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Hoseok was scary sometimes. It took Namjoon a long time to figure out the truth about it. He hadn’t been properly scared of Hoseok in a while. He thought it was something he had grown out of. Then it came back.

“Again,” Hoseok says. He pushes a hand through his hair and shakes out his legs for another round. Around the room, the Bangtans make various noises of protest, Jimin’s high whine at an almost perfect minor fourth with Taehyung’s guttural yelling.

“Who fucked it up?” Yoongi shouts from the floor. Namjoon sighs. He tucks his legs up under him to get to his feet.

Namjoon had fucked it up.

Hoseok walks over to restart the music and says, “One more time, let’s go.”

“Let’s go…to bed,” Jin says from flat on his back. His shirt is plastered through with sweat and Namjoon can see the muscles in his calves twitching from overuse from five feet away. Namjoon feels like shit.

He catches Hoseok by the wrist as he walks back to his spot, clapping his hands together in a way that could be motivating but combined with the set of his jaw is simply threatening.

“I can keep practicing on my own,” Namjoon says quietly as the members groan and drag themselves to their feet around them. “Everyone else should go home.”

Hoseok looks at him strangely and claps him on the shoulder with his free hand. “It’s not just for you,” he says. “Focus on the transition between the bridge and the chorus this time, though. Your timing is off. One-two-three-and-four—“

Hoseok demonstrates the move easily and looks at Namjoon expectantly. Namjoon nods and still feels like shit. Hoseok nods, pleased, and bounces over to his spot next to Jeongguk. “Jeonggukkie,” Hoseok trills. “Let’s…”

Lessketit,” Jeongguk yells, his head thrown back and everyone else besides Namjoon laughs. Hoseok catches his eye in the mirror and throws up the V sign.

“Namjoon-ah, you’re so sexy!” Hoseok calls, grinning wide as he counts them in. Hoseok is so much and it makes Namjoon want to die, heat crawling up his neck as he shakes out his shoulders. He doesn’t know why Hoseok won’t just accept that Namjoon is literally biologically incapable of dancing as well as he needs to, but Hoseok instituted a new rule where Namjoon wasn’t allowed to even think he was hopeless, so—

Namjoon makes his body move. As a dumbass 15 year old, all he wanted to do was rap. He didn’t know when disappointing six of the most important people in his life on a daily basis became part of that deal. Namjoon tries to smile back at Hoseok. He feels negative sexy and he has to count under his breath in order to stay in time. When he manages to look at himself in the mirror, his mouth is gaping unattractively. It’s even worse next to his five competent, handsome bandmates and Jin who is so beautiful that it almost completely makes up for his shortcomings.

(Hoseok also trusts Jin to learn things on his own sometimes, whereas he refuses to let Namjoon practice alone. Namjoon doesn’t know what that even means about the state of his dancing, but it feels bad.)

He focuses hard on the transition from the bridge to the chorus. He counts the whole way through and doesn’t even let his mind wander to think about his weird dancing face or how it feels like has at least ten less joints than everyone else. And the steps fall into place. He can feel it when he gets it right. When Namjoon looks up, Hoseok is looking at him in the mirror. Namjoon knew he would be, so it makes it even more embarrassing when it trips him up anyway. The beat falls out of his limbs and he has to scramble to get it back.

“Okay, good,” Hoseok says when the music wraps and they’re all back on the floor panting. Hoseok’s lung capacity isn’t any better than theirs, but he stays on his feet, probably just as penance for being the one to keep them later. Namjoon’s head jerks up to look at him.

Hoseok nods at him and walks over to offer Namjoon his hands to pull him back to his feet. “You got it now.”

“I still messed up,” Namjoon admits, even though he knew that Hoseok had seen. You had to confess your sins to Hoseok, Namjoon learned that early on. It was the only way to avoid Hoseok confessing your sins to you.

“Yeah, but that was different.” Hoseok shrugs, slinging an arm around Namjoon’s shoulder. “Right?”

Namjoon’s face heats. The rest of the members are already following a haggard looking Sejin out of the practice room, so they probably didn’t hear. Hoseok is too smart and doesn’t let enough show—it makes Namjoon nervous out of his mind. It’s bad enough that he can’t do the choreo without hours of one-on-one practice with Hoseok, but it’s a completely different kind of unbearable knowing that Hoseok saw him seeing him. It makes him worried that Hoseok could know everything, even though he doesn’t even have anything to hide. Like, he doesn’t think he has anything to hide.

“Right,” Namjoon replies belatedly. He scrubs his palm over the top of his head, hair sticky with product and sweat.

“You had it already,” Hoseok comments. He claps Namjoon on the back. “You just needed to know where to focus. Good job, Joon-ah. Looks good, seriously.”

“Oh, thanks,” Namjoon says and gives a distracted smile even though it means a lot.

*

Namjoon looks up and he’s been in studio for fourteen hours. The air is stale. When he looks away from his screen, it feels like he’s blinking awake. He kind of stinks and he can feel all of his KAWS figures looking at him. He’s still lucid enough to identify that as like, unchecked sleep deprived paranoia but also—maybe it was a bad idea to cram so many things with eyes in such a small space.

Namjoon cracks his neck and then five other joints, eyes on the blinking red indicator lights on his mixboard. He’s so fucking old. Or more aptly, it’s that he’s aging like a dog: he’s aged fifteen years in the space of five. It’s kind of like how the mixtape is at once never going to be done and will definitely be done in three days when they leave for tour. The incredulity of his life pushes at the boundaries of space and time, that’s the only explanation.

He blinks blankly at his monitor. His brain hurts. It hits him how weird and amazing how intimately acquainted people can get with symbols. It’s weird that he looks at these abstract squiggle lines and knows they’re music. And then that music can feel like a friend, a little bit of yourself reflected back, just different enough to be able to handle it with more kindness.

The muted light of his phone face down on the desk catches his eye. He flips it over lazily, leaning back in his chair to stretch his spine against the supposedly ergonomic back support. He squints and he realizes with some alarm that people have been trying to get a hold of him. After he filters out the general notifications and Bangtan group chat, he’s still left with a few calls each from Jimin and Taehyung from around lunch time, a text from his mom asking about his tour schedule, a text from Yoongi two hours ago telling him that tortured artists still needed to eat things besides the studio’s emergency cup ramyun.

He feels bad. It was kind of irresponsible to disappear like this. And like, it isn't like he didn't spend long swaths of time just waiting around for genius to strike. He could have checked his phone, he just forgot. It made him feel like he didn’t actually care about the people he cared about and it just—felt bad.

A notification drops down on his screen while it is in his hand, an apologetic message to the group chat half typed.

hobi
namjoon-ah~~~ lets go get a drink!!

Oh. He feels weird. This time is probably because he accidentally dropped off the face of the earth for fourteen hours, but. Hoseok has a talent for this kind of thing. He is so scarce with himself, so he is hard to turn down when he offers anything. Namjoon had rescheduled so many plans because Hoseok showed interest in hanging out. It ia really hard to say no to him, because he never asks for much, never asks for anything that isn't good for everyone involved even if it isn't fun.

Namjoon could get a beer with him; he needs a break. Sure.

namjoon
yes, let’s do it!
i need a break
how did you know?

hobi
dope!!! im coming to the rkive now
we’re same-same joon-ah~

namjoon
samesame~
don’t judge when you get here TT

hobi
definitely judging!!! ^^
see you soon smelly

Namjoon sniffs himself idly. Really gross. He pushes himself away from the desk and takes in the studio as a whole with fresh eyes, eyes that could belong to Hoseok. There are two cup ramyuns at bookending either corner of the desk, and a cold cup of instant coffee by his mouse. He had pulled out his turntable like an absolute tool because at some point in the day he needed to hear Blonde on vinyl for reasons, for vibe reasons. He doesn’t want Hoseok to see that. Namjoon is an embarrassing person, and Hoseok makes it too easy to see when Namjoon really should have some shame about it all.

By the time Hoseok got to the RKive, Namjoon had managed to clear up the most obvious of the mess and he still had an emergency deodorant stored in his desk drawer (ironically, courtesy of Hoseok himself). Hoseok had pounded on the door, bright and freshly showered, and immediately flicked on the overhead light.

“It’s not that bad,” he says after a moment, shrugging as Namjoon squints at him like a naked mole rat emerging from a hole.

“It burns,” Namjoon whines, bringing his arms up to cover his eyes and leaning back in his chair until it creaks.

“You’re so weird,” Hoseok laughs and pushes at the back of the chair to spin Namjoon in a circle. “Come on, let’s go, I don’t want to breathe for too long in here.”

“Fair,” Namjoon says, and they go out into the evening shoulder to shoulder.

*

As with most things, it comes together for Namjoon in slow motion. It’s just that Hoseok is scary sometimes. It takes Namjoon a long time to figure out the truth about that fear. Weird things become really important to him and he doesn’t get it.

Stupid things, like—it used to be horrible to work with Hoseok on choreography when they were younger. He was spiky and mean; he thought that it was just that no one else practiced as hard as he did and that was why it took everyone else twice the time to learn. Awful. He would say things like, if you can’t do it in front of me, how are you going to do it on national television? And Namjoon had been too young and stupid to figure out how to say knowing that you think i’m useless is worse than eating shit in front of the whole world.

Anyway, Hoseok hasn’t changed that much. He’s learned how to take the bite out of things; he isn’t digging sharpness into everyone’s softest spots anymore. The part where he demands your best, though. The part where he sees you as much more than you think you are, though. The part where he doesn’t let you dodge the bits of yourself that you’re tired of—that’s all there. He still bristles under Hoseok’s scrutiny, but it’s so different lately. Maybe it’s that Hoseok changed him somehow.

It’s like, Hoseok will tell you if your outfit looks like shit, and he won’t give a shit what you think about his outfit. What is that about? It’s half-annoying, but there's another half that he can't place. At first, Namjoon thinks it might be jealousy, but that doesn't feel right either.

Namjoon tries to talk to Yoongi about it one day, because he feels like Yoongi and Hoseok understand each other on a level that he doesn’t aspire to.

Yoongi shrugs, sipping on the iced coffee that Namjoon brought him as bribe. Yoongi was so good at feelings as long as you let him pretend he wasn’t. “That’s how he is. You already know that. He’s like—he’s not gonna let you see him down about anything.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says. They’re in Yoongi’s studio, and he stretches out along the couch. He puts his hands behind his head and lets the full weight of his skull drop back. “Yeah, I know. And like, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get down about anything.”

Yoongi snorts, spinning a little in his chair. “I mean, I think you want to see something about him that doesn’t exist.”

Namjoon keeps his eyes on the ceiling and makes a considering sound. He hadn’t expected the conversation to turn on him; he hadn’t felt like he had anything to hide until well—now. It’s a lot. He’s worried that Yoongi is going to discover something with him right now, but that doesn’t make any sense.

“What do you mean by that?” Namjoon’s curiosity always wins out against his self-preservation. His heart is beating really hard, but he tries to keep his shoulders down.

Yoongi pushes his lips out into a thoughtful pout for a moment, before he takes a breath in, deep sigh. “Ugh, like. I think I used to think the same thing about him. Uh.”

Namjoon turns his head towards Yoongi, and says, “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me.”

He feels weird. Everything is all tangled. He doesn’t know why he would feel bad about Yoongi knowing something about Hoseok that he doesn’t know. That’s why Namjoon wanted to talk to him in the first place.

But still, it’s a relief when Yoongi shakes his head, rolling his eyes.

“No,” he says. “Like, it’s a shitty thing to think about someone but it’s not—you know. I used to think that Hoseok was hiding shit, because he seemed closed off or whatever. So I would go fucking crazy trying to get him to open up. It pissed me off. We used to fight because I thought he was being two-faced or something. I really couldn’t stand it.”

“Hm,” Namjoon says. It sounds bad like that. Yoongi feels in anger first, so it’s different, but Namjoon thinks—yeah.

“But it’s not like that. Hoseokie doesn’t hide, it’s like, he’s just not like either of us. He doesn’t hold onto things. He doesn’t let things drive him crazy in the same way. Like, I’ll spiral over some dumb shit for days, you know, like, oh I could have done it this way, if I worked harder it would have been that way.”

Yoongi is in his head and Namjoon nods, shoving his way up to a seated position. Things are sliding into place as Yoongi talks, just a few pieces of the puzzle slotting together. Hoseok felt like that. Like something to solve. Namjoon was just now realizing that was a really unfair way to treat someone.

“But it’s like—it doesn’t have to be that deep, right? It’s not bad. When I stopped digging for it, I just understood. It’s all there.” Yoongi shrugs again. His eyes are sharp on Namjoon, who nods again.

“Yeah,” Namjoon says, even though he’s not quite there yet. So that’s another piece of it.

*

Things start to keep him up at night. It’s really bad. Everything comes together slow slow slow, changing so incrementally that Namjoon isn’t even sure if it’s change or just his own capacity to acknowledge reality.

In Malta—it’s just terrible. They have to spend all day together and he works himself up more and more with every night he has to spend sleeping twelve inches from Hoseok. Hoseok scooted the beds closer so he could see Namjoon’s screen better when he tries to show him memes right before they go to sleep. The space between them is the exact arm length that Hoseok needs to snatch Namjoon’s phone out of his hands. Hoseok doesn’t even really get memes.

After Hoseok goes to sleep, Namjoon starts thinking about things in montage. It’s crazy, it’s really one of the wildest things his brain has ever done. He feels like a conspiracy theorist—which isn’t to say he hasn’t had his own experience with a good youtube and reddit spiral, but. This is personal.

He closes his eyes and has sudden, vivid recall for what feel like the goriest moments in his relationship with Hoseok. The ghosts of Kim Namjoon and Jung Hoseok past come to keep him awake. He sees scenes like a movie.

Namjoon’s brain caught between two languages, knowing that he’s the only one who can really get it right because he knows the members best. His brain failing him until he’s just completely blanking out in front of an international publication. And then Hoseok, snatching the microphone from his hands and telling him to quit, snapping at the useless translator to translate, maybe? and not relinquishing the mic to him until two rounds of reporters had come and gone.

Hoseok’s eyes unwavering and appraising on his body as he tries desperately to move in the right ways, nodding sometimes and squinting harder at others. This was really good, I think you can even exaggerate it more. And then the count on this is—

Namjoon, mid-selfie, with Hoseok at his back, yelling okay, who cares about fashion, where’s your passport? Namjoon wants to say, look who’s talking but then it’s like, yeah. Look who’s talking.

The two of them sharing a bench, Hoseok bright eyed and talkative, tipsy. Namjoon on something about how they’re all bugs, so stupid now, and Hoseok tells him, you’re not a bug, Joon-ah, you’re a flower~

Hoseok, barely even thinking about it, dismissing any words he tries to use to put himself down. You look sexy, you’re hot! And Namjoon, really fucking believing him, like actually feeling better about himself afterward. He realizes that it’s not that he doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s more that he doesn’t want to know. It’s hard to hold yourself at arms length with your own feelings. He can see Hoseok’s individual eyelashes in the dark when he looks over, so it’s all kind of fucked up.

At some point, he gets up and goes to sleep on the couch. It doesn’t help, but.

*

Hoseok is scary sometimes, but that’s not the part that keeps him up at night. It takes Namjoon a long time to place the fear. On tour, he has a lot of time to think, probably too much time, if he's being honest. He spends a lot of time flat on his back, quiet.

He’s been feeling so good lately, but his relationship to his wellness feels slippery. Namjoon was dark for long enough that he’ll never forget it; he can already tell it’s a shadow he’ll carry, maybe forever. There’s a creeping fear that if he can't get himself to do the things he's learned how to do to be better (eat real food, drink water, go on walks, talk to his therapist, make music when it is light outside, sleep at night, call his parents and friends), that it'll come back down around him.

It's been getting easier to do that stuff, not harder. Namjoon is scared to think about what that has to do with Hoseok, if it has anything to do with him; but unfortunately, he no longer has a choice. As it turns out, it’s easy to figure a feeling out once you start having it all the time, when it gets hungry and starts to eat you up from the inside, gnawing. It comes together all at once, alone in his hotel room, the truth of it gripping him by the throat.

Namjoon needs Hoseok, but that’s not new. When he was 18 years old, he had to stand in front of Bang PD and their producers and managers and tell them so. Even tight-lipped, battered, and young in the ugliest of ways, it was easy to admit. It was obvious then and it’s obvious now.

What's new is Namjoon is now painfully, explicitly aware that Hoseok has been taking care of him, so easily that Namjoon hadn’t even noticed. It was the kind of care that hurt sometimes, sure. A spoonful of castor oil kind of love; nasty going down, good from the inside out. It’s the kind of love that is impossible to ask for, something that’s sweet or sharp as needed, always rising to meet him.

He’s learned how to rely on Hoseok like a crutch. There were things he hadn't realized he should be grateful for. It’s terrifying to think that Hoseok doesn’t know that Namjoon might collapse in on himself without him. Yet as soon as the thought crosses his mind, the actual worst reality comes into focus: that Hoseok could already know. It's so much want and fear and loss all rolled together; it's not surprising that looking at Hoseok has started to make him ill.

Hoseok, of course, gets into a habit of asking him for help with his ending ments in English. He comes bouncing into Namjoon’s hotel room late in the evenings when Namjoon is busy staring at the ceiling and thinking about him.

“Joon-ah, what do you think about this? Is this right?” he says, on his stomach, flopped heavily onto Namjoon’s hotel bed. He’s always so fluffy at night, all clean and soft, last of the post-show adrenaline carrying him up past his usual bedtime. He shoves a little notebook full of his too-big, childish scrawl towards Namjoon.

‘You’re always so hot,’” Namjoon reads, a smile on his face. He feels sick, sure, but Hoseok is so cute. That’s part of the problem. Hoseok looks at him ardently, raises his eyebrows. Namjoon says, “Cute.”

“But is it right?” Hoseok insists, pointing at some word that he’s worried about. Namjoon wants to bury his face in a pillow.

“Yeah, it’s right,” Namjoon says, nodding. Then, he smiles again. “Oh, what if you sang some of Hangsang?”

Hoseok laughs, rolling over onto his back. “Hangsaaaaaang~ so hot!” he sings, silly, silly and Namjoon laughs too, covers his face with his hands.

“That’s it, it’s so good, Hob-ah,” Namjoon says, and Hoseok smiles back at him, bright like the sun.

*

There's a knock at the hotel room door the night before mono. is set to drop. It's incessant. Hoseok's most annoying register carries through the door. Namjoon-ah! Let me in.

Namjoon wants nothing less than to be confronted with all of his Hoseok feelings and his playlist feelings at the same time. He tries to think of something worse as he opens the door to Hoseok holding a full tray of mismatched room service food, but he can't. He's panicking.

"The kids are acting up," Hoseok says easily, breezing past him into the room and setting the tray right in the middle of Namjoon's bed. Namjoon would bet money that Hoseok would never do that with his own bed, and he's kind of... glad that Hoseok knows he can let loose in Namjoon's space.

"They always are," Namjoon replies distantly. He stands at the foot of the bed as Hoseok separates his chopsticks and smiles at him expectantly. Namjoon climbs onto the bed and tucks his legs underneath himself.

"Jimin is teaching them how to wrestle or something. It's way too loud." Hoseok stuffs a boneless chicken tender into his mouth, and elaborates while he chews. "I wanna eat in peace. But chicken is so bad in this country and the kids are so loud."

"Good thing I'm good at being quiet then," Namjoon replies, breaking apart his own chopsticks to go for a piece of mediocre chicken. Hoseok is freshly showered and in his pajamas. He looks cute in the Mang matching set, his hair pulled back with a thick terry cloth band.

There are times that Namjoon feels like mostly brain. Just completely in his head. Hoseok has a way of getting him out. Quieting the chatter, or at least bringing it out of Namjoon's head and into the light where he could see clearly if it was worth his time. They just have a meal together, like Namjoon hasn't been on the verge of complete existential breakdown for the last week.

"Oh yeah, I remembered one of the songs from this summer," Hoseok says, when the topic finally turns to the playlist. By then, he's been reminded that the playlist is a friend, not something that is going to make him actually lose his mind. "When we got drinks, you played it for me. It's so different now. You worked really hard."

Namjoon shakes his head, laughs a little. Lately around Hoseok, he's been having the opposite problem from before. He feels like he can't get out of his body, every movement feels big and jarring and uncool. He almost knocks over one of the sauce containers and then he really does knock it over when he goes to catch it. Hoseok puts down a napkin over the spill and rights the saucer over the clean surface seamlessly, still chewing on his chicken.

"Don't shake your head," Hoseok says, flippant. "You worked really hard. Everyone knows that."

"Okay," Namjoon says, and smiles at him. He can't help it. "Hey, what if I beat you on the charts?"

"I'll be mad if you don't," Hoseok replies and raises his eyebrows. He points at him with his chopsticks. "Seriously, you better."

"Okay," Namjoon says. He's grinning. "I will."

When they're done, Hoseok moves the tray to the ground and joins Namjoon where he's flopped back against the pillows. Hoseok sighs, deep, and Namjoon turns to look at him. A mistake. Hoseok is all fine lines up close, the elegant slope of his nose, sharp angle of his jaw. Hoseok's eyes are closed, so Namjoon has a small amount of time to get it together. As it is, he feels like he can't even look away long enough to blink.

Namjoon imagines that it's plain enough on his face, not even sure what, maybe just all of it. When Hoseok blinks his eyes open, he furrows his eyebrows at Namjoon. Hoseok brings his hand up and presses the heel of his palm across the lines of tension in Namjoon's forehead.

"You're going to wrinkle," Hoseok says, but his voice is soft. They're so close. They don't usually touch like this. Hoseok doesn’t shuttle him around bodily like he does with the maknaes. Hoseok just doesn’t get that close to Namjoon, usually. Namjoon knew Hoseok liked having his own space and he respected that. And Namjoon thought himself to be—hard to hug. He was noodle shaped, which was not the most huggable. He understood why Hoseok wouldn't grab for him first when the mood struck.

The tension doesn't leave his forehead, and the furrow in Hoseok's brow deepens. His mouth is set in a sweet downturn, his dimples shadowing the corners of his lips with his displeasure. Namjoon's mouth is dry, probably because he's mouth-breathing.

"Namjoon-ah, you're so great," Hoseok says, concerned. He gets closer, throws an arm over Namjoon's chest and presses the whole line of his body down Namjoon's side. "You shouldn't be nervous."

Before, Namjoon had been too young and stupid to figure out how to tell the truth. It's been five years and he's better at so many things, but he's still shit at this. How do you say i'm infinitely more nervous about you touching me than what millions of strangers think about my music.

Namjoon thinks—there's some growth there, maybe. It's hard to tell with his heart beating nearly out of his chest. His eyes are burning and he’s not breathing properly. His nose is stuffed from Seokjin’s demonic head cold and also because he’s so close to Hoseok that it’s absolutely undeniable that he’s let himself get in too deep.

Hoseok reaches up and cards his fingers through Namjoon’s hair. He looks scared, but Namjoon cannot fathom of what. Maybe he’s scared that Namjoon is going to cry and he’s going to have to comfort him. Hoseok’s concerned eyes and sad mouth make something heave in him.

Then, Namjoon is crying. He’s really crying.

*

The last time Namjoon cried in front of Hoseok was in late 2017, not that long ago really. It’s just that so much has changed since then. He’s aged a lot.

He couldn’t even remember why he ended up with Hoseok instead of Yoongi or Jimin or one of the manager hyungs. He and Hoseok must have been sharing a hotel room, because he remembers being so embarrassed that Hoseok was the one that was seeing him like this, like he wouldn’t have chosen it. It was late, and Namjoon’s brain wouldn’t stop.

They were due to perform at the AMAs in two weeks and Namjoon’s body didn’t know how to cope with the immense amount of pressure. He felt all wrong and his cells were breaking down in response, deconstructing him from the inside. Everything about him was not good enough and he had this stupid name and embarrassing mixtape that didn’t even seem like part of him anymore. When people called him Rap Monster, it felt mean. It was his name, but it wasn’t right anymore.

Namjoon was already crying when Hoseok came in to the room. He was curled over himself on the hotel couch, his arms wrapped around his middle with heaving, nasty sobs wracking his body. He was out of control, his brain was a whirlwind of worst case scenarios. He didn’t even notice Hoseok coming in until he was right in front of Namjoon on his knees. He put one hand on Namjoon’s knee, the other wiping at Namjoon’s cheeks with the back of his hand.

“Hey, Joon-ah,” Hoseok said, gentle. His voice felt far away, but he was so close. “You’re okay. You’re going to be okay.”

Hoseok took his face between both hands, stilling him for a moment. “It’s okay, Joon-ah,” he said again, his hands pressing hard enough to indent Namjoon’s cheeks. He swiped away the tears. Namjoon could barely see him.

Namjoon wanted to flinch away, he really did. He didn’t want Hoseok to see him like this. His panic doubled because Hoseok was going to ask him what was wrong and it wasn’t going to make any fucking sense to him. Everything was simple to Hoseok. It was right or wrong. He always knew what to do. He saw straight through Namjoon’s philosophizing, right to the heart of things where Namjoon was scared of everything and confused all the time.

Namjoon couldn’t handle being seen right then. He was ashamed of his insides and he needed them to himself. He shook his head, over and over again, his breath coming in gasps. He clenched his eyes shut. He can’t even imagine how bad he looked.

Then, Hoseok sat on the couch and pulled Namjoon’s head into his lap, like he did with the maknaes. Namjoon curled in on himself, fetal, and Hoseok put one hand on his shoulder and the other gentle through his hair, over and over. Hoseok was quiet. He waited.

Namjoon kept crying hard, but eventually it subsided. The quiet of the room was jarring once he settled into it. He couldn’t believe how loud his pain could be on the outside, even when it was already so deafening on the inside. Namjoon came back to himself enough to feel awkward about the intimacy of the moment.

Hoseok noticed he had quieted, and pushed back his bangs to tilt Namjoon’s head up. Namjoon sniffed and met his gaze sheepishly. Hoseok smiled, smoothed his hair back down. “There you are.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon said, mortified. He pushed himself to a seat, and Hoseok’s hand fell from his hair so slowly it must have been reluctant. Namjoon remembers that. “I’m sorry. Fuck. I’m a mess.”

Hoseok pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged facing Namjoon. “You don’t shower enough, but you’re okay. This is hard and you’re doing your best.”

Namjoon swallowed. Hoseok looked really kind. It wasn’t always easy to tell that he actually cared, but Namjoon could tell. He dragged the truth out of the wreckage of his body. “I’m don’t know if I’m doing my best. I really don’t know.”

“Joon-ah,” Hoseok said seriously and raised his eyebrows. “Do you really think I wouldn’t tell you if you weren’t doing your best?”

Namjoon shrugged. Hoseok was right. It was comforting then, and it’s still comforting. He trusts Hoseok to tell him the truth about himself. Namjoon rubbed at his eyes and shrugged again, shaking out his shoulders.

“Okay then,” Hoseok said, like that was that.

Namjoon sniffed. He covered his eyes with a hand and laid back. Hoseok looked at him with one elbow braced against the back of the couch, his chin braced on his palm.

“I hate being Rap Monster,” Namjoon said finally. “It reminds me of a person I used to hate. I feel like I can only make a certain type of music, it’s limiting and embarrassing. I can’t go to fucking America named Rap Monster. I’m an idiot.”

Namjoon tilted his head toward Hoseok and uncovered his eyes. Hoseok was looking at him, steady. He nodded, pushed out his lips thoughtfully. He nodded again. Hoseok reached out a hand and patted him on the knee, letting his hand rest where it landed. He squeezed and Namjoon had to resist the urge to squirm.

This part is so vivid, still.

Namjoon felt something loosen in him, and it just kept coming. “What if I feel like a monster because I call myself a monster? I feel like I made a decision when I was an idiot baby and now it’s who I am.”

Hoseok squeezed his knee again. His eyebrows were furrowed, but his face cleared once Namjoon met his eyes.

Hoseok looked like he was thinking, then he said, “Namjoon-ah, you’re not a monster. You’re a man. You’re whatever you want to be.”

Namjoon inhaled, sharp. Everything started changing after that.

*

Namjoon is crying again. It’s harder to explain this time. Hoseok is so close to him and Namjoon wants so much, not even sure what. He wants Hoseok’s approval, he wants his care, he wants him to stay with Namjoon forever, making sure he’s okay. He wants to keep feeling safe, he wants to stop being scared.

Hoseok’s hands are at his face, his thumbs smoothing over Namjoon’s cheeks. Hoseok leans close, brushes his lips across the damp skin of his cheekbone that is left behind, and it’s so startling that Namjoon is jerked out of it to look at Hoseok, eyes wide. Hoseok doesn’t look surprised.

“You don’t need to outsell me,” Hoseok says, a little smile on his face. Namjoon feels immensely breakable, like Hoseok can squeeze and really shatter his whole body. Hoseok kisses his other cheek. Namjoon feels like he could have seen this coming, if he had learned to look earlier.

He gets it, now. Hoseok is so lucid, full color. He’s human, he’s perfect. There isn’t one side or another to him at all. It is just Hoseok, prismatic. He catches the light differently as the world moves around him. There’s a sparkling glint and he’s new. But he’s not changing, not really. He’s just holding a lot all the time. Yoongi said it’s all there when you stop looking for it, and he was right.

“Hoseok,” Namjoon says, broken.

“You’re okay,” Hoseok says, blinking slow.

Their lips are almost touching. Namjoon wonders, and then he stops. He leans forward and kisses Hoseok, wet and sad from his tears. Their lips are warm and soft together. The world tilts and Hoseok is different again. Same same, but different.

Hoseok leans into the kiss, his hands warm at his waist, at the back of his neck. Namjoon feels a million things, but mostly the slick press of Hoseok’s mouth against his. Hoseok’s lips part and he surges forward. Namjoon catches him, rises up to meet him.

When they break apart, Namjoon’s eyes are wide and so are Hoseok’s. Hoseok’s mouth is shiny in the low light, and Namjoon presses at his bottom lip with his thumb, rests it at the corner of his mouth.

Namjoon opens his mouth, expecting the words that filled his head at all times to start tumbling out. It’s his signature. He talks too fucking much, he writes all the time, all he does is think. His mind is a loud place. Except Hoseok just leans forward again and rolls on top of him, presses their lips together, catching and releasing until Namjoon forgets.

He wants to say a lot—he really does. He tries to. He starts, words caught in the warm space between their mouths, Hoseok’s hands hot and halfway up underneath his shirt. “I...Hoseok—”

“Namjoon,” Hoseok says, not bothering to move away or open his eyes or stop his fingers from brushing across Namjoon’s chest. “Namjoon-ah, it’s okay. We’re okay.”

“But—,” Namjoon protests, half of it lost to a gasp as Hoseok slips his thigh between Namjoon’s legs and grinds down.

Hoseok smiles against his lips, pulling away just enough to get a look at the broken expression on Namjoon’s face. He’s gorgeous and golden, backlit by the hotel lamp, a million miles from home but he looks like somewhere Namjoon could settle down. “Same-same, yeah?”

Namjoon pants, he’s overwhelmed, but he agrees, he’s never known anything more true. Namjoon traces the line of his jaw, wondering and grateful that he’ll never pin him down even when Hoseok is right underneath his fingertips. Hoseok reminds him of his own abundance; he can be nothing, he can be everything. He’s beautiful. They’re beautiful. Same, same.

Namjoon nods and reaches up towards Hoseok. Namjoon trusts that they’ll meet halfway.