on Namjoon’s shoulder, “Ah right, I have to go pick that up and… Friday… yeah, that’s fine with me.”
Hoseok sounds like he’s falling asleep, but Namjoon on the contrary, is wide awake. As Hoseok lazily types in a new event on Friday, Namjoon lets his mind wander off somewhere into the neon lights and swarms of bugs hovering around any bright light they can find.
“There we go,” Hoseok says as he locks his phone, “let’s have fun next week. Joon?” He tilts his head to look up at Namjoon from his shoulder.
Namjoon jolts at that, “Yeah,” he quickly says, “okay.”
The brunch date was simultaneously the worst and best thing that has ever happened to Namjoon.
It was great because Hoseok looked even prettier and happier in daylight and Namjoon definitely has feelings for him.
But it was also terrible because Hoseok looked even prettier and happier in daylight and Namjoon definitely has feelings for him.
“We should go somewhere cool next time,” Hoseok hums, bracing the cold once again in a gothic-themed outfit, with fingerless leather gloves and a black long-sleeved blouse (which Hoseok has kindly gifted Namjoon with the information that they do rip off) decorated with frills, waist fastened by a black corset that does not look comfortable (though Hoseok insists that he’s fine), legs hugged by a sheer dark pantyhose and a black lace garter. He suddenly shifts, “Wait hold on, this thing is riding up my butt crack too much.”
Namjoon grimaces as he turns away, “Thanks for the prior notice.”
“Of course,” Hoseok says, “Oh here,” he pokes Namjoon until he turns back to see Hoseok’s phone shoved in his face.
“Yeah,” Hoseok smiles, “I just wanna see you geek out and make a bunch of fish friends. We’re definitely going someday.”
Namjoon laughs fondly, “Sure.”
When he actually pays attention to what heʼs seeing, Hoseok is looking at him as well. He sees his gaze flickers down to his lips for a second, and thereʼs suddenly a different flare in his eyes. Hoseok shifts slightly closer in his stool, leaning forward.
The door jingles, followed by chatter that muffles the music playing in the background, and they abruptly move away from each other.
“We’ve come bearing gifts,” Jimin sings as he enters in an intricate but even more provocative gothic getup, with a cape to make up for decency. Taehyung and Jungkook follow behind with a bunch of convenient store snacks in his arms. “Also Hoseok hyung, Jin hyung said your makeup got smudge so I’m here to fix it.”
“Ooh,” Hoseok sets his phone down on Namjoon’s lap, “thank you.”
“Hoseokie hyung told me you like hot bars,” Taehyung says, “but I don’t think that’s healthy for you so I got you an olbareun burrito.” He hands Namjoon the packet.
“Excuse me,” Jungkook says as he sets down all the snacks on Namjoon’s desk, almost offended, “I’m the one who said we should get something for Namjoon hyung.”
“We were going to get him something anyway even if you weren’t going to say it,” Jimin argues as he tilts Hoseok’s face up and pulls out a pencil liner, “I’m the one who said we should get him a hot bar because I remember Hoseokie hyung saying that he likes it.”
Taehyung huffs, “Well I made the final decision and got him a beef olbareun burrito because one, he likes beef, and two, it has bell peppers in it so it objectively has more nutrition than a hot bar. And he needs nutrition because he- hyung, are you okay?”
“Oh, well,” Namjoon laughs at himself when he realizes that he’s been frozen since the moment Taehyung handed him the food, “I’ve never had people argue over me like this before, so I guess I’m just a bit overwhelmed.” He laughs again, “It’s stupid.”
“Oh no please don’t cry,” Taehyung panics, “Here, I got you a bunch of flavors,” he pushes the numerous packets of olbareun burritos toward Namjoon.
Jungkook comes up to hug him from behind, “You’re cool and kind, and you take care of Hoseok hyung and Yoongi hyung. This is the least we can do as your friends.”
Namjoon chuckles as he pats Jungkook’s arm, covered by a thick coat, “Thank you, Kook-ah.”
“Namjoon-ah!” Seokjin’s shout is muffled halfway before the door springs open, “Did all the kids escape to your cave again?” He enters the store, “Oh, yup.”
“Hyung, we brought food,” Taehyung tries, holding up a steamed bun in front of Seokjin’s lips, “I know we’re like ten minutes late but we got you food too.”
Seokjin considers it for a moment before he takes the bait, letting Taehyung feed him before he turns back to the rest of them, “Is everyone ready then? Hoseok?”
“Yeah, makeup done,” Hoseok confirms before he turns back to Namjoon, ruffling his hair and fixing his glasses, “see ya.”
Namjoon slouches back into his seat as the store dies down into silence again. He stares at the generous pile of snacks that they bought for him, with a packet of bulgogi burger and samgak kimbap that he can probably live off of for the rest of the week. After searching the pile a bit more, he feels something drop from his lap and onto the floor.
His eyes dart down to see Hoseok’s phone on the floor, the memory from twenty minutes ago resurfacing.
After a brief check for any damages (none, thankfully), he spends the next ten minutes deciding when he should return it.
Something else seems to decide for him when the phone suddenly vibrates, the caller ID ‘taetae~’ flashing on the screen.
“Oh! What a relief,” Taehyung says as Namjoon answers. “Hoseokie hyung got worried since his phone is dying or something. Do you have a charger?”
“... Not for his phone brand,” Namjoon says, “no.”
“Ah, can you come drop it off at the club somehow? I’m stuck dealing with the lights and I can’t really leave.” Taehyung asks, “Please hyung? Just for a sec.”
“Sure,” Namjoon says, “I’ll head out.”
Namjoon doesn’t really know what he should expect as he enters the backdoor of Nocturnalists. It’s a different world; one that is just adjacent to his, though he never entered.
Loud, is the first thing that really registers in the darkness. He walks down the cold corridor like Taehyung instructed. It’s slightly claustrophobic, how small these corridors are, but then the walls come to an end and it’s as if he has completely transferred from his world to a completely different one.
It’s dark, and Namjoon isn’t sure if it’s necessarily for added effect or if it’s the light problem Taehyung is busy dealing with.
There’s a crowd of men whooping near him, and his eyes slowly direct themselves to what is happening on stage.
Hoseok struts around the stage, shirt disposed as he enticingly slides off the garter hugging his thigh, flinging it into the crowd and smiling at the commotion he has caused.
Namjoon’s heart feels like it’s beating to the rapid pounding bass of the music playing.
There’s something about Hoseok’s expression that makes him feel flushed, a different air in his smile compared to when he’s with Namjoon in that other world.
Something about the way he carries himself exudes a different energy that is more intimate somehow, more sultry and suggestive as he makes his way to a pole on the stage, lifting himself up with ease as he starts to spin in a way Namjoon never thought humans could. That is when their eyes meet, Hoseok’s gaze suddenly locking with his when he turns to the side.
Namjoon swallows thickly as he looks away, heart still pounding in his ears even after he has found the corridor leading to the dressing room.
It didn’t really occur to him to knock, too distracted by what he saw just now.
He enters the room to see Taehyung sitting on the couch, Seokjin standing between his legs as he bends down to press a kiss on Taehyung’s forehead, hands cupping his cheeks.
Seokjin notices him first. “Namjoon,” He straightens himself, “I was not slacking off just now. Taehyung, on the other hand-”
Taehyung interrupts him with a loud laugh, covering his wide smile as he throws himself back onto the couch, seemingly ignoring the fact that Seokjin was blaming him, “Your ears are turning red again.”
“Do you have Hoseok’s phone?” Seokjin asks, ignoring Taehyung’s hand insistently tugging him down onto the couch.
“Yeah uh,” Namjoon pulls out said phone as he clears his throat, “it’s here.”
“Why is your face red?” Taehyung asks, now with his arms wrapped around Seokjin’s waist, “Is it because- oh.”
“Hoseok’s performing right now,” Seokjin finishes for him as he eventually gives in, sitting down between Taehyung’s legs. “I think his phone charger is at the corner there.”
“Right,” Namjoon moves robotically to where Seokjin instructed, “okay.”
“Hyung, are you leaving right away?” Taehyung asks from behind Seokjin.
“Oh, yeah,” Namjoon rubs the back of his neck, “the store is empty right now when it shouldn’t be, so.”
The door slams open and Hoseok springs into the room, bills shoved into his corset and the waistband of his pantyhose.
“Water, water,” Hoseok murmurs as he searches the room before Seokjin hands him a bottle, “thank you.”
“Someone’s here for you,” Seokjin tells him.
Hoseok’s expression shifts to a wide-eyed one, then the same smile from the fish store returns to his face, “Joon! You brought my phone?”
“Hi again,” Namjoon smiles sheepishly, “yeah.”
“Ah thank you so much, really,” Hoseok makes his way toward him, “I need to go back out there right away but thank you,” he doesn’t stop when he reaches Namjoon, stepping closer until his arms rest on Namjoon’s shoulders as leans up to press a kiss to his cheek. “Bye!” He pulls out all the bills from his clothes and shoves it into his bag before skidding back into the club.
Namjoon leaves the world to brace the cold journey back to the store, but he can’t feel anything except for the heat of his cheeks and the insistent pounding in his heart.
He stops at the betta fish tank for a second as he re-emerges, staring at a black fish in a particularly small bag, swimming in circles as the rest of its long fins follow in poised grace, captivating in a way he never thought humans could ever pull off.
He questions that last statement when the image of Hoseok on stage resurfaces in his head.
Three months into it, Namjoon decides that he does not like his job.
Sure, he used to at first, with so many aquatic friends he’d get to make during those lonely hours, but like watching the same scenery everyday, it’s still beautiful, but it doesn’t have the same effect on him as before, not to mention the fact that he’s watching these creatures knowing that they’ll be gone in a month or so from improper care.
This job, consisting of just watching the fish, fixing the tanks and filters if anything ever goes wrong (it never does), changed him, unexpectedly. It had made him nocturnal, his eyes wide awake under the moon but barely cracking open for the sun rays to enter the next morning. It’s like he’s living in a different timezone, some country that is on the opposite side of the world.
And maybe he is, in a way, living in a different world from everyone else. No one else seems to have a problem with how their life is. It’s just him behind those glass walls, separated from the rest of the earth.
It should have been expected, but Namjoon jumps anyway at the familiar jingles and the glass door slamming open. Maybe it’s justified this time since it’s way louder than usual.
The usual Hoseok stumbles in and that is unusual. What is also unusual is the faint purple on his face that his hands are clutching over.
“Oh shit,” Namjoon whispers as he speedwalks to the backroom where all the pellets and freezers are.
“Sit down, sit down,” He quickly tells Hoseok when he re-emerges from the room with an ice pack in his hand, a clean cloth wrapped around it. Hoseok’s hands are still clutching his cheek and Namjoon tries his best to gently remove it.
“I stopped one of them because they were getting a bit handsy,” Hoseok says before Namjoon even musters up the courage to ask. “He wasn't having it and well he- shit,” Hoseok hisses as Namjoon presses an ice pack on his cheek.
“Shit indeed,” Namjoon draws his hands back as Hoseok clutches onto the ice pack.
Then it’s quiet again. The quiet, by Namjoon’s definition, where no one is talking and there’s a low rumbling of the oxygen tank and the buzzing of the tank lights— that quiet.
Hoseok draws his legs in and hugs then with his free arm. It’s a wonder how he’s still hanging on in the cold with how little he’s wearing, not to mention the ice pack pressed against his face.
Namjoon stares out at the dark streets blankly until he feels a small weight on his shoulder.
“Sometimes I just want to start over,” He hears Hoseok whisper. “It feels like I’ve just wasted my whole life away.”
Namjoon takes his time to think of a response, though Hoseok doesn’t sound like he expects one, resting his head silently on Namjoon’s shoulder.
“I think we all feel like that at some point,” Namjoon says, “we’re awake when everyone else is asleep, doing something we don’t necessarily want to do. It sucks.”
“I try,” Hoseok says, worn out, “I really try to enjoy it, and sometimes I do feel like I like it. I always liked attention, affection, I like being desired, I like entertaining. But now-” He sniffles but then chuckles, “now I just want to take a nap or something, I’m so sleepy, god dammit. I don’t want anyone to look at me.”
“I’ll close my eyes if that helps,” Namjoon says as he flutters his eyes close. He can hear Hoseok laugh a little, lightly hitting his side. He opens his eyes, but stares down at the old desk in front of him, “But really, it’s fine to want to be no one, to just disappear, only for a moment. I like to think that your life is defined less by what you do, and more by what you want to do. You shouldn’t think that the only kind of self-worth and validation you can get is from stripping, or sacrificing yourself.”
“I know,” Hoseok nods against his shoulder, “and it pisses me off sometimes because- because I know, yet I still make myself go up there because I like the rush that it gives me even though I know so damn clearly that I’m going to hate my life more afterwards. That’s what I’m used to doing for so long and it’s ruined dancing for me.”
Namjoon reminisces briefly of Hoseok in highschool, surrounded by people as he danced. He never thought it’d be some sort of seeking for validation. Perhaps it wasn’t then, perhaps those days were still full of passion and leisure, and somehow along the way insecurity has converted it into an unhealthy coping mechanism, molded into the mindset that happiness is something that must be earned rather than received, like some trophy rather than an emotion. In this way, Namjoon and Hoseok aren’t that different from each other, both pursuing happiness when it isn’t something to be pursued in the first place.
With much hesitation but equally as much determination, as if fuelled by something from that smile, Namjoon brings up a hand to gently brush the very end of Hoseok’s hair first before lightly carding through the soft strands. After a while, he feels Hoseok sniffle into his shoulder, a wet patch starting to form as he shakes, face wet with hot tears and cold condensation from the ice pack earlier.
“It’s okay,” He says to Hoseok, “I’ve seen you in your better days. You’ll get there again.”
Hoseok sniffles as he laughs, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve seen the ever so popular dance prodigy Jung Hoseok of class 1-3,” Namjoon says, “he’s still here.”
Hoseok lifts his head to face him, cheeks still wet with tears and nose stuffy, “How did you- what?”
“Oh, you see, we uh-” Namjoon clears his throat as he averts his gaze, “we attended the same highschool.”
Hoseok’s eyes widen comically at that, slapping the ice pack onto the desk, “No way.”
“You were always dancing in that empty classroom during lunch break, and you performed at every show the school hosted,” Namjoon recalls, “your friends had to drag you out for lunch. You were way too skinny.”
“I-” Hoseok is still, mouth agape as he processes it all, “why didn’t you tell me?”
“You don’t remember,” Namjoon says, “Don’t you? We never really talked then. Which isn’t your fault of course. You were always surrounded with people, and I never approached you.”
“Surrounded with people,” Hoseok laughs at the word choice. “I guess I was. I liked the attention, affection, although it was all artificial. Even now.” He gestures at himself, “I’m doing the exact same thing as in high school, except it’s worse and I hate it.”
“Artificial?” Namjoon asks.
“Artificial,” Hoseok confirms, “people only ever want me for something. People wanted to be popular, horny rich people like wild sexual fantasies that they can control. I guess that’s why I’m so protective of this place… why I get selfish about it.” He absentmindedly pokes the softening ice pack, “Being with you feels… normal. It’s like whatever is happening in Nocturnalists is a different world from here, and being here feels like I’m invisible to that world, even for a little bit.”
“Well,” Namjoon blushes, face probably contorting into some embarrassing expression, “I’m glad to have you around too, now and even back then, if it counts for anything.”
Hoseok looks up at him again, “It does,” He smiles before ducking down to bury his face into Namjoon’s shoulder, murmuring against it, “it really does.”
Namjoon reaches over to his phone, playing a paused song as he sits back and let the sound from the speaker fill the room. Hoseok returns to the spot on Namjoonʼs shoulder, his body slowly relaxing as he listens.
The music changes to a depressing ballad of some sorts. A simple progression of notes up and down in a constant pace before a deep, worn out voice starts to sing broken words.
Without another word, Hoseok pushes himself up from Namjoon’s shoulder, allowing him one last sniffle before he wipes away his tears with his forearm.
“What’s this song called?”
“Slow dancing in the dark,” Namjoon answers just as the song reaches the chorus.
An idea pokes at his mind; a lame, stupid idea that is somehow very compelling.
It’s stupid; Namjoon can’t convince himself enough how stupid it is, but what else is he supposed to do to bring Hoseok’s spirit back up? To remind him of what it felt like to let go like back then?
Ah, fuck humiliation.
Hoseok looks up when Namjoon pushes himself from the chair to stand in front of him with his hand out. His eyes shift between Namjoon’s hand and gaze for a moment before it begins to dawn on him what Namjoon is asking.
“Are you serious?” Hoseok asks.
“We’re invisible right now,” Namjoon says, “aren’t we?”
They let the song play for another moment before Hoseok breaks into the first soft laughter of the night.
Taking Namjoon’s hand, he pushes himself up as well.
“I don’t know how to dance like this though,” Namjoon quickly confesses when Hoseok positions them, bringing Namjoon’s hand to his waist, “slow dancing, or any kind of dancing at all, actually.”
“It’s simple,” Hoseok smiles, hand holding onto Namjoon’s for a while longer on his waist before he lets go, “follow me.”
Namjoon starts off with shaky feet and hesitant hands as he focuses way too hard on the floor, careful not to do something they’ll both regret. Hoseok already seems carefree, not being afraid to push closer and grip firmly as he guides Namjoon around until he starts to focus more on the music than what might go wrong.
It’s awkward, like some juxtaposed dream with Namjoon in his sweater and Hoseok in his skimpy tank top, shifting around in the small space between the desk and the fish tanks that are buzzing and painting shades of bright neon on their skin, the whole scenery illuminated by the pale street lights from outside. Hoseok makes Namjoon twirl him, then Namjoon tries to dip him, but Hoseok is quick enough on his feet to avoid any serious accident, and both of them break off into stomach-cradling laughter.
Namjoon smiles, and Hoseok smiles back, as they slow dance in that smelly cramped space from the song on Namjoon’s bluetooth speaker.
The moment feels like youth; like something he had missed because of his foolishness. It feels like hesitance, like spontaneity, carefreeness that he never dared to have.
And he loves it.
The song eventually comes to an end, and so does the closeness; or at least thatʼs what Namjoon thought.
Hoseok catches him by the waist before he could pull away, eyes meeting his with an unreadable flare.
He whispers after a while, like itʼs a secret heʼs scared to admit,
“What would happen if I kiss you right now?”
Namjoon knows itʼs going to take him much longer than seconds to fully comprehend what was said, but he fears all too much that Hoseok would take the silence from pondering as hesitance. Thinking will have to wait.
“Is it part of the dance?” He asks instead.
Hoseok laughs at that, “Maybe. Unless youʼre opposed to it.”
“I wouldnʼt be opposed to it, no, ” Namjoon murmurs, face too hot for his own good.
The music suddenly dies down before a loud blaring alarm sounds from the speaker, making them both jolt in place.
“Ah, your break was over five minutes ago,” Namjoon scratches the back of his neck when he goes to check.
“...You set an alarm for my break?” Hoseoks asks.
“You lose track of time sometimes,” Namjoon says, “I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
“Oh my god,” Hoseok whispers, “I’ll-” he seems to change his mind multiple times, groaning frustratedly as his cheeks seem to redden in the dark. “I’ll see you when your shift is done okay? Like always. See you!”
The final two hours pass by in the blink of an eye. It’s raining when he exits the store, dumbly shielding himself from the droplets with his hand before an umbrella hovers over him.
“Kim Namjoon of class 1-1, president of the debate club, right?” Hoseok smiles at him from the bundle of clothes he has covered himself with. “I thought you seemed familiar when I saw you that first time in the store. I found the yearbook pictures on my phone. You were cute.”
“That’s me,” Namjoon admits lamely.
“Do you want hotteok?” Hoseok holds up a bag, “I bought some a while ago when I was waiting for you. They’re still kinda warm though.” He offers Namjoon a small piece with a toothpick.
“Oh, thank you,” Namjoon nervously leans over, letting Hoseok feed him in the middle of considerably heavy rain.
The bus stop is empty. The seats are wet from the rain but they sit down anyway, grimacing at the way water soaks into their pants.
“What happened when you went back?” Namjoon asks, concerned.
“Not much,” Hoseok confesses, “Jin hyung said I could just rest or go home, so I changed and took a big fat nap.”
“Ah,” Namjoon groans, “must be nice. Not the part before that but… you know, the napping.”
“I know what you mean,” Hoseok chuckles as he stares down at the wet pavement, the little muddy puddles forming in every little crevice. “I might be quitting soon.”
“Oh?” Namjoon turns to look at him, “Quitting… this?”
“Stripping, yeah,” Hoseok says, “I’ve told you before that it won’t be forever, and I guess this is me doing it.”
“Have you found another job yet?” Namjoon asks.
“Not yet,” Hoseok admits, “doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m still trying to audition, and I used to wait at restaurants so I might go back to doing that.”
“That’s fine,” Namjoon says, “as long as you’re happy. I know you’ll take care of yourself.”
Hoseok laughs at that, “You’re talking as if we won’t get to see each other again.”
Namjoon fidgets, “Well, it won’t be as often, but still. Let me know if you need any help, Yoongi hyung knows a few places. He got me this job in the first place.”
“There’s something about you,” Hoseok suddenly says, quieter and almost muffled by the rain. “You always take care of me, but I never really do anything for you.” He says sadly.
“Hoseok,” Namjoon begins, everything feels softer surrounded by the rain, “I can’t begin to tell you how wrong you are.”
Hoseok’s laughter is muffled by the rain, but his smile is clear.
“First of all, you were pretty much my teenage years,” He begins, minutely panicking as he never really planned this whole speech out. “All the good highschool memories I have… most of them are of you.” He might be imagining it, but there’s a faintest of blushes on Hoseok’s cheeks. “Even now, you somehow came back, and suddenly all the good memories I have of this job is our time together. I started out alone,” He laughs at himself. “I started out alone and miserable, and from the moment you started visiting, I have friends, and I’m just happy.” He smiles, “That thing I thought I wasted away, that thing I thought I have to work hard to earn, you directly gave it to me.” Hoseok has an unreadable expression on when Namjoon looks up to face him, “You made me found youth and happiness again, Hoseok. The things I do can’t even compare to that, but you’ve got another person in your corner now, and-”
Namjoonʼs words die in his throat when Hoseok grabs him by the front of his shirt and press their lips together.
The droplets of rain hits the pavement and metal poles in different places, playing a faint melody that surrounds them for as long as the kiss lasts. It feels like youth, somehow, like this was what he had let go of when he was too scared to understand coming back to him now that he has finally realized what he had lost.
When Hoseok pulls away, the unexplainable rush makes Namjoon push in, and everything fits back together sweetly.
Hoseok’s hand slides up to Namjoon’s neck, playing with the short hair at the nape of his neck while keeping him close.
They pull away hesitantly, quietly, but beyond blissed.
Hoseok suddenly breaks off into a laugh, “You taste like hotteok.”
Namjoon ducks his head with an embarrassed smile, “It’s the syrup.”
His first kiss with Hoseok tasted sweet, and everything feels just that much more colorful when he turns to look.
A blue city is decorated by the rain as two nocturnalists sit by and wait for the night bus.
“Which fish do you think I am?” Hoseok asks Namjoon, curiously peering at him from his side.
Namjoon takes a moment to think, “The betta fish, probably. Not because we talked about it when we first met. Well, kind of that I guess but thereʼs more.”
“I’m here,” Hoseok smiles, tucking his hair behind his ear to show that heʼs listening.
“Well, the betta fish lives alone because of its aggressive nature, and they donʼt feel any kind of loneliness.” Namjoon starts, “However, they are capable of being sad, and happy, and theyʼre very capable of loving. I think theyʼre really independent, but they of course have a softer side to them. Theyʼre one of the most beautiful species of fish there is. Everyone will point out how pretty a betta fish looks upon seeing it.” He smiles, “Itʼs like second nature. The way they move… it kind of reminds me of the way you move. The way you dance… thereʼs some sort of grace and versatility that I canʼt quite put a name to, I guess.”
Hoseok is beaming when Namjoon faces him again, “You think Iʼm pretty?”
Namjoon blushes as he laughs, “Everyone thinks that-”
Another thing about Hoseok is that he’s spontaneous, and unapologetically so.
A few days after their first kiss, and after a much-needed pep talk from Yoongi, Namjoon got over himself and asked Hoseok out, and Hoseok agreed before Namjoon even finished The sentence.
Hoseok likes to catch him off-guard, and he succeeds most of the time. Namjoonʼs startled laugh is muffled into kiss. Hoseokʼs hands wander for a moment, up his forearms, across his shoulder, the back of his neck before it rests on his cheeks.
“Oh crap,” Hoseok giggles when he pulls away from the kiss, “you have lip gloss on you now. Sorry.” He tries to wipe the gloss off of Namjoon’s lips with his thumb, “Look at your shiny, glittery, plump lips.”
“That statement made me wildly uncomfortable for some reasons,” Namjoon comments.
“I’m sure I’ve said worse things,” Hoseok complies, “my break’s over.”
“Right,” Namjoon checks the time, “do you still want to…?”
Hoseok smiles at that, “Of course,” he leans down to give Namjoon’s lips one last peck before he makes his way out of the store, his fake halo bouncing above his head and little angel wings fluttering behind the shelf of tanks. It’s painfully coincidental that Hoseok’s last day at Nocturnalists just so happens to be angel-themed.
Even though Namjoon insisted that his apartment wasn’t anything special, Hoseok was just as insistent on seeing it.
Although when the time actually comes, he doesn’t actually do an awful lot of observing.
“You know,” Hoseok says when he’s managed to crowd Namjoon against a wall, “I would’ve been too scared to quit, if it weren’t for you.”
“Nah,” Namjoon denies as he rests his hands on Hoseok’s waist, “it’s all you. I’m just here.”
Their lips connect, reconnecting easily after a few seconds apart. Hoseok presses himself impossibly closer, and the heat from the touch is melting Namjoon.
“Let me treat you to something,” Hoseok whispers against his mouth.
Before he can even ask, Namjoon is pushed onto his couch not-too-gently and he’s staring up at Hoseok who now has a menacing grin on his face.
“Have you ever had a lap dance?” Hoseok asks as he shrugs his coat off, flinging it onto the coffee table as he approaches Namjoon, “People usually need to pay extra for this, but I guess you can have the boyfriend discount.”
“Oh,” Is all Namjoon manages out as it starts to really dawn on him what is happening, “you really don’t have to.”
“It’s fun, trust me,” Hoseok says as he comes up to straddle Namjoon’s lap, “everybody likes it.” He scrolls through his music library in his phone, setting it down carelessly after selecting a song Namjoon had recommended to him a few weeks ago.
Namjoon feels uneasy, “I thought you didn’t-”
“Shh,” Hoseok presses a finger to Namjoon’s lips as his hips get to work, undulating just above Namjoon’s lap. “I’ll be good for you.”
For a moment, Namjoon decided to fuck it, it’s a lap dance from the guy he’s head over heels for. Let him enjoy this.
Hoseok is beautiful. That is the simplest way to put it.
The way he controls his body into these fluid movements, the tension he seems to create just from the sight of him in the absence of touch.
In their haste, they haven’t even turned the lights on. The only light in the room is from the streetlights entering through the sheer curtains. The soft glow it gives Hoseok’s body creates an ethereal sight as Hoseok runs his fingers down Namjoon’s chest, chuckling at the obvious shiver that follows. Namjoon slowly finds himself melting into it.
Something resurfaces though when Hoseok leans closer, gripping the back of the couch as he whispers into his ear, “Are you having fun?”
Namjoon is suddenly reminded of the awful bruise on Hoseokʼs cheek that night. The sight of Hoseok, teary-eyed and broken as he weakly curled into Namjoon, sobbing as he confesses the way the job has ruined him.
“It’s… interesting,” He chokes out when he sees the present Hoseok staring expectantly at him.
Hoseok giggles at that, “I can’t say I wasn’t expecting more of a reaction.” The statement is followed by a breath against his neck when Hoseok whispers again, “You can touch, you know? Anywhere you want, if it’ll make you want me. You’re usually not allowed to touch, but I guess this is the boyfriend promotion as well.”
“Come on,” Hoseok suddenly leans away, seductively pulling his shirt up by its hem and holding it between his teeth. Before Namjoon can even muster up a reaction at the sight of his tanned torso, he grabs one of Namjoon’s immobile hands, running the flat of his palm up his warm stomach to his chest as he lets out a soft moan, hissed through his teeth.
“Hoseok, please,” Namjoon suddenly sobs.
All movements come to a halt then. It’s complete silence in its original definition— no buzzing machine, no loud oxygen tanks, the music paused.
Hoseok lets the hem of his shirt drop back down, a look of horror in his face when Namjoon lifts his head to meet his gaze.
“Are you okay?” Hoseok whispers, but the sultriness from before is long gone, “You’re crying.”
“What?” Namjoon frowns, “No I’m not,” but then he feels his tears roll down his cheeks when he blinks, “oh, yes I am. Okay.”
“Fuck I’m so sorry,” Hoseok wipes his tears away with shaky hands as he makes a move to shift off of him, “I’m such an idiot.”
“No,” Namjoon reaches for Hoseok’s waist, stopping his movements.
“It’s okay if you don’t want me like that,” Hoseok assures him, though his tone is shaky and hurt and it’s the complete opposite of what Namjoon feels and wished this night would turn out. “I just thought you might-”
“I want you,” He says, trying hard not to dwell too much on the heat rising in his cheeks, “I’ve wanted you for years, Hoseok. Every little thing you do drives me so crazy I get mad at myself sometimes and I have to meditate or something.”
Hoseok, still sitting on Namjoon’s lap, blinks down at him with a confused expression and a faint blush. It’s awkward to be talking like this, but Namjoon fears how Hoseok would interpret it if they’re any further apart.
“You said you didn’t want to do this anymore,” Namjoon continues. “And I’ve seen it myself. I’ve seen the bad memories you’ve kept with you from that, and I don’t want you to relive it just to make me want you when I already do,” He breaks off into a whisper, “I want you so much. So please,” He reaches down to grasp Hoseok’s hand into his, “don’t hurt yourself like this.”
It’s silent for a minute longer before Hoseok chuckles quietly. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t understand you at all,” He says. “But then I realize that I just can’t comprehend the fact that you’re just… you just want me.”
“What do you mean?” Namjoon asks. “Everybody wants you.”
“Everybody wants… they want this, they want the fantasy,” Hoseok looks down at himself, then to their joined hands, “I’m so used to it that it’s like I forgot that there’s more to this. And I guess that’s why I don’t understand sometimes, why you lend me your coat when I’m barely wearing anything, why you’d rather hold my hand than just… touch me anywhere else, really. It’s so easy to do that, yet-” He chuckles when he looks down at their hands, “yet you’re doing this. It’s like you don’t have a drop of horniness in your big dumb body.”
“I’m only human,” Namjoon quickly reassures him, “trust me, if it were any other instance when I’m not worried out of my mind, I’d be rock hard.”
Hoseok laughs at that, his smile reaching his eyes and Namjoon suddenly finds himself relaxing at the sight.
The fact that Hoseok had forgotten about the softer part of intimacy, of affection, makes his heart ache. Hoseok, who was shining with confidence and sweat in that little classroom as he dances among a cheering crowd, has come across the worst of life and stumbled into this well of doubt that swallowed him whole, making him so insecure that he found satisfaction in becoming something that is put for show, ignoring the way it hurts him, ignoring the fact that that was his intention.
Namjoon is aware that he’s not too different. His insecurities shine every time he’s with Hoseok, deeming his self-worth based on how many other beautiful people Hoseok talks to, how many clients he entertains. Even now, he’s scared that Hoseok will suddenly deem him not good enough, undeserving, even though he’s well aware that Hoseok isn’t the type of person to do such things. He’s been so careful of saying the wrong things that he forgot to consider how this all comes across to Hoseok, how he can still doubt even though it seems perfectly obvious in Namjoon’s eyes, that he would do the most ridiculous things just to see Hoseok smile.
Hoseok, who does so much to entertain, to give love wherever he can. Namjoon feels like the time for him to be loved has long been overdue.
He squeezes Hoseok’s hands as their eyes meet again, unconsciously smiling when he sees Hoseok blinking down at him expectantly.
“Do you want to watch a movie with me?” Namjoon asks, “I’ll make tea.”
The way Hoseok’s smile widens at that goes straight to his heart. “I’ll make the tea,” He says, “you can pick what we watch.”
Though Namjoon protested, they keep the lights off. Hoseok seems to have found himself into one of Namjoon’s sweaters during his escapade in the kitchen when he returns with Namjoon’s soft pink one, barely staying on his narrow shoulders. He’s stripped out of his jeans, leaving only his boxers and socked feet and politely rejects Namjoon’s offer of rather huge sweatpants.
They both get a throw blanket each, Namjoon laying it over his torso while Hoseok uses it to warm his legs, still rejecting the sweatpants offer with a pout.
It’s silent for a good half of the movie, as Finding Nemo doesn’t have much to comment on considering how many times they’ve both watched it before. Hoseok is rather quiet for the most part, letting out a chuckle every now and then at particular scenes. Namjoon’s ear catches him mimicking some of their voices under his breath.
Just as Marlin and Dory stare into the bloom of jellyfish in front of them, the sight of pink and blue is suddenly blocked by a pair of legs thrown over his lap, and a face resting its cheek on its knees.
“How do you do it?” Hoseok asks him.
“Do what?” Namjoon asks back.
“Not to be embarrassing but,” Hoseok clears his throat as he quickly turns around to set down his mug on the table before turning back to face Namjoon, “I just want to kiss you all the time, especially when I’m with you. I’m trying to behave so I tried to keep it to myself, but it hasn’t been easy when you’re right here. So how are you doing it?”
Namjoon doesnʼt really know how to answer this, “I just… try to focus on the movie?”
“I don’t know,” Namjoon shrugs, “I just try to recall all the facts I know about each fish that appear.” He demonstrates, “You know, there’s a species of jellyfish that can live forever. When they mature to a certain point, they transform back to their younger state, so they shrink from an adult back to a baby and start their life all over again.”
Hoseok seems dazed for a moment, as if lost in thought, before he seems to realize that Namjoon has stopped talking and he frowns, “It’s not working. I still want to kiss you.”
Namjoon chuckles at that, ducking his head down as he feels a familiar blush creeping up his face.
“Well,” He says, “I never said you have to hold back.”
By the time their lips meet, Marlin and Dory hopping around through the bloom of jellyfish has been long forgotten about.
Hoseok keeps Namjoon close by the grip on his sweater, tilting his head to deepen the kiss and smiling when he hears a surprised groan at the back of Namjoon’s throat.
One of the throw blankets makes its way onto the floor as Hoseok tugs at the remaining one covering Namjoon’s body, “Let me in.”
“What’s wrong with your blanket?” Namjoon asks.
“It’s… broken. Or something.” Hoseok doesn’t even bother coming up with a good excuse, “Share this with me.”
Namjoon laughs at that, “Alright, alright. Come in.” He lifts the blanket high enough for Hoseok to crawl in, throwing his legs over Namjoon’s lap and resting his head on his chest.
The focus is back on the movie for a while more, now accompanied by Hoseok’s sigh and his head nestled under Namjoon’s chin.
A hand suddenly yanks Namjoon’s face to the side and Hoseok’s lips press against his again, his hands cupping Namjoon’s face to keep him close.
“Insatiable,” Namjoon teases when they pull away.
“Shut up,” Hoseok laughs as he tilts his head to kiss Namjoon’s cheek, down to his jaw, “I’m happy like this.”
Namjoon smiles, blissed, “That’s enough for me, then.”
The sun is rising by the time the movie ends, and they end up nestled in Namjoon’s bed by morning like nocturnalists.
“This guy reminds me of you,” Hoseok points at a coconut crab beyond the clear glass.
Namjoon frowns, “Do I look that stupid?”
“So stupid,” Hoseok says, “I love it.”
“Oh well,” Namjoon accepts his fate as they make their way to a larger section of the aquarium.
They take a moment to inspect all the different colors beyond the glass walls, gawking at the way they add color to the world with just their existence alone.
“Care to share another fish fact?” Hoseok turns to Namjoon with a colorful, expectant smile.
Namjoon takes a moment to think, humming before he answers, “I heard there are king crabs in this tank, but they’re nocturnal so they’re just sleeping in the caves or under a rock. You can kind of see them if you look carefully.”
“Where?” Hoseok squints at the tank.
“Right there,” Namjoon points at a large rock near them, “see?”
Hoseok leans closer to where Namjoon’s finger is pointing, his face in such close proximity that Namjoon has to steal a little kiss on the cheek.
Hoseok cups his offended cheek when he leans away, mouth agape, “Since when are you this smooth?”
“I learn from the best,” Namjoon winks, which sets off a loud laugh from Hoseok.
“Why do I keep liking you more everyday?” Hoseok asks, “It’s crazy.”
Namjoon smiles at that. He has admittedly developed a more open approach to things the more time he spends with Hoseok. They still keep in touch with everyone at Nocturnalists, and Yoongi found an empty job position at a children’s dance academy for Hoseok, who now seems more colorful than ever.
Hoseok colors the world with his smile, and some of it has reached Namjoon as well. From those blue nocturnal nights, Hoseok has pulled them into the warmth of the morning.
“I like who I am with you,” Namjoon says as he winds an arm around Hoseok’s waist.
Hoseok chuckles as he presses in closer, leaning his head on Namjoon’s shoulder, “I like who I am with you too.”