Actions

Work Header

all night

Work Text:

YEAR ONE.

 

Moving away for university, Namjoon finds, is kind of like picking up the phone and booking a doctor’s appointment without your mother’s help. It’s one of those adult life experiences that no one tells you are going to be absolutely horrible, but you’re somehow expected to know how to navigate them.

The first hurdle was packing to move. 

Packing to travel is one thing: there’s always an element of finitude to it. You shove the essentials into a suitcase – namely four changes of clothes, toiletries, and fourteen pairs of underwear just in case you become incontinent overnight – and pat yourself on the back for a job well-done, proud of your minimalistic tendencies and your ability to free your mind from materialistic concerns. When packing to move, you end up discovering that minimalism is a sham, shoving three plushies and a box of paperclips in there because what if I end up needing them – only to forget your toothbrush and possibly your wallet.

The second hurdle was public transport. 

Buses are terrible enough when you’re not carrying a suitcase, a backpack and several tote bags for all the stuff that didn’t make it in. At least three separate elderly people scowled at Namjoon like he was trying to take away their retirement plan. Namjoon couldn’t grab a seat fast enough, so he was left standing, trying to avoid making himself or his suitcase fall over. He mostly failed at both, and his earphones got caught in someone’s bag four times. 

The third hurdle was the actual, physical move. 

For starters, his apartment is on the fifth floor and the elevator was out of order, which means he had to climb several flights of stairs with all his luggage. Needless to say, when he finally unlocked the door and stepped into the apartment, he was sweaty and panting like he’d just run a marathon and was ready to christen his new room with a productive half-hour crying session. 

Enter the fourth hurdle: he is unable to do that, because a person is currently sitting at the kitchen island, a steaming mug halfway to his mouth. 

The person – who’s either his new roommate or a robber who has made himself very much at home – is a guy who looks pretty much Namjoon’s age, clad in a giant black hoodie. His ash gray hair looks all mussed, like he’s just gotten out of bed – which he probably has, given his puffy cheeks and slack lips and the softness sticking to every inch of exposed skin like the salt off a sea breeze. The only part of him that’s still sharp are his eyes, gentle but piercing, quietly assessing. 

“Hi,” he says, voice all bass, the aftertaste of sleep staining his syllables.  “Need a hand?”

Bit late for that, Namjoon thinks bitterly while the guy sets down his mug and speaks again. “If I’d known you were coming today, I would have come down to help you bring this stuff up.”

Namjoon suddenly realises that he hasn’t spoken a single word since entering the apartment, and that he should probably do it sometime in the near future if he doesn’t want to freak out the guy who he’s 87% sure is his roommate within the first three minutes of being acquainted. 

“Hi,” he croaks. His voice sounds like he smokes a pack of cigarettes per day. He clears his throat and decides to try again. “Um, hello. I’m Kim Namjoon. I’m assuming you’re my roommate?”

The guy raises an eyebrow, amused. “You look pretty chill for someone who’s not absolutely sure whether the guy sitting in his apartment is his roommate.”

Namjoon does not have enough energy to keep up with funny banter, but he does manage a timid smile, hoping he won’t come off as a complete asshole. “Sorry. I’m so tired that I’d probably tell a robber to help himself to whatever’s in the kitchen at this point.”

The other snorts and hops down from the stool, approaching Namjoon and his one suitcase, one backpack and three tote bags. He looks small, swimming in his enormous hoodie and loose sweatpants, the only pop of colour in his entire outfit being the red polka dots on his Kumamon socks. 

“I’m Min Yoongi. Promise I’m not a robber.” He holds out his hand, which Namjoon shakes with a small smile, and then offers to help him carry his stuff to his own room. It’s a nice gesture, even though the common area is so tiny it can be crossed in three and a half strides. 

“Are you also in your first year?” Namjoon asks, trying to regain normal blood circulation in his arms after being relieved of his bags. 

“Yep, but I took a gap year after graduating high school,” Yoongi replies, voice a bit strained with effort. He gently kicks the door to Namjoon’s room open, depositing the bags on a dusty desk. “So, this is you, then. You look like you need a nap or twenty, so I’m gonna leave you to it.” 

Namjoon’s head swims with relief. He’d already been dreading the stilted, senseless small talk falling like specks of dust on the nondescript furniture; instead, Yoongi is giving him an out, and he gladly takes it. 

“Thank you for helping, Yoongi-ssi,” he says truthfully. He still aches like someone flattened out every bone in his body with a rolling pin, but he doesn’t feel like crying as much anymore. 

Yoongi shrugs and yawns, covering his mouth with one of his hands curled up in a loose fist. He looks a lot younger like this, nose a little scrunched up, a small frown between his eyes. “Hyung is fine. Get some rest, Namjoon-ah.”

When the door clicks shut behind him, Namjoon barely retains enough presence of mind to fish out a change of sheets from his suitcase and haphazardly throw them on the mattress before curling up on it. He exhales shakily, trying to breathe out the stress of the entire situation – not just the moving, or the bus, or the stairs, but the future , the change , the you’re on your own now. He makes himself as small as possible, like he’s trying to crumple himself and his fears into a paper ball and throw them away. 

His room has a window. It’s not huge, but he can still see the sky. It’s painted the same colour as Yoongi’s hair, silver and steel, and it’s not long before rain starts knocking quietly on the glass. 

Namjoon keeps breathing and watches the drops chase one another until the knot of dread in his chest starts melting off with them, until the gentle tapping lulls him to sleep. 

 

*

 

Right on the verge of his second semester, Namjoon goes home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family. Granted, home isn’t that far from Seoul, but it’s still odd to be back. 

He’s been living on his own for about five months, and being home already feels like trying to put on a t-shirt that has shrunk in the washer. He’s Alice, eating a biscuit in Wonderland and becoming bigger, bigger, bigger, while the space he’s occupied since birth remains the same, and it feels suffocating, like he has to curl in on himself, bend down his head in order to still fit, to not burst through the roof and bring the house down. 

His cousin, Kim Taehyung, helps. Taehyung is a year younger than him, but despite his cheerful attitude and childlike wonder, he makes Namjoon feel like he’s speaking to someone older, sometimes. Taehyung does not “think outside the box”: he opens the box, then breaks it down and puts it back together again in a completely different shape, paints it beautiful colours. 

He’s what Namjoon desperately wants to be – untainted by other people’s influences, mind a crystal-clear pond, whereas his own is murky, constantly stained by worries and intrusive thoughts that have bounced off the walls in his head too long. More often than not, Taehyung helps clear the waters just a little. 

“There’s no doubt about it, hyung,” he declares, expression completely serious. They’re snuggled on opposite sides of the couch under the warmest blanket Namjoon owns, fuzzy-sock covered feet touching and legs tangled up, both of them too tall to fit without contact. “Your roommate is a brownie.”

Namjoon promptly chokes on his peppermint tea. When he’s done coughing and he’s spilled at least a third of it on his ugliest, oldest and most comfortable sweater, he frowns at Taehyung, who’s still wearing the most serene, unperturbed expression. “He’s a what now?”

Taehyung purses his lips and looks to the side, as though he’s trying to recall a particularly elusive detail. “Well, they’re called brownies in England and Scotland, but they have different names in different cultures. In Germany they’re called kobold , I think? I’m honestly drawing a blank with the names, but that’s not the point—”

“Hold up,” Namjoon interjects. “I’ve heard that before!” The word sparks a faint connection in his head, courtesy of a 3AM YouTube rabbit hole that had somehow brought him all the way to a short documentary about European folklore. It says a lot about Taehyung as a person that he does not question how or why Namjoon would have heard it before. “Tae, aren’t those like, goblins?”

“Well, technically it depends on the culture. The classification of faerie-like creatures is—”

“Taehyung-ah,” Namjoon interrupts again, trying to bring the conversation back on track. “Are you telling me my roommate is a goblin?”

Taehyung only hesitates for a brief second. “Pretty much, yeah.” 

Namjoon tries very hard not to look skeptical, but something must show on his face, because Taehyung’s bottom lip juts out, not quite falling into a pout, but dangerously close to it. “It makes sense, hyung! You said you never really see him around the house, right?”

“Yeah, but that’s because we have very different schedules—”

And you also said that despite not actually seeing him, you hear him moving around at odd hours and then you find little chores done around the house, isn’t that right?” Taehyung carries on, insistent, and – well, that is right. 

After their first meeting in the common area, his roommate had turned out to be quite elusive. Their university schedules don’t align in the least, because Yoongi is an architecture major, which means a lot of workshops and projects that keep him on campus outside of classes, and Namjoon is an overachiever who signed up for way too many classes and is decidedly not drowning in coursework, thank you very much. In addition to that, Yoongi has a part-time job working the graveyard shift at a 24 hour café – Namjoon is slightly worried about when exactly he finds the time to sleep, but they’re not nearly close enough for him to stick his nose in that. 

Despite all of this, Namjoon keeps finding things around the house – a mug with a bag of his favourite tea already inside, ready for boiled water, or a very convenient container of leftovers from the café, or the rip he’d accidentally made in the pocket of his favourite jacket sewn up, or the too-loose reading glasses he’d left on the kitchen island with their tiny screws perfectly tightened up again, or—

“Fuck, my roommate is a goblin.”

Taehyung sits back against the armrest and sips his own tea, face little-girl-in-front-of-burning-house smug. “Told you so. The good kind, though,” he adds, expression pensive. “I mean, unless you piss him off. Then expect every single one of your phone alarms to be switched from AM to PM, at the very least.”

Namjoon fake gasps and Taehyung snorts into his mug, getting some tea up his nose. That sends them both descending into a fit of laughter, Taehyung’s eyes disappearing and his bigger-than-life smile coming out, heart-shaped and somehow brighter and warmer than every single candle that’s been lit around the house. 

On that too-soft couch, the scent of peppermint strong in the air from all the tea he’s spilled, bare ankles brushing against Taehyung’s worn sweatpants, Namjoon starts realising what it means to have home shift from a place to a feeling. 

 

*

 

Namjoon should have known it was too good to be true. 

Yoongi and he had lived for a whole semester in a shared apartment without a single problem. Granted, they’d barely ever crossed paths, courtesy of their schedules and the widely different circles they ran in – it was like the universe kept having them miss each other. This term, the universe has not been as merciful.

For six months, they’d been a ghost presence in each other’s lives, parallel lines, oblivious to the world of roommate horror stories Namjoon kept hearing about from his acquaintances. All the students who complained to him about their own roommates and got I wouldn’t know, my roommate is chill, guess I got lucky in response must have jinxed him. He’s been punished for his hubris. 

Namjoon likes lists. 

Making lists helps to untangle the mess of wires in his brain most of the time, sorts them nicely, puts little colour-coded tags on his thoughts. Three weeks into the semester, he’d started one titled “ living together is Hard ”, because he’s working on being a nice person and titling it “ things about Min Yoongi that annoy the fuck out of me ” seemed like the sort of thing a nice person would not do. 

In a little over a month, the list has already grown two and a half pages in length, and it shows no signs of stopping. Some highlights from the list are:

4) he always leaves the wet tea bag in the sink even though the bin is three steps to the right

13) how can one person play music so loud that i hear it through headphones, a wall and two doors and not go deaf?????

30) if i have to scrub dried up toothpaste from the sink one more goddamn time 

42) what kind of demon snoozes his alarm THIRTEEN TIMES IN A ROW

“No offence, hyung, but you have a problem.”

Taehyung’s tone is gentle, but even despite the less-than-excellent quality of the video call, Namjoon can see he’s raising his eyebrows. It’s very effective. 

Namjoon pouts and takes a sip of his hot chocolate. Earlier, he’d dumped three packets of sugar in it and Taehyung hadn’t even blinked , bless his soul. “Writing is an excellent coping mechanisms. Multiple professionals swear by it.”

Taehyung takes a slow, somehow judgemental sip of his strawberry milk. “You know what other coping mechanism multiple professionals swear by, hyung?”

“Don’t say communication.”

“Communication.” Taehyung grins smugly around the rim of his glass. “If you have something to say, just say it. Keeping things bottled up isn’t good for you – especially since you’re a certified overthinker and your brain will escalate them until you explode at the least convenient time.”

Namjoon fumbles and drops the fourth packet of sugar he was about to pour into his mug, gaping. The mortifying ordeal of being known, or something along those lines.

“You avoid confrontation like it’s trying to force you to drink black coffee, Taehyung.”

“Do as I say, not as I do,” Taehyung replies around a grimace, like the thought alone of tasting black coffee is giving his taste buds a negative Pavlovian reaction. 

Namjoon scoffs, and then he turns it into a sigh when he promptly empties half the sugar packet on the table instead of in the mug. “It’s going to be fine. We have our own bedrooms, anyway. I just need to grit my teeth and have biweekly complaining sessions to de-stress.”

“Ah, hyung, I could write you a list of all the reasons why that is absolutely not going to work out.” His mouth widens in a shit-eating grin. “Did you know multiple professionals swear by it?” 

Namjoon chucks a sealed sugar packet at him. It hits the screen and bounces back, but the sentiment still stands. 

 

*

 

Today is a senselessly bad day. 

It’s one of those that seem cursed from the very beginning, full on Murphy’s law “everything that can go wrong will go wrong” bullshit. Today four separate people have snapped at him, he spilled coffee over his favourite hoodie, his classes were horrible, two of his professors assigned group papers worth 25% of the grade and he wasted his breath arguing with an ignorant dumbass in one of his classes. Today, Namjoon is at the end of his rope, and all he wants is to curl up in bed with barley tea and watch cute animal video compilations. 

Except that when he drags himself to the glorified half-stove with a sink they call a kitchen, there are no less than six different dirty mugs in the basin. Which is impressive given that, as far as Namjoon remembers, they own four in total and only two of them belong to Yoongi. Even in his current state, his powers of deduction are strong enough to conclude that he’s going to have to wash a mug to make himself tea.

In hindsight, it’s probably stupid that after weeks of holding his peace and two full pages of neatly itemised irritation, half a dozen coffee-stained mugs are what does him in. Something snaps inside Namjoon’s chest, and before he can even register moving he’s rapping his knuckles on Yoongi’s bedroom door. The other is clearly home, judging by the shoes on the floor near the front door, but it takes Namjoon a good minute of aggressive knocking to get any kind of response. 

When the door is cracked ajar, all Namjoon can see through the minimal opening is black. A room plunged in darkness, a hunched figure clad in black – black cap, black hoodie, near-black circles underneath tired eyes. The contrast is stark against Yoongi’s puffy cheeks and that pearly white spot on the tip of his button nose. 

Yoongi blearily blinks up at him, confusion staining his features. “Namjoon-ah? Did something happen?” He looks behind Namjoon for a second, then at his still-raised fist, and a frown makes its way across his face when he seems to realise that the apartment is not on fire. “Why were you trying to punch my door in?”

“You used six mugs and then left them in the sink. Mine, too.” The moment the words leave Namjoon’s mouth in a rush, he realises they sound stupid, but it’s too late. Irritation is a lit match carelessly thrown on the dark gasoline spill of his feelings,  and he doesn’t know how to stop the roaring flames. “Could you please clean up after yourself for once?”

Yoongi just stares at him for a long second, like he’s waiting for something: a laugh, a punchline. When it doesn’t come, his eyes sharpen, a frown appearing between his eyebrows. “Are you saying you almost brought my door down and woke me up from a nap because I forgot to wash some mugs?”

Namjoon can feel the embarrassed flush creep all the way up his neck, but he’s in it now, and somehow backtracking seems worse than powering through right now.

“You used all my mugs!” Yoongi doesn’t quite flinch in the face of Namjoon’s raised voice, but his frown deepens, lips pressing together in a tense line. “You used them all without even asking me, which is just basic courtesy, by the way, and didn’t even have the decency of washing them so I could use my own mugs. And this — this isn’t even the first time! You never clean up after yourself and leave your shit around all the time, even though it takes three seconds to not be a slob and respect the other person you’re sharing a living space with!”

There’s a long moment of terrible silence. 

Namjoon’s harsh breathing is the only disruption, disproportionately loud in the quiet tension blanketing the apartment. When he finally finds the gall to look at his roommate, Yoongi is wearing a new expression, one Namjoon hasn’t seen before. There’s bitter amusement in his eyes, in the tightening around his features, an echoing knock on a wall that hides an empty space. He doesn’t look angry or annoyed, but Namjoon almost wishes he did. It would be better than this snide disappointment that makes him feel like Yoongi is looking down on him, instead of the other way around – like Namjoon is nothing but a child throwing a tantrum. 

“Are you finished?” 

When Yoongi finally speaks, his voice is level, but the words drip condescension. The door to his room has slipped open a bit further, revealing a space mostly plunged in darkness, save for the faint artificial light emanating from a laptop. Namjoon can barely make out the mess on Yoongi’s desk, but it looks like a mixture of leftover ramen cups, some more mugs ( Where does he even get them? Does he keep a whole emergency box under his bed? ) and an explosion of scattered sheets. It suddenly occurs to him that Yoongi might be just as stressed as he is, his room screaming all-nighter and deadlines and don’t even have time to have a proper breakdown about it. 

Namjoon deflates. Shame warms up his skin, still tingly and cold from the walk home. No matter how many bullet points there are on Namjoon’s list, Yoongi doesn’t deserve to be used as a punching bag to relieve his pent-up stress, and his reaction makes Namjoon’s stomach churn, because he’s right. He did behave like an immature child, instead of approaching the matter like a civil human being, and he deserves every bit of that condescension. 

“I am.” Namjoon tries to keep himself as still as possible while staring at the floor, so that the hot tears in his eyes won’t spill where Yoongi can see. He will apologise eventually, he knows he has to, but now – now his body stings all the way to where his teeth are clenched, and if he tries to get one more word through his lips, he’s afraid all the stitching work he’s been doing these past few weeks is going to come loose and everything is going to spill out viscous and ugly on the apartment floor, and Yoongi doesn’t deserve that either. 

He doesn’t wait to hear the tale-telling click of the door closing. He turns and flees to his own room, and he lets the spillage happen in the dark, where no one can see. 

 

*

 

Namjoon means to apologise the next day, but he wakes up to an empty, silent apartment and a sticky note on their too-small fridge: gonna be out of town for a bit. The sink is empty, their four mugs clean and back in the cabinet. There are no traces of the others, which makes him think his guess of a hidden box maybe wasn’t such a long shot. The cleanup isn’t as satisfying as he’d imagined, the mortification over the way he obtained it turning the taste sour in his mouth. 

Yoongi doesn’t come back the next day, or the day after that. Namjoon would be lying if he said he misses the mess, but at the same time, the apartment doesn’t look like anyone is really living in it. Counter always empty, sink clean, bathroom spotless – too quiet, too pristine. It makes him feel like a ghost. 

A full week goes by before Namjoon can hear a noise that isn’t self-produced in the apartment, and when it happens, it’s pretty much the last sound he expects. Upon swinging open the front door, he thinks he hears a dog bark – which obviously means his sanity is slipping out of his grasp, since last he remembers, no pets are allowed at their place. 

“Shut the door!” 

The cry is the second-to-last sound he’d expect, since he’s never heard his roommate raise his voice. However, that is very much Yoongi yelling, followed by several things in quick succession: another bark, something brown zooming towards the crack in the door, and the owner of the voice moving faster than Namjoon’s ever seen him. He didn’t even think that speed setting existed as far as his roommate was concerned. 

Namjoon’s brain finally catches up with everything that is happening, and he quickly moves to slam the door shut behind him. He hears a vaguely offended-sounding huff coming from somewhere near his feet, and he lowers his gaze to find a toy poodle with curly fur the colour of toffee glaring up at him. Namjoon didn’t think dogs were even capable of glaring, much less pint-sized ones that look this cute, but this day is apparently keen on defying every one of his expectations. 

“This is a dog,” he says, intelligently. 

“Sharp as a knife, aren’t you?” Yoongi retorts, and Namjoon honestly cannot blame him. He briefly contemplates that if a God existed and happened to love him as one of his children, he would smite him right this second. 

The poodle scurries back between Yoongi’s ankles, which are the only part of him Namjoon is ready to focus on right now. “Is this...your dog?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Yoongi replies, and the poodle honest to god barks at him like it’s offended. The surprise doesn’t even register in Namjoon’s progressively short-circuiting brain before he sees his roommate pick up the dog and coo at it, pink lips pursed in a Pringle shape, the sounds spilling from them not entirely human. “Ah, Holly-yah, daddy didn’t mean it. It was just a joke.”

Namjoon very discreetly pinches himself. It is entirely possible that all the stress and repeated life crises on top of isolation finally did him in, so he reckons it won’t hurt to make sure this is not a hallucination. However, Yoongi remains a solid presence in front of him, swimming in what has to be black hoodie #23, currently covered in dog hair. 

Still reeling from the absurdity of the past three minutes, Namjoon takes a bit longer than he normally would to notice how dark the half-moons underneath Yoongi’s eyes are, and how his fond expression doesn’t quite smooth out the tense lines of his face. If tired is what he looked like the last time Namjoon saw him, it doesn’t hold a candle to his current state. 

“Isn’t it forbidden to keep pets in the building?” Namjoon blurts out instead of expressing worry over his roommate’s health like a normal person would, and regrets it immediately when Yoongi’s face shuts down.

“Why? Are you going to report me, Namjoon-ah?” Yoongi asks, the line of his mouth terribly bitter. He straightens his back, defiant, like he wants to convey how much he doesn’t care about whatever Namjoon is planning to do. The way he protectively holds Holly closer to his chest, however, gives him away.  “This must be the perfect occasion for you to get rid of your horrible roommate, after all.”

Namjoon wants to apologise. He wants to tell Yoongi that he won’t report him. He wants to tell Yoongi that he’s not the one who’s horrible. He wants to tell him he didn’t deserve to be yelled at, didn’t deserve a roommate that can’t communicate properly and blows up at inopportune times. He wants to tell him he’s sorry for not being able to implode instead of flinging shrapnel everywhere, for all the collateral damage. 

Namjoon wants to say a lot of things, but he’s not prepared right now. Namjoon likes being prepared. He likes bulleted lists and talking points, nice little markers to keep him from messing up when his brain goes a mile a minute, never shutting the fuck up for one peaceful, blessed second. Having to just “wing it” means he will inevitably make a mess of things, and he doesn’t want to get Yoongi caught in the rubble again. 

So, Namjoon does not say anything. He simply ducks his head to avoid seeing what’s very likely to be disappointment in the other’s gaze and flees, walking back out the front door he’s just come through. 

 

*

 

Namjoon loves parks. 

When he first moved into his current apartment, the first thing he did after settling in was check the neighbourhood for anything resembling a green area. Luckily, he found a small but lovely park just one block away, complete with benches, nicely shaped paths and his personal favourite: a decently sized pond with a small willow hunched over the side of it. 

Namjoon loves parks because they give him the breathing room he needs when the walls in his head are closing in on him. The spot underneath the willow is perfect for that – partly hidden but not closed off, the tired branches acting like a protective curtain even now, when they’re still bare from wintertime. Sitting up against the bark, five steps away from the water, Namjoon is separated and together at the same time. He keeps only one earphone in, letting the sounds from the rest of humanity flow in with the music – the muffled, faraway sound of a child’s laugh, the shrill ring of a bike bell, the wind making the branches shake and rattle. 

He’d love to stay a bit longer, but he has a paper to write and his laptop is dead, so he heaves his frozen behind off the ground and gets his bag – or tries to, anyway. He pulls on the strap a bit awkwardly, accidentally upending the bag. He’s quick enough to save his laptop from the plunge, but everything else tumbles on the ground. 

Namjoon just stares at the spilled contents of his bag for a solid five seconds, wondering whether 4 PM is too early in the day to have an existential crisis. He eventually decides it can take a raincheck for now, bending down to pick up what he dropped. When he’s done, he ducks his head to get out of the protective canopy of the tree, and what he sees when he straightens up again makes him rethink his plans of rescheduling his existential crisis. A spot might free up for it, after all. 

Wagging its little tail not five metres away is the poodle whose escape plan he thwarted earlier at the house. Its leash is supposedly attached to a hand, which Namjoon can’t really see because the parka Yoongi’s wearing swallows him whole. He’s also wearing a knitted black scarf that covers sixty five percent of his face and very ripped jeans for some reason; the pairing shouldn’t make sense, but Namjoon figures he ought to make his peace with things not making a lick of sense today and just move on with his life. 

Namjoon is hoping to slip away unnoticed, maybe go back to the apartment and barricade himself in his room without having to awkwardly cross paths with his roommate again.

Apparently, Holly the Demon Poodle really did not take well to Namjoon getting in its way to freedom earlier, because the minuscule thing starts barking so loud in his direction that its entire tiny frame recoils, and then charges towards Namjoon. Yoongi must have been lost in thought, because he startles as the leash is yanked out of his gloved hand and it takes him a good three seconds to yell “HOLLY-YAH!” and start after the puppy. 

Namjoon has exactly zero reasons to be scared of a dog that barely reaches his shins. Yet, he takes several steps back towards the lake, holding out his hands to pacify Holly, whose high-pitched barking is pushing its tiny body backwards, pretty much cancelling out the efforts it’s making to jump Namjoon. 

It would almost be endearing, if Yoongi wasn’t coming – waddling , Namjoon’s brain supplies; his roommate is very clearly waddling, no way around that – closer and closer, making Namjoon step back further because that’s the way his brain chooses to physically interpret his internal panic of no please don’t want to talk to him yet god please not now

When Yoongi finally gets a hold of Holly’s leash and looks up, whatever deity is out there decides to grant Namjoon one pass at his highly sought-after demise and makes him trip on a rock. 

He falls backwards in the most undignified way, flapping arms and everything, even manages to get a squeak in there. Right as he tips backwards beyond the point where he can catch himself, he feels something grasp and pull at his coat, and then —

— then it’s cold. The impact with the water is exactly as horrible as he’d expected, wet and icy. Thankfully, that close to the edge it’s too shallow to go under completely, so he manages to plant one hand in the slimy bed of the lake and pull himself up a bit so that he’s not completely dunked in murky lake water. Not so thankfully, half a second later another body lands next to him, splashing the parts of Namjoon that were still dry. 

This is your life, Namjoon, he tells himself, looking up at the darkening sky. Why are you even surprised at this point?

He makes the executive decision to remain still for the foreseeable future. Maybe he’ll get lucky and the world will end in the next two minutes. 

Spluttering noises and a string of colourful curses coming from the body that landed next to him put a dent in his flawless plan. “Who the fuck gets so scared by a toy poodle that they topple back into a lake?”

This is your life, Namjoon. 

Because of course it’s Yoongi who tried to grab him before he fell and ended up falling with him. Like he doesn’t have enough reasons to despise Namjoon, the universe decided to supply him with an extra one. 

He forces himself to look down at Yoongi, who’s on his knees, the water reaching his waist. He seems to have landed face-first, since his scarf is sodden and he’s blinking water out of his eyes. 

He blinks out of sync , Namjoon distantly registers. Cute , he also registers, a little less distantly than he’d like. 

Yoongi is also shivering from head to toe, because it’s still not quite spring and they’re standing around in cold lake water; shame and guilt suddenly rain upon Namjoon like a very unwelcome Ice Bucket Challenge. The other hasn’t made any attempts to get up or speak in over a minute, and Namjoon hates it. He’d rather take yelling, or cursing, or whatever doesn’t leave a huge empty space for Namjoon to embarrass himself further. 

“I’m so sorry, hyung,” Namjoon says, and his voice only trembles because he’s freezing, thank you very much. He pulls himself to his feet, and what looks like a ton of water drains out of his clothes when he does, splashing everywhere – including Yoongi’s already soaked front. 

Namjoon winces. “Sorry, oh my god, I just—I don’t know how that happened, let me—”

Yoongi shakes his head to get some water out of his hair, mirroring what Holly is doing near the edge of the pond. Namjoon’s heart squeezes painfully. 

“I think you’ve done enough—,” he chokes on the last word, a bit of lake getting into his mouth. Judging from the way his entire face scrunches up in utter disgust, it doesn’t taste very good. 

“Please, just let me help you up, yeah?” Namjoon insists, extending his gloved hand.

Namjoon is still looking at Yoongi, whose face suddenly looks like someone pressed pause on it. Puzzled, Namjoon follows the other’s gaze to his proffered hand, which is – oh god . It’s completely covered in mud and slime from the bottom of the lake. The entire thing looks like it’s spent approximately ten years on the Flying Dutchman, something that seems incredibly appealing to Namjoon right about now. 

The slimy, brownish plant hanging limply on Namjoon’s gloved middle finger suddenly slides off and falls into the lake with a funny noise and a splash between them. No one moves an inch. 

Then, all at once, laughter bubbles out of Yoongi. His shoulders are shaking violently even before his gums peek out, even before any sound comes out. Namjoon can’t help breaking into a grin, too, and then they’re just two idiots standing in the shallow part of a park pond, laughing too hard to pull themselves out. 

Namjoon’s hand flies up to his mouth automatically, the way he always does while laughing with his teeth, and he ends up bringing another handful of suspicious-looking weeds with it, which makes Yoongi laugh so hard he chokes. Holly, puppy ground zero for disaster, barks in alarm from the shore, but doesn’t come into the water. Figures. 

“I’m coming, Holly-yah, don’t worry,” Yoongi pacifies, finally calming down enough to pull himself to his feet. He grimaces again, and his teeth chatter when a gust of wind hits their soaked forms. “God, this stuff weighs a ton when it’s wet.”

Namjoon sobers up pretty quickly. “Hyung, I’m truly so, so sorry. I’m a disaster on legs.”

Yoongi scoffs, muttering something that sounds suspiciously like you have legs, alright , but that can’t have been accurate. Namjoon tilts his head and asks, “Come again?”

“I said it’s alright,” Yoongi replies. Even though that’s definitely not what he said, Namjoon reckons he’s been enough of an overachiever in his attempts to make Yoongi hate him today, so he doesn’t push. “Let’s go home, yeah?”

Thankfully, their shared apartment is only a short walk away. They dump their wet clothes and shoes near the door to avoid trailing water of dubious composition everywhere, and they take turns showering and towelling themselves dry. They don’t talk, but the silence is companionable now, all traces of tension bleeding out and away. 

When Namjoon steps out into the common area, Yoongi is already curled up on one side of the couch, still soft and blush-pink from the shower, one hand firmly buried in Holly’s fur. The poodle seems to be sleeping soundly, filling the doughnut hole space between Yoongi’s crossed legs perfectly. 

“All the havoc he wreaked wore him out,” Yoongi says quietly, petting the brown curls gently. 

Namjoon gingerly sits on the other side of the couch, trying not to disturb Holly’s slumber. He rehearsed at least thirteen different apology speeches in the shower, but now that he actually needs to speak, nothing comes out. 

He feels six years old again, his dad teaching him how to bike without training wheels – heart pounding, terrified of falling. Back then, his dad had told him, You just need to do it, Namjoon-ah. Starting is the most difficult part, but if you’re brave enough to do it, the rest will come on its own. Are you brave enough, Joon-ah?

Are you brave enough?

“I owe you an apology, hyung,” Namjoon breathes out, fists curled tight and resting on his knees. Sure enough, it’s like pushing down on the pedals – once he’s started, the only thing he can do to avoid wobbling and falling is to keep pedaling, gain speed. So that’s what he does. 

“I shouldn’t have yelled at you like I did. It was immature of me to not talk to you about it like a normal person instead of acting like that, and even though I had valid reasons to do it, the way I went about it was completely wrong.” He internally cringes at how rehearsed his sentences sound, but he can’t stop now, or he’ll never get the nerve to finish. 

“I was stressed and tired and frustrated, and none of those are justifications, but I hope you know it was just an end-of-my-rope kind of thing instead of me being an asshole like, intrinsically? I swear I’m usually not like that – I only yelled like, once, because a guy was about to step on a frog. I’m so sorry.”

The silence stretches, and Namjoon risks a peek at Yoongi even though he’s been staring at the shitty wallpaper the whole time he was talking. The other’s hand has stilled in Holly’s fur, but his expression isn’t angry, or closed off, or any of the other things Namjoon had braced himself for. He just looks tired, slumped, a bit of a personified sigh. 

“I know you didn’t mean to yell at me, Namjoon-ah. That’s why I didn’t really react,” Yoongi says, finally, and something comes loose in Namjoon’s chest that he didn’t even realise was clenched tight. “I figured it wasn’t a good day, and you did have a point, but still – I’m sorry if I made you feel like you can’t tell me things when they’re bothering you. I won’t be mad if you tell me to clean up my shit, or whatever else, as long as you’re not yelling it in my face.”

Even though Yoongi just said it’s fine, Namjoon still feels a wave of shame washing over him. “I wanted to apologise the minute I did it, but I didn’t want to accidentally fuck up again, and then the next day you were gone.”

“Holly was sick,” Yoongi cuts in. His right hand is scratching lightly behind one of the poodle’s ears, while his left moves up to worry at his own ear in a seemingly unconscious gesture. “My parents called me and I took the first train to Daegu. He’s fine now,” he clarifies, picking up on Namjoon’s almost-question. “He’s fine, but I couldn’t bear not being there if he— if something happened again. I love the little fucker too much.” 

Holly lets out a snore that is way too loud for such a tiny creature, and Yoongi’s whole face softens terribly, pale butter on toasty warm bread. Namjoon is sure is own features are doing something similar. 

“I’ll understand if you’re not okay with it,” Yoongi continues, suddenly more serious. “You live here too, it’s only fair. Just give me enough time to find a new room and I’ll be out of your hair.”

He truly means it, Namjoon can tell, but the worry is clear in Yoongi’s eyes. Rent in Seoul is not cheap and the process of apartment hunting itself is a literal chamber of hell – Namjoon knows it too well. The thought of going through it again with a dog must be a big stressor, and Namjoon was the cause of that. He stacks it on top of the ever-growing list of reasons to hate himself. 

“Hyung, I’m totally okay with it,” he blurts out, eager to ease the unhappy frown peeking out from behind Yoongi’s bangs. “I love dogs. Hopefully Holly likes me more than my own dog does.”

Yoongi’s whole figure deflates, like a balloon someone had been holding shut tight and then let go, all the air and pressure escaping in one very long breath. “Thank god , I was already dreading having to go back to the shady websites and the ghosting landlords. Or the astronomical key deposits. Wow, that’s a relief.”

Namjoon laughs. It’s croaky and frankly a bit creepy, like he hasn’t done it in a couple centuries, but he laughs, and Holly shifts in his sleep a bit, letting out a low whine. “As long as he doesn’t back me into a frozen lake again, that is. Speaking of—” 

“Please stop apologising for the lake. Grabbing onto you was my own very unfortunate decision,” Yoongi interrupts, a low grumble to his tone like he’s embarrassed and decidedly not happy about it. “I’m still not sure why a toy poodle that barely reaches your shins was so terrifying that you fell into a frozen lake, though.”

Namjoon takes a long sip of his tea. “That’s an excellent question.”

After a beat of silence, Yoongi raises an amused eyebrow. “You’re not going to answer it, are you.”

“Nope.”

 

*

 

After that, things change. 

Namjoon finds out Yoongi does, in fact, have a whole box of coffee mugs under his bed. All of them have a history, and absolutely none of them match. 

Some of them are reusable keep cups, because given my coffee consumption levels, my ecological footprint if I used plastic would be abysmal, Namjoon-ah . Some of them are touristic mugs with tacky prints, apparently a long-running inside joke between Yoongi and his older friend Kim Seokjin, who comes from a rich family – hence the traveling and the souvenir mugs – but used to work the graveyard shift with Yoongi at the café because he didn’t want to depend on his parents for university tuition. Some are self-stirring, even though Yoongi takes his coffee black 99% of the time. A memorable one (Yoongi’s favourite, even though he won’t admit it) shows a Kumamon pattern when hot liquid is poured into it. 

Namjoon finds out a whole lot of other things about Yoongi, too. 

He finds out that the reason why he took a gap year was that his parents couldn’t afford to send him to a university with a good architecture faculty and Yoongi didn’t see the point in not giving himself the best chance he possibly could, so he worked until he scraped together enough to put himself through first year, and then he kept on doing it on top of his studies. He finds out that Yoongi needs glasses, but he’ll forget where he left them most days, calling out to Namjoon to ask if he’s seen them, squinting his way through daily tasks. He finds out Yoongi’s got a small keyboard tucked into a corner of his room, and he’ll go to it when he needs knots to be unraveled and peace to be had. 

He finds out that, contrary to what he’d thought for months, Yoongi and him work well as roommates, and they work even better as friends. 

He finds out that he doesn’t mind. He really doesn’t mind one bit. 


YEAR TWO.

 

Namjoon is not fond of Tuesdays. 

They were perfectly fine up until the start of this year, when his schedule for those days turned out to be back-to-back classes from 8:30 in the morning until 6:30 in the afternoon, with a one hour lunch break – practically a work shift, and he’s not even being paid for it. It doesn’t help that his mandatory classes this semester are excruciatingly boring.

He gets out of his last class feeling, in the immortal words of one Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, like a plastic bag – only instead of drifting through the wind, he’s been stomped on and driven over by cars and possibly ripped open a little somewhere. It’s not often that he lets himself wallow in this kind of mood, frustration and self-doubt sloshing around in his chest and welling up like a storm, ready to wreak havoc, but today he’s too exhausted to try and fight it. 

He feels a tightening in the back of his throat, like someone is wrapping their hands around it and squeezing to push something out, and then he’s crying, and the first thing he thinks is no, no, I already have a headache, please no.  

Despite his field of vision sloshing like a nearly-toppled-over glass of gin, he manages to find a fairly secluded spot, and he’s just about to sit down to have his breakdown in peace when the sound of a calendar alert from his phone makes him pause.

 

Creative writing class

7:15 PM, Building D2, Room 7

 

Something hybrid and wet claws its way out of Namjoon’s throat, halfway between a hiccup and a bitter laugh. He completely forgot about the creative writing class he’d signed up for a couple of weeks ago; he’d gotten lost on his way to statistics and a very well-designed poster in a random hallway had caught his attention. For some reason, it had made him pause, even though he was already five minutes late for class and had no idea where he was supposed to go.

The thing is, Namjoon likes political science. He really does. It’s just that he feels cheated, all things considered. The mismatch between expectation and reality is huge, like opening a package you’ve been looking forward to for weeks and getting the wrong item. One too many classes where the professor just wants you to think what they think, one too many pointless discussions, one too many derisive what did you think, that you were gonna change the world? comments from a random coursemate. 

Namjoon doesn’t think it’s that stupid, to want to make the world a bit better. It’s just that sometimes it gets to him, all that cynicism, piles up and buries him like a mound of dirt, taking the air clean out of his lungs. It’s supposed to get him angry, to get him to want to prove them wrong, but all it ends up doing is discouraging him and making him very, very tired. 

That’s why he’d signed up for the class on a whim – he’d thought maybe doing something creative for once, something that had absolutely nothing to do with his major, would help him shovel some of the dirt out of his windpipe, make him breathe a little easier. 

Namjoon wipes the tears away with his thick gloves and takes a deep breath. The temptation to bail is strong; he just wants to bike home and curl up in bed with music blasting through his headphones until his thoughts quieten down to background noises, like police sirens or barking dogs or construction works. Irritating, but fairly easy to ignore. 

But then—

Then he thinks of the way his chest feels scooped out, hollow. The way he hasn’t been able to read more than one page from a novel without trying to make a bulleted outline and a diagram out of it since he started university. The way he feels he’s becoming less of a solid person, like someone brought his saturation value all the way to zero – not quite as sharp as black and white, just devoid of colours. He’s desperately in need of something that will move him somehow, bring him out of this horrifying daze, bodily shove him off this bus he’s stuck on, watching his life passing him by just on the other side of the doors. 

He makes a decision. 

It’s 6:57, but for once he knows where the building is and it’s not too far that he’d have to run to make it in time. He’s glad for the walk – the chilly air is growing thicker with humidity as the evening rolls in, trying to creep through the fabric of his coat and tingeing his cheeks and nose pink, so hopefully no one will be able to tell he’s been crying. Not that anyone would berate him for it – this is higher education, after all. People probably wouldn’t even spare him a second glance with how often students break down in tears in the middle of campus.

When he opens the door to the building, his glasses fog up immediately because of the temperature difference. He unbuttons his coat on his way to Room 7, unwinding his huge scarf, and crosses the threshold at 7:13, which gives him time to look for a good seat and get comfortable. As soon as he’s settled, he quickly looks around the room to assess the situation and he’s surprised to see a lot more people than he’d expected. After a brief scan of the crowd, his attention gets caught on a familiar head of faded pink hair.

(Yoongi had dyed it during the first week of the semester. The bathroom had smelled like bleach for the whole day afterwards, but the complaint on the very edge of Namjoon’s lips had ended up pressed between them like a dried-up flower when he’d seen Yoongi scrunch up his nose at the smell, muttering sorry, Namjoon-ah, hyung will air it out, didn’t think it’d be this strong. 

Namjoon felt more pissed off about the fact that Yoongi could pull off a colour like that without looking like a chewed-up piece of gum than about the pungent smell making his nostrils itch, but he wasn’t going to vocalise that thought. 

Looks good, hyung , he’d managed to choke out instead, the bleach an extremely convenient alibi for the sudden dryness in his throat. 

Thanks, couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore, Yoongi had replied, in that matter-of-fact manner that sticks to his every sentence, that messes with Namjoon’s depth perception, making him doubt whether he’s implying something more profound or just stating a fact. 

Most times, when it comes to Min Yoongi, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.)

Yoongi is sitting in the third row while Namjoon is pretty far back, so he probably won’t get noticed unless Yoongi turns back and takes his time looking through the crowd. Namjoon isn’t keen on attracting his attention, anyway – he’s curious to see how he fits here, outside of the space they usually share. It’s making Namjoon feel out of sorts, even though he knows, on a rational level, that Yoongi does not stop existing outside of their tiny student apartment just because he doesn’t usually see the other on campus. Object permanence, or something of the sort. 

His train of thought is interrupted by a tall, lithe guy in light ripped jeans and round, black-framed glasses calling the room to attention with a big smile. After everyone has shuffled to their seats and the room is mostly silent, his smile folds down into one without teeth, eyes turning kind and dimples peeking out while he rearranges his papers. Namjoon strangely feels some of the tension that’s been keeping him wound up for hours bleed out of him, making him sink a bit further in his seat, bones like ice cubes melting in the sun. Something about the guy’s aura is so calming , like he’s the physical embodiment of a whispered it’s gonna be okay

“Welcome to our first creative writing class. I’m Jung Hoseok, and I’m gonna be conducting the classes.” He tilts his head to the side a bit and slips into another smile easily, like he’s shrugging on a jacket. 

“I say conducting instead of teaching because this is not that type of class. I’m just a second year language and lit student, I have nothing to teach you,” he laughs, a short, endearing little thing that smooths out whatever tension was left in the room. “All I’m gonna be doing is keep things in order, guide you a little bit, but the rest is all up to you guys.”

Conducting, Namjoon muses, is an apt verb for the kind of speaker Hoseok is. He seems to read the room easily, adjusting his speech like buttons on an equaliser so that everyone feels on the same level, comfortable, reassured. It’s a difficult thing to do without coming off as forced or annoyingly chipper, but Hoseok pulls it off flawlessly. He keeps explaining the basic outline of every class, how it’s highly encouraged to share and read out loud so that everyone can walk away with something new at the end, and so on. 

“Now, for some very basic but very important ground rules,” he continues, tone shifting into something stern. “This is a safe, judgement-free zone. Some people write because they like it, other people because they need to process something, or both.” Long, slim fingers go up to his face, resting sideways on his cupid’s bow. He’d be the picture of relaxation, if it weren’t for the steel in his tone.

“This is not the back of a hardback sleeve, which means anyone who wants to play critic just for kicks and thinks they have the right to police other people’s emotions and how they deal with them is not welcome in this room. You may leave at any time.” Hoseok’s words are spoken calmly, but there’s a tangible weight to them – he’s not using big words, nor raising his voice, yet his presence somehow fills the room and commands attention.

The way he immediately slips back into a radiant smile right afterwards almost gives Namjoon whiplash. “Now, most of the time we’re going to have prompts, but for today’s first round just write freely, yeah? Put pen on paper and write. No overthinking it – and yes, Virgo suns, I am calling you out specifically. You have twenty minutes.” 

A good quarter of the room breaks into laughter and Namjoon marvels again at how masterful Hoseok was to craft the atmosphere, to build the wave and make it crash at precisely the right moment so that there would be only smooth sand and gentle ripples when the writing started. 

Namjoon puts pen to paper and – well, he gets stuck. He is a Virgo sun after all, whatever that means, and in the first three seconds of moving the pen he’s already gone through a whole thought process that started with well just write what you feel right now , continued with but i’m upset i’d just complain no one here wants to listen to my complaining does it really have any value or worth and ended with him freezing up with the tip of his biro barely grazing the sheet. What’s the point, anyway? What’s the use—

“No one’s going to force you to share, you know,” someone whispers on his left side and Namjoon starts violently, banging his knee on the underside of the chair’s writing tablet very ungracefully. His biro tumbles to the ground, making a noise that’s way too loud in the quiet of the room. When he turns to the offender, he finds Hoseok looking back at him apologetically, eyes wide and mouth caught in a perfect “o”. Namjoon’s annoyance melts away and endearment swirls in, milk-in-coffee slow.

“I didn’t mean to spook you, sorry. You just seemed stuck, and I wanted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about anyone judging what you write. You don’t even have to give your name. This is mostly for you, so you can throw out stuff without having to worry about where it lands.”

Apparently Namjoon was right about Jung Hoseok’s ability to read people.

He takes the biro Hoseok’s offering him with a grateful smile. “That obvious, uh?”

Hoseok’s smile turns mischievous, tints with a bit of camaraderie like they’re sharing a private joke. “I have to be honest – if you’re not a Virgo sun, I might just eat my entire folder.” 

He laughs when Namjoon groans and lets his head fall into his cupped hands, a bright sound echoing too loud not to get some pointed stares. Hoseok apologises with a nod and a small sheepish smile, pats Namjoon’s shoulder lightly, and walks away. 

So Namjoon writes. 

He doesn’t turn off his brain – that’s pretty much impossible in his book – but he does try his best to put on silent any thoughts of worthless and pointless and waste of time and just scoops bits out of his tight chest and pours them all over the page until he’s left with nothing but a kind of peaceful hollowness, like he’s pulled out a rotten, aching tooth. 

It’s so immensely relieving that in the end he doesn’t even care that it sucks, or that the flow isn’t right, or that it’s way too dramatic and he should probably tone it down. He just accepts that it is and that it’s a part of him and it has a right to exist without having to be worth anything. That he has a right to exist without having to be worth anything. 

It shouldn’t be an epiphany, not with ink stains on his fingers in a random classroom at the end of a shitty day, but it feels like it is. He’s glad he ended up coming here. 

When the twenty minutes are up, they’re given an actual prompt and then left to write for another twenty minutes. That pattern is repeated one more time and then the last half hour is entirely dedicated to people reading out their pieces. Namjoon isn’t planning to do that today, but he finds himself eager to listen, and when he sees a familiar figure stand up first, his curiosity reaches its peak. 

Yoongi doesn’t give his name, nor shows any signs of embarrassment except for a telling redness tinting the tips of his ears. He simply launches straight into reading and oh. Oh. 

 

I used to think souls were supposed to be 

like rock,

solid

until mine started breaking apart,

green peeking through 

the cracks. 

it’s odd, isn’t it 

how something as unassuming as 

a sprout

can cleave boulders, 

split them apart.

I need to remind myself that

breaking is just 

another way of 

opening.


“Thank you, hyung,” Hoseok nods in Yoongi’s direction, easy, with a smile that’s a tad too full of pride for them not to be familiar with each other. Namjoon can’t see his roommate’s face properly, but he’s pretty sure he catches Yoongi staring down at the floor with a sheepish smile of his own.

Now that the ice has been successfully broken, more and more people come forward to read their pieces, but Namjoon can’t focus, can’t listen to anything else. Yoongi’s low, slightly raspy voice reading out his piece keeps looping in his head, complete with his little pauses and the small inquisitive sounds he makes when he sucks in air very rapidly inside his mouth, a wet question mark between words. 

One winter evening seems a bit cramped for more than one epiphany, but Namjoon can’t help but feel yet again on the verge of one. It’s not like he thought his roommate was two-dimensional, quite the contrary, but this – this is a card trick gone right, a door opening on a hidden room. It’s almost scary, how hungry he feels all of a sudden, starved for more. Itching with the competitive edge he gets when someone gives him a particularly interesting riddle, when he can almost taste the satisfaction of solving it, of taking it apart and finding out whatever is not immediately apparent. 

The essential is invisible to the eyes, he remembers reading somewhere. He finds himself thinking the phrase applies to Min Yoongi all too well. 

 

*

 

It takes Namjoon weeks to work up the courage to talk to Yoongi about it. He’s worried he’ll scare him away, because they haven’t dived into the deep stuff territory yet and he’s not sure Yoongi would be comfortable with it, but the deep stuff is all Namjoon has. He’s incapable of just grazing the surface; either he plunges or he doesn’t go at all. 

He’s having difficulty articulating the way Yoongi’s poetry made him feel, and Namjoon does not like not being able to make sense of things. That’s why he keeps ducking out of the creative writing classes before he can be spotted. It’s not that hard, as Yoongi always stays a bit longer anyway, hanging out with Hoseok at the very front. 

In hindsight, he should have known avoiding things never works out very well for him. 

Upon stepping into his apartment one evening he’s welcomed by the sound of loud, unbridled laughter, the kind that’s startled out of you rather than willingly given. He finds Hoseok and Yoongi in the common area, heads bent together behind a laptop screen and faces open with joy. Then their expressions turn blank all of a sudden; both of them go abruptly silent until something happens on screen and Hoseok snorts, hand coming up to cover his teeth, and Yoongi – 

– Yoongi stands up from the stool and honest to god screeches in delight, eyes disappearing and gums coming out. Namjoon didn’t think humans could produce that kind of sound, least of all Min Yoongi. Even Holly skids towards his dad at an alarming speed and starts circling around Hoseok’s ankles and barking, perfectly at home amidst the chaos as always. 

It should be ridiculous – it is – but Namjoon feels his heart squeezing a bit, the same way it does when he sees a puppy trip over its own paws, or a cat brain freeze compilation. It’s way more endearing than it has any right to be, and he feels absolutely unequipped to deal with it. 

“I won!” Yoongi yells, throwing his fist in the air triumphantly. “You broke first!”

Hoseok groans loudly, the remnants of laughter still clinging to his features, and his mouth shifts into a triangle-shaped pout. “No fair, hyung! How can you not lose it? Look at his face!”

“I’m used to his antics by now, Seok-ah,” Yoongi shrugs. “You should be too, but you’re too gone for him. Now pay up.”

Hoseok groans theatrically, making a big show of crouching slightly in front of Yoongi’s stool and muttering something about not being gone, he’s just funny hyung, okay. Namjoon watches, baffled, as Yoongi climbs on Hoseok’s back and presses a smug gummy grin into the other’s shoulder blades, button nose squished against ochre wool. He’s so overwhelmed that his grip on the Ryan keychain he’s clutching in his fist weakens – just for a second, but it’s enough to make it clatter to the floor, and Hoseok startles so violently he almost drops Yoongi on his ass. 

“Ah, shit, sorry—” Hoseok and Namjoon blurt out at the same time. They freeze, the entire room suspended for a second, and then they’re all laughing uncontrollably. Yoongi barely manages to find purchase on Hoseok’s shoulders, so his ride makes the sensible decision to deposit him gingerly on the kitchen island. Hoseok’s mouth is shaped like a heart. 

“Yah, Seok-ah! I’m sure Namjoon doesn’t want my ass on the counter, you punk.” Every single word comes out pout-shaped. “You were supposed to carry me to bed!”

Hoseok places a hand on his heart. His grin is suggestive, all teeth, but stained with fondness. “Hyung, I’m very flattered, but I have a full-time crush. My hands are kind of full, and I mean that quite literally.” 

“No. I declare the daily quota of you waxing poetry about his ass officially filled. No more comments about how soft it is, how good of a pillow it makes, and most importantly, no more terrible brioche metaphors.” Yoongi’s whole face scrunches up in utter disgust. “You have ruined baked goods for me for the rest of my life. Take some responsibility.” 

Yoongi climbs off the counter and turns to Namjoon. His expression is deadpan, but the spark of amusement is clear behind his thick-framed black glasses. 

“Kids these days. No respect for their elders.” He seems to remember something then, and gestures towards Hoseok. Or tries to, anyway. His hoodie is a tad too big, the sleeves covering most of his hands, and Namjoon makes the executive decision not to linger on this specific fact. 

“Namjoon-ah, this is Jung Hoseok, my best friend. Or at least he was until he almost dropped me—”

“Ah, hyung! Key word is almost , since your ass didn’t touch the ground. And besides—”

Namjoon braces himself for it. There it is, he thinks. This is what happens when you run from things, Joon. They catch up with you, eventually. 

“—I already know Namjoon-ssi from creative writing.”

Surprise blooms across Yoongi’s face. He cocks his head to the side, inquisitive. “Do you, now?”

Hoseok, ever the room reader, seems to pick up on the sudden shift in atmosphere. He grabs his bag from the couch and makes a show of looking at the wristwatch he is not wearing. He sighs and then declares, just a tad too cheerful, “Ah, shit, it’s kinda late. I’m supposed to teach a class at the studio in, like, twenty minutes. See you both soon, yeah? Bye!”

When the door shuts behind Hoseok, it’s like all the air has escaped with him and the apartment is vacuum-sealed. Namjoon can’t quite make himself look at Yoongi, face hot behind the chunky scarf he still hasn’t unraveled. Is he going to hate him now? Or, worse, is he going to think Namjoon hates him? Is he going to—

“I can hear you thinking from all the way over here, Namjoon-ah.”

His tone is light, level. The clear lack of accusation in it finally propels Namjoon to meet the other’s gaze and what he finds there is just a hint of genuine confusion, maybe a smidgen of worry tucked into a corner of his pink, pink lips. 

“Does it make you uncomfortable, me knowing that you participate in that class?”

Namjoon exhales. Of course. 

Of course that’s what Yoongi would focus on. Yoongi, who leaves water for the kittens who hang around their apartment complex. Yoongi, who holds a needle between his teeth to patch up clothes and makes extra sandwiches by accident, got too much stuff at the store, don’t want it to go to waste. Yoongi, who’s quickly become the only familiar thing in this larger-than-life city packed with ten million strangers that makes loneliness wrap around Namjoon’s chest and squeeze tight until he’s gasping and begging for something real and his to cling on to. 

Namjoon feels so insignificant sometimes; a tiny speck of dust, a torn-off petal. Drifting. Unknowable. Yoongi sometimes feels like the only thing tethering him to the ground, his steady presence inextricably tied to home and comfort and care. It’s probably pathetic, he thinks, being so lonely that the sound of the kettle from the other room or the gentle humming through the walls feel like a hug, a blanket, an anchor. A reminder that he’s here, that he occupies space, that he exists. 

Yoongi and he – Namjoon doesn’t even know what they are, still sort of stuck in the weird limbo between roommates and friends, and yet his presence alone means so much to Namjoon when the other probably has no idea.

“Of course not, hyung.” 

Yoongi looks pensive. His left hand goes up to cradle his cheek, thumb on the underside of his chin and fingers stretched save for his pinky, which is slightly bent and poking at his cheekbone. It makes no sense that that small detail should piss Namjoon off, yet it sort of does.

“Would you prefer it if I didn’t approach you there?”

Now he definitely feels like shit. He hasn’t been lying, exactly, but he has been evading Yoongi for weeks like a coward, too caught up in his own emotional turmoil to care about how it would look; yet Yoongi’s here, endlessly gentle, worried about whether Namjoon is comfortable performing a basic social function instead of being annoyed at him.

Namjoon scoffs – an aborted laugh, torn out like a splinter. “That would be weird, wouldn’t it?” 

He can’t quite bring himself to look at Yoongi, fixing his gaze on the blinking green numbers on the microwave instead. They leave an impression behind his eyelids, and when he blinks rapidly he pretends he’s trying to clear them out of his vision instead of keeping in what’s threatening to spill. 

“It wouldn’t. It’s supposed to be a safe space for everyone, you included.” 

He sounds so gentle. Namjoon hates it. Yoongi talks to him all quiet, soft and careful, like they’re in the mountains and he’s scared any noise will trigger an avalanche. Namjoon hates that someone else can see right through him, see how fragile he is, snow-brittle, on the verge of crumbling and melting through a child’s gloved hands. 

“I don’t—,” his fists curl and the sting of fingernails digging into his palm feels grounding. “I don’t need your pity , hyung, I’m not— I’m not a child, or a spooked animal you have to tiptoe around.”

Yoongi looks stricken, like Namjoon reached across the room and slapped him clean across the face, and then his expression turns to stone. 

If his pathetic pride wasn’t the only thing he had left to show others—

( himself )

—that he’s not broken, that he’s not lost, to convince them—

( himself )

—that he’s fine, that he doesn’t need fixing, that he knows where he’s going, he would stop. He would stop and apologise and make sure to yank Yoongi back from wherever he’s gone, because his face right now is like one of those old-fashioned televisions that’s been abruptly turned off, everything staticky and murky green.

“Right. Of course,” Yoongi’s voice sounds like a gate slamming closed on Namjoon’s face. He tries hard not to flinch. “I apologise for assuming.”

Suddenly the thought of Yoongi turning away and disappearing into his room, of having to go back to his own room and swallow around his fear for one more minute becomes unbearable to Namjoon. He whispers, a hushed thing escaping through the tightness in his throat. 

“I was scared.”

It stops Yoongi in his tracks. He turns back around, face carefully blank, waiting. 

“You read out that piece, the first time,” Namjoon starts, and the avalanche really does come this time, words piling up and pushing behind his lips, crowding his palate, demanding to burst out. “The piece about plants splitting rocks. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but it was – it was like a slap on the cheek, hyung, I didn’t feel it right away but then it stung, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t focus on anything after that. I realised I was cracking all over and I didn’t even – I thought it was normal , to walk around like a smashed bowl all the time. How sad is that?” 

Namjoon’s voice cracks pitifully on the last word, going high and broken, and the blinking numbers on the microwave turn blurred and wobbly and wow, he really is going to cry before he’s even taken his shoes off tonight. His vision is swimming, but he can still hear Yoongi’s quiet question. 

“Honey and chamomile, Joon-ah?”

He takes a deep, wet breath. “That sounds good, hyung.”

His cheeks are still cold and the tears feel scorching on his skin while he takes his shoes off, then his coat, then his bag. Sometimes he wishes he could take off more, slip his physical form off his shoulders like a jacket, wrestle off layer after layer of himself until he can fold everything on the back of a chair and forget about it. 

Yoongi brings over honey and chamomile tea in a tall yellow mug, one of his favourites, and if Namjoon wasn’t already crying he would probably be tearing up right now. The ceramic feels hot, like Yoongi brought the water close to a boil so that it wouldn’t be cold by the time Namjoon finished talking. Yoongi’s own mug – white, with a black polar bear silhouette print and the word GRANDPA stamped across it in Comic Sans – is steaming, and his blush-pink lips purse when he blows on it. Gentle, gentle. 

“You said you were scared,” Yoongi starts. “Care to elaborate on why?”

“I’m supposed to have it together,” Namjoon says. He focuses on Yoongi’s soft white sweater, on the way the fabric delicately creases around his elbows. “All my life, I was always the one who had it together. I was always the smart one and I guess people said it enough that I started believing it a little too much. I think,” he takes a deep breath, the hint of vanilla from his tea filling his nostrils, familiar and calming. “I think I haven’t allowed myself to slip for a very long time.”

“There was a line between what other people saw me as and what I was, and I guess I just – I erased it without noticing, and suddenly I didn’t know what the standard was anymore. I just knew I wasn’t up to it. My family, my friends – they needed me to be this unchangeable presence and that’s what I became. That’s the worst thing about this whole thing – no one put a gun to my head and said please never allow yourself to entertain failure as a possibility and therefore stunt your growth for years to come . I literally just did it to myself.”

Yoongi doesn’t look like he’s tuning out of the conversation, or pitying him, or judging him. He looks like he’s got a question, so Namjoon gives a nod in his direction, grateful for the break. 

“What scares you the most, Namjoon? The possibility of the rock cracking, or the possibility of it still being whole?”

Namjoon is quiet. It’s a good question – it always is, when Yoongi’s asking it. He remembers the story about the Gordian Knot, and how people kept trying and failing to untangle it until Alexander came and just sliced through it with his sword. Yoongi’s questions are always a bit like that – cutting right to the heart of the problem, while Namjoon’s still frantically trying to find the best way to unravel it with shaking hands. 

“I don’t think anyone’s rock is still whole,” he finally replies. “It splits open regardless, doesn’t it? That’s just part of life.” Yoongi’s mouth curves up at one corner in silent approval. “I reckon my biggest fear about it was, what if I tried too hard to make it seem whole? What if I pushed the edges together so hard that plants can’t grow there anymore?”

Yoongi swallows the sip he’s just taken. His glasses fog up a bit because of the steam still rising from his mug – a blessed obstruction to a gaze Namjoon doesn’t feel quite ready to meet. “Fear isn’t always a bad thing, Namjoon-ah. It’s a protective instinct and you should listen to it.” He pauses, shifts into a more comfortable position. “I’m still confused about why you felt like you had to avoid me, though.”

Namjoon feels his ears heat up against his will. “The simplest way I can explain it is...I just don’t like not knowing things?” It’s not funny, but a small laugh escapes him anyway. “I hate being unprepared, not having all the answers. I’ve always been the one with the solutions – I don’t know what to do when it’s just questions. That’s why I kept avoiding you – I couldn’t make sense of how I was feeling or why, and talking to you would have made it – real, I guess, like I would suddenly have to go up to the podium without my speech papers, and that was terrifying to me.” A beat passes, then two. “It still is.”

“You seem like the kind of kid who would pull off the speech anyway,” Yoongi muses. “Am I wrong?”

Namjoon smiles despite himself. “No. No, you’re not wrong.”

“Sometimes we need our papers to be taken away. Sometimes we need our safety nets to be snatched, so that we can stop doing things on autopilot and start doing them intentionally instead.” 

Namjoon isn’t eager to fill the silence. The words Yoongi’s just said are the kind he needs to swish around his mouth a bit before gulping, cheek to cheek until they’re the right temperature to swallow. “I’ve always thought my problem was overthinking. Not that it isn’t, but I never realised how part of the problem was not thinking about things and just giving them for granted, I guess.”

Yoongi hums his assent. “I’m not saying it’s not scary, because it is. But as you said, it’s going to break anyway, isn’t it?” He smiles, and Namjoon feels warmer from something other than the yellow mug cradled between his palms. 

“Might as well get a nice garden out of it.”

Namjoon takes a sip of his tea. The temperature is just right. 


YEAR THREE.

 

“What should we watch?” Namjoon says, trying to manoeuvre his laptop onto the low coffee table without hitting or spilling anything. “Haikyuu?”

“Ah, hyung, Thursday nights are supposed to be relaxing ,” Taehyung protests, carrying the takeout bags over to where Namjoon managed to sit down. “I can’t relax while watching Haikyuu, you know that. I get way too hyped.”

Namjoon mulls it over for a moment. “Tokyo Mew Mew?”

Taehyung beams. “Now that’s what I’m about.”

They’d established Thursday nights as their thing after Namjoon had moved away. Before Taehyung came to Seoul to get his veterinary science degree they’d spent them on Skype, talking or watching stuff together. Now that Taehyung’s here in Seoul, living at a reasonable twenty minute train ride distance, they make a point to meet up and take turns choosing what they want to watch. 

Last week Namjoon had picked Pulp Fiction because it was supposed to be one of those must-watch-it-before-you-die movies. Neither of them had really understood it, but while Namjoon had tried to find something to praise, Taehyung had declared it pretentious without any qualms. 

Namjoon’s always envied that about his cousin; he doesn’t care about having a contrary opinion. He likes what he likes and is not ashamed of it, while Namjoon stumbles through life not trusting his own feelings and overcompensating for it by desperately trying to seem cool. 

This week it’s Taehyung’s turn to pick, which means anime.

When the burgers and fries are gone and their cokes have gone flat, they’re ten episodes in and all the girls have been introduced. They’ve moved to the couch, where Taehyung has a pillow propped up on top of Namjoon's thighs so he can lie perpendicularly with his head in Namjoon’s lap. 

Namjoon is running his fingers through the soft strands of Taehyung’s hair, chocolate brown and just a little too long – even though if anyone can pull off the style, it’s his cousin. Touch is complicated for Namjoon; he’s starved for it, but he can’t bring himself to be comfortable with it, coming off as awkward or hesitant about the smallest gestures. 

Not with Taehyung, though. He’s a different story. He thrives on touch like a plant does on water and sunlight, seeking it out constantly. They’ve grown up together and physical contact is but an afterthought by now; it comes naturally, and it helps stave off the rattle in Namjoon’s bones that comes with the emptiness of not being touched for too long.

“Hyung,” Taehyung murmurs, still facing the screen. “If I tell you something, will you promise not to be mad at me for not telling you earlier?”

Namjoon stiffens for a moment. He doesn’t mean to, but he’s caught off guard. “I promise, Tae. What’s up?”

“There’s someone I really like. At first it was just a hero crush – he’s so good at so many things and I just admired him a lot, you know? Like – like Minto and Zakuro. By the way, I can’t believe they never ended up together when Minto’s obviously gone for her. What a waste.”

Namjoon smiles to himself, but doesn’t interrupt him. Taehyung’s brain works in mysterious ways, but the tangents he goes on help him make sense of things, so Namjoon has long since learned to simply listen and wait for the point. 

“At first he asked me to go shopping with him because he needed a second opinion, then he bought me a drink to say thank you, then we just – started hanging out, I guess? We started spending a lot of time together, even though I literally have zero free time because of my hell major, but however long I have I just want to spend it with him.” He pauses, bringing his knees up to his chest protectively. “He doesn’t mind that I touch him a lot, because he does it right back. He listens when I talk about anime even though he knows nothing about it. He’s so pretty and dances so well and he likes poetry and fashion and I am so gone, hyung.”

“Does he make you happy, Taehyungie?”

“Yeah. Yeah, he really does.”

“Then why do you sound so sad about it?”

It’s Taehyung’s turn to stiffen now. Namjoon keeps running his fingers through his hair in a way he hopes is reassuring. “He kissed me the other day.”

Namjoon hums, unsurprised. “Is that a bad thing?”

“No, it’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing. Great, in fact. Absolutely showstopp–”

“I get the picture, thank you,” Namjoon snorts, slapping Taehyung’s arm playfully. 

“It was bumpy at first because he couldn’t stop smiling into it,” he continues, and he sounds like the memory is making him smile, too. “I’m so fucked, hyung.”

“Seems to me you’re just scared, Tae.”

“I am,” Taehyung whispers. “It hasn’t been that long, but – I like him so much, hyung. It’s happened so fast and I’m just – what if he changes his mind? What if he gets put off by the fact that I can’t be casual about things? He’s so cool and unbothered and he can do so many things well and it’s not like I’ve got much to offer in return, you know?”

“Hey,” Namjoon says softly, scratching at the base of Taehyung’s neck. “It’s a relationship, not a transaction. You never show yourself as anything other than who you are, Taehyungie, which means he likes you for you.

Finally, Taehyung turns towards him. He sighs. “I know, I know. It’s just – I’ve never been this scared, but then again I’ve never liked anyone so much so fast.”

“I’m happy for you, Tae. It sounds like he’s good for you, and if he isn’t–”

“You’re going to beat him up for me?”

“Hell no, you know I can’t brawl for shit,” Namjoon scoffs, making Taehyung burst into giggles. “I was going to say it’s his loss, because you’re a catch.”

“Aw, hyung, that’s so sweet,” Taehyung coos, scratching Namjoon under his chin. “Did you fill your emotional quota for the night?”

“Shut up, you brat.”

Taehyung does shut up, but he holds Namjoon’s hand until they both fall asleep. 

 

*

 

Namjoon didn’t mean to forget his keys. 

He’s read somewhere that successful people try to cut down the number of decisions they make in order to be more efficient. Some of them wear the same exact outfit every day, for example. He’s not ready to give up his fashion sense for the sake of productivity, but he tries other things to make it easier on himself, one of which is always keeping his house keys in the left pocket of whatever coat he chooses to put on. 

Unfortunately, he’s somehow forgotten to transfer the key when he switched coats and he’s now locked out of his apartment. After several bouts of unsuccessful knocking, he gets out his phone to text Yoongi. 

you

hyung, are you home?

 

yoongi hyung

i’m out. why?

 

you

...i might be locked out  

 

yoongi hyung 

i’m at the library cafe with hoseok and his boyfriend 

you could join us?

unless you really need to get in 

but it might take me a while to get there 

 

you

are you sure it’s okay to join?

i wouldn’t want to intrude

 

yoongi hyung

do u want your mocha hot or iced

 

Namjoon shakes his head, smiling helplessly. His teeth are showing, but he doesn’t raise his hand to his mouth to cover them like he normally would. No one is around anyway, and he needs both hands to text. 

 

you

hot please

 

yoongi hyung

extra whipped cream, right? 

since you’re a barbarian

 

Namjoon doesn’t think his hand will be enough to cover his smile. It feels like it’s going to peek through the spaces between his fingers like stubborn sunlight through blinds, spilling all over furniture, painting the floor gold. 

 

you

mmmm tell them to put some cocoa on top as well

 

yoongi hyung

you monster

 

When he steps inside the library café, his glasses immediately fog up because of the temperature difference. It’s toasty warm inside, exactly how he likes it – not too suffocating, but just enough that he can take off his coat and be comfortable. It’s also quite crowded, but Namjoon prefers it that way because he doesn’t have to be self-conscious about people staring at him while he walks up to the counter. 

Today he doesn’t walk up to the counter, though. He simply looks around for a familiar head of mint green hair and finds it peeking up from a table tucked in the far corner near the big window. There are two people sitting with Yoongi, Hoseok and another guy who must be—

Taehyung ?”

Three heads swivel toward him at once, one of which indeed belongs to his cousin. Taehyung’s face goes through several stages of confusion and shock, eyes comically wide and mouth slightly ajar. Namjoon can see a partially chewed marshmallow in there, but he’s so stunned he can’t even bring himself to be disgusted. 

“Namjoon hyung?”

Hoseok opens his mouth and Yoongi’s right hand promptly comes up, splayed in the universal “please stop” gesture. “For the love of god, please spare us the overused Shrek reference.”

You’re Hoseok’s full-time crush?” Namjoon gapes.

Taehyung flushes a pretty shade of red, eyes down and smile quiet and shy and utterly radiant. Hoseok drops a kiss on top of his hair like a sugar cube, lets it linger for a second too long until it melts through both of their connected bodies, pliant bones and safety and happiness radiating from their embrace. “Yes, he is. Boyfriend now.”

Namjoon’s heart sings and stings all at once. 

“Wait,” Taehyung pipes up. “Does that mean Yoongi hyung is the goblin?”

Yoongi and Namjoon both choke with an impressive level of coordination, considering Namjoon hasn’t even had a sip of his drink yet and has virtually nothing to choke on. When Yoongi finally stops coughing, he asks, “Yoongi hyung is what now?”

Dokkaebi , that’s what they’re called here,” Hoseok supplies, and Taehyung whips his head towards him so fast Namjoon worries for his neck. “Don’t look so surprised, Taehyungie. I’m a lit and language student – I know my folklore.”

Namjoon doesn’t think Taehyung looks surprised. Namjoon, who has known Taehyung since they were in diapers, thinks Taehyung looks like that one time Soonshim, the family dog, had bumped her nose with five-year-old Taehyung’s for the first time and he’d solemnly declared I’m going to love her forever. He’d meant it, too.

“Can we please put the flirting on hold for one second and go back to how you referred to me as a traditional household spirit, please?”

Namjoon feels heat creeping up all the way to his ears. “Taehyung suggested you might be one due to your...random nice domestic gestures? That I never actually saw you carry out?” 

“I’m the nicest robber you’ll ever have in the apartment, Kim Namjoon,” Yoongi shoots back, his grin like a loose spark and oh my god, was that an inside joke, do we have inside jokes now, did he seriously just—

Namjoon has to take a break from looking at Yoongi and his gaze lands on Taehyung and Hoseok staring between Yoongi and Namjoon and then at each other. They look like one of those married couples who have whole conversation without using words. 

“Hyung is really big on the whole silent affection thing,” Hoseok finally says, breaking the bizarre mix of staring and silent smiles. Yoongi blushes even deeper, more peach blossoms than cherry. “We used to study together all the time last year, and my hands tend to get super cold—”

Stooooop, ” Yoongi whines, squeezing his eyes shut and making an attempt to burrow his head in the collar of his sweater, turtle-style. His hand goes up to his flaming ear, worrying at it.

“They get super cold and I was blowing on my fingers all the time. It was awful,” Hoseok continues, completely ignoring Yoongi’s distress call. “All of a sudden, I started finding hot packs everywhere. You know when someone throws confetti on you and it keeps falling out of random places for days? It was like that.”

Yoongi is practically half his original size now, shrinking down in embarrassment. He mutters something while looking at his iced americano like it’s the most fascinating object in the room, but it’s so low no one really catches it. 

“What was that, hyung?”

“I couldn’t concentrate with you blowing on your hands all the time,” he speaks up a little, still seemingly very taken with his beverage. “It was for my own peace of mind.”

Namjoon is expecting Hoseok’s face to fall, even a little bit, but his smile grows even wider. 

“Sure, hyung. Then what about the snacks someone mysteriously stuffed into my acorn pouch during midterms? Or the valerian root tea bags I kept finding in my thermos when I was having a hard time sleeping? Or the—”

In an impressive show of dignified scorn, Yoongi puts his hands over his ears and emits what must be the real life version of ‘whale noises’. That makes Hoseok shut up, simply because he’s too busy clapping his hands in delight and laughing so violently he ends up sprawled across Taehyung’s lap and loses his hat. 

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi declares calmly. Then he starts gathering the cinnamon sticks from the ornamental jar in the middle of the table and stuffing them into his computer bag. Namjoon blinks.

“The meme says breadsticks, not cinnamon sticks, hyung,” he points out gently. The only reason why he’s not laughing right now is because the situation has passed the Funny Mark and catapulted right into Absolutely Surreal Territory, which tends to happen a lot with Yoongi. Namjoon resolves to shelve this particular observation for now. 

“I’m taking poetic licence,” Yoongi shoots back. Hoseok is practically three quarters off the bench at this point. Taehyung, who is holding onto his boyfriend’s butt to keep him from falling, doesn’t look like he’s going to complain anytime soon. 

“Hyung, you can’t leave,” Taehyung whines. “Namjoon hyung just got here! He hasn’t even had one sip of his drink yet!”

Yoongi mutters something that sounds like we can get that to go, can’t we under his breath, but he still stops his rustling and looks up at Namjoon. “Wanna go home, Namjoon-ah?”

Home.

Yoongi never used to call it that. He always used to say “back to the apartment” or “back to my place”. It strikes a chord inside Namjoon that he was not aware was there to be struck until right now. 

The silence stretches for a bit too long, so Namjoon attempts to smile serenely to make up for it. “If that’s okay with you, hyung.”

Yoongi hums noncommittally, already scooting his way out of the bench. He’s wearing all black, which is not surprising, but he’s traded in the oversized hoodies for a woollen turtleneck and a cinnamon-coloured coat. It shouldn’t work, not with the faded aquamarine of his hair, but somehow it does. 

They exchange goodbyes – Taehyung’s comes from the crook of Hoseok’s neck where he’s currently made himself at home – and unceremoniously transfer Namjoon’s drink into his keep cup before making their way out of the coffee shop. They’re halfway through January now and the cold cracks down on them like a whip; Yoongi hisses, scrunching up his nose in displeasure, and Namjoon knows that same nose is going to be blush red in five minutes. He cups his drink with both hands, hoping some of the warmth will seep through. 

“What are the chances, huh?” Yoongi starts. 

“This is where most people would say ‘ Such a small world!’ , I reckon,” Namjoon muses, taking a sip of his drink. It’s perfect. 

Yoongi scoffs, but it’s good-natured. “It’s not a small world, Namjoon. It’s really fucking big,” he pauses, suspended like condensation clouds in the freezing cold. “At least that’s what it feels like, here. Gigantic.”

The words caught under Namjoon’s tongue are not meant for casual conversation. Most of what he tucks on the inside of his cheeks isn’t, but he thinks Yoongi wouldn’t make fun of him for it. Not in a mean way, at least. 

“Sometimes it feels like no matter how far I stretch my arms out, I won’t be able to touch another person.”

No mockery comes. The other makes a sound in the back of his throat that means he’s thinking about something, as Namjoon has come to know. Yoongi makes as much conversation during the quiet interludes as he does when he’s actually speaking. “Crowds make it worse, don’t they? It’s touch but not – not connection , not really.” 

Sometimes Namjoon thinks he knows himself well; other times he’s convinced he doesn’t have a clue. However, there are some things that he is sure of.

Thing number one: the way he gets desperate sometimes, stress and loneliness stretching him thin like saltwater taffy on a pulling machine, so thin he feels like he’s going to dissolve. It’s been a constant for a while, and this – the way Yoongi just sees him, the way he understands without Namjoon needing to explain makes him feel more substantial, like he won’t just fade away to nothing.

Thing number two: when this happens, it’s easy for him to get a crush. He clings on it so that he won’t disappear and the fear makes it hard to see things for what they are. That’s what most of Namjoon’s crushes have been like – overgrown, overflowing, overwhelming and born from the seed of insecurity. 

Thing number three: Namjoon does not trust his feelings. He does not trust himself to not use the people who care about him to feel better about himself. This particular brand of self-hatred pops up often at the back of his mind – you are simply taking advantage of them to stave off your loneliness and providing nothing in return. Nothing more than parasitism. 

Thing number four: that is the reason why he usually buries his crushes deep, deep, deep, and tells himself he has made the right, logical choice for everyone involved. Tells himself that it will eventually go from a fresh sting to a dull ache, nothing more than a fading bruise. 

Thing number five: Namjoon is covered in bruises. Too many of them have hurt and then sunk just underneath his skin like ink. Sometimes it feels like he’s not a person anymore, but rather one giant ache that just won’t go away. 

“The difficult part isn’t meeting people,” Yoongi continues, blessedly unaware of Namjoon’s 24/7 inner turmoil. “It’s making it stick. I was lucky with Seok and you.”

Namjoon’s mind screeches to a halt. “That’s – we’re roommates, hyung.”

Yoongi’s expression clouds over immediately. Namjoon replays the sentence in his head and realises that, like many other times, it sounded much better in his own head. 

“That didn’t come out right,” he scrambles to correct himself. “I mean that since we’re roommates, we didn’t really choose it? Sometimes we end up being in some kind of relationship with a person due to circumstances that throw us together, but we wouldn’t necessarily have hung out with them by choice, you know?”

Yoongi’s expression still looks like he’s deciding whether to be pissed off or not. “Are you saying you wouldn’t have chosen to befriend me if we weren’t roommates?”

Namjoon cringes. “I really shot myself in the foot there, didn’t I?”

Yoongi’s lips quirk up. “I think so, yes.”

“What I meant to say is, we did have our struggles in the beginning and sometimes I wonder whether you would still like me as a person if we didn’t have to live together, you know?” Namjoon blurts out.

When he glances at Yoongi, he doesn’t look mad or amused anymore. There’s an edge of sadness in his eyes – not pity, not quite, but more like he saw Namjoon trip on a step and went ah, always used to miss that one, i feel you; like he understands, but he’s not necessarily happy about it.

“I make my own choices, Namjoon. I didn’t have to be friends with you for us to live together – believe me, being roommates and being friends are two very different things.” He pauses. He bites his bottom lip and releases it, white blooming into blush pink. “I hope you don’t feel like you have to be friends with me just because we share a living space.”

At this point, Namjoon doesn’t think he’s shot himself in the foot; he reckons he more or less stepped directly onto a landmine. There’s a scrambler between his brain and his mouth and the words are coming out all jumbled. “No, hyung, I—That’s not what I meant. It’s not like that for me.”

“Then stop assuming and let other people tell you how they feel, yeah?” Yoongi’s tone is light, but firm. “You should step out of that big head of yours once in a while, get some fresh air. Listen to people a bit more.” He bumps his shoulder against Namjoon’s arm, and the warmth that spreads through him has nothing to do with his fingers still clutching his hot drink. 

They walk in companionable silence for the rest of the way. Namjoon doesn’t feel the usual impending need to fill it or carry the conversation. 

When they’re back at their apartment, shoes near the door and coats shrugged off, ready to head into their respective rooms, the words crowd under his tongue until he thinks it’s safe to let them out. “Hyung?”

Yoongi makes a small hum of acknowledgement, head tilting to the side.

“I was lucky to find you, too.”

Yoongi breaks into a slow smile like dawn, hand flying up to worry at his ear like he tends to do when he’s a bit embarrassed, but in a good way. 

Namjoon has a whole forest blooming in his chest. 

He thinks he might not try to bury this one just yet.


YEAR FOUR.

 

When Namjoon steps inside the apartment, the first thing to come to his senses’ attention is that the common space smells absolutely incredible . He can’t quite recognise what it is right away – something is being fried for sure, but there’s a layer of sweetness and spice clinging in the air too. It stirs up a faint memory in him, but he can’t put his finger on it. 

The second thing is the sound of someone humming softly under their breath. The sound of bubbling oil half drowns it out and it’s not loud enough for him to be completely sure, but it sounds like IU’s Autumn Morning. 

The third thing comes when he actually turns around to face the small space, in the form of Yoongi standing before a pot full of oil that is way too big for their stove. He’s wearing a gray apron Namjoon didn’t even know he owned over a red and black striped shirt Namjoon is pretty sure has been stolen from someone else. Yoongi’s face is flushed from the heat and his black bangs are pinned back away from his face with a red hair clip. He starts whistling the instrumental bit of the song, pursing his mouth around the sound, and the baby pink of his lips matches the colour of his exposed elbows, his cheeks, his knuckles.

It’s a lot. 

“Hi, hyung,” he gets out, because the only thing he can aspire to in life is pretending to have his shit together. “What’s that?”

Yoongi stops his whistling and turns to look at Namjoon. His nose and cupid’s bow look shiny because of the heat. He looks like a glazed donut , Namjoon thinks, and somehow that makes everything worse. “I’m making kkwabaegi.”

Namjoon aaah s appropriately, the memory finally clicking in his mind. “My mother used to make it all the time when we were children.” He frowns, confusion settling back in. “Are we expecting any children?”

“I guess you could say so,” Yoongi replies, checking the bottom of one of the braided doughnuts and flipping it with ease. “Jimin and Taehyung are bringing along this kid from Busan who’s just started his first year here – you know how they are, they just took him under his wing – and Seok is coming too, of course, and somehow I ended up making around thirty-six kkwabaegi.”

Jimin was a relatively new addition to their group, shooed in by Taehyung at the end of the previous year. Despite sharing a class – they were both in a medicine-adjacent field, Taehyung in vet science and Jimin in nursing – they hadn’t actually met until well into the academic year. As Taehyung loved to recount to anyone who would listen, some assholes sitting behind him had been making fun of his glasses and snickering every time he asked or answered a question.

He hadn’t really given them the time of day, but after a couple of lessons he’d been approached during break by this short, compact guy with the face of an angel. All of the assholes had gone out to smoke and this dude had just gone up to Taehyung, told him his glasses looked really cool, and proceeded to dump an entire disposable packet of soy sauce in the assholes’ coffee cups with the sweetest smile on his face. 

He’s my Slytherin soulmate, Taehyung had declared at the end of the story, when they’d all gone out together for the first time. Yoongi had bought an absolutely unapologetic Jimin a drink as thanks, even though the other insisted against it, and then they both proceeded to drink everyone under the table for the rest of the night. 

Even though he and Taehyung were literally inseparable, Jimin had quietly filled all the empty spaces in their group too, like gold poured into ceramic cracks. He was swamped with school work and labs, and yet he seemed to always have some time for everyone: he helped Hoseok teach kids at the dance studio so they wouldn’t have to cancel the class, dragged Yoongi out to drink when he shut himself in for too long with the excuse that no one else could keep up with him, kept Namjoon company on his nighttime bike rides when he needed moving more than talking.

Namjoon is not surprised Jimin found a lost kid from Busan and decided to adopt him; that’s simply who Jimin is, compact and giving and fiercely protective of what he loves. 

“I would say parenting is turning you soft, but you already were,” Namjoon teases. 

The tip of Yoongi’s ears blooms tulip pink, too. He mutters something along the lines of it’s called good hosting, kim namjoon, and fumbles with the kkwabaegi he’s trying to flip. Namjoon hopes that unraveling his scarf will somewhat mask his hopelessly fond smile. 

“Instead of standing around and disrespecting your elders, why don’t you help me with the coating?” Yoongi must catch a glimpse of Namjoon’s sudden horrified expression, because he scoffs and continues, “I just need you to pour sugar and cinnamon into a paper bag, Joon-ah. It’s going to be fine.”

Namjoon frowns. “Hyung, paper bags always tear. It’s going to be a mess.”

Yoongi brandishes the prongs in his direction, lips pursing into a pout like they usually do right before he slips into a rant. “Well, you won’t catch me using a plastic bag under my roof, Kim Namjoon, so you’ll just have to be extra careful.”

Namjoon wonders how long this ‘admiration’ phase will last. He tells himself, it’s just this one small thing, not even worth having a crush over . He wonders how long he can keep telling himself it’s just one small thing, and not one entire person. He wonders how many small things are going to take root in his chest until it becomes an overgrown greenhouse, until it takes all of his oxygen and leaves him breathless. He wonders how much longer he can pretend it’s not hard to breathe already. 

He wonders, and he tucks the doubt back into a corner of his mind where it belongs. Not today.

(It’s never today.)

When the buzzer echoes through the apartment an hour and a half later, they’re both sitting at the kitchen island in comfortable silence, Yoongi outlining something in his sketchbook and Namjoon catching up on some reading for one of his classes. Two steaming mugs – one Kumamon shaped, one Pikachu shaped – sit on the counter between them; they’d opened the window to air out the space and Yoongi had gotten shivery, so Namjoon had made them both spiced ginger tea to warm up. Yoongi has since then changed into a gigantic knitted sweater that swallows half his form. It makes Namjoon wish the tea was at least a little spiked. 

The apartment goes from suspended and quiet to loud and alive, like someone pressed unmute on the scene. Hoseok and Taehyung tumble in first, caught mid-laugh as is their default, followed by Jimin and a taller guy who must be The Other Busan Boy. He looks a bit awkward, self-conscious, like he doesn’t know what to do with all those cubic centimetres of space he’s occupying.

After the all-around loud greetings, Jimin drags Other Busan Boy forward to introduce them properly. “This is Jeon Jungkook, from Busan, he’s in animation – Jungkookie, these are Yoongi hyung and Namjoon hyung.”

Jungkook bows and smiles; it’s a bit unsure, but genuine. “Nice to meet you, Namjoon-ssi, Yoongi-ssi. Thank you for having me.”

Namjoon sees Yoongi mirror his own reassuring nod. “You guys want some tea? Milk? Hyung made kkwabaegi, so–”

Taehyung gapes and springs from the couch so fast Hoseok loses his balance. “Hyung, did you really? Auntie used to make this all the time, I love it so much, haven’t had it in so long .” 

Yoongi’s hand butterfly-touches his own ear, tinged pomegranate red. He blossoms quietly under Taehyung’s continued enthusiastic praise and goes positively maroon when the younger notices and cups his cheeks in his hands, cooing. Taehyung’s hands are almost the same size as Yoongi’s entire face; Namjoon decides to take a raincheck on answering the question of how he personally feels about that. 

Jungkook insists on helping Namjoon while Yoongi sets out the snacks. Neither of them is exceptionally good at small talk, but Jungkook is earnest and candid and he bursts into a ridiculous evil cackle when he spots an incredibly ugly “I HEART SEOUL” mug in the cupboard, and somehow an hour later he’s polished off a good third of the kkwabaegi, calls all of them hyung and it feels like he was supposed to be there all along. 

They do end up spiking the tea after a while, so Namjoon is toasty warm and relaxed when he leans into Yoongi’s space and whispers, “Should we put in a request for child benefits, hyung?”

“If you even think about uttering the word dad to refer to me, I’m disassembling every single figurine you own.”

Jimin, ever the omniscient one, butts in, “Would you prefer dadd —,” but he’s swiftly taken down by a perfectly aimed pillow. Yoongi used to be a star basketball player in high school, after all. 

When the hysterical laughter has quieted down, Hoseok speaks up from Taehyung’s lap where he’s currently resting his head. “How did you even find Jungkook in the first place? You said he’s studying animation.”

“Tae found him first,” Jimin explains, and of course he did. Taehyung is charismatic without being boastful, draws people in like the smell sifting out of a bakery early in the morning, warm and homely and capable of putting people at ease with a smile and a handful of words. Namjoon wishes he were capable of connecting with people half as effortlessly. 

“He got lost on the third floor of the Arts building – honestly can’t blame him, that place is a maze,” Taehyung pipes up, one hand firmly buried in Hoseok’s hair, the other placed on his stomach. “I was there for the painting class I take on Wednesdays. I asked if he needed help, heard his Busan accent, made an executive decision to take him out for coffee with Jiminie and the rest is history.”

Jimin grins mischievously. “You’re leaving out the part where you told me you were ready to give him, and I quote, ‘the entire world’ because his eyes were so big and he was so lost and it made you want to protect him forever.”

Jungkook, sitting near the coffee table, violently chokes on his tea. Hoseok turns to face Taehyung, who is sheepishly staring down at his lap, and drags two fingers slowly under his boyfriend’s chin, smiling. “That sounds like my Taehyungie,” he coos. “Can’t blame you, honestly. Jungkookie’s adorable, isn’t he?” 

Jungkook is beet red at this point, and Yoongi half-heartedly pats his back like it’ll help with the violent tea-induced coughing. 

“You better get used to that, Jungkook-ah,” Namjoon pipes up, sympathetic. “That’s how life is pretty much every day around here.”

“Overwhelming?” Jungkook croaks, feeble and hoarse from the coughing. 

“Loud?” Jimin suggests, disappointedly eyeing the bottom of his very empty mug. 

“No concept of personal space?” Yoongi joins in.

Taehyung snorts. “You say that like you don’t ‘accidentally’ end up holding my hand every time we high five, hyung.”

Yoongi just shrugs. “I wasn’t complaining, was I?”

Namjoon worries a lot about missing things. He finds it difficult to stay present, always projected towards the future, stressed over the next goal. He constantly fears letting things and people slip between his fingers like melting ice cubes, helpless to stop it. 

Now, sitting on the fuzzy pink rug Seokjin had left them when he graduated, warm from alcohol and ginger tea and affection, surrounded by people he loves and people he knows he’ll grow to love, he realises what it means to be in the moment. He isn’t thinking about what he could be doing instead, or how much time he’s not devoting to being productive. He’s just letting himself be, no strings attached – here and now instead of tomorrow, next midterm, closest deadline. 

Later, when everyone else has left and the only thing lingering is the faint smell of cinnamon, Yoongi says, matter-of-factly, “They’re going to end up together.”

Namjoon tilts his head, puzzled. “Who?”

“Those three,” Yoongi clarifies, unconcerned with Namjoon’s mouth dropping open at his words. “Taehyung, Seok and Jungkook.”

Yoongi has this way of saying certain things – things most people would consider the cornerstone of controversy, a diving board into the kind of murky-watered debate you want to avoid like the plague at family dinners. Yoongi delivers contentious opinions like he’s delivering indisputable facts, everyone is equal the same thing as the sky is blue . Says things like it’s not ‘just your opinion’ if it has a body count . Drops tiny bombs around people and waits to judge their reaction, blunt and unapologetic. 

He used to do that with Namjoon, too, at first. A test of sorts, probing around for his stance on certain issues, a question of safety. This quip about their friends, it feels like another one of his tests, like he’s trying to gauge whether Namjoon would be against the idea.  

Namjoon isn’t, but he is taken aback by Yoongi’s confidence. “C’mon, hyung. Are you into predictions now?”

Yoongi shrugs. “So what if I am?”

Namjoon laughs and shakes his head in disbelief. Yoongi seems to take that as a challenge, because he smirks and goes, “Wanna bet?”

“Sure,” Namjoon answers, easy, always easy when Yoongi is involved. “I’ll do your laundry for a month.”

“I am not letting you anywhere near my laundry, thank you very much,” Yoongi quips back. “Dish duty?”

Namjoon groans. Yoongi knows full well washing dishes is Namjoon’s least favourite chore. “Deal. But if you’re wrong, you have to clean the bathroom for a month.”

Yoongi blanches, but he recovers quickly. “I won’t be wrong.”

“We have a deal.”

 

*

 

Senior year is absolutely brutal.

Namjoon knew it was going to be. He’d never thought he’d have to worry about it that much, since he was so used to being stressed and working himself into the ground, but he had not factored in that academics would be the least of his problems. 

He’s started writing them down, the problems, because it always helps to pluck thoughts out of his brain, an overgrowth of too-bright wildflowers cut at the stem and nicely displayed in a vase near the window. 

 1.Your thesis is coming in slow. Too slow. Do you even actually like it?

 That’s an easy one. He doesn’t, in fact, like his thesis – something is wrong with it, the angle just slightly off, and he’d spend longer trying to figure it out if it weren’t for the literal mountain of coursework he has on top of his last-year internship placement. Speaking of which,

 4.You hate your internship. 

He really, really does. He got a university sanctioned placement in a council office, a desk job that shows him exactly the kind of situation he got into political science to fight against – laziness, no empathy, just targets and budgets and benchmarking. It’s nauseating to see his colleagues treat people’s lives like they only exist in their spreadsheets, and Namjoon feels sick with guilt every second he spends in there for being a part of it. 

 6. You have no idea what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.

 6bis. Maybe you were wrong all along and you wasted four years. Four years you could have spent doing something more meaningful, or something you liked better. Something that led somewhere.

That is the real crux of the problem, he thinks. Namjoon reckons senior year would be more bearable if he was actually working towards something, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s running himself into the ground of a dead-end street. He’d had reasons, pros and cons, when he’d first gone into his major. Talking points he’d kept repeating to people who questioned him like a portable PowerPoint presentation, stubbornly trying to convince everyone that he was right, one can excel in any field if they work hard enough, no matter how unmarketable it is and so on. 

Four years later, he doesn’t quite know who he’d been trying to convince, or whose expectations he’s been working to fulfill since then. His parents have never pressured him into anything. He’s the first one in the family to get to higher education, and they have supported him through everything, even though—

 11. You don’t deserve their support. You did this to yourself. You can’t blame anyone else for this. 

This specific brand of guilt eats at him every single day. Even though he’s got a scholarship, his parents have been helping him when he needed money for rent, insisting he should keep healthy and not work long hours on top of his academic duties. They put their faith in him, trusted his logic and level-headedness, trusted that he knew what he was doing, and this is how he repays that trust. He figures his pitch worked a little too well. 

 15. You can’t go into postgrad straight away. You just can’t. 

The thought alone of launching himself into more years of this without a break makes his breath quicken and his heart attempt to gallop out of his chest. It will come to him randomly, in the middle of class, behind his desk at work, and he’ll get dizzy with the edge of panic, i can’t i can’t i can’t. 

 18. Who are you, at this point? 

Namjoon’s biggest fear is that if he were to strip away everything he’d made himself into because he thought he had to please someone else, nothing would be left. He’s terrified of finding out whether there is, after all, a version of Kim Namjoon that he became just because he wanted to, and not because he thought he had to. Wonders, if it’s not there just yet, whether he can ever become it. 

After a while, the theme changes. His scribbles aren’t any less frantic, but the reason is different. The reason—

 22. You’re in love with Min Yoongi. 

He has a whole greenhouse inside of his chest. It takes up too much space, hurts a bit where the corners push insistently against the softness of his skin. Yet Namjoon nurtures it, gives it love and care, allows it to grow. 

He’s seen other people, over the past four years. He’s seen boys and girls, some lovely, some not so much. He’s seen people, but he hasn’t been seen, not the way he craves, not the way—

 23. Yoongi sees you. 

Yoongi doesn’t make him solid. He doesn’t add pieces to him like one of his projects, like Namjoon has let everyone do before. Yoongi makes him think he can build himself from scratch, if he wants to. When Yoongi looks at him, he rekindles his hope that there is a Kim Namjoon buried under everything else, that he can draft the blueprint of him with his own hands.

 25. You cannot tell Yoongi. Not yet. 

Namjoon has never quite believed that you can’t love other people unless you love yourself. He’s tried to get rid of the self hatred stuck in his head like a tune he can’t shake and never quite succeeded. The notion that that would keep him from loving other people is unbearable to him – he knows he is capable of loving and taking care of other people, fiercely and steadily, and sometimes that knowledge is the only thing that keeps him going.

And yet. 

These days, doubt stains every part of him like ink smudges, stubborn ones that refuse to fade. He can’t figure himself out, and he has no time or energy to start doing it. He can’t be someone else’s person if he doesn’t quite feel like a person in the first place, and Yoongi deserves better than being a test run. 

He feels stuck. If he had to choose one word for it, that is what he would pick. 

Namjoon is stuck in place and he has to remind himself every single day that it isn’t possible that he’s never going to move ever again, no matter how many nightmares about that he wakes up from. 

 

*

 

When they sit down in the corner booth at the coffee shop and Namjoon finally looks at Taehyung’s face, fully bathed in light, he realises he’s never seen his cousin this tired. Any kind of medicine adjacent degree is nothing to scoff at, Namjoon knows, but this month must be taking an extra toll.

Taehyung looks incredibly comfortable, and it’s not just because he’s wearing pyjama pants and an oversized jumper as usual. He always comes off as one hundred percent okay with who he is and how he carries himself. Namjoon, who walks around with the ease of someone who forgot to zip up their pants or wore his shirt inside out, absolutely cannot relate. Taehyung has never apologised for who he is a day in his life, while Namjoon goes about his days in a constant cringe state, a litany of sorrysorrysorry in his brain like he’s bumping into non-existent people. 

“You look tired.”

Taehyung looks startled, but in a subdued way, like he doesn’t even have the energy to display emotions properly at this point. Namjoon feels this in his bones. “I’m fine, hyung. It’s just that the labs are running a bit late this semester.” He raises an eyebrow, spooning a marshmallow out of Namjoon’s drink. “Besides, have you seen yourself at all recently?”

Namjoon raises both his hands in a surrendering gesture, properly caught out. He tries to smile, but he doesn’t think he quite succeeds, because suddenly Taehyung is looking several degrees more worried than he was three seconds ago. “Everything okay, hyung?”

“Of course,” Namjoon replies, too fast. “Just– senior year, you know.”

“I don’t know, hyung,” Taehyung says after a beat. “Would you like to tell me?”

He doesn’t know why Taehyung’s careful kindness makes him crumble, like Namjoon is a house of cards and the words he’s just heard a gentle breeze. He takes several deep breaths, because he’s not going to have a breakdown in this very public coffee shop when he’s kept it together this far, thank you very much. 

Namjoon sees Taehyung wordlessly take his biggest marshmallow out of his own mug and gingerly place it on top of Namjoon’s drink, and suddenly he can’t see much of anything anymore because his vision is swimming with tears. He raises his eyes to the ceiling and keeps breathing in and out, blinking rapidly. 

It takes him a couple minutes to feel safe enough to shift his gaze on Taehyung again. “I’m very sorry to put this on you, Tae. It’s not fair—”

“Let me stop you right there, hyung,” Taehyung cuts him off sternly. “First of all, you’re not putting anything on me. I asked. Second, if I didn’t have the energy to do this right now I would tell you, okay? Don’t treat me as if I don’t know better.”

That shuts Namjoon up. He’d crack a joke, ask Taehyung when he became so wise, but the truth is that, despite his childlike outlook on life, his cousin always has always been the most mature one between them. “I’m sorry, Tae. I didn’t mean to patronise you.”

“Apology accepted. Now, do you want to tell me about whatever’s bothering you?”

So Namjoon does. He tells Taehyung about every problem on his list, stopping right before the Yoongi Section, while the other listens attentively. 

“I’m so scared of disappointing them, Tae.” Namjoon whispers, after a good ten minutes of ranting. 

Taehyung tilts his head to the side. “Who are you scared to disappoint, hyung?”

“Everyone. Myself. I don’t even know at this point,” Namjoon answers honestly. “I can’t remember the last time I felt like I was up to standard.”

“And whose standard is that, exactly?” Taehyung asks. It feels like tripping on a jumping rope. Namjoon looks away, and he lets his silence answer the question. “Have you ever heard of the bad infinite, hyung?”

That’s jarring enough to make his gaze snap back to his cousin again, eyes wide. “I have. Have you ?”

Taehyung just shrugs. “I dabble.” Namjoon refrains from asking why and under what circumstances Taehyung would ‘dabble’ in 19th century western philosophy, because he’s stopped being surprised when it comes to the workings of Taehyung’s brain. 

“Anyway, this German dude criticised another German dude – please, don’t ask me to pronounce their names – for his concept of infinite. He wrote it off as ‘bad infinite’, because it makes people chase this faraway concept of something which is impossible to reach. It’s not productive, because it just makes them feel like they need to go beyond this invisible finish line just to draw another one farther away. Again and again, forever.”

Namjoon lets himself absorb the explanation. “Did you just use German idealism to call me out for setting impossible standards for myself and berating myself when I inevitably fail to measure up to them?”

Tae’s smile is wider now, mischievous. More familiar. “Glad my efforts are being recognised.”

Namjoon pretends to sulk, taking a long sip from his hot cocoa. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to come right back up now, at least. “I just feel like I wasted so much time, Tae.”

“Let’s just assume, for a second, that you’re right and that you fucked up, okay?” Taehyung indulges him. “Imagine that you had a time machine and you could go back and change it. What would happen?”

Namjoon thinks about it seriously. Taehyung adds, in the silence, “You go into something more marketable, more useful, things you think would have been better – whatever that means. One, there is no guarantee that it will turn out better than what you’re doing now. Two, you lose all the good things with the bad. Everything you learned.” He pauses, like he wants what he’s saying next to feel separate. Important. “The people you met.”

Taehyung is, of course, right. A flimsy, not-100%-guaranteed chance to rectify the bad isn’t worth losing everything good that came from it. He thinks of Hoseok’s glasses going up his nose when his face scrunches up in a smile. He thinks of Jimin peacefully asleep on Taehyung’s couch, his tiny fists clenched, mouth slack, the picture of softness. He thinks of Jungkook’s evil cackle and the way he walks around with his eyes still closed in the morning when he crashes on their couch, bumping into furniture so often that Yoongi jokes they’ll have to make the apartment child-proof. 

He thinks of Yoongi. His brain gets snagged on the thought of him as always, headphone cord tangled around a door handle, tugging him back. 

He’s startled out of his reverie by Taehyung, who’s wrapping his hand around Namjoon’s clenched fist. “Hyung,” he says, quiet but insistent, pausing until Namjoon is looking him straight in the eye. “You’ll be fine.”

A window opens. 

 Namjoon starts to breathe.

 

*

 

Roughly two years have passed since Namjoon set foot in creative writing for the first time, and yet he’s never read anything of his out loud. 

Back in high school, he’d rarely invited people over to his house. It made him uneasy to have someone else see him in his home, like they could somehow divine his deepest secrets from the stuff he had lying around his room or the posters on his bedroom walls. 

Reading his writing out loud feels roughly the same. 

Yoongi had asked him why, one night. Their accidental 3AM kitchen island meetings were becoming so frequent that whoever got to the kitchen first would automatically set out two mugs instead of one, just in case the other happened to join them. 

Namjoon knew that if he didn’t answer, Yoongi wouldn’t hold against him. There was something about Yoongi, though, that made Namjoon want to tell him everything. Something about him that made Namjoon think unfathomable things, like if I gave him my heart, he would keep it safe. Something about his unmovable, steady presence that made Namjoon want to lean on him and rest. 

So Namjoon had answered. 

“Sometimes I feel like all people see when they look at me is a clean room,” he’d started, tentatively, because apparently metaphors are the only way he can properly express himself. “A pristine room, all tidy and polished and perfect, and I’m standing in the middle of it, leaning against a door. Behind that door is all the shit I keep hidden, all the ugliness and doubt and fear, and it’s so full it’s about to burst, but no one sees it because I’m trying so hard to keep the door shut.”

Yoongi had played along with his metaphor, of course, finger lightly tracing the rim of his mug. “That sounds very tiring, Joon-ah.”

“It is,” Namjoon whispers in response. “Everyone thinks I have it together, that I’m smart and capable and reliable, but I’m just really good at shoving my shit in that room and keeping it closed.”

“You know everyone has that room, right?” Yoongi says. “Some people simply have less stuff to keep behind the door. Others take some of the stuff out, decorate the main room with it.” He turns up his nose a bit, makes an impatient noise. “I’m not as good with metaphors as you are, Namjoon-ah, but what I can tell you is that no one likes showing their weakness. We’re all so stupidly obsessed with coming across as perfect and untouchable that we don’t realise how exhausting it is, or how unfair it is to give other people a false standard they can never reach, because it doesn’t exist .” 

Namjoon had blinked rapidly, a bit caught off guard. He’d never even considered that his attempt at projecting a perfect image of himself could be damaging to people other than himself, but it was just like Yoongi to slap him in the face with a new perspective. 

“My take on it is that the sooner you let that door burst open, the better. It’s scary, I know, and it feels like you’ll be buried under everything you’ve been keeping hidden, but it will be much better in the long run. You can Marie Kondo the shit out of all the stuff that terrifies you, and sort it out so that it doesn’t control you anymore.”

Namjoon hadn’t been able to help cracking a smile. “And you said you weren’t good at metaphors, hyung.”

Yoongi had glared at him half-heartedly over his steaming mug, and that was that. 

Today, Namjoon decides to step away from the door and let it burst open. 

When Hoseok asks if anyone wants to read what they’ve written, it’s obvious that he’s surprised to see Namjoon’s hand in the air, but he does his best to hide it, smiling reassuringly in his direction and gesturing at him to proceed. 

When he stands, he’s convinced that his legs are going to give out. He tries his best to steady his shaking hands so that he can actually read what he wrote, takes a deep breath, and speaks. 

 

Sometimes I get disappointed in myself

I trample on myself once again

You only amount to this much

You need to do much, much better

You need to become much cooler

You should die rather than lose”

 

His voice sounds much less steady than he’d like. He keeps his eyes on the paper, trying not to think about the fact that there are people listening or judging. He’s doing this for himself.

 

Falling short is such a painful thing

If you don’t experience it, then you can’t know it

My ideals and reality, so far apart

But still, by crossing that bridge

I want to reach you

The real you, the real me.”

 

After he finishes, Namjoon has trouble telling whether the room is silent or not, because his ears feel stuffed full of cotton. He distantly hears Hoseok tell him, “Thank you for sharing, Namjoon,” but he doesn’t look at Hoseok. He looks a bit farther to the right, where a familiar head of blonde hair is turned towards him. 

Namjoon looks at Yoongi and he finds Yoongi already looking at him. When Yoongi’s sure that he’s been seen, he smiles at Namjoon, his teeth peeking out slow but steady like sunshine through clouds, beaming with pride. 

He sits down, the paper worn and crumpled in his clenched fist, and he smiles back. 

Thinks: For once, I am proud too. 

 

*

 

The sound of the video call ringing is way too loud in Namjoon’s tiny bedroom. He scrambles to retrieve his headphones before it connects, managing to plug them in just in time for his mother’s pixelated face to show up on the screen at a terrible angle. He finds himself smiling, despite how nervous he feels. 

“Hi, mum,” he greets her, trying not to wince at all the noise coming through the mic while his mother rummages to get everything in order as usual. 

“Hello, Namjoon-ah,” she replies. Her dimples appear when she smiles at him and he knows they must be showing on his own cheeks, too. They haven’t had a video call in a while and he’s genuinely happy to see her, no matter how much he’s dreading the conversation.

Small talk takes over for a bit while they catch each other up on what’s going on at home, with Namjoon’s classes, with the family dog. When the conversation lulls, his mother looks at him straight in the eye and Namjoon knows he hasn’t fooled her for one second. 

“So, do you want to tell me what you’re really thinking about, Namjoon-ah?” she asks, gentle but firm. Namjoon never could hide anything from her, no matter how hard he tried. She must see the hesitation on his face, because she softens even more. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

Namjoon’s next breath is suspiciously wet, and he knows if he doesn’t speak now he won’t be able to get the words out. “I think I need to stop for a bit, mom.”

She frowns, obviously confused by his vagueness. “Stop what?”

It’s difficult to get anything out through the painful knot in his throat, but he figures he owes his mom more than vagueness. “After I graduate, I think I need to take a break from my studies for a while. I know I said I’d go into a master’s right away, but I really don’t think I can.” He pauses, then adds, “I’m sorry,” and suddenly something snaps in his chest and he’s crying. It’s been pushing at the back of his throat for so long that he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to stop. 

When he manages to look at the screen again, his mother looks angry. Namjoon feels like he’s going to throw up. “Namjoon. You’re saying you want to take a break after you get your degree, right?”

Namjoon nods. “You’re not telling me you want to drop out six months before you graduate. Am I following?” He nods again. “So you want to finish your degree and take some time before you go into a master’s. That’s what you’re telling me?” He keeps nodding, and his mom looks really angry now. 

“Why are you crying, Namjoon-ah?”

He’s confused enough by her reaction that he manages to stop crying enough to get an answer out. “Because I failed you.” Vocalising those words for the first time makes him want to sob again, so he tries to take a deep breath and keep it together. “Because you invested so much in me, believed in me and supported me and– and I just– I ended up disappointing you. I’m really sorry for not being a good son.”

Namjoon doesn’t think he’s ever seen his mother this mad. She looks properly pissed off now, and she’s doing a poor job of hiding it. 

“Namjoon-ah, I love you, but you’re being very stupid right now.” She waits for him to calm down a little, makes sure she’s got his full attention before she starts speaking again. “I don’t think you’re being fair right now. Do you really think our support is somehow conditional on how successful you are? Did you think I would yell at you, or disown you, or– I don’t know what you thought, but Joonie-ah, you’re crying like you were scared of telling me, and I don’t think your dad and I ever did anything to make you scared of telling us things.”

That gives him pause. He was so wrapped up in his own angst that he didn’t even consider something like that. “I didn’t think you’d yell at me, I just – You and dad invested so much in my education, and you’re getting a poor return,” he tries, his voice going weaker towards the end when he notices his mother’s frown deepening. Great, he’s really gone and pissed her off now. 

“Kim Namjoon,” she starts, Mom Voice at full power. “I am your parent. I birthed you. You’re not a business venture, you’re my son and it’s my responsibility to support you. Not only that – I want to do it. I love you and I am so proud of how brilliant and capable you are, and helping you on the way to happiness makes me happy.”

Namjoon is crying in earnest now. 

“Oh, Namjoon-ah. You’ve always been too hard on yourself,” she continues, much softer now. “You’ve never asked us for anything. You were always such an independent child, and you always wanted to handle things yourself, but it’s okay to need a bit of help. We’re happy to give it, okay?”

He doesn’t really trust himself to be able to speak, so he just nods. “You’re not disappointing anyone. I would hate to know that you ended up doing something you hated for the rest of your life because you thought it would make someone else happy. I know you’ve got your head screwed on right, and I trust your judgement. Please don’t worry about us, yeah?”

Something in Namjoon is still insistently telling him that he’s undeserving of this kind of unconditional support, but he looks at his mum and he thinks that maybe he needs to start working on believing it. “Thank you, mum. I love you.”

“I love you too, Namjoonie. Now, onto the more important things – are you eating well?”

Namjoon smiles despite himself, letting out a small sniffle. 

He lets himself be touched by the possibility that maybe, just maybe, things really are going to be just fine. 

 

*

 

Graduation feels like a fever dream. 

The script is well known, seen thousands of times – caps, crowds, hard-earned piece of paper, speeches and polite applause. Namjoon poses for a frankly embarrassing amount of pictures until his parents are satisfied they have enough, accepts and gives out congratulations as expected.

The people surrounding him as the sun goes down, though? Namjoon could never have predicted them

He looks at Jimin, hair freshly dyed the colour of cherry blossoms, bent in half from laughing at Taehyung who’s trying not to trip and fall while carrying two giant bouquets that are obstructing his line of sight. Even while he laughs and his eyes squeeze closed, Jimin’s steadying hand never leaves the small of Taehyung’s back. 

He looks at Jungkook, who’s cackling loudly at Jimin tripping over his own feet and almost dragging Taehyung down with him, nose scrunched up and teeth showing with his head thrown back. Namjoon’s mother had brought Monie, their family dog, with her, and Jungkook’s currently got him snug in his buff arms. His entire body is a curve of happiness. 

He looks at Hoseok, standing next to his sister Jiwoo and their dog, Mickey. His smile is impossibly bright and he has one hand extended towards Taehyung and his disproportionately sized bouquets like a plant stretching up towards the light. The brown hue of his wavy hair catches the afternoon light and he glows. It’s only fitting. 

He looks at Seokjin, who he’s managed to meet in person only a few times, but was nevertheless a subtle presence throughout their university years, manifesting itself through mysterious food deliveries during exam period, tacky comfort mugs, hushed phone conversations with Yoongi in the early morning hours that Namjoon always did his best not to listen to through their thin walls. Seokjin is standing next to Yoongi, cracking jokes about his shoulders being so wide because he’s raised “ this ungrateful, spiteful house cat” on them and everyone laughs while Yoongi splutters indignantly and Holly barks in solidarity next to his bony ankles.

He looks at Yoongi. 

When it comes to Yoongi, phrases like looked my fill stop making sense to Namjoon. The thought of having enough of the sight of him is beyond comprehension. He looks at Yoongi, backlit by the afternoon sun, his now black hair dripping gold where the sun hits it, earrings catching the light. His smile is wide and gummy and painfully honest and so radiant with happiness that it could cast its own shadow. 

Eventually, Yoongi looks back. 

Namjoon does not look away. He watches while his roommate of four years makes his way over with Holly in tow, who is sniffing excitedly at the end of the yellow leash Namjoon and Yoongi had picked out together. His cheeks hurt in the best way, the one that comes from helpless, unbridled happiness. 

Yoongi comes to stand on his right, his gaze back on their friends a few feet from them. He reaches out with the hand that’s holding Holly’s leash and Namjoon figures it’s fitting that he should hold on to the both of them at the same time, somehow. He feels rooted in this moment, utterly present, gentle warmth tickling his face and coating his palm and filling his heart. 

They don’t speak. All the words that matter have already been spoken in the sanctuary of the place that has become home for both of them, over mismatched cups of tea and strewn-about papers and soft music. 

“Hyung, look!” Jungkook yells, and six people immediately turn their heads towards him. “Look how much I can lift!”

He squats gracefully and seconds later he’s got an armful of dog. Mickey and Monie don’t look too enthusiastic about it, but Holly barks reproachingly and pulls at his leash to run towards them, seemingly offended at being left out. Jungkook just laughs and squats again, picking up the poodle and absolutely beaming at everyone behind mismatched fur and lolling tongues. 

It’s a tender moment, but Namjoon’s eyes catch on an exchange of glances between Hoseok and Taehyung; for a loud couple, they are unnervingly good at silent communication. After a few suspended moments, they seem to come to a conclusion. Taehyung unceremoniously drops the flowers in the arms of a confused Jimin and then he and Hoseok move at the same time, striding across the grass to get to Jungkook and his chest full of dogs. 

When they plant a lingering kiss on either of Jungkook’s cheeks, several things happen at the same time. 

Jungkook fumbles and almost drops the dogs in utter shock, catching himself just in time and lowering the offended creatures safely on the ground. Jimin whistles obnoxiously loud. Namjoon cups his hands around his mouth and cheers, but then he remembers , turning to Yoongi and letting out a groan. Yoongi’s smile is fond with an edge of smugness when he tells him I told you so, low enough so that only Namjoon can hear. 

“I know we haven’t really had the chance to talk about the end of our lease yet,” says Namjoon, not looking away from the mayhem. “But now we’ve got a dish duty debt on our hands, don’t we?”

Yoongi hums. “Has to be taken into consideration, I suppose.”

His voice is level, but when Namjoon tears his eyes away from their friends and lets himself look again, he notices Yoongi biting back a smile. His bottom lip is full and wet and glistening in the honeyed light. “It would be awkward if I had to come wherever you ended up living to fulfill it, wouldn’t it? And besides, finding good roommates in this day and age is rare.”

Yoongi’s hand goes up to clutch at his chest and he gasps dramatically. “Are you saying I’m a good roommate, Kim Namjoon?”

Namjoon could quip back. He could make a joke about sticking with the devil you know and have Yoongi scowl in mock offence, engage in the well-oiled banter that comes easy to them both. He could shrug, or play coy, or say that he’s just in it for Holly. 

Namjoon does not do any of those things. 

“The best,” he answers instead, terribly sincere, and watches Yoongi’s smile stretch like a cat in a patch of sun. 

“You know, Namjoon-ah,” he murmurs, warm and mellow and butter-soft, “I think you grew yourself a pretty good garden.”

Namjoon sees Yoongi’s gaze drop down to the softness of his own cheeks where he knows his dimples are deepening. “So did you, hyung.”

Their hands squeeze tighter around the yellow leash, and Namjoon feels like he’s knee-deep in sunlight. 


YEAR FIVE. 

 

Namjoon is in the middle of rearranging the pastry display when the door to 11:11 opens. 

They don’t have any bells on it, but he notices anyway because of the cold draft that sweeps in, making him shiver in his soft sweater and apron. They’ve just opened and the place is still blissfully empty except for Taeyeon, the owner, who’s sipping her chai latte and going through work emails at a corner table.

She sees the newcomer before Namjoon does. “Good morning, Yoongi!”

When he hears a garbled, half-distressed sound instead of a greeting, Namjoon bites back a smile and steps away from the pastry display, making his way over to the coffee machine to start on Yoongi’s drink. 

“Noona, you know Yoongi hyung doesn’t quite reach the human being threshold before he’s had caffeine in the morning.”

“Still not a valid reason to be rude,” she answers pointedly, but there’s no bite in it. A half-asleep, pouty Yoongi is impossible to be mad at (and very hard to handle in general if you have a gigantic crush on him, which is why Namjoon needs at least three full minutes of mental prep before turning around to face him.)

Namjoon pours hot water over the espresso he’s just brewed from the hazelnut infused grounds Yoongi is partial to, filling the mug almost all the way to the rim. He sneakily takes a steadying breath before turning around, even though he knows it won’t be much use.

The sight is exactly as devastating as he always braces himself for, and his traitorous heart stumbles and takes a few hurried steps to catch itself and not faceplant as per usual. Yoongi is sitting in his usual stool at the end of the counter, rumpled and sleep-soft. He’s doing that thing again, the one where he cups one side of his face with his hand and his pinky finger bends gently like a leaf covered in mildew. He looks like Namjoon could poke him like a custard bun and feel the soft give under his fingertips, only to have it bounce right back. 

Yoongi grabs his coffee with only one of his eyes cracked open and closes both of them again after he takes a sip, sighing in relief. His lips stretch in a pleased smile that doesn’t show his teeth. Namjoon decides this is entirely too much for barely eight thirty in the morning and goes back to the pastry display, waiting for Yoongi to regain the gift of spoken word. 

This is not a rare occurrence. Yoongi has been a regular at 11:11 since Namjoon started working there after graduation, desperate for a brain break. The coffee shop was close to their shared apartment and within reasonable distance from the architecture firm Yoongi was interning at; it had been Namjoon’s study spot in a pinch countless times, courtesy of fast wi-fi, great coffee, and chill atmosphere. It wasn’t too small that Namjoon felt self-conscious about spreading out at a table for a long time and whoever was in charge of the music (Taeyeon, as he later found out) had perfect taste in lo-fi playlists. 

When he’d started looking for a job, it had felt natural to go up to Taeyeon and ask if she could use a hand. He had no barista experience whatsoever, but she’d looked at him over the thin frames of her glasses and made a remark about how “all that leg” might come in handy getting things up from high places, and that had been that. 

So they have a routine now. Namjoon will get ready for his shift in the early morning and knock on Yoongi’s door before leaving; during the time it takes Namjoon to help open the café, get his and Taeyeon’s drinks ready and water the plants, Yoongi gets ready and stumbles out the door and into the shop just in time for Namjoon to make his drink. While he makes his way through the first one, he hands Namjoon his reusable travel mug for his second coffee, this time to take away and drink on his way to work. 

They have it down to an art by now, on the four days Yoongi works at the firm. The other three days, he’ll come in if Namjoon is scheduled to work and sometimes even when he isn’t, because he and Taeyeon have bonded over being birthday twins – or, as Hoseok put it, two textbook Pisces – and their love of cooking and their adorable curly puppies. 

Part of the routine is also Taeyeon sending Namjoon pointed stares from wherever she’s sitting, raising one delicate eyebrow so high one of her stray curls touches it. She’s got dagger-sharp intuition, so Namjoon did not stand a chance in such close quarters for a prolonged period of time. They usually don’t talk about it, because she seems to sense that it isn’t Namjoon’s favourite subject, but today is different, apparently, because she pounces as soon as Yoongi’s out the door.

“Namjoon-ah.”

He doesn’t like the edge in her voice. He keeps his attention on the croissants he’s rearranging on the tray. “Yes, noona?”

“You do know he loves you, don’t you?”

Namjoon freezes, prongs in hand, just for a second. The sting is familiar, and he recovers almost immediately. “I know he does.”

“Why, then?”

He carefully slides the tray back onto the shelf and takes his time putting the prongs back on their designated plate. He doesn’t want to be rude, so he looks up at Taeyeon, who’s wearing the kind of expression Namjoon figures he’d sport if he were in her shoes: gentle, tinted with pity. He smiles, and he knows the moment he does that it’s a sad one. He wants to claw it off his face.

“I know he loves me, noona. He’s the most important person in my life.” It’s way too early to feel like someone took the pastry prongs to his heart and just squeezed , he thinks. “That’s exactly why I can’t tell him.”

She opens her mouth, probably about to tell him all the things he allows himself to whisper when he’s in the mood to torture himself with hope,

( he might love you back, might even be the same way you love him, might kiss you back

so he slides the cabinet door shut with a little more force than is probably necessary and interrupts her before she can voice them. He doesn’t reckon he could bear hearing them outside of his own head. 

“We work. The way we are, it’s too good to mess it up. I can’t be selfish about it.” 

Taeyeon’s small smile is uncharacteristically bitter. “You could do with a bit of selfishness, Namjoon-ah.”

He neatly glosses over the interjection, because it’s way too much to unpack. “We’re happy.”

“You could be happier.”

Traitorous, hopeful thoughts like this one belong to the dark. They are not supposed to be in the light, laid out in the open for everyone (for Namjoon ) to see. It makes them more solid, almost real, and that’s much, much more than he can take. Hope and fear go hand in hand, and Namjoon is terribly afraid of the things he hopes for.

His hope: Yoongi loves him back the way Namjoon does and they are happier because of it. 

His fear: Yoongi does not love him back the way Namjoon does and it ruins them. 

His biggest fear: Yoongi loves him back the way Namjoon does and Namjoon never tells him. He never gets to know

The whistle of the steam machine fills the silence for a moment. Namjoon’s brain is making pretty much the exact same sound. 

“Yeah,” he says, without turning around. “Yeah, we could be.”

 

*

 

Over the next couple of weeks, Namjoon’s hours end up not overlapping with Yoongi’s at all, which means that aside from the mornings Namjoon is on shift they don’t manage to see each other much. Usually, that wouldn’t be a problem – it’s not like they’re borderline codependent like Jimin and Taehyung, who ended up moving in together at the start of their senior year citing damage caused to their “ soulbond ” by “ stupid distance ” and “ cuddle denial due to travel time ”, as Namjoon remembers from their speech at a group dinner. 

These days, though, something feels wrong. They’ve always taken comfort in each other’s presence when things were hard, even in silence, even without touching, yet it’s been ten days and Namjoon sits alone at the kitchen island at 3AM, two mugs set out and one of them untouched, little yellow number ones sitting next to the KakaoTalk messages he’s sent to Yoongi. 

Namjoon knows Yoongi is not fine.

He knows because of a conversation they’ve had a couple of years ago, after Yoongi had read out something very personal during creative writing that had left Namjoon full of questions. 

Yoongi had noticed and that same night he’d told Namjoon about his old diagnosis, eyes firmly on his sketchbook and hand on his Snorlax mug. Said he didn’t especially like talking about it, didn’t want a part of him to become all of him, but he didn’t like staying silent about it, either. 

Said, the only way human beings know that what they’re feeling is real is because they see it in other people, because they’re told as much. External validation and the like. People don’t talk about depression, and that’s how we end up thinking it’s not real. 

He’d explained how, even though he’d gotten much better since his teenage years, stress factors could still trigger a Day, sometimes Days, sometimes a Week. He’d explained that they went just as they came, that he knew how to manage them by now and that Namjoon didn’t have to worry about it.

Namjoon worries about it. 

It’s not that he thinks Yoongi can’t take care of himself. His roommate is one of the most independent people he knows, wise and strong and everyone’s go-to when there’s a problem. Still, this time – he can’t shake it off, the feeling of wrongness , the feeling that maybe he does have to try and do something about it. He thinks he’s going to drive himself insane if he doesn’t. 

On the tenth day, he comes home and he knocks on Yoongi’s bedroom door. 

As he expected, there is no response. He goes back to the kitchen, getting out two mugs and Yoongi’s favourite jasmine green tea, and changes into his softest sweatpants while it steeps. When he’s done, he knocks again, but this time he calls out to him.

“I made tea, hyung. The jasmine one you like that smells really good.”

After a beat of silence, he hears a barely audible come in. His whole body heaves a sigh of relief, but it’s short-lived – as soon as he nudges the door open with his foot, his heart sinks. The room is bathed in twilight, or whatever counts as such when the sky is navy blue and the lights of the city are all starting to come on. There are mugs strewn about, each and every one of them cold and untouched. Yoongi is curled up on his side, comforter almost up to his cheeks, and Namjoon can see Holly’s ears peeking out from where he’s cuddled close into Yoongi’s collarbones. 

Namjoon gingerly sets the cup on Yoongi’s bedside table. They’d picked it out together at a secondhand store in Dongdaemun, deciding on the purchase after Holly had sniffed the wood for a good three minutes.

( Holly has a sense for good vibes, Namjoon-ah, Yoongi had said, pointedly looking down at the way the poodle was rubbing his nose against Namjoon’s ankle. He had smiled. Namjoon’s breathing had gone a little funny.)

“Can I sit, hyung?”

The lump under the covers emits an affirmative sound. Namjoon sits on the edge of the bed and sees Holly move at the sudden weight shift, sniffing the air and then bumping Yoongi’s nose with his for a moment before settling again. Namjoon’s grip on his own mug tightens painfully, and it feels like someone is mirroring his gesture somewhere on the left side of his chest cavity. 

“Is there anything I can do?”

It’s quiet for a long time. Then, a shift. “Pass me the mug?” 

Namjoon reaches out and grabs it. This one is decorated with a honeycomb pattern; the kids had given it to Yoongi as a gift after he’d dyed his hair a warm blond. It had come with a card Jungkook had designed that read “ Kkul hyung!” . They’d been incredibly smug about the joke, and Yoongi had pinked and grumbled good-naturedly but hadn’t contradicted them, doing his best to hide a smile and utterly failing. The kids were delighted.

Yoongi sits up a bit, enough to hold the mug to his chest with minimal sloshing and take a slow, shivery sip. Half the mug is gone by the time he speaks again. “I’m really tired, Joon-ah.”

Namjoon flinches a bit. Of course he just wants to sleep it off in peace. “Oh. Sorry for waking you up, hyung.”

“Some of this tiredness I can’t really sleep away.” Yoongi catches his bottom lip between his teeth, a brief drag and pull. The light makes it hard to tell, but it must have gone white and then pinker than before; Namjoon’s seen it happen a thousand times. “Not that I don’t give it my very best try,” he continues, gesturing to the blanket nest and the danish roll shape of Holly. 

“I’ll leave you to it, then,” Namjoon declares, feeling out of sorts. He’s used to knowing where he stands when it comes to Yoongi, but now it’s like first year all over again, tentative and off balance. He stands up abruptly, fully intending to leave the room as soon as possible and go do a spot of Overthinking and Beating Himself Up, but something stops him in his tracks.

Yoongi isn’t grabbing Namjoon’s wrist. He’s pressing two fingertips against Namjoon’s pulse point – index and middle finger, touch petal soft against his veins, and yet it’s enough to make him freeze, make him turn around again. Yoongi isn’t looking at Namjoon, but rather down at the point of contact between them, a bit startled, like he was caught off guard by his own gesture. The way he’s sitting up makes the duvet slide off of him and pool around his waist, showing the hoodie he’s wearing. It’s soft, gray, too big on him, and definitely one of Namjoon’s. 

“Stay?”

The near-inaudible whisper echoes like a boom up in the mountains, bringing a whole avalanche down on Namjoon. He dazedly wonders why the frames on the walls aren’t rattling with the force of it, why the furniture isn’t quaking and the books and records aren’t falling off the shelves. 

Slowly, he curls his fingers inward, nudging Yoongi’s hand still on his wrist. Yoongi’s fingers unfurl under his touch, a delicate corolla, before pushing through the spaces between Namjoon’s own and holding. “Yeah, hyung. I’ll stay.”

He squeezes it for a moment longer and then lets go so that he can walk to the other side of the bed and get in behind Yoongi, who’s already burrowed under the covers again. He’s not sure about the level of touching Yoongi’s okay with at the moment, so he leaves some space between them. 

They stay like that for a bit, neither of their breathing patterns evening out. Suddenly, Yoongi turns and tugs on Namjoon’s hand and pulls , gently but insistently, until the curve of his back rests against Namjoon’s body and there is no space between them at all, until Namjoon’s arm is slung over Yoongi’s waist and Namjoon’s forehead is buried in Yoongi’s hair and their hands are still joined somewhere in the vicinity of Yoongi’s chest. 

“Okay, Joon-ah? Is this okay?”

Nothing is okay , Namjoon thinks. He also thinks, things have never been as okay as they are right this moment. He says, “Yeah, hyung. ‘S okay. Let me get some sleep, yeah?”

Namjoon can feel the rattle of Yoongi’s small laugh reverberate through his own body. He distantly wonders if the echo of it will ever leave him. 

They sleep. 

When they wake up, their hands are still clasped together, but Holly has somehow curled up on the pillow near their joined heads and Yoongi has turned in his sleep, his hair tickling Namjoon’s chin, his soft exhales warm against Namjoon’s collarbone. 

“Better, hyung?”

Namjoon doesn’t ask, Did it help? Because this isn’t about him. 

Yoongi opens his mouth to answer and his lips brush against Namjoon’s collarbones. He tries his best to suppress the resulting shiver.  

“Yeah, Joon. Better.” He leans back a little, makes a point of making eye contact like he wants Namjoon to know he means it. “Thank you.”

Namjoon smiles, easy as breathing even though breathing is everything but easy right now. “Thank you for the nap, hyung. I really needed it.” 

“Always happy to be of service,” Yoongi quips, and the fact that he seems like he’s got the energy for it makes Namjoon want to breathe the world’s biggest sigh of relief. 

All the talking seems to rouse Holly, who decides to stand up and wriggle in the space between their faces, giving them both a mouthful of fur. 

“Holly-yah!” they protest in unison, and Holly is delighted at the attention, licking aimlessly from one face to the other, and the bed dissolves into helpless giggles and excited puppy yelps. 

They don’t really have a conversation about the whys and hows of what happened, but Namjoon can’t bear the thought of Yoongi shutting himself away again, so he broaches it that night at dinner as gently as he possibly can. 

“Hyung,” he calls over their empty bowls of rice and stew. “You know you can always ask, right?” You know I’d give you anything, right?

Yoongi scrapes his spoon against the sides of his bowl. “Sometimes I forget.”

“That’s why you have me to help you in your old age,” Namjoon quips, and it feels familiar, the banter. He knows familiar patterns help Yoongi when he’s feeling out of sorts, and he’s proven right by the small smile that stretches the other’s sauce-stained lips. 

“Yeah, Namjoon. That’s why I have you,” he says, and it doesn’t sound like a joke anymore. It sounds like his voice is wrapping the words I have you in a cocoon of blankets and putting them to bed. 

“As long as you know,” Namjoon smiles back. 

“I know,” Yoongi murmurs, low but steady. “I know.”

 

*

 

One Saturday morning, Namjoon is woken up by his phone blasting LIKEY’s chorus. Taehyung had set it as his dedicated ringtone on Namjoon’s phone citing things like jam of the century and my anthem . Namjoon reluctantly picks up right before the dance break instrumental starts, even though that’s his favourite part. “You do know I’m off work today, don’t you?”

“Of course I know, hyung,” Taehyung replies, way too chipper for what Namjoon had hoped would be a slow, lazy Saturday morning. “That’s exactly why I am bringing you breakfast for once so you don’t have to make it yourself. Yoongi hyung’s off too, right?”

“Yeah, he is. Good luck getting him out of bed, though,” Namjoon quips, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. 

Taehyung’s laugh crackles over the phone. “Don’t worry, I have my ways. Plus, I’m hyung’s favourite, but don’t tell Jiminie that.” He pauses for a second while Namjoon makes a beeline for the bathroom. “Actually, I’m pretty sure he has Jiminie Senses for any and all instances where he’s not the one being praised. He might pop out of the bushes any second now, demanding validation.”

“Like you won’t drop whatever you’re carrying at any given moment, catch him in your arms and start listing off alphabetised reasons why he’s the best person in the whole world,” Namjoon points out.

“Yes, and what about it?”

Namjoon shakes his head and smiles, even though he knows Taehyung can’t actually see him. “Nothing. You’re absolutely valid.”

“That’s what I thought. See you in a bit, hyung.”

Namjoon has a quick shower and changes out of his pyjamas so that he feels less tempted to become one with his bed again. Fifteen minutes later, he’s buzzing Taehyung in and taking everything that he’s carrying into his own arms so that his cousin can go and wake Yoongi up. 

For some unfathomable reason, Taehyung and Yoongi have agreed upon their own specific knocking pattern. It sounds suspiciously like the beginning of TT’s chorus, but it remains unconfirmed because every time they’re asked about it Yoongi denies everything with a straight face and Taehyung just winks exaggeratedly. 

Namjoon busies himself with setting the drinks out on the table and getting plates for the breads and pastries. He can see Taehyung went to 11:11 , because there’s a note from Taeyeon on top of the paper bag that says “ can’t believe I got stuck feeding overworked, overgrown children at the ripe age of 26. eat well x” and quite the obscene amount of sweet and savoury treats inside. After a brief moment of reflection, he also decides to set out a small bowl of mixed berries because they’re Yoongi’s favourite. 

The sound of Taehyung’s laugh is suddenly much closer, joined by a mumbling noise that Namjoon, still rummaging through the cupboards, assumes is coming from a disgruntled Yoongi. He is proved right upon turning around, and if sleepy Yoongi at the cafe counter in his work clothes on a weekday is devastating, sleepy Yoongi in his softest pyjamas and bedhead, sitting at the kitchen island with his eyes still closed and his nose scrunched up in a little frown, is downright lethal. 

Namjoon is used to this. He’s built up a tolerance to this. He’s going to be fine. 

“You alright there, hyung?” 

A low sound tumbles out of Yoongi’s pout and he makes grabby hands towards Namjoon. One of his eyes peels open for a moment, but despite his valiant effort, it blinks shut once again. 

Namjoon is the complete opposite of fine. His picture should be displayed in the dictionary wherever the antonym for ‘fine’ is listed. 

He fumbles so badly he almost drops Yoongi’s coffee, but he catches himself just in time. He doesn’t trust Yoongi’s motor capabilities at the moment, so he makes sure to cup the other’s hand in his own and guide him so that his long fingers can curl securely around the drink. Yoongi’s fingers hold onto his almost subconsciously, and Namjoon thanks the universe for the fact that the other’s eyes are still firmly shut. He forces his gaze away from Yoongi, who’s attempting to bring the coffee to his mouth and missing it by a handful of centimetres, to sit opposite Taehyung. 

His cousin slides Namjoon’s drink towards him with a sad expression on his face. Sadness is a terribly incongruous look on Taehyung; it just doesn’t belong there. Namjoon knows perfectly well that Taehyung is not a ray of sunshine 24/7 – contrary to appearances, he’s quiet most of the time, soothing and gentle, which is one of the reasons why he and Yoongi became such good friends. 

Sadness, though – sadness makes Taehyung look wilted, a pretty plant left without water for too long. It’s so wrong.

He tilts his head, tapping Taehyung’s knuckles with his finger. You okay?

Taehyung doesn’t reply. He takes a bite out of a cheese scone and looks over at Yoongi, who now has both eyes halfway open and is popping a blueberry into his mouth. He stares at the bowl of berries, placed in front of Yoongi and way too far from the both of them. 

When Yoongi polishes his first coffee and announces he’s going to the bathroom, Taehyung finally speaks. “You should say something.”

“About what?” Namjoon replies, the denial almost a knee-jerk reaction at this point. It’s half-hearted at best – he doesn’t really think it’ll work, especially not with Taehyung. 

“Did you know that every single time Hoseok hyung goes grocery shopping, he grabs a carton of banana milk?” Taehyung fires back in lieu of answering. “He didn’t even actively notice he was doing until I pointed it out. He hates the stuff, but it’s Jungkook’s favourite.” 

“I didn’t know, but how–”

“Both Hoseok hyung and I use Downy when we do laundry. I’d never even cared about fabric softener before, but Jungkook mentioned once that he loved the way it smelled,” Taehyung plows on, unimpressed by Namjoon’s interjection. “Jungkook always picks the spiciest bits out of my plate and pretends he’s just stealing my food to be a brat. He doesn’t like sitting still, but he will painstakingly pick seeds out of Hobi hyung’s watermelon slices before bringing them to him. Hoseokie bought a soft rug for his own bedroom just because he knows I like walking around barefoot.”

Namjoon looks away. “What’s your point, Tae?”

“My point , hyung, is that when you go out of your way to make another person’s life easier and better, even with the smallest gestures...That’s what love is.”

The bite of food Namjoon’s swallowing feels like a stone going down. “We’re best friends, Tae. We’ve lived together for five years. Of course we love each other.”

“The kind of love you’re trying to keep from him is not meant to be kept inside,” Taehyung says, wrapping his hand around Namjoon’s. “Hyung and I tried to do that when we realised we both had feelings for Jungkook, and we almost broke up over it.”

Namjoon whips his head towards him, surprised. “You and Hoseok... You’re different. It’s so obvious, the way you feel about one another. Jungkook was the same. Hyung just doesn’t feel that way about me, Tae. He loves me, I know he does, just not the way I do.”

Taehyung doesn’t try to correct him. He just smiles. “Look at the bowl, hyung.”

Namjoon blinks quickly, confused at the request, but he obediently shifts his gaze on the bowl of mixed berries he’d set out earlier. “What about the bowl?”

“Yoongi really likes berries, doesn’t he? All of them, really. Would polish them off without qualms, even steal them off of Hoseok’s plate,” Taehyung muses. Namjoon is still confused. “What’s in the bowl now, hyung?” 

Namjoon looks again. When he set it out, there had been strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Now it’s just raspberries in a neat pile. 

“What’s your favourite berry, hyung?” Taehyung asks him patiently, squeezing his hand. 

Namjoon’s eyes sting. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“That’s the whole point, hyung,” Taehyung insists, voice lowering when he hears the noise of the bathroom door getting stuck (it always does). “When small, inconsequential things are given meaning and weight and importance… That’s what loving someone means.”

To Namjoon’s abject horror, the sting gets worse. “I can’t–”

“You don’t have to do it today, or tomorrow, or even next month,” the other reassures him, rubbing his thumb over Namjoon’s knuckles. “I’m just saying that this is hurting you, and it doesn’t need to.” 

“I’ll think about it,” he chokes out, trying to get it together before Yoongi comes back.

As if on cue, Yoongi walks in, hair towel-damp and face shiny. “What will you think about?”

“I asked hyung what movie he’d like to watch on movie night on Saturday.” Taehyung always was a terrifyingly great liar, made even better by his innocent demeanor. 

Yoongi makes a beeline for the coffee machine and starts on his second round of morning caffeine. “What about Inception? I’ve wanted to watch that one for a while.”

Taehyung looks absolutely delighted. “That’s Namjoon hyung’s favourite movie.” 

“Is it? I had no idea,” Yoongi replies. His tone is perfectly level, but his hand immediately flies up to his right ear.

Yoongi’s an excellent liar, too, but he’s got his tells. Plus, Namjoon distinctly remembers having a conversation with Hoseok three months ago about Yoongi’s idol crush on Tom Hardy and the way he’d forced Hoseok to marathon all of his recent movies with him. 

Namjoon stares at Yoongi’s back, bathed in sunlight, his (pink pink pink) elbows moving about while he brews his coffee. It’s such a familiar view, and yet it feels like he’s seeing his roommate for the first time. 

Hope blooms in his chest. 

Namjoon lets it. 

 

*

 

Even though it’s harder to get all of them in one place than to organise a meeting of state leaders, they manage to pin everyone down for a Saturday night in May over at Seokjin’s apartment.

Seokjin’s had a job at a business firm for a while now, which had allowed him to secure a studio apartment of his own at the beginning of the year. He’d offered to host so he could christen the place, albeit belatedly, with dinner night. He enlisted Yoongi and Jungkook’s help to cook, since they were the best at it and Hoseok would be stuck in teacher training until evening. Jimin and Taehyung hadn’t been hard to coax into coming, since it would be their last free weekend before finals and thesis hell. 

Namjoon makes a stop at a convenience store when he gets off work, grabbing snacks and drinks (he remembers Jimin and Yoongi are going to be in the same place at the same time and grabs two extra bottles of red wine, just in case). Yoongi had texted him to say that they didn’t need extra help in the kitchen but that Namjoon should put that arm to use, since u have so much of it , whatever that meant. 

The evening goes off without a hitch. Taehyung and Jimin bring more wine and Hoseok brings a whole houseplant. Taehyung somehow knows the Latin name of the plant, which prompts a very painful sequence of events for everyone because Hoseok dumps the plant in Seokjin’s arms to smother his boyfriend in kisses and Jungkook, the poor sapiosexual, looks like he’s going to pop a boner any moment. 

They polish off an obscene amount of home-cooked food and convenience store ramyeon and the green tea ice cream Jungkook bought ( Hobi hyung likes sweet things, he mumbles when he gets it out of the freezer, and Hoseok absolutely beams and spoon-feeds both him and Taehyung at the same time like they’re baby birds). 

After they’ve consumed pretty much everything edible in the entire apartment and rock-paper-scissored for dish duty, they sprawl all over the carpet and couch in the living room in a haphazard cuddle pile. They’re all pretty tipsy at this point, except for Taehyung who’s been nursing one very watered down drink for the entire night. A flushed and content Hoseok is holding close a very clingy Jungkook, who’s burrowed into his side like he wants to become one with his hyung and keeps whisper-shouting you smell so good, hyung in Hoseok’s ear like they can’t all hear every word he’s saying. Jimin, who’s incredibly lucid given that he’s consumed a good third of the alcohol by himself, has his head pillowed on Namjoon’s chest and is holding hands with Tae because that’s what they do. Seokjin has Taehyung’s head in his lap and is carding his fingers through the younger’s ocean blue hair. 

Seoul is a difficult place to call home. That’s what Namjoon had found himself thinking often right at the beginning, when he’d felt lonely and lost and unmoored. Now, content and warm all the way through, Namjoon reckons he might still be lost and maybe he’ll never stop feeling a bit lonely, but at least he has a home to come back to; somewhere he belongs, somewhere he can breathe and live in a moment that feels complete. 

He thinks, home is where you can breathe easy. He thinks, home is – 

Yoongi looks impossibly tiny where he’s curled up, holding a wine glass with one hand and Taehyung’s free hand with the other. He’s wearing one of Seokjin’s hoodies, judging by the way the shoulder seam is around his elbow area and how it wraps around his knees where he’s got them up against his chest. Yoongi looks flushed and happy, but his gaze is level when he catches Namjoon’s eyes on him. He tilts his head and smiles, lazy and slow like a kitten stretching in a patch of sun, and Namjoon has to curl his fist into his side to stop himself from reaching out. He smiles back, genuine and dimpled. 

Wanna go home, Namjoon-ah?, Yoongi would say, at the end of countless nights. Namjoon has been biting his tongue for years, keeping himself from blurting out, I’m already there. 

Their catch-up conversations easily take a more existential turn, as late-night tipsy ones tend to do. Hoseok gets kind of emotional about how much he’s loving teaching now that he actually gets to interact with students, and Jimin turns shy and hopeful when he tells them he’s applied for a placement at a children’s hospital for his nursing training. 

“When I was still in uni, I thought nothing could possibly be worse,” Namjoon muses, looking down into his glass. “The truth is – at least university was safer, in a way. You have your own place as a student, you have a role and goals and reference points, but after…” He pauses for a bit too long, it feels, but no one cuts in. “I suppose I just thought that by taking a break an epiphany would just, like, fall into my lap and I would magically figure out what I want to do, but I’m even more lost now than I used to be, if that’s even possible.”

“It hasn’t even been a full year, hyung,” Jimin, ever the reasonable one, interjects. “Things take time. It makes sense to be patient when you’re figuring out the rest of your life.”

“I know that,” Namjoon replies, trying not to sound frustrated and failing, because tipsy Namjoon’s grip over his emotions is slippery at best. “Rationally, I know that’s true, but I can’t help being hyper aware of time passing and me not doing anything relevant, you know? I love working at the café – I meet people from all walks of life and I always have a story to tell, but…” He sighs loudly, because tipsy Namjoon is also a touch more dramatic than usual. “It’s not important. It doesn’t have an impact of any kind. I just walk on wet sand and my footprints get washed away to nothing.”

Somewhere to the side, Jungkook whispers, “He really gets into his metaphors when he’s drunk, doesn’t he?”

“Not just when he’s drunk,” Taehyung and Yoongi reply in unison. 

“It would be great if you could do both,” Hoseok counters.

Namjoon sighs again, taking a sip of his drink and almost missing his own mouth. “In an ideal world, yeah.”

“What if you could do both?” Seokjin cuts in, now in the process of scratching lightly behind Taehyung’s ear. 

Namjoon furrows his brow, confused. “What do you mean, hyung?”

“What if you opened one of those social enterprise cafes?” He’s got to give it to Seokjin; given the sheer amount of wine he’s imbibed, he’s only slurring a little bit. 

Namjoon gapes. “I don’t know anything about running a business, hyung. Besides, where would I get the money for that?”

Seokjin waves his free hand in Namjoon’s direction. “Isn’t it lucky that I have a degree in business, actual experience, and a bit of capital set aside? Sounds like destiny.”

“That actually sounds like a good idea, Joon,” Yoongi pipes up from where he’s sitting, syllables all melting like ice cream in summer. “I’ve always wanted to do the interior design for a cafe, and Taeyeon noona won’t let me touch 11:11 .”

“I would put in my share and you can put in yours whenever you’re ready – plus, we could apply for government funding. Social enterprises are popping up all over Seoul these days, it shouldn’t be too difficult.” 

Seokjin is right, Namjoon knows. He read an article about it the other day – he remembers feeling happy when he did. He remembers thinking that it was more in line with his idea of being politically active than his entire degree. 

“We’ll have to decide which cause to focus on, of course, and we’d need volunteers to keep it running, but it’s doable.”

Namjoon was warm from the wine and the pleasant night, but now he’s burning. He distantly recognises the feeling as want . He suddenly realises that he wants this, that as soon as he heard Seokjin utter the words he was hit with a wave of something like purpose, something that he thought he’d never feel again. 

“Are you actually serious, hyung?” he insists. “You’d have to shoulder most of the financial weight, and I can’t ask that of you.”

“You didn’t ask, Namjoon-ah. It was my idea. I literally suggested it.” Seokjin replies calmly, like he didn’t just throw a bowling ball at Namjoon’s whole life and sent all the pins flying. “Besides, I’m bored out of my mind.

“Classic Sagittarius,” Hoseok interjects, half muffled by Jungkook’s shoulder. 

“No one knows what that means, Seokie,” Yoongi counters, as he’s done a hundred times before. 

Hoseok pouts. “One day, someone will actually appreciate my astrology talk.” 

“I ‘ppreciate it, hyung,” Taehyung mumbles. “Always appreciate you.”

Hoseok’s pout dissolves into a look that’s just – love, and fondness, and it’s so intense Namjoon feels like he’s intruding, somehow. He watches Hoseok whisper you too, baby, and kiss the palm of his own hand before reaching around Jungkook to place it on top of Taehyung’s hair, a missive of a kiss. 

“...Anyway,” Seokjin says pointedly, staring at the whole scene with a mock-disgusted expression. If Jungkook were awake, he might prompt him to use the this ain’t about you meme. “Let’s talk about this more tomorrow when we’re more caffeinated and less tipsy, yeah? I’m serious about trying it out. Just too sleepy to be, like, charismatic and persuasive right now.”

“I found you very charismatic and persuasive just now, hyung,” Jimin pipes up, his voice vibrating against Namjoon’s chest. His eyes widen right after, like he’s surprised at his own words, but Seokjin doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he doesn’t seem to react at all, if it weren’t for the sudden violent redness of his ears. 

“Glad someone can show appreciation around here,” he says, smiling genuinely at Jimin, and now it’s the younger’s turn to get flustered. 

Namjoon tunes out the room, turning Seokjin’s words over slowly in his head. It’s been so long since he felt on the brink of something like this, perched on the edge, ready for flight. Ready to fall , his brain supplies very unhelpfully, but Namjoon’s had a good night and he shuts it down. He used to feel like Atlas, the entire cosmos weighing him down, but not anymore. He doesn’t have to shoulder it alone – even better, his friends won’t let him. 

He’s so deep in thought that he doesn’t notice the body curling up next to him and he nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears the voice right next to his ear. “Those two are going to end up together, you know.”

He smiles despite himself. “I’m not making any more bets against you, hyung. I learn from my mistakes.”

“Do you?” Yoongi whispers, tilting his head until it rests on Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon makes a small questioning sound in his throat, because fuck words right now. “You’re getting scared again. You’ve let it keep you from doing things in the past. If you learn from your mistakes, Joon-ah, don’t let it do that again.”

Sober Namjoon probably wouldn’t have done it. Tipsy Namjoon, however, mellowed out and warm and fond, moves his hand to tap his fingers in the middle of Yoongi’s open palm in a silent question. Yoongi, always attuned to Namjoon’s frequency, intertwines their fingers slowly but without hesitation. The warmth of him has seeped through the cotton of Namjoon’s t-shirt and threatens to spread all the way through, like a sip of whiskey that burns in one place and then everywhere. “You’ll be incredible.”

“Is that one of your predictions, hyung?” Namjoon tries to joke, but it’s half-hearted. 

“Yeah,” Yoongi breathes out, so quiet he almost misses it. “And you wouldn’t bet against one of my predictions, right, Joonie?”

Namjoon lets his own head fall to the side until his cheek is resting against Yoongi’s hair. It smells like his ridiculous honey and toffee shampoo bar. “No, hyung. I wouldn’t.”

He drifts into sleep like that, sinking into warmth and sweetness and promise and love, always love.


YEAR SIX.

 

The light of dawn is just starting to rise behind the tall buildings when Namjoon deactivates the alarm and unlocks the door to everythingoes.

He loves this time of day, when it’s just him and the place he’s given his heart to. He doesn’t turn on the overhead lights, because he likes to witness the morning light slowly creeping in. He lets it guide him through the usual motions: getting chairs off of tables, emptying the dishwasher, watering the plants, starting the coffee machine. He makes himself coffee and cracks open a book while he waits for the morning delivery. 

By the time Jungkook comes through the door around half past eight, the space is almost fully bathed in light. “Good morning, Kook,” he greets, placing the last half-baguette in the glass display case. 

Jungkook shoots back a greeting, marching to the back to change before the opening shift starts at nine. When he walks back out, Namjoon stares concernedly at the dark half-moons under his eyes. He knows very well that Jungkook and he share the same unhealthy tendency to give more than a hundred percent to things even when they have less than ten percent left for themselves. 

“Are you sure you’re still okay with doing all these morning shifts, Jungkook? It’s your senior year, after all. You must be really busy.”

Jungkook grimaces. “I am, hyung, but please believe me when I say that working here is my only escape from that mess. Hoseok hyung told me I started yelling about Animate chasing me in my sleep the other night.” He grabs one of the savoury breads and inhales half of it in record time. “Besides, you know I want to be a part of this. You know how important I think it is.”

Namjoon does know. 

He knows because after that wine-hazy night they went out for brunch and discussed it properly, and even though it had seemed far-fetched and terrifying, Namjoon had felt alive . He’d felt, for the first time in his life, like he had a purpose. Surrounded by his moderately hungover group of friends expressing enthusiasm and support for the idea, he’d sensed the give in his chest, something loosening, giving his lungs space to fill up and expand. 

He knows because it was anything but easy to set it all up. Everyone did their best to help and Seokjin cashed in every single favour his family connections granted him in order to get through the bureaucracy as painlessly as possible, but so many obstacles still remained, from admin and finance to stuff like finding good suppliers and working out sustainability.

He knows because he’d been sure of what he wanted this place to be from the first moment the idea was spoken out loud. Namjoon knew the importance of having a safe space, and that’s what he wanted his café to be: a nonsexualised place for queer youth to hang out, a haven they could turn to if they wanted to meet with other queer people before 10pm with no shots involved. He wanted the proceeds to fund therapy for young LGBTQI+ people who could not afford it. He’d had to be a lot vaguer than that when applying for social enterprise funding, but eventually it was approved; after Seokjin had called to tell him the good news, he clutched Holly to his chest and burst into relieved tears. 

He knows because all of his friends had been on board from day one, giving their unique contributions so that the place could be up and running as soon as possible. Jimin, something of a hidden math genius (“Gays can’t do math, but damn if Park Jimin is going to be told he can’t do something,” Taehyung had appropriately commented when confronted with this fact), had helped Seokjin with the financial side of things. Yoongi and Jungkook had been in charge of the interior design and decoration, pouring over Namjoon’s Pinterest boards and traipsing around Seoul to find the right pieces; they went from design stores to secondhand shops, sometimes falling asleep on the soon-to-be café floor after working on repurposing furniture for hours on end, empty takeout boxes strewn about on the plastic tarps. Taehyung and Hoseok had raided their huge social circles, spreading the word and hyping the place up before it was even halfway ready for opening; Taehyung also took pictures of the entire process, documenting the way it came together day by day. 

Namjoon, at the center of it all, tried to convince himself that this was actually happening. He’d sent countless emails and made dozens of phone calls and knocked on several doors, trying to rope in as many non profits as he could, building partnerships, making himself known to those he hoped would be connected to the project and allow him to reach as many people as possible. After all, a place of shelter doesn’t work if the people who need it don’t know about it. 

So he did that, and he started collecting plants for the café in order to destress: hanging ones, small ones, big ones, pretty terrariums and quirky succulents, even a bonsai or two. He named every single one and Yoongi staged an intervention when he realised they were all either philosophers’ or historical figures’ names. (“You’re not naming that cactus Kierkegaard. I’m putting my foot down, Joon-ah.”)

He knows, because everythingoes isn’t just a place to Namjoon. He feels fiercely protective of the place, viscerally connected to it in a way he’s never felt before. It’s not just that he participated in its gestation and birth – every single bit of it is proof that things can feel right. That he didn’t have to settle for anything other than what he felt was his path. That he has people around him who pour their heart into things as he does, that believe in him even when he won’t believe in himself. That you can, indeed, build a home, and sometimes it’s not just a place and not just a person, but the culmination of both and much, much more. 

“Alright then,” he relents, because they both know Jungkook won’t surrender an inch on this. “Promise me, though, that if it gets too much you’ll tell me. I can ask Taehyung and Wheein to put in a few more hours. I’ve put out more job postings for volunteers, anyway.”

Wheein had been a godsend – or, more accurately, Taehyung-sent, seeing as they volunteered at the same animal shelter. Once, while she and Taehyung were on shift at the same time, she’d mentioned her real passion was baking: she had a pretty instagram account where she documented all her experiments, pretty treats in all colours and flavours and dietary variations. At the time, they were more or less halfway into the process of getting the cafe open and Taehyung had jumped at the chance to get her on board. They still had to outsource some of the food since one person could only do so much, but Wheein was really talented and her baked goods brought a much-needed boost to their profits and engagement. 

“I promise, hyung. Speak of the devil,” Jungkook says as Wheein comes through the door, holding hands with her girlfriend Hyejin. The two of them had been best friends since middle school and been dating almost as long. Hyejin’s fierceness had been intimidating at first, but she made fast friends with everyone, even offering to help Seokjin out thanks to her background in business. Plus, she absolutely melted around Wheein, making her smile big and leaning down to kiss her girlfriend’s dimples when they came out. 

“Good morning, Namjoon oppa, Jungkook-ah,” she chirps, still holding Hyejin’s hand. “I’m thinking matcha crȇpe cake today. Sounds good?”

“Sounds great, noona,” Jungkook pipes up while getting her usual vanilla latte ready. “The pictures will turn out great, you always make it so pretty.”

“She does, doesn’t she?” Hyejin cuts in, leaning forward to brush their noses together. They both smile, big and helplessly endeared. “Have a good day, love.”

“You too. Go terrify some businessmen for me,” Wheein shoots back, grabbing her apron and deftly looping the strap to tie it on her front. 

Hyejin’s laugh echoes on her way out.

“You’re getting so good at this, Jungkookie,” Wheein comments, holding her drink. There are small daisies perched on top of the foam, arranged in a graceful pattern. 

Jungkook blushes and thanks her. “Aesthetic is important,” he mutters, red up to his ears. “Plus, it brings a lot of traffic on Instagram.”

“That it does,” a new voice cuts in. Suran, in all her emerald green haired glory, crosses the threshold of the coffee shop holding hands with Yoongi. Namjoon’s heart never quite got the memo that it was supposed to get used to Yoongi’s presence, it seems, because it trips and stutters in a too-familiar way. 

“Dahye is talented, but the effort that you guys put into making things pretty does a lot of the heavy lifting.” She pauses, scrunching her nose up a bit. “Don’t tell her that, though. She’ll pout.” 

Shin Suran had been brought in by Yoongi. They were both architects with a focus on design, and they’d met at the firm where Yoongi interned right after graduation. They had bonded over their unusual choices of hair colours in a workplace that was still fairly conservative style-wise, even though creative firms were arguably a bit better than others in that regard. 

Suran’s specialty was interior design, which had come in handy when they’d planned out the café space, but the real game changer had been her longterm girlfriend-turned-wife, Dahye. She was something of a miracle worker when it came to SNS and since she’d started managing the cafe’s social media presence their engagement had skyrocketed – something about the aesthetically pleasing instagram stories and the colour-coordinated feed was apparently very appealing to young people all over the city. 

“Noona, I’m a grown man, please stop holding my hand,” the resident pout contender, Yoongi himself, pipes up from behind her. 

Suran just rolls her eyes affectionately, disentangling their fingers. “I’ll stop holding your hand when you learn to keep your eyes open while walking. Yes, even early in the morning,” she adds quickly when Yoongi opens his mouth for a rebuttal, which results in further, more devastating pouting on his part. 

“Early? It’s almost nine,” Wheein pipes up from the back, voice tinged with disbelief.

Yoongi’s cheeks get a little pink, but his pout remains steadfast. “‘S early,” he mutters, taking his usual stool at the counter. Cafés usually don’t have stools at the counter anymore because no one wants to be forced to be up close and personal with other people, but one of Namjoon’s favourite parts of working at 11:11 had been having a space for his friends to come and chat while he was on shift, so he’d brought it into the new space. As expected, no one except for friends and family really used it, so it worked out well.

“You know how Catholics use that really complicated system to calculate Easter Day every year? That’s hyung with his definition of “early”,” Namjoon tells Wheein, who lets out her trademark evil witch cackle while whipping cream. 

“Yah, the betrayal!” Yoongi whines in that over-the-top, eyes-wide manner that tells everyone he’s far from serious. “Namjoon-ah! We’ve been living together for—”

“Six years,” everyone else in the room supplies in unison, in the same long-suffering tone. Even though this is a fairly common occurrence, Namjoon’s cheeks still grow hot and Yoongi’s eyes still drop down to the cup he’s cradling in his hands. 

“This hyung is so sentimental lately,” Namjoon tries, shooting his half-hearted shot to save some face. “Maybe six years being the sugar anniversary is what’s making you so sweet.”

Yoongi looks confused. Suran is trying her very best to hide her snicker behind her hand. 

Namjoon really should learn that things do not sound the same way out loud as they do in his own head. “You know, in Europe they have names for their anniversaries? Like paper, or wood, or— well, sugar. The sixth year is sugar.”

Yoongi looks only slightly less confused. “Anniversaries, as in…”

Suran gives up, huge grin on full display. “Wedding anniversaries. Fits well, doesn’t it? You’re the most married couple I know, including Dahye and I, and we are actually married.”

Namjoon knows he’s the one who started this and the normal thing to do would be to go along with the joke, but he turns his back on them and starts polishing a random glass instead. He lets out a little belated chuckle, more nerves and automatic social cue than anything else, and doesn’t look at Yoongi. He doesn’t want to be here right now, listening in on his feelings being dismissed and turned into a running joke; he doesn’t want to see carefree mirth in Yoongi’s face, the confirmation that it could never be anything but a joke to him. 

The truth is, it has been six years. They’re adults with jobs now, still living in the same shoebox apartment from university; it’s not a forever kind of situation, Namjoon knows. He’s been waiting with bated breath for the other shoe to drop, for Yoongi to tell him that he’s ready to move on now that he’s got money to rent a slightly bigger place, that he’s outgrown roommateship and wants his own space, that he’s met someone and—

“You’re just looking for an excuse to rub your happy marriage in all of our faces, noona,” Jungkook’s voice suddenly cuts through the fog in Namjoon’s head. Hidden by the high counter, a finger taps the soft part of Namjoon’s palm, calling for his attention; when he looks up, Namjoon’s gaze meet’s Jungkook’s own, open and soft. 

Okay? He mouths, his back to the others, pretending to help Namjoon with the glasses even though they’re already spotless. 

Namjoon is hit with a special kind of fondness that only Jungkook is capable of evoking. Sometimes he forgets that, for all of his loud posturing and his constant overflowing energy, Jungkook is a keen observer. Several years with Hoseok and Taehyung, who can read a room like it’s the morning newspaper, have honed his skills into a finely-tuned weapon, turning all three of them into an intimidating feeling detection machine. Namjoon did not stand a chance trying to hide his feelings from them. 

He nods and gives Jungkook a genuine smile, mouthing back okay. Jungkook squeezes his hand once before going in the back to help Wheein with the crȇpes. He was nearly banned last time since he tried to do tricks while flipping them, but he seems to have redeemed himself because Wheein doesn’t kick him out and accepts the help good-naturedly. 

The conversation seems to have moved on in the meantime. Yoongi’s mug is two thirds of the way empty, so Namjoon gets started on his second coffee. 

“It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that – sometimes I wonder what it’s all for, you know?” Yoongi is telling Suran, his brow furrowed in frustration. “We work on all these big projects for corporate buildings and impressive skyscrapers and I just don’t know what the point of it all is. Go bigger, more impressive, more jaw-dropping. Can’t help but think it’s just an architectural dick measuring contest, most of the time.”

“Isn’t everything under capitalism a dick measuring contest?” Suran offers.

Yoongi sighs. “It really is, isn’t it.”

Suran shrugs, raising her mug in Yoongi’s direction like it’s a wine glass. “I’m sure you will get your chance to do something meaningful, Yoongi-yah. You’ve always been the type to put your own spin on things and this is no different.”

Yoongi nods, his lips stretching into that straight not-smile that makes his cheek look like glazed dango. Namjoon bites back a sigh. A voice that sounds suspiciously like Taehyung’s goes repressing your emotional reactions constantly isn’t healthy in his head. Unsurprisingly, Namjoon tells the voice to kindly shut up and mind its business. 

“Thank you, Joon-ah,” Yoongi tells him when he’s handed his second coffee. He closes his eyes when he takes his first sip, the steam from the mug turning the tip of his button nose shiny. “Good coffee. Best coffee.”

“Eloquent,” Namjoon catches Wheein’s snort from the back, quickly shushed by Jungkook. 

“You have to teach me how to make it myself,” Yoongi adds, and Namjoon’s heart sinks deep and then floats again, like an ice cube dropped into liquid. Because one day you’re not going to be there to make it for me every morning , is what Yoongi isn’t saying, but Namjoon hears it anyway. 

Namjoon likes to be prepared. His friends and family like to joke about I told you so being his favourite sentence, but he doesn’t think it’s a joke. He knows he’s usually right about things because he makes space for them in his head and turns them over again and again and again until he’s dissected them and made a pros and cons list for each and every one, until he’s deduced possible outcomes that most of the time turn out to be true. It’s not a matter of being smug about getting it right; it mostly just feels inevitable, like two plus two, like displacement divided by change in time equals velocity. A natural conclusion that takes into consideration all the factors. 

The factors: Yoongi is brilliant. Yoongi is an adult. Yoongi is fond of his own space and independence. Yoongi has nothing tying him to where he is, except the comfort of habit. 

The natural conclusion: Yoongi is eventually going to leave. 

You , he tacks on at the end. He’s going to leave you, and you can’t - shouldn’t - stop him.  

Namjoon likes to be prepared, because there is such a thing as bracing oneself for impact. Sometimes he wonders, though, whether the anticipation will just end up making the pain worse. Wonders whether knowing that it will happen will actually change the way he feels about it. Maybe his preparation won’t matter at all. 

What matters is that he still has this. He looks at Yoongi’s smile, halfway hidden behind his mug. He looks at his bony fingers gently wrapped around it. Looks at the way his small silver hoops catch the light. Looks at the little folds appearing at the corner of his eye, growing in number the wider his smile gets. 

It’s enough. It’s more than enough. 

 

*

 

One night, Namjoon comes home to the sound of drilling. 

Yoongi working on a project at home doesn’t happen often; the living space is barely big enough to assemble furniture, so even back in their university days he would prefer labs or co-working spaces on campus over their apartment. 

It’s been unusually rainy this spring, but this week the weather has been kind, so the late-afternoon sunlight is painting the living room in soft, buttery golden hues. The window is open, but it doesn’t do much to get rid of the dust filling the air and already depositing on every surface (except for the kitchenette – Yoongi seems to have had the foresight of covering that, at least). Yoongi is sitting with his legs crossed in the middle of it all, balancing a drill on their old but sturdy coffee table, wearing safety equipment and scowling at what looks like...a brick?

Namjoon opens his mouth to speak, but he inhales a little too fast and ends up coughing. “Hyung?”

Yoongi turns the drill off at the sound of Namjoon’s voice, removing his mask and eye protector and placing everything gingerly on the coffee table. He peels off his gloves as well, scrunching up his nose in distaste when he notices just how much dust is in the air. 

“Decided to do a throwback to first year?” Namjoon asks, amused, pointing to his own hair when Yoongi stares back at him with a puzzled expression. The dust from the drill has deposited on Yoongi’s black hair in an impressively thick layer, making it look ash gray. 

Yoongi gingerly shakes his head forward, trying to get some of it off without blinding himself. “You’d think after, what, six years in the field I would remember to wear a hat or any kind of protection, but no,” he huffs, dragging a hand through his bangs and sighing when all it does is coat his previously clean fingers in fine pulverised clay. 

Namjoon knows better than trying to laugh right now, so he settles for a smile instead, looking around for a place to set down his bag that doesn’t look like the aftermath of a firework show. 

“What’s with the indoors project, hyung? I thought you did most of your work in an actual lab these days.”

Yoongi goes to rub a hand over his face, stopping just in time and scowling at his own hand like it’s personally offended his entire family. “This is a personal one, and we’re so busy at the firm lately that I can’t justify taking up desk space for a personal project, so.”

That piques Namjoon’s curiosity even more. “Personal project?”

Yoongi looks up at him. A bit of dust gets caught in his eyelashes, making him blink rapidly and out of sync. Namjoon’s heart gives a familiar squeeze. “I want to make a bee brick.”

Namjoon blinks. “A what now?”

“A bee brick,” Yoongi repeats, slowly and suddenly shy, like he’s accidentally psyched himself out. “It’s this brick with holes of various sizes in the front. You can put it pretty much wherever you want and it gives solitary bees a place to nest.”

“A brick,” Namjoon echoes, his brain a fuzzy sphere of white noise. “That is also a bee...hotel?”

Yoongi looks pinker now, even though the sunlight is washing most of it out. 

“Solitary bees don’t have many nesting sites in urban environments, and they’re not dangerous at all because they don’t have anything to protect,” he explains quietly. “They’re still really important for pollination, but they’re facing a decline due to habitat loss and chemicals and I thought— you know, just because we live in a shoebox apartment in a huge building it doesn’t mean we can’t do our part to save the bees? We can just put it outside the window, don’t even have to do anything and it just gives them a place to— Joon-ah, are you okay? You look weird.”

Namjoon is not breathing. He supposes he can pass it off as trying not to inhale any more dust.

“You...are building a bee brick. Because you want to make sure solitary bees have a place to stay in the big city.”

Yoongi’s frown deepens. “That’s what I just said? I don’t think not having a garden qualifies as an excuse when other options exist, and even though neo-capitalism tricks us into believing that the planet going to shit is our own fault for using plastic straws and not big conglomerates’ for not caring about their CO2 emissions and waste, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all play our part in enacting change.”

Namjoon stares. 

It’s clear that Yoongi’s been set on edge by Namjoon’s reaction, like he’s expecting him to make fun or tell him off. He’s holding himself tense, which hasn’t happened in a long time in Namjoon’s presence, in their shared space, in their home of six years. He wants to reassure Yoongi, tell him that he was just caught by surprise. He wants to laugh and say that it’s a great idea, that they can ask Jungkook to decorate it. He wants to help Yoongi clean up, make them tea while they quietly work in the same space. He wants the guts to ask Yoongi if he wants to look at bigger apartments together. 

He wants. 

Namjoon is a creature of want. He wants in an all-consuming, intense way, and denies himself just as intensely. Namjoon wants, and yet he will not indulge himself – there’s always a logical, sensible reason not to. 

He looks at Yoongi, pink lips curved in a gentle pout, specks of dust falling around him like snow. He looks at his silver earrings catching the light, at his long fingers curling around his ear as they always do when he’s feeling flustered. He looks at this portrait of Yoongi in the slowly shifting afternoon light, casting stark shadows across the soft planes of his face. He looks at Yoongi, but it’s not like seeing him for the first time. Namjoon has looked upon Yoongi thousands of times, but he lets his gaze linger on the gentle slopes of his features and thinks, if this was the last thing I ever saw, I would be okay with it. 

Namjoon wants – and for the first time, he lets himself have. Or tries to, anyway.

He’s hyper aware of every step that brings him closer to Yoongi; feels the soft strands of the rug under his knees when he lowers himself to Yoongi’s height, is acutely conscious of the tremor in his hands when he lifts them to cup Yoongi’s dumpling cheeks lightly. He’s ready to step away in case Yoongi shows even the tiniest sign of distress.

“Hey, hyung,” he whispers. They’re so close his breath shakes some dust off of Yoongi’s eyelids. “I would really like to kiss you now. Would you like that?”

Yoongi doesn’t close the distance. He doesn’t reply, either, which causes terror to sweep through Namjoon’s body, an icy draft slamming open all the windows. Then, movement: Yoongi frowns. 

“I can’t believe,” Yoongi croaks, hoarse like he’s been silent for days instead of mere minutes, “I can’t believe you, Kim Namjoon. Six years— six years, and now you do this—”

Namjoon lets his hands fall from Yoongi’s face like it burns (it does), forces himself to school his features like it doesn’t hurt (oh, it does). “I’m sorry, hyung. I shouldn’t have gotten all up in your space, I just— I shouldn’t have put you on the spot and I obviously made you uncomfortable so I should prob—”

He barely has the time to register the gritty texture of dust against his cheeks before he’s being pulled down and then he’s being kissed , kissed by Yoongi , and that’s when his brain goes quiet. 

The muffled kind of silence that falls reminds Namjoon of snowy nights. The analogy comes too easy with the dust coating everything around them, smeared on Namjoon’s cheekbone where Yoongi’s eyelashes brush his skin, with Yoongi’s ever-cold hands gently guiding him into a better angle. It lasts enough for warmth to spread throughout Namjoon’s entire body, long enough to stain, long enough that he knows he will never be rid of it. 

“Six years,” Yoongi repeats, lips glinting wet and face flushed and breath short and I did that, that’s because of me, “and you do this when I’m sleepy and over-caffeinated and covered in clay dust. I cannot believe you, Kim Namjoon.”

Namjoon breaks into a smile despite himself. “In my defence, sleepy and over-caffeinated is pretty much your default state, hyung.”

Brat crashes against his own lips like a wave against the shore, getting lost in the drag of their mouths, the burning slide of Yoongi’s tongue on the seam of his lips, the soft exhales tumbling loose in the scant inches between them when they break apart. 

“I think I’ve got dust in my mouth,” Yoongi murmurs, eyes glinting and crinkling at the corners, and they both dissolve into laughter and then into violent coughing. “I don’t think the amount that we’re inhaling is very healthy, Joon-ah.”

Namjoon hums under his breath, tilts his head in lieu of shaking it. He sneaks his hand down until his fingers are against Yoongi’s wrist, the accelerated beat of his pulse reverberating against Namjoon’s skin. He lets them linger, then nudges until Yoongi fills the spaces between them and brings their joined hands between their heaving chests. “Would it be such a bad way to go?”

“Are you planning on dying on me now ? I’m telling you again, Namjoon-ah: you’ve got horrible timing.”

Namjoon feels his smile dim just a touch. “I really do, don’t I? Maybe if I’d just – you know, earlier—”

“Hey,” Yoongi chides, softly, looking up at Namjoon with a serious expression. “I was just joking. Things happen when they are meant to happen. When we are ready for them to happen.”

Namjoon exhales, an itch in his throat that might be a sign of his imminent demise from excessive dust inhalation or something else he doesn’t want to think about right now. He nods, letting his head fall forward until their foreheads are touching. 

“There is no perfect moment until you experience it,” Yoongi continues, tilting his head slightly so that his nose brushes against Namjoon’s. His eyes flutter closed, but he opens them again right away, like he’s afraid to miss something. It makes Namjoon want to kiss him, so he does, and what a wondrous thing it is, the correlation between thought and action without the fear of repercussions. 

Yoongi cups the side of Namjoon’s neck with his free hand, right against his jugular, and surely he can feel it, the way his pulse skips and tumbles when their kiss deepens, everything impossibly hot now that the sun is going down and they’re fully enveloped in light. It doesn’t last long, however – Yoongi breaks away, making the same scrunched-up disgusted face as the time Seokjin fed him a shell during a group dinner as a joke. 

“Cute,” Namjoon says out loud, because he’s allowed now and wow , he might really get used to this no-filter-needed thing. 

Yoongi scowls at him, but it’s very ineffective given the way he looks right now. “I’d like to kiss you without eating clay dust, Joon-ah. We should clean up.”

Namjoon nods, landing one last kiss on Yoongi’s warm, warm cheekbone. “It’s alright, hyung. We’ve got time, haven’t we?”

Yoongi stares back at him, golden. He smiles slow and then quick, like the sun going down outside.

“All the time in the world.”

 

*

 

Later, when the dust has cleared and the sun has disappeared behind the tall buildings of Seoul, they’re lying in Yoongi’s bed, kissed out and boneless. Yoongi’s head is on Namjoon’s chest (“You’ve got all that – space there, might as well use it,” had been Yoongi’s flustered justification) and Namjoon is playing with the hair at the nape of Yoongi’s neck. 

Kissing Yoongi, it turns out, is not that different from sitting down to drink tea together in the dead of night: familiar, comforting, but also unsettling and overwhelming at times – in the best way. It feels natural, the way they’ve fallen into each other, but Namjoon’s mind hasn’t caught up with the rest of him yet. He keeps thinking that this can’t possibly just be happening , not when he’s spent years conditioning himself into believing it wouldn’t. He’s spent so long telling himself he couldn’t ever have it that now that he’s holding Yoongi in his arms he’s at a complete loss. 

“Your loud thinking is getting in the way of my nap,” Yoongi suddenly grumbles, the vibration of it ricocheting off Namjoon’s ribcage. He laughs and ends up jostling Yoongi’s head, which leads to more grumbling and more laughing and god, there is no way Yoongi can’t feel his heart with the way it’s swelling inside Namjoon’s chest. Namjoon’s afraid it’ll burst like a balloon at a child’s birthday party. 

“Sorry, hyung. I’ll try and keep it down.”

Yoongi huffs and shifts away from Namjoon’s chest. Namjoon is ready to protest this change of events, but Yoongi just pulls on his arm and guides Namjoon’s head on his own chest. “I won’t force you to share if you don’t feel like it, but just so you know – I’m very much into being open with my feelings. Clear communication? Big turn on.”

Namjoon sighs. “I suppose I’m just – I’m just struggling to believe this is real. I keep being hit by this, like, cognitive dissonance? Where my brain says there’s no way I’m actually getting this. I think I’ve spent so long telling myself not to hope that it’s a reflex by now.”

“You’re very good at talking yourself out of things, Kim Namjoon, but you’re exceptionally bad at talking yourself into doing them,” Yoongi says, not unkindly. “Why the denial?”

Namjoon doesn’t answer right away; he doesn’t want to word it in a way that will hurt Yoongi. “You said it yourself that you’re very honest with your feelings. You’re the bravest person I know. I figured if you wanted to be with me that way, you would have made it clear somehow, but you didn’t, so.”

The question remains unspoken, but lingers between them all the same. Why didn’t you, then? 

“You were going through a lot, Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi finally breaks the silence, a bit hesitant. “You had so much on your plate and you were working so hard to find your own balance. I didn’t want to come in and upset it, you know? I don’t know if it was the right decision, but it made sense at the time. Plus, I was never sure you felt the same.”

“It does make sense,” Namjoon replies, staring at the ceiling. “I wasn’t – that’s why I could never handle relationships. I was either too far inside my head or gave so much of myself away that they ended up not knowing who they were with, you know? I would have hated for it to happen with you. It was a good call – I wasn’t ready.”

“Do you feel ready now?”

Namjoon is silent for a stretch of time that would probably worry anyone else, but Yoongi knows him. He knows Namjoon hesitates not because he’s uncertain, but because he thinks things through before speaking them out loud. 

Yoongi and Namjoon both pick their words like flowers, but where Namjoon prefers to do it meticulously and with intent, putting as much thought behind the choices as possible to make the perfect bouquet, Yoongi does it gently and carefully without a detailed plan. He just puts together what feels right, no matter how simple or unassuming, and somehow ends up with something beautiful every single time. 

“I used to feel so aimless,” Namjoon starts. Yoongi slips his fingers through Namjoon’s own in silent support. “Everything I did seemed so pointless. For such a long time, I connected purpose to usefulness and that was a big part of it, I think. Unless what I was doing was productive in some way, I always thought I was wasting time doing it. I was convinced every second had to be spent towards something I could eventually use. Stupid, right?”

“You’re not stupid, that’s just what neo-capitalism conditions us into thinking. ‘Human capital’ is just a new and improved excuse they have to alienate people from their creativity and kill their spirits so they can’t protes—,” he cuts off abruptly when he realises Namjoon is shaking with laughter and his cheeks darken. “I’m sorry for interrupting you. Please go on.”

“By all means, hyung, don’t let me get in the way of your scheduled daily anti-capitalistic rant,” Namjoon replies, smiling fondly. 

“Shut up,” Yoongi grumbles, looking away. 

“Should I shut up or go on?” Namjoon teases, bursting out into a genuine laugh at Yoongi’s expression. “You’re so cute when you scowl, hyung.”

“I changed my mind. You should definitely stop talking.”

Namjoon would believe him if he didn’t know him deaf and blind. There’s no bite in the other’s words, and his thumb is tracing circles against the soft skin between Namjoon’s fingers. 

“Anyway, that was why I felt unsettled for a long time. I couldn’t be okay with myself unless I made myself useful in some way, so I couldn’t get a grasp on who I was or what I liked outside of that,” he continues softly. “It was only after I graduated and lost that structure that I realised I had to find out who Kim Namjoon really was. Not who others thought I should be, not who I thought I should be for others to like me, but just – me.”

“I was so scared, hyung. I was terrified that I would find out the real Kim Namjoon wasn’t impressive at all, that I wouldn’t be any good on my own. Studying was the only thing I’d ever been good at— don’t look at me like that, I know that’s not true now, but it felt true at the time. It was a lot of work, unlearning that fear and letting go, but I think I’m much better at it now.”

“You’ve come so far, Namjoonie,” Yoongi whispers, dropping a kiss on top of his hair. “I’m really proud of you.”

“The café helped a lot,” Namjoon automatically replies, because he’s physically incapable of taking a compliment. “You guys, too. Tae’s never let other people influence what he is or does a day in his life. Hoseok and Jungkook love so freely, so bright – they don’t have to think about reaching out to touch someone’s shoulder for five minutes before doing it. Seokjin never takes anyone’s shit. Even Jiminie – even though he has doubts, he always had a purpose and the discipline to work towards it. And you—,” he hesitates, reflexively stopping himself because it still feels like too much. It probably always will, in some type of way. “You’ve always been incredible, hyung. I’ve wanted your approval so badly since the very first day. You were so cool and nothing was ever easy for you, yet the way you dealt with life always seemed effortless. I suppose I was even jealous of it at some point.”

“I know,” Yoongi interjects simply, startling Namjoon. 

“You did?”

Yoongi chuckles, but it’s not mocking – just fond. “You’re not a very good liar, Namjoon-ah. Hiding things doesn’t come naturally to you. I never resented you for it or anything,” he reassures when he notices Namjoon’s guilty expression. “I knew it was more about you than it was about me and I assumed you’d grow out of it, which you did.”

“I used to feel horrible about it, because you were always nothing but kind to me and there I was, trying not to be mad at you for having your shit together.”

Yoongi laughs so loud at his words that he startles Holly out of slumber. He barks once before jumping up on the bed and sniffing around, ignoring all their complaints about it. He ends up curling up on Namjoon’s chest and falling right back asleep, snoring softly while they both look on with exasperated affection. 

“Why are you two obsessed with my chest?” Namjoon speaks quietly, trying not to move too much. 

“It’s a very reassuring chest,” Yoongi explains like he’s making perfect sense. “You know, the kind babies fall asleep against. Holly’s a baby.”

Namjoon turns to look at Yoongi, smiling mischievously. “Does that mean you’re also a baby, hyung?”

“Never address me in such a way again,” Yoongi replies solemnly, but his face goes wine-dark. Namjoon is absolutely delighted at the discovery.

“My baby,” he murmurs, aiming for teasing but landing a little closer to intimate instead. Yoongi hides his face into the pillow, but Namjoon, head still on his chest, doesn’t miss the way his heart rate picks up and stumbles a bit. 

He could get used to this. 

“I could get used to this.”

“They say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit,” Yoongi muses in response, lips quirking up. “I guess we just need to make it that far.”

“We made it six years, didn’t we? I’d say we have a good track record.”

Yoongi’s smile stretches then, gums peeking out. 

“That we do, Namjoon-ah. That we do.”

 

*

 

Whenever he’d let himself imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with Yoongi, Namjoon had thought that everything would change, that his life would be turned upside down. 

In reality, most things stay the same. 

The fact that they’ve been living together for six years makes for a lot of skipped relationship milestones. They’ve been trying out restaurants together for years, have had movie nights for years. They’re a unit, Yoongi-and-Namjoon, and they have been for so long that it’s not really falling into it as much as gently taking a last step to cross the threshold. 

Some things do change, though. 

Namjoon has years of suppression to unlearn. During the first few weeks, he has to make a conscious effort to remind himself that he’s allowed to touch Yoongi now, to be open with his feelings without worrying about being found out. He can just reach out and drag Yoongi in for a kiss, or tell him that he looks cute when he can’t really peel his eyes open in the morning. Whenever Yoongi steals one of his hoodies (which happens quite often), he’s allowed to sneak his hands under the fabric and hold him, skin to skin until Yoongi turns soft and pliant in his arms. 

It’s been a month, but they still haven’t told anyone else. It’s not like they’re keeping it a secret on purpose, but neither of them is really into public displays of affection; besides, they haven’t had the chance to align all their schedules well enough to organise a group meeting for ages, until tonight. 

They’ve miraculously managed to arrange a dinner at everythingoes after closing time. Namjoon is closing with Wheein today and Yoongi drops in while they’re cashing up, settling at the counter with his sketchbook. After she leaves, Namjoon leans over the counter to kiss Yoongi’s nose, startling him out of focus and making him blush. It’s remarkably easy to make Yoongi flustered, he’s found, and it’s been nothing short of thrilling to find all the little ways to make warmth bloom across the other’s cheeks. 

“Are we telling them tonight?” he asks Yoongi lightly, starting to push tables together and arrange the chairs. 

Yoongi makes a noise of assent. “Might as well.”

Not long after that, their friends start trickling in one after the other. It’s been a tradition for as long as they’ve had group dinners for everyone to bring something so that the host doesn’t have to do everything; Seokjin comes in with a frankly ridiculous-sized container of jjajangmyeon, the golden trio struts in with an array of snacks and side dishes, Jimin brings neatly stacked tupperwares filled with washed and cut-up fruit, Yoongi takes the wine he bought out of the fridge and Namjoon busies himself making ramyeon in the back, because no group dinner is really complete without ramyeon (past experiences have taught them that Jungkook will inevitably end up cooking some anyway, so they’ve adapted). 

The lights are low and the spirits are high when they finally sit down and start attacking the food, falling back into the ease of being together. Hoseok and Taehyung are taking turns feeding morsels of food to Jungkook, whose cheeks are puffy and filled with food like a squirrel’s. Jimin is laughing brightly at something Seokjin just said, almost falling off his chair with the force of it. 

Namjoon finds himself thinking he’s so very lucky to have found this. To have found them .

“You’re making your sappy face again,” Yoongi whispers from where he’s sitting next to him. 

Namjoon smiles, open and torn loose like sheets in the wind, and throws an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders, pulling him close. “I can’t help it, hyung.”

“What are you thinking about?” Yoongi asks, because he’s interested in listening to Namjoon articulate it in his own words. He knows a big part of making sense of things for Namjoon is being able to speak them out loud, so he encourages it even though he’s so perceptive he can probably read him as easily as the morning newspaper by now. 

“There’s something that’s been getting very popular on the internet these days. They call it sohwakhaeng, ” Namjoon explains, thoughtful. “It’s a contracted word that means “small but certain happiness”. It was first used by Murakami – don’t look so disgusted, hyung, oh my god – to indicate those unassuming, simple moments that give us pleasure in our daily lives. I like it, because it reminds me to stop and appreciate the times when I feel content instead of chasing after a vague concept of happiness.”

“Give me an example?” Yoongi asks, tilting his head slightly. 

Namjoon thinks it over for a few moments. “For me, it would be the first cup of coffee in the morning while the sun fills the café. When I wake up to Holly sleeping on my chest. The first bite of food when I’m really hungry.” He pauses, slightly embarrassed. “When I get to see you wake up next to me.” He turns to their friends, laughing and having fun in a safe space they’ve built for themselves. “When I get to have this.”

“So I’m one of your small but certain happinesses?”

Namjoon feels the mischievous grin take over his face. “I mean, you’re certainly sma—”

“I can’t believe we only lasted a month. Tragic,” Yoongi cuts him off, deadpan. Namjoon can’t stop smiling. 

A shriek coming from across the table startles them both out of their conversation. They all abruptly shift their attention towards the source of the sound, which turns out to be Seokjin, mouth comically ajar and finger pointed at Namjoon and Yoongi.  

“Are you two—”

Yoongi speaks neutrally, but Namjoon can feel the tension in his shoulders from how hard he’s trying to keep his laughter in. “Are we what, hyung?”

“Something happened! Don’t try to deny it,” Seokjin yells, slipping into his rant tone and shifting his pointer finger accusingly from Namjoon to Yoongi and back again. “I was fooled for a bit because you two are always soft around each other, but Namjoon just— he just put his arm around you without hesitating!”

“Does he usually hesitate long enough to notice?” Jimin asks, puzzled. 

“He literally goes through the five stages of grief every single time he raises a hand to touch another human being,” Seokjin replies, ignoring Namjoon’s half-hearted protest. It’s not like he’s wrong , after all. 

“I mean, we were going to tell you tonight, but—”

The table erupts into chaos. 

“I cannot believe you didn’t tell me, Yoongichi, I raised you on my back, picked you up from the streets like the ungrateful stray cat that you are—”

“I was literally eighteen when we met, hyung—”

“—biting and scratching and meowing in the middle of the night because he wants food and knocks all your belongings down the shelves because he wants attention—”

“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a li—”

“—and when you finally go and pet him he pushes you away even though he was asking for it thirty seconds earlier! This is what I get in return for my sacrifice!”

There’s a moment of stunned silence when Seokjin’s rant comes to an end, and then the table dissolves into unbridled laughter, everyone falling over each other.

“I’m surprised Hoseok hyung didn’t figure it out, honestly,” Jungkook comments when the chaos dies down. 

“Oh, I knew,” Hoseok shrugs. The table descends into chaos once again, and he tries to calm them down enough to speak. “I saw Yoongi the day after it happened and I had him figured out in three seconds flat.”

Namjoon gapes. He turns to Yoongi, whose cheeks are darkening slowly but surely. “How?”

“I went over to your apartment in the morning and hyung was at the keyboard,” Hoseok answers simply, after an approving nod from Yoongi. “It’s been such a long time since he started composing anything new, but that morning he was there with his notebook and the start of a new piece and I knew something was up. It only took him, like, three seconds to crack after I asked him about it.”

Namjoon is floored. “You were composing something? For…”

“Us, yeah,” Yoongi supplies and then coughs like he’s allergic to emotional vulnerability. He’s definitely not, Namjoon knows, but he figures this situation would be a lot for anyone. 

Namjoon’s cheek hurt from how wide he smiles. He can’t help it – he ducks his head down quickly, planting a lingering kiss on Yoongi’s soft, doughy cheek. Everyone cooes at them and Yoongi stares at the ground, shy smile in place, gums peeking out. 

“Oh my god, Jungkookie, don’t cry, ” Hoseok shrieks, enveloping his boyfriend, who is indeed in tears, in a hug.

“I’m just so happy for them,” Jungkook manages to get out, wiping at his cheeks while Taehyung kisses the tears away. 

Yoongi coughs, suspiciously wet. “Thanks, Kook.”

“We’re all happy for you,” Jimin echoes and everyone at the table nods, proud smiles on their faces. 

Namjoon’s hand closes around Yoongi’s under the table, away from sight. 

“We’re happy too,” he says. 

He means it. 

 

*

 

The dinner ends up running really late and cleanup takes a while even with seven people helping out. It’s after four in the morning when Namjoon and Yoongi finally manage to go home; true to their traditions, they decide to have a cup of tea while waiting for the sunrise. It’s a weekend, after all, and Seokjin offered to open in the morning so that Namjoon could sleep in for once. 

“You know, I keep thinking, what if neither of us had said anything?” Namjoon suddenly breaks the silence. The room is still polaroid-faded in the early light of not-yet-dawn, and the suspended air of it pushes out words that maybe he would not have uttered in full daylight. 

Yoongi takes a long sip of his tea. As always, he takes his time before answering – one more thing to love about him; Namjoon has never liked people who always voice a confident answer right away just to sound smart. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Namjoon-ah, but to me, it would have been okay.” 

Namjoon patiently waits for him to elaborate, only the curls of steam from their mugs and the hush of early morning between them. 

“For a long time, I struggled to feel things properly,” Yoongi starts, a little hesitant like he’s not sure he’ll be able to get his point across. “It wasn’t that I didn’t feel anything at all, quite the contrary, but sometimes – sometimes I would just go dead. Empty. I would lose interest in all the things that I liked.” 

Namjoon wordlessly offers his hand palm-up in the middle of the kitchen island. Yoongi takes it, his grip a bit firmer than usual. 

“It really scared me, how lifeless I could get,” he whispers. “I felt so much all the time, I was so passionate, and yet – when I got like that, it just slipped away from me, all of it. I felt like such a waste of space, and I couldn’t make myself snap out of it while it was happening.” He takes a deep, steadying breath. “I got better, you know that. I went into therapy, started medication, learned how to deal with it – sometimes it gets bad again, you know that too, but never as bad as it used to. I never forgot, though.”

“Falling in love with you,” he says, the words hitting Namjoon’s skin soft and gentle like clean sheets, like spring rain, “was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I didn’t care if it was unrequited – it had value by itself, because it showed me I was capable of feeling those things for another person. I never took it for granted. It seems like I’m making it all about me, but–”

“No, I get what you mean,” Namjoon quickly clarifies. “I’m happy I could help you get to that place, hyung. I won’t take it for granted, either.” 

Yoongi doesn’t answer. He grips Namjoon’s hand tighter and lets his head fall forward until their foreheads are resting together, eyes closed, simply breathing together in their home of six years. 

They end up missing the sunrise, but neither of them minds too much. 


YEAR SEVEN.

 

Once a month, everythingoes hosts an open mic night. 

It’s always a success, and tonight is no exception: the café is comfortably crowded, lights low, animated chatter echoing throughout. They don’t really have restrictions on the content except for the obvious ban on hate comments, which usually results in an interesting mix of stand-up comedy, music performances and slam poetry. 

Namjoon carefully labels one of the prints on the shelves with a yellow ‘SOLD’ sticker. They’d started exhibiting artwork and photography from local queer artists at the end of summer, trying to give them visibility as long as they agreed for part of the profits to go to charity. 

When he turns around towards the performance area, he sees that Sunmi’s going up. Right on cue, Seulgi whistles loudly from behind the counter, making Sunmi smile shyly while she fixes the bass strap around her shoulder and tries a couple chords before breaking into song. Dahye had found Seulgi where she found most assets – on Instagram. She was an art major who worked as a barista slash bartender, making gorgeous latte art and gradient cocktails which garnered a decent-sized following on social media. 

Needless to say, she was brought on board and came as a package deal with her girlfriend Sunmi, who insisted on doing everyone’s birth charts and guessing their signs. The first time she saw Jungkook trying to make coffee and whip egg whites at the same time while also taking an order from someone in the queue, she simply pointed a perfectly manicured finger at him and declared, “Virgo energy.” Namjoon still didn’t understand much about western astrology, but Sunmi did not have the air of someone who was wrong very often, so he kept his mouth shut. 

“She writes her own songs, you know,” Seulgi tells him, beaming with pride. 

Namjoon smiles back. “She’s really cool.”

“I’m going to buy her so much stuff when we go to the vintage market this weekend,” Seulgi carries on, artfully pouring liquor into a tall glass without even looking at it. “What are your plans for the weekend, boss?”

“I have a paper due on Tuesday for my Gender and Human Rights class, so you can guess,” he answers, shrugging. Old Namjoon would not have been out tonight with a paper due in three days, but he’s come a long way since then.

( “Are you sure, Namjoon?” Yoongi had asked him when Namjoon had told him he wanted to take up a post-grad course in Human Rights. 

“I’m sure,” he’d replied without hesitation. “I want to be more qualified to help people, hyung – maybe even run a nonprofit of my own one day. I’m going back because I want to, not because I think I have to. It’s coming from the right place this time.”

“Okay, Joon-ah,” Yoongi had said, expression softening. He’d hugged Namjoon then, nose squished against his chest. “I’m really proud of you. You know that, right?”

Namjoon had dropped a kiss on top of his hair, a suspicious sting in his eyes. “Yeah, hyung. I know.” )

“Aren’t you forgetting something, hyung?” Taehyung speaks directly in his ear, startling him so bad he almost falls off the stool. Jungkook, standing right behind him, lets his evil cackle loose. Ignoring Namjoon’s scowl, Taehyung continues, “You promised to help Jungkookie with the move, remember? On Sunday?”

Namjoon completely forgot. 

“Of course I remember,” he lies. It must not be as smooth as he’d hoped for, because Taehyung narrows his eyes suspiciously. Out of the corner of his eye, Namjoon sees Jimin and Seokjin chatting with Hoseok, who’s just come through the door with Yoongi in tow. He enthusiastically waves them down. “Oh, look who’s here!” 

“Yoongi hyung, are you coming to help on Sunday?” Jungkook pipes up as soon as the group is within earshot. 

Yoongi grimaces. “I’m not carrying anything. What do you think I keep Namjoon around for?”

“His, and I quote, ‘beautiful brain’?'' Hoseok answers, smirking. 

“His long, long legs?” Jimin tacks on. 

“His big, big d—,” Seokjin starts, promptly interrupted by the forest creature screech coming out of Yoongi’s mouth. 

“Has any of you ever heard of a rhetorical question?” Yoongi splutters once he’s done banshee-screaming. 

Namjoon tries very hard not to laugh, putting on a fake pout instead. “Nothing about my ass, hyung? I’m hurt. I work very hard on it.”

“I’m breaking up with you,” Yoongi deadpans. 

Namjoon pulls on Yoongi’s sweater, smiling fondly. Yoongi likes them gigantic, big enough to hang off his shoulders and hit mid-thigh, sleeves long enough for him to curl his hands on the inside of them. Big enough that they make him seem even tinier than usual. He holds a grumbling Yoongi against his chest, dropping his chin on his honey blond hair. 

“I’m doomed to be a fourth wheel forever,” Jimin whines, downing his wine glass in one go. “In my own home.

“You could move out,” Seulgi suggests candidly, mixing a deep magenta cocktail. 

Jimin groans. “I’m not ready to go through apartment hunting hell again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to go through that again, to be honest.”

“What if you didn’t have to?” 

Every head in the group turns towards Seokjin, who’s resolutely staring at his nails like they’re the most interesting thing in the room. His ears are crimson. “You were probably joking, but just in case you weren’t – I have a spare room in my apartment and plenty of space, and it’s not that far from your current place, so – yeah.”

Jimin gapes. “Are you serious, hyung?”

“Hundred percent,” Seokjin replies, finally looking back at him. “Living alone is boring and I’ve got way too much space to clean on my own. No one is there to laugh at my excellent jokes but my sugar gliders. It’s tragic, truly.”

“You know you don’t have to leave, right, Jiminie?” Taehyung says softly, hooking his chin over Jimin’s shoulder. “I don’t want you to feel like we’re forcing you out.”

“I know, Taehyungie,” Jimin replies easily, slipping his free hand in Taehyung’s. “But it would be such a good thing for all of us. We’d still be close to each other, but you guys would be less cramped, you know? It’s a win for everyone.” He turns towards Seokjin again, smiling sweetly. “Let’s discuss this tomorrow over coffee, yeah?”

Seokjin nods, uncharacteristically shy. 

Namjoon speaks quietly in Yoongi’s ear. “Have you ever considered you might be psychic?”

“Sunmi asked me the same question last week,” Yoongi replies matter-of-factly. 

“You didn’t answer it, though.”

“No, I didn’t.”

Namjoon leans forward so he can kiss the smug grin off his boyfriend’s face. 

 

*

 

“Do you even own any clothes, Kook?” Jimin calls out, carrying what has to be the tenth piece of computer-slash-gaming equipment through the doorway. 

“Of course I do,” Jungkook answers. “Namjoon hyung is carrying them right now, you see?”

Jimin turns back to look at Namjoon, speechless. “That is one box.”

Hoseok comes out of the bedroom he just finished cleaning with a satisfied smile on his face. “In Jungkookie’s defence, half of his clothes are in our closet already. Taehyungie’s a dirty thief.”

Jungkook’s blush is instantaneous. He looks worlds away from wanting to complain about either of his boyfriends wearing his clothes. Namjoon, boyfriend to a dirty clothes thief of his own, can absolutely relate. 

Right on cue, Yoongi comes up behind them, carrying three bags full of takeout. Jungkook all but skips towards him, grabbing the bags and yelling, “ Snack man !” in perfect English. Everyone in the room looks like they want to wrap him in blankets and maybe give him a sizeable portion of the planet, because that’s the Jeon Jungkook Effect.

They all move to the kitchen and soon start attacking the food. They’re all quite tired from the physical labour, so they don’t have a lot of energy to chatter, but they’re comfortable enough with one another that the silence is companionable rather than awkward. It’s not as crowded as it usually would be, anyway – Seokjin and Jimin are busy smoothing some stuff out for the move and Taehyung is covering for someone at the animal shelter. 

After lunch, Jungkook uses his replenished energy to set up his gaming corner. Hoseok texts their group chat on KakaoTalk to invite the missing members over for dinner and a plan is quickly agreed upon. It would be stupid to go away and then come back in a matter of hours, so Yoongi and Namjoon settle in the living room with their laptops to do some work. 

Taehyung comes back after five, munching happily on strawberry pocky. Jungkook immediately challenges him to a game, which raises the volume of the apartment considerably; Namjoon doesn’t mind too much, not one to be distracted easily, but Yoongi shuts his laptop after five minutes and comes over to Namjoon’s side, peering at his notes. 

“Of course taking down capitalism wouldn’t dismantle the patriarchy,” he comments over Namjoon’s shoulder. “Patriarchy’s been around a lot longer, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. They do feed off of each other, but it’s a lot more complex than that. That’s what I’m trying to argue in my essay, anyway.” 

“Why do I feel like socio-political theory is foreplay for you two?” Hoseok butts in, looking vaguely judgemental.

“Oh, it is. Post-structuralism in particular really gets me going. Sometimes we fuck to the audiobook version of Das Kapital ,” Yoongi replies, utterly serious. 

Namjoon chokes on his spit and starts coughing violently. Hoseok looks extremely pained. “Hoseokie, hyung’s not being serious. He’s joking.”

Hoseok doesn’t look convinced. “Is he really?”

Yoongi breaks into a grin, shrugging. “Yeah, of course I’m joking. It’s over a thousand pages – I don’t have that much stamina.”  

Hoseok rubs a hand over his face. He looks a bit like he does when he’s had one too many drinks: anguished and like he’s regretting every single choice that led him to this particular moment. He is, however, saved by the proverbial bell – in this case, the apartment buzzer, announcing the presence of the missing two members of their group. 

Jimin enters the apartment waving around two bottles of soju like victory flags and Seokjin is challenged to a round of Mario Kart before he’s even had a chance to shed his coat. Needless to say, it gets very loud, very fast, and then very quiet again when the chicken they ordered arrives and they attack it like they haven’t eaten in weeks. 

Yoongi clears his throat all of a sudden, commanding attention. “So, Namjoonie already knows, but I wanted to tell you guys too. That project I worked really hard on pitching – the firm approved it last week. I’m getting full funding.”

The table erupts into cheers. Taehyung and Jimin literally jump Yoongi and knock him to the carpet like two overgrown puppies, ignoring his spluttering protests. 

“Is that the project on special needs architecture in schools, hyung?” Jungkook asks, eyes as big as saucers. 

Yoongi successfully escapes the clutches of the two terrors, looking a bit worse for wear but smiling big and genuine. “Yeah. I’m going to be working on hostile architecture in schools and how to make their design more accessible to special needs children. Not just kids with physical disabilities – I made sure to include things like processing disorders as well. You know, sometimes rooms are designed in a way that’s really overwhelming for some of them, so.”

“If there was anyone who could convince them, that’d be you, hyung,” Hoseok smiles, pride cranking up the brightness all over his face. “There’s no stopping you if it’s something you care about.”

“He cares about lots of stuff,” Taehyung pipes up from Yoongi’s lap. 

“I have never cared about a single thing my whole life,” Yoongi deadpans.

“Ugh, my throat is so dry,” Jungkook whines, and he smirks devilishly when Yoongi passes him water without even looking. Everyone starts laughing in earnest then, and Yoongi looks confused for a couple of seconds before his mind catches up with what his hand has done and he flushes beet red, embarrassed but still visibly fond. 

Hoseok coos and launches himself at Yoongi to poke his cheeks, which causes the others to pile on as well until Yoongi is whining loudly, buried underneath five full-grown adults trying to boop various part of his face. Namjoon watches from the side, resting back on his hands, unable to get the fond smile off his face.

Before they got together, Namjoon didn’t think it would be realistic for him to love Yoongi any more than he already did, but he’d quickly been proven wrong. There was no getting used to it, no plateauing – every single time he let his guard down, thinking there is no way I can possibly feel any more for this person , he got blindsided. It’s not that he didn’t know Yoongi enough before; it’s more that Yoongi is such a genuinely good person in a way that is his and only his, and it’s a marvel to witness all the ways it can manifest. 

Namjoon has never met someone who cares as fiercely as Yoongi does. He’s not shy about showing it, either; he will do it silent and he will do it loud, in gestures and words, as long as it gets across. Like the moon, he is bright in a way that is not overwhelming – a gentle presence, a reliable comfort in the loneliest hour.

Watching his boyfriend while his whine turns into hopeless giggling that makes his cheeks full, Namjoon thinks happy. He thinks, the happiest. He meets Yoongi’s eyes nearly closed in mirth and he thinks: I love him.

 

*

 

Five minutes before closing time, Park Jimin steps into everythingoes.

Summer has come again; it’s still bright outside even though it’s already evening, and Namjoon is glad the last customer went out fifteen minutes ago so he could shut off the machines and have some reprieve from the heat they give off. Yoongi is sitting in his usual spot at the counter, nursing his cold brew while he reads, wearing all black like it’s not thirty-five degrees outside. He’s waiting for Namjoon to finish so they can go home together – it was quiet in the afternoon, so Namjoon had let Byulyi and Hyojong go home early.

It had taken quite a few months, but Namjoon’s networking had paid off; more than that, he’d been adamant on keeping his promise of a safe, visible space, and once people started trusting it, things had picked up considerably. They’d gotten so many volunteer applications Namjoon had to start turning people down while he planned new events and projects to assign them to. 

He’s busier than ever these days, juggling his studies and the café, but he also can’t remember a time in his life when he was this happy. People come up to him to tell him how big a difference having a place like this has made for them. He gets to hear the stories of people from all walks of life who have one thing in common: looking for a space to belong. He gets to learn in a way he’d craved for when he was in undergrad and had never even gotten close to having.

Speaking of learning, he has to watch a documentary for one of his classes and Yoongi and he decided to make a movie date night out of it; the plan was to close as fast as possible and zoom home to go cuddle with his boyfriend on the couch with the fan on, but Jimin has other plans for them, apparently.

“So, hypothetically – if I was in a crisis, which I’m not, and you were amazing friends, which depends on your answer to my question, would you be willing to sit and listen and maybe pour me three glasses of liquor to start?”

“Good evening to you too, Jiminie,” Namjoon snorts, unscrewing the cap on the bottle of rum he’d gotten out as soon as the word crisis had left Jimin’s mouth. “Cuba Libre?”

“You are an amazing friend after all,” Jimin replies. Banter is easy for Jimin, natural as breathing, but there’s a tense edge in his voice that makes Namjoon exchange a sideways glance with Yoongi.

It’s rare to see Jimin like this outside of the safety of his own four walls – unsure, frazzled, nervously biting his lip. He’s not really fond of showing his vulnerabilities like this; it’s a testament to how much he trusts Yoongi and Namjoon, the way he’s baring it all right now. He looks small curled up on one of the leather armchairs, gripping his glass like a lifeline. 

“You mentioned a crisis, Jimin-ah?” Namjoon encourages him gently. 

Jimin steadily downs the entire glass and sets it down on the table before speaking again. “I think I’m in love with Seokjin hyung.” His eyes get wide as saucers, like he’s startled himself with the confession. “Oh my god. Oh god. I need another drink.”

Yoongi’s voice is calm, level. As usual, he’s the eye of the storm; there’s a reason why everyone goes to him for advice. “You seem very scared, Jiminie.”

“I’m absolutely terrified. My heart’s going to beat out of my chest. Can you die from a heart attack so young?”

“You’re the trained nurse, Jimin-ah. You tell me,” Yoongi answers, not unkindly. 

“I mean – statistically, you can, but it tends to occur in people with congenital heart defects and – I don’t know if I have a congenital heart defect, I never bothered to check—”

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon interrupts, handing him a second drink. “Would you like to tell us why you’re terrified?”

“It caught me by surprise,” Jimin whispers, staring at the glass he’s cradling in both hands. “I just wasn’t expecting it, you know? I love loving people. I like flirting and I like making people have a good time. I’m used to loving in a way I understand and control, but this – one day I just woke up and he was in the kitchen and he got so startled by the bread popping out of the toaster that he almost fell over backwards, and I simply—” he takes a deep breath, dragging a hand through his bangs in frustration. “I realised I loved him in a way I didn’t understand and couldn’t control, and it scared me. It still does.”

“Do you think it matters whether you can control it or not?” Yoongi asks him, thoughtful. 

“Control always matters to me,” Jimin answers matter-of-factly. “It’s not just that, though. I feel like I don’t know where I stand with him. I need people to tell me what they think about me, what I mean to them, otherwise I just can’t figure out what my place in their life is supposed to be. Jin hyung, though… I can tell he doesn’t like having those conversations, and I don’t want to force him into one.”

“You’re not giving hyung enough credit,” Yoongi chides, still gentle. “I’ve known him a long time and I know he can seem like he would rather stab himself with a pencil than talk about feelings, but that’s not always true. When it comes to the people he cares about, he makes sure to get his point across.”

Jimin downs a good two thirds of his second drink before replying, tone a bit louder than before. “I know, I’m not saying he’s emotionally constipated, I just – he’s so good to me, you know? He’s so good to everyone . He’s literally one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. He works so hard and he helps so many people and he always keeps quiet about it because the only thing that matters to him is that he does it. He doesn’t care about validation at all, and I wish I was like that because I care too much, I always have.”

They never got around to installing a bell on the door of the cafe. Normally, since it’s empty and quiet now, the sound of the door opening would be audible in itself, but Jimin is ranting so loudly he doesn’t even register it. 

“He’s taught me so much, hyung. He’s taught me to laugh just because I feel like it and not because it’s polite, and to take pride in my work regardless of how many other people tell me I’ve done well. He’s taught me to cook and eat well and to just buy the damn pastry if I want it. He’s taught me to be confident even when I’m not really, because if I don’t believe in myself first then how can I ask anyone else to do it? He’s taught me to say no and to assert myself and he—” Jimin cuts himself off suddenly, bashful. He whispers, “He’s taught me to be happy.”

Namjoon tries very hard not to look behind Jimin. “Jimin-ah, maybe you should—”

“It sounds pathetic, but when I fell for him – that’s why I didn’t understand it. I’d never felt that happy with someone else before, regardless of how happy I was making them. He makes me so happy, hyung, and I like him so much I don’t know what to do with myself. We’ve barely been living together for a year and I want to wake up to his ridiculously attractive face every single morning. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“I love ridiculous,” Seokjin says, and Jimin screams, promptly spilling the rest of his drink all over himself. 

Jimin closes his eyes. “Oh my god. This isn’t happening.” 

“Jimin-ah,” Seokjin starts again, crouching in front of Jimin’s balled-up form, and it’s so gentle it breaks Namjoon’s heart a bit. “Will you look at me?”

Jimin looks mortified, but he manages to level his gaze with Seokjin’s. “I’m sorry, I—”

Seokjin takes Jimin’s hand, never breaking eye contact. “Would you like to go home and talk about it?”

When it comes to the people he cares about, he makes sure to get his point across.

Jimin can’t seem to hold the other’s gaze. “It’s fine, hyung – there’s no need to talk about it, I’ll make sure it doesn’t get in the way of living together—”

“Yah, Jimin-ah,” Seokjin chides, but there’s a smile on his face still. “What did I tell you about letting other people decide how they feel instead of assuming?”

He threads his fingers through Jimin’s own and tugs, resolutely not breaking eye contact. “Come home with me, Jimin-ah.”

For a long moment, Jimin simply looks. He must find something in Seokjin’s gaze, though, because he nods slowly, letting himself be pulled to his feet. He looks hopeful and he doesn’t let go of Seokjin’s hand. 

“Have a good evening, guys,” Namjoon calls after them, beaming. They both fumble their goodbyes and walk out the door together, holding onto each other. 

“They’re going to be okay,” Yoongi says when Namjoon walks up behind him, holding him and smiling into the skin of his neck. He’s beaming too. 

“They’re going to be insufferable,” Namjoon retorts, planting a kiss on the juncture between Yoongi’s neck and shoulder. 

“That, too,” Yoongi laughs, a breathless thing, and he turns to kiss Namjoon properly, crowding him against the counter. Namjoon hopes he never, ever gets used to the feeling of Yoongi’s skin under his hands, of Yoongi’s tongue along his lips. 

“Let’s go home, hyung,” he breathes against Yoongi’s cheek, nuzzling it so he can feel it when the other smiles, sweet and slow like the final notes of a ballad. 

“Yeah, I’d like that.”


YEAR EIGHT.

 

“Namjoon-ah, we’re going to be late! You know I hate being late!”

“Can’t find my belt, hyung,” Namjoon yells from their bedroom, where he’s upended one of the drawers on the bed to search for it.

Yoongi’s exasperated sigh is closer now, like he just popped his head out the bathroom where he was fixing his hair. “Which one?”

“The eco-leather one with the silver buckle.”

“You left it in your grey jeans. They should be on the bed in the guest bedroom.” 

Namjoon exhales a sigh of relief, zooming out the door and shooting Yoongi a thank you on his way past the bathroom. The belt is exactly where his boyfriend said it would be. Namjoon feels his cheeks heat up a little at the thought of how domestic this kind of exchange is; Suran would probably add it to the imaginary ‘disgusting married couple’ jar she’d set up a year and a half ago. 

He quickly goes back to their shared bedroom, trying to fix his hair by running his hand through it. It’s snow white now, contrasting nicely with the all-black outfit he’s wearing. He’s gone for what Taehyung and Hoseok would probably label “full goth ensemble”: black shirt, slightly high-waisted black trousers, black faux leather boots and a flowy black jacket that goes down to his ankles. He ties a choker around his neck to finish off the look and he’s just put on his thick rimmed black glasses when Yoongi comes into the bedroom.

He’s also dressed for a special occasion; soft slacks and a matching jacket, paired with a tucked-in white shirt that’s decorated with paint splatters the same colour as his lavender hair, messily curled over his forehead. He seems distracted as he crosses the threshold, but when he sees Namjoon, he stops dead in his tracks, openly staring at him. 

Namjoon looks down at himself, looking for a torn-off thread, a visible stain, an open zipper. He doesn’t find anything. “What’s wrong, hyung?”

“Can you explain to me why you’re like, eighty-five percent leg? What is all that leg even for ?” Yoongi is frowning. He looks properly affronted , and Namjoon tries very hard not to laugh. He gets out his best pout instead. 

“I thought you liked my legs, hyung,” he whines, bringing a hand up to his choker. Yoongi’s eyes track the movement and settle on Namjoon’s throat, narrowing slightly. 

Yoongi closes the distance between them, hooking a finger through the choker and pulling a bit, his eyes on Namjoon’s throat. “I do, but not when we’re running late and I can’t do anything about them.”

Heat shoots down Namjoon’s spine at the sound of Yoongi’s voice, low and raspy and slightly pissed off. He looks so good , a little lilac eyeshadow in the corner of his eyes and lips full and slightly bitten, and right this moment he really does not give a single fuck whether they’re late to the nice restaurant they’re supposed to show up at. He grabs Yoongi’s waist and pulls until there’s standing flush together, Yoongi’s nose brushing his collarbone. “We could be a little bit late.”

Warm lips are against his skin now instead of a cold nose, making Namjoon shiver. He ducks his head, planting small kisses behind Yoongi’s ear like perfume drops and tightening his grip on the other’s waist. Yoongi sighs, tilting his head up until he’s speaking against Namjoon’s lips. “We cou—”

They both freeze at the same time when they hear the suspicious sound of something – bursting? Namjoon feels a sudden wetness against his hand and he looks down, confused. 

“Ah, hyung, ” he groans, covering his face with his clean hand. “How many times have I told you to stop keeping tangerines in the pockets of every single jacket you own?”

Yoongi sheds his juice-stained jacket before it seeps through to his shirt. “They’re good snacks, okay?” He protests, pouting. He’s pouting. Unbelievable. 

He tries to fold it gingerly, but he jostles it a little too much and the pulp slips out, landing on the floor with a resounding splat. For a moment, no one makes a sound: they both stare at the sad, half-deflated tangerine on the floor while a pool of juice spreads underneath it like it’s a miniature crime scene. 

Then their eyes meet and they’re gone, laughing uncontrollably, eyes closed and falling all over each other. Namjoon might actually be tearing up.

“Way to ruin the mood with your citrus obsession,” he wheezes, balancing with a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. 

Yoongi wipes the corner of his eyes, trying not to smudge his makeup. “At least we won’t be late. Come on, let me grab my other jacket and we’re leaving.”

Namjoon playfully smacks his ass on the way out. 

 

*

 

The restaurant is a nice one for a change, which is why they’re all dressed a bit smarter than usual. They’re here because Jimin invited them to celebrate him finally getting a position at the children’s hospital; he’d worked tirelessly for it despite exhausting night shifts and endless training and Namjoon can’t think of anyone who deserves it more. 

Everyone is already outside the restaurant when they arrive (on time, miraculously), dressed to the nines and gathered around Jimin, who thrives under the attention as usual. Namjoon is very much a taken man, but he has to admit Jimin is dressed to kill tonight, forehead exposed and silver glinting on his lobes and fingers and collarbone, shirt half-sheer and stretching nicely across his chest. 

Jimin tackles both of them in a hug, beaming, before guiding them inside. Apparently the owner, Lee Taemin, is a close friend of his and managed to get them a reservation despite the short notice. They settle quickly into their familiar chatter, getting each other up to speed on their respective lives like they don’t have a group chat where they write daily. 

“Honestly, Taehyungie, I can deal with cats and dogs. Bunnies are fine, too. Hamsters? Sign me up,” Hoseok is saying, sounding fond and exasperated at the same time. “I draw the line at snakes. I don’t think it’s an absurd line to draw, babe.”

“Snakes?” Namjoon echoes, confused. 

“Tae hyung keeps rescuing animals and bringing them home to nurse them back to health when the clinic is closed,” Jungkook explains. “They’re not always furry and cute.”

“They’re always cute, what are you talking about?” Taehyung pipes up, pouting. “What do you want me to do, hyung, leave injured animals out in the streets? I can’t do that.”

Hoseok sighs. “You’re lucky I love you, and I’m lucky that Jungkookie can catch reptiles with his bare hands.”

Jimin smirks. “That sounds kinda hot.”

“It is,” Hoseok and Taehyung answer in perfect unison. Jungkook’s cheeks turn crimson, even though he looks strangely proud. 

“How’s the pet therapy going, Taehyungie?” Yoongi asks. At the beginning of the year, Hoseok had told Yoongi his project and Namjoon’s cafe had inspired him to start something of his own; he’d put in a request at the school he worked at to form an extracurricular group for students who needed some extra help. Some of them were special needs, some struggled with mental health issues, others simply did not want to go home; Hoseok wasn’t really picky. As long as they needed a refuge, he wanted to be able to give it to them. 

One thing led to another and soon enough everyone was contributing exactly like they’d done with everythingoes. Taehyung got the shelter and the clinic involved in providing pet therapy for the group, Jungkook got an art class up and running, Seokjin stopped by to read stories to the younger kids. Namjoon regularly donated some of the profits from the café so the group could keep running and Yoongi pulled some strings so he could take care of the venue design with his project team. Hoseok had called it Hope World . Looking at the kids’ faces every time he happened to drop by, Namjoon couldn’t help thinking it was an apt name. 

The rest of the dinner goes on without a hitch. The food is good and the alcohol is even better; Taemin slips them a couple of extra bottles as a congratulations gift for Jimin and the atmosphere gets considerably louder and looser very quickly.

“Did you know,” Yoongi starts, voice a tad louder than usual, tapping Hoseok’s shoulder insistently, “that Namjoon-ah and I have been living together for—”

“Eight years,” everyone at the table supplies in perfect unison, which makes them burst into roaring laughter. “Yes, we know,” Seokjin continues, long-sufferingly, while Jimin flings himself forward and into his boyfriend’s lap with the force of his laughter. 

Yoongi pouts. Namjoon is warm and mellowed out and his inhibitions are a bit loose, melting away like condensation on a cold drink. He looks so kissable , and Namjoon lets his head fall forward, aiming to land one on him, just one—

“Yah, get a room!” Seokjin screeches, flinging a balled-up napkin at them. Namjoon sighs, throwing an arm around Yoongi instead and pulling until his boyfriend’s head is resting against his own. Yoongi sighs contentedly, eyes fluttering shut. 

“We’ve lived together the longest,” he continues, undeterred by the collective exasperation of their friends. Namjoon beams, dropping a kiss on top of his hair. It even smells like lavender. How unfair. 

“Yes, you’re the old married couple of this group, we get it,” Jimin sighs, but it’s fond. 

“Those three have been together for longer,” Namjoon protests, gesturing towards the sunshine trio. 

Jungkook grins. “Yeah, but we are not old.”

“We’re n’t married,” Yoongi clarifies before Namjoon can scold Jungkook. Namjoon frowns slightly. Does he sound… disappointed?

“You’ve lived together for eight years. You have a dog. You’re raising plants,” Hoseok shrugs, matter-of-factly. “You might as well be.”

“Can we get a cat, hyung? I want a calico,” Jimin pleads, puppy eyes at full power, making Seokjin choke on his drink and shifting the attention away from them. 

Namjoon holds Yoongi tight. They’re both silent. 

Might as well be.

 

*

 

The next morning, Namjoon wakes at first light. 

(Yoongi used to sleep with his blackout curtains closed all the way, but Namjoon didn’t like to wake up to pitch darkness, so they’d started leaving them halfway open. The heart of the compromise was to have Namjoon sleep on the side of the window so that he would shield Yoongi from the evil sunlight.)

Even though the muted light isn’t hitting Yoongi’s face directly, he’s bathed in it. He normally looks soft, but the rising sun makes him look blurred around the edges, lit the way a polaroid picture would be. Nothing about the scene before Namjoon’s eyes is in stark contrast – the colours all bleed into one muted gradient, midnight blue shadows and indigo midtones on Yoongi’s smooth skin. He lets his eyes linger on Yoongi’s hair, faded lavender spread across the pillow, then on the slight tremble of his eyelashes on top of his cheekbones. He stops on Yoongi’s slightly parted mouth, on the breaths coming slow and steady, and he tries to commit it to memory.

Sometimes I wish my memories could be as clear as photographs, Taehyung had told him once. There are some moments that I can’t remember as clearly as I’d like, and I wish I could capture them – like a scenery. 

Namjoon knows the world is full of beauty, but he thinks there’s no scenery he’d like to keep quite as badly as this one. 

As the light bleeds into warmer hues, the world outside starts to wake up. Yoongi, ever the light sleeper, stirs; he’d usually go right back to sleep, but his half-open eyes catch on Namjoon’s and he cuddles closer, breathing in and nuzzling Namjoon’s collarbone. 

“You have your thinking face on,” he murmurs against Namjoon’s skin. “‘S too early to think, Joonie.”

“We’ve been living together for a long time, hyung,” Namjoon blurts out, biting his lip. Yoongi doesn’t quite stiffen, but he does move back a bit so he can look at Namjoon properly, puzzled and sleep-soft still. He hums his assent, rubbing Namjoon’s hip reassuringly. 

Namjoon doesn’t know why he’s so stupidly nervous about this. Old habits die hard, but Namjoon’s habits are especially difficult to kill. He feels that if he doesn’t utter the words right this moment, hazy in the light of not-quite-day, he’ll never be able to. 

“Would you like to move out together?”

Yoongi’s hand stills. Namjoon doesn’t look at him, fixing his gaze on the rectangle of light on the wall. 

He feels a touch on his cheek, feather light. Yoongi’s fingers delicately push his face to the side, forcing Namjoon’s gaze back on his, and – 

Yoongi is smiling like the sunrise, and Namjoon’s whole world wakes up with it. 

“I would like that, Namjoon-ah. I would like that very much.”