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it's not rocket science

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Technically speaking, you can’t be bad at something you have never done before. So no, Namjoon isn’t bad at cooking per se. He simply has never tried doing it before.

But that must soon change, because now that he’s living alone, he needs to eat something that doesn’t come out of a package. Chinese is good, but having it twice a day, seven days a week? He wouldn’t know if he’d come down with something or is simply sick of orange chicken if he suddenly throws up mid-dinner one day.

Also, he can’t keep lying to his mom about this “friend” that cooks for him, unless he can call the Panda Express chef his friend, so here he is on a Saturday afternoon, standing on someone’s front porch, triple checking if he got the correct address.

It’s a thirty minutes ride from his place, which is quite far for his standard, but this isn’t Seoul. California is vast, something he eventually needs to get used to. Besides, he has a very specific cooking course in mind and this is the nearest place that he could find.

After he’s a hundred percent sure it’s house number sixty three—he really doesn’t want to embarrass himself more than necessary today—he presses the doorbell and waits. The few seconds of silence preceding the sound of footsteps makes Namjoon a little nervous, his fingers tingling and his toes curling in anticipation.

Namjoon doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it was certainly not a Very Tall and Very Handsome young man with a pink apron opening the door. Namjoon’s whole body freezes.

“Welcome,” the man beams. “Are you here for the cooking class?”

Namjoon was taught not to stare, but this man is making it extremely hard for him. That is the face that demands to be seen, to be the center of attention; It feels almost rude not to stare.

“Yes,” is all Namjoon says, not trusting himself to say anything more. Thankfully, it’s all the man needs to know to step aside and let him in.

“I’m Kim Seokjin, the instructor. Jin, for short,” says the man as they walk through the house. Relief washes over him when he recognizes the surname, feeling an instant sense of camaraderie. “This is your first time, right? Don’t think I’ve seen you around.”

Namjoon nods, but quickly realizes Seokjin can’t see him from the front. “It is. I’m… new in town. Just moved in last month.”

“Oh?” Seokjin looks over his shoulder. “Where from?”

“Seoul.”

“Ah,” Seokjin casts him a knowing look before stopping in front of a wooden door and slides it open. Switching to Korean, he says, “You’re Kim Namjoon, I suppose?” When Namjoon’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, Seokjin chuckles. “You filled in the form, remember? The only Korean name on today’s sheet. Sorry, I just assumed.”

“No, no, you’re right,” Namjoon quickly reassures him. “That’s me, yeah. Not many Koreans around here, huh?”

“Plenty in the area, actually.” Seokjin steps inside—or rather outside—and turns on the lights. “They just don’t usually take cooking lessons from a… bachelor.” Seokjin presses his lips into a thin smile; as a bachelor himself, Namjoon immediately understands the prejudice.

The room Seokjin led them into is a garage turned into one big kitchen with five stations, each with its own portable stove and cutting mat. In the corner is a fridge and a sink, and a cabinet filled with pots and pans of all sizes. There’s a dining table on the other end of the room, along with five matching chairs. The wooden floor gives it a homey feel, but the uniformity of it all makes it look legit. Namjoon can’t help but look around in awe. It’s clear that Seokjin had put a decent amount of effort into remodeling the space.

“Welcome to my class,” Seokjin turns around, looking proud. Gingerly, Namjoon steps inside, but is quickly met with a scolding. “Ah, ah, shoes off.”

“Oops, sorry.” With one hand against the wall for support, Namjoon quickly takes off his shoes, only noticing the rack next to the door now that Seokjin isn’t hogging his attention. “Getting used to… the way of the locals.”

Seokjin snorts. “Yeah, not in my kitchen, no. The shoes stay off.”

It takes Namjoon a while, but it finally dawns on him that nobody else is here. Out of curiosity, he asks Seokjin if he’s the only participant for today.

“Oh no, no. Got another three joining us later. I don’t do private classes, you see. You’re just really early,” Seokjin chuckles. Namjoon wishes he would stop doing that; it’s doing things to his heart. “Class starts at two.”

Namjoon glances at his wristwatch. It’s barely one forty. Not wanting to make a bad first impression, he had left his home a little early so he would have some time to spare just in case he gets lost, which, by the way, happens a lot more often than he likes to admit. But Seokjin’s house was easier to find than he had thought, and now he has a heap of time before the class begins and no idea how to spend it.

Lucky for him, Seokjin is an experienced ice-breaker.

“Let me just… fix you something real quick.” He opens the fridge and glances at Namjoon. “From a scale from one to Americans, how big of a sweet tooth are you?”

Namjoon chuckles, shaking his head. “A good seven, I’d say. I have a very… uh, childish tastebud,” he admits sheepishly. That’s what his mother always said: cooking for him is like feeding a grade-schooler.

“That’s not bad. I know someone who lives off Diet Dr Pepper and Flamin Hot Cheetos.” Seokjin winces at the recollection. If he was trying to make Namjoon feel better, it kind of works.

Seokjin grabs a bottle of cider and another of syrup and closes the door with his elbow. Namjoon follows him to the dining table where he puts the bottles down and starts making a concoction that—from the smell alone—Namjoon can tell is going to taste like half a diabetes. Just how he likes it.

“Have a seat,” Seokjin says, pouring himself a glass of cider sans the syrup. “You’re gonna be standing for two hours straight once we start. Might wanna preserve your stamina.”

Seokjin asks about Seoul, how it has changed since his last visit. As it turns out, he had gotten a scholarship for his masters in the States and after he graduated, he decided to stay, not finding anything worth pursuing in his hometown.

“That’s cool,” Namjoon says. “Did you go to culinary school?”

“No,” is as much of an answer as Seokjin would supply. Namjoon doesn’t ask further.

The other two people who signed up for the class come in a few minutes shy of two. Unlike Namjoon, they seem to be regulars—Helen and Clarisse, if Namjoon heard correctly. Seokjin asks how Helen’s son is doing and if he liked the fish-shaped bun he taught her how to make last week. Clarisse turns out to be a newlywed who hops from one cooking class to another, hoping to find something that suits her husband’s taste.

While Seokjin is making small talk with the ladies, Namjoon fiddles with his punch in the corner, unsure of what to do. It doesn’t last long, however; Seokjin doesn’t forget to introduce him to the rest of the group.

“Ladies, meet Kim Namjoon. He’ll be joining us today. And no, before you ask, he isn’t my brother,” Seokjin lets out an airy laugh. Namjoon nods at the ladies, giving them a courteous smile, and the ladies back at him.

“A fresh face,” Helen says, looking more than glad to have met Namjoon. “Are you gonna be Jin’s assistant?”

“Ah, actually—”

“Helen!” Seokjin feigns a gasp, widening his eyes comically. “You don’t think I’m capable enough to handle the class on my own? I’m hurt.”

The three of them break into laughter. Once again, Namjoon is amazed at how well Seokjin can handle awkward situations. Couldn’t be me, he thinks.

When the clock strikes two, Seokjin claps his hand and asks them to stand behind their stations. Today’s menu is spicy chicken stew, but Seokjin thinks it would be too complicated for someone who can’t even hold a knife correctly like Namjoon, so he gives the ladies some initial directions to get them started and walks over to Namjoon’s station.

“We’ll start with something foolproof today,” Seokjin announces, hands on his hips while Namjoon struggles with his apron. “You said you don’t trust yourself with a knife?”

Namjoon gives up on tying a knot and shakes his head with vigor. “Absolutely not.”

“That’s okay, we’ll work your way up to that. But for now,” Seokjin takes a piece of egg from the cardboard, “I’ll teach you how to make a dish that’s still edible even if you fuck it up.”

 

 

 

Seokjin’s confidence had never faltered this fast before.

He’s taught plenty of novices, even a few who had never set foot in a kitchen before. But Kim Namjoon— He shakes his head. Kim Namjoon sure is something else. With how clumsy he is—Seokjin swears this man is all thumbs—it’s a miracle he managed to make it past twenty.

Namjoon wasn’t kidding when he said his mere presence in the kitchen poses a danger. It’s only been fifteen minutes since they started at best and yet somehow, some-fucking-how, Namjoon has already broken a bowl, spilled sugar all over the counter, and broken a chopstick. A chopstick. It’s actually amusing if Seokjin isn’t supposed to help him make something by the end of the session.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Seokjin huffs in frustration after Namjoon’s fifth attempt at cracking an egg. Whoever said practice makes perfect clearly had never taught Kim Namjoon how to cook.

“Actually,” Namjoon mumbles under his breath, trying—and failing miserably—to fish out the eggshells from the bowl, “that I can do. This— This is some sorcery-level shit.”

Seokjin has some questions regarding Namjoon’s remark, but he pushes them to the side, deciding that they can wait until Namjoon is no longer battling a bowl of eggs. “On second thought, maybe we don’t have to separate the whites today—”

“I have to separate the what?”

Namjoon looks like he’s on the brink of tears, his resolution seconds away from falling apart like the egg he’s holding. Seokjin doesn’t have the heart to tell him that this is not even the first step; he’s going have to make a last-minute adjustment.

“No, forget what I said. Just… crack two more eggs, okay? Make sure they’re shell-free. We don’t need the extra crunch,” he laughs at his own joke. Namjoon would have chuckled if he wasn’t so distressed.

Seokjin was so occupied with his new student that he had completely forgotten about the fourth participant until he heard the doorbell ring. Three other heads snap up towards the door in reflex.

“I’ll get it, just continue what you’re doing,” Seokjin says, sliding the door open. “Oh, and Namjoon? Try using a bigger shell to scoop it out.”

 

 

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s what Namjoon tells himself as he stares at the pathetic bowl of goop that’s supposed to be steamed egg. It was literally eggs, water, and salt; how could he possibly fuck it up?

He lets out a long sigh, questioning his life choices—maybe if he had learned how to cook from a younger age he wouldn’t be here, embarrassing himself in front of strangers in a strange land. A part of him wants to blame his mom for not letting him anywhere near the kitchen but he knows she was just trying to protect her family, especially after the burnt water incident of 2002.

Laughter erupts from the other side of the room, catching Namjoon’s attention. As if his pride hasn’t been wounded enough, Seokjin is complimenting the late-comer’s dish, making rather… inappropriate noises as he tastes it.

“Whoa, Kevin, you sure this is your first time cooking a Korean dish? This tastes exactly like the one I used to have back home.” When Kevin humbly brags, Seokjin lightly slaps his arm and says, “Must be because I’m such a wonderful instructor.” He turns around and laughs, leaving Kevin’s station.

Namjoon snorts, a sense of relief washing over him—wait, relief? It doesn’t last long, though, and he doesn’t have time to mull over it because he catches Seokjin walking towards him and he’s suddenly aware of his disaster of a steamed egg. Furthermore, his counter looks like a whole chicken had exploded on it, and it seems like Seokjin noticed it, too.

He’s just not that big of an asshole to mention it. At least it’s not a safety hazard.

“Ooh, what do we have here?” Seokjin observes Namjoon’s dish, hands behind his back, ignoring the mess around it on purpose.

“A nice, warm bowl of steamed egg,” Namjoon smiles, his dimples appearing on the side of his cheeks.

Lifting the bowl, Seokjin furrows his brows. “It’s cold.”

“A nice bowl of steamed egg.”

Seokjin grabs a clean spoon from the counter and digs in. Namjoon holds his breath as he watches Seokjin take a bite. At this point, his expectation is to not give his instructor a salmonella infection.

Seokjin’s face says it all.

“A bowl of steamed egg.”

“I didn’t know egg could taste like this—”

“A bowl.”

They exchange glances in lieu of words; Namjoon hopes Seokjin can read the apology in his eyes. Seokjin is the first to break the stare with laughter.

“Namjoon-ssi,” Seokjin suddenly switches to formal speech, his tone playful, “this is just a professional opinion of mine, and this is by no means an attack to who you are as a person, but I think you might need to enroll for another class next week.”

Namjoon had dreaded coming here in the first place, reluctant to spend two hours of his precious day off doing something he knows for a fact he’s downright terrible at. But now that Seokjin mentioned it—now that Seokjin mentioned it—two hours is nowhere near enough to learn a new skill, and maybe, maybe this isn’t such a bad way to spend his weekend after all.

“Yeah,” he can’t stop the stupid grin from blooming on his face. “Yeah, I think so, too.”

 

 

 

“So you’re telling me, you’re actually… a rocket scientist?” Seokjin asks after they cleaned up Namjoon’s failed steamed egg. The other three students have gone home, including Kevin the Prodigy, but Namjoon offered to help with the dishes, partly out of guilt.

“Aerospace engineer, yep.”

“What, like for NASA?” Seokjin throws his head back laughing as if he just cracked the joke of the year, but Namjoon fails to find what’s so funny. That’s when Seokjin realizes he wasn’t kidding. “Wait, for real?” His eyes widen comically.

“Why else would I move to this god forsaken country?”

“Touché,” Seokjin mumbles under his breath. “That’s so cool, though, NASA. You must be like, Einstein smart.”

Namjoon snorts. “Not even that. I’m just… really good at studying, I guess. Besides, even if I were, I’d take basic survival skills any day.”

It’s true that at a glance, his resumé is impressive. Otherwise why else would his parents go out of their way to make sure everyone knows their son is an aerospace engineer for NASA? (Yeah, that NASA in the States, you know?) But Namjoon doesn’t feel like he’s amounted to much in life, not when he couldn’t even tie his own shoes until he was in high school. He believes there’s more to a man than his degree and paycheck, and as someone who graduated top of his class, Namjoon finds more satisfaction in successfully making steamed egg (his second try had turned out a lot better, like how steamed egg is supposed to taste, Seokjin said. Namjoon takes that as a compliment.) than in an A.

“Well, life’s fair like that, I suppose,” Seokjin hums, tilting his head up. “You know quantum physics but not how to cook rice.”

“Yeah, too bad I can’t eat quantum physics.”

Even after hours, it doesn’t seem like they’ll run of things to talk about anytime soon. Before they knew it, the sun has already set, and Namjoon realizes this is the first time he’s spent a whole day with someone since he moved here.

“I’d ask you to stay for dinner, but I have another guest coming in a few,” Seokjin says, glancing at the clock. For some reason, Namjoon’s heart plummets.

“I better get going, then.” Namjoon gets up from his seat, masking away his disappointment. “Don’t wanna overstay my welcome.”

“Oh, hush,” Seokjin waves his hand in the air. “There’s always a next time.”

Next time. Namjoon likes the sound of that.

“Thanks for today, um—”

“You’re a ’94 liner, right?” Namjoon nods. “Call me hyung. It’s always good to meet someone from home. English sucks, my god.” Seokjin groans, rolling his eyes. Namjoon can’t help but agree.

“Alright, thanks for putting up with me today, hyung.” Namjoon offers him a genuine smile as they walk to the front door. “You’re amazing, you know that? Even my mom doesn’t have the patience.”

“Well,” Seokjin laughs, holding the door open, “your mom didn't get paid twenty bucks per hour, did she?”

 

 

When Namjoon tried to recreate Seokjin’s steamed egg at home, it didn’t turn out a complete disaster. Cracking eggs, as it turns out, proves to be a more essential skill than Namjoon had thought it was.

He proudly sent a picture of his success to Seokjin, who replied with looking great :)

Namjoon was on cloud nine.

Since it’s all he could cook so far, it’s all he’s been eating for dinner for the six days leading up to his next cooking class. That, and plain rice—he had made a quick run to the store to buy a small rice cooker as Seokjin suggested and it was lifechanging, to say the least. Never mind it was too soft at first (Seokjin said to fill the water up to his first knuckle but maybe he has an unusually long first knuckle, who knows). He got it perfect on his second try.

“That can’t be filling,” Seokjin frowned when he heard about Namjoon’s menu of the week.

“The key is lots of rice,” Namjoon laughed, aware of how silly he must sound. But there’s that sense of accomplishment that he can’t get from ordering in.

“At least have it with laver and kimchi or something.”

 

 

 

For their second class, Seokjin announces that they’ll be making kimchi fried rice. The two ladies from last week—and Kevin—aren’t here today, replaced by a new set of classmates, all three who seem to be first-timers. Namjoon is a little relieved.

Since they’ll all be making the same dish, Seokjin demonstrates everything from his own station, much to Namjoon’s disappointment. “We’ll start by cutting up the ingredients into bite-sized pieces,” Seokjin’s voice booms in the room. Namjoon stares at the whole kimchi, stripes of bacon and a few cloves of garlic on his counter and bites his bottom lip.

It’s time to face his mortal enemy: the kitchen knife.

“I’m feeling rather ambitious today,” Seokjin grins as he walks up to Namjoon’s station, rolling up his sleeves. “Let me teach you how to… safely use a knife. You’re not gonna go far in the kitchen if you can’t cut things up.”

Seokjin asks Namjoon to show him how he would usually hold a knife; Namjoon argues that he doesn’t usually hold a knife, to which Seokjin says “fair enough”. The moment Namjoon has one hand on the grip and another on a strip of bacon, Seokjin suppresses a scream, immediately placing his hand on Namjoon’s wrist to stop any further movement.

“Stop, God, stop.”

Namjoon’s heart also seems to obey.

“Here.” Seokjin grabs another knife and shows Namjoon how to hold it. “Hold the handle with these three fingers and keep them close together; you’re not supposed see the handle between them.” Namjoon tries it with his own knife. “It’s supposed to fit comfortably in your palm, so just readjust your grip if it still feels awkward.”

Namjoon wants to say of course it feels awkward, he’s not used to holding it at all, but decides against it.

“Okay, now pinch the base of the blade like this.” Seokjin twists his knife so Namjoon can see both sides. “Press your thumb against the side of the blade and your index finger on the other side. There you go. Keep a firm grip on it. Now curl your left hand like this.” He shows Namjoon how his is curled into a claw, and that’s when Namjoon notices the way his fingers are a little too bent. “And then…”

Before he could process what’s going on, Seokjin is already standing behind him, his hands gentle yet firm on Namjoon’s own. They’re about the same height, with Namjoon just an inch or so taller, but when he’s caging Namjoon like this, Seokjin feels big. Slowly, he guides Namjoon’s hand to glide across the cutting board and slice the bacon, head peeking from behind Namjoon’s shoulder.

Too close, Namjoon holds his breath. Seokjin is too close. Namjoon can pick up the faint smell of cotton and a hint of fig and his brain goes haywire. If Seokjin isn’t holding his hands, he would have probably cut his own fingers, best case scenario.

“Relax,” Seokjin chuckles, noticing how tense Namjoon is. Ironically, the low rumble right next to Namjoon’s ear only makes the younger tense up even more, his voice sending a shiver down Namjoon’s spine. “Let the weight of the blade do the work for you.”

Namjoon’s head is positively spinning from the lack of oxygen. Afraid his knees might give in if Seokjin doesn’t pull away soon, Namjoon stutters, “I-It’s fine, hyung. I got this.”

“There you go,” Seokjin steps back with a satisfied grin as if he didn’t just almost rob Namjoon of his consciousness. “Not so hard, is it?”

Namjoon sucks in a deep breath, one he’s been deprived of, and recollects his composure. His cheeks feel like they’re on fire; Namjoon is positive they’re bright red. He swears he caught a mischievous glint in Seokjin’s eyes and a smug smirk on his face before the instructor walks away to attend to the other students, but then again Namjoon knows he isn’t thinking straight—in more ways than one.

“Chop chop,” Seokjin waves his hand in the air. “The kimchi isn’t going to cut itself.”

 

 

Kim Seokjin is an enigma.

At first, he might seem like an open book, his amicable and charming disposition making it easy for people to warm up to him. But after two months of knowing him, Namjoon realizes what he knows of Seokjin is just the tip of the iceberg that makes up who he is, and it doesn’t seem like Seokjin has the intention of letting anyone dive below the surface.

Seokjin talks a lot, but he knows exactly where to draw the line. It gives the illusion that he’s oversharing, when in fact he has shared nothing of significance. Sometimes Namjoon wonders what’s behind the closed door, but unlike the one heading to Seokjin’s kitchen, this one is made of steel, impossible to penetrate with sheer force.

It just so happens that Namjoon loves enigmas.

He wants to know more, wants to crack the code and see what’s inside Seokjin’s head. He’s been coming an hour early so they could talk, and if Seokjin has a problem with it, he’s never voiced it. On the contrary, after their third session, Seokjin rather expects Namjoon to be early, already preparing him a drink before he even arrives. It makes Namjoon feel even more welcomed, like he’s a guest instead of an intruder.

But even then, he still feels like there’s a line he cannot cross.

Seokjin asked him about his job, his family, his dog that he left back in Seoul, and Namjoon is more than happy to tell him everything. On the other hand, Namjoon treads very lightly when he’s the one asking. Seokjin seems to breeze through everything, giving a sufficient answer for every question with ease, but there’s not much actually contained in them. For one, Namjoon still doesn’t know how Seokjin ended up here out of all places—isn’t Silicon Valley known to be the tech geek haven?

What he does know is that since Seokjin is away from home, he has been doing little things to bring home to him, starting from surrounding himself with Korean friends and introducing himself as Kim Seokjin instead of Seokjin Kim. Namjoon had thought it was an act of rebellion against the western culture and Seokjin laughed, admitting that maybe he does enjoy the look on white people’s faces when he doesn’t conform to their norms, just a tiny bit.

What he does know, is that Seokjin has freakishly dexterous toes (“I can open a bag of chips with them.” “That can’t be possible.” “Bet.” When the bag opened with a pop, Namjoon was easily proven wrong). He has a really sensitive nose, claiming to be able to smell what’s in the food without tasting it, and he eats in big bites because he likes the feeling of being choked (“Okay, hyung, I did not need to know that.” “TMI?” More like now Namjoon won’t be able to get the imagery off his head and he’s doomed).

In short, Kim Seokjin is probably the coolest person Namjoon has ever known. And Namjoon— Namjoon is nowhere near cool. No, he’s a nerd. A nerd who designs spacecrafts for NASA but a nerd nonetheless. Seokjin is way out of his league. Every time Namjoon gets a little burst of confidence, it’s quickly shut down when he sees Seokjin looking perfect just standing there.

So maybe— maybe he should stop coming altogether. Surely he can get by with what he’s learned in the past two months: he knows how to cook rice, cut things up using a knife, and even deep fry (deep fry!!!). Really, he doesn’t need another cooking class; he just needs an excuse to keep seeing Seokjin.

But that must end today. He’s not going to torture himself by lingering around the person he adores and digging himself a deeper hole knowing full well he’s never going to have a chance.

He’s not a masochist like that.

 

 

Kim Seokjin

i noticed you haven’t signed up for the next class [12:39]

it’s wednesday [12:39]

you’re usually the first to fill out the form haha [12:39]

Kim Namjoon

[12:50] oh yeah

[12:50] forgot to tell you

[12:50] i won’t be joining this week

Kim Seokjin

oh! [12:51]

yeah, no, that’s fine! [12:52]

you’ve got other plans this week? [12:52]

Kim Namjoon

[12:52] not really

[12:52] um

[12:53] i mean i won’t be needing your classes anymore, hyung

[12:53] but thank you for everything thus far

[12:53] i’ve learned plenty

[12:53] more than i ever did in the past twenty six years of my life

[12:53] you’re quite literally my lifesaver :)

[12:56] anyway i gtg

[12:56] lunch break’s over

 

Namjoon was about to pocket his phone when it started ringing, and it sounds angry. He doesn’t think twice to pick it up, more worried about the consequences if he doesn’t than if he gets caught slacking.

“Yah, Kim Namjoon,” Seokjin’s voice booms through the speaker. “How dare you treat your elder like that?”

“L-Like what?” Namjoon stutters, suddenly feeling a rush of guilt like he had just been caught eating cookies before dinner.

“If I hadn’t asked, would you tell me you’re not planning on coming back?”

Namjoon gulps. Most probably not. He had planned on disappearing quietly, easing his way out of Seokjin’s life. In Namjoon’s lack of words, Seokjin finds his answer.

“I knew it, aish, this brat,” Seokjin mumbles to himself.

“Sorry, hyung,” Namjoon winces, apologetic. “It’s just… I thought it’s not that important.” I thought my presence in your Saturday wasn’t important enough to warrant a proper farewell.

“What kind of nonsense is that?” Even when he can’t see him, Namjoon can tell Seokjin has his hand on his waist. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Friends. Seokjin considers him a friend. Namjoon’s heart swells. “We are, yeah, you’re right.” He scratches the back of his neck. “Sorry for not telling you sooner, hyung.”

“Come over for dinner tomorrow,” Seokjin orders, ignoring Namjoon’s apology. “Six p.m. No excuses.” And with that, he hangs up.

 

 

What does one typically bring to a dinner with a friend that one has real romantic feelings for? Namjoon considered wine and chocolate but ended up settling with a good old-fashioned assorted fruits basket.

He had rummaged his closet looking for something that looks proper but doesn’t scream a try-hard because, he reminds himself once again, no, this isn’t a date. This is a dinner with a friend.

Walking up to the front porch, his hands are clammy on his sides, his skin a little too tight. Chanting this isn’t a date no longer helps because he realized it isn’t the date part he’s nervous about: it’s meeting Seokjin.

Regardless of the occasion, Namjoon knows Seokjin is going to make his heart flip. That’s why it’s dangerous; that’s why he needs some time away because his feelings are blossoming at an alarming rate and he knows it’s only going to wilt, it’s just a matter of when.

“Are you just gonna stand there all night?”

Namjoon jolts, his thoughts fallen scattered on the floor. While he was collecting himself to ring the doorbell, Seokjin already opened the door, and suddenly Namjoon feels like he’s seeing Seokjin for the first time again, just like this, frozen like a deer in the headlights.

“Well?” Seokjin cocks his eyebrow, hand holding the door open. “Come on in.”

Instead of going straight to the kitchen, this time, Seokjin leads him to the dining room, to the kitchen Seokjin actually uses on the daily—the kitchen Seokjin used to cook dinner for you, Namjoon’s brain supplies. His stomach feels funny.

“You said you’re not a big fan of seafood,” Seokjin says once they’re both seated. “So I made soy braised chicken. Can’t find a good one around here.”

The smell that wafts in the air is heavenly, awakening Namjoon’s hunger and sense of nostalgia. “I didn’t eat a lot of braised chicken back home,” he admits, putting a piece onto his plate of rice. “But there’s this really good one near my campus that my friend used to take me to. Wish I had gone there more often.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Namjoon shrugs. “Thought I’d have more time.”

Seokjin smiles wryly. “That’s always the problem, isn’t it? We all think we have time.”

Namjoon has learned not to ask what Seokjin means when he’s being cryptic, so he doesn’t, instead taking a bite of his food and hums in delight, lifting back the mood. “Hyung,” Namjoon almost moans with his mouth full, “this is like, the best thing I’ve ever had since I came here.”

Seokjin chuckles. “It better be. I have a reputation to maintain. But also, how shitty have you been eating?”

“They’re…okay,” Namjoon swallows, “but yours is just, insanely good. Only second to my mother’s.”

Seokjin’s smile keeps blooming so wide it almost reaches his ears, his chest growing with pride. It’s then that Namjoon notices how his utensils are resting on the side, his hands propping his chin on the table; He seems amused watching Namjoon eat so fervently. “Come here more often, then,” Seokjin suggests. “You could use better food and I, better company.”

The thing is, Seokjin has friends. He’d told Namjoon about them, about the five brats he considers as his younger brothers that he loves to death (“I’d kill for them, Namjoon-ah, but sometimes I feel like I want to kill them, you know? Ah, brotherhood.”). He doesn’t need Namjoon’s company. And it makes Namjoon think he wants it. It makes Namjoon think there’s hope.

“Hyung,” Namjoon puts his chopsticks down, “you don’t have to go to this extent to… make me feel welcomed.”

“Huh?”

Namjoon sighs. “Look, you’ve been nothing but kind to me, but I really don’t want to inconvenience you more than I already did.”

Seokjin furrows his brows. “What are you talking about? You think I invited you over for dinner because I pity you?”

“Well, why else would you?”

Seokjin stares at him like he’d just said something ludicrous. “Because I want to?”

This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. Namjoon’s heart is thumping like crazy. Surely Seokjin didn’t just say he wants Namjoon’s company, right?

“Hyung,” Namjoon says, his voice low, “I don’t think— I don’t think I can take up on your offer.”

“And why is that?”

“Because…” Namjoon sucks in a sharp breath. “What if I enjoy your company a little more than I should?”

“Get to the point, Joon.”

There’s a reason why Namjoon talks in circles, in metaphors and analogies, and it’s because it’s safer. It’s easier to change the trajectory of his sentences when he’s only tiptoeing around the perimeter. But Seokjin’s stare is demanding, not taking no for an answer, so Namjoon says in one breath, “IlikeyousomuchIdon’twanttomakeyouuncomfortablesoI’mdistancingmyselffromyou.”

When he’s done, Namjoon takes a deep breath to make up for the ones he lost while Seokjin tries to process the words that just came out of the younger’s mouth. Five seconds come to pass, then another five, and the only sound between them is Namjoon’s ragged breathing. And then—

“My god,” Seokjin snorts, shaking his head. “Aren’t you supposed to be the smarter one between us?”

“Huh?”

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “I’ve been giving you the green light since week two, dumbass.”

Namjoon’s head starts to spin. This isn’t real. Seokjin did not just say that. He tries to conjure the right words to say, but his brain short circuited and all that comes out is, “You… want… me…?”

“That’s what I’ve been saying since ten minutes ago, wow, thank you for finally catching up,” Seokjin’s voice is dripping with sarcasm, but there’s no bite to it. On the contrary, he sounds fond.

“B-But,” Namjoon stutters, still finding it hard to believe, “you’re like, out of this world.”

Seokjin smirks, picking up his chopsticks again before his dinner goes cold. “Good thing you can make rockets, then.”

 

 

 

Because Seokjin had cooked, naturally, Namjoon offers to do the dishes; Seokjin is more than glad to let him.

“I’ll be in the living room if you need me,” he says before leaving the kitchen.

Namjoon finds the repetitive motions therapeutic. He easily falls into a rhythm and his mind goes blank—he thinks he heard Seokjin calling for him at one point but he’s not sure, so he’d ignored it and continued doing the dishes. The problem is, when his mind is not provided with a thought, it searches for one. Right now, he’s second-guessing Seokjin’s words.

When he hears footsteps coming towards the kitchen, he blurts out without looking up from the sink, “Hyung, are you sure you like like me, because—”

The voice that cuts him off is too high-pitched to be Seokjin’s. “Wow, Seokjin hyung’s right. You are oblivious.”

Namjoon drops a plate.