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i like me better (when i'm with you)

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“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.” 

Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones



_ _ 

 

So here’s the thing: he’s in love with Min Yoongi. Let’s just get that out of the way right here at the beginning ― easier for everyone involved, really. Well, except for Seokjin. Being in love with Min Yoongi has been a terrible experience and he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Min Yoongi is one of the worst people alive, with his kindness and his quiet, constant support and how openly he laughs at stupid jokes. With the grunting, sleepy noises he makes in the mornings and the fact that he’s a good cook and the way he coaxes perfect coffee from their old, fickle machine. 

Currently, Min Yoongi is curled up drunk and sleepy in their bathtub, puffy cheek resting on Seokjin’s shoulder, and Seokjin’s entire heart is aching. It feels pinned to his sleeve, dripping blood all over the white porcelain beneath them, but Yoongi’s too out of it to notice. 

“Do you think,” Yoongi mumbles, voice slurred by alcohol and the satoori he normally tries to hide, “that I’m unloveable?” 

Seokjin closes his eyes. His heart pulses and more blood drips. This is potentially the worst evening of his life and in the top ten are the night he almost burnt their dorm to the ground in college and the night he was dumped in the middle of an upscale restaurant by his boyfriend of two years because he could see that Seokjin was in love with Yoongi while Yoongi himself remained utterly blind to it. 

(I love you, he wants to say and doesn’t because that would be a level of pathetic he’s not ready to reach yet.) 

So he sighs, over exaggerated, and adjusts the blanket draped over Yoongi. It has little alpacas on it and was a Christmas or birthday gift from Yoongi several years ago. Seokjin’s carried it with him to three separate apartments and stitched several tears along the seams because he’s a sentimental idiot. 

“Of course you’re not unloveable, Yoongi-yah,” he says, aiming for “Stern Hyung” and mostly sounding like he’s about to cry. If that happens, he’ll blame it on the two glasses of wine he’s had and Yoongi for making his sadness contagious. “He was an asshole.” 

Yoongi’s had a string of boyfriends over the last eight years, each worse than the last. The only one Seojkin actually liked was Taehyung, because him and Yoongi mutually decided that they weren’t romantically compatible, amicably broke up, and then Yoongi introduced him to another close friend, Namjoon. Taehyung promptly and predictably fell head-over-heels in love with Namjoon’s brain and legs and weird art collection and they rode off into a horny, beautifully rendered impressionist sunset together. 

Every other boyfriend has been an asshole in some way or another. There was the Producer Asshole who kept belittling Yoongi’s music. Then Perfect Teeth Asshole who made offhand, mean jokes about Yoongi’s weight until Yoongi started dieting and, furious, Seokjin threatened Perfect Teeth’s life and sports car in several creative ways. After him was Controlling Asshole, who thought it was acceptable to dictate how Yoongi dressed and styled his hair and only lasted a month before Yoongi dumped him. Puritanical Asshole didn’t like Yoongi’s tattoos (the whopping three that Yoongi has) or piercings, and seemed one step away from running back in the closet at any given moment. Plastic Asshole was always bragging about his own accomplishments and subtly suggesting that being a pianist and violinist wasn’t as difficult or worthy a profession as donning a lab coat and going to give wealthy people surgical makeovers. Chaebol Asshole #1 liked throwing money around as a form of dominance and looking down on Yoongi’s family and economic status and general existence. Sloven Asshole never cleaned up after himself and thought it was okay to lounge on their couch in a nest of food crumbs and unwashed clothes. Chaebol Asshole #2 thought that buying Yoongi gifts meant he was owed sexual favors. 

See? Quite the list. Seokjin considers it an incredible life accomplishment that he’s not a convicted murderer. 

Currently, they’re “mourning” the departure of Actor Asshole, who was constantly talking about his parts in dramas like they were starring roles instead of being under a minute long and containing no lines. He thought it was fun to lord himself over Yoongi, too, as though Yoongi didn’t have a career far more successful than his. So many barbed comments about Yoongi’s clothes and his height and how many hours he spent practicing and composing and his cooking and Every Possible Thing Under the Sun. 

It lasted six months, which was six months too long, in Seokjin’s incredibly valuable opinion. Which is why Yoongi might be mourning but he is not. Later, he’s going to cut up the very expensive (and ugly) designer shirt that Actor Asshole forgot to take during his dramatic exit from the apartment and Yoongi’s life. And then maybe light the pile on fire. 

Now, though, cuddling is a priority. 

“I think ‘m unloveable,” Yoongi hiccups.

Seokjin cuddles him harder, wrapping his arms tightly around Yoongi’s waist. “No, you just … none of them have deserved you. That’s all.” 

“But they always leave.” Yoongi struggles to sit up a little straighter, grunting. Seokjin steadies him and then has to dodge a flailing hand as Yoongi gestures along with his words. “There have been … like … a lot of them, yeah? All different kinds of guys. But they still leave, which means the common problem is me. The math makes sense.” 

“Math is stupid,” Seokjin says. “Remember the lecture you gave me about it last year? It was over an hour long and you threatened to create a powerpoint presentation.” 

Yoongi huffs. “I was drunk.” 

“You’re drunk now.” 

“Only a little,” Yoongi insists, even while leaning on Seokjin for support. Seokjin doesn’t feel like arguing with him, though, because sober Yoongi is stubborn and drunk Yoongi is even more so. 

“Still, the common problem wasn’t you, Yoongi-yah.” He pets Yoongi’s hair and bites his lip when Yoongi slumps back into his side, warm breath fanning over his neck. This bathtub is too damn cramped and he can’t even remember why they got in it. Something about small spaces and safety and bathrooms and honesty. 

Seokjin is too drunk and sad and in love to care about it right now. “I told you … they were all assholes.” 

“They can’t have all been assholes,” Yoongi says, muffled by Seokjin’s sweater. 

“They were,” Seokjin assures him. “Except Taehyung.” 

Yoongi huffs again, sounding a lot like a disgruntled cat. It’s horrifyingly adorable. “Should’ve just stuck with Taehyung.” 

“You know that’s not true.” 

A loud sniff. 

Oh god, if Yoongi starts crying Seokjin might have a panic attack in this tiny bathtub. Yoongi crying is a messy, gut-wrenching affair. His eyes and nose turn red and his cheeks get blotchy and his entire face contorts, scrunching up into a grimace while his mouth wobbles. If the sobs start, they wrack through his whole body like he’s made of delicate paper, starting in his shoulders and traveling down his spine until he’s curled up into a tiny ball in an attempt to make them stop. Snot and tears get everywhere ― it’s disgusting, in an endearing sort of way ― and every time it happens, Seokjin feels like someone has taken a spoon and scooped out his internal organs. 

(He’s seen Yoongi cry so many times over the course of their eight-year friendship: from homesickness their first semester of college, when suddenly a two hour train ride seem terribly long and Daegu terribly far; from heartbreak, more times than Seokjin cares to count, because it can take a long time for Yoongi to love, but when he does it’s with his whole heart, and so few people honor that like they should; from fear, when his parents found out about his boyfriend and Seokjin said they’ll still love you, yoongi-yah without knowing if it was true; from joy, when he got an audition for the SPO and Seokjin cupped his wet cheeks and didn’t kiss him, didn’t kiss him, somehow didn’t kiss him. 

So many times, and it’s never gotten easier to witness.) 

“You’re right,” Yoongi says and his voice is wet and croaky. “Him and Namjoon are perfect for each other. I just thought I’d find something like that, but I don’t think … it’s not gonna happen is it?” 

Here is where Seokjin is supposed to make a joke. Where he is supposed to clap a hand over his chest and exclaim, loud and indignant, yah, I’m right here, Min Yoongi! Then the joke would extend: a list of all the ways he’d make an incredible romantic partner if Yoongi only opened his eyes, he’s an eleven and Yoongi has been dating fives (ones and twos if you factor in personality), they’re already roommates so maybe they should just date for convenience ― there are a dozen ways he can go with this, and all of them should end with Yoongi cackling into his shoulder, wheezing with laughter through the last of his tears. 

He’s so good at making Yoongi laugh and he’s always been proud of that, but right now he can’t make himself move. He’s stuttering and frozen ― an old film caught in a loop, a game dropping frame rates ― and all his words have dried up. He can’t joke right now, when both of them are bruised and vulnerable. When every single thing he says would be painfully close to the truth ― not jokes at all but arguments he’s laid out to an imaginary Yoongi in the quiet hours of the night, staring at his ceiling and picturing Yoongi agreeing and disagreeing and staying and leaving and everything in between. 

We’d be so good together, he’s wanted to say for eight years, and he can’t make it a joke now. 

So he wipes Yoongi’s tears with the sleeves of his sweater ― chest pulled tight like a slingshot ― and kisses him on the temple like a good hyung and says softly, “let’s go to bed, Yoongi-yah.” 

Yoongi hiccups again, but doesn’t protest, letting Seokjin lever him out of the bathtub that was never meant the two of them and half-drag, half-carry him across their living room to his bedroom. Thankfully, Yoongi’s already wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt so Seokjin doesn’t have to also suffer through the agony of undressing him. He sighs when he’s laid down on the mattress, immediately wiggling under the blankets like a tiny, burrowing creature. 

“Don’t go,” he slurs when Seokjin starts for the door. “Please.” 

Seokjin closes his eyes. Getting in bed with a drunk and cuddly Yoongi sounds like agony right now and personally he would rather lock himself in his room and relieve his stress and frustration by trouncing rude teenagers on MapleStory. But it’s Yoongi. And he can’t deny Yoongi anything. 

“You’re going to owe me for this,” he announces as he climbs in and lets Yoongi haphazardly throw the blanket over him. Then Yoongi’s arms are around his waist and Yoongi’s face is pressed against his neck ― hot breath fanning across his skin ― and Seokjin takes a moment to curse his entire existence. 

“Best roommate,” Yoongi mumbles, and is asleep in the next breath, tucked up against Seokjin’s chest. 

Seokjin sighs and adjusts the blankets, making sure they’re both covered. Alone, he allows himself a moment of selfishness and brushes Yoongi’s slightly bangs off his forehead. 

Yoongi snuffles and wiggles deeper into the mattress. Seokjin stares at the ceiling and wishes he had consumed far more wine than he did. 

 

_ _ 

 

The hilarious thing is that there wasn’t even a big moment. Feelings didn’t hit him out of nowhere like a speeding train or a Jungkook-propelled snowball to the face. It was a completely boring Saturday that they both had off ― second year of college and ahead on projects for once in their lives. It was in the cramped dorm they shared with two other people, in their tiny bedroom they had barely left since three p.m. the previous day. Yoongi was sitting hunched over at his small desk with his headphones in and his chin resting on a water bottle and his long fingers playing a melody on the little keyboard he used for composing. 

Seokjin, with his own headphones in and a book on his lap, watched the press of his teeth into his lower lip and the frankly awful curve of his spine that was going to give him horrific back problems later in life, and thought: I love him. 

They hadn’t spoken to each other in hours, perhaps even a full day. Yet he felt perfectly comfortable ― trapped in this little cocoon with Yoongi and the lilting notes of Yoongi’s music and the rest of the world far away. 

I love him. Quiet. Almost casual. A realization between one breath and the next that slotted into place so smoothly, he was amazed he hadn’t noticed it there before ― since Yoongi introduced himself last year with a shy, gummy smile. 

It didn’t hurt yet. Back then. He was young and a little naive and wanted to believe in fairytales and happy endings ― that this cute boy and him would end up together if he just gave it enough time. Of course, he was also still painfully shy at times, and he couldn’t imagine actually saying those three little bombshell words out loud. 

So he settled for turning the page of the book he was no longer reading and listening to Yoongi’s music fill the air. 

 

_ _ 

 

The next morning, Seokjin wakes to an empty bed and finds Yoongi at their little kitchen table, nursing a cup of coffee with a vacant expression and bags under his eyes. 

“There’s more in the pot,” he croaks, nodding. “If you want it.” 

And that’s that. They don’t talk about the bathtub or the tears or the wine or falling asleep curled up together. Seokjin sweeps it under the rug along with thousands of other moments that are gathering dust and pours coffee into the biggest mug he can find, ignoring Yoongi’s arched eyebrow. 

“I’m old, Yoongi-yah,” he says as he sits down. “And building up a caffeine immunity. Leave me to drown myself in this coffee in peace.” 

Yoongi snorts, but doesn’t comment and the silence extends until it settles, becoming comfortable again. Just like always. 

 

_ _ 

 

Seokjin loves Park Jimin, he really does. Park Jimin is angelic kindness and devilish scheming wrapped up in one tiny, gorgeous package. Park Jimin will show up at your door with food and medicine if you so much as cough over the phone and then help you bury a body in the next breath if you inform him you’ve accidentally murdered your landlord (just as a hypothetical example, though Seokjin has come close). He’s sweet and adorable and manipulative and dangerous, and Seokjin’s always been grateful that he started dating Hoseok and crashed into Seokjin’s life and friendship group with no warning, in spite of the upheaval he caused. 

But right now, he wants to strangle Jimin with a napkin in the middle of this trendy Yeonnam-dong cafe. 

“Hyung,” Jimin is saying, paused in the middle of eating his overpriced wheat pancake, “hasn’t it been long enough? You need to stop being a coward and just confess.” 

Seokjin glances across the table to Hoseok, who blinks back at him with cheeks puffed by a mouthful of scrambled eggs. Leave me out of this, he says with his eyebrows and a slight shake of his head. How many times have we had this discussion? 

Traitor, Seokjin answers with a twitch in the corner of his mouth, and turns back to Jimin. “Jimin-ah, I thought you brought me here to make me try hipster food, not interrogate me about my love life.” 

He tries to keep his tone light and not like he’s contemplating shoving his entire croissant in Jimin’s face to shut him up. 

“Lack of a love life, you mean.”  Jimin takes a delicate sip of lemonade. “And it’s not an interrogation. I’m just tired of watching Yoongi date idiot after idiot while you sit there and pine like the biggest idiot of them all. He deserves better than that, Jin-hyung, and so do you.” 

The worst part is that Jimin is right. It took him approximately five seconds after meeting Seokjin to pick up on his disgustingly non platonic feelings for Yoongi, and he’s been insufferable ever since. And the actual worst part, is that Seokjin knows Jimin is sincere ― just wants his friends to be happy. He cried when Namjoon and Taehyung announced their relationship with bashful smiles, and him and Hoseok are so good together it’s nauseating. He’s not going to stop until Yoongi and Seokjin are also joined together in romantic bliss, and normally Seokjin is good at deflection, distraction. Jimin’s pointed questions slough off him like water down smooth rock, until Jimin gives up with a sigh and an eye roll and a muttered insult he rarely means. 

But today, Seokjin can still feel the imprint of Yoongi’s cheek on his shoulder and Yoongi’s tears on the backs of his hands, and he’s too flayed open to mount his usual defenses. Someone (Yoongi, Yoongi, always Yoongi) stole his armor and now he’s trying to go up against the final boss in his fucking underwear and it predictably isn’t working.

“It’s been eight years,” Jimin continues. “Don’t you think that’s enough time hiding your head in the sand?” 

“You haven’t been here that long,” Seokjin mutters, fully aware he sounds like a petulant child. 

“I’ve been here for half of them,” Jimin fires back. Hoseok takes another huge bite of eggs and refuses to meet Seokjin’s eyes, so no help there. “And I’ve seen the way all of Yoongi’s boyfriends treat him and I’m sick of it. Aren’t you? What’s holding you back?” 

“Yah, we’re not all like you, Park Jimin,” Seokjin says, crossing his arms. “We don’t all decide that our dance instructor is the love of our lives and wear him down with kindness, charm, and sex appeal until we have a stable relationship.” 

Hoseok chokes on the eggs, face turning red. Jimin’s eyebrows go up and it’s truly amazing ― how much condescension he can fit into that simple gesture. “Do you really think it was that easy?” 

Seokjin shrugs. Tears up a piece of sourdough bread. His coffee’s gone cold, and it isn’t nearly as good as what Yoongi makes, so it sits untouched by his elbow. 

“It wasn’t,” Jimin says flatly. “That easy. And you still didn’t answer my question? You think he’ll reject you, because―” 

“There’s more to it than that,” Seokjin blurts, then clamps his mouth shut. Curse Park Jimin and his persistence and his open, gentle face. 

Jimin’s mouth drops open. Then his eyes narrow ― like a shark scenting blood in the water. “What do you mean? Did something happen? Have you confessed before?” 

Seokjin hunches up like a sad turtle, wondering how childish it would be to pull his hood over his face and ignore Jimin until all this simply goes away. There’s a brief flash of memory ― the arch of Yoongi’s body under his ― but he ruthlessly tamps it out, grinding it to dust beneath a metaphorical boot. Hoseok is looking at him with sad knowing and Jimin with growing understanding and oh god, this is horrible. Abort, abort, abort. 

“I’m not talking about that,” he snaps, harsher than he meant to be, and winces at Jimin’s recoil. 

“Hyung,” Jimin starts, stubborn as always. 

Seokjin pulls out the big guns. “How are things going with Jungkook?” 

Jimin’s expression shutters like a fortifying castle. There goes the drawbridge pulling up, and the soldiers taking defensive positions. Hoseok puts a hand on Jimin’s shoulder ― tender and comforting ― and Seokjin suddenly feels about ten centimeters tall and like the worst person currently alive. Certainly the worst person sitting at this table. Maybe even in this entire cafe. Maybe in the whole of Yeonnam-dong. 

“I think that’s enough,” Hoseok says softly, expression uncharacteristically steely. It’s the same one he used when Seokjin messed up choreography in his Intro to Dance class in college, and it still evokes a primal fear in him. 

“I’m sorry,” he says, setting down his napkin and rising from the table. “I should go.” 

“I just want you to be happy,” Jimin says, stubby fingers clenching around his chopsticks. “You and Yoongi-hyung. You deserve it. And he loves you. You may not see it, but I do. We all do. So you should at least try, hyung. You owe it to both of yourselves to try.” 

Seokjin swallows down a sudden rush of emotions. Curse Park Jimin and his big, beautiful, bleeding heart. 

“Thanks, Jimin-ah,” he says and leaves without a backward glance. 

That way he doesn’t have to see Hoseok pull Jimin into his side and kiss his hair ― the two of them in love and sure of it, standing on bedrock instead of a slowly erupting volcano. 

But Jimin’s words plague him the whole way home, like little mocking ghosts hovering over his shoulders and whispering in his ear. Does he really want to watch Yoongi rebound with yet another asshole who is going to treat him like shit? Yoongi who believes he’s unloveable and that makes Seokjin ache somewhere at the core of him. He closes his eyes on the train and tries to picture it: beautiful, wonderful Yoongi sitting across from another actor or chaebol or plastic surgeon who hurls insults with a smile ― until Yoongi’s own gummy smile dims and he stops eating his food and he hunches up to make himself smaller than he already is. 

Flash forward and he’s drinking with Yoongi in a bathtub again, feeling Yoongi’s tears wet his shirt. Fast forward and the whole cycle starts again as Yoongi keeps looking for love in all the places that will never love him back. Flash forward and Seokjin slowly withers away to dust, until only his pathetic skeleton remains and Jimin hangs around a sign around its neck that just reads coward. 

Okay, rewind back to now and he picks a different option on the wheel of choices. He suits up and he actually confesses to Yoongi ― messy and fumbling and horrifically heartfelt. In Scenario A, Yoongi loves him back and they amble off hand in hand into a sunset of their own. In Scenario B, Yoongi rejects him and moves out the next day and Seokjin is left alone to rot, but at least Park Jimin can’t call him a coward anymore. And in Scenario C … well he doesn’t want to think about history repeating itself like that. 

An automated voice announcing a stop on the line, rips him from his thoughts. And when he looks outside he realizes with a jolt that this is his stop and then has to scramble through the closing doors with as much dignity as possible. It’s raining when he makes it back to street level, because today hates him, and he yanks the hood of his jacket up with an irritable scowl. 

There’s always Scenario D: he gets over Yoongi and rides off into his own sunset with one of the many suitors that have chased him over the years. He knows what his face looks like and what his shoulders do to people ― if he set up a dating profile, the offers would pour in. There were boys in high school and men and women in college and he gets at least two or three phone numbers a week slipped to him during the evening cooking classes he teaches ― sometimes from people there with oblivious partners. 

But the persistent problem is that none of them are Yoongi, and he doesn’t know how to solve that.

He’s never been good at math. 

The rain has petered off to a light mist and he looks up to see that his feet have carried him home without much input from his brain. He trudges up the four flights of stairs to their apartment, because the elevator is closed for repairs yet again, and punches in the code to the door, aware that he’s dripping water everywhere. He’s greeted by piano music when he crosses the threshold, soft and lilting and recognizable as one of the pieces Yoongi has been composing. He pauses by the shoe rack and closes his eyes to listen, imagining Yoongi slumped over the keys in that casual way of his, making the music look effortless even as his hands fly through complicated pieces. 

The picture morphs into Plastic Asshole, sprawled across their couch and sighing as Yoongi’s hands still on the keys. Saying: I mean it’s pretty music, but isn’t it a waste of time? There are so many more meaningful things you could be doing. Surely your parents would have preferred a different career? His tone is gentle, but laced with condescension, like he’s speaking to a small child with foolish dreams instead of his successful partner. Yoongi’s hands leave the keys and curl into his lap and he says nothing in his own defense. Fast forward a year and several boyfriends, and it’s Actor Asshole saying the same thing with only a little variation. And Yoongi is silent, because somewhere along the way, he’s come to believe he’s unlovable. 

God. Seokjin really does need to suit up, before Yoongi reactivates his profile on Jack’d to find the next [insert profession/bad characteristic here] Asshole. Because Park Jimin is right, goddamnit, Yoongi deserves better, and Seokjin isn’t sure his heart can take more pining before it shrivels into a dried husk in his chest.  

He shrugs off his soggy jack and puts his sodden shoes in the general vicinity of the shoe rack as a Plan gradually forms in his head  ― a battle strategy to tackle the true final boss: his own fear. The music has stopped in the main room, and Yoongi appears at the end of the hall. He’s wearing the glasses he never wants to admit he needs and the big frames make him even more adorable than normal, which is honestly offensive, as is the cute frown on his face and the confused furrow of his brow. 

“Jin-hyung?” 

“Do you want to go out?” Seokjin asks, trying to sound calm even though there’s a puddle of water accumulating under his socked feet and his heart is beating strangely fast in his chest. “Tonight? We haven’t done anything in ages.” 

Yoongi blinks. “I … sure.” A soft smile breaks over his face, scrunching up his eyes and showing off his gums and Seokjin feels instantly ko’d ― does Yoongi know how lethal he is when he’s happy? 

“I’d like that,” Yoongi continues. “Where are we going?” 

Seokjin musters enough willpower to wink dramatically. “It’s a surprise, Yoongi-yah. Dress nice, though.” 

“Dress nice?” Yoongi asks, dubious. 

Seokjin nods ― well aware that for them “going out” is usually either a conveniently located noodle shop that’s open late and won’t judge you for your attire, or heading to Myeongdong if they’re feeling adventurous and stuffing their faces with street food. But tonight he wants to treat Yoongi ― take him somewhere that’s going to impress him, going to show him that Seokjin can be every bit the boyfriend as any of the others that Yoongi’s dated. He’s already running through a list of the best restaurants he knows. He should be able to afford one five-star meal, since he recently got paid a decent sum for a modeling gig. 

“Define ‘nice,’” Yoongi presses. “Black tie nice?” 

“Button-up without stains nice,” Seokjin decides. 

“Fuck you,” Yoongi says, but he’s smiling. “None of my shirts have stains.” 

Seokjin laughs. “You just don’t notice them, and I pretend not to, Yoongichi. Because I’m nice.” 

Yoongi’s nose wrinkles. “Ugh, why do you keep calling me that. What does it even mean?” 

“I like how it sounds, and the face you make.” Yoongi’s nose scrunches further and his cheeks puff out. “There,” Seokjin says through the familiar squeeze of his heart. “That one. Now go get ready.” 

You get ready,” Yoongi huffs. “You’re creating a lake in our entryway.” 

Seokjin blows him a kiss, just to be ridiculous and make him smile. He’s been so sad this past week ― with Actor Asshole’s departure ― and every happy expression Seokjin can draw from him feels like gold to be hoarded. He rolls his eyes now, but the corner of his mouth is twitching, and he leaves to change without further protest. 

Alone, Seokjin presses a hand to his chest, trying to keep his heart from beating right out of his thoracic cavity. He can do this, he can. And if he fails, he’ll just blame Park Jimin.

If he fails, him and Yoongi will never speak of it ― simply continue with the usual rhythm of their lives. 

Just like last time. 

_ _ 

 

An hour later, Seokjin and Yoongi reconvene in the living room and Seokjin’s mouth goes dry at the sight of Yoongi. He’s curled his black hair a little and put in his fancy silver earrings ― the kind that sway and glimmer whenever he turns his head. Seokjin catches a hint of liner on his eyes and gloss on his lips and the cut of his white button up shirt shows off the lithe muscle he normally hides beneath several layers of baggy clothes. 

“Is this okay?” Yoongi asks like the triangle of pale chest and silver necklace visible where he’s left the top two buttons undone isn’t one of the most devastating things Seokjin’s ever been subjected to.

He would feel inadequate if he didn’t know how incredible he looks in his own outfit ― a black turtleneck and a fitted jacket he might have stolen from a photoshoot last month, both designed to contrast the pink hair he’s carefully swept off his forehead. 

Yoongi’s gaze lingers on his waist and chest and legs and Seokjin feels a faint rush of hope. 

“We both look fantastic,” Seokjin assures Yoongi. “Devastatingly hot.” 

“Great,” Yoongi deadpans, because he never believes how beautiful he is and it hurts. But someday Seokjin will fix it. For now, he just holds his arm out to Yoongi with a cheesy bow to disguise how affected by all of this he is. 

Yoongi snorts and loops his arm through Seokjin’s. “Okay, prince charming. Take me to this fancy surprise of yours.” 

Seokjin picked out a restaurant in Gangnam after several minutes of frantic scrolling through Naver results. It’s got a nice atmosphere, designed to be romantic, and as he pats Yoongi’s hand and promises that he’s going to sweep Yoongi off his feet, he feels the hope continue to bloom. 

 

_ _ 

 

Of course, he forgot one important detail: that today, the universe has it out for him. 

So instead of being a breathtaking evening to rival all of the greatest dates Yoongi’s ever been on, during which Seokjin is more suave and charming than any romantic drama lead, it unfolds something like this. 

 

MONTAGE

 

  • They arrive at the restaurant, where Seokjin has made a last-minute reservation, only for the host to insist that no, there is no record of said reservation. A polite argument ensues, which results in Seokjin pulling out his phone to show confirmation of the reservation and the host saying that he’ll see if another table is available through what sounds like gritted teeth.  

 

  • Fifteen minutes later, the host guides them to a tiny corner table that is so dark it’s almost impossible to read the menus. Seokjin tells himself that it’s romantic, even as Yoongi squints with his menu centimeters from his face. 

 

  • “I can’t believe you brought us here,” Yoongi says, twisting around his chair to peer wide-eyed at their very expensive surroundings. Everything drips with wealth, from the patrons to the chandeliers to the massive fish tank taking up one whole wall. “Can we afford this?” 

 

  • “Of course we can,” Seokjin says and tries to ignore the sound of his bank account weeping as he orders wine for them both. “We’re successful adults, Yoongichi.” 

 

  • The wine arrives and is poured with a flourish. It turns Yoongi’s already pretty lips red and Seokjin tries not to stare too obviously. 

 

  • The food arrives a century later and it’s … tiny. There’s no other way to describe it. Each plate holds one item and that item can probably be consumed in a single bite. Seokjin’s stomach growls in protest just looking at it. Yoongi tries to smile, though there’s similar despair on his face. “It looks very pretty,” he says with uncharacteristic optimism. Seokjin contemplates death. 

 

  • They eat the ant food, trying to take delicate bites so that it lasts. The table is equally small and Seokjin’s legs are cramping. He decides to shift, subtly, and try to stretch out ― put his feet under Yoongi’s chair, because he doubts Yoongi will mind. In another timeline, he’d be able to playfully tap as he foot against Yoongi’s ankle and watch Yoongi huff at him. In this one, he bangs his knee against the table and watches with horror as Yoongi’s wine glass tips over. Yoongi fumbles to catch it, fails, and then gapes in shock as red wine spills all over his nice white button-up. 

 

  • “Oh my god,” Seokjin squeaks, flailing for a napkin. Instead, in true Namjoon fashion, he manages to knock over the miniscule bowl of sauce and pitch that right into Yoongi’s lap too. Yoongi jumps, swears, and excuses himself to the bathroom to try to clean up in peace. Meanwhile, Seokjin puts his face in his hands and screams silently into the metaphorical void that he can feel consuming his future and all his hopes for impressing Yoongi. 

 

  • They leave the ridiculous restaurant with Seokjin’s jacket transferred to Yoongi to try to hide the stains. Seokjin suggests they walk along the river for a little bit and trembles in weak-kneed relief when Yoongi agrees and lets Seokjin take his arm again. He wonders if any of Yoongi’s previous dates were this bad and if he ever went on a second one with that unfortunate person. The odds don’t seem good.

 

  • The river is very pretty, but Yoongi doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it. Instead he’s leaning on the railing with a hand pressed to his stomach ― face even paler than usual. “I don’t feel so good,” he mutters. “What was in that food?” 

 

  • Seokjin rubs Yoongi’s back as Yoongi throws up in a public trashcan and passerby shoot them disgusted looks. Thunder rumbles ominously overhead and Seokjin wishes for a spontaneous lightning strike to take him out of commission. 

 

  • Instead, it starts to rain again. 

 

  • They’ve apparently become invisible to taxis and the closest metro station is several blocks away so Seokjin frantically looks around for more immediate shelter. “Come on!” he yells above the downpour and takes Yoongi’s hand, pulling him into a run. Yoongi groans. 

 

Which brings them here: in the lobby of a very fancy apartment building that they’re probably too poor to be standing in. The security guard shoots them dubious looks from the front desk and Seokjin tucks Yoongi against his side, praying that he doesn’t throw up again all over this marble floor. He’s sure they’ll somehow be fined or arrested if that happens. 

“I’m so sorry,” he says to Yoongi. 

“I still don’t understand why we didn’t go to our usual place,” Yoongi mumbles. 

Seokjin stares at the top of his bowed head and tries to figure out how honest to be. “I just … wanted to give you something nice.” 

“Hyung, you giving me nice things is telling me you saw music equipment on sale or picking up dinner and then insisting they gave you a discount so I don’t need to pay you back. Or not mentioning it when I steal your hoodies and telling me those stupid jokes of yours when I’m sad. Not five star restaurants in Gangnam.” 

“My jokes are comedic gold, thank you,” Seokjin says with as much outrage as he can muster. His voice cracks halfway through, undermining him completely. 

“Hyung,” Yoongi says, pointed, and Seokjin squeezes his eyes shut as the fear roars. 

Because here’s the thing, the reason that the final boss he’s facing is superpowered ― flashback four years, to the night before they’re both supposed to leave for military service. Their respective posts are across the country from each other and they’ve already resigned themselves to limited contact for the next two years. They’ve had their night out with friends and let Jungkook rub their buzzed heads and dealt with good natured jokes about their appearance and the way their ears stick out now. They’ve had a little too much to drink and the melancholy’s followed them back to the shared apartment they won’t be seeing again, and now they’re kissing in the living room. 

Now Seokjin is pressing Yoongi down onto the cushions of their ancient couch and Yoongi is gasping as Seokjin’s fumbling fingers unbutton his shirt. Now the gasps shift into moans as Seokjin touches Yoongi’s bare skin, whispers you’re so beautiful in Yoongi’s ear and pretends he doesn’t mean it with his entire heart. Now Yoongi is touching him, too, and every centimeter of Seokjin is on fire ― burning and aching and dying and coming alive again. Yoongi is an electric storm, and Seokjin’s view of the ceiling blurs as Yoongi sinks down slow and tortuous on his cock. Each snap of Yoongi’s hips is a shockwave running through his nervous system and Seokjin is so fucking in love. 

I love you, he pants against Yoongi’s swollen lips, rocking up to meet Yoongi, dragging his mouth across Yoongi’s chest and sweaty neck. I love you. 

Yoongi groans against his skin and it’s beautiful, he’s beautiful, and Seokjin thinks in this moment that he’ll never want for anything again. 

But when he wakes up Yoongi is gone and the bed is cold and he can actually hear the sound of his heart shattering in his chest. They never talk about it, not once, and Seokjin spends two years resolutely stitching himself whole so that when Yoongi hesitantly asks if they can still live together after their service is done, he’s able to smile without any cracks visible and make a perfect joke about the state of the economy that eases all of the tension from Yoongi’s face. 

They go back to how they were ― that one drunken night labeled a mistake and buried deep in an unmarked grave. 

But Seokjin’s still so fucking in love. Then and now, and Yoongi is twisting in his arms to peer up at him with wide eyes, like he can read all the heartbreak and emotion and eight years of pining on Seokjin’s face. Seokjin wants to kick himself repeatedly. He spent four years getting a theater degree from a fucking SKY university ― surely he should be better at hiding than this. 

“Hyung,” Yoongi says again and that's when the security guard clears his throat and pointedly looks between them and the door, beyond which the streets are disappearing beneath a deluge of rainwater. 

Seokjin doesn’t want to end this already awful night in a jail cell on trespassing charges, so he sighs and guides Yoongi back into the storm. This time Yoongi marches out into the street and actually plants himself in front of an oncoming taxi, subjecting Seokjin to at least one and a half heart attacks in the time it takes the car to stop and Yoongi to open the door. 

“Get in!” Yoongi shouts over a peal of thunder and Seokjin scrambles forward. 

The ride home is tense and awkward, but Seokjin is not going to spill out a love confession in the backseat of a taxi that smells vaguely of vomit with trot music as the backing soundtrack. So he stares out the rain-blurred window and tries to rearrange eight years of unspoken words into a cohesive paragraph that won’t send Yoongi immediately running for the hills. 

It doesn’t go well. 

 

_ _ 

 

“Hyung,” Yoongi says when they’re finally back at their apartment. His voice is barely a whisper, but his gaze is piercing. “That felt like a date.” 

“Your dates are all that bad, Yoongichi?” Seokjin says. “You need to fix your standards.” 

Thunderous silence. Wonderful. 

This is it, then. Cornered in a room with the final boss and Min Yoongi, who is standing straight-backed and commanding in spite of the hair plastered to his face and the soaked, wine-stained shirt hanging off his frame. 

Min Yoongi, whom he’s loved for eight years and thinks he’s going to love for the rest of his miserable life. Min Yoongi, whom he’s so painfully afraid of losing. 

“Don’t make me say it,” he begs, digging his nails into his palms. Maybe there’s still a way out of this with the last shreds of his dignity intact. 

“I need you to,” Yoongi replies, raw and open in a way he so rarely is. “Please, Seokjin, I need you to say it.” 

“I already have,” Seokjin points out, trying to dodge. “And you didn’t want to hear it then.” 

Yoongi stares at him in disbelief. “I was drunk. We were both drunk and sad and I didn’t … I didn’t think you meant it. I thought you were just trying to comfort me.” 

“You never asked. You just left!” 

“So that you wouldn’t throw me out!” 

“Why would I ever do that?” 

Yoongi scrubs a hand over his face and his breath hitches. “Because you’re you,” he says, sounding scraped raw. Like he’s bleeding all over their living room floor. “And I’m me.” 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Seokjin asks, bleeding too. “ Yoongi-yah.” 

Yoongi shakes his head, frantic. “You never said anything, either. Why … why is this all on me? It’s been so long and I’ve dated other people ― you’ve dated other people and you’ve never―” 

His next breath is a sob and Seokjin moves before his brain catches up, draping himself over Yoongi’s hunched back and pressing a cheek to his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he says. “You’re right, you’re right. Jimin’s even told me I’m a coward and he’s right too. I’m such a coward. I should have said something in college.” 

College? ” Yoongi hiccups. 

Fuck, they’re both such messes. Thank god no one is here to witness this disaster. 

“Yeah,” he says, glad that he can’t see Yoongi’s face. “I’ve known since then.” 

“You―” Yoongi hiccups again. “You fucking bastard.” 

“I know.” Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s waist. “I know, I’m horrible. You can yell at me some more if you want. Will that help?” 

“No … just. Please let go of me or ‘m gonna throw up again.” 

“Shit.” He steps back and Yoongi collapses onto the couch, face wan. “Shit, I can’t do anything right, can I?” 

“You do a lot of things right,” Yoongi insists even as he puts a protective hand over his stomach and tips slowly onto his side. “You’re so good.” 

Cautiously, Seokjin sits on the floor next to the couch, watching Yoongi’s eyelashes flutter against his cheeks. It feels like they’re on a fulcrum ― everything is about to shift, to set them off in a new direction. The final boss is down to only a few hit points and Seokjin just needs to muster his courage. 

“You’re good too,” he murmurs, reaching out to brush Yoongi’s hair off his damp forehead. “I’m sorry I haven’t spent eight years telling you that like I should have. I’m sorry I’ve wasted so much time. But I have wildly non-platonic feelings for you and I would very much like to date you. And kiss you. And hopefully have sex again where we’re not drunk and no one leaves for two years the next morning.” 

Yoongi laughs, cracked and aching, and opens his eyes. “So … you love me?” 

“Yes. It’s horrible, I’ll have you know. You’re a horrible person to be in love with.” 

“...I am?” 

“Yes. You play musical instruments and you’re so cute but also really sexy and you can cook and you hum to yourself when you’re happy and you laugh at my dumb jokes and you’re the greatest roommate I’ve ever had even though you never remember to wash the dishes and sometimes I think you’re going to start molding because you spend so much time at your piano. I’ve dated other people, but none of them have been you. I’ve always wanted them to be you.” 

There. All the cards on the table ― he can’t get more honest than this. And now all he can do is sit here and hold his breath and hope with every trembling cell in his body. 

But Yoongi doesn’t make him wait long. Yoongi laughs again and fumbles around until he’s threading their fingers together. “Me? Have you tried being in love with you? You look like you were photoshopped into existence by an advertising company ― do you even have pores? And you’re always taking care of everyone even though you treat it like a joke. You’ve never judged me for anything, even my bad days or when I put on weight.” 

“You’re beautiful,” Seokjin blurts, squeezing Yoongi’s hand perhaps a little too hard. 

“See? You’re insufferable. I hate you.” 

“Do you?” 

Yoongi huffs, dropping his head back onto the couch. “No,” he mumbles, cheeks flushed red. “The opposite.” 

“I really need you to say it, Yoongi-yah.” 

“I love you, okay?” Yoongi says, loud and annoyed, and Seokjin feels like he’s been living in a black and white film that’s suddenly exploded into technicolor ― like Dorothy landing in Oz. “I also want to date you. But no more fancy restaurants.” 

“No more fancy restaurants,” Seokjin agrees.

“I also want to kiss you, but my mouth tastes like something died in it. And I think I might throw up again.” 

“I appreciate your consideration.” 

“Also the couch is really wet, this was a mistake.” 

“We’ll fix it,” Seokjin says because nothing can bring him down right now. His blood has turned to pure helium and he’s in the fucking stratopshere. “But let’s get changed and get you a bucket and I’ll spend the next month making up for this trainwreck of an evening.” 

“You’ve already made up for it,” Yoongi insists and then abruptly scrambles off the couch to throw up in the bathroom. 

 

_ _ 

 

The next morning, Seokjin wakes up with his arms full of a sleeping Yoongi and has to shove his face into his pillow to keep from screeching in stunned delight. Last night wasn’t a fever dream, after all. 

He’s in love and it doesn’t hurt nearly as much anymore because Min Yoongi loves him back. 

His arm is also going numb and he desperately needs to pee, so he carefully extracts himself from the mess of blankets, pausing to kiss Yoongi on the cheek because holy shit he can do that now, and heads for the bathroom. 

Personal needs taken care of, he drifts to the living room to call Jimin ― both to offer an apology and because his gloating will be easier to deal with over the phone rather than in person. 

“I knew it,” Jimin predictably says as soon as Seokjin has shared the news. “You should have listened to me three years ago.” 

“Yes, yes, Jimin-ah,” Seokjin says, trying to keep his exhilarated grin out of his voice. He probably looks unhinged, standing here grinning at his wall, but he doesn’t care. “You’re the fount of all knowledge and wisdom and I’ll never question you again. I’m also sorry for the way I acted yesterday.” 

“Me too,” Jimin says. “I was, ah, probably too direct.” 

“You should still talk to Jungkook, though,” Seokjin says, moving on quickly. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you and Hobi. He won’t reject you, but he’s definitely too anxious to make the first move.” 

“It’s not that simple,” Jimin protests and Seokjin talks over the rest of whatever excuse he’s trying to form. 

“Yah, take your own damn advice, Park Jimin. You already landed one cute boy, now go get another one.” 

Jimin giggles, high and sweet. “Okay, hyung. Say hi to Yoongi for me.” 

“I will,” Seokjin promises. 

When he hangs up, he turns around to find Yoongi emerging from the bathroom. His hair is an absolute bird’s nest and his cheeks are puffy with sleep and he’s shuffling like he’s a ninety-year-old halabeoji, and he’s the most gorgeous thing in the universe. Seokjin will battle anyone who dares say otherwise. 

“Good morning, boyfriend,” he says, giddy.

“Ugh,” Yoongi mutters, but his mouth is twitching and he keeps shuffling until he’s pressed up against Seokjin, arms coming up to drape over Seokjin’s shoulders. Seokjin fits his hands over Yoongi’s hips, and he feels electric again. Supercharged like Storm from X-Men ― about to channel lightning everywhere. 

“You’re still here,” Yoongi says, blinking owlishly up at Seokjin. 

“I am. And so are you.” 

“Mm, and guess what?” 

“You’re going to make coffee?” 

Yoongi’s smile blooms into a beautiful mischievous smirk. “I brushed my teeth.” 

And then he rocks up on his toes and slots his mouth over Seokjin’s, hot and wanting. Seokjin groans and pulls him closer, closer, closer until there isn’t a part of him not connected to Yoongi. And if you listen very closely, you’ll be able to hear the fireworks going off inside of him ― louder and louder, crackling and bright and joyous. 

He’s in love and it’s horrible and he wouldn’t trade it for anything on earth.