For most people, the year-end holidays mean something to look forward to. For Min Yoongi, the closer it gets to Christmas, the more work piles up for him, and the more weary he starts to feel. Not that he doesn't look tired more than half the time. It's just that seeing mountains of letters gradually filling up the space in the office, and hearing his computer pinging non-stop as the inbox gets flooded with increasing emails by the day, makes him even more tired just thinking about how he is going to complete all the work in time.
Yoongi wonders how his cousin remains positive year after year, despite facing the same
shit work stress. Kim Taehyung, a brat two years younger whom Yoongi still can't decide whether is a genius or an idiot, never fails to remind him that Christmas is a time for cheer.
(“Santa Elves should be bringing cheer to everyone, hyung.” Taehyung would say. “If we're not happy, our bad mood will spread to everyone.”
“I may be short but I'm not an elf. And they don't care as long as they get their presents.”
“Who says elves are short? They're pretty tall in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ if you ask me.”
“Not the point.”)
You see, the thing is, Yoongi and Taehyung belong to a family who runs the South Korea branch of Santa Claus Inc., with its office located in Daegu. Not that anyone could tell from the shop front, which just looks like a regular bookstore.
Highly complex computerised systems (with a tinge of magic) track the behaviours of everyone between the ages of one to ninety-two throughout each calendar year. Algorithms and magic then assign each individual to either the ‘naughty list’ or the ‘nice list’. The system usually never breaks down, although they do have back-ups just in case. For all the years he’s been working, Yoongi can only recall one system failure when some human from Ilsan by the name of Kim Namjoon accidentally stumbled into their bookstore and accidentally shut down the power supply in the whole building. A good thing Yoongi was good with fixing things and got everything up and running in less than a minute.
(Kim Namjoon still found himself on the ‘nice list’ that year although just by a single point. He received a nice fanciful tablet, delivered personally by Yoongi and Taehyung, which Namjoon unfortunately broke after two months.)
Its supply chain center takes up two basement storey space. Purchasing functions are managed mainly by Yoongi’s older cousin, Kim Kibum, who has a small team reporting to him. Kibum is often found tapping wildly at his iPad as he checks that everything that needs to be bought is bought, packaging materials included. Usually, Kibum would stock up the inventory with commonly requested gifts to avoid the rush during the Christmas season. There's a machinery to do the wrapping of course, and even to label each gift with the receivers’ names and addresses.
Yoongi’s older brother is in charge of the transport management, making sure that gifts are sorted and loaded onto the correct Santa Sleighs. (To Yoongi, they do not look like sleighs at all but after getting his ass kicked by his brother for saying so, Yoongi has learnt to keep his comments to himself.) He has a team of Santa Drivers dressed up in red Santa Uniforms. On the occasion where there are too many deliveries, Yoongi and Taehyung would help out, but both usually take off the uniforms once out of sight.
All the different computer systems are linked to the very important Santa Mailbox Management System, which receives all the Letters to Santa sent to them via snail mail and email. Each letter also comes with a picture of the sender, so that when the letters are scanned, the system can identify the sender by both name and facial recognition technology. The letter gets electronically tagged by sender, and sorted according to the list which said sender falls into. For those that fall into the ‘nice list’, the system then scans for the requests made and populates the information into a database, verified in real time by Yoongi and Taehyung.
For those that fall into the ‘naughty list’, no presents are given, but Santa Inc. still has a
time wasting policy that the senders will receive a nice reply to tell them that they've been assholes this year and to get their shit together next year. In nicer words, of course. That's why Bae Joohyun, his other older cousin, is in charge of responding to these people, as she was considered a lot nicer than Yoongi and less confusing than Taehyung. She does supervise two other distant cousins though, as the number of such letters to deal with could be scarily high.
(Yoongi often wonders why these ‘naughty’ people don't have more self awareness to know better than to waste everyone's time with their pointless requests.)
Despite all the advanced technology and magic they were able to utilise, responding to the many Letters to Santa were still very much manually handled by each member of Santa Claus Inc., regardless of whether the letter was handwritten or electronic. Every reply had to be personally crafted, either handwritten (with a special pen to ensure all were showing the same handwriting for consistency purposes) or typewritten, to show sincerity, apparently.
The biggest problem is that people wait until the final quarter to start sending their letters. Yoongi spends most of the first three quarters of the year alternating between making sure the various systems are running smoothly, composing Christmas raps and songs with Taehyung, and manning the bookstore during his shifts. Then quarter four comes along and he finds himself cursing at all the South Koreans in the country.
“Hyung, we've got a Hatstall again.” Taehyung says as he taps Yoongi’s shoulder repeatedly. Taehyung seems to be bouncing in his seat. Yoongi glances at the clock then to the many cups of caffeine on their desk. He sighs, hitting his cheeks.
‘Hatstall’ is the nickname Taehyung (stole from Harry Potter universe and) decided to give to anyone who could not be sorted into either list because they were equally naughty and nice that year. This was rather rare, with maybe one or two cases a year. If a letter is received from any ‘Hatstall’, a message pops up on their screens. One of them would then have to review the findings and make a judgment call to sort said person. Normally, Yoongi just dumps them into the ‘naughty list’ to make his own life easier and Taehyung doesn't stop him because they're both exhausted and one less present won't kill anyone (he hopes).
“Oh, it's your favourite Kookie again.” Taehyung laughs when the file opens. “Are you sure his file isn't corrupted, hyung? This is the sixth consecutive year.”
“I told you already, I checked many times throughout the year. It's legit.” Yoongi replies, not even blinking at Taehyung’s subtle teasing.
Jeon Jungkook from Busan was an odd case. The first time it happened, Yoongi had automatically sorted the kid, then only fourteen years old, into the ‘naughty list’ without even reading his letter or data file. He'd figured that Jungkook was most likely a teenager who was actually a good kid who wanted to be cool by being rebellious, and a letter from Joohyun should be helpful. The second time it happened, Taehyung had started working with him and was the one who had opened Jungkook’s file, noticing the strange record of him being a ‘Hatstall’ again.
Since then, Yoongi has been the one replying to Jungkook’s letters. The thing is, Jungkook’s letter was never about asking for material things for himself. He was usually asking for gifts for his family and his best friend Park Jimin. Once he even asked if it was possible to also give his best friend a boyfriend named Jung Hoseok. Last year, it was the first time he asked for something for himself - advice on how to get his crush, a guy five years older than him, to notice him. Some tall guy with wide shoulders, and who could cook. Which irritated Yoongi a lot for some strange reason. (No name was mentioned though, which was probably a good thing as Yoongi was tempted to hack the system to put said guy into the ‘naughty list’, permanently.)
This year, Jungkook has an unusual request again.
Or the hyung reading this letter. I have been good this year, but there's something I must confess about what happened on December 24 last year.
I saw you delivering my present and letter. (Thanks for the present, even though I didn't request for anything other than advice haha. Don't worry, I've been putting the camera to good use! As for the advice, afraid that wasn't as useful but no worries, I've moved on.)
As I was saying, or writing, or whatever… I saw you that night. I don't know how. I don't know anyone who's spotted Santa before either. Also, you looked nothing like what the media often portrays as Santa. You're kinda short but not fat at all. You have jet black hair and pale skin and looked really grumpy. You were dressed in all black instead of red and white. I thought you were a burglar at first and was going to find something to knock you out with but then I saw that you were delivering packages and that's when I knew.
I don't know if you're Santa or Santa’s elf or just a postal delivery guy, but I'm hoping that I'll get to see you again this year. In fact, my wish is for us to actually meet! And I can show you all the pictures I've taken. That would be my Christmas gift I'm hoping for this year.
“You're in deep shit, hyung.” Taehyung states the obvious, after Yoongi tells him about Jungkook’s letter. “I thought we wore our stealth bands?”
“I thought so too.” Yoongi sighs in frustration, rubbing his face with his hands.
The Santa Uniforms had magic added so that if ever spotted, the average humans would merely see an image of Santa Claus they have in mind. It helped maintain the illusion that Santa Claus is real. Which wasn't exactly a lie since the CEO of Santa Claus Inc. could technically be considered Santa Claus. In any case, Yoongi and Taehyung usually opted not to wear the uniforms and got away with wearing their Santa Stealth Bands, that kept them away from sight. It was always the first thing they checked on each other, before getting off the Santa Sleigh.
How Jungkook could still see him and get such a clear view was baffling.
“Maybe you could just pass him to Joohyun-noona this year?”
“She'll read his letter if I do that. Then they'll investigate and find out not only did we not follow protocol by not wearing those ugly uniforms, but that I requested for presents not even requested by Jungkook himself.”
“I will probably just get away with a slap on the wrist, but you and your presents for Kookie…” Taehyung snickers. “You should just meet him then. It's a lot less creepy and less stalkerish.”
“I did not stalk him. When did I stalk him? I'm not creepy.” Yoongi defends himself.
“Tell me why did you keep all his handwritten letters which we normally just send to storage? Don't think I don't know that you even went to the archives to retrieve all the letters Kookie has ever sent.”
“That was for investigation purposes, to verify if the system had made an error.”
“And you saw a need to continue keeping the letters because…?” Taehyung grins.
Yoongi turns pink. Considering the amount of time he spends with Taehyung, it's hard keeping secrets from his cousin.
The ‘investigation’ led to Yoongi scavenging the archives and finding out a lot about Jungkook's life. It's all through the snippets of events recorded by the database, used as the basis of determining where Jungkook falls into. It's not everything, but what was available has Jungkook come across as a mischievous brat in some instances, yet a kind, quiet and nice boy in some others.
It's enough for Yoongi to come to a point where he has a major soft spot for Jeon Jungkook. (Even bigger than the one he has for Taehyung, which he would never admit to having but everyone knows of.)
Yoongi doesn't even know what Jungkook looks like. Everything he's learnt about Jungkook is through the written word. Something about data privacy shit that the company claims to be complying, despite the obvious invasion of privacy with their super duper computers and magic.
“Just meet him, hyung.” Taehyung laughs when he sees that Yoongi is no longer defending himself. “Date him first though. Not sure how he would react if you gave him a wedding ring for Christmas this year.”
“I am not proposing!” Yoongi groans.
He grabs the closest thing to him, a mineral water bottle, and throws it at Taehyung. His cousin yelps, hands flailing to block the flying object. The bottle lands on the floor next to Taehyung’s chair and next to a pile of letters which had yet to be scanned, thankfully still intact. Yoongi isn’t sure he would survive if the letters got smudged.
He’s broken enough rules as it is.
One week later, Yoongi and Taehyung settles down at their favourite table next to the windows of the bookstore, sipping on magical hot chocolate during their much needed thirty minute tea break. It's raining and Yoongi just wants to sleep in such good weather. Taehyung seems to agree, yawning loudly as he stretches his arms above his head.
A jingle is heard as the door to the store opens, two boys rushing in. The lack of umbrellas and drenched coats is a clear sign that they were merely here to avoid the rain. They look about Taehyung's age, and Yoongi sincerely hopes they weren't as noisy as his cousin could get sometimes.
“Oh, do they sell hot drinks here?” One of them pipes up, having spotted the drinks the cousins were having.
Taehyung, being the social butterfly that Yoongi wasn't, gets up from his seat to greet them. Yoongi just continues to enjoy his tea break - he didn't come out of his workroom to serve customers and interactions with the average human being drains his energy.
He observes his younger cousin serving the magical hot chocolate but refrains from making any comment. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, the average human doesn't get affected by the magic in the drinks, only finding it more delicious than normal, so he supposes it's safe. If anything, the odd zero-point-one percent case usually react right after the first sip.
Except one of the kids was that zero-point-one percent.
“Oh?” The taller one, with broad shoulders and soft brown hair, widens his eyes, as he stares curiously at his cup. His glasses fog up a little from the heat rising out of the cup.
“It's delicious! Thanks!” The shorter one smiles, eyes turning into crescents.
“It's… different. As if… There's something extra added.” The taller one bites his lips. He looks up and stares at Taehyung, before glancing towards Yoongi’s table. His facial expression changes to one of confusion, then recognition. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Taehyung answers in reply, fidgeting a little out of nervousness. He has never met anyone falling in that zero-point-one percentile before.
“What's wrong, Jungkook?” The shorter one nudges his friend.
Yoongi stares at the scene before him, attention perked when he hears that name. A gasp escapes Taehyung's lips as he fumbles a little. “Ju- Jungkook? As in Jeon Jungkook?”
“Oh, how did you know?” Friend of Jungkook asks. Jungkook stands up suddenly, chair dragging against the floor. He hurries quickly over to Yoongi.
“Hyung, are you…?” Jungkook hesitates, seemingly unsure what to call Yoongi. “Erm, the one who delivers…?”
Yoongi stares back blankly, not knowing what he should say as he's having a mental breakdown at this point in time.
Jeon Jungkook, the Hatstall, is standing in front of him.
Jeon Jungkook is in that zero-point-one percentile who could detect magic in his hot chocolate. (Of course, he's always been a weird one, Yoongi’s brain supplies.)
Jeon Jungkook recognises him even though it's been almost a year since Yoongi was caught.
Jeon Jungkook is also absolutely nothing like a bespectacled nerd that Yoongi was hoping he’d turn out to be.
Sure, he still has glasses. Round thin frames that are a little bit fogged up now. It makes him look a combination of smart and cute. There's a bit of acne, but it wasn't too serious. He's tall, but not some skinny, gangly teenager. Well, considering that the other is in a dance club at school and seems to excel at sports, Yoongi would not be surprised if Jungkook had six pack abs underneath the layers of clothes.
Basically, Jungkook looks smart, sporty, cute and hot, which was terribly unfair. Yoongi feels tortured.
“Sorry, did I mistake you for someone else?” Jungkook asks again, seeing no response from Yoongi.
“Erm, about that.” Yoongi replies intelligently. A loud sound buzzes, startling everyone. “Sorry.” Yoongi mumbles as he turns off the alarm. He looks over Jungkook’s shoulder to Taehyung.
“Tae, breaks’s over so I’m heading to the backroom first.”
Min Yoongi seldom runs unless he's playing basketball, but in that instance, he runs (for his dear heart) out of the room, not turning back to see Jungkook’s reaction.
Over the next few days, Yoongi learns from Taehyung that Jungkook and his best friend Jimin would be in Daegu until two days before Christmas. Jungkook has been a regular at the bookstore, sometimes without company, but always asking whoever is on shift duty about Yoongi, a name he found out thanks to Taehyung.
Yoongi, in the meantime, has taken to having his breaks in the (dis)comfort of his own work chair.
It's not that boring. His chair has wheels and he can even twirl three-sixty on it. And no, he's not avoiding Jungkook. Who’s Jungkook? Oh that Hatstall. He's here? Yoongi didn't notice his presence, much less how cute and hot he is. He's got a whole lot of other things to focus on, like the ever growing pile of mail.
Yep. The world is counting on him to not be distracted by someone named Jeon Jungkook, and get his job done so that everyone can have a Merry Christmas.
“I should wheel you out of this room.” Taehyung scoffs when Yoongi tells him that.
“Taehyung, you have a job to do too. So shut up and concentrate.”
“You do know that the whole office knows of Jungkook’s existence? Although he's smart enough not to let slip how he first saw you. Easily avoided weird questions, while getting all the answers to his questions about what you're like. He has all the noonas in the palm of his hands. I saw the them gushing over how cute his crush on you is.”
Yoongi's cheeks turn pink. “There's no crush. He's just curious.”
“Very, very, curious. Grandma was here yesterday, by the way. She's shown him pictures of us when we're tiny. Or well, tinier, in your case.” Taehyung says, easily dodging the flying cushion that was thrown his way. “I wanted to stop her but she gave her trademark glare y’know.”
Yoongi sighs. He's been working non-stop, his productivity slipping because his mind kept floating back to Jungkook, his whole body aches from sitting in the same position for too long, there's a permanent depression on his chair, and he still has thirty minutes before his job is finally done for the year (excluding deliveries on the eve). He really hates Christmas.
“Hyung, I'll finish up what's left. You're exhausted.” Taehyung nudges him. “Go. Don't worry, Jungkook isn't outside. He's gone back to Busan.”
“You sure you can handle the workload?” Yoongi hesitates.
Taehyung sighs melodramatically. “Yes, I'm sure. Go get your sleep.”
“Thanks, Tae.” He gives his cousin a half hug. “See you the night after tomorrow.”
“You can see me.”
“But I am actually wearing the darn Santa Uniform this year. You should be seeing some fat, jolly white man who goes ho-ho-ho instead of me, Min Yoongi.”
“What?” Jungkook stares back, confused. “Well, you look cute?”
“Don't lie. I know I look stupid.” Yoongi grumbles. “Anyway, I didn't know what to get you. Hope a camera case is useful, to go with last year’s gift.” He pulls out a box from the sack and shoves it into Jungkook’s arms, then turns to leave when a hand grabs his giant red sleeve.
“Yoongi, I'm not lying. You're cute in this outfit, or uniform, or whatever you call it. You're cute no matter what you wear, even when you were dressed in all black last year.” Jungkook rambles, face turning bright red. “And all I want for Christmas is you.”
Yoongi stares. He's still lacking sleep and his brain processing is slower than usual, so it takes a while to register what Jungkook was saying. There's a soft tug on his sleeve, pulling him closer to the younger.
“That's the cheesiest thing I've had anyone say to me. I feel like Mariah’s song should start playing in the background like an OST to this right now.”
“Shut up!” Jungkook whines. “As if the lines you asked me to use on Seokjin-hyung was any better. He was trying so hard not to laugh at me.”
“That's cause they weren't supposed to work.” Yoongi says grumpily as he recalls Jungkook's prior year letter with all the gushing. “What did you say his name was again? Park Seokjin?”
“No, no, it's Kim Seokjin.”
Yoongi nods, making a mental note to pull out the guy's records when he gets back to headquarters, to see what he can do with it.
“So anyway… do you want to come in?”
“We haven't even gone on a first date and you're already inviting me into your house?” Yoongi teases. He's not even sure where the confidence to flirt came from, especially when he's dressed in Santa Uniform to boot. Maybe Taehyung slipped something into his drink without him noticing. Huh.
“It's not what you're thinking! I said I'd show you my pictures I took with the camera you gave?”
“Santa gave it. Not me.”
“Well, you're Santa now.”
“Ok I totally ruined the image of Santa, didn't I?”
Jungkook shakes his head fervently. “I like this version better.”
“Stop with the compliments. They don't guarantee that you get put on the ‘nice list’.” Yoongi says, leaving out Jungkook's odd tendency of being a Hatstall. It'd take him forever if he were to start explaining everything to Jungkook now, and he wasn't even supposed to divulge anything in the first place.
But well, Jungkook is special so he can be the only exception.
Yoongi coughs at the cheesy thought. Thankfully he didn't voice that one out loud or he would never hear the end of it. Checking his watch, he reminds himself that it's time for him to get back to the schedule. The presents weren't going to deliver themselves.
“I got a lot to deliver. Gotta get back to work.”
“Can I tag along?”
“No, you're not even supposed to see me.”
Jungkook pouts. Yoongi wonders what he did in his past life. He pulls out his phone, unlocks it, and hands it to the younger.
“Key in your number. I'll call you when I'm done.”
Jungkook grins brightly as he takes Yoongi's phone. He tries not to watch Jungkook keying in his number with that happy, bunny smile, but who was he kidding?
When Jungkook waves goodbye to him as he trudges off, Yoongi can't help but entertain the thought that maybe he didn't hate Christmas that much after all.