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Kim Seokjin’s name, for all intent and purposes, shouldn’t ring a particular bell to you. The Kim name on its own however holds weight. A weight of gold. Power, prestige and success. A household name, trustworthy and familiar. The multimedia empire is part of your daily life, whether you’re scrolling through twitter or reading in your doctor’s waiting room or a have stayed in one of their hotel chains while travelling. The Kims are with you every day and have been for quite a few years now. Kim Seokjin, however has been rather invisible to most. Until he wasn’t.

 

To say that Seokjin is nervous would be the understatement of the year. In his defense, he’s about to change the course of his career, his life in a way that he can’t even imagine.

It’s not his first press conference and it certainly won’t be his last considering the path he’s chosen. Usually though, all eyes are on his father, CEO of one of the greatest multimedia company in South Korea (amongst other things) or one of his father’s associates. Seokjin, his twenty-eight years old son is more used to being a few steps back. More often than not, he doesn’t even need to be at one of these things.

Today, it’s all eyes on him and it’s his father’s turn to watch him from the side.

Seokjin has been successful on his own right but he’s had to live with the silver spoon stereotype all his life. Now, don’t get him wrong, he knows that he’s been luckier than most, a lot luckier actually. He was born with privileges a lot of people can only dream of having but that only pushed him to work hard. Something for which he is grateful as well.

Stereotypes unfortunately don’t meld well with reality. Ever since he joined the company, no matter how hard he works on the project his father delegate to his team, for everyone else, for the media, he’s still the second born Kim son; the one who chose to work for his rich daddy.

Seokjin sometimes envies his older brother who’s a doctor now. The lucky bastards never has to attend press conferences. And he certainly doesn’t have to read headlines speculating if he’ll be the downfall of his father’s empire. Although to be fair, this has only been a recent development. Before that, the press was only ever interested in his love life. Jokes on them, Seokjin doesn’t haven’t one. Not for a long while now.

He only longs for the miserable life of a surgeon sometimes however. After all he still loves his job. He enjoys the challenges and plot twists, and he actually loves working with his father. Business is the last place you’ll expect to find good men but Seokjin’s father managed to remain decent, even surrounded by sharks.

When Seokjin joined the company after graduating university, he and his father both agreed that he needed to work his way up. He needed to pay his dues, gain work field experience; in short be like any other employee given the opportunity to work for Kim Cie. That’s exactly what he did. For six years, he worked day in and day out to try to prove his worth and show his father (and the rest of the world) that putting your trust in Kim Seokjin is worth it. For six years he dedicated himself only to work, hoping that one day he would be taken seriously.

And now he’s here; at the head of his own project.

His father and a couple of other board members are sitting on the podium alongside him. Jung Hoseok, one of their beloved PR team member is typing away on his phone while his assistant, Jisoo follows behind, a phone glued to her ear as well. When he passes behind Seokjin he bends down, face serious, only to whisper, “I hate everyone in this room but you look lovely.”

Seokjin nods seriously back, pretends to think about something and then replies, “We’re definitely going to get drink after this.”

“You always say that and I always end up drinking alone,” is Hoseok’s airy reply before he floats back to Jisoo with a radiant smile.

 

Sitting on Seokjin’s right is Kim Namjoon; main producer manager and for the first few months, casting director. He’s wearing a simple black t-shirt under his suit jacket. He has thick-framed glasses perched on his nose and he’s surveying the room coolly. It brings Seokjin a considerable amount of peace to know that Namjoon will be along the journey with him, there’s no one else he’d rather be doing this with. Seokjin has been working on this project ever since he was in business school and Namjoon has been such a huge part of developing it into what it is today that Seokjin doesn’t know how he would have done it without him.

A coffee appears in front of him and Seokjin smiles up at Taehyung.

“Thank you, Taehyung-ah.”

Taehyung winks and fleets away. He’s grateful for a lot of things but having Kim Taehyung as his personal assistant is definitely in the top five.

He sips at the Styrofoam cup and waits for the last of the journalists and photographers to settle in. His father pats his shoulder reassuringly and Seokjin sends him a grateful smile. He’s lucky, he knows he is but that comes with a lot of responsibilities.

He can’t help but wish he could have a bit more time. As he faces the flashes of the cameras, his eyes taking in the conference room of one of his father’s hotels, he suddenly feels like he didn’t get enough time to prepare. Which is completely ridiculous because he’s as ready as he’ll ever be but being ready doesn’t guarantee success.

He really doesn’t know what he’ll do if he fails.

His phone buzzes just as he finishes his coffee.

Taehyung

Stop pursing your lips

You’re doing fine

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Me

 I haven’t done anything yet

Taehyung

You’ve done plenty, hyung

You got this

Just as he finishes reading the text, Taehyung appears to whisk away the empty cup and Seokjin can only chuckle quietly.

A hush falls around the room as the doors finally closes and the last of the reporters are seated.

“How are you doing, Seokjin-ssi?” one of the reporters asks and it makes him smile which makes the rest of the room laugh. He relaxes a little.

“I’m alright, thank you. It’s a bit crowded but I’m on the right side of the room,” the journalists laugh again. “I hope you brought water.” There’s still an air of anticipation in the room, some of the reporters look positively predatory but Seokjin can feel his shoulders loosening and the tie around his neck is no longer strangling him like it was mere moments ago. He’s in his element; his mother always says he’s a charmer and could win any room to his side, no matter what. He sweeps the room with his eyes once more, finally focusing on the people and not the reason for their presence. He recognizes a few faces, nods to some of them, takes stock of the new ones and mentally takes note of the people he’ll have to be careful around.

He blinks when his eyes catch on a blinding smile. Younger than most of people around him, the man with the bunny-like teeth and the doe eyes is wearing a burgundy beanie over dark brown hair, a denim jacket and under that a simple white t-shirt. There are round specs perched on his nose and several piercings adorning both of his ears. His lips look startlingly pink and there’s definitely a tattoo peaking from the back of his neck; something that looks either like wings or the petals of a flower.

He is arrestingly pretty and that fact is only accentuated by the cheeky smile still gracing his face. He looks at Seokjin straight on, almost challengingly but there’s definite interest in his gaze as well. He suddenly looks away when the man sitting beside him (a soft face with sharp eyes, green hair and a very cool leather jacket) nudges him and shows him something on his camera. Beanie Boy looks down seriously and they exchange a few words before Leather Jacket grins at him.

All of that happens in the span of maybe eight seconds but Seokjin finds that his throat has gone dry and that perhaps he overdid it with the coffee this morning. He reaches over to pour himself a glass of water and decidedly pulls his thoughts back to the matter at hand.

His father speaks up then and the conference finally starts. Seokjin has always loved watching his father take the stage and introduce projects. He’s learned a lot from simply re-watching old videos of his old man during conferences just like this one, from his stance, to his speech cadence to his tone. Listening to him now, introducing Seokjin’s first solo project, it hits him how far he’s come and how lucky he’s always been.

His father keeps it short and to the point, there’s no sentimentality in his words – always professional to a fault - but when waves for Seokjin to carry on, there’s a proud smile lingering on his lips. Seokjin’s throat threatens to close up but he swallows harshly and powers through.

When he finishes introducing the company, from its name to its ideals and projected revenue, the questions start fusing; some more relevant than others. He’s not really sure how his diet has anything to do with the fact that he’s launching an entertainment company but he loves talking about food so he doesn’t really mind. He even manages to make a few people laugh with a well placed pun.

Most of the questions are no surprise though. Seokjin and Namjoon have spent a lot of time rehearsing and anticipating what the journalists might throw at them. His father and the board members back off, letting Seokjin lead. Namjoon doesn’t intervene either but Seokjin is well aware that Namjoon’s insight is invaluable and he guides a few of the question his way.

At his vision’s periphery, he can see Taehyung biting his nails, eyes shifting between Seokjin and the reporters like he’s a judge at a tennis match waiting for the first foul. Hoseok is on Taehyung’s right, eyes focused and lips pulled in a calm smile. His black jacket stretches becomingly over his crossed arms.

Seeing all four of them serves both to ease and burden his mind further. He knows he’s surrounded by a great team but these people’s livelihood depends on him not fucking up. Ever. Well, his father won’t ever be thrown on the streets over this but Seokjin’s can’t even process the thought of disappointing him.

He’s distracted by his thoughts when Beanie Boy holds up a hand for the first time. Seokjin points to him.

“Jeon Jeongguk for BTS Entertainment,” he introduces himself in a clear voice. Seokjin nods for him to continue, eyes drawn to the way his lips barely move when he talks and the fact that despite that he can still see his teeth clearly. “The entertainment business in South Korea is one of the most competitive and exigent in the world,” his voice is surprisingly gentle for how serious his words are. “What makes you think your small company has what it takes to succeed?”

As far as questions go, this one is more direct and fairer than any other he got aimed at him this morning. It still catches Seokjin off guard. He’s been asking himself the very same thing for years now.

He takes a deep breath calmly answers, “I’ve always seen it more as bringing something new to the table instead of competing with people and ideas we’ve known forever.”

Several hands shoot up but Jeongguk speaks over the ruckus. “You think you have something original to offer?” he raises a sceptical eyebrow. He tilts his head sideways, assessing, his eyes piercing. Seokjin can’t look away.

“I think there are a lot of things lacking in the industry for sure. There’s definitely room for improvement, for new people. I think what we see on our screens, the standards we’ve always been subjected to, no matter how alluring and lucrative they may be for some people, are not a reflection of our society,” Seokjin says and he’s overly conscious of the numerous eyebrows rising in the room. He doesn’t mind, in fact he’s glad of it. He’s here to ruffle a lot of feathers. “There are a lot a people that aren’t represented. Or not enough at least. I want to give those people a chance to succeed and be a voice to the people who can’t speak up.”

There’s pause after he finishes where a few people raise their hands again but Seokjin ignores them, keeping his eyes on Jeongguk.

“You think you can change the world, Seokjin-ssi?” It’s supposed to be judgmental, perhaps even cocky, but to Seokjin it sounds surprised and intrigued. There’s a sparkle in Jeongguk’s eyes that makes him want to argue back.

The kid definitely chose the right profession.

Seokjin nods and lets himself smile again. “I think we have to start somewhere and more importantly, I think it’s vital to give people something they can identify with instead of something to blindly worship. There’s plenty of that to go around at any rate,” he takes a sip of his drink and focuses back on the young journalist. “I’m not saying the entertainment companies have had nothing to offer so far. I know the power of having someone to hold to; even if it’s someone you’ll never meet. I’m simply offering an alternative. Another voice.”

Another foolish soul holds their hand up but they’re once again ignored. Seokjin can’t look away from the amusement on Jeongguk’s face. “Music heals, Jeongguk-ssi. I’m aware it’s somewhat idealistic of me but music is power too. I want to use that power for good. I’ve wanted to find a way to help, to leave a positive impact behind and I feel like… no, I know that this is a good way to go about it.”

Jeongguk seems to be mulling over Seokjin’s words; chewing on his lower lip, making a pair of dimples appear on his cheeks.

“For profit,” he says after a pointed look.

Seokjin nods. “A percentage of our annual revenue will go to charities. Namjoon-ssi has brilliant ideas about it,” he says patting Namjoon’s back. “It’s important for me and my team,” he continues, gesturing to the people around him, “that we contribute to society in diverse ways.”

There’s a trace of a smile ghosting Jeongguk’s lips and Seokjin feels like he’s won something. “Why music?”

The other journalists barely try to get Seokjin’s attention anymore. There’s a silence spreading in the room, the only noise being the shutters of the cameras here and there.

Seokjin grins. “I wanted to be an Idol when I was little.”

The room erupts in laughter and Jeongguk beams. Seokjin has to look away from the sheer radiance of it. He can feel himself blushing and he knows it’s an embarrassing sight. He always turns so red, from his forehead to his neck.

“I see it,” Jeongguk comments, bringing Seokjin’s eyes back to the younger man. He’s surprised but delighted to see a lot of heads nodding in agreement. Seokjin decides to go the extra mile: he frames his face with his hands and smiles his best Public Smile.

“It’s the face,” he remarks with a laugh even as he feels his blush burning several layers of skin. Flurries of flashes go off; he can see Hoseok face-palming and his father fighting off an exasperated smile. Namjoon dimples prettily next to him.

There’s another pause where everyone seems to be waiting for Jeongguk to carry on his interrogation but the man is taking notes now and doesn’t spare them another glance. Seokjin finds himself strangely disappointed. Still, he points to someone else and the questions regain a more normal flow.

Hoseok puts an end to the press conference after half an hour and Taehyung is suddenly by Seokjin’s side, offering a bottle of his favourite water and swift words of reassurance. They quickly and quietly slip away, Hoseok trailing not far behind with Jisoo. They escape by one of the side doors, following the hidden halls to the garage. Namjoon stays behind with Seokjin’s father to hash out a few financial details.

“You did great, hyung,” Taehyung and Hoseok say at the same time. They look up from their phones long enough to smile at each other. They arrive at the car, the chauffeur already behind the wheel, and they all clamber into it.

“You sounded like you knew what you were talking about,” Taehyung offers.

“Well, I do,” Seokjin shoots.

Hoseok chuckles. “You sounded like an idealist, hyung but it was charming.”

“I feel like I don’t threaten to fire you enough,” Seokjin mutters with an eye-roll.

“You wouldn’t know how to find your way to your own home without us,” Hoseok deadpans, still focused on his phone.

“I have a car!” Seokjin protests. Silence. “I drive!” One of Taehyung’s eyebrows slowly goes up. “Sometimes,” Seokjin mumbles. Taehyung’s grin blooms swiftly across his face. Fuck, the guy is pretty.

“We’re just teasing, boss. And anyways, look!” he turns his phone towards Seokjin where several tabs are open. Seokjin’s own face from dozens of angles look back at him. “You looked great!”

“Yes, from the first reviews, it looks like your point came across,” Hoseok says. “Twitter really loved your answers. Kuddos on holding down the fort against that kid,” he adds, finally looking at him.

“Speaking of which! Who was that?!”

“That’s Jeongguk!” Taehyung says proudly. “The friend I told you about. Don’t worry about it, hyung. He’s one of the good ones. I wouldn’t have sent an invitation otherwise.”

Hoseok nods along and Jisoo speaks up. “BTS Ent. is a small publication but it’s a well respected one,” she assures Seokjin.

“Isn’t he a bit young?” Somehow, Seokjin hasn’t been able to stop thinking about his big, round eyes. Even when he was dissecting Seokjin, his eyes retained a certain softness to them; a vulnerability that spoke of youth and inexperience. Seokjin is used to journalists: shrewd, vapid, cynical, sometimes crass and overly familiar but while Jeon Jeongguk was definitely provocative and smart he didn’t rub Seokjin the wrong way.

“Gukkie is only two years younger than me,” Taehyung provides.

Seokjin smiles. “You say that like you’re not a baby yourself.” Taehyung gasps but grins almost immediately after.

“The piece he wrote six month ago about the struggles faced by girl groups was really insightful,” Hoseok pipes up.

“That was him?” Seokjin’s eyes widen. He read that piece and he loved it.

“He’s a good writer,” Jisoo says.

“Right?” Taehyung beams at her.

“And, not to be dramatic but he works with Min Yoongi!” Hoseok says like it’s supposed to mean anything to Seokjin.

“The photographer that was with him today. Minty hair, small, cute, killer jacket” Taehyung explains.

“Oh yeah! I saw him but I don’t get the significance,” Seokjin says.

“He’s one of the most respected photo-journalist in Seoul, possibly the whole country, maybe even the world.” Hoseok’s voice definitely has a dreamy quality to it.

“He’s only exaggerating a little,” Jisoo grins and Hoseok gasps.

“But only a little,” Taehyung adds with a teasing grin and Hoseok huffs. “Min Yoongi doesn’t just works with anybody. Jeongguk is just… he’s good, hyung,” Taehyung assures with a confident nod.

“You’re in a good mood,” Hoseok comments, narrowing his eyes playfully at Taehyung.

Taehyung bites down on his lip and hums, fixing his gaze on the passing streets.

“Did something happen last night after I left you at the bar?”

“You went out without me?” Seokjin pouts.

All three of them turn flat looks on him. Seokjin deflates; he doesn’t have the best record with accepting social invites. “Point,” he sighs.

Hoseok turns to study Taehyung again. The younger is doing a pretty awful job at looking unaffected and Hoseok grins slowly.

“Who?” he asks delightedly.

Taehyung coughs but keeps his eyes on the traffic. “Nobody. He didn’t even give me a name.” He’s definitely blushing.

“Pretty?” Hoseok asks. There’s a pause where Taehyung swallows with some difficulty.

“The prettiest,” he sighs.

“Oooooh,” Hoseok laughs and Taehyung bites down on his lip. Cute, Seokjin thinks amused.

“Great ass, too,” Taehyung says with a quick smirk and Hoseok shrieks and claps his hands. Jisoo and Seokjin laugh, exchanging a look.

After that, they fall silent as the car makes its slow way through the Seoul lunch hour traffic. Hoseok and Jisoo answer calls from time to time and Taehyung updates him on his agenda for the rest of the day. An idea is slowly forming at the back of his mind but he lets it rest there, not wanting to poke it just yet. He lets it sit there and grow and waits for the opportune moment to bring it up.

He spends the rest of the day with Namjoon at the JHC building. It’s an old office building that his father was planning on turning into a parking lot before Seokjin gave him reasons not to.

They will start the audition process soon and everything needs to be air-tight ready before that. They spend the day going over numbers and interviewing yet more people. Seokjin feels like he’s been drowning in papers since the day he was born but there’s something incredibly humbling and motivating in having people’s livelihood in your hands.

At the end of the day, he calls Hoseok and Taehyung to join them in his office.

“So. About Jeon Jeongguk and Min Yoongi….”

 

*

 

With Prince Charming good looks and perfectly endearing manners, most people wouldn’t peg Kim Seokjin as a business entrepreneur, let alone someone whose first steps into the tank of sharks that is the entertainment business should be taken seriously. There’s nothing threatening or even daring about Kim Seokjin, you’d think.

You would be wrong.

 

 

It takes about two weeks to hash out the details with the magazine and to get everyone on board. It wasn’t easy convincing the board of trustees but Hoseok isn’t the best P.R agent this side of the Pacific for nothing. No one can resist him, especially when he’s in the zone and when he’s behind an idea one hundred percent. Watching Hoseok pitch and sell an idea is always a learning experience and it’s definitely one of Seokjin’s favourite things to do. They make a great team the three of them; Hoseok, Namjoon and Seokjin and he’s really grateful they both agreed to back him up. They immediately agreed that having the duo of journalists shadowing them for the first rounds of auditions was a good idea.

Seokjin still feels tingly with pride when he remembers how swiftly they agreed to his plan.

That’s how two weeks after the press conference, Jeongguk and Yoongi stroll into his office. It’s early September so the weather is still warm but the kid is still wearing the same beanie he was the day Seokjin met him. He doesn’t know why he focuses on that detail in particular, but it strikes Seokjin nonetheless. Perhaps because it makes him look younger than he actually is. Or maybe because it’s the perfect accessory to compliment his tattooed and pierced look. Or maybe because the colour looks really good against the dark brown of his hair. Or maybe it’s better – safer – to get stuck on that instead of the large, see-through, flowy white shirt Jeongguk is wearing and the fact that he’s left one too many buttons undone.

Taehyung ushers them to their seats, bowing as he leaves and winking at Jeongguk. Namjoon, Hoseok and Seokjin bow politely, welcoming them warmly and the reporters return the favour.

“This is Jung Hoseok, head PR agent for JHC,” Seokjin introduces when everyone has sat down. Hoseok waves, a sunny smile on his lips.

“Big fan of your work,” he says to Yoongi who smiles shyly and grunts his thanks.

“And this is Kim Nam-,” he’s interrupted by Jeongguk.

“Kim Namjoon, head producer, business manager and friend of yours. Yes, I remember,” he says, tone clipped. Still he nods at Namjoon who smiles tightly in return.

Seokjin tilts his head slightly, surprised by the reporter’s curtness. He focuses for the first time on his expression. The day of the press conference, he was rather cheerful, a little bit cheeky, almost daring. Today he looks and sounds more serious, expression closed off and unreadable.

“This is Min Yoongi, photography genius and my partner. He looks more terrifying than he actually is,” he adds after a tense pause and while his words are teasing, they do nothing to ease the atmosphere.

“Don’t mind him,” Yoongi says. His voice is low with a raspy quality to it. Seokjin reckons he’d make a great narrator. “The brat doesn’t like suits,” he explains, waving a hand around the office. Jeongguk sniffs, twisting his mouth to the side.

There’s a mole under his lower lip.

“Journalists aren’t exactly our favourite people either,” Hoseok drawls and it makes Yoongi huff a laugh.

“Jeongguk-ssi, if you you’re uncomfortable, we can find someone else to cover the story,” Namjoon offers. Seokjin has to swallow a protest.

“That’s not it,” Jeongguk shakes his head. Everything, from the set of his shoulders to the defensiveness of his tone, belies his words. Seokjin doesn’t know what it is about Jeongguk that grabs so much of his attention. He doesn’t know what pushes him to challenge him like he is about to do. What he knows for sure is that he wants for this idea to be fulfilled and for their collaboration to bring the fruits he thinks it will.

“Then what is it?” he asks deceptively soft. He makes sure to keep his eyes firmly on the younger man when he adds: “Afraid?”

For the first time since he entered Seokjin’s office, Jeongguk’s expression shifts. He scowls openly at Seokjin. It’s quite effective and strangely endearing.

“Of what? This is corporate business. It’s… dull,” he says. Seokjin waits for the ‘no offence’ to be tacked in after that but it never comes. He hears Yoongi chuckle lightly and truth be told, he’s not offended. He wants to laugh too.

“Are you afraid you’ll get bored?” Seokjin pokes. For some reason, he wants to ruffle his feathers and see how far he can push before Jeongguk snaps.

“Not so much afraid as convinced,” Jeongguk replies, his tone the equivalent of an eye-roll.

“What Guk means is that we’re not really the cover story type of journalists,” Yoongi explains.

“I understand but this isn’t so much a cover story as it is an opportunity,” Seokjin advances.

Jeongguk scoffs. “For you.”

“Well, obviously but let’s not pretend this isn’t a golden opportunity for your small publication and one step forward in your career.” Seokjin smiles quietly watching his words sink in. The kid has the most expressive face he’s ever seen. At the corner of his eye, Seokjin can see Hoseok trying to hide a grin behind his hand. He carries on, eyes steady on Jeongguk’s. “You’re good. I’ve read a few of your articles. You’ve got bite and your writing is gripping,” Seokjin pauses to watch the way Jeongguk narrows his eyes at him, already anticipating the ‘but’. On anyone else, the expression might look frightening, bordering on dick territory but it’s clear to Seokjin that Jeongguk is now hundred percent focused on him. “But you’re still young and you’ve chosen a difficult career.”

Jeongguk purses his lips. “Like you?” he asks, mocking.

Seokjin can’t help but smile. “See? We can meet in the middle, us suits and you journalists.”

Jeongguk averts his eyes and chews on his bottom lip again. Those secret dimples appear and they’re even more disarming from this distance. He turns his eyes back on Seokjin. They’re sharp but the light in them is no less clear.

“Full disclosure?” he asks.

Namjoon clears his throat pointedly before Seokjin can speak. Ignoring the interruption, he smiles serenely at Jeongguk. “I have nothing to hide. The company has nothing to hide.”

“Boring,” the reporter drawls and suddenly the air is lighter. Seokjin might be a little giddy.

“We’ll see,” he smiles and he refrains from pointing out that Jeongguk is smiling too.

They put together a schedule, mainly for the couple of photoshoots Yoongi has in mind. He and Namjoon bounce a few ideas off of each other and Seokjin likes what he hears.

“Do you have a designated stylist?” Hoseok asks Jeongguk.

“Nah. The magazine has a few on rotation but Yoongi hyung and I generally work with Park Jimin.”

“Oh! He’s good,” Hoseok says approvingly.

They agree to start next week and the meeting ends soon after. Before leaving the office, Jeongguk throws one last look over his shoulder at Seokjin who waves. The small smile on Jeongguk’s lips leaves Seokjin feeling impatient.

“So?” Namjoon asks. He’s generally quiet during meetings, choosing to observe instead of actively participating.

“I liked Yoongi’s leather jacket,” Hoseok pipes up, making Namjoon laugh.

“Of course you did.”

“I have a good feeling about this,” Seokjin reveals. He’s kind of buzzing with renewed energy, to be honest.

“Yeah? Me too,” Namjoon agrees.

 

*

 

With a sharp instinct for business, a way with words and the work ethic our grandparents think millenials have forsaken, Seokjin could have chosen to be anything from a lawyer, to a doctor or even take over his father’s empire. Instead he chose to turn to the unknown, the unexpected with the notion of changing things. Naïve? Perhaps but certainly not out of his grasp. As I’ve learned during my short time amongst his team, you’d be a fool to bet against him.

 

 

The first ten days of the assignment, Seokjin barely sees Yoongi and Jeongguk. He catches glimpses of them in the hallways or by the coffee machines sometimes but Taehyung is always whisking him away before he can do more than greet them. They settle into the ranks of the company little by little. From his assistant’s reports, they spend a lot of time with Namjoon and the rest of the staff. They monitor the audition process while Seokjin travels to New York for a meeting with a few labels and when he comes back they’ve moved to interviewing the employees. Taehyung says, somewhat smugly, that they managed to snag a few minutes of his dad’s time as well as a couple of board members’. From what everyone is saying, everything has been going rather smoothly, uneventfully even.

Sometimes, he catches sight of Jeongguk having coffee with Taehyung. Their heads bent together, shoulders shaking with laughter as they watch something on either of their phones. Seokjin notices that Taehyung has a thing for thumbing at Jeongguk’s earlobe while the younger man has a thing for hitting Taehyung. They seem comfortable together and Seokjin doesn’t necessarily like what it invokes in him.

Hoseok, despite spending most of his time with Yoongi, can’t seem to stop gushing about Jeongguk.

He’s so polite, hyung!” “He has the most endearing laugh!” “He clearly respects Yoongi hyung deeply. They’re so in sync and they work really well together. They’re so cute!” “He brings coffee to the staff most days and he knows everyone’s names and orders.” “I just want to pinch his cheeks sometimes but he looks like he could throw me all the way to America if I tried

Seokjin has a feeling Jeongguk wouldn’t.

He enjoys hearing these titbits but he’d like to be the one collecting them, truth be told. Obviously, when they agreed to this, he knew that Jeongguk would be spending more time with the people who make the company run, the people who are at the heart of the action rather than with him. Seokjin’s work involved too much paperwork, too many audition tapes, too much maths. ‘Dull’ Jeongguk called it and for the most part, he wasn’t wrong. He enjoys it though, the grind of it all. Letting his mind wander different possibilities and exploring all the ways he could bring success to the company, even if it was by spending hours on the phone with banks. It’s all part of the job, little pebbles on the path to triumph.

His favourite part of the day has always been his end of the day recaps with Namjoon. He enjoys his time spent with Namjoon in general, likes who Namjoon is, from his abysmal coordination to his sound advice and his instincts for music. He’s ambitious and focused, wise and funny, clumsy and awkward, kind and direct, too prone to get lost in his own thoughts but always ready to support the people working with him.

After two weeks of the journalists shadowing them, Namjoon finally gives his opinion on the matter. That’s how he always works; he likes to sit back and watch and come to a conclusion based on facts and experience. It’s a proven method that’s been beneficial in the past.

They’re sitting on the floor of Seokjin’s office. It’s late enough that no one is here to comment on the fact that they’ve taken off their jackets and ties. Seokjin went as far as taking off his shoes. The empty cartons of their late dinner are on Seokjin coffee table and there are dozens of pictures spread between them. They’ve been reviewing candidates for most of the evening and they’ve managed to make a shortlist. They’ll have to forward it to Hoseok who’ll investigate further.

“Yoongi doesn’t fuck around,” Namjoon states quietly. “His vision is clear and precise but he’s not against discussing it with you and taking your word into consideration. I like it,” he says with a nod. “I like him, actually. He’s good guy from what I’ve seen.”

“You’ve seen his work?”

Namjoon nods. “Just a few pictures so far. Auditions and the staff milling about,” he pauses to smile down at one of the picture on the floor. “A few pictures of Hobi hyung, too,” he says with just enough suggestion in his tone to make Seokjin laugh.

“Hoseok won’t shut up about the leather jacket.”

“It’s a good jacket,” Namjoon concedes. Seokjin smiles but it suddenly falls when he voices his next question.

“It’s not going to be an issue, is it?”

Namjoon looks sharply at him. He takes his time replying, lacing his fingers over his lap. “Something may happen but I doubt either of them is dumb enough to do anything before the story is released. Or at the very least not get-,” he stops abruptly, probably sensing the way Seokjin’s shoulders froze instinctively. Namjoon throws an apologetic glance at him. “Uh, I mean,” he starts again but Seokjin waves a dismissive hand.

“Not get caught,” he finishes for his friend. “Don’t worry, Namjoon-ah.” He smiles reassuringly, patting the younger man’s arm.

There’s a pause where Seokjin determinedly focuses on the present and Namjoon frowns guiltily down at his hands.

Seokjin squeezes his arm again because he really doesn’t mind and to bring him back to their conversation.

“What about Jeongguk?”

Namjoon pulls out his ryan lip balm and applies it as he hums thoughtfully. He then rubs at his lower lip, possibly looking for the right words. Namjoon is always so careful with words, especially when it comes to labelling other people.

“He’s definitely harder to pin down. Yoongi is not very talkative either but he’s more approachable than Jeongguk is, in a way.” Seokjin nods for him to continue. “He’s full of contrasts. Quiet but always full of energy, can’t stand still for the life of him. He has a thirst for knowledge like I’ve rarely seen before and he’s quite good at what he does but he doesn’t like having it pointed out,” Namjoon hesitates then before backtracking. “Well, he doesn’t like it when people think it comes naturally to him. He works hard and he wants people to acknowledge that. He’s also more ambitious than the both of us combined.”

Seokjin exhales quietly and smiles at his friend. “You seem to have him pinned down alright,” he drawls.

“He’s just very interesting. He’s smart; asks great questions and listens to people when they talk. Actually listens.”

“Seems like good qualities.”

“Indeed. He just doesn’t actually talk all that much. Or at least not to me,” Namjoon says sadly.

“He’s not here to open up about himself,” Seokjin points out and Namjoon nods.

“I know. There’s something about him, though. You want him to open up. You want to get to know him,” he explains further and Seokjin understands. He only had two full conversations (if you call the equivalent of a verbal duel a conversation) with Jeongguk and Seokjin had enjoyed them so thoroughly, he hadn’t wanted them to stop. There’s something stimulating about his doe eyes and the mischievous glint in them.

“And that face ! I wish he’d audition,” Namjoon says with a grin.

“You said the same thing about Taehyung.”

“I stand by it.” They laugh together.

“So, the interviews are going well, then?”

“The staff seems to enjoy them. He’s managed to put them at ease,” at Seokjin’s raised eyebrow Namjoon chuckles. “I know, I know. He was rather off-putting with you.”

“I wouldn’t say off putting.”

“A brat then?”

“Definitely that,” he grins.

“Yeah, well, you must be special because he’s been nothing but pleasant and well mannered with our employees.”

“That’s a relief, I was afraid having reporters around might be an additional source of stress.”

“He’s a good one,” Namjoon nods.

“Hoseok is ready to adopt him,” Seokjin comments idly, unwilling to voice his own thoughts on the man. They wouldn’t be founded on facts anyways since he hasn’t properly worked with him yet.

“Hoseok has good instincts,” Namjoon rightfully points out. “Don’t worry too much. Having them here was a good idea; I’m kinda mad it wasn’t mine,” he grins, dimples winking at Seokjin, who laughs.

That night he goes home with his mind at ease. He might not get a chance to sell his work, present his vision, directly to Jeongguk but his team, his friends all seem happy with the choices he’s made so far. That’s enough for him.

The next Monday, he takes a break from paperwork to join Namjoon in auditions. Soon, the both of them will have to leave the process to a casting team and a couple of other producers (Park Chanyeol, Zhang Yixing, Kang Seulgi and Park Sunyoung all seem eager to take on more responsibilities) and they’ll also need to hold auditions all over the country but they agreed that they should be in charge of the formation of the first group.

They debated for a while about whether to put together a boy or a girl group for their debut act. It’s Taehyung who finally suggested that if they wanted to make goal clear, gender fluid and transgender artists would be a good way to start. After all, their whole spiel is to do the unexpected and shake things up.

“Be bold,” Taehyung said with his signature boxy grin.

Seokjin agreed and Namjoon loved it. The board significantly less but it was Seokjin’s company, his money. There wasn’t much they could say or do. The process has been rather difficult but they anticipated it. They both thrive on challenge anyways and it’s that much more rewarding knowing the people who will be chosen might have gotten the opportunity to do what they love and be true to who they are.

When he gets to the audition room he finds it almost empty but for Jeongguk, sitting alone at the table with what appears to be a sketchbook in front of him. The pencil in his hand is flying over the page, his tongue is peaking out from between his lips and the beanie is firmly in place. Today, he’s wearing a low-necked t-shirt that reveals a bit more of his tattoo. It’s definitely a flower, a lotus.

Seokjin looks down at his watch and realises it’s almost 1 P.M. He forgot about lunch again.

“Hello,” he calls. Jeongguk startles, dropping the pencil. He smiles when he sees Seokjin. After their meeting in his office, Seokjin worried their working relationship might be tense; Jeongguk had been less than pleased that day. His worries have been for naught, apparently. Jeongguk is much more cordial than he was that day and he always has a smile ready for Seokjin.

“Seokjin-ssi! I’m glad to see you,” he says as he twists sideways to look at him.

“You are?” Seokjin asks as he settles beside him. He wants to take a look at whatever Jeongguk’s sketching but he knows it wouldn’t be polite.

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Tae all morning. I want to schedule your first interview but I can’t get a hold on him.”

“Taehyung is always going, like the most efficient and social butterfly.”

“I know. Even during our university days, I could only catch him in the early mornings,” Jeongguk smiles again, softer this time. He has lovely teeth, Seokjin thinks stupidly.

“You went to university with Taehyung?”

“We were roommate my first year.”

“That’s nice.” He means it. The idea of Taehyung and Jeongguk both having someone to look out for them is reassuring.

“So? When do you want me?” Jeongguk asks and Seokjin suddenly wants to swallow.

“Um… I’m booked for most of the week,” he starts apologetically. He looks down at his watch again. “We could do it now?”

Jeongguk shakes his head, the light glinting off the industrial in his left ear. “Audition will start again in about five minutes.”

“I suppose you need more than that.”

“Definitely.”

“Alright. How about you drop by my place tomorrow evening? I’ll cook you dinner and you can grill me then.” It’s a little inappropriate but in his defence, his schedule is pretty packed and he doesn’t think he’ll have time in the next ten days to dedicate to Jeongguk. Uh, Jeongguk’s interview, rather.

“You cook?” he sounds and looks more than a little sceptical.

“There you have it: your first fact about me,” Seokjin beams.

Jeongguk chews on his bottom lips and leans over the table. He rests his head on his hand and gazes at Seokjin. “That’s not the first fact I learned about you.”

Seokjin leans back in his chair and crosses his arms. He looks sideways at the young journalist, not even remotely surprised. Of course he’s done his research.

“Oh yeah?”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath and rattles off: “Kim Seokjin. Born on the fourth of December 1992 in Gwancheon. Sagittarius. The younger of two siblings. Your older brother is a surgeon, he’s married with two kids. You went to business school in New York and you minored in drama which means you’re practical but you have a creative side to you. You speak five languages fluently: Korean, English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. You’re gay but you haven’t been romantically linked to anyone since the 2013 scandal. You work with your friends, or more accurately, your co-workers become your friends. You don’t read books, you prefer audio books but you read The New York Times, The Seoul Time and The Korea Economic Daily. You play tennis –badly-,”

“Hey!” Seokjin interrupts affronted.

“ golf; well enough -,”

“I’m amazing, I’ll have you know!”

“ and snowboard, rather impressively, for someone so old,” he laughs no doubt at the flush on Seokjin’s cheeks.

“I can’t believe this kid!”

“I’m not a kid,” Jeongguk corrects.

“Yeah, well, I’m a great tennis player.”

“Definitely not,” Jeongguk snorts. “Taehyung showed me videos.”

Seokjin groans and Jeongguk smiles down at his sketch, picking up his pencil to play with it. When he looks back up at Seokjin, there’s teasing glint in his eyes but there’s something behind his smile; something expectant and questioning that Seokjin recognizes and relates to. Jeongguk wants approval; Seokjin would recognize that yearning beast anywhere.

“That was impressive,” he says with a nod and enjoys the way Jeongguk’s eyes light up. “Just because I wasn’t linked to anybody doesn’t mean I wasn’t with anyone, though.”

He doesn’t know why he chooses to comment on that part.

Jeongguk huffs a laughs, more breath than sound. “Is this on the record?”

“Come by my place tomorrow and we’ll see.”

“I like lamb,” Jeongguk replies.

“Noted.”

His eyes fall to the sketchpad involuntarily. Jeongguk follows his gaze and shrugs.

“Helps me relax,” he says. “Sometimes sketching someone tells me more about who they are than interviewing them does,” he explains. His voice is quieter, like he’s revealing something he didn’t really mean to.

“That’s an interesting approach,” Seokjin remarks lightly to hide the fact that Jeongguk might be one of the most intriguing person he’s ever met. Jeongguk looks up, eyes round and bright. He smiles gently before motioning for Seokjin to come closer and take a look at his drawing. The breath is knocked out of him as he sees Namjoon, laughing with a hand over his mouth and his eyes squeezed shut with mirth. The sketch is incredible; filled with details that only people with the keenest eyes or who have known Namjoon for a long time could have picked on.

Seokjin can’t look away. He almost reaches out to touch it, feel if it’s as warm as it looks.

“Namjoon hyung-,”

“You call him hyung?”

“Don’t interrupt,” Jeongguk narrows his eyes. Seokjin huffs in response but soon after they grin at each other. Jeongguk clears his throat and carries on, “Namjoon hyung is, according to your employees, a very hard working and serious person. Prone to accidents, they’ll complain with a rueful smile but always bend over papers. Work, work, work. He worries a lot,” Jeongguk says softly, casting a quick glance at Seokjin, waiting for confirmation.

“He does,” Seokjin agrees quietly.

“But hyung is also very soft and, um, sweet. He has one of those laughs that make you want to laugh with him. He has a very bright smile and when it shines through, which it does more often than people pay attention to, the people around him seem to lighten up,” he finishes quietly. Seokjin looks at him, at loss for words. Jeongguk clears his throat and brings his fingers to the back of his head, pulling the beanie down further. Seokjin blinks, following the movement with his eyes.

“That’s more than most people know about him,” his voice comes out rather unsteadily.

Jeongguk shrugs and looks quickly at him before returning his eyes to the pad. “I like layers. Namjoon hyung is all layers.”

Seokjin nods, grinning appreciatively. He observes him for a little while: counts his piercings (eight), traces the visible lines of his tattoo (which appears to have colour in it) wonders if he’s got more under his clothes and follows the angles and curves of his jaw line and his nose.

God.

Fuck.

He swallows harshly. “Not so bored, huh?” he taunts to ease his mind away from his own scrambling thoughts.

Jeongguk turns a blinding smile toward him. The deep creases by his eyes are charming beyond belief.

“Haven’t interviewed you yet so no,” he shoots back.

“Aish, this kid, I swear!” Seokjin shakes his head and he’s rewarded with Jeongguk’s laughter for the first time. It’s high and bright and loud and it makes warmth spread inside Seokjin’s chest.

Fuck.

God.

 

*

 

Seokjin looks at you with his big brown eyes, talks in a clear voice that captivate audiences easily and speak words that, while not necessarily original, are still irrevocably his own. His view of the world is as clear as anyone will ever get but instead of being weighed down by the reality and gritty mess of the norms and conventions, Kim Seokjin shakes them off his back and stands proud and eager for a better world, secure in his conviction that it can change, if only we allow it.

 

 

Tuesday evening, Seokjin opens his door to find Jeongguk holding a bottle of wine and his head bare. The beanie is nowhere to be seen and his soft hair is styled so that his forehead peaks from between the parts of his bangs. The sight of the curls catches him so off guard that he doesn’t immediately notice Jeongguk’s white crisp button down or his black slacks.

We match , Seokjin’s useless brain supplies.

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.

“No sketchpad?” he asks in greeting, voice surprisingly steady despite his dry throat.

“Don’t be weird,” Jeongguk rolls his eyes and that’s enough to pull Seokjin out of his stupor. Jeongguk hands over the bottle, his movements stiff. “I wasn’t sure which you preferred,” he says putting his hands in his pockets. He looks good enough to earn his own magazine cover. Who is Jeon Jeongguk and where does he get off looking this good?

“Red is fine,” Seokjin mumbles as he steps aside. “Please, come in.” Jeongguk does and then makes a quick work of unlacing and taking off his converses.

“Smells good,” he comments once he’s straightened up.

“It’ll be ready in a few moments,” Seokjin replies. They look at each other in Seokjin’s hallway and it’s awkward. It’s all so… formal, which is as it should be but Seokjin doesn’t like it. “Would you like to wash your hands?”

“Yes, please,” Jeongguk nods stiffly. Seokjin leads him to the bathroom. “Take your time. The kitchen is just down this hallway,” he points and Jeongguk nods again, his hair almost falling into his eyes.

When Seokjin returns to the kitchen he focuses on the stews and tries his very best not to dwell on shoulders or thighs or hands. They’re all of limits and so is Jeon Jeongguk.

He reappears just as Seokjin finishes chastising himself. The look on his face can definitely be qualified as strained. Seokjin is really not a fan of awkward interactions; even less so when he’s the one responsible for them.

“Look, this was definitely a weird thing to suggest and you’re clearly uncomfortable. I really won’t mind if you want to bail.”

Jeongguk’s eyes are trained on him, focused and assessing.

“I’m not uncomfortable.”

“Are you sure? Because we can do this another time, somewhere else. I’ll have Taehyung cancel one of my meetings tomorrow.”

Jeongguk shakes his head quickly; a small, unconscious gesture that makes him look younger than he is. It’s very cute.

Jeon Jeongguk is very cute.

“I’m here now and I’m hungry,” he says with a reassuring smile. “Besides, as much as I love inconveniencing Taehyung, I wouldn’t want to mess with his perfect time table.”

Seokjin pulls a face. “God, no one wants that.” Jeongguk smiles easily and it settles around Seokjin shoulders, loosening them. “Okay,” he says clapping his hand and smiling a little too. “It’s ready.”

“Can I help?” Jeongguk asks but he shoes him away. “It’s fine, it needs to sit for a bit anyway and the table is already set up. Let’s start with the entrée.”

Seokjin leads him to the dining room and when they pass through his living room, Jeongguk stops to look at the view out the window. Seokjin waits for him at the side, not sure what to say, not sure what Jeongguk’s thinking. Somehow, the man’s opinion became important to him and he really doesn’t want to come off as just another rich kid with a penthouse view. He settles on watching the moon reflect on Jeongguk’s face, the cut lines of his shoulders and the curve of his arms.

“Nice view,” Jeongguk comments idly.

Yes, Seokjin thinks. Nice view.

They settle on opposite side of the table and Jeongguk doesn’t waste any time pulling out his recorder and pressing record. He pulls out his phone and puts it on mute before turning his attention on Seokjin. He looks suddenly very serious and it makes Seokjin want to say something dumb.

“What’s the worst thing about throwing a party in space?” he asks. Jeongguk throws him a funny look, brows drawn together. “You have to planet!” Seokjin finishes, laughing loudly. Jeongguk’s face goes blank and he bites on the inside of his lower lip. “You want to laugh, don’t you? I know you do!” Seokjin points a finger accusingly. Jeongguk loses the battle and bursts out laughing, carefree and delightful.

“I’m a comedic genius; there’s another fact for your list.”

“You’re really not. It’s just your face, Seokjin-ssi,” the younger man counters, his shoulders still shaking.

Seokjin scoffs. “My face is perfect.” That seems to be enough to calm Jeongguk who looks down at his prawn salad with a soft smile. “You can call me hyung, by the way.” Jeongguk looks surprised when he returns his gaze to him. “If you can have dinner at my apartment and laugh at my stupid jokes, we can move past the formalities.”

Jeongguk nods. “This dressing is really good. Where did you learn how to cook?”

“Mum would cook for us on the weekends because it was the cook’s days off. I’d help out sometimes.”

“Why?”

“I love food. I’ve always loved eating and cooking helps me relax. I’m too busy to be social but I like to have dinner parties on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries,” he explains. He tilts his head to the side and studies the journalist. “Why? Did you think I learned with Michelin chefs or something?” he taunts with a smile.

Jeongguk shakes his head, eyes serious. “I’ve learned not to assume things. People surprise you if you let them and I really like surprises.”

Seokjin serves the lamb and the more they eat and drink, the easier it is to make conversation. Namjoon was right: Jeongguk is smart. Clever, even.

He starts with a seemingly inconspicuous question, something simple and meaningless, to put Seokjin at ease but he’ll efficiently steers him towards more dangerous waters. Before he knows it, Seokjin is revealing more about himself than he thought he would. And the kicker is that Seokjin is thoroughly enjoying their conversations. It doesn’t really feel like an interview.

He goes from talking about his university days in a strange country, his first car and the family dog to his relationships with his family, how he built the company around a vague idea he had in university. How he managed to finance it all.

“It’s my money,” he says as Jeongguk finishes the last of the lamb. “I’m a really good investor.”

“I thought you father held shares,” Jeongguk says before wiping his mouth with the hand towel at his disposal.

“I wasn’t against using my father’s name as a guarantee. The Kim name is very well respected after all but that’s as far as my father’s involvement goes. Well, that’s not entirely true; the JHC headquarters is one of my father’s buildings but he’s got so many of those, he didn’t really mind handing that over.”

“You really don’t mind people assuming your father is meddling with your business?”

Seokjin takes a sip of his wine and ponders the question. “I kind of hate it actually but not because of my father. He’s not meddling and there’s no resentment on my part. I’m not the cliché spoiled brat who’s desperately trying to win daddy’s approval.”

“Not even a little?” Jeongguk scrunches his nose and Seokjin can’t help but chuckle.

“Well maybe a little,” he amends and Jeongguk smiles. “I loved working for my father. It’s what I always wanted to do. I have no issues working with him now. Truth be told, if his money and his name help me build something that will have a positive impact on society, I can deal with people pulling the nepotism card to poke at me. What matters to me are the results; I can’t control what people think of me.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a fortune cookie fronting as a businessman,” Jeongguk teases and Seokjin glares. “I’m serious, though. You’re not quite like any businessman I’ve ever met.”

“Because you’ve met so many of them?” Seokjin raises an eyebrow.

“I’ve met plenty of people with plenty of stories to tell,” Jeongguk answers, taking a sip of his wine, a small smile dancing at the edge of his lips. There was something so captivating about him. He was like a magnet field, pulling at Seokjin until he had no choice but pull in return.

“How? You’re just a baby,” he says with a laugh and Jeongguk narrows his eyes.

“Yes because at the ripe age of twenty-eight, you’re positively ancient!” he drawls back.

“Didn’t you call me old just yesterday morning?”

“I did but only because I like riling you up. You get all red and you start talking really fast. It’s…. uh, it’s cute,” he admits and Seokjin feels warmth bloom inside him like a field of flowers in spring. He watches Jeongguk look down at his empty plate, smiles at the way his nose twitches a little in embarrassment.

“Yoongi was right to call you a brat,” Seokjin comments and he laughs when he sees Jeongguk rolls his eyes. He casts a glance at the recorder on the table and straightens up. Watching him get back in the zone and focusing is quite enthralling.

“You really think your company, your business,” he accentuates, “is going to have a positive impact in the grand scheme of things?” he asks curiously.

“Maybe it will, maybe it won’t,” Seokjin shrugs. “I’m just hoping to leave the world a bit better than I found it. Look, I know I come off as an idealist or naïve or even strange to some extent but I’m aware of my position in the world. I was born to privilege and power. Yes, I could have gone into finance and made myself richer. I could’ve followed my father’s footsteps, taken over his empire and have the same days every day for the rest of my life,” he stops to take another sip of wine and doesn’t look away from the reporter whose eyes are following his hands. “Or I could’ve lived a life of leisure and given money to charity every once in a while to lighten up my conscience.”

“But?”

“But! I want to work. I want to leave a mark. I want to matter.”

“So it’s not completely selfless,” Jeongguk remarks.

“Never said it was. Doesn’t mean I can’t be the change I want to see in the world.”

Jeongguk’s face scrunches up in disgust. “A Ghandi quote? Really, hyung? That’s so gross and overdone.”

“You think I’m hilarious, admit it.”

“I think you’re really lame,” Jeongguk counters with a straight face, eyes dancing in the dim light.

“You like my cooking, though.”

Jeongguk nods and looks down at his plate again. “I like the company, too,” he says softly. It does disturbing things to Seokjin’s insides.

“I did too.” And it’s true. The conversation might have been a tad one sided but Jeongguk is witty and sharp, a good listener as well; Namjoon was right about that too.

“Desert?” he offers.

“Sure. I still have a few questions and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Nonsense,” Seokjin waves the comment away. Jeongguk insists on clearing the table so Seokjin makes a quick work of plating the fondant au chocolat à la mode. When they’re back at the table, Jeongguk picks up where they left off.

“The day of the conference you said that the standards imposed on us are not a reflection of our society. Could you elaborate on that?”

Seokjin takes a bite of cake and mulls the question over, not wanting to say anything unwise. Jeongguk mirrors him but once the fork passes his lips, his eyes widen.

“Is everything alright?”

Jeongguk nods slowly. He chews for a bit and then he eyes roll to the back of his head.

“Fuck,” he says, voice low. Seokjin’s mouth dries at the sound and the use of profanity. “This is so good, hyung! Did you make it?”

Seokjin manages to produce a smile. “Yes. It’s my speciality.”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply, still completely absorbed in the cake and making obscene noises. Seokjin can’t decide if he wants to run away or feed him the rest of the cake. With his fingers.

Shit.

“Do, uh, do you want me to leave you alone with the cake?”

“Yes. Go fetch the rest of it and then leave,” he answers tone serious and eyes twinkling.

“Don’t you have an interview to finish?”

“Interview? I can’t even remember my own name,” Jeongguk says bringing another bite to his lips, refusing to break eye contact.

The room is suddenly too warm for Seokjin.

“Something about unrealistic standards.”

“Right! I remember now! Your idealistic views on modern society,” Jeongguk teases, mouth full of chocolate cake.

Seokjin glares. “It’s not idealistic; it’s all based on lots of research I did. People, and not just in South Korea but all over the world, people are ready for things to change.”

“So what? Are you going to ban diets?”

“I’m not going to impose anything on anyone. I want my groups to be healthy and happy.”

“Some believe that to rise up you have to make necessary sacrifices,” Jeongguk counters before scooping a bit of vanilla ice cream.

“Your health should not be one of them.”

“You’re going to make yourself a lot of enemies in the industry,” Jeongguk says.

Seokjin shrugs, aware of what’s ahead of him. “It doesn’t scare me. I want success, I want change but I won’t sacrifice my own principles for them. I have a responsibility on these young people I’m going to recruit. They’re putting their faith and future in me; I have to protect them and I have enough power to do so.”

Jeongguk appraises him for a while, fondant forgotten.

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“I do, yes and I know a lot of other people do too. I think it’s time that they get the representation they deserve. If my small company can do that, then I’ll be happy.”

Jeongguk nods and when he smiles at Seokjin, his lips a deep pink stretched over his bunny-like teeth, it centres him.

“Your team consists mainly of young people. Was that a deliberate choice or is it because you are young yourself?’

“Yes and no. I think that there are too many older people in charge of these businesses and it’s important to give younger people a chance, as well, you know? However, it wasn’t really about their ages but more about their competences, really.”

“Aren’t you afraid people won’t take you seriously if you don’t surround yourself with people who have more experience?”

“If I based all my decision on what people thought of me, I’d never get out of bed. I trust in my team. It took me a while to put it together and I’m sure you’ve seen by now that they’re hard working, good people. They deserved to be given a chance.”

“God, you’re so wholesome, it’s so annoying,” Jeongguk comments before clicking off his recorder.

Seokjin laughs. “More cake? Coffee?” he offers when the silence has stretched for slightly too long.

Jeongguk hesitates before groaning and rubbing his belly. He shakes his head regretfully. “It’s getting late and I have all of this to transcribe,” he says grabbing his recorder and pocketing it.

Seokjin’s stomach sinks in disappointment but he doesn’t protest.

Five minutes later, Seokjin is alone again in his apartment and feeling lonely in it for the first time ever.

*

 

JHC (Jin Hit Company) is a small enterprise, the building tucked away in a part of Seoul that’s too crowded with businessman to be of note. It employs less than thirty people and its first days were slow and uneventful. With diligence and focus however, the new machine started to work at full speed. Under the leadership of Kim Seokjin and his number inclined mind, and Kim Namjoon, wise beyond his years and invested in every aspect of it, the company flourished quite extraordinarily. It wasn’t making revenue yet but the team, the people, blossomed into the most impressive tree. Under Seokjin’s gentle guiding hand, his attentive ear and his steely certitude in his endeavour, his employees committed to the company like one would commit to winning a war.

 

 

The Thursday of the same week, the first photoshoot takes place. The week leading up to it was abuzz with barely contained excitement. Namjoon invited every employee who was comfortable with the idea of exposure to join them. Jisoo and Taehyung had to hire several makeup and hair artists while the magazine took charge of renting an old warehouse that would be “aesthetically pleasing” as Yoongi had put it.

Taehyung and Seokjin are the first ones to arrive at the venue just before 6:30 that morning. Taehyung is bleary-eyed and visibly nervous, chewing on his lips and sipping his coffee like it’s the only thing keeping him sane.

“It’s going to be fine,” Seokjin reassures, putting an around his shoulders. Taehyung smiles gratefully at him before pouting a little.

“I’ve never done this before, hyung!” he says before taking another sip of his latte.

“With a face like yours, it’s truly a tragedy,” Seokjin says and coos when Taehyung blushes. “Don’t worry. These things are pretty boring actually. Lots of waiting around. The pampering is nice, though.”

“I wonder what kind of clothes we’ll have to wear,” Taehyung muses.

“According to Yoongi, Park Jimin likes soft clothes with just a bit of edge to them.”

“I’m really nervous,” Taehyung admits with another pout.

Seokjin taps his friend’s chin with a finger and smiles at him. “Keep those for the shoot, eh,” he advises making Taehyung laugh a little. “You don’t have to be nervous. It’s just Yoongi. You like Yoongi.”

Taehyung finally grins, eyes bright. “He’s very funny.”

“Who’s funny?” someone asks from behind them and when they turn around, they find Namjoon, eyes barely open, hair dishevelled and wearing joggers.

“Did you just roll out of bed?” Taehyung asks.

“Absolutely. Who’s funny?”

Seokjin points at Yoongi who just came through the door, carrying several bags of equipment and with a small dog at his heels. Taehyung coos.

“Don’t let him hear you say that. He doesn’t do well with compliment,” Namjoon says with a rueful smile. That seems exactly what Taehyung needed to hear.

“I’m going to shower him with compliments until he blushes,” he announces.

“He’s more likely to threaten to murder you,” Namjoon quips but it falls on deaf ears. Taehyung is already halfway to the photographer before Namjoon has the time to finish his sentence.

For the next half hour, Seokjin and Namjoon watch as their employees slowly trickle in, coffee in hand and hair messy. Jeongguk arrives around seven, bright-eyed and already filled to the brim with energy. He waves at them before bounding over to Yoongi. He shoes Taehyung away and sets to work with his partner. Taehyung leaves them to it, cackling at Yoongi’s red cheeks and carrying Yoongi’s dog under his arm.

“Careful with her,” Yoongi yells after him. Taehyung merely nuzzles into her fur.

“Sooooo,” Namjoon says over the lid of his coffee. Seokjin frowns at him. “I heard you had dinner with Jeongguk,” his tone is a bit too casual.

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “Don’t say it like that,” he reprimands.

“Like what?”

“Like it was…. something. It was just an interview.”

“At your place.”

“Yes.”

“At night.”

“My schedule is packed.”

“You cooked,” there’s definitely a teasing edge to Namjoon’s tone now.

“I like cooking.”

“Mhm.”

“Shut up.”

Namjoon chuckles and they fall quiet afterwards, watching their team get their hair and makeup done. By the looks of it, Hoseok has probably already charmed the girl doing his makeup. He sees Chanyeol laughing so hard watching Jisoo balance a bottle of water on her shoulder that he falls on the floor. Taehyung is fleeting from person to another, offering water bottles and reassuring everyone. Yugyeom and Jongin are sitting on the floor playing with Yoongi’s dog. On the set, Jeongguk finishes setting up the lights for Yoongi and when they’re done, Yoongi gestures for Jeongguk to take place against the white backdrop. It must be something they do often, because Jeongguk acquiesces without complaints. Yoongi takes a few shot and says something that makes Jeongguk laugh really loudly, his knees giving away a little, his head thrown back. The strong column of his neck exposed to the flashing light of Yoongi’s camera.

Namjoon nudges him suddenly and Seokjin tears his eyes away from the journalist to his friend.

“The stylist is here,” he says mentioning with his chin to where a man with lavender hair, insanely tight jeans and a black turtleneck his bowing to Jackson. He mentions for his team to set up at the other side of the room and turns to appraise the place. When his eyes land on them, he starts to make his way over. At first glance, he looks intimidating. Despite his small stature, there’s something powerful and hungry in his graceful strut. The combination of well fitted clothes, sunglasses and confidence is riveting. Seokjin is kind of mesmerised.

If Seokjin thought the stylist was pretty before he was up close and smiling at them, it’s nothing compared to after being confronted to the most gentle smile he’s ever seen. There’s something almost vulnerable in the shyness lurking in his eyes when they greet him. He bows respectfully and they return the favour. Seokjin throws a quick look at Namjoon who’s basically gaping at the smaller man.

“Hello,” he says voice soft. “I’m Park Jimin and I’ll be your stylist for the day.” Seokjin can’t be sure but he’s willing to bet flowers bloom every time this man opens his mouth. Before either of them can say anything, Taehyung appears behind Jimin’s shoulder.

“Hyung, Chaeyoung needs you for makeup,” he says to Namjoon who nods at them and leaves. Seokjin barely pays him any mind, more interested in the way Jimin’s demeanour changes the moment he hears Taehyung’s voice. His eyes widen, his mouth goes slack and he stops playing with the silver hoops attached to his jeans. He slowly turns around and when he faces Taehyung, the latter drops the water bottle he was holding. Taehyung’s already naturally big eyes almost fall out of his skull with the force of his shock.

“Excuse me,” Jimin says faintly and scurries away.

“My, that looked dramatic,” Hoseok says coming to stand beside Seokjin. “What did I miss?”

Taehyung is too busy gawking after the stylist to pay them any mind. Seokjin brings his hand to the younger man’s chin and gently pushes his mouth closed. Taehyung blinks several times and swallows audibly before looking at them.

“So, uh, funny story. Remember the guy I had sex with in a bathroom stall at the club?”

“You never mentioned a bathroom,” Seokjin says.

“The one with the pretty face and the great ass?” Hoseok asks. Taehyung nods slowly and all three of them turn to look at Jimin who’s now talking with Yoongi and Jeongguk. Jeongguk looks over Jimin’s shoulder at Taehyung and tilts his head sideways. He grins suddenly and says something that has Jimin punching his shoulder.

“That is a great ass,” Hoseok whistles.

“Don’t look at his ass!” Taehyung protests.

“You’re the one who brought it up!” Hoseok fires back even if that’s not technically true.

“Don’t look at him at all, oh my god!” Taehyung wails and tries to cover Hoseok eyes with his hands which leads to a scuffles as Hoseok cries about his makeup and hair.

“This whole cover story situation turned out way gayer than expected,” Seokjin mutters.

“Speaking of which,” Hoseok says giving a final push to Taehyung before heading for Yoongi. Jeongguk breaks into a smile when he sees him approach and Hoseok starts doing one of his silly dances. He’s jumping from side to side while beaming and Jeongguk joins him. Yoongi watches this unfold with the softest smile one his face.

Seokjin isn’t faring much better.

“You don’t really need me here. I’m just going to go home,” Taehyung says voice dazed. Seokjin levels him with a look and Taehyung deflates. “Fine but I’m hiding behind you for the rest of the day. Put those broad shoulders to good use.”

Seokjin scoffs and pushes him towards the craft table. “Make yourself useful and go grab me some fruit.”

“Dicktator,” Taehyung grumbles but does as he’s told.

Once everyone’s makeup and hair is done Jimin and Yoongi gather everyone.

“Hello, everyone. I’m Park Jimin,” next to him, Seokjin hears Taehyung whimper. Seokjin looks around himself and notices that Taehyung is not the only having a crisis over the stylist. He's pretty sure that’s drool on Chanyeol’s chin. “Yoongi hyung and Gukkie have told me a bit about your company. They said that you’re very much like a family,” he says with a soft smile. Seokjin’s eyes fly to Jeongguk who’s already looking at him. He quickly averts his eyes but he smiles down at the floor until one of his secrets dimples appear. Seokjin’s next breath has to fight to escape from his tight lung.

“They told me that they’ve enjoyed working with you not only because you’re all professional and have been very welcoming but because you’ve quickly made them feel at home in your midst. Truth be told the more they told me about you guys, the more I wanted to work with you too. So I’m quite delighted to be here,” Jimin says with a brilliant smile, looking straight at Taehyung for one moment too long before bringing his eyes to someone else. Seokjin can’t be sure but he thinks he see a glint of metal on his tongue.

“Breathe,” Hoseok whispers on Taehyung’s other side and when Taehyung does, it’s loud and ridiculous, sounding more like an agonized sigh than anything else.

Jimin blushes but carries on. “So instead of putting you all in suits and gowns,” he continues but gets interrupted by Yoongi.

“Boring,” he drawls, making several people titter.

“Exactly! We’re just going to have fun and keep it simple. Instead of focusing on what you do, we’ll focus on who you are; individually and as a group.”

“Define fun,” Namjoon asks.

“That thing you’ve never had,” Yoongi says with a smirk and Hoseok shrieks with laughter.

Jimin slaps Yoongi’s arm and turn one of his blinding smile to Namjoon. “Microphones, coordinated outfits, spotlights, bright t-shirts. Nothing too drastic, don’t worry.”

“Sometimes the simplest concepts bring the most exciting results,” Jeongguk says.

“Who’s the fortune cookie, now?’ Seokjin teases and Jeongguk pulls a face.

Jimin giggles lightly and claps his hand twice to bring everyone’s attention back on him. He puts his arm around the woman standing next to him.

“This is my very lovely assistant, Lalisa,” the redhead waves, her smile huge and sincere, if a little shy. “She’s going to help me fit you into your clothes. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to come to me.”

“We have to be out of here by seven tonight so try not to have too many concerns,” Yoongi says making several people laugh.

“Ready?” Jimin asks and everyone nods. “Let’s go, then.”

“He’s quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Taehyung exhales. Seokjin looks at Jeongguk and wants to argue that statement but he swallows his protest and follows his team towards the stylist station.

The rest of the morning goes by in a blur. They start with the group shots. Lalisa passes them all cardboard microphones and Jimin puts them in school uniforms. They all have too much fun pretending to be Idols. Namjoon monitors the shots on Yoongi’s laptop when the first round of pictures is taken and he looks satisfied. Seokjin relaxes.

While they change for the next shots, Seokjin sits with Min Holly, the dog. He absently pets her while he watches Jeongguk sketching Yoongi and Jimin at work. Sitting on a chair, his feet on another, pad resting on his knees and that stupid beanie fixed on his head, he looks small and young. Seokjin feels the urge to pull the beanie off and muss up his hair. Or maybe grab his hand and make him come play with him and Holly.

When Jeongguk looks up, his eyes land on Seokjin and he smiles. He tilts the pad so that Seokjin can catch a look of his drawing. He’s bit too far away to clearly see the details of the sketch but he recognizes Taehyung laying the floor with huge tears leaking from his eyes while Jimin bends over to tie his shoelaces.

Seokjin bursts out laughing causing Holly to bark. Jeongguk grins one of those big smile that eat most of his face.

“What’s so funny?” Namjoon asks suddenly standing between them.

“Nothing,” Seokjin and Jeongguk reply at the same time. They wait for Namjoon to move on before smiling at each other again.

The shoot continues well into the afternoon with different change of clothes, of backgrounds and of accessories. Under the careful and gentle guiding of Jimin and Yoongi’s steady voice, the team loosens up until everyone is laughing more easily. They lose the stiffness caused by the nerves and instead relax and let themselves enjoy the experience. Seokjin knows he and Namjoon put together a great team; he trusts them and relies on them because he knows they do the same. However watching them all together today, comforting each other, supporting each other and helping each other out makes him feel lucky. It makes him want to move forward and like he can do anything as long as he has these people with him.

It’s also very interesting watching Yoongi, Jimin and Jeongguk work together. Yoongi works like he does everything else: quietly. His moves fluidly from one spot to another, his words of encouragement are soft and earnest. Jimin’s focus is piercing and intimidating but his input is invaluable and one smile from him is enough to put everyone at ease. Jeongguk can’t stay put for longer than two seconds. He pulls out his own camera and starts taking pictures of the people around the set or the craft service table or the dog. He helps Jimin’s team put away clothes and cleans up after everyone. He chases Holly around and lets her jump on him, cackling softly. More than once, Seokjin catches him doing push ups. The kid doesn’t know how to relax.

The three of them work together like they’ve known each other forever. A simple glace from Yoongi will have Jimin adjusting Taehyung’s collar (there was definitely lingering touches and too much blushing involved). Yoongi will extend a hand and Jeongguk will know to pass him another camera without being asked. Jimin will purse his lips and Yoongi will change the model’s positions until Jimin nods. There’s an ease between them that Seokjin recognizes from his own interactions with Hoseok, Namjoon and Taehyung. They work well together but more than that, they like each other. Jeongguk will stand behind Jimin for a quick hug, or Jimin will throw his arms around Yoongi when the older man frowns for too long, or one look from Yoongi will be enough to send Jeongguk laughing.

It’s nice. Today is a good day.

“Okay people, last turn. Individual shots,” Yoongi shouts.

Jimin and Lalisa shepherd them towards the temporary changing cabins and hand them each a simple white t-shirt and black jeans.

“What about shoes?” Jisoo asks.

“We’re doing without for this one,” Jimin says.

“He’s my soulmate,” Taehyung whispers to Seokjin. When he turns to look at his assistant, he has stars shinning in his eyes. Seokjin shakes his head, feeling terribly fond.

The two of them are the first changed so they make their way to Yoongi and Jeongguk who just finished changing the backdrop; this one is a deep red. Jeongguk’s smiling face drops when he catches sight of them.

“What? Do I have something on my face?”

“No. It’s just. You’re wearing jeans,” Jeongguk says like it’s a personal offence. Seokjin looks down at the black jeans and frowns. He’s about to ask what’s wrong with jeans when there’s a flurry of barking coming from the other side of the warehouse. They turn to find Jimin rolling on the floor with Holly, laughter chasing her barking.

“Oh god,” Taehyung breathes, one of his hands coming to rest over his heart. “My heart just handed its resignation letter.”

Yoongi smirks. “Jimin is more of a cat person, usually.”

“I don’t care. I’ll adopt all the cats in the country.”

“Have you even spoken to him today?” Seokjin asks.

There’s a pause. They all turn to look at Taehyung who’s dropped his head into his hand. “I told him that he has cute ears,” he mutters through his fingers.

Another pause. And then the three of them laugh so hard that Jimin looks around at them and frowns in confusion. Taehyung waves shyly and Jimin returns the gesture with a small, albeit still confused, smile.

“He has nice ears. Shut up! They’re small and they turn red when he’s nervous or shy. It’s cute,” Taehyung defends.

“I believe you,” Seokjin says solemnly, shoulders still shaking. “Does he have a tongue piercing or did I imagine that?”

“Yes,” Taehyung sighs, eyes gone hazy, lost in memories probably.

“It’s really cool,” Jeongguk nods. “I’ve been thinking of getting one as well,” he adds conversationally.

Seokjin averts his eyes and spends the next thirty seconds squashing any images his brain comes up with. It’s possible he’s too gay to deal with Jeon Jeongguk.

It doesn’t take long for the rest of the models to be ready. The team all take a turn posing for Yoongi and when Jimin comments on Taehyung’s model like proportions and how he should consider wearing skinny jeans more often, Jeongguk laughs so hard at Taehyung’s shocked expression that he falls off his chair.

Yes, today has been a good day.

 

*

 

Kim Seokjin believes in good vs right. He believes that in order to achieve something good, something that will last and leave a positive impact; you have to work hard and make sacrifices. He believes in the daily grind and paperwork and numbers. He believes in going to the gym early in the mornings and drinking decaf. Kim Seokjin is not one for routines. He believes in change and surprises. He has a spacious office but would rather work on Kim Namjoon’s office floor. He likes cheap, greasy food as much as he likes cooking and packing healthy lunches. He works best if there’s music blaring from his speakers and every once in a while, you’ll hear his assistant, Kim Taehyung, playing the saxophone poorly because he knows it’ll make his boss laugh. Kim Seokjin believes in hard work but he’s insistent on making it rewarding and fun for everyone around him. The week I spent working in his office has been, if you’ll pardon the sentiment, quite remarkable.

 

 

The week after the photoshoot, Yoongi and Jeongguk shadow Seokjin.

They sit in the back of the room while the final rounds of audition take place. The last fifteen contenders are all in one of the dance practice rooms going over choreography with Yugyeom and Yixing. Neither Namjoon nor Seokjin have any qualification when it comes to dance but this stage of the process is not about technicality but rather about stage presence, endurance and chemistry. Yugyeom has already given them the names of the better dancers but if they base their choices on talent alone, the group will not stick.

Seokjin is so used to having Yoongi and Jeongguk strolling down the hallways of the company that it feels strange having them sit with him and watch him. Yoongi has other assignments and, as he says himself, he doesn’t need to be here every day so it’s usually just Seokjin and Jeongguk. Although he’s seen Yoongi holed up in Hoseok’s office to know that Yoongi’s excuses are just that: excuses.

Seokjin is used to working in teams, used to spending most of his days with either Namjoon or Taehyung so having Jeongguk shouldn’t be a bother.

Except it is.

Jeongguk has taken residence on the small couch in his office. It’s not unusual to find his notes sprawled on the coffee table, he has two laptops, and his camera and recorder are never too far away from him. It’s not so much that he’s messy or that he’s infringing on Seokjin’s space it’s more that Seokjin is already dreading the days when he won’t be there anymore.

He brings coffee and muffins to Seokjin every morning, he has really good taste in music and he knows when to distract Seokjin from worrying too much. Jeongguk is all action, no talk. He’s quiet but loud in so many other ways. He’s comfortable in his own skin and quite confident but he’ll smile shyly at Hoseok when the PR agent will compliment his outfit. He bullies Seokjin into buying lunch but he’ll insist on going to pick it up and he’ll always clean up afterwards. He stays late with Seokjin, reviewing his own work, typing away on one of his laptops while he chews on his bottom lip. He’s got loads of little habits and mannerisms that are annoying beyond belief but even as he complains Seokjin knows he’ll end up missing them.

When he got the idea of involving Jeongguk and Yoongi in the birth of his company, he didn’t realise the deep impact they’ll have, not only on his professional path but his personal life too.

He’s come to associate the first weeks of JHC’ with Jeongguk’s smile and he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to get past that notion. He realises this one evening as they’re both working on opposite sides of Seokjin’s office. The silence is only broken every once in a while when Jeongguk asks him a question. They’re all rather random, often just to check something from notes he’s already taken but Seokjin doesn’t really mind. He enjoys the break in the monotony.

He’s in the middle of sending an email to his father when he hears it. It’s soft at first, nothing more than a couple of notes but it’s enough to pull him away from his work. He glances over his computer screen at Jeongguk whose fingers are flying over his keyboard. It’s silent for a couple of seconds before he starts humming again. It’s light and soft but Seokjin recognizes Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel . The potential trainees had to dance to it today and Seokjin wants to laugh because he’s had the song stuck in his head all day. The humming quickly turns to actual singing and liquid heat swirls in the pit of his stomach. Jeongguk’s voice is amazing.

“You sing?” he can’t help but ask.

“Sometimes. I took lessons when I was younger,” Jeongguk says with a shrug.

“You’re good.”

“Thanks.”

Jeongguk gets this look on his face when anyone offers him a compliment. His whole face melts into something soft and shy and he becomes even quieter. Every time Seokjin has been subjected to the look, he’s had to restrain himself from reaching out and squeezing the back of Jeongguk’s neck.

“Why didn’t you pursue it professionally? You could have.”

Jeongguk shrugs again. “It was the plan but then I joined the high school paper and I loved it too much to stop.”

Seokjin crosses his arms over his desk and appraises the younger man. “Do you regret it?”

“Not really. I mean, there’s always the eternal what if question, right? But we’re all plagued by those. What if I’d become an idol instead of a journalist, though? Who says I’d have been happier then? I’m happy right now, doing this. I don’t really have regret. Just… more like wistful thinking sometimes,” he says and it’s the most he’s ever talked about himself. Seokjin doesn’t want him to stop. “I used to have a hard time expressing myself. I was really bad with words. At least the spoken ones. Writing has opened up a lot of doors for me, gave me opportunities I couldn’t imagine,” he pauses to smile down at his hands. When he looks ack up, his trademark cheeky smile is back in place. “Besides, I was really shy when I was younger. I don’t think I could have been at ease with so many strangers vying for my attention.”

“All the girls would have loved you,” Seokjin says because he can see it. Jeongguk would have been a gold mine; with that face, that voice and his body. He’d have been one of the greatest Idols.

“Or guys,” Jeongguk says casually. Too casual not to be deliberate and pointed.

Oh.

“Yeah,” Seokjin nods. He knows.

Later that day, when everyone’s gone home and the only people left in the building are the cleaners, the security and Namjoon, Seokjin goes to seek his friend. He leans on the doorjamb and they exchange a long look.

“He sings,” Seokjin says and it sounds very much like the admission it is.

Namjoon cups his face in one of his big hand and leans his elbow on his desk. He looks at Seokjin for a long moment before smiling.

“Well?”

“Like an angel,” Seokjin says. Namjoon’s dimples deepen.

“What else?”

“He’s annoying,” Seokjin huffs. Namjoon raises an eyebrow. “Is it weird that I barely know anything about him and yet I know him?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “Not weird.”

Seokjin slumps a little against the door, feeling like his insides have been lit up and then twisted to form new shapes inside of him.

“He’s annoying,” he insists and this time Namjoon laughs.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to miss him too.”

Seokjin’s heart gives a lurch at that. This was not in the plan.

 

*

 

Kim Seokjin fills a skirt like no one ever has before.

 

After a series of email between Seokjin, Jimin, Hoseok and Yoongi, the theme for the second and final photoshoot has been chosen. It’s not so much a theme as it pushing back against gender norms. Men will wear corsets, fishnets, chockers and skirts, women will wear suits, ties, waistcoats and smoke cigars while gender fluid people will do whatever they want.

Seokjin gathers his employees and explains to them that this photoshoot will probably raise eyebrows and reassures them that anyone who’s uncomfortable with the idea doesn’t have to participate.

He’s grateful and delighted to see everyone there the day of the shoot. Everyone except Jeongguk who has taken a day off for personal reasons. Seokjin pretends he doesn’t care.

This time around they stay at the JHC headquarters and Min Holly isn’t around to put everyone at ease but there’s less tension in the air. This isn’t their first rodeo and they’re on their turf.

Jimin and Lalisa arrive around 7 and the sight of their exuberant smiles only serves to brighten everyone’s mood.

“Hello, everyone,” Jimin calls. “Missed me?”

“Yes,” Taehyung sighs.

“Don’t start,” Yoongi says from where he’s slumping against Hoseok.

Jimin blushes but ignores them in favour of turning back to the rest of the room. “Today’s going to be fun,” he promises.

And it is. Jimin and Lalisa are a bit swamped so the team has to help get everyone ready. They work quickly and efficiently but there’s giddiness in the air, something cheery and celebratory. Compliments and catcalls are thrown across the room. Everyone is either on the verge of or actually laughing. Everywhere he looks around there are smiles.

He’s wearing a pink silk blouse with a long skirt and a choker. At his feet he’s wearing bright pink doc martens. The shock of seeing himself in the outfit was quickly replaced by appreciation; he feels light and powerful at the same time.

Yoongi has to leave the room when Hoseok struts in with his skirt and fishnet combination. Hoseok looks positively smug as he watches a blushing Yoongi pretend he forgot something in his car. Namjoon looks amazing in his corset.

“Damn, Joonie,” Seokjin says appreciatively.

Namjoon dimples, smile still just this side of shy. “You don’t look half bad yourself,” he replies. “Wait until you see Taehyung though. Lalisa literally had to peal Jimin’s hands off of him.” Seokjin shakes his hand. “He said something about Taehyung’s nose mole being the cherry on the top of a perfect sundae and I swear Taehyung looked like he was about to propose. Or maybe pass out,” they’re both laughing by the end of Namjoon’s sentence.

Taehyung comes in not five minutes later, wearing a short-sleeved leather crop top, red skinny jeans and high heels. His eyes are heavily made up but Seokjin is sure the flush on his cheeks is not artificial. He strikes a pause just at the entrance of the room and everyone cheers. His eyes are dark, his lips pouting perfectly and his hair wavy. He looks like he was made to be photographed. He drops the act quickly though, he softens his pause, waving at everyone to stop shouting and grins shyly. He walks over to them, steps sure despite the high heels.

“How in the hell are you able to walk in those?” Namjoon asks.

“I’m a man of many talents,” Taehyung winks before changing his mind and making his way towards Hoseok. Both Namjoon and Seokjin have to tear their eyes away from his long legs.

Like last time, they do group shots first, then individual ones and since there are no wardrobe changes, they’re done by lunchtime.

“Okay I’m going to head to the office, send some of these to Jeongguk, see what he thinks,” Yoongi says after he’s done putting his equipment away. “I’ll have the final mock up ready by the end of the week.”

“Final mock up?” Seokjin says, now back in his usual suit and tie.

“Well, we’re basically done now,” Yoongi explains. “I read Jeongguk’s first draft last night. All we need now is these bad boys,” he says patting his camera bag, “and to confer with the magazine.”

“Just like that?” Namjoon asks.

“We’ve been on your asses for over a month now. Thought you’d be glad to see us go,” Yoongi laughs but his smile drops when he sees the identical chagrined looks on their faces. “Don’t give me those looks,” he warns pointing at them. “God, you’re worse than Gukkie.”

“I can’t believe it’s been month already,” Namjoon says.

“Don’t look at me like that!” Yoongi turns around only to turn right back to offer, “Wanna get ice cream?”

“It’s lunchtime,” Seokjin feels the need to point out.

“So?” Yoongi shoots back which. Fair.

“Aren’t you going to change?” Seokjin asks Namjoon.

“Nah,” he replies, waggling his eyebrows. The three of them grin at each other before leaving the room, shoulders knocking together.

They have ice cream for lunch, Yoongi pays and Seokjin pretends nothing’s missing.

 

*

 

It’s not every day you get the chance to work with a group of people that make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. It’s probably naïve to think that every employee of JHC will work under Seokjin until they retire but it’s definitely the feeling their tight knit bond inspired in me. Or maybe I was left with the hope that they would all make it, that they’ll reach their goals; that under the leadership of their idealist CEO they would indeed change the world, even if it’s only one song and one group at a time. One thing’s for sure, I’ll remember the time I spend with these people for a very long time.

 

 

Yoongi emails them the final mock up a weeks later. Seokjin is disappointed when he realises that there are only pictures and the blank spaces left around them are reserve for the article. Yoongi confirms that the issue will be on stands in early November. Just around the time JHC will start disclosing information about their first group; G-Flo.

During their weekly meeting, Seokjin projects the pictures to the rest of the company.

“It looks so good,” Taehyung says with a please smile.

“Is it me or is there way more Hoseok hyung than necessary,” Yugyeom quips and Hoseok glares at him.

“We should do something for them,” Jisoo says.

“Yes!” Hoseok agrees immediately.

“I thought we could have a little get together at the end of the week, invite them and also Lalisa and Jimin,” Seokjin says.

“Yes!” Taehyung all but yells.

“Good idea,” Namjoon says as he makes a face at Taehyung’s volume.

“Pizza?” Chanyeol prompts.

“And chicken,” Jongin says, because of course.

“Done and done,” Seokjin says.

“Can we have fruit soju, too?” Taehyung pleads, bringing his hands together.

“Yes fine, now let’s get back to work,” Seokjin says and they do.

By Friday, the dance practice room is turned into a buffet and everyone has forgone their work clothes for a more casual wear. Taehyung plugged in his phone in the sound system and his ‘groovy oldies’ spotify playlist is playing softly in the background.

Jeongguk and Yoongi are surrounded and drowned in hugs and cheers as soon as they arrive. Seokjin doesn’t really blame his team, they’ve been gone for almost two weeks and the office hasn’t really been the same without them. Some days, Seokjin can’t bear to look at the damn couch in his office. He’s considered changing it too many times to count.

He watches as Hoseok and Yoongi hug for longer than is deemed appropriate and then Jeongguk is standing in front of him and he suddenly feels like a long hug is definitely required.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk grins, smile as big and lively as he remembers it.

“Brat,” Seokjin replies. There’s a pause and Seokjin thinks it would be the perfect time to hug him but Jeongguk moves to lean on the wall behind them and the moment is gone. Seokjin follows suit, they stand close enough that their shoulders brush. He can’t helps but want to lean more into Jeongguk and really feel the sturdiness of his body.

“So how does it feel to be finally free?” he teases instead of doing just that.

Jeongguk chuckles slightly and throws him a soft smile. “I don’t miss that awful couch of yours, that’s for sure,” he says.

“Oy! You weren’t complaining when you were taking your naps, were you?”

“My back still hurts, hyung,” Jeongguk says grimacing.

“Why didn’t you find another spot then?”

“Ugh, effort,” he pouts. His face softens quickly though and his lips tug up in a tiny smile. Seokjin can’t tear his eyes away from the tiny mole on his chin. “The company wasn’t completely awful.”

“Not completely, huh?”

Jeongguk looks at him for a heavy beat and shakes his head. “Not completely,” he confirms softly.

They’re interrupted by Yugyeom who has something important to show him on the other side of the room so Jeongguk lets himself be dragged away. He throws an apologetic smile at Seokjin along the way and once there, he can’t keep his eyes away from Seokjin for very long.

The room is too warm again.

“I’d chide you for staring but he’s doing a terrible job of pretending he’s not doing the same so I’ll refrain,” Taehyung says, suddenly standing where Jeongguk was a few minutes ago.

“I don’t pay you for this kind of commentary,” Seokjin huffs. He sips on the beer he forgot he was holding when Jeongguk and Yoongi arrived.

“No that’s why you befriended me,” Taehyung grins. Seokjin almost threatens to fire him again when there’s sudden movement by the door.

“Jimin!” Chanyeol yells happily.

“Lalisa!” Chaeyoung and Jisoo cry at the same time.

Taehyung takes in an unsteady breath. “He’s here.”

Seokjin swallows a laugh. “There’s something I have to tell you,” he says before taking a nonchalant sip of his drink.

“You’re giving me the next month off with full pay so I can dedicate all my time wooing him?” Taehyung tries, eyes still trained on Jimin who is going around hugging everyone.

“Well if you take time off, you won’t actually see him,” he trails off meaningfully.

Taehyung turns his big baby eyes on him, mouth gone slack. He grabs Seokjin’s wrists and uses it to pull himself closer. “Now is really not the time to joke,” Taehyung says.

“I should tell you, I don’t approve of inter-company relationships,” Seokjin says, trying to keep a serious face but failing miserably. Taehyung pretends to cry for a few seconds before shrugging and grinning mischievously.

“I’ll quit,” he announces.

“Ungrateful brat,” Seokjin puffs.

“He’s my soulmate. You’re just my boss. I’m sorry but the rule of the universe win out in this case,” Taehyung shrugs.

Seokjin’s mouth drops open in outrage. “I thought you were my friend.”

“All’s fair in war and love,” Taehyung says.

“Go before I fire the both of you,” Seokjin laughs, pushing the younger man towards Jimin.

He uses the respite to take a look around the room. The six members of G-Flo are huddled together near the buffet. They look like they’re having fun but having only been officially part of the company for ten days, they’re still hesitant to reach out and hang around the staff. Seokjin hopes things will be easier in the future. Just as the thought forms, Jisoo and Jongin bound over to them and start a conversation that soon has all of them laughing. Soon after, Yugyeom, Jeongguk and Seulgi join them and Seokjin’s worries lessen with every burst of laughter coming from that side of the room.

The evening stretches on; groups of people mingling and changing as the night progresses. At some point, Jimin challenges Jeongguk to a dance battle which of course turns into a war that even Seokjin, Namjoon and Yoongi get roped into. The food disappears quite rapidly and so do the soju and the beers. It’s almost midnight when people start leaving. Yoongi is the first to say goodnight as he drags a giggling Hoseok behind him. G-Flo return to their dorm, waving and bowing at everyone as they go. The rest of the team follows them, yelling their goodbye and thanking Seokjin for the food and the booze.

After dancing around each other all night, Jimin and Taehyung look at each other across the room for one suspended, heady moment before slowly making their way to the door together.

“Oh god,” Namjoon says from where’s he’s slumped at the table. “That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” he moans after they leave.

“I don’t know. They seem to really like each other,” Seokjin says.

“They do,” Jeongguk says mournfully. Seokjin turns a questioning look at him. He’s sitting besides Namjoon, legs spread apart and head resting on Namjoon’s shoulder. “They’ve been texting me non-stop about each other. If they don’t fuck tonight, I’m breaking my phone in half and shoving each part down their throats.”

Namjoon and Seokjin burst out laughing at that. “I think after tonight, you won’t have to worry about it,” Namjoon drawls and Jeongguk mutters a very distinctive ‘Thank God!’ Namjoon falls asleep on the table, with his head resting on his arms. Without speaking, Seokjin and Jeongguk start cleaning up.

“You don’t have to,” Seokjin feels the need to say.

“I don’t mind,” is the quiet reply. They work quietly for a while, the only sound in the room being Namjoon’s snores.

“So, how come you’ve never been linked with anybody since, you know, the scandal?” Jeongguk says the last word with a roll of his eyes. The question catches Seokjin off guard. Maybe because they’ve been quiet for a while. Or because no one has ever asked him that, not in such a straight forward manner anyways. Or maybe because it’s Jeongguk and talking about his love life feels a bit too dangerous.

“I thought the article was done,” he says instead of replying.

“Oh this is just personal curiosity. I never planned on talking about your private life in the article,” Jeongguk says as he throws away the last empty pizza box.

“Why not?”

Jeongguk stops and looks at him. “I figured it was nobody’s business.”

“Isn’t it your job to get into people’s business?”

“Maybe for other people. I’d rather focus on what matters. I’m sorry hyung but your sex life is not that interesting,” he says with a smirk.

“And yet here you are, asking about it.”

“I never said it wasn’t interesting to me.”

Seokjin stops short, breath caught in his chest. He resumes picking up empty cups and focuses on the movements of his hands instead of looking at Jeongguk.

“There’s been guys along the way. Nothing too serious though. After the scandal, I wanted to keep a low profile.”

“Why? I thought your parents were okay with your sexuality?” Jeongguk says. The fact that he’s keeping his tone light, helps Seokjin relax, but only slightly.

“They were but what happened back then… it kind of scared me. Changed me too. I really loved Sandeul but our relationship couldn’t survive a couple of trashy articles? I don’t know, I guess I’ve become disillusioned,” he can hardly believe he’s talking about it let alone so earnestly. With anybody else, he’d feel bare but right now, glancing at Jeongguk who’s watching with those big eyes of his, it feels more like sharing. “And anyway it’s not like I have the time for anything serious. I barely have friends; I can’t accommodate a boyfriend right now.”

“You have friends,” Jeongguk protest.

“I know I do but sometimes it feels like I tricked them into it and any day they’ll wake up and realise I’m a fraud.”

Jeongguk stops moving and shakes his head, quickly. “You’re the realest person I’ve ever met,” he says softly. Seokjin freezes, his heart suddenly beating too heavily and too loudly. “I’ve spent a lot of time with your people, Seokjin-ssi. They would all lay down their lives for you if you asked them too. And it’s not because you sign their pay check or because you’ve offered them a job when nobody else would have looked twice at them. It’s all you, hyung.”

Seokjin doesn’t know what to say, everything inside him frozen and too warm all at once. He dislodges his tongue from the roof of his mouth and clears his throat. He says the first stupid thing that comes to mind:

“Taehyung threatened to quit if I didn’t let him date our newest employee. Like four hours ago.’

Jeongguk laughs. “That was his dick talking. I’m sure if he heard you say what you told me tonight he’d…. well, he wouldn’t hit you because that’s not really his style but he’d definitely hug you until you stop saying dumb shit like that.”

“True,” Seokjin smiles, feeling quite overwhelmed.

“What about you Jeon Jeongguk? Any scandal in your past? Any misconception about yourself?”

“Scandals? Not really. I’m a pretty boring guy,” he replies.

“That’s definitely a misconception,” Seokjin cuts in.

“It’s the truth. I’ve always been too busy writing about others to live my own life.”

“It’s never too late to start.”

Jeongguk smiles a little before rolling his eyes. “Such a fortune cookie,” he complains.

“It’s called being wise, you asshat,” Seokjin shoots.

“That’s just another word for old, hyung.”

“This is how you treat me, after I fed you for a month?”

“I’m just telling it like it is.”

Seokjin shakes his head and resumes cleaning, a soft smile still playing at his lips. While Jeongguk puts away the sound system, Seokjin wakes up Namjoon and walks him to one of the empty dorms where he sleeps most days.

“Thanks, hyung,” Namjoon mumbles sleepily. “I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Seokjin smiles as he tucks him in. “Good night, Joonie.”

When he gets back to the practice room, Jeongguk has put his jacket back on and is waiting for Seokjin at the door.

“Thanks for helping,” he says. “You really didn’t have to.”

“It was no problem,” he shakes his head. He fidgets a bit, scuffing the toe of his timberland on the floor and playing with the sleeves of his jackets. He clears his throat, sniffling a little. It’s all these little things that make Seokjin want to gather him up and keep him close. He’s going to miss this awkward bunny so much. “Uh. I really enjoyed my time with, um, I mean here. I really like it here,” he says finally locking eyes with Seokjin.

“We liked having you here,” Seokjin says before stepping forward and embracing him. Jeongguk melts into him, wrapping his strong arms gently around Seokjin’s waist and resting his chin on his shoulder.

“I’ll see you around, yeah?” Jeongguk asks.

“I’ll see you,” Seokjin confirms as he lets him go.

Jeongguk turns on his heel and walks down the hall without looking back.

Watching him go, Seokjin feel like he’s not living much these days either.

 

*

Most of all though, I think Kim Seokjin’s company will prosper because he is at its head. Kim Seokjin is brave and caring in a world where cowards and selfish people win too often. We need his brand of idealism and compromise to see change. It might take a long time, and he might face failures but after spending time with him and his team, I have faith that they’ll always get right back up. I look forward to watching them do just that.

 

 

“A package for you,” Taehyung says as he strides into his office one morning in late October.

“Put it with the rest of the pile,” Seokjin says without looking away from his computer.

“I think you’ll want to open this one right away,” Taehyung insists, deposing the package over Seokjin’s keyboard. “That’s Yoongi hyung’s handwriting,” he adds with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh. Thanks,” he says surprised.

“It’s what I’m here for,” Taehyung sings as he exits the office.

He hasn’t seen either Yoongi or Jeongguk since that night. Jimin invited him to his birthday party ten days ago but Seokjin was stuck at the office and had to decline the invite. The next Monday, the rest of the team was buzzing with stories about Jeongguk dancing and Yoongi kissing the daylight out of Hoseok.

Seokjin ignored the pang he felt and kept his head down. He still couldn’t look at his stupid couch without wanting to pull out his phone and dial Jeongguk number to ask him to join them – him – for lunch or maybe come by his place; he’d bake the fondant again. Every time he unlocked his phone to do it though, something kept him from actually doing it.

The package is an unwelcome reminder that Seokjin is, deep down, a coward.

He unwraps it and finds a copy of the November issue of BTS Magazine. On top of it, a simple note written in Yoongi’s scrawl:

Hyung,

Got my hands on a copy and I thought you should be the 1 st to get it.

Working with you and your team has brought only good things to my life.

As a thank you, I send you something.

Yoongi

P.S: he missed the second photoshoot because the idea of seeing you in

a skirt was too much for his lil’ gay heart

P.P.S: if Hobi asks, I never got involved.

 

On the cover, Seokjin and his Team stand with their arms wrapped around each other, everyone wearing a simple white t-shirt and black jeans. The headline reads:

The birth of a revolution

Seokjin’s vision is suddenly blurry with tears.

He opens the magazine and inside there’s picture tucked between the cover and the first page. Seokjin pulls it out with trembling fingers. He blinks several times and takes a deep breath to calm himself. It’s a picture of him and Jeongguk taken during that week he and Yoongi were shadowing Seokjin. He remembers the moment it was taken but he doesn’t remember Yoongi taking it. Jeongguk was showing him a video of a bunny fainting after coitus. In the picture Seokjin is red in the face from laughter, looking down at the phone. His hand is a bit blurry because the shot was taken while he was slapping his knee. Jeongguk however is watching Seokjin, face softer than he’s ever seen it.

He looks at the picture for a long time, unable to stop looking for details and wanting to carve it into his memory. After a while though, the magazine pulls his attention again. He spends the next half hour reading and re-reading it, each word infusing his heart with warmth, pride and love. He reads it again, focusing on the pictures and the people with whom he’s building a new home.

He stopped wiping away the tears fifteen minutes ago.

Jeongguk’s writing is usually so caustic and griping, Seokjin didn’t expect this piece to be anything but drenched in biting realism. This article’s tone is completely different from anything he’s ever read from the young man. It’s infused with warmth and sentimentality. It’s full of hope and well wishes. It’s everything Seokjin has been secretly hoping for.

He wipes away his tears, washes his face in the adjacent bathroom, drinks a bit of water and then heads to Namjoon’s office with the magazine tucked safely under his arm. When he gets there, Hoseok is sitting across from Namjoon.

“Hi, boss,” he chirps but his smile falls when he sees Seokjin. “Is everything alright?”

“Yes,” he replies handing over the magazine.

“Where did you get that?” Hoseok asks clearly surprised.

“Yoongi.”

“I’m his boyfriend! I should’ve gotten that first!”

Seokjin ignores that. “Read it.”

They do. Hoseok pulls a chair next to Namjoon and both of them read the article. When they’re done, Namjoon closes the magazine and they both pause for a moment. Seokjin bites at his fingernails and waits for them to speak.

“Oh,” Hoseok says, chin trembling a little.

“Mhm.” Namjoon confirms.

“I think I fell in love with him,” Seokjin says.

“When?” Namjoon asks but not accusingly, not even curiously, but in that he does when he wants to get Seokjin talking.

“Somewhere between his provocative questions at the press conference and that time he told me he told me he didn’t have regrets for choosing to be a journalist instead of a singer. He’s so. God, he’s so impressive. Every time I’m around him, I just want to watch him do things or listens to him talk or just watch his face change expressions. He’s got the most expressive face I’ve ever seen. He’s kind of a brute but he’s not mean and he can be so gentle and soft,” he sighs, passing a hand over his face. He leans forward, elbows on his knees and lets his head hang low. When he looks up, his friends are waiting patiently for him to continue. “I feel alive when I’m with him. He’s been like an electric shock to my soul. And now, I miss him so fucking much, it’s awful.”

“You say that like there isn’t a simple solution to your problem,” Namjoon says.

Seokjin looks at Hoseok. “You’re my PR guy. Tell me to nip this in the bud.”

Hoseok scoffs. “Fuck no. I’m sorry, hyung but I’ve been waiting years for something like this to happen to you.”

“This is going to be terrible for business,” Seokjin groans.

“I don’t know if you’ve notice but I’m really good at my job,” Hoseok counters, voice haughty. “I knew what I getting into when I joined your ragtag team of gays.”

Seokjin huffs out a tired laugh.

“I don’t have time for a boyfriend,” Seokjin tries.

“Yes, you do. You just choose to spend your life here,” Hoseok counters.

Seokjin open his mouth to speak again but closes it quickly. He’s ran out of excuses.

“Hyung,” Namjoon calls his attention on him. “Call him. You said you wanted change, well, change always starts with yourself. Be brave. Be happy.”

Seokjin exhales shakily.

“That was very good, Joonie,” Hoseok says draping an arm over his shoulders.

“I have my moments,” Namjoon smiles.

On his way back to his office he passes in front of Taehyung’s desks who waits for him with his hands under his chin.

“In case you need a final push,” he says gravely but with stars dancing in his eyes, “he got drunk last week and spent the evening babbling about your shoulders, your lips and your eyes. He also never shuts up about that one meal you cooked him and he’s got all the pictures Yoongi took of you saved into a file on his computer labelled JHCute.”

“How do you know what’s on my mind?”

“Thin walls,” Taehyung replies, pulling a face.

Seokjin sighs. “He’s probably going to kill you for telling me all this.”

“We signed an NDA when I started working for you so nothing said between these walls can leave,” Taehyung says straightening up.

“You signed the NDA,” Seokjin points out.

“Semantics,” Taehyung waves one of his hands.

“Who’s the boss again, here?”

“You are, of course,” his voice is sweet and his smile too big to be anything but fake. Seokjin scowls before going back to his office.

As soon as the door closes behind him, he pulls his phone out of his pocket and before he can think better of it he calls Jeongguk.

“Hello.”

The sound of his voice is enough to infuse a storm of nerves and warmth into Seokjin’s veins.

“Hi, this is Seokjin. Is this is a bad time?” he can hear traffic in the background.

“I know who it is, hyung,” Jeongguk chuckles. “Um, a little. I’m late to a meeting,” Jeongguk replies.

“Okay I won’t keep you long, I was just wondering if you were free for dinner tonight?”

“Yes, I’d love to come see the team.”

“No, I meant, at my place.”

There a slight pause before Jeongguk asks: “Just us?”

“Just us,” Seokjin confirms.

“Okay,” Jeongguk exhales and Seokjin can hear the smile in his voice.

“See you tonight?”

“See you tonight.”

 

A few hours later, Seokjin is putting the final touches on his black bean noodles when his doorbell rings. He turns off the stove before heading for the door. He takes a calming breath, tries to steady his hands and his heart before he pulls the door open.

Jeongguk is wearing a soft black sweater under a leather jacket, with dark blue jeans ripped at the knees and a pair of burgundy doc martens. He smiles at Seokjin who’s momentarily stunned speechless.

“Hi,” Jeongguk says when Seokjin has been silent for too long. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“Yes of course. Sorry. Come in.”

He hands his jacket over to Seokjin and like the last time he was here, Jeongguk makes a quick work of taking of his shoes. This time when he straightens up however, he doesn’t put his hands in his pockets nor does he look awkward. No, this time, Jeongguk steps towards Seokjin and keeps walking until Seokjin is backed against the door. He brings his hands towards Seokjin’s waist but doesn’t put them on him.

“Can I touch you?” he asks softly. His eyes are a stormy dark, the usual stars replaced by raw hunger.

“You want to?”

“I’ve been dying to put my hands on you from the moment I met you,” Jeongguk confesses. Seokjin’s knees suddenly feel unreliable. He swallows before answering.

“You can touch me.”

Jeongguk slowly brings his hands to Seokjin’s waist. Even through the fabric of his shirt, they feel like a pair of brands. They both exhale loudly when Seokjin squeezes his waist softly.

“Is that all?” Seokjin asks, voice coming out low and rich with desire.

Jeongguk shakes his head and pulls out his hands away from his waist to bring them to Seokjin’s tie. He starts to undo it as he speaks.

“I’ve thought about burning all of your ties every day when I was with you.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted your neck exposed. I almost had an aneurism the day of the photoshoot when you wore that t-shirt,” he says almost conversationally before inching closer and nosing at his Adam apple. “Although the jeans were enough distraction. You’ve got great legs.”

He pulls at the tie until it’s free from the collar and then lets it drop to the floor. He undoes the first couple of buttons of Seokjin’s shirt. Every time his knuckle brush against the skin of his neck, Seokjin feels like his insides are being lit on fire. Jeongguk parts the sides of his collar until his neck his bare and then slowly and very softly kisses the side of it.

Seokjin’s breath hitches in his throat.

Jeongguk’s lips are soft and warm and he feels so solid and real that Seokjin can’t think beyond the haze of lust and love clouding his thoughts.

“Remember the day of that first meeting, when you pitched your idea to Yoongi and I?”

“Of course,” he can barely recognize his own voice.

“I said I wasn’t interested because I didn’t want to get bored. Remember that?” he asks before kissing the other side of his neck.

“You said I would be dull,” Seokjin says with a pout. Jeongguk leans up to kiss it away. It’s a short peck; the smallest brush of lips but it’s so sweet and surprising that Seokjin forgets to breathe for a moment.

“I lied. I just thought you were very attractive and I didn’t want my work to be biased,” Jeongguk admits, clamping his teeth on his bottom lip. Seokjin’s heart seems suddenly too big for his ribcage.

“I remember the moment my eyes landed on you the day of the press conference. I couldn’t look away from how beautiful you were.”

Jeongguk closes his eyes and lets his forehead rest on the juncture of Seokjin’s neck and shoulder.

“You can touch me, too,” he breathes against the skin of Seokjin’s jaw.

“What if I never stop?” Seokjin asks because it’s a real concern. They might never leave this place if he starts putting his hands on Jeongguk.

Jeongguk kisses his cheek delicately before inching towards his ear. “Then don’t,” he whispers. He pulls back to look at Seokjin in the eyes, breath coming out ragged and pupils blown wide. There’s a flush travelling across his cheeks down to his neck and his lips have never looked pinker. This time when the thought comes, Seokjin doesn’t stop it from happening.

He leans down and captures Jeongguk’s lips in a long kiss, swallows the soft noise Jeongguk makes when their lips press against each other and wraps his arms around his waist. He pulls and pulls until Jeongguk is pressed against him so that every move he makes and every breath he takes, Seokjin can feel it.

Jeongguk wraps his arms around his neck and slots one of his wonderful, amazing, brilliant, life changing, sculpted thighs between Seokjin’s.

“God,” Jeongguk breathes between kisses.

“Shut up,” Seokjin replies and bites on his lower lip. Jeongguk moans, parting his lips and Seokjin licks into his mouth, savouring the warm and wet slide of Jeongguk’s tongue against his own. Jeongguk is a dedicated and meticulous kisser; he takes his time adjusting to Seokjin’s rhythm and chases every push with a searing pull. He’s impatient and greedy too. Soft and earnest and devastatingly good. He tastes sweet and there are lingering traces of yearning in the sound of his whimpers.

Seokjin is utterly ruined.

He skims his hands under Jeongguk’s soft sweater and pushes until he gets to the warm skin underneath. He can feel his skin rising with goose bumps and his fingers follow the shivers running through Jeongguk. His own heart was thudding so loudly against his chest he was sure Jeongguk could feel it.

“Can I, uh…”

“Anything,” Jeongguk whispers before pulling Seokjin’s bottom lip between his own.

“I want to see your tattoo,” Seokjin says.

Jeongguk pulls back and smirks at him. It should be annoying but if it is, it’s only because it’s so fucking attractive. He steps back and turns around. The next second he’s pulled his sweater and t-shirt over his head and Seokjin is faced with wide shoulders, a tiny waist, so much smooth skin and an intricate tattoo that starts at the base of Jeongguk’s neck, slithers down his left shoulder and side, crosses his back in the middle and finishes by his right hip. It’s a trio of vines braided together with leaves and flowers blooming every few inches. It’s colourful and elaborate and a little magical. There are a couple of butterflies and a bird perched on his hip.

Seokjin brings his hand to Jeongguk’s skin a slowly runs his fingers against the pattern. He feels more than hears Jeongguk’s sudden intake of breath.

“Your hand is cold.”

“I feel really warm,” Seokjin says. He steps closer until he’s plastered against Jeongguk’s back, arms wrapped around his waist and he kisses the lotus at the nape of his neck. It’s very soft kiss and he revels in the shivers that run through Jeongguk’s frame. He buries his nose in Jeongguk’s neck, bringing his arms tighter around him.

“You’re a fucking work of art, did you know that?” Seokjin asks.

Jeongguk melts into him and twists his neck until he can kiss him. They kiss deeply and slowly for a while, drinking each other in and learning each other anew. It comes to an abrupt stop when Jeongguk’s stomach growls.

He pulls back, and grins. “I skipped lunch because of my meetings.”

“I made jajanmyeon,” Seokjin says leaning down to kiss the mole under Jeongguk’s lower lip.

“And chocolate cake?”

“Of course. My goal was to woo you, after all.”

“Your goal was reached the day I saw you play tennis.”

Seokjin frowns. “I thought you said I was terrible at it.”

“You are but you also always made sure that Hoseok knew his victory was well deserved. Also you’re very cute in shorts.”

“Is this what my life’s going to be like now? You mocking me while I slave away at the kitchen.”

Jeongguk kisses him three times quickly. “I promise I’ll make it worth your while.”

And he does.