Seokjin is barely through the door before someone is throwing themselves at him.
“Hyung,” Jimin cries, wrapping his arms around him.
With a familiarity that Seokjin had half worried he’d lost, he catches him. “My Jiminie.”
As it often goes with Jimin’s hugs, he doesn’t let go, squeezing him tightly. “I missed you.”
Another pair of arms wraps around his back. “I missed you too, hyung,” Taehyung says into his neck.
Seokjin laughs, shaking all of them. “Don’t tell me I survived the military only to be crushed by you two.”
“Stop hogging him,” Jungkook whines, dragging Jimin off. He engulfs Seokjin in a hug, wiggling in an effort to dislodge Taehyung too.
“Yah, don’t tell me with us gone you brats have lost your manners.”
“You say that as if Jungkook ever had manners in the first place,” Jimin says, which earns him a kick that he deftly dodges.
“Hyung, Jimin hyung’s the worst eldest hyung. He never buys me food.”
“Jeon Jungkook I bought you steak last week!”
Jungkook doesn’t let go of him as they move deeper into the apartment, keeping up his bickering with Jimin as he tugs Seokjin along.
Seokjin hasn’t been to Jimin’s apartment before, and he takes a moment to look around. It’s sleek and understated in a familiar way that screams wealth. Even though it’s a completely different style, it reminds him of their dorm, the odd combination of professionally clean with haphazard clutter that comes with long stretches away from home.
He’s pushed onto the sofa and they crowd around him, vying for his attention. Seokjin can’t help the fond laughter as he lets them fight out who gets to sit beside him. He ends up sandwiched between Taehyung and Jungkook, Jimin forced to answer the door for their food.
“Tell us everything,” Taehyung says through a mouthful of rice. “How was it?”
Seokjin launches into the now familiar recounting of his enlistment. He’s been back for two weeks now, and he’s been asked this a dozen times by friends and family. He’s well practiced in focusing on the funny stories, the interesting tidbits, glossing over anything unpleasant. It’s over, and there’s no point dwelling on it.
His stories take them through dinner and two bottles of wine. By the time he’s done answering all their questions, he’s full of delicious food, warm from the wine and good company.
“You’re going in October, right Jimin-ah?” he asks.
“Yeah, I have a comeback planned for late August, and then promotions for that will take me right to October.”
“And then me and Jungkookie in December,” Taehyung says.
Seokjin looks over to Jungkook in surprise. “You’re going early?”
“It makes sense,” Jungkook says with a shrug. “If I wait, everyone else will be back by the time I go. This way we can all be back sooner.”
Something twists in Seokjin’s stomach, but he’s careful to keep it off his face. He smiles. “Ah, two more years without Jungkookie, how will I survive?”
“In peace,” Jimin says, which gets him a scowl.
“So hyung, have you decided what you want to do for your comeback?” Taehyung asks.
“Ah, not yet. I think I’ll take it easy at first.”
“Yeah, the elderly need to be careful about overexerting themselves,” Jungkook says, reflexively dodging the neck slap that earns him.
“If I’m going to be disrespected, I’m going back to the army,” Seokjin says, moving to stand.
Jungkook laughs, throwing himself on Seokjin to keep him seated. “No, I’m sorry. Don’t leave me again hyung.”
Seokjin huffs, shoving Jungkook off him. “Jimin-ah, get another bottle. I forgot how trying it is to deal with these clowns. I’m sorry I left you with them”
Taehyung and Jungkook squawk in outrage, while Jimin laughs hard enough to tip over, his face red. It feels good to be home.
The company sends a car to his apartment, a sleek black SUV. It feels like falling back in time when he gets in, his manager at the wheel with a warm smile for him. This could be three, five, seven years ago, being ferried from one schedule to another, fatigue clinging to him like a second skin. At least it had been good practice for the military, he was used to pushing his body through exhaustion, had learned to sleep whenever and wherever he could.
Big Hit had changed buildings shortly before he’d enlisted, and it’s the same one they drive to now, in the heart of Yongsan. It’s sleek and tall, the company logo bright under the shining sun. They’re early, his meeting isn’t for another half hour, so Seokjin leaves his manager with a promise to be on time and seeks out someone he can bother. He almost goes to Yoongi’s studio by habit, before remembering that it’ll be empty. He goes to Jungkook’s instead.
He half expects it to be empty, but when he peeks his head in, Jungkook is on the computer, giant headphones on and music mixing software open on his computer.
His back is to the door, so careful not to alert him to his presence, Seokjin creeps up behind him. Right as he’s about to slap his neck, Jungkook says, “You know I can see your reflection on the computer screen.”
Seokjin yelps, and then scowls. “Then you should have said hi.”
Jungkook takes his headphones off, turning around with a grin. “You barge into my studio with ill intentions-”
“Semantics,” Seokjin says with a wave of his hand, dropping onto the sofa that pushed against the wall. He looks around, “You’ve changed things.”
The space is a lot cleaner, free of clutter. A framed series of their album covers are on the wall, along with a few pictures, both group and solo. It’s tasteful and sentimental, and Seokjin is a little surprised to see it from Jungkook.
“It’s been two years, hyung.”
“Right.” He doesn’t know why it bothers him, coming from Jungkook. He better than anyone knows that time’s passed, he was the one who was gone. He’d been expecting to be the one to change, and it’s disconcerting to come back and find that Jungkook had changed just as much. And now that he’s not in the mood lighting of Jimin’s apartment, it’s even more apparent just how much he has.
He still has those big eyes and nose, the thin lips, those strong eyebrows, but he’s lost some of his boyishness, his jaw sharper, a hint of crow's feet around his eyes. Seokjin can still see the thirteen year old he met over a decade ago, but it’s not all he sees anymore.
“So did you come here just to bother me?” Jungkook asks.
“Of course. That’s why I was put on this earth, to bother you.”
“Makes sense. Punishment for crimes from my past life, probably.”
Seokjin sticks his tongue out. “I have a meeting at ten, I’ll be out of your hair soon.”
“How long is it going to be?”
Seokjin shrugs. “Not too long, I hope. It’s mostly planning for you know,” he makes a vague hand gesture.
Jungkook laughs. “Am I supposed to interpret that? No, I don’t know.”
“The Future,” Seokjin says, voice excessively grave.
“You’re telling me.”
“Well, if you’re done by noon, text me and we’ll get lunch.”
“You’re trying to get me to buy you food, aren’t you?”
“I had to buy my own meals for two years, hyung,” Jungkook pouts.
“You’re a filthy liar, I know Jimin was feeding you.”
“Yeah, but it tastes better when you buy it for me.” He has the gall to bat his eyelashes.
“Fine,” Seokjin sighs. “With how much I’ve invested in you in food, there’s no point stopping now.”
“You’re the best Jin hyung,” Jungkook says.
Seokjin rolls his eyes and fights a smile.
Sure enough, when Seokjin texts Jungkook that his meeting is over, Jungkook meets him in the parking garage.
Jungkook apparently drove himself, and he proudly leads Seokjin to a sleek black car. It looks very nice and very expensive, and Seokjin spends the entire ride to the restaurant making fun of Jungkook for it.
It feels good to fall back into their familiar pattern, Jungkook rising to the bait just like Seokjin knew he would. It settles some of the weirdness from earlier, let’s Seokjin breathe a little easier. Jungkook is enjoying it just as much as Seokjin is, unable to keep the fondness out of his whining.
A manager called ahead, so as soon as they hand the car off to a valet, they’re led to a private room. It feels a little silly, considering the room is clearly meant for a larger party, but both of them are used to it.
After they order and the waiter leaves, Jungkook turns to Seokjin. “So, how did it go with,” he makes the same vague gesture that Seokjin made earlier.
Seokjin laughs. “Okay. Good. Fine.”
“Mildly positive adjectives, that’s a promising sign.”
“It was fine,” Seokjin insists, laughing. “I think they wanted more from me. Well, I know they wanted more from, they told me. But I want to take things slow, ease back into it.”
“And they wanted you to dive right back in?”
“No, not exactly. When I say slow, I mean very slow. I want time for myself, to spend with my family. It’s not like the last two years were a vacation, I’m tired. They want more from me than I wanted to give, and I think they were a little surprised at how firm I was.”
Jungkook smiles knowingly. “It’s different when you’re solo, right?”
“It is! Before, it wasn’t about just what I wanted, we were a group. But now, me wanting more breaks isn’t going to affect anyone else, so I don’t feel bad asking for it.”
“You know, you could have asked for breaks before, no one would have made you feel bad about it then,” Jungkook says with a frown.
“I know you wouldn’t have,” Seokjin assures him. “But I would have felt bad regardless. But like you said, it’s different when it’s just me. Now the only person I can let down is myself.”
Jungkook opens his mouth to reply, but there’s a perfunctory knock on the door before it slides open, the waiter coming in with their food.
Luckily, Jungkook drops the topic after that, both of them focused on eating. He seems to have forgotten it after that, instead filling him in on the company gossip he’s missed. That takes them through the rest of the meal and Jungkook driving him home.
“Thanks for the meal, hyung,” Jungkook says, idling outside Seokjin’s apartment.
“Thanks for the ride home.”
“So we’re even then,” Jungkook says with a cheeky smile.
“As if,” Seokjin scoffs. “That meal was 120,000 won. You live barely five minutes away. This is on your way home.”
Seokjin huffs and undoes his seatbelt. He goes to open the door, but Jungkook says, “Hyung.”
He pauses with his hand on the door, turning back to Jungkook. “Yeah?”
Jungkook looks serious, the previous levity gone. For some reason, Seokjin’s breath stills, his frame tense with anticipation. He’s bracing himself for something, what he doesn’t know.
Jungkook smiles and the moment is broken. “Nothing. I’m just glad you’re back.”
“I’m glad to be back.”
He gets out of the car and waves Jungkook away, that odd feeling still caught in his chest.
With more free time than he’s had in over a decade, Seokjin finds himself a little at loose ends. He spends a lot of time at his parents’ apartment, letting his mother feed him to her heart’s content. She complains that he’s too thin despite the fact that he put on muscle during his enlistment.
One afternoon, Taehyung drags him out shopping, ferrying him to a boutique in Gangnam. As soon as Taehyung breezes in, the staff fall over themselves to serve him. After a moment, their eyes widen in recognition when they see him, and he finds himself being fawned over as well. It’s a little grating, but he just smiles and follows them to the back.
They’re left alone after that, allowed to peruse the racks to their heart’s content. Seokjin has never been as interested in fashion as Taehyung and Namjoon had been, content to wear what the stylists put him in. When left to his own devices, he favoured comfort over style, especially when most of the time it was the other way around.
“You should get this,” Taehyung says, thrusting a hanger at him. It’s a knit green sweater with a black pattern, close enough to what he likes that he shrugs and accepts it. A nod to the salesgirl has her taking it away to wrap up.
“So are we shopping for me or you?” Seokjin asks.
“I’m not the one whose wardrobe needs refreshing. Everything you have is two years out of date.”
“I’m sure the company already has plenty of clothes for me to wear.”
“Then it’s for me, so I can get you two years worth of birthday presents.”
“Taehyung-ah, we could have just stayed in.”
“Jungkookie says you aren’t getting out enough.”
“He’s wrong,” Seokjin insists. “I’m recording that OST, you know. I had to go into the studio for that last Tuesday.”
“Hyung, it’s Sunday. That’s almost a week.”
Seokjin winces. “Oh.”
“Now shut up and let me buy you things.”
Despite what he says, Taehyung ends up choosing a few more pieces for himself, and a shirt for Seokjin. He puts up a token protest when they’re paying that Taehyung waves away with a swipe of his card. After so much time away from the extravagant wealth of being an idol, the total makes him uncomfortable. He thinks of the people he served with, what they would do with the amount of money Taehyung spent on half a dozen completely unnecessary clothes.
When people ask about the hardest part of his enlistment, he jokes about the food or all the rules or waking up early, but really the hardest part had been coming out of the idol bubble. He had been so insulated by their success, dozens of people devoting their time to make sure his life ran smoothly. He’d forgotten what real life was like, how real people lived their lives.
And now he’s back, expected to wear that life again even though it doesn’t fit quite right, like a sweater that shrunk in the wash. Everyone is telling him it will fit, but he’s the only one who can feel it pulling against his shoulder, the collar tight around his neck.
He pastes on a smile as they leave, their managers ushering them back into the car.
“Thanks for coming out with me even though you didn’t want to,” Taehyung says.
Seokjin considers lying, but Taehyung has always been too good at seeing through him. “Thanks for making sure I don’t turn into a hermit.”
“I think you spent too much time with Yoongi hyung,” Taehyung says thoughtfully. “You know, like old married couples that start to act like each other.”
“You’re right, I should have gotten you as a roommate.”
Taehyung grins. “We would have driven each other crazy.”
“Do you ever miss it, being in the dorm, all of us together?”
Seokjin considers it for a moment. “Yes and no. It was right for us then but I don’t think I’d do it again.”
“Why not?” he asks. He doesn’t seem upset, just curious.
“I think I’m too old for that. Not in a joke way, but I like my privacy. It sure was easier, with how wild our schedules were, but maybe living apart would force things to be a little bit more manageable.”
“I think so too. I like having my own place. Our last dorm was huge, it’s not about the space. It would feel like a step backwards, I think,” Taehyung says. “Not Jungkook though, I know he misses it. He still crashes with me and Jimin sometimes.”
“I don’t think our Jungkookie will ever grow out of wanting to sleep in our beds,” Seokjin says with a laugh.
Taheyung doesn’t laugh back, just gives him a considering look.
The maknaes invite themselves over to his apartment bearing chicken and beer. They’ve already started by the time Jimin arrives, pink cheeked from the cold.
“I need a drink,” he says before he’s even out of his coat.
“Bad day?” Seokjin asks, pouring a generous shot of soju into his beer.
Jimin takes the glass and drains half of it. “The worst. Photoshoot from hell. It was in this big warehouse that had no heating. What genius does that in February?”
“My poor Jiminie,” Taehyung croons, draping himself over him. “I’ll warm you up.”
“And then the photographer was one of those, you know, the super artsy types who expect you to fall at their feet in thanks for deigning to work with an idol.”
“Gross,” Jungkook says, his nose scrunched.
“Exactly. He took forever, and kept making hair and makeup do touch ups, so they couldn’t even stay in the front office with the space heater. It was a nightmare.”
“You’re done now,” Seokjin says, feeding him a piece of chicken. “And I’m sure the pictures are going to look amazing, douchey photographer or not.”
“They better, considering I froze my ass off for them.”
“And it’s such a nice ass,” Taehyung says.
“The best ass,” Seokjin agrees.
“Speaking of ass,” Jimin says, a devious glint to his eye. “Guess who asked me about you?”
“How is that related to ass?” Seokjin asks.
Jimin ignores his question and continues. “Taemin’s friend, Joonyoung. He said you were trending, apparently.”
“Dispatch caught me and Taehyung because he made me go shopping because someone told him I haven’t been leaving the house enough,” Seokjin says with a pointed glare at Jungkook.
“Well, Joonyoung-ssi was very interested to hear you were back. Very interested,” Jimin says with a leer.
“Well, I’m not.”
“Come on hyung, you haven’t gone on a date in forever.”
“In two years,” Taehyung offers.
“He’s cute, he’s a good guy, you should give him a chance,” Jimin says.
Seokjin looks at Jungkook. “You’re not going to try and convince me?”
Jungkook shrugs. “At least you can get a free dinner out of it.”
“Right, because I’m so hurting for money that I need to go on a date for a meal.”
“Food tastes better when someone else is paying,” Jungkook replies with a shit eating grin.
“You should know, you ungrateful shit. If I invested all the money I spent on you, I could buy a building, probably.”
“Really? A building? I didn’t know you were a real estate expert all of a sudden.”
“You don’t know, maybe I am. Maybe I spent all my time in my military studying real estate so I could-”
“If you guys are done,” Jimin interrupts, rolling his eyes. “Give him a shot. Please, for me?”
Jimin knows exactly what he’s doing, but Seokjin still can’t find it in himself to refuse him. “Fine. But if I go on this date, you don’t bother me about dating for a year.”
An hour into the date, Seokjin regrets ever meeting Park Jimin.
Joonyoung is in the middle of regaling him about a trip he took to Paris last year and Seokjin takes a sip of wine to hide his grimace.
“You should definitely go to Paris one day,” Joonyoung says, wrapping up his story. “It’s truly a beautiful city.”
“I have been, actually. A few times,” Seokjin says, perfectly pleasant..
“Oh. Right.” His face flushes with embarrassment.
Seokjin gives him a smile. “But I’ve always wanted to go back. We never got to see as much as I’d have liked when we were on tour.”
Joonyoung perks up. “Exactly. Work trips are always busy. One time I went to San Francisco for a week…”
Seokjin tunes him out as he launches into another story, not even bothering to look engaged. His date doesn’t notice, too caught up in explaining in detail about the wineries he visited in Napa Valley.
On the bright side, at least he doesn’t have to worry about Jimin pestering him about his love life for another six months. Jimin is the only one nosy enough to care. Even before he’d left, Jimin was always nagging him to go out with a friend of a friend, determined to make sure he was happy. He’s the only one who goes along with it, no one else willing to put up with Jimin’s meddling. Seokjin isn’t entirely opposed to dating, he likes the idea of having a significant other, it’s just never been a priority for him.
Joonyoung is the perfect example. Here he is, wasting an evening and a nice outfit when he could have spent it doing something he actually enjoyed. It’s not just that his date is pretentious, Seokjin is friends with Namjoon after all, but it’s the way he expects Seokjin to be captivated by his every word, to sit prettily while he shares his knowledge.
The date goes on for another hour, and it doesn’t require much from Seokjin other than badly feigned attention. The food is good at least, and he makes his way through most of a very nice bottle of wine.
“I had fun,” Joonyoung says as they stand outside the restaurant after the meal, their shoulders hunched against the cold. “We should do this again some time.”
“We should. I’ll text you,” Seokjin lies. He nods towards the taxi pulling up to the curb. “There’s my ride.”
Joonyoung moves to hug him, but Seokjin plays oblivious, backing up with a wave and a smile. He lets out a breath when he gets in, telling the driver his address.
He checks his phone and he has a text from Jungkook from an hour ago. He opens up the message and it’s a meme, dumb enough that it surprises a laugh out of him.
Instead of replying, Seokjin calls him.
“Hey,” Jungkook answers.
“Are you at home?”
“Can I come over?”
“Sure? I’m all out of booze though. My hyung was over on Thursday and finished the last of my beer, and I don’t get my groceries until tomorrow.”
“I’ll pick some stuff up at a convenience store on my way. Any requests?”
“You know what I like. Snacks too please.”
“Fine. I should be there soon.”
Twenty minutes later, steps through Jungkook’s door, laden with two plastic bags filled with snacks and alcohol.
Jungkook takes them from him and lets him shrug off his coat and switch his shoes for slippers.
“Woah,” Jungkook says, looking him up and down. “You look nice.”
“I always look nice,” Seokjin says, glaring. “I am the most handsome person on the earth. They don’t call me WWH for nothing.”
“First of all, you gave yourself that nickname and repeated it enough until people gave in because you were so annoying.”
“You calling me annoying? The irony. Your entire purpose on this earth is to annoy me into an early grave.”
“I don’t know about early. That hair is looking a little thin,” Jungkook says, reaching for his head.
Seokjin swats him away with ease. “My hair is as thick and luscious as ever.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Jungkook says. “Anyway, you didn’t have to get all dressed up for me. I appreciate the effort though, I was getting tired of seeing you in sweatpants.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. If you must know, I was on a date, the one Jimin coerced me into.”
Jungkook raises his eyebrows. “Oh, wow. I didn’t know it’d be so soon. How was it?”
“Well, I’m here with you instead of him,” Seokjin says with a wry smile.
“It’s okay hyung,” Jungkook says, taking the cans of beer out of the bag. “We can drink away your sorrows.”
“It was one date JK, I’m not too heartbroken,” he says, still accepting a can. He pops open the tab and takes a sip. “Oh that’s good.”
“Come on, do you want to play something?” Jungkook asks, gesturing to where he has a game paused.
Seokjin feels a pang of fondness, recognizing the signs of a gaming session, complete with the empty takeout containers on the table. “No, I’ve had too much to drink to be any good.”
“Hyung, I know you’re getting old, but your tolerance is really gone to shit if one sip-”
“Fuck off. I had a bottle of wine with dinner. Don’t forget who taught you how to drink,” Seokjin says.
Jungkook grins. “Good, I was about to get worried. Want to watch something? I started a new anime I think you’ll like.”
They settle in front of the TV with their beer and snacks, Jungkook immediately burrowing his way under Seokjin’s arm. Even though he’s seen it before, Jungkook watches the show with rapt attention. Seokjin tries his best, but ten minutes in it’s already too complicated for his tipsy brain.
He lets his head rest on top of Jungkook, breathing in the clean scent of his shampoo. Jungkook is a warm, comfortable weight at his side. He’s always surprised at how small Jungkook can be. They always joke about how much Jungkook has grown, and he has, even more so in the time that Seokjin’s been gone. He’s put on even more muscle, and after going solo, he’s come very far from the shy, reticent boy he’d met so many years ago. But in this moment, curled up together, he can’t help but notice that Jungkook is still smaller than him, letting go of the bravado and swagger of his stage persona, fitting against Seokjin perfectly.
It’s so easy, giving and taking affection with Jungkook, with any of the members really. They’ve relied on each other for so long that he does it without a second thought. They’ve been there for all the highs and lows, and sometimes he thinks they know him better than he knows himself. After a decade spent almost constantly together, there isn’t room for pretences.
Jungkook shifts, taking Seokjin’s hand and putting it in his hair without taking his eyes off the screen. Seokjin huffs a laugh but obliges, running his fingers through his hair. Jungkook melts even more, humming happily.
He drifts off like that, warm, safe, and content.
He wakes up with Jungkook tangled around him, a leg thrown over his hip. Seokjin pushes him off and gets out of bed, stretching with a wince. His back aches, Jungkook’s mattress too soft for him. He digs around Jungkook’s drawers until he finds a clean pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, heading to the bathroom.
Seokjin had been planning on just changing out of his clothes from last night, but the lure of a shower is too much. Jungkook’s shampoo is nice, and he makes a note of the name as he lathers up.
He emerges damp and refreshed in Jungkook’s clothes and starts on breakfast. There isn’t much in the fridge, but there’s enough for a barebones kimchi stew. He’s just finishing up when Jungkook emerges from the bedroom, probably woken up by Seokjin’s intentionally loud cooking.
He doesn’t say anything, just back hugs Seokjin where he’s washing the dishes he used.
“Morning JK,” Seokjin says.
“How’d I get to your bed last night? I don’t remember moving.”
“Carried you there,” Jungkook says, hooking his chin over Seokjin’s shoulder. “You passed out before the first episode finished.”
Seokjin waits, but Jungkook doesn’t say anything else. “What, no joke about the elderly needing an early bedtime?”
“Nah, too easy.”
He laughs. “Come on, we can eat when the rice is done.”
It’s quiet as they eat, Jungkook still waking up.
"Are you wearing my clothes?" Jungkook asks.
"Because my clothes from yesterday are gross."
Jungkook blinks at him, his head tilted to the side. "Do you want to go skating, hyung?"
Seokjin is thrown by the change in subject. "What?"
"Skating. I've been wanting to go."
"So why haven't you?"
"This is the first day off I've had in a long time."
"Oh, Jungkook-ah, I didn't mean to ruin your day off. I didn't know."
Jungkook waves him away. "Don't worry, you're not bothering me. I thought I wanted to be alone, but I was getting bored yesterday. It's weird, I used to be able to spend an entire day gaming, but now it's like I can't focus. I feel gross."
"You're getting older."
"But you'll always be older than me hyung," Jungkook says sweetly.
Seokjin kicks him under the table. "I don't know why I spend time with you."
"So skating, yes? No?"
"Yes, fine. But I need to get clothes from my place first."
"Just wear something I have, I want to go while it's still early. It gets more crowded after school lets out."
"Your pants are too short for me." He sticks out his leg to show off his exposed ankle.
Jungkook sighs. "Fine. But you can't take too long."
After Jungkook changes, they head out for Seokjin's apartment. Seokjin changes into a pair of jeans, deciding to stick with Jungkook's shirt. He always wears his shirts two sizes too big, so it fits Seokjin fine. He’s used to sharing clothes with the others, and it’s better than having to put up with more of Jungkook's whining about him taking too long.
He has to admit that Jungkook might have had a point, because the skating rink is almost empty when they get there, only a few other people out on the ice. It's an outdoor rink, so part of it probably has to do with the February chill in the air. They rent skates, and luckily the bored part timer doesn't recognize them behind their face masks and baseball caps.
It's been a while since he last skated, so he takes his time lacing up, watching as Jungkook finishes before him and steps out onto the ice. He's a little shaky, but he's fine after a few strokes. Seokjin isn't surprised, Jungkook has always been good at anything physical.
He waits until Jungkook finishes a slow lap around the rink before stepping to the edge, waving him over.
"Come here, I don't want to fall on my ass," he says, clutching Jungkook's shoulder as he carefully steps onto the ice.
It takes him much longer than Jungkook to find his balance, clutching his arm the entire time.
"Hyung, I thought you could skate," Jungkook snickers.
"I can," Seokjin insists. "It's just been a while since I did it."
"Come on, I'll pull you."
Jungkook turns with an ease that Seokjin envies, taking both of Seokjin's mittened hands in his and skating backwards.
"If you make us crash I'm going to kill you."
"I won't, I promise."
Now that he doesn't have to focus on moving forward, pulled ahead by Jungkook, it is a little easier to get used to the skates. After half a lap, he very carefully pushes forward with one skate. When he doesn't fall, he tries it again. It comes back to him after that, and some of the fear is gone.
Jungkook smiles at him from behind his face mask, a big smile that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle. Seokjin is hit with the urge to take off his mask so he can see his bunny teeth and scrunched nose.
Instead, he lets go of Jungkook's hands. "I think I have it now."
Jungkook skates beside him, hands tucked in his pockets. "Having fun?"
"Yes. But the second I fall on my ass I'm suing you."
"Is your ass insured?"
"No, but my face is."
Jungkook snorts. "I almost believe you. If anyone would, it's you."
"Maybe five years ago. No one is interested in my face anymore."
"Meh, I'm sure there are a couple people out there. It's a decent face."
"Decent?" Seokjin sputters, almost losing his balance as he tries to shove Jungkook. "It's the most beautiful face on the planet. People have cried looking at it."
"Yeah, me, because it's so-" he breaks off laughing.
"Finish that sentence. I dare you."
"Because it's so beautiful hyung," Jungkook says, sickly sweet. "You're right, I cry tears of joy whenever I see your face."
"You can't tell, but I'm crying on the inside right now. Wah, such beauty. Thank you for gracing us with your perfect visage."
Seokjin speeds up to try and get away from him, but Jungkook follows him with ease, still laughing.
"Your ears are red, hyung."
The laughter suddenly falls from Jungkook's face, his expression shuttered. "Don't look, but I think there's someone filming us. Wait until we've turned."
Sure enough, there's someone at the benches with her phone out and pointed at them. The warmth in Seokjin's chest freezes. "Fuck."
"I thought it would be fine for at least another hour."
"Do you want to stay?" Seokjin asks. He wants to leave, his skin crawls at the thought of someone filming them. He wonders how long they've been doing it, how much of what was supposed to be for just the two of them has been unwillingly shared. But Jungkook had been so excited about skating, Seokjin will stay if he wants to.
"No," Jungkook says, his voice clipped. "Let's just go."
They switch the skates for their boots and return them.
Jungkook is quiet in the car. It's not until they're almost at Seokjin's apartment that he speaks. "I bet you didn't miss that."
"No, I didn't. I'd forgotten how it feels." It sticks with you, an oily residue that touches everything you do for the next few days. A small part of you keeps wondering if someone is watching, whether even this will be put under the microscope of fame and scrutinized.
"Is that why you don't want to come back?" Jungkook asks.
"What do you mean, I am back."
"No, I know that. I mean, all you're doing is an OST."
"And I'm guest hosting that new variety show on MBC," Seokjin points out, even though he knows that isn't what Jungkook means.
"That's not what I mean," Jungkook says, and Seokjin has to fight a triumphant smile. "You could come out with an album, go star in a drama, or do an ad campaign. You're BTS Jin, you're Worldwide Handsome. You could be doing so much more."
"I don't want to," Seokjin says simply. "I'm tired, JK. You know how hard I worked, and I didn't get a break like you guys did. I went straight from awards season into basic training. And I made sure I wasn't BTS Jin there. I was just Kim Seokjin, there to do my duty to my country. I worked even harder to make it clear that I wasn't getting any special treatment."
"So you just need a break?"
"Maybe. Maybe I'll rest for a few months and decide that I want to jump back into being an idol. But I spent two years as a regular person, I'd forgotten what it was like. And sure, there weren't music shows, and fans, and international tours, but it was nice. I liked being ordinary again."
Jungkook doesn't look like he understands. "But you've never been ordinary, hyung."
Seokjin has to laugh at that. "Thank you Jungkook-ah, you're very sweet. But I was for a long time before I became an idol."
He just shakes his head. "I remember when we were just trainees, but you weren't ordinary even then. There's a reason you were street casted."
"Whatever you say, JK."
"I know it was hard, but there were good parts too, right? You weren't miserable the whole time?" Jungkook asks, his voice small.
"No, of course not," Seokjin rushes to reassure him. "I wasn't miserable, it's just a very different life. I'd just forgotten that."
Jungkook doesn't say anything, but he still looks unsettled, a furrow between his eyebrows.
"How about we go back to my place and get takeout? I haven't beaten you in Mario Kart since I got back, I miss the sweet taste of victory."
Jungkook scoffs, the worry melting away. "You wish. Maybe your memory is failing you in your old age, but I'll be happy to kick your ass again and remind you."
Seokjin tugs Yoongi into a hug as soon as he’s through the door, and it’s telling that Yoongi doesn’t even put up a token protest, just clings right back.
“I missed you, fucker,” Seokjin says into his hair.
Yoongi laughs his weird, croaky laugh, the one where he’s on the verge of tears but would rather die than admit. “I missed you too, hyung.”
When he lets go, Yoongi keeps his hand in Seokjin’s, pulling him into his apartment. He’s been to Yoongi’s apartment before, he’d helped him furnish it when they were all still living at the dorm.
The food is laid out on the table, but Seokjin ignores it in favour of alcohol. He won’t be able to bluster and gloss over everything the way he has with everyone else.
“How was it?” Seokjin asks, once they’ve both had a shot.
That surprises a laugh out of Seokjin. “I’ll drink to that. At least we’re done.”
Yoongi stuffs a piece of chicken in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Well, we are. The kids aren’t.”
“True. Jimin is going in October, and Taehyung and Jungkook are going in December.”
“Jungkook’s going early then?” Yoongi says. “Makes sense, he wouldn’t want to be the only one gone.”
Seokjin pouts. “I had to be the only one gone.”
“Yeah, until I followed three months later,” Yoongi snorts. “You always think you’re so much older than me.”
“According to Jungkook, I’m ancient.”
“I see you two are making up for lost time,” Yoongi says. “I almost miss your bickering.”
“I’m sure the gremlins will descend on you when they find out you’re back. And they’ll be pissed at me for not telling them I knew.”
“Just tell them that it’s roommate privileges. I’m sure they’ll be bothering me in my studio again in no time.”
“So you’re really going back next week?” Seokjin asks.
“Yup. I already lost two years, I don’t want to waste anymore. I’ve missed making music.”
“That makes one of us.”
“I said I missed making music, not being an idol,” Yoongi says pointedly. “They’re not mutually exclusive, which you should know. You’re not exactly booked and busy right now.”
“I did that OST.”.
“I know, and it was good. I liked it. But you could do more.”
“I’m tired,” Seokjin says bluntly. “I’ve been tired for a decade and this is the first break I’m taking for myself. Why do people keep trying to make me feel bad about it?”
“It’s okay to take a break, hyung,” Yoongi says gently. “Of course you deserve to rest. But it’s been months since you came back, and I know you. Are you tired or are you scared?”
“What would I be scared of?”
Yoongi looks at him for a long moment, but then he shrugs, letting it go. “I don’t know.”
This is something Seokjin has always loved about Yoongi, his brutal honesty is always tempered with kindness. He knows when to push Seokjin, but he also knows when to stop. And for that, Seokjin figures he deserves some honesty.
“I don’t want things to go back to how they were before,” Seokjin says, not meeting Yoongi’s eyes. “Our lives were crazy. We didn’t realize then, all of us in that bubble, but it was crazy. The fans, the work, that level of scrutiny, none of us were prepared for it. I don’t think I can knowingly go back to that.”
“You don’t have to. No one’s going to force you, but it doesn't mean you have to leave everything behind.”
“And I haven’t! I’m still working, I start shooting for that JTBC drama next week. Just because I’m not killing myself with work again doesn’t mean I’m lying around all day.”
“You’re right,” Yoongi says, apologetic. “I guess it’s different now. I’m so used to us being on the same page.”
“I know. I’m just tired of having to explain my choices.”
“So, you’re going to be in a drama,” Yoongi asks, a peace offering.
“My acting debut,” Seokjin says, overly grand. “It’s a small role, but that’s good, manageable.”
“I’ll watch it and tell you it’s good even if it’s terrible,” Yoongi says dutifully.
“As expected. What about you? When can I expect some new music Min PD-nim?”
“I have some things in mind and a few collabs lined up, so you shouldn’t have to wait long.”
“How?” Seokjin boggles. “You were discharged a week ago.”
“Honestly, I’d believe it.”
“And,” Yoongi adds. “One of those songs might be for you, so I expect you to clear your schedule when I need you.”
“Of course PD-nim,” Seokjin fawns. “Anything for you.”
The drama he’s been cast in is a thriller, and he’s playing the role of the male lead’s best friend who is tragically killed by a serial killer, serving as motivation for the male lead to get revenge. They’re shooting in Tongyeong, but since Seokjin only has a minor role for a character that dies part way through, he’s only staying there for two of the five months they’re filming there.
The work is hard in a good way, different from what he’s done before. The acting he’s done so far has been for short skits and music videos, he’s never had the chance to actually develop a character over time like this. It’s also fascinating working with other actors, most of them with much more experience than him, and he does his best to absorb as much as he can.
But there are parts of it that are familiar. Because he doesn’t have a major role, he spends a lot of time waiting. His room is nice, blandly pleasant in the way all hotel rooms are. He’s used to them after all these years, sometimes feeling more familiar than home.
He could probably use the time productively, but mostly he plays games on his phone or catches up on TV shows. He’s finished his scenes for the day, so he’s spending the evening in his room playing a deceptively addictive game Jimin showed him when Jungkook FaceTimes him.
“Hi hyung,” Jungkook says, grinning at the camera.
He laughs. “How are you?”
“I’m alright,” Seokjin says with a shrug Jungkook can’t see. “How’s LA?”
“The same,” Jungkook replies, scrunching up his nose. “We got In n’ Out.”
“Animal style,” Seokjin drawls in an American accent, and sure enough, Jungkook breaks out into giggles. “Bring me back some fries.”
“Yeah, right, I’m sure customs will be fine with that.”
“Just tell them they’re for me.”
“Okay, hope they’re still good after a month.”
“No, obviously you need to come back from tour early specifically to give me fries.”
“You’re right, what was I thinking,” Jungkook plays along.
“Isn’t it ridiculously late in LA?” Seokjin asks.
“Well, if you think about it, from a certain perspective I’m just very early.”
Seokjin gives him his most unimpressed look, hoping it translates through the camera. “That only counts if you went to bed last night.”
“Then yes, it is disgustingly late. Three in the morning, to be precise.”
“You should sleep.”
“Can’t,” he says simply. “My brain won’t turn off.”
“Right, and I’m guessing you went to sleep right after you landed?”
“Staying up to beat jet lag is a scam, actually.”
“When’s the concert?” Seokjin asks.
“Saturday. We have tomorrow to adjust, and then press on Friday.”
“Is it weird to be doing it alone?”
“So weird,” Jungkook says emphatically. “I keep turning to talk to Hobi hyung, or expecting to see Namjoon hyung. I don’t like it.”
“It’s only your second stop, you have another month to go.”
Jungkook scrunches up his face. “I know. I can’t wait to come back home. I feel like I just got you back and now I miss you again.”
“It’s just a month, you big baby. I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back,” Seokjin says, his ears warm.
Jungkook shifts so he’s lying on his side. Even in the low light, Seokjin can see the dark bags under his eyes. His makeup artist is going to hate him. “Can you talk to me until I fall asleep?”
“It’s good. I like it, more than I thought I would. Jongsuk hyung is nice, all of the cast are.”
“Tell me about your character again,” Jungkook says, covering a yawn with the back of his hand. Like always,he’s wearing a too big shirt with long sleeves that cover most of his hand. It’s cute.
“Okay, so his name is Cho Seungjae, and he works with the male lead. They’ve been friends since they were kids and he’s one of the only people that the lead can rely on...”
Seokjin doesn’t stop talking until Jungkook falls asleep, rambling about whatever crosses his mind. When he’s sure Jungkook is out, he takes a screenshot of his sleeping face. He tells himself it’s for blackmail, but he doesn’t quite believe that.
Seokjin wraps up filming and by the time he returns to Seoul, spring is fully underway. He takes a page out of Namjoon’s book and goes for a bike ride along the Han River. It’s refreshing and makes him miss the Namjoon a little less.
He mentions it to Yoongi when he sees him later that week, who laughs. “Are you going to start visiting art exhibits and quoting dead philosophers too?”
They’re in Yoongi’s studio. Seokjin came in for a meeting, and now he’s using his free afternoon to bother Yoongi.
“No thanks, I’ll still leave that up to Namjoonie. Wouldn’t want to steal his brand.”
“Oof, imagine having two Namjoons in the group. No thanks.”
“One is more than enough.”
“I miss them too,” Yoongi says, not looking away from his computer screen. He has it open to his music editing software, but Seokjin is familiar enough with it to know that he isn’t really doing anything, he just wants to make the conversation less awkward, probably for Seokjin’s benefit.
“I guess I miss the way things were before. It seemed easier then, less confusing.”
“You stepped outside the bubble.”
“Yeah, and now everything is changing.”
“Not everything. Look, no matter what happens, the seven of us, we’ll all be the same. Bangtan or no Bangtan.”
“But that’s not true. Things have changed. Jungkook-” he stops himself.
“Jungkook what?” Yoongi asks, dropping all pretense to look at Seokjin with too sharp eyes.
“Jungkook is off touring alone.”
“Right.” Yoongi seems unconvinced.
“And Taehyung is off shooting a movie, and Jimin is preparing for his comeback, and you’re always in your studio,” Seokjin hurries to say. “And maybe it’s not different, but I’m just used to doing it with you. And I know this is what I wanted, I know it doesn’t make sense. I don’t expect everyone to drop everything to coddle me.”
“You need to figure out what you want hyung,” Yoongi says bluntly.
“Well, obviously what you’re trying isn’t working, because you don’t seem any happier than you were before. And it’s not just about your career.”
“What?” Seokjin asks, genuinely confused.
Yoongi looks at him for a long moment and then signs, shaking his head. “Nevermind.”
“No, what did you mean?” Seokjin whines.
“You’ll figure it out on your own.”
“I thought the whole point of this,” Seokjin says, gesturing between the two of them. “Is that I haven’t been doing a great job at figuring it out.”
“Sure. Then I have a solution, or part of one at least. Sing a song for me.”
“What, right now?”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “No, I’m producing something, I want you to do vocals.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“Do I have a choice in this?” Seokjin asks.
He leaves Yoongi’s studio feeling better than he had when he’d gone in, which is exactly the reason he’d gone in the first place. Instead of going towards the parking garage, he heads to the practice rooms.
It takes some searching, a lot of awkward bowing from his juniors, but sure enough he finds Jimin. He’s in ratty joggers and a shirt that he’s pretty sure originally belonged to Jungkook. Jimin sees him in the mirror, but doesn’t stop dancing until the song finishes.
“You look good,” Seokjin offers when the music stops, Jimin standing in the middle of the room, his chest heaving.
“Thanks hyung,” Jimin says, out of breath. Seokjin tosses him a water bottle that he drains in one go.
“Is this for the comeback?”
“Yeah,” Jimin replies, coming to sit on the floor beside Seokjin. “It’s the title track.”
“You can do a lot more without us holding you back,” Seokjin jokes.
“Come on hyung,” Jimin whines. “You don’t give yourself enough credit. You’re a good dancer.”
“I’m a decent dancer at best, nothing like you and Hobi and JK.”
“So much of dance is hard work, talent will only take you so far. You were willing to work at it.”
“We’ll agree to disagree, Jimin-ah,” Seokjin says.
“You really didn’t miss it? Not even a little?”
“Maybe a little. A tiny bit, a miniscule amount,” Seokjin says,holding up his hand with his thumb and forefinger barely apart.
Jimin laughs, leaning into him. Seokjin lets him even if he’s sweaty.
“It wasn’t the dancing, exactly,” Seokjin explains. “I missed the group, I missed performing. It’s a high like nothing else, being on stage in front of tens of thousands of people, there to see you. I missed working on something that brought joy to so many people, being a part of that.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to last two years,” Jimin groans.
“You’ll survive, we all do. I won’t say it flies by, but it goes quicker than you expect.”
“I haven’t even left yet and I can’t wait to be back.”
“I doubt you’ll take a page out of my book,” Seokjin says with a wry smile. “You’ll be back on stage the second you’re discharged.”
“I’m going to do this as long as I’m able,” Jimin says with a shrug. “The dancing, who knows how long I’ll have. Things that I could do five years ago and so much harder now, let alone some of the stuff I pulled when we debuted.”
“The curse of getting older.”
“I think we took you for granted sometimes, hyung. You were so much older and still keeping up with us.”
“Yah, you sound like Jungkook,” Seokjin complains. “I’m not that much older than you, only three years.”
“It still makes a difference.”
“We’ll just say you kept me young.”
Jimin gives him a sly look. “You know, you wouldn’t have to dance to perform again, if you miss it. Everyone always loved your stages on tour and they didn’t have choreo.”
Seokjin pokes his thigh. “It’s not just that and you know it. There’s so much that comes with it. I want to spend some time living for myself. I want to belong to myself. Going back to being an idol, it means at least some part of me is for the fans, and I don’t know if I can handle that again.”
“I know it’s not easy, hyung,” Jimin says.
“But obviously you think it’s worth it. I’m still trying to decide if it is for me.”
"I don't want you to think I'm dismissing you because I struggled with that a lot. I know it's hard," Jimin explains. "For me it had to do with my weight. I felt like I had to look a certain way for the fans, that they were the ones who we were doing this for, so it wasn't fair if I didn't look the way they wanted me to. It probably took me too long to realize how unhealthy that was."
"Jimin-ah, that's different-"
"No it's not, hyung. It's about not wanting to disappoint them, right? We can't just say fuck it and do what we want, because then that would be ungrateful. But this is our job. It took me too long to understand that. Everyone has parts of their job they don't like, but there are boundaries to that. So yeah, I'll do aegyo on a variety show and answer the same set of five questions without complaining, but there are boundaries. I'll wear what I want and do what I want, because there are parts of me that are for me."
"I'm glad you figured that out," Seokjin says. "And I know it wasn't an easy journey, you might forget but I was there with you for it. But I just need to decide if I'm ready to give even a part of myself away again. Because sometimes I'm scared that it's more than I realize, that I'll keep giving parts of myself away and then there'll be nothing left for me."
"You won't," Jimin says confidently. "We won't let you. You forget that you're not doing this alone. The only reason I was able to figure any of this shit out was because you guys saw what I was putting myself through and made me get help. What makes you think we won't do the same thing?"
"But everything is always different with Bangtan. Who thought we'd get to where we got?"
Jimin looks skeptical. "We'll have been on hiatus for four years, you really think nothing will have changed?"
"I've learned not to underestimate our fans."
"Fine. Give me the worst case scenario."
He looks at him expectantly. "Hit me with the absolute worst case scenario of what could happen."
"We come back, and we're bigger than ever. Every move we make is analyzed under a microscope and dissected. We go back to the way things were before I enlisted, living these careful lives that are dictated by what might happen instead of what we want."
"Wow, you had that one ready."
"I've had a lot of time to think," Seokjin says with a weak laugh.
"I don't really think I'm qualified to unpack all that, but hyung, you really don't think any of us would want you to be miserable, do you? Even if we're popular, things will be different."
"And how do you figure that?"
"We're older. Our fans will be older, there won't be those expectations."
"You have a lot of faith in them, Jimin-ah."
Seokjin sighs. "I don't want to be pessimistic, but the life I want doesn't exactly line up with the life they think we should have."
"We already agreed you don't need to share more of yourself than you want to."
"It's not always up to us. Scandals have taken out better people."
"That's always been a risk. If we were all scared of scandals, we wouldn't do anything other than practice and pray," Jimin says with a snort.
"Okay, fine. I'll think about what you've said. No promises beyond that."
Jimin gives him a pleased smile. "Good. Now help me up, my services aren't free. You need to buy me dinner."
Seokjin has a list of reasons ready to tell anyone (and himself) if they ask him why he agreed to perform a song at Jungkook’s Seoul concert. He misses being on stage, All the others are doing it. It’s a good way for him to ease back into performing.
They’re all true, but the real reason he agrees to perform is because Jungkook asks, and Seokjin will do a lot to get him to smile. His resolve crumbles as soon as Jungkook pulls out the puppy dog eyes, and the younger is fully aware and uses it to his full advantage.
It’s the final concert in the tour, and Seokjin had already been planning on going. He’d demanded tickets and had even bought a Cooky headband so he would look the part.
They’re only performing one song, this is still Jungkook’s concert. Yoongi and Jungkook are taking over the extra rap verses, and they aren’t doing any of the choreo. It’s relaxed enough that Seokjin is excited rather than nervous.
They still get to watch most of the concert, but from backstage instead of the stands. It had been decided that Seokjin, Yoongi, Taehyung, and Jimin together would draw too much attention, so they watch from a corner, cheering Jungkook on when he passes by to change outfits.
When it’s time, the staff lead them to their places under the stage. They can hear Jungkook going through his ment on their in ears.
“You know, I’ve been having so much fun tonight,” Jungkook says, pausing as the crowd roars. “And I thought, it’s not fair for me to have this much fun by myself. But I’m not by myself, I’m with all of you, all my friends.”
The crowd screams, and Seokjin closes his eyes, picturing Jungkook’s grin, bunny teeth on full display, the joy bursting out of him. Jungkook is always beautiful, but it’s different when he’s on stage. Seokjin doesn’t believe in fate, but he’s sure that Jungkook was meant to be on stage. He comes alive, glowing, lit from within, a star in every sense of the word.
“So my friends, I hope you join me, and a few others, in singing this next song.”
The lift rises as the opening notes of Boy With Luv play, Jimin singing his line.
Two years away isn’t enough to overcome a decade of practice. Performance has been drilled into his bones, and Seokjin falls back into it like muscle memory. He thrums with energy, the thrill of having thousands of voices cheering for them. It’s a feeling like nothing else, an adrenaline rush, the pressure and the heartache and the exhaustion all worth it for the thrill of performing. Time passes in a blur, and they end the performance in a group hug, the weight of the two missing members heavy in his heart.
Jungkook moves on to the next song as they stumble backstage.
They stay for the rest of the concert, and welcome Jungkook with hugs and back slaps when he comes into the dressing room beaming. Seokjin can read the exhaustion in his shoulders, but there’s not a trace of it on his face as he changes out of his stage clothes and into sweats.
Seokjin fights the urge to fuss over him, more aware than ever that Jungkook is an adult. He’s done something none of them have, finishing an international, solo tour. He’s proven himself more than capable.
The company has rented out a restaurant and Jungkook flits around as everyone grills their meat. He makes sure to spend time at every table, joking and teasing and stealing bites of food. Everyone lets him get away with it, and Seokjin looks at the staff and wonders if that’s what he looks like when he looks at Jungkook, exasperation and awe and so much fondness.
“He’s really grown up,” Yoongi remarks from beside him.
“Yeah,” Seokjin agrees. “He has.”
“I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised that he isn’t that little kid who needed his hyungs anymore.”
“He still needs us,” Jimin pouts, across from them.
“No he doesn’t,” Taehyung says with a smile. “But luckily, he wants us to stick around.”
As if he can tell they’re talking about him, Jungkook bounds back up to their table, sitting at Seokjin’s unoccupied side. “Thanks again for coming up on stage with me hyungs.”
“You don’t need to thank us, Jungkook-ah,” Yoongi says, flipping a piece of pork belly on the grill.
“It was really fun to be on stage again,” Taehyung says. “I missed it.”
“Did you have fun, hyung?” Jungkook asks, turning to Seokjin.
Seokjin smiles, snagging a piece of meat off the grill and making a wrap. “I did. Your plan to lure me in is working.”
Jungkook looks at him in alarm, which turns into nervous laughter. “Right, lure you into performing again.”
“What else would there be?” Seokjin asks, confused. “Open up.”
Seokjin stuffs the lettuce wrap into Jungkook’s mouth. “Less talking, more eating. You burned a lot of calories today.”
The stylist smooths his suit jacket across his shoulders, making sure the fit is perfect. She looks at him from head to toe, then nods her head, deeming him adequate.
He’s ushered to the parking garage and he’s surprised to see Jungkook waiting with his manager.
“I wanted to wish you good luck,” Jungkook says with a grin. “Don’t worry hyung, you’re going to be great.”
“Were you this nervous about going solo?”
“More,” Jungkook says, laughing. “I was a mess. I missed you all so much, I didn’t think I could do it.”
“And then you found some inner strength and killed it?”
“Nope. I cried all my makeup off half an hour before I was supposed to go on stage. The noonas got so mad at me,” Jungkook remembers with a grimace. “But after I washed my face and they redid my makeup, I went on stage and sang, because that’s what I’m good at. And you’re good at this hyung, you can make anyone love you. You’ll go up there and make bad jokes that everyone will laugh at, and before you’re at your seat, you’ll be trending on Naver.”
“You’re not terrible at this pep talk thing,” Seokjin says, his chest not as tight as it was before.
“I’m just trying to channel my inner Namjoon hyung.”
“Seokjin-ah,” his manager interrupts gently. “We have to go.”
“I’d hug you, but I’m pretty sure noona would punch me.”
“It’s the thought that counts.”
He ducks into the car, and Jungkook gives him one last thumbs up, mouthing “good luck.” Seokjin twists in his seat as they pull out of the garage, looking at Jungkook in his hoodie until he can’t anymore. The fluttering in his stomach is nerves, he’s sure of it.
They go over the practiced answers as they drive to the press conference. He only has a minor role in the drama, but he’s still BTS Jin and this is his much awaited acting debut.
As Jungkook predicted, the press conference goes well. Seokjin slips into his stage persona, throwing hand kisses and striking elaborate poses as soon as he’s in front of the camera. It gets everyone laughing, and he leans in to the embarrassment. He makes sure to answer any questions about the experience and his cast mates earnestly, but he also makes a few terrible jokes to lighten the mood.
Jongsuk pulls him aside when they’re done. “You’re good at this.”
“Thanks hyung,” Seokjin says, touched. “That means a lot coming from you.”
“Listen, I was offered the lead for a new SBS drama, but I don’t think it'll work with my schedule.”
He laughs. “You should go for it.”
Seokjin shakes his head. “No, I wouldn’t be able to-”
“I’m not just saying this, Seokjin-ah. You’re a good actor, and you obviously know how to handle the press. You can handle it. I’m going to recommend you to the director and you should talk to your company about it.”
He doesn’t leave until Seokjin promises to do just that, giving him a smile and a squeeze to the shoulder.
Seokjin is in a daze, and he doesn’t know why he calls Jungkook when he gets back in the car.
“Hyung,” Jungkook answers the phone. “What did I tell you, you’re already trending. ‘The Nation’s Son-in-Law’ is cheesy but oddly fitting.”
“Can I come over to your place?”
“Is anything wrong?”
“No. I don’t know.”
“Sure, of course.”
“Okay, cool. I’ll be there in half an hour.”
Seokjin hangs up the phone before Jungkook can say anything else, his mind still stuck on what Jongsuk said.
He tells his manager to drop him off at Jungkook’s apartment instead of his, and twenty minutes later, he’s getting out of the car and waving at the doorman.
He punches in the door code and enters. He’s wearing fancy dress shoes, so he can’t just slip them off, he needs to bend over to untie them. By the time he has them off and has switched them for a pair of slippers, Jungkook is there, looking at him with too wide eyes.
“Is everything okay?” Jungkook asks, moving as if to hug him.
Seokjin waves him away. “The only thing that’s wrong is that I’m in this suit. I’m going to change into something more comfortable.”
He leaves a confused Jungkook in the hall and retreats to his bedroom. Jungkook has very thoughtfully laid out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt for him on the bed. It’s only as he’s changing does he remember that he never returned the clothes he took last time he was over. He’d meant to, but they’d somehow been incorporated into his own closet and he wears them without thinking now, even the too short sweatpants.
Jungkook’s clothes are soft and warm, smelling of his favourite laundry detergent. Seokjin still remembers when they’d been sent a box of the stuff after Jungkook had tweeted about it. The scent is comforting and familiar, a little piece of home that Seokjin hadn’t even realized he’d been missing.
When he emerges from the room, Jungkook has a soju bottle open and two shots poured.
“You know me so well, Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin says as he sits beside him, his back leaning against the sofa.
Jungkook waits for him to drain the shot in one. “Do you want to talk about it or do you want to not talk about it?”
“The second one.”
“Cool. So, I think Yoongi hyung spent twenty straight hours in his studio last weekend.”
“Disgusting. Tell me more.”
“I texted him in the morning,” Jungkook says, pulling out his phone, navigating to his text thread with Yoongi and scrolling up. “See, here, he says he’s been there an hour, so eleven. And then, I was talking to Sejin hyung, and he said that Yoongi had a driver take him home at seven in the morning the next day. So twenty hours.”
Seokjin pours himself another shot. “That’s horrifying. Imagine the smell.”
“I don’t have to,” Jungkook says, wrinkling his nose. “He used to pull this all the time before.”
“I have blacked that out of my memory and I would ask you not to bring it back, please.”
“Jimin hyung thinks we need to have an intervention.”
“Jimin thinks we need to have an intervention for everything,” Seokjin snorts. “Remember when he made us have that group meeting for the foot mask thing.”
“Hey, to be fair, that foot peel made my feet really soft.”
“And then you complained about it taking away all your calluses.”
“Yeah, that kind of backfired.”
He throws back his third shot. “See, Jimin’s interventions come to no good.”
“You’re, uh, going through that pretty quickly,” Jungkook says, eyeing his grip on the mostly empty soju bottle.
“I need at least two more shots in me before I can talk about you-know-what. And it’s just soju, it’s not that strong.”
“I actually don’t know what, but sure, I’ll wait.”
They settle into a silence while Seokjin finishes off the rest of the bottle. He’s never really thought about sitting in silence with Jungkook. Before, he usually sought out Yoongi when he needed quiet, the two of them content to just exist in the same room. Him and Jungkook were the opposite, often getting complaints about their antics from the other members. He wonders if this is something else that’s changed about Jungkook or if he just didn’t notice before, so sure of his perception of their maknae.
“Okay. I was talking to Jongsuk hyung, he’s the lead in the drama I’m in-”
“I know who Lee Jongsuk is, hyung.”
“I’m just setting the scene, giving you the full picture! May I continue?”
Jungkook makes a gesture as if to say, “go on.”
“Thank you. Anyway, he, um, mentioned he was going to recommend me for a role in a drama that he was offered but can’t do. A lead role.”
“Hyung, that’s great!”
Seokjin just looks at him.
“Your face is telling me that it is not great.”
“I don’t know! Objectively, maybe it might be good. But also, it might be bad!”
“I’m with you for the first part, not so sure about the second part.”
“Okay,” Seokjin says, taking a deep breath to clear his head. Maybe drinking an entire bottle of soju hadn’t been the best idea. “Obviously, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get it. But if I do, then bam! I’m an actor. Lead role, leading actor man. Cool. But if I’m actor Kim Seokjin, can I still be BTS Jin?”
Jungkook stills, and Seokjin doesn’t look at him, doesn’t want to see what his face is doing. Jungkook’s expressions have always been comically easy to read, especially for him.
“I think you’re worrying about this for no reason, hyung.”
“This is kind of the culmination of a months long existential crisis, so I don’t think I am.”
“You said it yourself,” Jungkook points out. “You don’t know if you’ll even get the role. He’s just going to recommend you, you might not even get it.”
“Ouch, thanks for the confidence in my acting skills.”
“Hyung,” Jungkook says, shoving him, and he underestimates either his own strength or Seokjin’s level of inebriation because Seokjin topples onto his side. Jungkook giggles, tugging him up, once again going too far and pulling Seokjin into him. It’s solid and warm, so Seokjin doesn’t move away, resting his head on Jungkook’s shoulder.
“You’re right,” Seokjin says.
“Can you say that again? I want to record it and set it as my ringtone.”
“Yes, you need to make a decision about this eventually, but when you do, it’ll be the right one.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because it’s you.”
Maybe this is why he called Jungkook, maybe deep down he knew that nothing made him feel more capable than Jungkook’s unwavering faith in him.
“Okay, we’ve decided not to worry about this, I want to talk about something else,” Seokjin declares.
Jungkook laughs, and Seokjin feels it, plastered against his side. “Fine, what do you want to talk about.”
“Let’s talk about how I am much drunker than you and how you need to catch up.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you took the bottle hostage and refused to share.”
“All I hear is excuses, hurry up. I don’t want to be the only drunk one.”
Jungkook opens a new bottle and pours himself a generous shot. “This isn’t enough to get you drunk.”
“Tipsy, buzzed, whatever, it’s all the same.”
“No it’s not,” Jungkook argues. “It’s a scale, they literally mean different things.”
“Sorry, didn’t know I was talking to a dictionary.”
“You can’t just decide what words mean.”
“I can and I will.”
The lapse into silence again, and this time Seokjin anticipates it being comfortable. It stretches, both of them looking out the window, Jungkook sipping his soju periodically. Time goes syrupy slow, and Seokjin lets himself be. He’s not drunk, not really. He feels looser, but in control of himself. But he feels untethered, the weight of days’ worth of stress gone, leaving him light enough to float out of the window, if not for Jungkook’s hand holding his.
He looks down at that hand, the tan skin covered in dark ink. Jungkook’s tattoos have become familiar. He still remembers when he’d first gotten them. Jungkook hadn’t told anyone he was going, had just turned up at home with them.
Everyone had asked why Jungkook had gotten his tattoos. Their reactions had ranged from fondly exasperated (Yoongi) to frustrated resignation (management).
Seokjin had found out about it all from the group chat, since he'd been visiting his parents when Jungkook had come home with them. Taehyung had sent a variety of blurry pictures, only one showing Jungkook's annoyed face.
He had spent a long time zooming in to the pictures, learning them. They weren’t especially profound, and Seokjin himself never would have gotten anything like them, but they seemed to fit Jungkook. Seokjin had been well acquainted with them by the time he'd gotten back to the dorm.
Everyone had asked about Jungkook's tattoos, everyone except Seokjin. When Jungkook had seen him, he’d braced himself for either a lecture or teasing. Instead, Seokjin had stared at them for a long moment, and then smiled, not his big, showy, handsome smile, but the small, private one he only brought out when he was feeling especially fond.
"They look good Jungkook-ah," he'd said, and that had been that.
It’s now three years later, and they’re both sitting on the floor in Jungkook's echoing living room, the glittering lights of Seoul laid out before them. The moment feels liminal, like they could be back in their old dorm, unwinding after a long day of dance practice, the members a few feet away in their own rooms. Except it’s not their dorm, and the others aren’t a shout away. Seokjin is tipsy off soju and nostalgia, so he reaches out and traces his fingers along the curve of the 'J' on Jungkook's knuckle. He pretends not to see him shiver.
"Why did you get your tattoos, Jungkook-ah?" he asks.
There's a long moment of silence, and Seokjin thinks Jungkook might not answer him. He lets it stretch out, unbothered. They’re now well practiced in silences.
Finally, Jungkook says, "It was a reminder that my body belonged to me. I had spent so long offering myself up to everyone, I needed to remember."
“And does it help? Does it still make you remember?”
“Sometimes. Why, are you thinking of getting a tattoo?”
“Maybe,” Seokjin says, surprised to find that he means it. “What should I get a tattoo of?”
“My face,” Jungkook replies without missing a beat.
“Ha! If I was getting a face tattoo, I’d get a tattoo of my own face.”
“Hyung, a face tattoo is a tattoo on your face.”
Jungkook bursts out laughing at his look of horror, flopping onto the floor and pulling Seokjin down with him. “Oh my god, I wish I had that on camera.”
“Right, no tattoos for me then.”
“No,” Jungkook whines. “Be serious. What tattoo do you want?””
“Hm, it’d have to be somewhere private. I don’t think I’d get it on my hand or arm like you.”
“Yeah. Part of the reason I got mine to show them, you know? It wasn’t a reminder just for me, it was for everyone who thought they owned me. Or something like that, I didn’t really think it through that much.”
“You don’t say.”
Jungkook shoves at him, gently this time. “I wanted them, so I got them.”
“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing Kook-ah. Sometimes I wish I was more like you. I’m in my own head too much.”
“You weren’t this bad before.”
“I guess, before I knew what I wanted. Or there were less options. Now everything is confusing. Thinking makes my brain hurt, I don’t know how Namjoon does it all the time.”
“What if he comes back and he thinks even more?” Jungkook asks, giggling.
“Impossible. If anything, he’ll circle back to not thinking at all. We’ll have to switch roles, I’ll be the leader and he’ll be the visual.”
“Please take care of me, leader-nim.”
“I’ll take care of you alright,” Seokjin says, digging his fingers into Jungkook’s sides.
The reaction is instant, Jungkook wriggling as he laughs, trying to get away. But Seokjin is well practiced, he keeps tickling him, his own laughter mixing with Jungkook’s, high and breathless.
He isn’t expecting Jungkook to flip them, straddling his hips and pinning his wrists to the ground. Jungkook looks down at him, his eyes curved into crescents, his chest heaving.
Jungkook stays like that, his weight on top of Seokjin, for one moment, two, and then he rolls off, collapsing onto the floor beside him. “No tickling.”
It takes Seokjin to think of a response. “Is that a rule?”
“Yes,” Jungkook says decisively. “It is, I’ve decided. It’s my house, I can make up whatever rules I want.”
“It’s a dumb rule.”
“You wouldn’t think that if you had just been attacked,” Jungkook reasons.
“Well, your rule means that you can’t tickle me either.”
“It’s my rule, I can break it whenever I want.”
Seokjin snorts. “You can’t make a rule and then immediately talk about breaking it.”
“Yes I can. If you tickle me, you’ll be breaking the law,” Jungkook declares.
“Okay, fine. I’ll just get you when we’re at my house.”
“Okay fine, I’ll just never come to your house again.”
“You wouldn’t last a week,” Seokjin says.
“Yeah I would. I’d last a month. A year.”
Seokjin considers it, and then shakes his head. “Nah, I’d give you three days, tops.”
“I went two years without seeing you hyung,” Jungkook reminds him.
“Exactly, you’ve used up all your missing Seokjin energy, you’re depleted, running on empty.”
“You’re right. I have to charge up, I’m going to be gone for two years soon.”
That sours Seokjin’s levity instantly, but he takes care not to show it. He keeps his voice light as he says, “No, you’re the one leaving. So I’m going to be missing my Jungkookie.”
It works because Jungkook laughs. “I don’t think that’s how it works, hyung.”
“Excuse me, who’s the one who’s done their enlistment. Trust me, I’m an expert.”
“So does that mean that you didn’t miss me at all while you were gone?”
“Not one bit,” Seokjin replies without missing a beat.
Jungkook whacks his arm. “Mean.”
“It means that you’re not allowed to miss me while you’re gone,” he continues. “It’s a rule, I’ve decided.”
“Hey, I thought I was the one making the rules.”
“I’m your hyung, that supersedes everything else.”
“Okay hyung,” Jungkook says, indulgent. “I promise not to miss you. You can do the missing for the both of us.”
This time when Seokjin wakes up in Jungkook’s bed, he’s alone. He lies there for a few minutes, letting the last vestiges of sleep cling to him. Jungkook’s sheets are soft and smell fresh and clean. They always smell nice. Seokjin wonders how often he washes them, whether he does it himself or if he has his cleaner do it. He wonders if he’s washing his own sheets enough.
When he drags himself out of bed, he finds Jungkook at the table, drinking from a mug.
Seokjin doesn’t answer, just sits at the table and lays his face down, cheek pressed against the dark wood. He stays like that until Jungkook places a cup by his head.
“It’s honeywater, it’ll make you feel better,” Jungkook insists.
Seokjin acquiesces, sitting up and taking a sip. It’s a burst of sweetness across his tongue, the honey light and floral. He isn’t really that hungover, nothing passed a mild headache, but he finishes the drink anyway, if only for the satisfied smile Jungkook bestows on him when he puts the empty glass back on the table.
“Do you have a schedule this morning?” Seokjin asks.
Jungkook shakes his head. “Not until noon, I have a meeting at the company building.”
“Okay, hyung will buy you breakfast. We’ll get hangover soup.”
“You’re not going to make it for me?”
“Do I look like I’m up for making a meal?”
“You always look as beautiful and fresh as a flower, hyung,” Jungkook says sweetly
“So you’ll make it for me?”
Seokjin groans. “Why do you even want me to make it? It’ll be better if we just order it.”
“Fine,” Seokjin sighs. “But you better savour every bite.”
Jungkook wiggles in victory, following Seokjin into the kitchen. He perches on the counter while Seokjin works, pointing out where things are in the cabinets.
Seokjin calls him over when he has the broth done. “Taste this and tell me if there’s enough soy sauce.”
Jungkook hops off the counter and stands beside Seokjin at the stove. Seokjin carefully fills the ladle with a little broth, blowing to cool it before holding it up to Jungkook’s mouth.
He tastes it, pursing his lips after, brow furrowed in thought. “A little more chili, I think.”
Seokjin dutifully adds another spoon of chili, stirring it in until it disappears into the boiling broth. He tries it himself first. “Ah, it’s perfect now. Jungkook-ah do you want to-”
He turns to Jungkook, ladle in hand, but something in Jungkook’s expression has him freezing. The morning light streaming through the window paints him golden, his hair a mess and falling into his eyes. He’s looking at Seokjin like he’s never seen him before, his face lit up with wonder.
“JK, are you okay?”
Instead of answering, Jungkook leans in and presses his lips against Seokjin’s.
Seokjin doesn't kiss back.
He steps away until Jungkook's hands drop from his shoulders, putting distance between them. "Don't do that again, Jungkook-ah."
Seokjin doesn't know why he hopes Jungkook will go along with it. He should have expected him to push back.
"Because I asked you not to, that should be enough of a reason."
"I like you hyung."
"I should hope so," Seokjin tries.
"No," Jungkook says. "You don't get to brush this away with a joke."
“Look, let’s just forget it and-”
“What if I don’t want to forget it?”
Seokjin sighs, annoyance overtaking surprise. "Fine, you want to do this?"
And of course Jungkook can never back down from a challenge. "Yeah, I do."
"I don't like you like that," Seokjin says bluntly. “I love you, I care about you very much, but platonically.”
“I think I should go,” Seokjin says gently.
“Yeah,” Jungkook says, not meeting his eyes. “Maybe you should.”
He keeps replaying the kiss in his head. Can it even be called a kiss if it was completely one sided? It’s been weeks of silence from Jungkook, neither of them reaching out. Anytime Seokjin thinks about texting him he can’t bring himself to do it.
He’d be lying if he said he never thought that the other members were attractive at some point in the last decade. They’re idols, their job is to look good, but it’s never strayed past aesthetic appreciation. He tries to imagine kissing Hoseok and he can’t, his face immediately screwing up in distaste.
Yoongi must suspect something is up, because he looks at him oddly when they’re hanging out at his studio.
“What?” Seokjin finally asks, unable to take it anymore.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I’m not looking at you like anything.”
“No, you’re looking at me weird, with your eyes?”
“How else am I supposed to look at you if not with my eyes?” Yoongi asks, confused.
Seokjin sighs. “You know what I mean, you’re giving me that ‘I’m Min Yoongi and I’m so wise, tell me all your problems’ look?”
“Is there a problem you want to talk about?” Yoongi asks.
“No! That’s the point, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“So there is a problem.”
“No there isn’t.”
“You just said there is.”
“No I didn’t.”
“But you just-.” Yoongi cuts himself off and takes a deep breath. “I’m not doing this with you. If you want someone to bicker with for fun, find Jungkook.”
“What?” Seokjin yelps. “Why would I find Jungkook?”
Yoongi gives him an odd look. “Because he’s the only one who indulges you when you’re like this?”
“Are you two fighting?” Yoongi asks, too perceptive as always. “You’ve been here a lot recently, and usually you split your time between the two of us.”
“What, do you and Jungkook have shared custody over me?”
“Of course,” Yoongi replies. “I get you Monday, Wednesday, and every alternate Sunday.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin this arrangement you guys have figured out.” He laughs, and it’s a little too loud, a little too shrill.
Of course Yoongi picks up on it. Yoongi cares deeply about them all. He is the kind of person to catalogue all the little things about someone without them even realizing, using that information to make sure he can take care of them. He can tell when something is even the slightest bit off.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Yoongi asks.
Seokjin considers blustering, but he knows there’s no point. “No. I really, really, do not want to talk about it. Ever.”
“Okay. I’m here if you change your mind.”
“I know,” Seokjin says, giving him what he hopes is a reassuring smile.
Seokjin is genuinely surprised that he gets an invite to Jungkook’s birthday party. Considering they haven’t spoken since The Incident, he hadn’t been expecting to make it to the guest list. He’d taken it as a good sign, that they were moving past whatever had happened, on their way to getting back to normal. It’s only when they’re on the way to the restaurant and Jimin mentions that Jungkook’s brother planned the entire affair that Seokjin realizes he might have miscalculated.
It’s too late to turn back now, especially with Yoongi and Jimin in the car with him. So he pastes on a smile and resigns himself to an awkward evening.
They’ve rented out the restaurant for the night and it’s filled with Jungkook’s friends and family. Seokjin wonders where he falls on the spectrum now.
He avoids Jungkook as much as he can, which is surprisingly easy considering that he’s at a party for him. Seokjin knows most of the people there, and he falls into the social, gregarious, friendly version of himself.
Of course, to avoid him, he needs to always know where Jungkook is, so he keeps track of him in the corner of his eye. It’s like he’s the sun and Seokjin can’t look directly at him, lest he get burned.
Jungkook looks bright and happy, as he should be when he’s surrounded by people who love him. For the first time, Seokjin tries to imagine it. He imagines being at Jungkook’s side, an arm around his waist, their hands tangled together, caught up in each other’s gravity. He imagines standing in Jungkook’s space, close enough that he can feel his heat, brushing his too long hair out his eyes. He imagines making Jungkook laugh just so he can kiss his nose when it scrunches up, fitting himself against his side and resting his head on his chest. He imagines kissing the freckle under Jungkook’s lower lip, kissing the crows feet by his eyes, kissing his dimple-
Seokjin tries to be conspicuous as he leaves the restaurant, ducking out of the side entrance. It opens to an alley that is blessedly empty. He stands with his back against the wall, leaning his head back into the brick, eyes squeezed shut. The late summer air is thick in his lungs, making it hard to breathe.
He stays like that, trying to quell the thoughts that won’t stop. It’s like he’s opened the floodgates, his mind helpfully providing him with images of what that would be like with Jungkook.
He’s just lonely, he reasons with an edge of desperation. He hasn’t been in a relationship for too long, that’s why his brain has latched on to the first possibility. There’s no way that he actually-. He’s just being sentimental, it’s his brain caught on something and unable to let it go.
It’s an explanation he clings to, because he can’t. He just can’t.
“Are you okay?” Yoongi asks, startling him out of his panic.
“Oh,” Seokjin says, wincing at how shaky he sounds. “Yeah. I just needed some air.”
“Right. I could use some air too. It was getting stuffy in there.”
It’s a blatant lie but Seokjin appreciates it nonetheless. Yoongi comes to stand beside him, pressing his shoulder against Seokjin’s.
They stay like that for a few moments, the silence curled around them.
“Jungkook kissed me,” Seokjin says, staring straight ahead at the other wall.
“Wow. I can say I wasn’t expecting that.”
Seokjin laughs. “Neither was I.”
Yoongi is quiet for a minute. And then he says, “I can’t say I’m surprised though.”
“Well that makes one of us.”
He feels Yoongi shrug beside him. “Maybe before, but he’s changed. You both have.”
“How?” Seokjin asks.
“He’s grown up a lot, he’s had to without us. And I think you let yourself rely on him more. You weren’t like that before. Maybe with us, but not with Jungkook.”
“I’ve known him since he was a kid,” Seokjin says, his voice barely above a whisper.
“He hasn’t been a kid in a decade,” Yoongi replies gently.
“But what if-”
“No,” Yoongi cuts him off. “I know you, hyung, better than almost anyone. And no.”
“He told me he liked me and I told him I don’t feel the same way,” Seokjin confesses.
“Is that true? Because no offense, if it was I don’t think we’d be out here right now.”
He laughs. “I don’t know. I thought it was, but I think maybe, I don’t know. I never considered it before.”
“And now you are?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“That’s okay,” Yoongi says, taking his hand and lacing their fingers together. “You don’t need to know right now.”
That loosens the knot of panic in Seokjin’s chest, letting him breathe a little easier. He tries to pull himself back together, reaching for the fun, sociable Seokjin that he needs to be right now. Instead, all he can think about is the devastated look on Jungkook’s face when he’d left his apartment. He thinks about the shy, fluttering warmth in his chest, how Jungkook had placed it in his hands, trusting him to be careful, and Seokjin had crushed it with thoughtless cruelty, He thinks about his own uncertain future, about Jungkook leaving in two months, about a career with millions of eyes on their every move, where even the smallest mistake can spell their downfall,
“Can we stay outside a little longer?”
“Of course we can hyung.”
Seokjin isn’t moping. He still goes to work, attending all his schedules diligently, he’s just choosing not to do much else. When his friends ask him to meet up, he makes up an excuse and instead stays home to watch dramas.
“I’m an actor,” Seokjin explains. “I’m basically doing research.”
Yoongi doesn’t seem convinced with his excuse, giving him his best unimpressed frog face through the phone screen. “Stop moping.”
“I’m not moping.”
“I can tell you haven’t washed your hair in four days,” Yoongi says.
“Haven’t you heard, it’s the latest beauty trend. It keeps your hair from getting dry,” Seokjin lies, tossing his head to show that his greasy hair is a deliberate choice. “I’m not moping.”
Which is how Yoongi tricks him into coming over for dinner.
“You’re like a gremlin from a children’s fairy tale,” Seokjin says as he walks through the door.
Yoongi doesn’t bother looking up from where he’s cutting vegetables. “Thank you.”
Seokjin reasons that going over to Yoongi’s house for dinner is barely a step above staying home. Yes, he’s showered, but he’s in sweatpants and a hoodie, his still damp hair shoved under a beanie which he’s pretty sure belongs to Jungkook.
Yoongi already has a bottle of wine open, so Seokjin helps himself, sitting on a barstool with his glass to watch Yoongi cook.
“No beef?” Seokjin asks when he sees Yoongi pull the pork belly out of the fridge. “I thought you would be pulling out all the stops since you forced me to come.”
“I didn’t force you,” Yoongi says, rolling his eyes.
“Do you need any help?” Seokjin asks insincerely, taking a sip of wine.
Yoongi laughs. “No, I’m almost done.”
“What are we having?”
“I’ve missed your cooking,” Seokjin says. “How come you haven’t cooked for me since you got back?”
Yoongi gives him a look. “Do you want me to say it?”
“Because you were spending all your free time with Jungkook.”
“That’s not true,” Seokjin sputters. “We saw each other a lot!”
“When you came to my studio, and even then most of the time that was when Jungkook was on tour or he was busy.”
“We didn’t see each other that much,” Seokjin says weakly.
“Hyung, there’s nothing bad about it, I’m just saying.”
“Well, I’m sorry then. That I ditched you for Jungkook.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Yoongi says gently. “I swear, I’m happy with how much I see you. Too much Seokjin hyung gives me indigestion.”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Seokjin asks, adding exaggerated outrage to his voice.
Yoongi plays along. “Too much excitement. Watch, I’m going to need you to prick my finger after dinner.”
“I’ll prick something alright,” Seokjin mutters.
“You should make up with Jungkook just to give my stomach a rest.”
“I refuse to talk about this until after I’ve been fed.”
Yoongi mimes zipping his lips.
Seokjin watches as he cooks, admiring the surety with which he moves. Yoongi’s always been like that, mastering a skill with complete confidence, until he’s impressively adept. Seokjin is suddenly struck by how lucky he is to have been by Yoongi’s side all these years, to have been able to witness first hand how he grew from a boy uncomfortable in his own skin to this man who carries himself with dignity in everything he does.
He wishes the others were here too. Namjoon’s kind intelligence, Hoseok’s frank logic, it’s easy to believe that if they were here they’d figure out a solution to this situation by the end of the meal. He knows it’s a fantasy, Namjoon would probably panic and Hoseok would probably worry, but he knows with certainty it would be reassuring all the same.
He wants them to come back, but more than that he wants to go back to before he left. He wants to be back in a time when they were all together, when he was sure of his place, of what he wanted. He wants everything to be uncomplicated again, even though it hadn’t seemed like that at the time. There had been a million things to do, so much pressure on them that sometimes it was hard to breathe without remembering the world was watching. But he hadn’t been alone, he’d shared that burden with the others and it had been bearable.
He wonders if that’s just what life is, looking back and realizing that what had seemed impossible hadn’t been so bad. Five years from now will he remember this time and laugh at himself for thinking that this was hard?
Pulling himself from his thoughts, he helps Yoongi set the table, plating up the side dishes and rice as Yoongi finishes the stew. As if he can tell that Seokjin needs it, Yoongi presses his shoulder against Seokjin’s, both of them standing side by side at the counter. He doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t even look up from where he’s chopping green onions.
As they sit to eat, Yoongi launches into a story about his latest collaboration, the plans for his next mixtape, and how he wants to get plants for his apartment. He carries the conversation, happy to talk as Seokjin listens. Maybe this is why Seokjin agreed to see him when he’s been avoiding everyone else. Being with Yoongi doesn’t require effort, he can just exist as himself. Yoongi has seen Seokjin at his absolute worst, being broody about a boy isn’t going to scare him off.
“Okay,” Seokjin says, when they’ve finished eating and two bottles of wine. "I think I'm ready to talk about it."
"We don't have to. I really just wanted to have to have dinner with you, it can be just that."
"No, I want to." At Yoongi's skeptical look, he clarifies, "I can't avoid this. And we solved our problems by talking them out, so I'm going to talk this out."
"Are you sure I'm the one who you should be talking this out with?"
"Let's call this practice then."
"Okay, let's talk," Yoongi says. "So you and Jungkook."
"Yeah," Seokjin sighs.
Yoongi waits, and when Seokjin doesn't elaborate he says, "Good talk."
"I don't know what to say! He kissed me. We kissed, on the mouth."
"Do you want to kiss him again?" Yoongi asks.
"Maybe. I don't know. I told him no."
"Because. I didn't feel the same way. Or I thought I didn't. I'd never thought about it before."
"And now, after you've thought about it?"
Seokjin shrugs. "I don't know. It's weird. I've known him since he was a kid."
"We've been over this."
"I know," Seokjin says. "And I get that, I definitely didn't have feelings for Jungkook back then, I know that. it's just that I've known him for so long, he's known me for so long. A decade."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"So is that the only reservation you have?" Yoongi asks.
Seokjin gives him a look. "There's also the part about us being bandmates in one of the biggest idol groups in the world."
"Technically you're both solo artists while Bangtan is on hiatus."
"Thank you," Seokjin says sarcastically. "That clarification clears everything up, let me call Jungkook right now."
Yoongi ignores him. "Obviously, I can't speak for the others. If we do end up coming back, we'll need to discuss this as a group. But speaking for myself, I'd rather you two be happy than torturing yourselves in an effort to put the group first. We decided that we wouldn't let Bangtan stop us from living our lives. This isn't different from anyone else dating."
"You can't say that. Dating scandals are one thing, but a dating scandal with two members dating each other?"
"Hey, we've already broken records, why not some more?"
Seokjin's mouth twists in a smile despite himself, some of the tension lifting. "What if we break up? There's no guarantee that we'll work, what if it goes to shit and we ruin the dynamic and make everyone miserable?"
"Hyung, I'm not here to convince you one way or the other," Yoongi says. "You're the one who has to make the decision. You're right, all these things are valid concerns."
"But we've been through a lot together. You've given a lot to Bangtan, don't give up on this because you think it might ruin the group. We're strong, we can endure."
"I'll never have a normal life," Seokjin says, hands knotted in his lap. "Me and him, it's always going to be news. He's meant to perform and he loves it, he'll never want to leave that."
"Yeah, that's true."
"I don't know what I want. And it's not fair to start anything until I'm sure."
"He's leaving soon," Yoongi reminds him gently.
"I know. Trust me, I know."
"I just don't want you to regret not saying anything, hyung."
"Me either, Yoongi. I just don't want to regret saying the wrong thing."
He doesn't get the lead in the drama. The director calls the company to let them know they're going with someone else. He's mostly relieved and a little disappointed. He wants to tell Jungkook about it, but he doesn't. That’s a common trend these days.
Seokjin is intensely aware that he needs to make a decision, that he can’t let Jungkook leave with everything off between them. Time seems to be moving too fast, days passing in the blink of an eye, the day Jungkook leaves looming ever closer.
Jimin throws himself an “early birthday party” but they all know it’s a goodbye party in everything but name. It’s at a bar that’s fancy enough that none of them have to worry about fans or media. It’s exclusive and expensive and full of Jimin’s friends.
Jimin flits around the room with a drink always in hand, laughing and draping himself over whoever is closest. He comes over to where Seokjin is talking to Chanyeol, replacing Seokjin’s empty drink with a fresh one.
“Promise me you’ll have fun when I’m gone,” Jimin says, pouting up at Seokjin.
“But Jimin-ah, how could I possibly have fun if you’re not here?” Seokjin asks.
“All of Seoul will be in mourning,” Chanyeol says solemnly.
Jimin rolls his eyes. “I know you,” he says. “If I’m not here to force you to have a life, you’ll just work and stay in your apartment, and the only person you’ll see is Yoongi hyung.”
“Does Yoongi not count as a person?”
“No, because he lets you do whatever you want. He doesn’t push you.”
“I’m thirty years old, I can take care of myself Jimin-ah.”
Jimin ignores him, sighing. “Hobi hyung will be back in a few months, you’ll last until then.”
With that, he moves on to someone else, giving Seokjin one more squeeze. Chanyeol is very amused, and keeps asking if he should help take care of Seokjin while his dongsaengs are gone.
It’s later in the night that Jimin makes his way to Yoongi. Seokjin watches in delight as a fairly drunk Jimin holds Yoongi’s face in his hands, squishing his cheeks as he talks to him very seriously. Seokjin makes sure to get a video of it on his phone. Yoongi puts up with it, letting Jimin slur out his supposedly sage advice before making him sit down and drink some water.
He’s been doing a good job of ignoring Jungkook, only watching him out of the corner of his eye. There are enough people here that he knows that he’s never alone, and Jungkook is similarly occupied. The idol world is small, and Jimin is friends with most of them.
Even trying not to notice him, Seokjin can’t help but notice him, his attention drawn to him like a moth to a flame. He looks good, clad in leather pants and a silk shirt. He’s dressed up, out of the loose and comfortable clothes he usually favours, and he looks good. Seokjin can’t deny it, especially not when he’s wearing pants that tight.
Seokjin eventually switches to water. With the way things are, it isn’t a good idea to get drunk enough that he’ll do something he’ll regret.
He’s glad for it when late into the night, Jungkook suddenly appears next to him, throwing an arm around his shoulder.
“Seokjinie hyung,” Jungkook slurs. “You’re here!”
“Hi Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin says, supporting most of his weight as Jungkook leans on him.
“I didn’t see you.”
Jungkook shakes his head. “No, I’m lying. I saw you as soon as you came in. I always see you.”
Seokjin forces a laugh. “I think you’re drunk JK.”
“Yup,” Jungkook agrees. “Or else I wouldn’t have come here to talk to you. It hurts too much when I’m sober.”
His words smart like a slap, but Seokjin forces a smile, conscious of the people around them. “Come on, let’s get you some water to help you sober up.”
“No,” Jungkook whines, wrapping an arm around Seokjin’s waist and burying his face against his shoulder. “Don’t wanna get sober. Because then I’ll get sad.”
Despite himself, Seokjin asks, “Sad about what?”
“Everything. Leaving, missing my family, you.”
Before Seokjin can respond, Yoongi is at his side, holding a bottle of water with a knowing look. “Looks like you could use some help.”
“You could say that,” Seokjin says. He frees one of his arms to take the water. “Come on Jungkook-ah, Yoongi brought you some water.”
Jungkook lifts his head to pout at them, but dutifully drinks a few sips of water when Seokjin brings the bottle to his mouth.
Jungkook seems happy to cling to him, so Seokjin relents. Yoongi gives him a look that he ignores, before being pulled away by someone he knows. He knows this is a bad idea, he knows he’s going to regret it. But he can’t bring himself to shove Jungkook away, not even if that’s what would be best for both of them.
He missed this, Jungkook’s easy affection. He’s not proud of it, but Seokjin can’t help but feel smug, that even in a room filled with beautiful people, Jungkook came to him, that even after everything that’s happened between them, he turned to Seokjin for comfort.
Eventually, Seokjin decides to take Jungkook home. Later, he’ll wonder why he didn’t just take Jungkook back to his own apartment. But now, he’s still tipsy enough that the only option seems to be to take Jungkook home with him.
In the taxi, Jungkook leans his head on Seokjin’s shoulder and holds his hand, their fingers laced together. Seokjin should pull away but he doesn’t, just lets himself enjoy the warmth of Jungkook at his side, knowing that he’ll regret it in the morning and not caring.
They manage to make it to his apartment, Jungkook giggling and stumbling as Seokjin tries to take his shoes off for him.
“Hyung, I can do it myself,” he insists, before almost falling over when he tries to untie his shoelaces.
“Come on,” Seokjin says, tugging him into the apartment, not bothering to even try to get him to wear slippers. “You should drink more water.”
“But I don’t wanna,” Jungkook says. “Why did we leave? I’m ready to party.”
Even as he says it, he flops onto the couch, blinking sleepily up at Seokjin.
Seokjin snorts. “Sure thing party animal. Just drink some water first, or you’re going to regret it tomorrow.”
Jungkook squints at him. “So if I drink water, we can party?”
“Sure,” Seokjin placates.
“Okay, gimme.” Jungkook sticks out his hand, grabbing the water bottle and chugging down half of it. “There, let’s party.”
Seokjin laughs. “Sleep it off JK.”
Jungkook grabs at him, tugging at him insistently until Seokjin sits on the sofa. He then drapes himself onto Seokjin, burying his face into his neck. “I missed you hyung.”
“I’m always here Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin says, running a hand through his hair. It’s sweaty and stiff with product and kind of gross, but Jungkook leans in to the touch, so Seokjin has no choice but to continue. “You should go to sleep. You’re going to have a bitch of a headache in the morning.”
“I don’t want to sleep.”
“Why not?” Seokjin asks, amused.
“Because when I wake up things will be weird again. I just want to stay like this with you for a little longer.”
“Things aren’t messed up.”
“Yeah they are. Everything has changed. I ruined it,” Jungkook says, face still hidden in the crook of Seokjin’s neck.
“Nothing is ruined,” Seokjin says firmly, pulling Jungkook back so he can look him in the eyes. “I promise.”
“I’m trying,” Jungkook says, his eyes wide and earnest. “I’m trying so hard to get over you. But you look at me sometimes, and I think, maybe you…” He trails off. “Am I crazy? Am I just seeing what I want to see?”
Seokjin closes his eyes. He can’t find it in himself to lie, can’t force himself to do the right thing.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says, his voice hushed. “Hyung, tell me I’m making this up. Tell me it’s in my head.”
Seokjin’s eyes fly open when Jungkook kisses him. He pushes him back. “You’re drunk.”
“Hyung, I’m sorry, I-”
“It’s okay,” Seokjin says, forcing a smile. He gets up, putting space between them. “You should go to sleep.”
“I’ll leave, I should just-”
Seokjin shakes his head. “No. Don’t. It’s late, you’re drunk. Just...go to bed Jungkook. Please. We can talk about this in the morning.”
“Okay,” Jungkook says, voice small.
Seokjin leaves him on the sofa. He gets to his bedroom and leans against the closed door, head tipped back, eyes closed. He touches his lips with his fingertips, his heart still pounding. He stays like that for a minute, until he feels like he can breathe again.
It takes him a long time to fall asleep, his bed too big, too empty.
When he wakes up in the morning, Jungkook is gone.
They don’t talk about it.
He sees Jungkook a handful of times after that night, at the company building, at dinner with Yoongi and Taehyung, once at a mutual friend’s party. They avoid each other as best they can, careful in a way they’ve never been.
The days pass and Seokjin knows time is running out, the day Jungkook leaves coming closer and closer. He’s picked up his phone countless times, started so many messages only to delete them without pressing send. He can’t bring himself to do it, to start the conversation. Jungkook has always been the brave one.
Maybe that’s why, on the night before Jungkook is supposed to leave for basic training, Seokjin opens the door to find him on his doorstep.
He’s shaved his head, the close cropped buzzcut making him look younger. His ears stick out and his nose looks bigger and Seokjin loves him so much he aches.
“Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin says. “What are you doing here?”
“Can I come in hyung?”
“Yeah, of course.” Seokjin moves back, giving him space. “Did you eat?”
Jungkook huffs a laugh. “Uh, no. Not yet.”
“Come on, my mom gave me some galbitang, I’ll heat it up for you.”
Jungkook follows him, watching as he warms up the stew. He gets the side dishes from the fridge without Seokjin asking, maneuvering around the kitchen with ease. It’s painfully domestic, the way they move around each other, a familiarity and comfort that the last few months of awkwardness can’t erase.
Seokjin scoops a generous portion of rice into a bowl, and then gestures for Jungkook to sit. Jungkook has always been a good eater, and Seokjin feels content just to watch him. It should be weird, especially with everything that’s been happening between them, but it isn’t.
“If I’d known you were coming over I would have made something for you,” Seokjin says when Jungkook is almost finished.
“This is special,” Jungkook says. “I love your mom’s galbitang.”
“Then I would have had her make it fresh, at least. You deserve something nice.”
Jungkook rolls his eyes and holds out a piece of meat. “You want?”
Seokjin leans in and eats it off his chopsticks. “Mm. You’re right, it is special.”
When Jungkook finishes, he insists on helping clean up, even though there isn’t much to clean.
“Can we watch something hyung?” he asks, as he puts away the last of the dishes.
“Sure. You can choose.”
Jungkook chooses a show they’ve already watched before, and Seokjin is grateful because he doesn’t pay attention to the show at all. He’s acutely aware of Jungkook sitting beside him, so close to normal, yet not at all. There’s a careful distance between them, where usually there is none at all.
The third episode finishes and Jungkook turns to him. “Can I stay here tonight?”
“Tomorrow, don’t you have to-”
“Yeah,” Jungkook cuts him off. “But I can go home in the morning. If it’s okay with you, if not I can just-”
“Of course you can stay Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin says gently.
Jungkook looks down at his hands. “Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
“Yeah. Yeah, you can,” Seokjin says, like he’s said so many times before.
It’s barely 9PM but they still get ready for bed. Seokjin gives Jungkook a pair of sweatpants that he’d left here months ago. He changes while Seokjin brushes his teeth, taking his turn in the bathroom when Seokjin comes out. Once again, Seokjin is struck by the easy domesticity, a pretty, false veneer barely containing the truth that Jungkook leaves tomorrow.
Jungkook turns off the lights and slides into bed, lying on his side, curved towards Seokjin. Neither of them have closed the curtains, and the city lights are just bright enough that Seokjin can make out Jungkook blinking at him.
Neither of them say anything for a long time. They just look at each other, quiet in the dark.
“I’m scared,” Jungkook says finally, breaking the silence. His voice is hushed, barely above a whisper.
“I was scared too,” Seokjin confesses.
“I don’t want to go.”
“I don’t want you to go.”
Jungkook looks at him with his big eyes, reaching out to take his hand. Seokjin doesn’t pull away. “Hyung.”
Seokjin waits, but Jungkook doesn’t say anything else, just holds his hand in the dark.
His heart hammers in his chest. It’s his turn to be brave. “It’s not in your head.”
Jungkook’s hold on his hand tightens, but still, he doesn’t say anything.
Seokjin goes on, forcing the words out. “I wasn’t lying before. I hadn’t thought of you, like that. Or I hadn't noticed that I had. But then I did. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
Jungkook lets go of his hand, and Seokjin’s breath hitches, bracing for pain. But Jungkook slowly brings his hand to Seokjin’s face, cupping his cheek. Seokjin’s eyes slip close.
“I don’t know what this means,” Seokjin continues. “I didn’t even know if I should tell you when you’re leaving in twelve hours. You’re going to be gone for two years.”
“Hyung, can you look at me?”
Seokjin opens his eyes to see Jungkook smiling, his big smile that makes his nose scrunch up and his eyes curve into crescents. “Jungkook-ah.”
“It’s okay,” Jungkook says.
Seokjin laughs despite himself. “It’s really not.”
“You don’t know how happy this makes me.”
Seokjin reaches for his wrist, turning his face into Jungkook’s hand and pressing a kiss to his palm. “I’m sorry. For before.”
“It’s okay,” Jungkook says, like it’s easy. “I’m sorry too. I should have talked to you. I was just scared.”
“It’s okay,” Seokjin echoes. “I was scared too. I still am.”
“What are you scared of hyung?”
“Everything. What if things change while you’re gone? What if they don’t and we can’t make it work? What if I break your heart?”
“What if I break yours?” Jungkook asks, mouth ticking up into a smile.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Jungkook-ah.”
“Two years is a long time.”
“No, just listen. I don’t expect you to wait. Just, you’ll have time. Think about it. And when I get back, if you still, you know, then maybe we can figure it out then.”
“If I still ‘you know’,” Seokjin says, amused.
“You haven’t said it,” Jungkook points out, whining just a little.
Seokjin sighs, rolling his eyes, the corners of his mouth pulling up in a smile he tries to fight. “I can’t believe I like you even when you’re being a brat.”
Jungkook smiles his big smile again. “I like you too, hyung.”
Seokjin reaches out and thumbs the faint crows feet at the corner of his eye. “You should sleep. You need the rest.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to be up early.”
“Will you hold me, hyung?” Jungkook asks.
“If I must,” Seokjin says, sighing dramatically.
Jungkook giggles as he turns, fitting himself against Seokjin’s front. He reaches for Seokjin’s arm, putting it around his waist and lacing their fingers together.
Seokjin presses a kiss to his hair. “Goodnight Jungkook-ah.”
Jungkook squeezes his hand. “Goodnight hyung.”
Seokjin wakes up to Jungkook’s alarm blaring. He reaches over to turn it off. It would be so easy to go back to sleep, to wrap his arms around Jungkook and close his eyes and ignore the world for a few more hours.
Instead, he nudges Jungkook until he stirs, groaning.
“You have to get up,” Seokjin says, his voice raspy with sleep.
Jungkook grumbles, but he sits up, rubbing at his eyes. “What time is it?”
“I don’t know. Your alarm went off though.”
“You should go back to sleep, hyung.” Jungkook reaches over to brush back his hair. “It’s early.”
Even though the last vestiges of sleep still cling to him, Seokjin shakes his head. “Are you leaving?” It’s a loaded question. Are you leaving my bed, are you leaving my house, are you leaving my life for the next two years?
Seokjin doesn’t think, just reaches for him, and Jungkook meets him in the middle. He holds him in his arms, Jungkook’s face tucked into the corner of his neck. He wants to freeze time, wants to live in this moment forever, intimate and soft, just the two of them. He tries his best to etch the feeling of Jungkook in his arms into his memory,
Jungkook pulls back and looks at Seokjin. He probably looks terrible, his face still swollen with sleep and hair a mess, but Jungkook’s eyes are soft, the corner of his mouth ticked up. Seokjin wants to taste that smile, wants to know what it feels like under his lips. So he does.
He leans in and kisses him like it’s easy, like his heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to beat out of his chest. For a second he’s scared that Jungkook won’t respond, that he’ll pull away. But then Jungkook kisses him back, sweet and tentative and perfect.
Jungkook’s phone is ringing but they both ignore it, unwilling to let the world intrude on their bubble just yet. Seokjin laces their fingers together, deepening the kiss, drinking in the soft groan Jungkook lets out. He commits them all to memory, too caught up in the moment to appreciate them properly. Jungkook shifts without breaking the kiss, moving so he’s straddling Seokjin, tilting his face up. Seokjin’s hands slip under his shirt, fingers pressing against sleep warm skin and drawing out a gasp.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says, breathless, his forehead pressed against Seokjin, his eyes squeezed shut.
Seokjin cups his face in his hands, drawing back so he can press a kiss to his cheek, his nose, his eyelid, the mole under his bottom lip.
“Am I still asleep?”
“I know your dream man Jungkook-ah, you don’t need to say it.”
Jungkook chokes out a laugh, his eyes wet.
Seokjin wipes away a tear with his thumb, drawing Jungkook close so he can kiss him again. Now that he’s had this once, he doesn’t think he can give it up. He’s addicted to the way Jungkook tastes, the sounds he makes, the feel of him under his hands.
Jungkook’s phone rings again and they can’t ignore it. They break apart and Jungkook gets off him, reaching for his phone on the bedside table, declining the call after a glance. “I have to go.”
Seokjin gets up, tugging Jungkook out of bed too. He doesn’t let go of his hand. “I’ll walk you out.”
They’re at the door too soon, and Seokjin wants to make excuses, wants to draw out this moment, as painful as it is, because he knows it’s going to hurt all the more once it’s over. Irrationally he wants to follow Jungkook back to his apartment, wants to spend every possible second with him.
Jungkook smiles, as if he can tell what Seokjin is thinking. He leans up and kisses him, chaste and sweet.
He turns to leave, but Seokjin tightens his hold on his hand, not letting go.
“Come back to me, okay?” Seokjin says. “You have to promise.”
“Okay, hyung. I promise.”
[Two Years Later]
Jungkook leans back, his chest heaving with exertion as he tries to catch his breath. His limbs ache with exertion, the good kind of ache that he’s missed. He wipes a hand over his face, wrinkling his nose at the sweat that’s starting to cool uncomfortable, making his shirt stick to his skin.
“Here,” Jimin says, tossing a towel at him without being asked.
“Thanks hyung.” He wipes his face and then drapes it over his neck.
Jimin drops down beside him, and even though he’s just as sweaty and gross as him, Jungkook still drapes himself over him, laughing when Jimin groans in disgust but makes no move to shove him off.
They’ve been at it for hours already, the practice room mirrors fogged up as they try and perfect the choreography for their comeback. They’re taking a much needed break. It’s harder than before, but it’s a challenge Jungkook relishes, the exhaustion an old friend.
Yoongi comes over with water bottles, settling down on Jungkook’s other side and handing a bottle to both him and Jimin. Jungkook takes it gratefully, downing half of it. Even with his muscles aching, Jungkook is beyond happy, his heart warm as he takes in the practice room.
Namjoon is starfished on the ground, his shirt wet with sweat, groaning as Hoseok prods him with his foot, laughing. Seokjin is the only one not resting, still going through the moves slowly in front of the mirror, his hair plastered to his forehead.
With a grimace, Jungkook pulls himself to his feet, snagging a fresh water bottle. He brings it to Seokjin, handing it to him before standing behind him and wrapping his arms around his wist in a back hug. Seokjin pulls a face in the mirror, but makes no move to shake Jungkook off, drinking deeply from the bottle.
“Do you want to come over tonight?” Seokjin asks quietly.
Jungkook hides his smile in Seokjin’s shoulder. “Sure.”
“Showering one at a time though. Joint showers have been banned.”
“But Hyung,” Jungkook whines.
“I almost got a concussion last time, never again.”
Before Jungkook can respond, something hits his arm. He turns to see Taehyung, one foot bare and the other show in hand.
“Did you just throw your shoe at us?” Seokjin asks.
“Yes,” Taheyung says, unrepentant. “Sejin hyung is ordering food, what do you want?”
Jungkook lets go of Seokjin, and they walk over to where the other members are discussing dinner options.
“I want jjajangmyeon,” Seokjin declares.
“I had jjajangmyeon yesterday,” Namjoon counters.
Seokjin shrugs. “Sounds like a you problem.”
Namjoon puffs up, ready to argue his case.
Jungkook doesn’t join in on the debate, happy to let them decide.
Later, they will decide on ssambap because that’s what Jimin wants and none of them can deny him. Later, he will climb into the back of a company van with Seokjin, both of them exhausted, their fingers tangled together on the seat between them as their manager drives them home. Later, he will convince Seokjin to shower with him, and when Seokjin almost slips he’ll declare that showering together is banned once again. Later, they will curl up in bed, Jungkook drifting off to sleep secure in Seokjin’s arms.
For now, Jungkook leans his head against Seokjin's shoulder, his heart full.