Yoongi had felt on edge all day yesterday, and when he woke up this morning he still had that familiar tightness in his chest. His stomach turned as he forced himself to get out of bed one, two, three times, just to make sure his feet hit the floor exactly right. When he was finally able to leave the room he prayed he hadn’t woken Seokjin up—he had wanted to surprise him with breakfast this morning.
But making breakfast was a process, too. First, he had to wash his hands one, two, three times just in case because he didn’t want Jin to be sick over the weekend. And then he got out the bread and stuck four pieces in the toaster, but when he got out the eggs he couldn’t touch them. He just couldn’t.
Yoongi leaned forward against the counter, shoulders slumped, head down. He took a few deep breaths without counting them. Well-practiced, in, out, in, out. In through his nose out through his mouth. He was tired and frustrated and he jumped when someone came behind him and wrapped their arms around his waist.
Jin, he realized. He let himself relax into Seokjin’s arms, the tension in his shoulders slowly slowly slowly leaking out. Seokjin pressed kisses to his neck in response, “Tough morning?” His voice was low and scratchy with sleep and Yoongi felt himself smile despite his still racing heart.
“Wanted to make you breakfast. Before you woke up.” Yoongi let out a frustrated breath.
Seokjin shrugged and loosened his grip on Yoongi’s waist, “Well, I’m awake now. But I still want breakfast.”
“It’s gonna take me fucking forever to make it this morning.”
Seokjin shrugged again and sat down at their tiny kitchen table, giving Yoongi some space. “Well, if breakfast isn’t on the table in an hour I think I’ll actually starve to death.” Seokjin rolled his eyes back in his head for emphasis and Yoongi wacked him on the shoulder with his free hand.
“Stop being dramatic.”
Seokjin put his hand over his heart, “Babe, that’s literally my job.” Yoongi pulled a face and turned away, but Seokjin could still tell that he was trying to hold in a smile.
Seokjin put his arms on the table to cushion his head, turning so he could watch his boyfriend cook. He winced in sympathy as he watched Yoongi restrain himself from physically recoiling as he picked up the eggs and broke them one by one into a bowl.
They had been dating for seven years and it never got easier, seeing Yoongi’s bad days. Now, the good far outweighed the bad, but it still hurt to see him so frustrated like this. And every now and then Seokjin still had to be reminded to not baby him, to not indulge Yoongi’s compulsions even though sometimes it would be so much easier.
And if Yoongi really did need help, he would ask. It’s one of the things that Seokjin was proudest of in their relationship—communication. Neither of them had been perfect in the beginning, but it was something that Seokjin had struggled with the most. Yoongi had a lifetime of practice of constantly standing up for himself. Seokjin, on the other hand, had a lifetime of practice keeping his true thoughts and opinions inside. He felt like his whole life revolved around playing a part, becoming a different character, and sometimes it was just so much easier to not be himself. But he had come a long way, and he was proud of that.
As Seokjin watched his boyfriend carefully cut up apples and slide the toast and scrambled eggs on to their respective plates, his chest warmed. He loved being domestic together, reveled in their daily routines because he knew at the end of the day he would get to come home to his favorite place in the world. And Yoongi felt the same way, even if he was less vocal about it. After they moved in together, Yoongi had quietly admitted how safe he felt with Seokjin, how comfortable he felt in the apartment. These little moments were always so important for both of them.
Yoongi set the plate down in front of Seokjin, “Sorry for the wait. It’s on the house.”
Seokjin took a big bite of eggs and sunk dramatically in his chair, “Compliments to the chef. These are the best eggs I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”
Yoongi rolled his eyes but the corners of his mouth tugged up in a smile.
Seokjin didn’t know why he was being so nostalgic—maybe it was seeing Yoongi drowning in Seokjin’s flannel pajamas, carefully preparing breakfast at the stovetop that had triggered something inside Seokjin.
“If only they could see us now.” It was a running joke between the two of them, this mysterious they that referred to the Yoongi and Seokjin of seven years ago. Yoongi had been 19 and Seokjin was 20, both in college, both a little lost in the size of New York city but still crazy about each other.
Back then, Yoongi had been a mystery to Seokjin. He was an elusive friend-of-a-friend who always came up in conversation but whom Seokjin had never actually met in person. And after a joint production between juniors in the drama department and the music production department, he had heard horror stories about Yoongi working for hours to perfect his compositions—and forcing the vocalists in the play to do the same.
But, one night at a party, Seokjin had stumbled half-drunk onto the tiny balcony to get some fresh air, and it was there that he met Yoongi for the first time.
He was nothing like Seokjin had expected. He had been curled up in the corner, both hands clutching a beer, but he startled and sat up straight as soon as Seokjin made his appearance.
They made eye contact and Seokjin stood there dumbly, his brain trying to process if he had met this guy before. He’s cute, he remembered thinking, in a weird, prickly kind of way. “Close the door.” Yoongi said to him, and Seokjin had quickly scrambled to obey.
Yoongi was wearing an oversized black sweatshirt with orange writing down the arms, and a black bucket hat pulled low over his eyes. He would have been intimidating had he not looked so small sitting out there on the floor.
“Why aren’t you inside?” Seokjin sat down next to him, legs crossed.
Yoongi glanced back through the glass door, “Well, I wanted to leave, but I was closer to this door so I came out here.” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, “Why aren’t you inside?”
“Hot.” Seokjin wrinkled his nose and fanned his face for emphasis, knowing he was bright red from the alcohol. Yoongi smirked and Seokjin was glad he was already flushed. “Have we met?”
Yoongi shook his head, “Don’t think so.”
They fell into silence and Seokjin raised an eyebrow, “You know, this is usually the part when you tell me your name.”
Yoongi pressed his lips together but still answered, “Yoongi. You?”
“Oh, you’re Yoongi! I’ve heard so much about you”
Yoongi looked at him suspiciously and Seokjin quickly reassured him, “I’m in the drama department! Don’t worry it was nothing bad.”
When Yoongi raised his eyebrows Seokjin relented, “Okay, it was mildly bad, but nothing worse than usual. Don’t feel so special, theater kids hold grudges like no one’s business.”
“Does that include you?”
Seokjin looked affronted and put a hand to his chest, “Of course it includes me. I’m metaphorically in the trenches of the theater department. I live there, I breath theater, I’ve given up my personality for a lifetime of method acting.”
This time Yoongi laughed, tilting his chin up and giving Seokjin a brief glimpse of his whole face. When he didn’t look so serious it brightened up all his features. Seokjin’s heart stuttered and he hoped it didn’t show on his face.
“Well, if you’re method acting, what role are you preparing for now?” Yoongi leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees, and, oh my god, was Yoongi flirting with him?
Seokjin raised his eyebrows, “Well, currently I’m working on a role as a boy who would very much like to go home with someone tonight.”
Yoongi straightened up immediately, pulling back, and Seokjin wondered if he had overstepped. He watched as Yoongi’s eyes darted nervously back to the crowded party inside, face serious again as he turned to Seokjin, “I don’t know if I can help you with that one, but what about this: how about you help me get out of this place in one piece and I’ll give you my number?”
And so Seokjin elbowed his way through the crowd with Yoongi close behind him. When both of them finally burst through the door into the stairwell they collapsed against the wall, grinning at each other. “I really hate parties,” said Yoongi.
“I really hate music parties,” Seokjin corrected, “Theater parties are a hoot and a half, I promise. Lots of costumes, lots of themes, sometimes there’s poetry involved.”
“That somehow sounds even worse.” Seokjin noticed some of the tension in Yoongi’s body had disappeared now that they were alone outside the apartment.
“Well, your turn.” Seokjin handed his phone over to Yoongi and Yoongi smiled, a small, shy smile that he quickly tried to duck his head and hide.
Yoongi handed the phone back to Seokjin and Seokjin smirked, “Don’t worry, for our first date I won’t take you to a party.”
Yoongi feigned surprise, “first date?”
Seokjin rambled on as if he hadn’t heard him, “Yeah, if not a party then maybe a drag show? Or one of those restaurants where they are mean to you on purpose? Somewhere fun and exciting.” At the pained expression on Yoongi’s face, Seokjin’s smile softened to something a little more real. “Or, you know, a coffee shop or the park or something.”
“Sure, fine, you know, I’d love to continue whatever we have going on here,” Yoongi made a small gesture with his hand, “But I think I’m going to go home and sleep.”
“Well, I am going to go back in and drink enough to enjoy this thing.”
Yoongi gave him a wane smile, “Good luck in there.”
Seokjin mock saluted and then opened the door, calling after Yoongi as he went down the stairs, “I’m serious about that date you know! My name’s Seokjin, by the way!”
Yoongi looked back over his shoulder, a funny expression on his face, “Well, Seokjin, if you’re in, I’m in too, I guess.”
It hadn’t exactly been a ringing endorsement for a date, but the next morning Seokjin shamelessly texted Yoongi a time and a subway stop and, to both of their surprise, Yoongi showed up in torn jeans, fidgeting with the sleeves of his hoodie. Seokjin thought that even without the beer goggles Yoongi looked stunning, so he told him exactly that.
Yoongi looked at him like he was crazy, “Have you seen yourself? You’re like, a model or some shit. I half thought it was a joke this morning when you texted me.”
Seokjin clucked his tongue at Yoongi, “Not everyone comes to New York to model, you know, you can’t just assume that about people.” He gestured at his face, “I’m a generous person, I give all of this away for free.”
And the date was great. And the one after that. And the one after that. They got along well, to the surprise of literally everyone around them. Seokjin learned that Yoongi wasn’t half as scary as other people thought, but he definitely was a perfectionist and a workaholic who had expectations just as high for everyone around him.
And Yoongi learned that Seokjin wasn’t all banter and talk and the big personality that he put on for other people. After a few weeks of dating they went to a particularly exhausting theater party together, where Yoongi hung back and watched as Seokjin practically played host even though it wasn’t his home. He bounced around the room from group to group, making people laugh, introducing people to each other, leading rounds of shots. But then later that night they got back to Seokjin’s apartment and Yoongi watched as Seokjin seemed to deflate, collapse in on himself, exhausted.
Yoongi had curled up next to him on the couch as they drank water together in the dark. “You’re not actually an extrovert, are you?”
“Now my secret’s out. I live a secret, double life, Yoongi-ah. It’s harder than it looks.” Seokjin’s tone was playful and airy but Yoongi had looked him very seriously in the eye, searching his face for something, although Seokjin didn’t know what.
“I’m fine, really. Just tired. Things like that are just tiring.”
Yoongi nodded into Seokjin’s shoulder, “I know.” And Seokjin heard the meaning behind those words—I know, and I’m here, and I understand you, and even maybe We’re more similar than you might think.
Seokjin had already been in love with New York City. Since his first day here he had thrived on the chaos of big city life—the weird, comforting anonymity of being one in a crowd, the solidarity with others over shitty public transportation. Even the trash piles on the sidewalk were like weird forms of art. Here, everyone’s lives were still private, but they were lived so publicly, always in earshot of another person, everyone separated by only thin walls and glass and the illusion of privacy.
But falling in love with Yoongi in the city was different. Seokjin moved through New York easily, going with the flow, accepting invitations and making plans and saying things like do you want to go to that new rooftop for drinks on Friday, and oh did you hear about that new play opening on Saturday do you want to go?
But Yoongi had fought tooth and nail to get here, and stay here, and build a life here, and he loved the city as a testament to his independence. He lived in the dorms because he got free housing, pocketed extra scholarship money to pay for his transportation and book fees, and if he didn’t have his work-study job he wouldn’t be able to pay his phone bill. So Yoongi’s city was renting a bike and riding it through the park, lounging on the green at school with bagels from the bakery, being up and awake at all hours of the day constantly working, working, working.
Both of their schedules were full enough for ten people, between rehearsals and classes and studying and work (for Yoongi) and an endless stream of lunch dates (for Seokjin), they always ended up meeting at odd hours.
Seokjin recalls the early years of them dating as being timeless, day and night blending together seamlessly. They were both exhausted all the time but wired up on coffee and stress and anxiety, and, for Yoongi, a serious case of insomnia. Seokjin would often go out and party and stumble back onto campus at 3 or 4 am to drag Yoongi out of his closet-size studio space so they could get a slice of pizza or a coffee or take a nap together.
Or, Yoongi would wander back to Seokjin’s after his shift at the dining hall ended at midnight, and they would curl up under blankets on the roof of Seokjin’s apartment and eat a picnic dinner and drink cheap wine.
One night on that rooftop Yoongi had laid his head down and closed his eyes on Seokjin’s lap. Back then, his eyes were always framed with dark circles, and that day they had been so swollen and dry he was all but forced to wear his thick-rimmed glasses. He looked exhausted but he couldn’t calm down, tapping numbers against his leg and pulling at his hoodie strings in a pointless effort to try and get them exactly even.
“I’m so tired, Seokjin.” Seokjin put his hands over Yoongi’s to still them.
“Tap a nap, stay over. I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow morning.”
“No, I mean…I’m tired. Of this.” Yoongi closed his eyes and Seokjin felt his heart stutter.
“No, no. Not of us. Just of…this. Everything.” Yoongi made a frustrated sound in the back of his throat and he pulled his hands out from Seokjin’s and returned to pulling on his hoodie strings.
“Can…can I do anything to help?” This was new to Seokjin, them being more vulnerable. Two weeks ago Yoongi had told him about his OCD, about his compulsions, about the checking, about how sometimes it wasn’t just a perfectionist streak.
It’s not like Seokjin hadn’t noticed, but now there was confirmation, and a name, and a diagnosis and it all made a little more sense.
And looking at Yoongi now he could see the stress written all over his face, even though he obviously wanted to sleep. He ran a hand through Yoongi’s messy hair when he didn’t answer. “Yoongi-ah,” he called, trying to bring Yoongi out of his mind and back here.
Yoongi’s breath hitched in his throat and Seokjin realized with a start he was crying. He had his eyes squeezed together but nonetheless two tears rolled out from the corners and into his hairline before Seokjin could move and wipe them away.
“Oh, Yoongi-ah, come here.” Seokjin felt raw and jittery from seeing Yoongi so upset. It wasn’t like them to be like this with each other, he thought, but then quickly corrected himself—before, it wasn’t like them to be like this with each other. But Yoongi had wanted more confirmation that their relationship was real to calm some of the thoughts in his head. So here they were, giving vulnerability a shot.
Seokjin gathered Yoongi up into a hug in his arms, pulling him into his lap. They hadn’t had proper sex in a while, and since then Yoongi had definitely lost weight. Seokjin winced when he felt Yoongi’s skinny rib cage as he lifted him up.
“Sorry,” Yoongi rasped, his face buried in Seokjin’s shoulder, “Sorry, sorry, sorry—“
“It’s fine, shhh, hey. You’re working yourself up. You’re okay, you’re with me.”
Yoongi nodded, taking a slow, even breath. In through his nose, out through his mouth. “Why do you like me Seokjin? Why are you with me?”
Seokjin tightened his arms around Yoongi, “You’re smart, you’re funny. You’re super hot and make all the other boys jealous.” Yoongi snorted and Seokjin’s heart calmed a little.
“Plus, Yoongi, you…you make me a better person. You make me happier. And I hope I make you happier too.” He said the last sentence in a whisper, the words almost getting caught in his throat.
“You make me a better person too, Seokjin.” Yoongi spoke the words straight into Seokjin’s hoodie and Seokjin had to strain to hear him, but they calmed his nerves just the same. Yoongi would be alright. They would both be alright. “Now carry me back inside.”
Seokjin snorted, “As if. My legs are asleep; I don’t think I’ll be able to move either.”
Yoongi stood up, a little wobby, stealing all the blankets off Seokjin and wrapping them around his shoulders. “Well, I’m going.”
“And you’re going to what, leave me to die out here?”
Yoongi started walking towards the emergency stairwell, “Oh I see how it is! Leave me for dead, alone, in the cold! They’ll never let you get away with it, Yoongi, never!”
Yoongi rolled his eyes but stopped, “Hyung, just hurry up, will you?”
Seokjin stood up and sure enough, his legs were asleep. He hobbled over to Yoongi, “I’m coming as fast as these old bones will carry me.”
Yoongi rolled his eyes and mumbled, “You’re not that old.”
“Aw, look who’s being sweet today.” Seokjin pinched Yoongi’s cheeks and Yoongi shot him a look that could freeze the earth over. “If this is what I get every time we talk about feelings then we should do it more often.”
“No thanks,” Yoongi wrinkled his nose.
“Your loss, I got a lot going up in here.” Seokjin tapped his head and shrugged, looking pointedly away until Yoongi bumped their shoulders together. Seokjin wrapped his arms around Yoongi’s tiny waist as they clambered back inside and pressed the call button for the elevator.
Namjoon hadn’t meant to compound Yoongi’s anxiety over their relationship, really. He apologized for it, sloppy and drunk and teary-eyed later, but he had spoken the words out loud first.
Seokjin had met Namjoon briefly before, at a party, but after almost two months of them dating, Yoongi had dragged Seokjin to Namjoon’s poetry reading and they all went out for drinks afterwards.
“Nice to meet you, again. Yoongi talks about you a lot,” Namjoon had said, but his eyes skipped from Seokjin’s to Yoongi’s, almost questioningly. Seokjin tried not to feel too hurt.
He didn’t dwell on it long, however, because Yoongi was already going in on the girl who read her poem right after Namjoon. It had been a dramatic spoken word about a failed relationship who didn’t understand her art, and somewhere in there had been a metaphor about death and a prison and hell.
“You know, they say that art comes from pain and all that but I don’t think that guy did it right if this the shit she wrote after their break-up.”
“Oh come on, Yoongi-ah, you can’t just wish pain on other people.”
“Oh, I’m not wishing her pain, just trying to give her a little more inspiration.”
Seokjin bumped his hip against Yoongi’s playfully, “Well, I wasn’t talking about her. I just don’t want the guy to have to go through that again.”
Yoongi snorted, “She said that being misunderstood is hell, but you know what hell is? Being forced to listen to someone else’s shitty poetry.”
“A verifiable highway,” Seokjin nodded sagely.
Namjoon watched them bicker and quip all night, eyes darting back and forth between the two and growing more confused by the second. Later that night, when they split off from Seokjin to walk home towards campus, Namjoon turned to Yoongi, eyebrows knit together.
Yoongi looked up at him, confused. “Yeah, Seokjin.”
“He doesn’t…he isn’t usually the type of guy you go for, though. Right?”
“Yeah, and…?” Yoongi cocked his head at Namjoon, eyes narrowing.
“I’m just saying hyung, usually you go for people a little bit more…real.” There was something about how they interacted with each other that threw Namjoon off. Maybe it was seeing his normally quiet, vaguely grumpy best friend go back and forth with someone without getting defensive or argumentative. It had been so casual and natural that it had thrown Namjoon for a loop.
“Are you trying to say that Seokjin is fake?”
“No, no….just….Nevermind.” Namjoon shrugged, “I was just surprised. Not usually your type.”
Yoongi was silent for a bit and then his shoulders deflated, “Well, to be fair I don’t think I’m usually Seokjin’s type either.” Yoongi had seen pictures of Seokjin’s exes—tall, well-muscled, handsome faces that complimented Seokjin’s so well. Yoongi tugged at his shirtsleeves and fiddled with his earrings before shoving his hands into his pockets with some effort.
Namjoons voice softened as he bumped his shoulder against Yoongi’s, drawing him out of his thoughts. “Hey, well, he’s lucky to have you. You’re a catch.”
But Namjoon’s words had wormed their way into Yoongi’s brain. Seokjin seemed real. He seemed real when he ran over and picked Yoongi up in his arms after he nailed the opening night of his show. He seemed real when he laid his head in Yoongi’s lap after they got high together, and called Yoongi beautiful, over and over. He seemed real when he let himself in to Yoongi’s apartment one night when Yoongi wasn’t there and Yoongi came home to find him crying on the couch. “Jin? Seokjin?” Yoongi had run over to put a hand on Seokjin’s back, vaguely panicked. “What happened?”
Seokjin rubbed his eyes and shrugged, “Nothing, just homesick.”
“So you came over here?”
Seokjin had looked Yoongi in the eyes and nodded, “Feel a little better now.”
But despite all the proof, he couldn’t help but think about it. So one night after a fancy dinner of dollar pizza eaten on a street corner, Yoongi brought it up. They were walking back to Seokjin’s place in a wandering, roundabout way. Yoongi couldn’t think of a way to say it tactfully so he just went for it.
“Namjoon thinks you’re fake.”
“He said that?” Seokjin hadn’t flinched, just sounded confused.
“Well, he said you’re not my type. That I usually date someone more real.”
“Well, If I’m being honest,” Seokjin turned to look Yoongi in the eye, “I don’t think either of us really expected this. Does it matter?”
Yoongi shrugged and suddenly became very interested in his feet.
“Yoongi, do you think I’m fake?”
“No!” Yoongi’s head snapped up, a little too quickly, and he felt his ears go red.
“Do you think our relationship is fake?”
“No.” Yoongi was scowling now, shoving his hands deep in his pockets. “It was stupid, forget I said anything.”
“No, something had obviously been bothering you. Why do you care so much what Namjoon thinks?”
“it’s not Namjoon it’s just…” Yoongi rolled his eyes, frustrated. “It’s just sometimes this seems too good to be true, ya know?” He mumbled the last part, embarrassed. It was just a little too honest, a little too vulnerable, and his heart pounded as he waited for Seokjin to respond.
“We’re allowed to have something nice.” Seokjin gave Yoongi a small smile and Yoongi reluctantly returned it, not pulling away when Seokjin linked elbows with him.
“Fuck the haters, and all that. As they say.”
Yoongi pretended to jerk his arm out of Seokjin’s, face wrinkling in mock disgust, “Ugh, god, when you say stuff like that, though…maybe Namjoon was right.”
“I meant that in all sincerity, Yoongi-ah.”
“Fuck off.” Yoongi gave his shoulder a swipe.
Seokjin gasped and then whipped around, walking away in the opposite direction until Yoongi reached back and caught his wrist, “Stop, stop that, just—“ Yoongi made a frustrated noise and linked their hands together.
Seokjin relaxed and fell into step beside him, looking at Yoongi’s profile as Yoongi did everything in his power to try and look disinterested in the whole situation. It felt pretty real to him too, he thought, but he restrained himself from being too cheesy and saying it aloud. Yoongi already knew.
And seven years later, it still felt real. It felt like the realest thing in Seokjin’s life, keeping him grounded and sane in the midst of his crazy job and Yoongi’s crazy schedule.
“If only they could see us now,” Yoongi sighed echoing Seokjin’s sentiment. “They’d be so disappointed in us.”
“We’re old and boring now, aren’t we.”
Yoongi wrinkled his nose and, after all these years, it still did something funny to Seokjin’s heart. “You’re old and boring, hyung. I’m in my prime. I light up your life.”
“Hey, don’t forget who pays the bills around this place.” Seokjin watched as Yoongi made a face around his big bite of eggs.
“Pretty sure that’s me, hyung. You’re a high school theater teacher.”
“Best one in Manhattan. Don’t you forget it, either.”
They lapsed into a comfortable silence as they ate their breakfast. It still shocked him, how something so normal could make Seokjin feel so warm and giddy inside. He couldn’t contain himself any longer, “Yoongi-ah, you’re adorable.”
“Stop that, I’m eating.” Yoongi pulled a face and shoved another bite into his mouth but Seokjin didn’t miss how the tips of his ears reddened, how his eyes briefly flickered down to avoid Seokjin’s gaze.
“Awww, someone’s blushing,” Seokjin cooed. “Does someone have a crush?”
“Oh my god. Okay, we’re done. Breakfast is over.” Yoongi got up and took their dishes to the sink and Seokjin watched as he filled the egg pan with water to let it soak, just like Seokjin had taught him.
Yoongi turned around and looked at Seokjin who was looking especially sappy at the table with his head in his hands. Yoongi leaned against the counter, defeated. He rolled his eyes. “Do you wanna watch some TV?”
“Ooh!” Seokjin perked up, “How about a reality show? My favorite one, where they’re all naked in the wilderness?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.” Yoongi let Seokjin sidle up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist as they both shuffled to the couch. Seokjin leaned his head against Yoongi’s and Yoongi caught a whiff of his shampoo.
And as they sat on the couch together, Seokjin very seriously squinting at the TV to pick an episode, Yoongi curled up and laid his head on Seokjin’s lap. Without even looking, Seokjin’s other hand found Yoongi’s and Yoongi pulled it to his chest, feeling the knot of anxiety lodged there loosen.
It had taken him a while to come around to the idea, but Seokjin had repeated it multiple times afterwards. We’re allowed to have something nice, Yoongi. We’re allowed to have something nice. And today this was still most definitely the nicest thing in Yoongi’s life, even after all the money, and recognition.
But maybe most importantly, after all this time, it never stopped feeling real.