"I'm gonna cry."
"Please don't cry."
"Seriously, you can't cry. Do you remember last time?"
"Oh, no, seriously, Jin will lose it if he cries."
"I can't stop it."
"You have to. Please cheer up!"
"It's just a fucking coffee shop anyways."
"What's going on here?"
Yoongi and Jimin turned from consoling (or perhaps worsening in Yoongi's case) the nearly sobbing Taehyung by the front desk to see Seokjin standing in the doorway with glasses on and a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.
"Nothing," Yoongi and Jimin said in unison, looking at each other then to Jin.
Jin raised an eyebrow at both of them as the early morning light streamed in through the glass window above him. He looked between the two of them and then to Taehyung who seemed to be holding himself together by a string.
"I've decided I don't want to know," Jin sighed, waving them off as he walked past the front desk and up the stairs.
Once he had disappeared behind the wall shrouding part of their bullpen, Yoongi and Jimin turned back to Taehyung and both pointed fingers at him.
"No crying," they said, once again in unison.
"O-okay ..." Taehyung sniffled, nodding solemnly as if accepting the death of a dear old friend after months of late nights crying.
Just then another body appeared through the door, nearly rounding out their ensemble.
"Hey, everybody!" Namjoon said with a chipper grin, "I hope you motherfuckers are ready to get literate this week. Our sales are down!"
He slipped right past them, also sporting glasses but with a thicker black rim. As he bounded up the stairs and into the bullpen, they all shared a brief look of confusion before scurrying off behind him.
They entered the bullpen. It was a small area. There isn't need for a huge amount of people on staff for a local newspaper of a small town. The most excitement they get is when Greek Row for the closest college campus causes a traffic jam because they all drunkenly fell asleep on the road after a night of partying.
Namjoon was sitting cross-legged on a desk at the center of the bullpen. It was a desk with nothing on it except him. The desk was reserved for sitting. Namjoon sat on it during their round up morning meetings specifically, but it was open for others to use. Taehyung used it to listen to music when he needed to get in the zone and Jimin did his tricep routines off of it during his periodic breaks from answering calls at the front desk.
Yoongi and Jimin approached the bull pen, leaning up against a desk to face Namjoon and watching a still distraught Taehyung sulk past them to lean against his own desk. Jin took off his glasses as if to tune in to what Namjoon had to say but stayed seated as well.
"Awesome." Namjoon smiled. "So our paper sales are down a little bit, and I'm hoping that this week we’ll hit our quarterly goal. It's imperative that we don't fall behind after our most recent incident."
Everybody in the room cringed.
Namjoon continued, "So pitch me."
There was a momentary scuffle as Yoongi turned to get his laptop, Taehyung reached for his phone and Jin pulled up his notebook. Even Jimin, who as a secretary had no reason to pitch a story idea, acted as if he had something important on his smart watch.
"Uh ..." Jin hummed, "A woman strangled another woman with a bra at a PTA meeting last night. No injuries though."
Namjoon sighed, stretching his neck. "Is that too tacky?"
"We're local news, Joon." Jin reminded him.
"Okay, okay. Fine. You're on it." Namjoon waved him off. "Yoongi."
"Well, the local boy's baseball team is undefeated this season." He offered.
"They've only played two games." Namjoon stated.
"I'm trying." Yoongi sighed, "I fucking hate sports reporting."
Yoongi shook his head.
Namjoon sighed once more and nodded, "Okay, go ahead. Get quotes this time. Taehyung!"
"I'm ..." Taehyung hurriedly scrolled through his notes, looking for something interesting, but quickly became flustered and nearly got a panic attack in front of them.
When he started to hyperventilate, everybody's eyes widened.
"No crying!" Jimin pleaded.
"I'm s-s-so sorry," Taehyung whined.
Namjoon's eyes flashed to Jimin. "Why is there no crying?"
"Because Jin will blow his top and go full mom mode again," Yoongi growled.
"No!" Namjoon shook his head, speaking before Jin could, "Why is Taehyung going to cry in the first place?"
Jimin reached a hand out, "He's--"
"No." Namjoon raised his hand up, cutting Jimin's sentence like a knife. "Taehyung, tell me."
Taehyung sucked in a shaky breath, steadying himself before he calmly got out, "They closed my coffee shop."
A moment of silence washed over the room, each person more tense than anything. With a couple seconds of time, though, the ridiculousness of the statement kicked in. As if he expected anything less from their eccentric reporter.
“We’ll uh … we’ll come back to you, okay?” Namjoon sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose before yelling out for their next reporter, “Hoseok!"
Silence again as everybody looked around. Namjoon looked up, his glasses back in their proper seat on his nose so his eyes could scour the room for their final pitch.
"Hoseok!" Namjoon called out again.
"That's my name, don't wear it out," Hoseok said, popping up from the stairs with a smile on his face, "Hey, everybody. Fine and dandy morning it is, isn't it?"
He strolled into the bullpen with that effervescent smile on his face that brought sunshine through cloudy days and a usual jilt. Once he reached the circle however, he immediately caught the whiff of something gone awry.
"Something's wrong," he said, pausing in his path, "What's wrong?"
Yoongi piped up, "Taehyung cried because his coffee shop closed so Namjoon skipped him during pitch."
Contrary to what one might think the proper reaction to hearing that would be, Hoseok lit up, grinning like a fool suddenly. "Perfect!"
"Perfect?" Taehyung asked sadly.
"Well, of course. You know they were put out of business by another coffee shop in town right?" Hoseok added, nodding along as if it was the most logical thing ever said.
Jin tapped a pencil against his mouth. "Yeah ... that coffee shop that was close to closing last year suddenly had a huge boom in business."
"Of course. Which brings me to my pitch." Hoseok turned curtly to look at Namjoon. "Something fishy is going on over at the coffee shop. I'm going to do some investigative reporting to find out what."
The blond chief stared at him for a moment, almost not blinking for a bit too long before speaking, "That's absolutely unfounded, and I can't officially put you on a story like that."
Hoseok pouted. "It would be such a good story though. At least let me research for a couple days. I'll go in and just check it out."
Namjoon scoffed. "Absolutely not. Last time you went undercover for your investigative reporting it caused the incident."
Everybody cringed again, minus Hoseok.
"This time will be different," Hoseok assured him.
"Nope. Not taking my chances."
Another pout. "Just give me a chance."
"Okay, alright. Since apparently this newspaper is doomed I will put you on this chicken chase of an article, but when you show up empty handed and I fire you, don't cry."
"Perfect!" Hoseok cheered, fist pumping in the air.
"And, Hoseok." Namjoon pointed a finger at him. "You can't go in undercover."
The fist pump of celebration turned into a sad, half risen hand of despair. "Oh. So who then?"
"Taehyung," Namjoon informed him, "He needs a new coffee shop anyways."
The youngest reporter looked up from his phone, a bit confused at the sudden use of his name in a conversation he had deemed bland enough to tune out of. "What am I doing?"
"Congrats." Hoseok smiled at him. "You've won one free ticket to EXO coffee."
He looked around at everybody but received no further explanation. "...hooray?"
Baekhyun slammed the cup onto the floor.
“You missed!” Yixing yelped, flattening himself against the wall.
“I didn’t miss!” Baekhyun yelled back, staring at the plastic cup on the tile floor, “It’s right there!”
“It’s right there! Don’t move!” Sehun pointed at the cup.
“I won’t move!” Baekhyun shouted.
“I swear to heaven if either of you move!”
“Shut up, Yixing!”
The room got quiet for a moment as Sehun squatted down with a piece of cardboard in his hands. He made eye contact with Baekhyun, ignoring Yixing’s heavy breathing in the corner of the room. Baekhyun nodded, slowly lifting the lip of the plastic cup off the tile, letting Sehun slide the cardboard in the gap. With the utmost precision, they proceeded until the cup was entirely flush against the cardboard.
Then, in perfect synchronicity, they stood up, bringing it into the light of the little backroom.
“That’s so cool looking.” Sehun chuckled.
“It’s disgusting.” Yixing sighed, letting his guard down, but stayed against the wall.
The little spider bounced around in the plastic iced coffee cup, confused and unaware that it was trapped for the foreseeable future.
“Let’s name it Charlie.” Sehun laughed.
“No naming. No nothing!” Yixing groaned, “Seriously.”
“Well then, what do we do now?” Baekhyun asked.
“Preferably your jobs that you’re getting paid to do,” A voice from the doorway came.
Baekhyun looked over his shoulder to see a less than amused Junmyeon glaring at the both of them. His pen was tucked behind his ear and his perfect look of disappointment was ever present on his features. He raised his eyebrows in opposition.
“Yes, boss.” They all mumbled.
Baekhyun looked back at Sehun. “Take care of this. Jongin is on break.”
“Me?” Sehun asked.
“Who else is going to take coffee orders? Cleaning tables can wait.” Baekhyun released the cup into Sehun’s possession and exited as fast as he could, slipping between Junmyeon and the door frame like a fox.
He sped towards the counter, getting away from that risky situation as fast as his legs could possibly take him. When he got to the register, he started to punch in his credentials, barely sparing a glance at the subject.
“What’ll it be today?” Baekhyun spat out, logging into the processor at light speed.
“Uh …” The guy drowled.
“We sell coffee, if you’re interested,” Baekhyun joked, almost on autopilot.
Just then he looked up and met eyes with the man speaking to him. He looked very … particular. Maybe only an inch or two taller than him, but younger or the same age as him. His hair seemed to be well styled, coming to a subtle point above his ears. There was no doubt he was a fine young gentleman.
To most that would be brush-off material, but Byun Baekhyun is a barista at EXO Coffee. The coffee shop that miraculously managed to get its act together after failing to make ends meet to not only save the jobs of all twelve employees, but triple their earnings. That’s not just done with a little elbow grease. It’s done with a few tricks. Actually, a lot of tricks. But, in this case just charm.
“I should have prepared my order, I’m …” The guy seemed flustered.
Baekhyun put on his best smile, which was unbearably easy because he has a fantastic smile in his opinion, but also because the guy was smile-worthy. And the way he blushed a little when he did so just made it that much better.
“Take your time, handsome.” Baekhyun tapped at the display, smile still shining.
Just as he said that, however, another patron entered the shop right behind him, coming to stand in line, but not looking especially rushed or impatient.
“A vanilla latte.” The guy seemed to decide in the presence of someone else. “That’s all.”
Baekhyun nodded. “Name for the order?”
“Uh …” Wow, this guy really took the smile to heart, stuttering a bit, “Tae-Tae … Uh, Taemin?”
Baekhyun rose both of his eyebrows at him, his smile faltering into something less flirty and more genuine. “Alright, Taemin.” The tone of his voice giving away he knew the name wasn’t correct. “It’ll be ready for you soon.”
“Ah-okay.” The guy immediately rushed down the counter and away from Baekhyun.
He watched him with a little snicker. This job wouldn’t be any fun for Baekhyun if he didn’t get to do this on occasion, and “Taemin” seemed like such a fun target to pick on. Assuming he ever comes back after this.
Without much more thought, he turned to the next person in line and took their order, jotting it down with less fervor since he was far less interested in this person than Mr. Handsome. For one, this woman comes in here daily looking for her fix like a majority of the coffee shop's clientele, but also because she was a nasty woman on occasion. Always had some sort of bone to pick with something other than the coffee. Once she sent a pastry back six times and Baekhyun thought for sure Kyungsoo was about to be brought up on murder charges, but they survived.
That’s the thing about EXO Coffee. They always survive.
“New guy is cute,” Jongin said softly, appearing behind Baekhyun as he wiped the counters down.
“Yeah he is,” Baekhyun muttered in response, looking up to see Mr. Handsome himself manage to almost drop his entire latte on the ground in transit to a booth. It was somewhat endearing. “I think I’ve seen him around town, but never here before.”
Jongin tilted his head, giving the guy a more proper once-over. If anybody would know who someone was it was Jongin or Sehun. They were the dream team of networking and lived together in an apartment as they finished up their last year of school, both of them struggling to make ends meet between tuition payments. Baekhyun’s never bothered to ask much more, but he knows that they know a lot of people in town.
Finally, the young man shrugged. “Doesn’t ring a bell, but I’ll ask around if you want?”
“Nah.” Baekhyun paused, looking up at him again. “Actually … yeah. I wanna know his name.”
“Didn’t he just give you his name?” Jongin asked, glancing over at the latte he sent out only moments prior.
“Mr. Handsome!” Jimin fell backwards on his chair in the throes of laughter. “He wrote that on his cup, Yoongi.”
“Wrote what?” Yoongi looked mildly interested in what was going on near the front desk.
Taehyung tried to wave him off, not keen on getting the judgment of two of his coworkers right then and there. “It’s nothing, just-”
Yoongi quickly snatched the cup out of his hands and rotated the cardboard sleeve until he could see the scribble of Mr. Handsome on the side. He looked back at Taehyung with a single eyebrow raised. "Really?"
Taehyung was getting flustered for the second time that day. "I swear it just-"
"You got something to tell us, Tae?" Jimin teased, leaning back forward and propping his elbows on the desk.
Much to Taehyung's disappointment, the door opened behind him, both of his coworkers in front of him turning to look at the source of the disruption. It could only be Hoseok. Hoseok was the only person who wasn't in the office yet that day after doing some early morning field work. The last person that needed to see this was Hoseok.
"Listen to me, not them," Taehyung said, spinning around to face him.
However, he was met with a very young, unfamiliar face.
The boy had dark brown hair to match his dark brown eyes on his cute, young face. Young because there was no way this kid had graduated college. Judging by the backpack over one shoulder and the folder he held in his hands, he was certainly on break between classes anyways.
"Okay," he said, "should I give you my resume then?"
"Resume?" Taehyung asked.
"Yeah. I'm here to apply for the internship ..." He looked around for a second. "This is BigHit News, right?"
It suddenly clicked in everyone's brains what was going on, and Jimin shared a glance with Yoongi as they all let out a little oh.
Yoongi took point by physically pointing to Jimin. "He'll take your resume."
The kid nodded, stepping past Taehyung with a respectful nod and placing the folder gingerly on the desk under Yoongi's watchful eye. Remember, Yoongi was still grasping an empty cup of EXO Coffee that had Mr. Handsome scrawled across the side and was very intimidating to begin with, so the kid took an appropriate three paces back after laying it down.
Jimin opened the folder, taking out the cleanly printed resume and nodding as he skimmed over the information with his eyes. In just under twenty seconds he placed it back in its respective home and closed the folder.
"Congratulations, Jeon Jungkook." Jimin smiled. "Welcome to BigHit News."
"What?" Yoongi furrowed his brow. "That's it?"
"Well." Jimin's smile became uneasy. "He was the only one who applied."
"Applications ended last week," Taehyung added, now a little less flustered and a little more engaged in the conversation.
Jungkook seemed surprised. "I thought it said Tuesday."
Jimin spared a glance at Yoongi before looking back sweetly upon Jungkook. "The date was Friday, but it said Tuesday. Typo thanks to a certain someone who still uses their phone to post job listings."
"Are we dragging Yoongi again?" Hoseok's voice called out from behind all of them, striding in with a travel mug of coffee and a ball cap on.
Not only was Yoongi unamused by the entering quote, but also seemingly unaffected. "No, but we do have a new intern."
All eyes once again turned back to Jungkook, who probably felt a little more confused than welcomed at this point. Hoseok paused on his way to the stairs, stopping to give Jungkook an once over before that bright, bright smile flashed across his face. "Welcome aboard! Don't let any of these three harass you, okay?"
"H-harass?" Jungkook stuttered, meeting eyes with each of them in turn.
"Yeah, Taehyung's usually on Wikipedia so he's not much of a bother, but Jimin likes to pull office pranks." Hoseok glanced back at Yoongi. "And Mr. Handsome here is all bark and no bite."
Yoongi was again confused before remembering the cup he was still gripping in his hands. "No, this isn't mine."
"Sure it isn't, handsome," Hoseok joked, starting to walk away once again.
"It's mine," Taehyung piped up.
That made Hoseok pause, turning on his heel and making a silly face at the journalist claiming to be the infamous Mr. Handsome. "From EXO Coffee?"
Hoseok held a hand up. "A barista at EXO Coffee wrote Mr. Handsome on your cup?"
Again, he nodded.
"This is awesome." Hoseok's face broke out into a smile. "Does Jungkook like coffee? Maybe you can take him tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Now it was Taehyung's turn to be confused.
"Of course. And the day after that." Hoseok spun around once more, dizzying the room one final time as he bounded up the steps and to the bullpen where Namjoon and Jin were probably doing actual work and important things. Before he was out of earshot he yelled back, "You're a regular now!"
Everybody seemed still for a moment. Eventually, Yoongi shrugged and set the coffee cup back down on the desk and followed Hoseok up into the bullpen as well, leaving Taehyung to take in his new role as an undercover reporter and Jimin to take care of their new hire.
Jimin swiveled in his chair. "Jungkook - any questions?"
"Yeah ..." Jungkook paused. "Am I actually going to EXO Coffee?"
EXO Coffee is a subsidiary of a company called SM. It has an actual meaning within its title, but its employees refer to it as The Sadness Machine and for good reason. Besides doing the normal douchebag stuff that one could expect from a national company telling small locations full of minimum wage employees it's never even met what to do, SM has specifically had it out for EXO Coffee and the eight dutiful workers depending on it for income.
Sometimes when it got slow they would find time to complain about it.
"My professor failed somebody for using comic sans on a project today. Felt like watching someone get voted off the weakest link," Sehun would say, washing another dish and gaining a sympathetic hum from his room mate.
"My daughter wants a Hatchimal. I don’t even know what that is. But it’s more expensive than my shoes and these are really nice shoes." Yixing would lament, cutting vegetables for some sort of dish they served.
"I want to give my fiancé a real wedding, but she keeps saying she wants to get married inside of a cake. How is that reasonable?" Kyungsoo would sigh, rolling dough with his back to Yixing in the kitchen and sweating off the hours.
“My mom made me watch six Melissa McCarthey movies this weekend. I’m not that strong of a person,” Jongdae would complain, leaning against the counter and getting a sad glance from Baekhyun.
“I wish I had employees that did more than complain,” Junmyeon groused, dropping a thick binder on the surface in front of him and taking his glasses off to clean them. “New from corporate.”
“Last time you brought us something like that it said they were shutting us down,” Baekhyun noted, popping up from behind the counter and setting out a fresh tin for tips.
The before-work rush had died down half an hour ago, leaving a dwindle of brunch goers, wanderers, and older people drinking their coffees in their warm little booths. Each consecutive cup slumping them a little further in their booths as they type away on phones and computers and talk languidly about life and the universe.
Junmyeon, as per usual, was stressed out by the statement. "We could still get shut down, don't get complacent."
"Not with how much bank we're making now," Sehun commented, walking out of the washing area with a little soap scum on his face and set of clean dishes in his hands as he headed for the kitchen.
Junmyeon rolled his eyes. "This bank could be temporary if-"
"Stop." Jongdae put a hand up. "This conversation goes nowhere good."
Junmyeon stopped, because in all honesty, he knew it was true. If anything, Jongin, Jongdae, and Baekhyun were the more forgiving of the staff. They won't go down a rabbit hole if they can help it. That's probably why they're the baristas taking and filling orders instead of stuck in the back like the others. Kyungsoo and Sehun both have one sticker on the “Dumped Coffee on a Customer” board.
The situation felt tense, so Baekhyun sought to diffuse it.
"Yeah, seriously. Lighten up, boss," Baekhyun laughed.
"Maybe you should lighten up." Jongin chuckled. "Your boyfriend is here."
He turned his attention to the door where Mr. Handsome himself was waltzing in through the door, hands in his pockets, dressed a little differently from the day before, but looking no more sure of himself.
Baekhyun took advantage of the time it takes him to descend from the raised area that goes out onto the street level and further into the coffee shop. It gave the barista enough time to turn and stick his tongue out at Jongin who laughed in response. Really, none of them had a place to talk, Jongin and Jongdae flirted just as much as he did.
When he looked back, Mr. Handsome had made it all the way up to the register and was intently looking at the menus hanging above him. Baekhyun spared no change on the facade, quickly jumping in. "Vanilla latte?"
"Ah, no." The guy responded, meeting Baekhyun's gaze, but faltering once he smiled again. Sheesh he was such a pushover, but so cute when he did it. "Caramel."
"Caramel latte?" Baekhyun chuckled. "You sure know how to push the ballot, don't you ... uh, what was your name again? Taesung? Taekwondo?"
Baekhyun waved him off. "That's right, Mr. Handsome."
Somewhere behind him, he could hear Jongdae and Jongin say something behind him about laying it on thick, and he sent them a dangerous glare when he dropped the order toting cup for them to fill behind him. This only made them both stifle laughter, and Baekhyun had to leave the view behind to come back to his mystery man.
"Total on the screen. Card again?" Baekhyun asked, flipping the credit card machine around for him.
"I ... uhm," Mr. Handsome stuck his card in the chip reader and met eyes with Baekhyun again. "Don't carry cash."
"How come?" Genuine curiosity in Baekhyun's voice as he slung an arm over the monitor of the register.
"I used to carry a lot of cash." He seemed to speak down to machine, punching his pin in and answering the prompts. "But I do silly things with it, so it’s better to just have a card."
"How silly?" Baekhyun asked, watching him pull his card out and bite his lip when he looked back up.
"You wouldn't believe me," he said shyly.
"I've done some pretty silly things," Baekhyun admitted honestly, but still keeping the conversation pressure on the other person. "Try me."
The other guy chuckled to himself, slipping his card back in his wallet and doing what looked to be like an inner monologue over whether or not he should say whatever he's about to say out loud. Obviously the results were in Baekhyun's favor since he finally answered after shoving his wallet in his pocket.
"I once ..." Lip bite again. "May have started a pretty big betting ring on turtle races in college. Just for example."
Baekhyun's eyebrows went up, and a laugh escaped before he had any say in the matter. "Seriously? Just for example?"
"I tend to get myself into strange situations." He smiled a cute, boxy smile that was almost as endearing as his blushing. "Bad habit."
"I like it." Baekhyun glanced at the screen in front of him. "Try not to get into a strange situation when you pick up your coffee, Sungmin."
Jongdae slid a latte forward onto the serving area just then, carelessly yelling out, "Caramel latte for Mr. Handsome."
And the blush was back in full force as he ducked his head and scurried over to take his coffee and disappear so quickly he left metaphorical dust clouds in his wake. Baekhyun watched him go, one arm still over the monitor and a blissful smile gently fading off his lips. He had no idea he had been watching the guy walk away until he heard a sudden ruckus from behind him.
"Who moved the cup in here?" Sehun yelled from his cleaning station.
"I was tidying!" Kyungsoo called back from the kitchen.
"Did the cup say anything on it?" Sehun yelled back.
There was a pause before Kyungsoo answered. "It said ... Charlie?"
“Hey, Minseok. It’s Taehyung. You know, the awkward guy that used to get coffee from you everyday. I know you’ve been super busy with the whole … ah, you know, yeah. Shouldn’t have brought it up. Anyways, I miss you. Give me a ring back.” Taehyung sighed, ending the call and feeling like he’d just delivered mail to the wrong mailbox.
With his elbow firmly planted on the desk, he leaned his cheek into his hand. Something about the conversation didn't’ leave a bad taste in his mouth though. If anything he just felt hungry, which was odd considering that it was only about ten in the morning. At least an hour before he has to nab a granola bar for a pre-lunch snack. Something about running around to the coffee shop has thrown his routine off. But oddly left him glowing and comfortable after every encounter.
“Now remember, everyone, keep your limbs inside the caravan at all times. We’re passing the exhibit of the Taesaurusrex, and he has a nasty habit of biting.”
Taehyung looked up at Jimin who was towing the newest addition to BigHit News with him. Jungkook looked amused at the secretary’s antics judging by the smile on his face, who was sporting some wire rim glasses today and dangling earrings.
“Office tour?” Taehyung smiled up at him, blinking a few times as he did so. “I definitely don’t bite.”
Jimin scoffed, pausing as they passed his desk. “You’ve bitten everyone in here at least once.”
“Have not!” Taehyung dropped his hand from his face.
“You bit Yoongi at the Halloween party because you were a cat.”
“That was justified.”
“You bit Jin because he had icing on his fingers.”
“You bit me when I put you in a chokehold that week we got into wrestling.”
“That was dirty, but I won, so.”
“You bit Hoseok because he wouldn’t stop hitting you with a copy of the newspaper and-”
“Alright, okay, fine,” Taehyung huffed, “I do bite, apparently.”
Jimin looked back at Jungkook, who raised no objections to his obviously superior intellect. “Also, while you’re listening to me. Don’t touch the thermostatthemostat.”
Taehyung winced. “Oh yeah, don’t do that.”
Jungkook, going from amused to confused, snapped his eyes between them quickly. “What? Why?”
Taehyung leaned forward on his desk, carefully scanning the bullpen to see if anybody was actively listening. Yoongi was spinning a pencil in his fingers with his feet up on his desk, Jin was making more coffee, Namjoon was tucked away in his office, and Hoseok was nearby, but fighting with the copying machine. He lowered his voice nonetheless. “Yoongi will go crazy if it isn’t cold.”
Jungkook also lowered his voice to a whisper. “Why?”
“Because it might actually melt the ice encasing his heart,” Hoseok interjected, giving the machine a final kick before snatching his papers out of it and turning towards them. “How’s EXO Coffee, Tae? You’ve seemed mellow lately.”
They all straightened themselves up at his recognition of the conversation.
“Uh … “ Taehyung shifted back in his chair. “Awesome. Coffee is superb. Delightful. I have felt mellow.”
Jimin rolled his eyes. “Is it the coffee or the coffee maker?”
Hoseok didn’t look up from his copies as he approached them. “Yeah, how’s the hot barista?”
“I never said he was hot,” Taehyung denied.
Jungkook raised a hand meekly. “I’ve been here less than 24 hours, and I’ve heard you say he was hot.”
Taehyung sent an incredulous look over to the newest intern, making sure that his nonverbal message of you can’t hurt me like this came across loud and clear. “He’s an intern, doesn’t count.”
“He so does.” Jimin was quick to defend. “Kookie here is perfectly good at listening. He has a lot of friends on Facebook from what I stalked, so I’m sure he has that skill.”
“Lots of friends, yeah?” Hoseok laughed. “Maybe he can be your wingman, Taehyung.”
“For the barista.”
Taehyung sighed. “I’m not getting out of this, am I?”
Sex is awesome. Plain and simple.
But there are a few feelings that could be put on par with that feeling in terms of awesomeness in Baekhyun's book. French fries when he hasn't eaten in several hours, for example. Or the feeling of laying back on a mattress, kicking his shoes off, shutting his eyes, and just decompressing like a space age airlock.
God, it felt so nice to be off his feet.
Before the boost in sales, they could get away with only scheduling two of the three baristas in a day. One to open and one to close. Even with Jongin's changing class schedule, things seemed to shake out to Baekhyun getting two days a week off. Now that there's been a huge uptick in foot traffic, the coffee shop sees too many customers in a day not to have one person taking orders and another making drinks. Sometimes for peak hours there would be overlap where all three of them needed to be working, especially if Yixing and Kyungsoo couldn't keep up with running the food and pastries they were making.
So it's everyday. Eight hours a day. Of pretending to be happy and pretending to love coffee.
Baekhyun actually isn't a fan of coffee. Go figure.
But lately it hasn't been too bad. Since he's found Mr. Handsome to pick on every morning. It at least gives him something to look forward to throughout his shifts.
He opened his eyes, hearing his roommate moving about. The apartment complex seemed to be able to keep noise from apartment to apartment out, but within a single unit it was a shot in the dark. If Chanyeol was snoring, he could hear it sometimes. But he also had to yell six times for the guy to understand he needed toilet paper because the bathroom was out.
On second thought, that might just be all Chanyeol.
"Stop pacing," Baekhyun called out to the hallway. He didn't get around to shutting the door before collapsing on his bed after work. "You're gonna start a rut in the floor and I need that security deposit back when the lease is up."
Chanyeol popped his head in through the door. "Are you implying we won't be roommates forever?"
Baekhyun opened his eyes and made an incredulous expression. "How the fuck did you get that from what I said?"
"You'll only get a security deposit back if you move out," Chanyeol informed him.
"God," Baekhyun sat up, crossing his legs and feeling a little disoriented when he did. "Doesn't mean we aren't roommates. We could be moving somewhere else."
"Oh," Chanyeol paused, "I didn't think of that."
"Of course not. You score movies for Hollywood, but can't understand simple logic."
"Wounded, Baek. Bleeding, gushing, and wounded."
Baekhyun smiled, letting out an exhale through his nose. He missed Chanyeol. He lived with the guy, but again, ever since things took off, he just couldn't find time for anything. "I miss talking to you. We used to gossip so much."
"I still love gossip." Chanyeol had come to lean on the door frame, looking into Baekhyun's dull teal room. "What's the latest?"
Their apartment was old, but cheap and very livable. The walls were an off shade of blue-green and the wood laminate on the floors just felt tacky if anything.The handle to their fridge had to be duct taped on, and there were cracks in the ceiling. Somehow it still felt like home.
"I still think Sehun and Jongin are fucking. I have no basis for it, I just know it."
"Old hat." Chanyeol scoffed. "Give me something new."
"There's this kinda hot guy who keeps coming in the mornings." Baekhyun tilted his head. "Is hot a good word?"
"Do you want to fuck him?" Chanyeol asked.
"Don't be crude." Baekhyun rolled his eyes. "But I totally would."
"Then he's hot." Chanyeol shrugged. "No buts about it. Why not go for it?"
"Yeah, but ..." The voices of doubt shot their opinions in through the peanut gallery. "With everything going on at the coffee shop, I don't really have time."
"Buuuut ..." Chanyeol strung out the word in a higher pitched voice. "Could also give you an outlet."
The boy on the bed sent a stern look across the little space between them. "Don't imply things."
Chanyeol laughed. "You know I meant somebody to vent to."
The barista snatched some non-descript article of clothing off the bed and chucked it at his room mate, then reached for another. "Liar."
Chanyeol easily caught it, rebounding it, but missed and slapped the wall with what became recognizable as a hoodie. A pair of pants came his way, and Chanyeol only managed to dodge this one. "Geez. Why do you have clothes everywhere?"
"Because I have a lot of outlets, apparently." Baekhyun snatched more things, including a pillow, and just started to catapult them across the room.
"Nope!" Chanyeol slipped behind the door frame in the hallway. "We can gossip again when you're more agreeable."
"Okay, just let me find an outlet for this mood first!"
Baekhyun's smile was almost painful it was so wide.
If the point of a wingman was to make the other party jealous, then Taehyung certainly hit the jackpot with Jungkook. While the intern’s spoken word count since they got to EXO Coffee was in the single digits still, he had managed to catch two sets of eyes from customers to whom he gave genuinely innocent smiles. Honestly, this kid probably had no idea that he’s beautiful and thinks that people just love smiling at him.
But, the interest that he caught was not directly from the barista in question. No, Baekhyun had certainly noticed Jungkook, but he seemed to have quickly turned from surprise at Taehyung’s companion to being outright overwhelming. Which was a shock to say since Taehyung had already found the barista overwhelming in the first place.
This was somehow worse.
Not that Kim Taehyung was a bad judge of character, but he had expected the barista to be a little more accommodating to him bringing a friend with him to buy coffee. After all, it was just Jungkook the intern, so what was the harm? Additionally, Taehyung had no reason to think that Baekhyun was anything but flirtatious and casual so if he did bring an attractive young man with him, why wouldn’t Baekhyun flirt with him as well? Instead of just seeming generally upset at the whole situation and tossing a cup of coffee to Jongin who was working behind him.
The real tip off that he had pissed off his favorite coffee-making employee was that Baekhyun wrote “Tae-whatever” on his coffee cup instead of Mr. Handsome like usual.
So here Tae-whatever was sitting at a table across from Jungkook and getting the worst set of dirty looks from the baristas working that he had ever gotten.
“I think …” Jungkook tapped away at his phone. “This barista is pissed at you.”
“God.” Taehyung pinched his brow. “This was a bad idea. Instead of wing-manning you’re -”
Taehyung looked up.
Jungkook apologized, “Sorry. That means-”
“I know what it means.” Taehyung rolled his eyes. “I’m not Joan of Arc. How old do you think I am?”
Jungkook’s eyes got wide for a second, obviously contemplating whether or not to respond to him truthfully. Thankfully, the day was saved by one of the baristas that wasn’t steaming over Taehyung’s new friend approaching the table.
“Hey,” the dude greeted, his name tag reading Jongdae. “Everything okay? Can I get you guys a second cup of coffee?”
Taehyung looked over at Jungkook, the wire rim glasses reflecting his own tired face back at him in front of Jungkook’s brown eyes. It looked like he was trying to silently communicate something to him judging by the way the young intern moved his eyebrows. Taehyung flashed a smile of confusion at the boy, but was met with an immediate eye roll.
Jungkook turned to Jongdae, “Yeah, I’ll have a latte, can you bring the check here, though?”
“Of course!” Jongdae’s smile was charismatic as he snagged the empty cup off the table and headed back to the barista area.
Taehyung watched as the barista headed back, full intent on Baekhyun’s face when Jongdae approached, speaking softly enough that he couldn’t overhear anything at all.
“I got a text from Jimin,” Jungkook muttered.
“Jimin gave you his number?” Taehyung barely spared Jungkook a glance, keeping his eyes on Baekhyun who had his arms crossed and was leaning against the back of the coffee bar where Jongdae was so dutifully making a latte.
“Yeah.” Jungkook paused. “I can’t really concentrate on this screen though.”
Baekhyun cut his eyes over to Taehyung at that exact second, forcing him to snap his attention to Jungkook suddenly so as to not look like the creeper he was. He hurriedly responded to Jungkook so as to seem engaged. “Is it the coffee?”
“Actually …” Jungkook picked up his coffee cup, oblivious to the situation going on in Taehyung’s portion of the world. “I think it might be. I feel like …”
“Different?” Taehyung swiped his eyes back to the barista’s little area only to see Jongdae talking casually to Jongin, but no Baekhyun in sight.
His shoulders dropped, tension gone for the moment.
“Yeah. Relaxed, but focused? But also … not at all focused.” Jungkook frowned. “I never really drink coffee, though.”
“I’m banned from the coffee pot at BigHit,” Taehyung admitted.
Baekhyun had been gone for a couple of seconds now, so Taehyung relaxed back into the booth, settling on a conversation with the newest addition to his daily routine. Maybe Baekhyun’s shift was over and he could try to come in by himself tomorrow without Jungkook. Scratch that. He hated himself for even thinking he had an obligation to explain it to him. It was his barista not his boyfriend.
“So … why?” Jungkook asked.
Taehyung sighed. “Uh … I tend to get a bit hyper.”
Another voice answered him. “BigHit caught fire last year, don’t you remember?”
Taehyung snapped his head to see Baekhyun, suddenly standing at the table holding a latte and sporting an absolutely sinful grin.
“Yeah.” Jungkook nodded innocently, taking the coffee with a small thank you. “The building was fine. Didn’t they fail to figure out the cause of it?”
“I think Taehyung knows the cause of it.” Baekhyun looked to the journalist in question with raised eyebrows. “Right?”
He stuttered. First of all, where did he come from? Secondly … how on earth did he know about that? “I uh … may have tried to put milk in the machine to make hot chocolate. Turns out you really can’t flash boil milk. So I sorta, tried to open it up to stop it and … there was a small fire.”
Jungkook stared at him for a solid second before dissolving into laughter. He tried his best to maintain some sort of composure, but was choking on his little spits of laughter. “It was on National TV.”
“I know, okay?” Taehyung put a hand on his face in embarrassment. If only the booth could just absorb him so he didn’t have to watch a college intern and the oddly attractive barista laugh at him. “I just got hired too.”
But, in reality, Baekhyun was just smiling, very little actual laughter passing through his lips. Instead he gave Taehyung a sympathetic look. “Oh, that’s different. Sehun and I found out the hard way that you can’t put dish soap in a dish washer on our first day here.”
“Wait.” Jungkook made a face, his laughter cut short. “Why can’t you do that?”
“One word: bubbles. Trust me. Bubbles,” Baekhyun responded, pulling a slip of paper out of his apron and dropping it on the table. “Check for the second latte. Have a nice day guys.”
Taehyung, still wishing he was a piece of cushioning made a meek noise as Baekhyun left, a lingering glance over his shoulder the only thing he had to go on. Jungkook, still annoyingly unaware of what was going on thanked Baekhyun and picked up the little slip of paper, fumbling in his breast pocket for a pen to sign off on it with.
“We need to go before I die.” Taehyung groaned. “How did he know that?”
“Maybe you told him?” Jungkook offered, scribbling his signature on the receipt and leaving it on the table as he stood up. “But if you want to go, we can.”
That was all Taehyung needed. He bolted out of his seat, snatching his phone and heading directly for the door as quickly as he could. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
“Hey Siri,” Taehyung said to his phone, pushing out of the coffee shop doors. “Are there any rituals to stop existing?”
“What are you doing?” Jungkook sighed, close behind him.
“Sorry. I didn’t quite get that,” Siri stated.
Alright, Baekhyun might have lied when he said he was just going to have one drink after work.
And he was definitely lying when he said he was just going to have one more.
However, he was not lying when he said he was good at pool. So there was no reason for him to have gotten kicked out of that bar for hustling.
“Honestly.” Baekhyun brushed the dust off of his jacket’s shoulders as he stood up. “They didn’t have to take the money we won.”
Chanyeol rolled his eyes. “I’m pretty sure nobody would have said anything had you not called those college kids carrier pigeons.”
“Okay, but they looked like a flock of pigeons. How do you even get to be a fraternity president with the name Seungcheol. That was poor planning.” Baekhyun groused, reaching up to pull a hand through his hair. “And what kind of name is Joshua anyways? Did his mom give him that name? He had nice hair though. I should dye mine.”
“You’re wasted.” Chanyeol sighed, putting a hand on his room mate’s shoulder. “I’m gonna call an Uber, bud. We’re done for the night.”
“Fine.” Baekhyun sighed.
He put his hands in his pocket, looking for his phone as well. Eventually, somewhere in the depths of his faux leather jacket, he found his long abandoned phone and yanked it out of the recesses of the fabric. When he did so, he not only got the 68 missed messages in the EXO Coffee Group Chat that was for some reason now named “Left Handed Sluts”, but also pulled a crumpled piece of paper out as well, letting it drop to the ground just beyond his periphery.
“Alright. Dude’s six minutes away,” Chanyeol declared, confirming their ride through his app and looking at his companion. “Oh, hey, you dropped something. Bar tab?”
Chanyeol bent down and picked out the piece of paper formerly in Baekhyun’s pocket. While his shorter roommate was desperately trying to catch up on his group chat’s developments, Chanyeol unfurled the piece of paper and began to examine it, reading a portion out loud.
“Hey, Baekhyun. You should give my friend a call. He thinks you’re cute. Here’s his number,” Chanyeol read off.
“What?” Baekhyun looked up from the group chat that Kyungsoo had conveniently just left. “What are you saying?”
“This dude wants you to call his friend.” Chanyeol shrugged, handing the receipt from earlier that day to Baekhyun.
“Let me see.”
Baekhyun snatched it out of Chanyeol’s clutches and read it for himself. True to his word, however, Jungkook had scribbled a little note at the bottom followed by a number that hopefully belonged to Kim Taehyung. The remains of Baekhyun’s four martinis from earlier whispered in his ear that he should totally call the number.
“Should I call it?” Baekhyun turned to Chanyeol for guidance.
“The part of me that cares about you says no, but the part of me that loves seeing you do dumb shit because it ends up funny says yes.”
Baekhyun tilted his head, “Which part is louder?”
“Oh.” Chanyeol laughed. “Definitely that latter.”
“Perfect.” Baekhyun punched the number into his phone.
“What in the heck?” Taehyung muttered, opening his eyes to the darkness of his studio apartment and feeling very out of place.
There was in fact barking, but it was outside of his apartment. And it was loud. Like, illegal dogfighting ring loud. But he was pretty sure there were no dog fighting rings near him. At least not last time he checked when he was on his save every animal in the world kick. And yeah, that might have been last Sunday. It’s a commonplace weekend occurrence for him.
“Hey!” Taehyung shouted, the sleepiness slurring his words. “Chill out, friend!”
Somehow, against insurmountable odds, the barking suddenly stopped. Taehyung let his head burrow back into the pillow and sighed, the drag of future sleep latching onto his muscles and pulling him back in once more.
His flight to dream land was prematurely cancelled, however, when his phone lit up, a buzzing screen that read “1:34 AM” and “INCOMING CALL UNKNOWN NUMBER”
“Honestly?” Taehyung whined, pouting to nobody in particular. But, he answered the called still. “Please tell me I won two tickets to Parahoy.”
Taehyung groaned in a high pitched voice, very different from his norm. “What?”
“Yeah, I know it’s late,” the suddenly familiar voice said softly, “but your friend gave me your number, and I’m in bed and …”
“Wait.” Taehyung, eyes still shut, furrowed his brow. “Who is this?”
“You know me,” the voice responded. “Right, Mr. Handsome?”
Eyes were open now. Eyes were wide, wide open now, staring off into the darkness in either disbelief, sleep deprivation or … shock?
“Ding, ding, ding.” Baekhyun’s voice was a bit scratchy in nature, slower and more husky than he spoke at the coffee shop. But it lost the zing from earlier, turning to a softer tone. “Sorry, I can call back later. Were you sleeping?”
Taehyung shook his head. “No, I mean, better if I’m half way to Narnia when you make fun of me than when I’m fully conscious.”
“Make fun of you?” Baekhyun chuckled. It sent a little tingle through Taehyung’s temples. “Not exactly the reason I call cute boys late at night. Is this a journalist thing?
“No, just … from what I gathered earlier …” Taehyung’s brain wasn’t moving quite fast enough to keep up.
“Man, I thought that guy was your boyfriend that’s why I was being so …”
“Mean?” Taehyung finished, rolling onto his back so he could stare at his blank ceiling instead.
“Was I mean?” Another fucking chuckle from Baekhyun’s end. “I’m just embarrassing. I thought I had a chance, then I overreacted because you showed up with somebody cuter than me. This is what my coworkers call Typical Baekhyun Behavior.”
Taehyung snorted. “First of all, Jungkook is not cuter than you.”
Taehyung bit his lip. The only saving grace he had was that he was tired as hell and hoping Baekhyun was as well, if not otherwise impaired so he would let the little comment slide. “Yeah, he’s like … a 7/10.”
Apparently, being normal and rational for longer than ten goddamn seconds was asking too much, so Taehyung clamped a hand over his mouth. Until his incompetent, sleepy ass figured out how to not flirt with a random barista over the phone when he was supposed to be sleeping, he couldn’t speak. Those privileges have been lost as long as he was still digging a hole. As of right now, it was shallow enough to climb out of with ease.
Baekhyun’s response was gentle and solid. “So does that make you a 10?”
Just kidding. Consider this dynamite level demolition of that hole. There was no more climbing out of it. He was going to have call Batman and ask to borrow the grapple gun to get out of this one. Thankfully, the other person involved couldn’t see how red his cheeks were, so maybe he had a teeny tiny advantage. Now to just respond with that advantage.
“Did you call just to flirt?”
Hot barista - 1, Reporter Kim - 1. Nice tie, volley is now in Baekhyun’s court.
“Maybe.” Pause. “But also so you had my number. Are you coming in for coffee tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Taehyung said cautiously. “Probably not early since we only have to be in the office for pitches on weekends.”
“No, that’s good. I close tomorrow. Come by then.”
Taehyung let his eyes slip shut. Baekhyun’s voice was melodic and calming. “Mm. Promise.”
“Alright. See you then, Handsome.”
There was a short list of things Baekhyun absolutely despised. This list is as follows:
People that grid block
Being woken up from sleep
When Jongin calls off
And he gets it … he really does. School is tough and it must be terribly exhausting looking like a god among men all the time, but seriously. It’s a mid shift. Not even a full eight hours. But noooo, this means Baekhyun has to close this place alone. Which is awesome really. Nothing sketchy about closing a whole entire coffee shop then walking out to your car by yourself. Nothing at all.
“You good?” Sehun asked, pulling his backpack on his shoulders.
“Yeah, I fucking love life,” Baekhyun snapped.
Sehun put a hand up. “Whoa, maybe you need a cup man.”
“I need more than a cup,” Baekhyun bit back the rest of sentence, swallowing foul phrases that Sehun did not at all deserve. He did a lot of work to make up for Jongin calling off that day and deserved to not get chewed out by Baekhyun for once. It was the merciful thing to do. “Sorry, I’m just … you know.”
“Anxious for the shipment?” Sehun asked.
Baekhyun raised his eyes to meet Sehun, the dim lighting of the coffee shop putting a glare on the younger boy’s already sharp features as he stood behind the counter ready to leave. Yet, he stayed behind and was asking about Baekhyun’s mental state. So he wasn’t all that bad.
Baekhyun nodded. It wasn’t a total lie. He was anxious, but … it wasn’t the entire truth either.
“Yeah, I’m kind of …” Sehun trailed off. “Nevermind, it’s better we just do our jobs. The boom in business has saved all of us. No reason to get weird now.”
He was right.
“Get some sleep Sehun,” Baekhyun smiled, “I’ll close up.”
The other boy nodded, slinking out of the empty coffee shop with the weight of the world on his back instead of a chemistry textbook and passing somebody as he did so. At first, it didn’t register in Baekhyun’s brain that somebody was coming in right before the shop closed. But then, much to his immediate disdain, it clicked.
6. When some dumbass comes into the shop right before it closes.
“Can I help you?” Baekhyun asked, so little luster in his voice that he’s surprised words even came out of it.
“Maybe.” A deep and recognizable response came. Baekhyun fixated on the guy entering the floor of the shop and smiled. Mr. Handsome bounced the smile back, a cute toothy smile on his lips. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Cutting it close, handsome.” Baekhyun flashed a smile. “I was starting to daydream about playing Overwatch instead.”
“Is it a day dream if it’s at night?” Taehyung quirked an eyebrow, finally meeting him at the counter.
“I do it all the time. Don’t kink shame me.” Baekhyun joked, tossing a new little rag onto the counter and continuing his end of shift duties. “I did kind of shut everything down, though. Can’t get your fix tonight.”
“Did I say fix? I meant -” Baekhyun backtracked out of that one as quickly as he could. However, bikes don’t pedal backwards. “Licks.”
Typical Baekhyun Behavior.
“It’s what all the kids are saying.” Baekhyun shrugged. “I was sorta hoping I could make you a cup though. If only to get your damn name.”
“You already know my name.” Taehyung sighed, a gentle smile on his face as he did so. “I have no idea how, but-”
“I have my sources.” Baekhyun looked up. “Well, Taehyung. I have to shut stuff down in the back, but you can wait around here for a second. We can … go for a walk?”
Taehyung was obliging, following Baekhyun behind the counter and watching as the dull lights of an almost-closed coffee shop reflected off of the steel contraptions they used to make that coffee. Baekhyun gave him one more glance before slipping into the back to hit the breakers. Generally, it was a no-go to let anybody hang around the store while they were closing. Primarily for security reasons and the, uh, obvious ones. Also because he wasn’t exactly sure who this guy was outside of his twitter profile.
Which was troubling to say the least. He only posts every few weeks and it’s always retweets of lizards in hoodies. Suffice to say he’s still intrigued despite that.
But Jongin decided to call off, so fuck the system. This was how he was making his night up to himself.
With this in mind, Baekhyun put off the idea of the cute boy waiting to go for a walk with him in the other room and reached up to grab the circuit breaker. A little yank brought the electricity to a screeching halt, darkening the area in a few clicks as things totally shut down.
Now, with everything in order, he headed back out.
“You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?” Baekhyun snickered.
He was met by the echo of his own voice bouncing off the glass walls of their shop front on the far side of the room.
Baekhyun blinked. It was too dark to see too much, he just knew his way around the area by touch after closing so many times. “Taehyung?”
No response. Just an eerie silence. At first, Baekhyun was mildly agitated. He did say for Taehyung to just hang out while he shut things down, right? Why would he bolt unless he had something better to do? In which case, why even come here in the first place?
Baekhyun’s blood ran cold, his body slamming back against the wall of his own volition. A sudden warm presence appeared just inches from his skin and fight or flight kicked in before his rational senses took over to tell him just how much of a fool he had made of himself.
The warm presence, now known to the world as Taehyung laughed, his whole body moving as he did so. A body that was still incredibly close to Baekhyun’s own as he heaved in soupy breaths against the wall.
“You fucker,” Baekhyun hissed.
“Sorry!” Taehyung chuckled. “I knew it was mean, I just couldn’t resist.”
“Couldn’t resist, huh?” God he didn’t mean for it to sound like flirting. He was just entirely too worked up from the adrenaline to articulate his words properly.
And when he unraveled his body, letting the muscles unfurl, he found that his skin was brushing against the fabric of Taehyung’s hoodie. He hadn’t had time to properly appreciate how nice Taehyung looked in just jeans and a hoodie. He normally came in looking dapper, so to see him sporting streetwear was somewhat-
“Could you?” Taehyung asked, shaking the spiral out of Baekhyun’s thoughts.
He suddenly realized just how fucked he was.
“No.” Baekhyun said softly, surprising himself with the lack of filter.
There were a few seconds of silence that crawled by, both of them still so close and breathing from the same pocket of air. Until Taehyung stepped back, making a little apologetic noise as he did so. Baekhyun stepped forward too, sliding out from between the wall and the other guy, making no hesitation to grab his wallet from the counter and head away from the coffee bar.
“Still, uh,” Words, Baekhyun. “Good for walking?”
“I’m normally bad for walking.” Taehyung smiled. Baekhyun’s darkness adjusting eyes just barely caught the change in facial expression. “But for tonight I’ll make an exception.”
“Oh, Jungkook, he’s so dreamy.” Jimin mocked in a high pitched voice.
Jungkook smiled, stapling a couple of papers and tossing into a pile next to where Jimin was seated on his desk. The same feminine tone present in his own voice. “Didn’t you two go for a promenade?”
“Why, yes.” Jimin laid a hand on his heart. “We talked all evening about Overwatch and how we play the same fictional character in it.”
“What a dreamy man.” Jungkook’s tone was not as strong as Jimin, cracking a little bit as he laughed.
Taehyung was not in the least bit appeased by this. Jimin was already a gossipy bitch before Jungkook came along. And normally the secretary had a habit of making the interns into his best friends just because of how close they were to him in age, but this one especially. While Jungkook had initially been a little quiet and dorky, he truly came out of his shell around Jimin. Which was great. Bonds and friendship and all that jazz.
Except they usually ended up bonding over making Taehyung’s life a living hell.
“Guys.” Taehyung sighed, having to walk past them to get to the coffee machine.
Jimin’s voice dropped back to his usual register. “Getting more coffee, Tae?”
“Late night?” Jungkook asked as well.
Taehyung clutched the coffee mug tighter, wishing he had some of EXO’s magically calming brew in his cup instead of whatever landfill making box brew he currently had.
“Out walking the city or something?” Jimin offered. “Wishing that Baekhyun was in-”
“In what?” Namjoon called, strolling past them while flipping through a well-marked up story that Yoongi had penned. “This shit fucking sucks.”
“Don’t you have a 148 IQ?” Yoongi growled, snatching the now edited story out of his hands as they passed one another. “Can’t you use more than profanity?”
“Apparently that’s all that works around here.” Namjoon dropped the rest of his papers on Seokjin’s desk. “These are for you.”
Jin rolled his eyes. “Love when you bring me presents, Joon.”
“Don’t thank me yet.” Namjoon chuckled, disappearing behind his office.
The exchange left Yoongi near Taehyung at the coffee machine, the secretary and his lackey intern at Jungkook’s desk, and Namjoon and Seokjin actually doing work on the other end of the bullpen.
“Were they making fun of me a little bit ago?” Yoongi muttered to Taehyung. “You know what? I don’t want to know.”
Taehyung laughed softly, “Well, if you weren’t soft towards Hoseok then they wouldn’t pick on you.”
“I’m soft towards Jimin too, come on,” Yoongi argued.
“Yeah, but Jimin’s the one making fun of you.”
Yoongi shrugged, finishing his own coffee making process and sighing. “Fine. So it was me.”
Taehyung sipped the coffee, nearly spitting it out when he realize how hot it was, but managing to maintain his composure long enough to swallow. Which was awesome, but not when he’d have to deal with singed tastebuds for the rest of the day. Still, he managed to make the point. “Nope. Making fun of me.”
How on earth Hoseok managed to appear at the most inconvenient parts of a conversation was beyond anybody’s understanding. People in this office in general had a habit of appearing and disappearing at the drop of a hat, probably something made accessible by the fact that theire office was one big room, but Hoseok still took home the title of Houdini here.
Made worse by how he had no idea what the context was and generally bore that stunning smile that said I really don’t care.
“Uh …” Yoongi looked over to Taehyung for a bail.
Taehyung sighed, yanking on the lifeline. “For my date.”
Hoseok raised his eyebrows. “You went on a date?”
“So it’s a date!” Jimin exclaimed.
“Oh my god, I shouldn’t have said anything.” Taehyung sighed.
Jimin clapped, his excitement not containable without a little wiggle from his body. He tended to show emotions through his whole musculature though, so it wasn’t uncommon. It just happened to, again, be at Taehyung’s expense once more. “So when’s date number two?”
Jungkook played off Jimin once more. “Did he kiss you at the door?”
“How scandalous,” Yoongi deadpanned before bringing his coffee cup to his lips and taking a freshly torn apart newspaper article back to his desk across the room.
Hoseok raised an eyebrow. “Wait, he kissed you?”
A response from Taehyung was immediately cut off by another sassy remark from Jimin. “Did he see your spider-man sheets?”
“Jimin!” Taehyung squeaked. “Don’t tell everyone.”
Both Hoseok’s eyebrows were up now. “You have spider-man sheets?”
“Stop.” Taehyung put up a hand, red fluster blushing across his features. “Okay, yeah I have spider-man sheets. They are currently paired with my dinosaur pillow cases because the color scheme is impeccable and I will take no shit on this.” He drew in a deep breath. “But, no, he didn’t kiss me. We just walked and talked.”
Hoseok jumped back in. “About coffee?”
“Hey.” For once Jimin came to Taehyung’s aid. It was shocking to say the least. “Not everything’s about the coffee shop.”
“Maybe when you aren’t writing the story on it.” Hoseok shrugged. “That’s fine. I’ll just start going to the coffee shop on my own so you don’t feel conflicted. What Joonie doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”
“That’s it?” Taehyung looked concern.
“Well, yeah.” Hoseok frowned and nodded. “If you like him then it isn’t about the story anymore. Don’t worry about it, kid.”
For starters, Taehyung dresses really well. Like exceedingly, inappropriately, ridiculously well. Not even in the traditional sense of the words either. The guy seemed to have just meshed things in his closet together and met Baekhyun on the corner of Fifth and Holy Fuck Street looking like a king.
Even across the green expanse of the pool table in front of him, Baekhyun could fully take in just how perfectly he fit into it too. The smoke in the air barely serving to cover anything up as it was whisked out the open door of the dive bar and into the night. It only clouded things enough to feel right.
Taehyung, the man in question, was wearing a leather jacket that pulled up against his wrists when he leaned over to hit a cueball with the pool stick. It revealed a dark black metal watch that Baekhyun could not stop staring at. Under that he had a simple white button down and a black tie. An odd choice to go under a leather jacket, but man did it work. For his pants, Baekhyun assumed the word was pinstripe. They were dark blue with accentuating white stripes tickering the full vertical length, meeting his ankles at a pair of brown boots, not too high, but not too low.
“You dress yourself right?” Baekhyun asked, leaning against the poolstick.
Taehyung didn’t respond right away. He took the shot, and his sharp eyes followed the cueball as it grazed another red ball, snapping that one onto the one he wanted to hit and just barely pocketing it. He smiled to himself and straightened up, moving around the table to the other side where Baekhyun was holding up the wall.
“Of course I do.” Taehyung finally responded. “Don’t you?”
“Yeah, but I don’t look like I’m on a runway in Paris.”
Taehyung scoffed. “They wouldn’t let me into the city of lights looking like this.”
“Fashion is a passion.” Baekhyun snickered. “Noted.”
He watched Taehyung sink yet another ball before surveying the game. They were three drinks in and feeling sublime. Enough to make the night feel like it was an ebb and flow of minutes, but not enough that either of them felt anything beyond warm and buzzy like the air particles flitzing around them in excitement. It was awesome.
The same could not be said for the game Baekhyun was now looking at. He himself had three balls left on the green and Taehyung was currently aiming for a futile shot on the eight ball. The angle assured him one more go around, but he really didn’t feel safe with that single turn at all.
“Let’s ditch this place.” Baekhyun said.
“Why?” Taehyung looked over his shoulder at him, the shot still neatly lined up between his fingertips. “Because you’re gonna lose.”
Baekhyun smirked. ”I think I could still win for the night.”
It’s insanely weird for him kiss somebody that he’s previously fantasized about kissing. Alice in Wonderland weird. Because either it’s up to his expectations or it isn’t. And for the most part, Taehyung makes people out to be untouchable in his head. If he even has the slightest touch of chemistry with someone, then he has to just continue to embarrass himself around this person until he gets to a place where he’s functioning like a person and not locking up every eighteen seconds.
Which happened with Byun Baekhyun because, well, anybody who’s seen him would know why. He’s dashing and sassy and just so open to conversation. He’d had only a couple of conversations with this barista, but he felt like he could ask him anything.
Baekhyun stuck his tongue out. “Trick question: everything.”
“Okay. Not cucumbers.”
Taehyung chuckled, his hands six feet deep n his pockets as they strolled along the small town’s streets. The wind was cold, but bounced off his jacket harmlessly, only really getting a chance to nip at his face now and then. “Cucumbers are awesome. They can become pickles.”
Baekhyun screwed up his face. “You can pickle anything.”
“But pickled cucumbers are called pickles.” Taehyung shazarded a glance at Baekhyun, who was thankfully looking straight ahead and unable to melt Taehyung with his hot gaze. “So they’re the most pickled thing ever.”
“You make no sense, you know that?” Baekhyun did meet Taehyung’s gaze then.
And it was hot. Maybe that was the couple of drinks talking, but Taehyung swallowed hard. “So uh … how did you end up finding out my name?”
“Oh,” Baekhyun seemed surprised for a second. “Well, Jongin knows Jungkook.”
That didn’t really surprise Taehyung. For a shy kid, Jungkook seemed to have more friends texting him than he ever texted. Actually, he can’t remember the last time he saw Jungkook reply to a text message, only read them. And there was only one university in town so for a barista attending that place to know another college student wasn’t surprising at all. Honestly, he should have thought of it sooner.
“Then I googled you.” Baekhyun continued.
“You what?” Taehyung froze in his steps.
Baekhyun stopped as well, realizing almost comically so that he had left his companion behind. When he turned over his shoulder, he saw Taehyung’s face illuminated by the street light and let out a low laugh. “What? Something I shouldn’t see on the internet?”
“No,” Taehyung lied.
“Maybe I’ve already seen it then.” Baekhyun quirked an eyebrow.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Taehyung’s brain notched itself into turbo, “I can explain.”
“Please do.” Baekhyun’s lips curled into a little smirk. He always had the upper hand whenever they spoke. Somewhere between how calm, collected, and charismatic he was and how frustratingly easy it was to wind Taehyung up, their conversations would inevitably turn to this. And this was one he couldn’t shovel his way out of.
“You can’t tell anybody. I tried so hard to bury it.” Taehyung spat out. “Look, it started as a joke. And then I just … it got out of control-”
Baekhyun chuckled, walking back with curiosity on his eyes. “Really now?”
“I invited like two of my friends and I guess they invited a ton of people, and eventually one thing led to another and next thing I knew there was 200 college kids dressed like Tech Store Employees.” Taehyung explained, shaking his hands to get his point across. “They didn’t press charges, but I didn’t want it on my record anywhere so-”
“Wait.” Baekhyun put a hand on Taehyung’s shoulder, a little jolt nailing Taehyung still on the ground. “What?”
“The … time I got arrested for protesting? But in reality it was just … a prank. Jimin and I dressed up like tech store employees to be weird and just stand around when we didn’t actually work there. But, Jimin has a lot of friends and it got out of hand …” Finally the adrenaline in his brain slowed, chilling his spark-happy brain cells for a moment. “Is that not what you saw on google?”
Baekhyun laughed again. He was starting to think Taehyung lived in constant fear of his embarrassing moments being brought up. “Dude, I was just fucking with you. The way you reacted made me think you were into porn or something.”
The streetlight nearby changed to bright red at the exact same time as Taehyung’s face. “P-porn?”
“Yeah.” Baekhyun’s hand slipped off his shoulder and into his pocket. “You know what porn is right?”
“Of, of course I know what porn is.” Taehyung snapped back. His desperate attempts to maintain composure spiraled so, so quickly. “I’ve just never watched it.”
“Never?” Baekhyun was knocked off course a little bit, seeming to be less flirty for a split second. “Like never ever?”
“Uh …” Taehyung sighed. “Will I sound crazy if I say yes?”
Baekhyun eyed him up cautiously, giving him the full body scan at an airport security level. As if, something on his clothes or body would give him some sort of help here. “You’re serious. Wow. Never.”
“Yeah, I’m just …” Taehyung felt his shoulders drop. “This is your apartment building, right? I’ll just … be on my way.”
“Nah.” Baekhyun snatched him by the arm. “Three more drinks and we’ll be able to take your porn virginity.”
“That’s sounds so weird.”
They never got around to really watching porn. Not seriously anyways.
They sat on Baekhyun’s couch. His roommate would pop by every now and then with his headphones blaring so loudly they knew Chanyeol was in another universe entirely. But other than that it was just them, talking back and forth and running through songs on a seemingly endless playlist. But things didn’t get strange initially.
Instead they had more and more drinks, offering up embarrassing stories like trading cards or company secrets and giggling bubbly fits of laughter throughout the night. Neither of them were intensely intoxicated, but Taehyung at least loosened up, letting Baekhyun ask him questions for a change.
“When did you lose your real virginity?”
Taehyung squinted. “University.”
“Did you like it the first time?”
“No. I was really hungry and it was distracting.”
It dwindled away like a game of never have I ever. After a while, Baekhyun had remembered the original ploy he used to get Taehyung into the room and pulled up a porn website. He contained the immediate spouts of laughter once it appeared, but that didn’t last for very long.
Taehyung was hilarious.
“But does she want it stretched?” He asked, rubbing his chin as he read the titles. “That can’t be good.”
Baekhyun would just chuckle and scroll even further. Thumbnails rolling past his cursor and a couple seconds of a clip going by in short frames so Taehyung could make a face. Then he’d click on one, but they’d never make it through anything.
Taehyung shook his head, leaning back on the couch. “I don’t understand how you’re supposed to know she’s a babysitter if there’s no background plot.”
“Can you only get off on the plot?” Baekhyun snorted, biting his lip as he scanned through the video.
A couple of unwatched videos later, Taehyung seemed to get even more upset. “That just doesn’t make sense in the context of the video game! That would never happen. There’s no foundation for why she wouldn’t be able to escape.”
“Dude.” Baekhyun managed to get out through silent and huffy laughter. “It’s just porn.”
“It can’t ignore the game’s deep lore.”
“I’m gonna pee myself.”
“In the other video she wanted that, so.”
“Oh my god.”
Baekhyun pushed the laptop off onto the side of the couch and threw his head back. His laughter was intense, high pitched, coming out despite the lack of air going in. It was contagious too, Taehyung letting himself giggle along to the rhythm of Baekhyun’s own outburst.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Baekhyun breathed, face red and breathing shallow. “One sec.”
“No, you’re cute when you laugh.”
Baekhyun tilted his head, still smiling when he looked at Taehyung. “Whoa, bro. That’s sorta gay.”
“Ah-” Taehyung started.
He didn’t let him finish. Rude? Sure. But necessary? Of course.
Taehyung was putty to Baekhyun’s touch, his face falling to the side when a palm on his cheek urged it to do so. Baekhyun leaned in fast enough to make sure Taehyung’s sentence couldn’t find its own ending, but slow enough that he could capture the doubt if it existed. Which, admittedly, was present, but dissipated like a ghost.
He tasted a little like tea, ironically. Not like mint or jasmine, but more like the sugary sweet tea he gets in a can for a dollar at the convenience store. Baekhyun’s fingers canvas the cheek with ease and the pointer and middle finger slip in where Taehyung’s hair begins. He curves his fingers around Taehyung’s ear and pulls back.
“Good?” Baekhyun asks quietly.
“Good.” Baekhyun states, kissing him again, but failing to follow through. His lips were still against Taehyung’s but their mouths were open, siphoning air from where the corners of their mouths made openings. “Do you want anything?”
“Glass of water,” Taehyung joked in a breathy voice.
Baekhyun smiled, his lips changing shape against the other boy’s. “They don’t do that in the porn.”
“This isn’t porn.”
“It could be.”
During the conversation, Baekhyun’s arm that was pressed against the back of the couch had made it to Taehyung’s shirt, curling the fabric of his tie in his fingers and starting to tug him closer. Taehyung’s breathing changed rapidly, his whole body shifting as Baekhyun pulled him closer. He made the move to roll onto his back, hoping that Taehyung would get the gist, which was exactly what happened. He trailed after Baekhyun’s lips, putting an arm next to his head on the couch and following with the rest of his body.
“Fuck,” Taehyung muttered, pulling a leg out from under the other one and looping it over Baekhyun’s lap so he could sit in it.
“That’s the idea,” Baekhyun teased.
“Not here!” Chanyeol called from the kitchen.
“Chanyeol!” Baekhyun growled from the couch. He put a hand against Taehyung’s chest to push him back a bit and leaned his head further back to properly yell at Chanyeol. “Are you cockblocking me right now?”
“No, because you have a fully capable room!”
The night had gone slowly. At least the way Taehyung remembered it when he woke up next to Baekhyun. The next morning that is.
But last night Baekhyun had led him back to his room in an attempt to be seductive. However, as his heels back away from the door frame, eyes still locked on Taehyung’s as he went, he caught on a hoodie he had chucked at Chanyeol earlier on in the week and tumbled to the floor.
Taehyung laughed so hard that Baekhyun probably thought the mood was sufficiently killed and scrambled around on the floor, pretending to be mad at the article of clothing. This of course, only mad Taehyung laugh harder and knocked Baekyun’s face up a couple of shades of red. Eventually, he fell into a little fit of laughter too, letting Taehyung’s smile explain that he wasn’t at all turned off by the scuff.
So, the night was far from over. In reality, the whole debacle was better in the end. Taehyung had made Baekhyun out to be this all sex-appeal barista, when in reality he was just as self-conscious as Taehyung was, just better at putting on a boastful smile. His words oozed confidence, and his movements were self-assured, but sometimes he seemed a little too careful.
He was certain and gentle when he got Taehyung onto his back, kissing through the smiles and the jokes. A hook-up with somebody like Baekhyun was almost too easy. Painless and careless just like every good fuck should be. And Baekhyun’s mastered the art of said hook-up early judging by the way his hands roamed when he kissed.
Taehyung was responsive when Baekhyun’s hand fumbled against his pants. The way they came together might have looked absolutely stunning on his body, but did fuck all to help Baekhyun get them off of him.
“You’re kidding.” Taehyung chuckled, breaking the kiss.
“Don’t be a dick.” Baekhyun’s smile betrayed his words, teeth peeking out as he looked down.
“You can’t even get to it.” Taehyung cringed at his own phrase. “I’m sorry.”
“No, no.” Baekhyun suddenly was away from his face and traveling down his body, expertly and deftly popping buttons in an impressive display. “Get your tie off too, yeah?”
Taehyung nodded obediently, rushing to undo the tie around his neck. Why did he wear this? He had an idea of where this would go, so it’s really all on him. Come on, he had better outfits for getting laid than this one.
It was a sudden sensation when he realized Baekhyun had gotten his pants successfully undone and was pulling them down. He was so fast it ws terrifying. For a second Taehyung wondered if the man just had increased deftness with his fingers or something, but the thought was squashed by the immediacy of the situation.
Since Taehyung had been struggling with his tie so long, he just had to helplessly watch as Baekhyun got his pants off. Thankfully he’d left his shoes at the door. Baekhyun then proceeded to drop it on the floor with the rest of his wardrobe.
“Got it there, bud?” Baekhyun asked, lazily turning his head up as he pulled his shirt off. Just casually undressing himself. No big deal.
If Taehyung was failing to make progress with his own clothes before however, that was going to be zero help to him. He hesitated to look away from the other guy as he undressed himself at an unhurried pace. Finally the tie came free and Taehyung slapped it to the floor somewhere, anywhere. Then he sat up off the bed, meeting Baekhyun’s gaze as he shrugged off the dress shirt behind his back.
Baekhyun was thin, but not too thin. Like he worked out only to eat all the junk food he wanted. His hips came out in a way Taehyung found entirely too appealing. His boxers cutting a clean line on the skin there and Baekhyun’s thumbs were annoyingly toying with the elastic of that same boxer’s elastic band.
“You’re slow.” Baekhyun teased.
Nothing was slow after that. In a hurry they found themselves with just skin against the air and kissing again. Their hands were desperate to get started, but like speeding in the rain, failed to gain any traction besides messy hair tugging kisses. After a couple moments of situating their bodies, however, it became apparent that they liked kissing a little too much.
Baekhyun took point without any pushing, kissing away from Taehyung’s mouth and working across his jawline. Once he reached the corner near Taehyung’s ear, he must have lucidly remembered the whole point of this excursion.
“Move like that.” Baekhyun’s voice was low and soft. It was comforting and mesmerizing like he had a time turner ready to make a minute into an hour or an hour into a day.
Taehyung did it all. He moved like that and he let Baekhyun make patterns out of places Taehyung found all too sensitive for his own liking. If anything he wished Baekhyun would press his fingers just a touch deeper. Grip something or dig into something. Soft was ticklish and ticklish was Taehyung’s head rolling back as he strived to catch his breath again.
And as things flowed, it became warm and slow like molasses or jelly. Something that was thick and difficult to work with, but too damn sweet to go without. They made jokes and exchanged little quips to keep the pace up, kissing between turns of phrase to remind themselves how much they enjoyed it. Somebody had been chewing gum earlier so there was a little taste of mint. But neither of them would own up to being the one who had anticipated this, so they’ll leave that unanswered.
But it was Taehyung.
And the worst part of the experience?
Baekhyun kept condoms in his wallet.
He laughed in embarassment and called it Typical Baekhyun Behavior, but Taehyung didn’t let him live that down for a second. He called him a fuckboy at least twice as things proceeded from there. But it didn’t matter really where the condoms and the lubrication came from.
Baekhyun was still intent on being charming and easy on Taehyung when he eased himself in inch by careful inch. Centimeters even as he felt the situation out. It was a nonverbal decision for him to do what he was doing, but Taehyung used the pavlovian method to get him in the zone. Good things would be a gasp and everything else would just sorta lay flat until Baekhyun moved again. Nothing was bad enough to warrant something otherwise.
It was all good.
The rhythm was steady like an RnB track. Which might have been what was playing off Baekhyun’s gaming computer. It had nice speakers and even nicer songs. Women singing over leisurely paced, bassy progressions. The snare muted and cracking on gradual even beats. Being very in tune with the sounds, they found the skin to skin matching up with the electronic vibes and their breathing coasting along the bars harmonically.
“Your voice.” Baekhyun said with complacent lips on Taehyung’s neck.
“Yeah?” Taehyung encouraged.
“It’s so deep. I never noticed.” Baekhyun laughed a little, but it was hot and breathy and not at all the giggles from earlier. “Not Chanyeol deep, but … fuck.”
“Gonna bring up your roommate right now?” Taehyung teased.
Baekhyun thrusted a little harder in lieu of a verbal response, reveling in the little hitch it caused in Taehyung’s uncomfortably steady breathing. It interested Baekhyun so much that he created a beat switch, making longer and deeper thrusts and nipping experimentally at whatever salty bits of skin he could get his teeth across.
If the first part of the song was the build up, this was the break down. Stiffled giggles from earlier were notched in the rings of their throats now, pushed aside by grunts and groans instead.
And the more toe-curling, eye rolling, moan rivaling: “Handsome.”
Replied to with a breathy, but still snarky, “Fuckboy.”
If only they truly had a time turner, maybe it could have lasted forever and flipped and turned like real sex was meant to be. But they were both over-eager and Baekhyun’s hand had reached the bottom of Taehyung’s stomach at this point, gripping around him and making the already perfectly placed thrusts push him over the metaphorical edge.
It never felt metaphorical while it was happening, and by a stroke of luck, Baekhyun was able to hold out long enough to snag a one-way ticket with Taehyung, both gasping with open mouths. Taehyung hadn’t had the mental capacity to kiss Baekhyun, so thank the stars above that Baekhyun’s mind was tracked enough to get his lips back up there.
The chaste kisses made up for how shaky and clunky the rhythm got once it crashed into them. The seizing feeling of an orgasm done well kept it quick and clean as they fell apart so evenly.
Honestly, Taehyung didn’t even mind the little sticky feeling he got waking up the next morning. Baekhyun definitely didn’t mind it. Which was disconcerting, but he looked sorta cute sleeping, so Taehyung let things slide from there.
“Hello everybody!” Kyungsoo announced, storming out of the back room and putting a hand up in declaration.
It was a busy day at the coffee shop. Every position was staffed and even Junmyeon was on deck, running around on the floor and shoving the thoughts of unanswered emails into the anxiety bin that is his conscious mind. So this meant that all three baristas turned their attention up to the suddenness of Kyungsoo’s actions.
Yixing scurried along behind him, his hair looking perfectly styled despite having been baking since the wee hours of the morning. Even Junmyeon paused at the counter as he passed by, intrigued instantly. It’s not everyday that Kyungsoo speaks above a passive aggressive whisper unless he’s flustered over having received a compliment.
“Sehun!” Kyungsoo pointed to where the busboy should be. “Come out here and face up.”
Slowly, the college student peeked his head out around from the corner, meeting the all knowing eyes of Kyungsoo and inwardly accepting his fate. He stepped otu from around the corner and Baekhyun tuned in more fully now, seeing exactly how ashamed Sehun’s features showed him to be.
“Oh fuck.” Jongin sighed, leaning back against the counter. “Call your boyfriend because this place is about to go down in flames.”
Kyungsoo cleared his throat. “I’d like announce that the counter has been reset. It has now been zero days since our last bullshit in this coffee shop.”
Junmyeon pinched the bridge of his nose. “What now?”
“Can anybody tell me what goes in a butter container?” Kyungsoo asked. “Not all at once.”
Everybody was a bit too scared to respond to him. Even the customers in their seats felt the heat raditating off his sentences.
Yixing sighed, “For those of you unintelligent enough to grasp this: it’s butter.”
“Yes.” Kyungsoo shot a glare at Sehun. “Does anybody know what somebody put in the butter container this morning?”
Again, he was met with silence. Kyungsoo was generally a pretty fun guy. His jokes and glares were almost always for the sake of banter. He was loved dearly for it. Especially considering how tense it got in the coffee shop considering the nature of what they did, it was necessary to be able to take things and roll them off with a laugh.
But right now he was not joking.
Yixing raised his hand with a sigh.
Kyungsoo turned a less sharp gaze upon his fellow chef. “Yes, Yixing.”
“Was it crisco?”
“Also correct.” Kyungsoo reached into his pocket and pulled out a bagel. “I was pretty fucking tired this morning. So excuse me for trusting the dimly lit kitchen. Won’t do that again. Does anybody know what a bagel tastes like with crisco instead of butter?”
Judging by the look of the bagel, not good. It was the wrong consistency to say the least. Everybody made their own personal looks of disdain as Kyungsoo held it up. Every one of them knew Kyungsoo was a dramatic person when he needed to be and quiet the rest. So if they kept their mouths shut, they were in for a ride.
And they were.
Kyungsoo pointed a finger at Sehun, “Butter Boy. You want to try it?”
All eyes on The youngest employee now suddenly. Behind all of them they could feel Junmyeon’s disapproval, but since he’s just keeping himself together by a pseudo-professional string, and at heart still an employee himself, he only made a few snorts and watched with a creeping smile. It’s a train wreck you can’t look away from.
Sehun nodded, swallowing a whole continent of desert in his throat as he stepped towards his attacker. Standing there, calm and silent, Kyungsoo extended the bagel to Sehun.
“Listen …” Sehun offered gently, “It was dark because I was moving the-”
“Sehun.” Jongin piped up, shaking his hand. “Just take the L and eat the bagel.”
And so he did, reaching out and taking the deformed baked good from Kyungsoo’s clutches. His eyes searched for a shred of mercy in the crowd of people surrounding him, but they were all watching with rapt attention, waiting to see Sehun’s inevitable fall from grace. Baekhyun could only assume that Sehun had so soon forgotten the last time they both had to take the brunt of the kitchen’s punishments. Never undeserved and never pleasant.
His fingers were a bit shaky as he brought it to his lips. His eyes squeezed shut tightly before the fuck it part of his brain kicked in, lunging his open mouth onto it and taking a full bite. At first, there was no real reaction as Sehun tore away, working his jaw as he chewed at the greasiest bagel ever.
Then it hit. Something in his features crumpled under the pressure, everything squaring up and pulling in like he’d had a sour piece of candy, but his jaw kept chewing. Everybody had their hands on their mouthes, forcing the laughter back into their throats.
Until, of course, Sehun bolted for the trash can, spitting out the slimy beast of a bagel and making little gagging noises. Certainly an overreaction on his part, but giving them all exactly enough reason to break down into laughter. Baekhyun and Jongin were the first to go, earning the meanest looks from Yixing and Kyungsoo who seemed to be enjoying this in a purely educational manner.
“Alright-” Junmyeon laughed too, catching Jongdae off guard who was still somewhat composed and now started chuckling at the sight of their superior losing his cool.
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, feeling satiated with the display before tossing the rest of the gross bagel into the trashcan and trudging his way back into the kitchen, trailed by Yixing.
“Fuck, that’s good.” Baekhyun wiped a single escaped tear from the corner of his eye as he put himself back together.
The baristas jumped, having not noticed Taehyung entered only a couple of moments before. He was obviously confronted with the bizarre situation in its full, but didn’t seem to be too put off, his eyes watching Sehun make dramatic heaves into the trashcan while Junmyeon and Jongdae tried to half-heartedly comfort the table cleaner.
“Uh …” Baekhyun pulled at the cap on his head, running his hand through his hair to get it back inside of it. “Just work antics, you know?”
Now, out of the blue, Taehyung seemed shocked. “Whoa.”
“What?” Baekhyun’s turn to question things. “Something on my face?”
Jongin laughed, snagging a cup from the pile and heading over to another customer waiting. “That’s just your face.”
Baehyun made sure to smack Jongin in passing before he situated his hat fully back on his head and turned back to Taehyung who was still flabbergasted for lack of a better word.
“Your hair’s red.” Taehyung looked at him with awe. “Like bright red.”
“Well … yeah.” Baekhyun leaned over the register. “You can dye your hair nowadays, have you heard?”
“Yep, yeah, sure …” Taehyung mouthed another mute sentence before following through, “Just really … unexpected.”
“If that’s all it took to get you worked up, I would have done it sooner,” Baekhyun smiled warmly.
“Oh, believe me. You were doing plenty fine with that before.” Taehyung nodded, eyes still glued to the loose strands under Baekhyun’s cap.
It gave Baekhyun assurance he had felt in a long time. “So are you here for coffee or to drool?”
One hook-up for Baekhyun might be one hook-up, but Taehyung has a habit of making a habit of people. Part of him just enjoyed the stabilization and comfortability achievable only through fucking somebody until they’re okay with the things he likes and does. Another part is attachable. That was the problematic portion of this equation.
But when his muscles are truncated from pleasure and the words coming out of his mouth were more monolinguistic. A new language that consisted only of “Baek” and “Hyun”.
Not that the combination of those two terms was uncomfrotable with it. He hadn’t had time to fall in love with Taehyung as a person, but he had become a touch affected by the boy’s voice. Loving the way it grew deeper and higher, riding octaves worth of pitches during intercourse like a wooden rollercoaster ricketing back and forth. But it was a track that got them from one drop to another in record time and sparked enough adrenaline to make the moment worth it.
Baekhyun rolled off of him and pulled the comforter up to his chin, breathing heavily over the music coming from Taehyung’s offbrand speaker. He had bought that on some sort of holiday flash sale. It was a steal of a price and to this day one of his best purchases despite the fact that when it runs low on battery it will sometimes yell at him in a language he doesn’t know. So foreign in fact that he can’t even think what language it is. But the speaker will yell until it gets charged, so at least its effective.
“Nice sheets.” Baekhyun huffed, both of them still recovering physically from a little more passionate of session than previously had.
“I told Jungkook the lego sheets were hot.” Taehyung smiled. “Nobody believes me.”
“I’m into it.” Baekhyun laughed.
A few more minutes of uneasy breathing left them closer than before. They hadn’t cuddled the first time, but they both felt significantly closer this time. They had shared more moments of smiling bliss than hot pining between this time and the last. Their kisses felt a little more momentous this time as well, bringing both of them to their knees in due time.
So when they had bared their hearts in a traditional round of sex on a squeaky mattress, it felt only rational that they would bare their hearts here too. Not that Taehyung didn’t always tell little secrets to Baekhyun, gaining catharsis from the little relief of letting somebody so easy to talk to in on things. But he didn’t expect Baekhyun to put as much out there as he was about to.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Baekhyun’s voice was a little icy. Something that Taehyung immediately tuned into, flexing his toes a bit in anticipation.
“Yes.” Taehyung was gentle in his response.
“Our company SM was going to close our coffee shop a while ago.” Baekhyun started, bringing Taehyung’s full consciousness onto him. “And the way we kept things open has been really weighing on me.”
Taehyung moved his tongue around a bit, trying to keep the dryness in his mouth a bay for a moment. “What do you mean?”
Baekhyun seemed emotional suddenly. Not in the crying after sex sort of way, but in the way that a person entirely vulnerable and looking for an outlet might. “Sehun just did it once for shits and giggles. He and Jongin thought it would be fun to go out with a bang, but then it did well. And nobody caught us, so we kept going. And when the money came in we couldn’t say no. It just got out of control, Taehyung.”
“Dude” Taehyung reached over and put an arm across Baekhyun’s chest. He roleld onto his side to look at the barista’s profile basked by moonlight and worry. “Slow down. I have no idea what you’re saying.”
“THC oil.” Baekhyun explained. “We’ve been drugging the coffee.”
Taehyung’s formulated response dissolved suddenly like a chemistry experiment. For just a second he remembered the sign on Minseok’s coffee shop the morning that he had closed it and he remembered the first time he had a cup of EXO coffee and felt so relaxed the rest of the day. His brain was spinning like spun out yo-yo and he had to kick himself on start a few times to speak.
“Why are you telling me this?” Taehyung couldn’t think of anything better to ask.
“Who else can I tell?” Baekhyun sighed, turning to look at him. “I kind of want it to go away. But I can’t. So I’m just going to tell you instead. Alright. Cool. Okay?”
Taehyung shifted, putting his head on Baekhyun’s chest and hugging him tightly. “Yeah, okay.”
“Okay.” Junmyeon said slowly, putting his hands on Jongdae’s shoulders. “Say it again.”
Baekhyun watched as Jongdae’s eyes flickered amongst all of the employees hovering over him. They had just closed out on a Sunday, which was the day normally reserved for closing early and therefore everyone stayed to have little meetings.
Normally these meetings consisted of Junmyeon going over the sales projections for the week and how they absolutely fucking crushed those sales marks. Then he’d talk about how corporate is amazed at how they managed to clean the place up. A couple of jokes would be passed around and Jongin and Sehun would whisper to each other like they were sharing the secrets of the world. Junmyeon would probably berate them for it only to have them start back up a couple of minutes later. And Baekhyun would be overall bored to tears.
But instead they were crowding around Jongdae and waiting intently for him to repeat the treacherous sentence he just spoke.
Jongdae didn’t get it. He repeated himself slower in a are you that dumb sort of tone. “We’re out.”
“Out?” Junmyeon clarified.
“Yes. Out.” Junmyeon held up a little bottle and shook it side to side, no liquid moving in it. “Out.”
They all looked towards each other suddenly. Baekhyun made eye contact with Yixing first. “Do you guys have baking stuff in the back?”
Yixing frantically shook his head and looked to Kyungsoo who also shook his head from side to side in a chaotic manner. Then suddenly it began to sink in for Baekhyun.
They buy in bulk. It’s a business model. First of all, they like to ignore the fact they may have wandered into the drug trade out of necessity and desperation. Secondly, the drug deals were something none of them really enjoyed doing and therefore tried to limit. This latest batch was supposed to last them through the month, so, if they were out today, it would leave them with an entire week of no stock.
Maybe they could go one day without slipping a little something extra into their now hooked regular’s coffees, THC wasn’t addictive after all, but eventually the lack of luster would be noticeable and people would start to realize that they have no idea how to make good coffee.
“Shit.” Baekhyun hissed.
“Yeah, really.” Junmyeon pulled his hands off Jongdae and internally surpressed the major freak-out looming on his horizon. “Sehun, how soon can we get a meet?”
The youngest employee was tapping away at his phone. “Already on it. He says he can get us some tomorrow night if we can meet him at the park. Also to bring everyone so it’s less suspicious.”
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “Won’t that be more suspicious?”
“Fine.” Junmyeon waved the conversation away with a flick of his wrist. “Everyone is going to the deal tomorrow night. Non-negotiable. Call your boyfriends and fiancees and daughters and tell them date night’s off.”
Everyone nodded. Except for Jongin who groaned.
“Everyone?” Jongin whined.
Sehun elbowed him. “Yes, everyone. You’re not special.”
Jongin gave him puppy eyes. “But I’ve got a date with that girl in my accounting class.”
“Lisa?” Sehun’s eyebrows went up. “Okay, yeah, no. You’re special. Junmyeon, he’s super special.”
Junmyeon groaned. “Fine, whatever. Jongin can stay behind. Everyone else is not exempt. Meeting adjourned.”
That morning felt faster than usual. The coffee Baekhyun made him normally took a bit of the sting off of the morning. It felt like he had a little more time on his hands and that the world wasn’t passing him by quite so rapidly. He felt at ease and unstressed. The coffee made him just a touch less worried and a bit more concentrated.
He supposed that all made sense now, didn’t it?
He sighed, dropping his pencil to his desk. How the fuck could they even do that?
Taehyung is the master of ridiculous stories. His entire life motto was that you should try everything once and that “I stayed home that night” never made for a great life story. Taehyung had always put himself out there and done all the crazy and silly things that impulsed through his brain. And he had wonderfully awesome stories to show for it. It’s why he became a journalist. He wanted to experience everything and help other people do it too.
But this was beyond that level of ridiculousness.
He went to the coffee shop that morning, but he didn’t order coffee. He talked with Baekhyun, hoping it would ease his troubled mind, but it didn’t. Not in the slightest. Baekhyun was apologetic and soft. He put his hands over top of Taehyung’s and gave him sympathetic little smiles. He offered to make him coffee that was extra sweet without anything in it, but Taehyung didn’t feel safe with the idea.
Mostly because he remembered this all started with a hunch Hoseok had. And Hoseok was right all along. EXO Coffee didn’t get better over night. Not legally of course. And now that Taehyung knows that it’s gnawing at his stomach like a dog on a bone. Ever since he found out he felt like he couldn’t fill his lungs up the whole way.
His phone rang, jolting him away from his pensive state. The caller ID had him answering in milliseconds.
“Minseok.” He said.
The man on the other line laughed. “Your voice sounds the same.”
Taehyung nodded even though Minseok couldn’t see it. “It’s been so long I thought you wouldn’t respond to my calls.”
“I’m really sorry. I was working through a lot of things.” Minseok apologized, sincerity rising in his tone, “And you’ve been busy too I assume?”
“Yeah … uh, sort of.” Taehyung bit his lip.
“What’s the latest story? I miss hearing about that.”
Back when Taehyung went to Minseok’s coffee shop everyday, they would talk over the counter about his stories. It gave somebody for Taehyung to bounce ideas off of and to spin his moral compass on occasion. Rarely did he ask what Minseok was up to since the guy seemed so happily closed off about his personal life. How he ever ended up with his number was beyond him. Probably for convenience’s sake. But it did lead to this moment. Minseok calling at exactly the right time.
“It’s kind of about you. Well, about the coffee shop that closed yours down.” Taehyung explained.
“Is that so?” Minseok seemed distanced from it. “What specifically?”
Taehyung sighed, leaning back on the office chair and watching Yoongi skirt around Seokjin’s desk as he finished last minute edits. “Between me and you and the dinosaurs, EXO has been cheating to get ahead. I’m just not sure if should tell everyone.”
Minseok was quiet on the phone, keeping his lips sealed for a moment. Taehyung knew he was calculating a response, though he had hoped it would elicit a more immediate reaction from the guy. But it had been weeks now and Minseok was no fool.
“What about journalistic integrity?” Minseok said finally.
Taehyung chuckled. “There is that. I was kinda hoping to get your stance, though.”
“I can’t divorce myself from the idea that they cheated me out of a business.” Minseok let a trickle of emotion in, cracking the lines between them for a moment. “I’d want you to write the story.”
It felt right to divert then. The conversation couldn’t last since he was at work and Namjoon would stroll in asking for pitches any second now. Minseok had to have known that. In fact, Taehyung was certain he called at this time precisely for that reason. A short conversation was easier to bite off than a long one after something like what he’s been through.
“We should catch up for real.” Taehyung said, letting the other topic slip away. “Really.”
“Okay, deal.” Minseok sounded chipper. “I know you have to go. Text me and we’ll take a walk.”
Taehyung muttered a goodbye, seeing Namjoon roll up the stairs and start firing off names until people looked up from the early morning dirges and drew near.
“Don’t think I don’t see you, Hoseok!” Namjoon pointed a finger to the watercooler where Hoseok was feebly attempting to hide himself. “Today’s your last day on that dumbass coffee story before I give you real work to do and you’re not gonna like it.”
Hoseok sighed, dragging himself away from the oh so safe water cooler and towards the bullpen where he leaned back against a desk Yoongi was sitting on. Seokjin, Jimin, and Jungkook all gathered themselves as well, leaving Taehyung to just lean forward, indicating his attention to the situation.
“Guess who’s sales are still down?” Namjoon took his glasses off, rubbing them against his shirt as he spoke. “Definitely not the only newspaper in this sorry excuse for a town.” He sighed, replacing the spectacles to where they previously sat. “Alright. Jin.”
Jin looked down at his notes, “Some bigoted church tried to picket the college and got run off by six women in unicorn onesies.”
Namjoon furrowed his brow. “Really?”
Seokjin shrugged. “That’s what I heard.”
“I guess … you’re on it,” Namjoon sighed, “Yoongi. Sports.”
“When I went to get quotes at the last game a bear interrupted the 5th inning.” Yoongi shrugged.
Namjoon raised his eyebrows.
Yoongi did too, “So I’ll write a story on that?”
“Awesome.” Namjoon caught his eyes on Jungkook. “What about you, rookie?”
“Me?” Jungkook perked up.
“Yeah, hurry up. I don’t have all day.” Namjoon crossed his arms.
“Okay, well …” Jungkook still looked stunned as he sped through the notes on his phone. “One of the houses on Greek Row got broken into twice this week. Nobody injured, but I could check with police.”
“Perfect.” Namjoon clapped his hands together. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a pitch. Taehyung, keep it rolling.”
When the spotlight was on him, he instantly forgot everything he had read that morning and written down the past few days. Mostly because he’d been working on traffic and weather stories or recently worrying about the fact that he had been unknowingly getting high before work everyday. That thought crept at the back of his mind, tickling his tongue. In reality, it wasn’t his place. He thought of Baekhyun’s face when he admitted it to him that night, and the urge slipped back down the pipe.
“County fair.” Taehyung said softly. “Supposedly the largest ear of corn ever shown will be there.”
“Sounds …” Namjoon trailed off, “Super local. Go ahead.”
With the barely boiling heat off Taehyung, he leaned back, watching everybody else starting to scribble things down or look for contact numbers online while Namjoon moved to finish the circle. He seemed a bit lost, pointing to Hoseok’s desk before realizing he was over at Yoongi’s and spinning back to yell his name.
“Hoseok!” Namjoon popped. “How about that coffee shop story?”
The lightness of Hoseok’s face clicked off, replaced by the sudden ushering in of rejection. Now, Hoseok pitches strangely outrageous stories, but usually by the end of them he’s whittled out something a little more tame and at least banked on a back-up version of his claims that’s supported by evidence. A conspiracy becomes a report and that’s how it works, and he’s okay with it. At least as far as everyone could guess. But, he seemed a little sadder about this one than usual.
“Yeah, my hunch fell through.” Hoseok frowned. “I can still put something together if you want. Just … don’t want a skew on it.”
Even Namjoon was a bit taken aback by how soft Hoseok had spoken. He curled his pointed finger back into his palm and made a fist that he shook in a little awkward cheering movement. “You sure?”
Hoseok met eyes with him. “Yep. I’ll just … I’ll get something on your desk by the end of the day.”
“Okay …” Namjoon nodded, a somberness suddenly settling around the room. “So, that’s that. I’ll see you guys-”
“Wait.” Taehyung blurted out suddenly.
Everybody froze, looking at him from whatever vantage point they had. Namjoon raised his eyebrows again, encouraging whatever terribly impulsive decision Taehyung had just made.
Taehyung swallowed his hesitancy. “Actually, I have a big story. About EXO Coffee.”
“You are the only person I know that would wear a bright blue jacket to deal drugs in,” Junmyeon hissed.
“It’s designer,” Baekhyun was grumpy and glowering. “I don’t even want to be here.”
“That makes two of us,” Junmyeon rolled his eyes, “except one of us is wearing black because they’re a sane person.”
Sehun, leading the pack with his cellphone in hand shushed them both. “Come on, guys.”
Normally - No, Almost always, Sehun and Jongin do the pick-ups themselves and they do it on campus where people are a little more lenient. Even campus cops are forgiving. But this time had to happen on short notice and their dealer was unprepared. Seeing as he’s the only guy in town both willing to sell in such big quantities to such a high risk client, and hasn’t gotten squirrelly, they didn’t have any choice but to work with him.
“Alright.” Sehun said softly, pointing down the path of the park that was just barely lit by streetlights. There were a couple of guys sitting on a bench, laughing and pushing at each other. Baekhyun watched them carefully for a moment before looking back at Sehun. “Okay Baekhyun, Junmyeon, you’re with me.”
“And us?” Kyungsoo asked, hands burrowed in his pockets and a scarf pulled up around his chin.
Sehun sighed, “Look like regular park loiters, I don’t know. Just don’t be awkward and suspicious, alright?”
Yixing, Jongdae, and Kyungsoo all nodded, chatting idly as they walked on a splitting sidewalk through the grass. After a couple of seconds of standing around themselves, Sehun nodded his head, and Baekhyun and Junmyeon followed wordlessly to the bench.
“Oh god, Luhan is with them.” Sehun groaned quietly as they approached the bench.
Baekhyun made a face, “We’re doing thousands of dollars of illegal business and you’re worried about Luhan?”
The youngest sent him a glare, but they all quieted down as they came within earshot of the bench-dwelling young men. The one sitting closest to the edge stood up and greeted Sehun warmly. His name was Yifan but they called him Kris. Baekhyun historically finds names drug dealers choose for themselves to be really funny and quickly finds a way to turn it into something extremely annoying. Another reason why Baekhyun often wasn’t allowed out on drug outings.
Yifan took Sehun by the hand and pulled him into a hug, patting his back in a masculine way that made Baekhyun huff. When they parted, he looked down the line, ID-ing both of them before nodding to himself and reaching into his hoodie pocket and pulling out a bag.
“No.” Junmyeon hissed. “We need-”
“Listen.” Yifan cut him off, “I know, but all I can get on short notice is bud.”
Junmyeon was not appeased. “How does that help us make coffee?”
“Junmyeon,” Sehun whined, “Keep your voice down. I’m sure we can make it work.”
Yifan nodded, clutching the package tightly. “It’s good stuff and Luhan knows how to make-”
“Whoa.” Luhan, the boy in question looked up. “You didn’t tell me I was helping Sehun.”
The third boy on the bench leaned back, throwing his arms behind the bench and cocking an eyebrow like a gun, “This is Sehun?”
Baekhyun saw Sehun moving before he actually did so, snagging him by the wrist to hold him back from lunging at the bench. Though it kept him from making any impulsively physical moves, his mouth still worked and Sehun lashed back. “Fuck you, Luhan.”
Surrounded by five now very tense individuals, Baekhyun took initiative, yanking Sehun backwards and clearing his throat so as to draw attention to himself. This in turn quieted everyone. The group of coffee shop employees on the other path had paused, all with their phones out, but eyes carefully drifting to where the deal was supposed to be occurring.
Baekhyun spoke softly. “Junmyeon, we don’t have any other options. I’m sure Yifan.” He spared the dealer a glance, “Will be gracious enough to cut us a deal because it isn’t want we ordered. And Luhan is going to help us figure it out when Sehun isn’t in the room.” He rolled his eyes across everyone in the gathering, keeping them at bay and making sure they fully digested his words. “Okay?”
With a shake of his wrist, Sehun freed himself from Baekhyun grasp and folded his arms across his chest, letting out a little puff like a dragon before reluctantly agreeing. “Fine.”
Everyone else nodded and after a few solemn seconds, Junmyeon pulled out an envelope stacked with cash. A few more anxious glances were passed around as they finished the exchange. Baekhyun let out a sigh of relief as they did so, everyone beginning to speak more casually again as they finalized the price in hushed voices.
Luhan looked a a little complacenet, leaning over towards his taller bench companion and whispering, “I can’t lose this guy, Tao.”
The other responded, “What’s even with you guys anyways? Did you date?”
Baekhyun caught Sehun rolling his eyes almost out of his skull, and Junmyeon nodding as he pulled some bills out of the envelope and started to hand the remainder over. However, Yifan’s eyes were and had been out on the distance for longer than usual now. Baekhyun glanced over his shoulder, seeing nothing, then coming back to see Yifan’s eyes directly on him.
“Not exactly.” Sehun scoffed. “More like-”
Yifan threw a hand up. “Stop.”
Voices ceased and Junmyeon retracted his arm so fast there was an audible slap of the envelope against his jacket. Yifan’s eyes narrowed on the bushes not too far away from them. Closer to where the other half of the coffee makers stood.
Baekhyun shook his head, “No those are just the-”
Yifan cut him off, “I know that. Dumbass.”
He tossed the package careless to Tao who scooped it out of the air and tucked it away in a gym bag sitting next to him on the bench. Yifan made no moves towards kindliness as he pushed past Baekhyun and Sehun, storming directly towards the bushes. The two baristas gave each other a questioning look, but Baekhyun came out on top, tapping Sehun on the chest as he took off to follow Yifan. Kyungsoo made a face at the two of them as they came barrelling through, looking to Baekhyun for answers, but getting blown off by both of them as they headed for the brush they were standing next to.
“Yif-Kris.” Baekhyun caught himself, “Hey.”
Before he could get any answers out of the man a few strides beyond him, there was a high pitched squeal. All at once, Yifan snagged an entire human being and pulled him out of the bushes, throwing him onto the ground and kicking him a bit so he would roll over. The minute he was on his back, Baekhyun recognized the face.
The boy on the ground pulled his hood over his eyes, “Nope. Not me.”
“Tough shit.” Yifan growled, throwing a finger into the bushes, “Come on. All of you. I know you’re filming.”
Whispers bounced off one another in the darkness of the bushes, but eventually three more men emerged, holding their hands up and staggering out into the open with leaves and twigs stuck in their clothes from hiding in a less than reasonable place. As they filed out, Baekhyun squinted trying to catch something familiar in their faces. Until they got to the very last person to step out from the hideout.
Baekhyun’s jaw dropped, “Taehyung?”
“I can explain?” He offered.
Yifan turned a look on him, “You fucking better, Avril Lavigne. Now.”
The silence was painful. Like pit of your stomach boiling in I fucked up kind of silence.
There were, sixteen men somewhere in their 30’s, all hanging around the bullpen at BigHit Media. Each one of them more or less distressed about being in a newspaper’s building an hour or so past midnight, and generally looking pissed off.
Junmyeon and Yifan were heatedly conferring with a very tired looking Namjoon. His hair was mussed on one side and he was still wearing flannel sleep pants and a haphazardly thrown on sweater. He had arrived moments after all of them with a sleepy, yet agitated Kim Seokjin. Yifan and Junmyeon were speaking very cautiously, explaining what must be a very convoluted side of their story.
Just behind them, Hoseok was making his bid for best male portrayal of a nervous wreck at the Oscars this year as he sat on Yoongi’s desk.
“I’m not going to be a journalist by sunrise.” Hoseok stated, his eyes glued to nothing in particular.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Yoongi said in a monotone, running his fingers up and down Hoseok’s back.
“Your voice isn’t comforting.” Hoseok said.
Not too far away from them was a circle on the floor consisting of Kyungsoo, Yixing, and Sehun were all trying very hard not to think about what was going around the room. Instead they were playing a very cordial game of spoons.
“Shit!” Yixing yelped. “I’m bleeding.”
“But I’m winning.” Kyungsoo shot back.
In the opposite corner, Jimin, Jungkook, and Taehyung were being doted upon by Seokjin, who was handing them both little baggies full of snacks.
Jin nodded reassuringly, “Okay, don’t worry too much. Here’s some fish crackers. They’re really good.”
“Jin.” Jungkook smiled, “I promise, we’re fine.”
Jimin was offended. “Speak for yourself. Do you have any juice pouches?”
Taehyung didn’t make a comment. He was too busy making note of the fact that Baekhyun hadn’t spoken to him since they got into a heated argument in the middle of the park. Instead he was sitting next to the copy machine, picking at the fuzz on his jacket and listening to Jongdae speak. Taehyung should have known that a stake-out was an awful idea. Honestly, thinking back over the entire conversation, he really should have known that that combination of people doing anything was just going to end in flames.
And he knew that it was going to hurt Baekhyun, but he didn’t even get a chance to explain himself.
“And he was the one drugging me.” Taehyung muttered to himself.
“Huh?” Jimin asked, turning an eye on Taehyung. “Drugs?”
Jungkook elbowed him. “Yeah, his boyfriend spiked his coffee.”
“Oh yeah.” Jimin shoved some goldfish in his mouth. “But he kinda outed his entire business model to the only newspaper in town, so it’s even.”
Jin slapped both of them on the head suddenly, putting their hair into disarray and giving them a stern look in the process. “Stop it.”
“Sorry, mom.” Jimin groused.
Taehyung wasn’t really in the mood, waving off Jimin and Jungkook’s apologetic looks. If he knew anything about Jimin from the time he’d spent at the company and in school with him, it was that humor and generally being cute got him through most things in his life. There was no reason for Taehyung to shut that down even if it was at his expense.
And for the most part, those things worked for Taehyung. Either that or escapism in the form of binge watching Digimon movies until he found more continuity errors than happiness.
“Alright, alright.” Namjoon was standing in the center of the room now, demanding attention with his hands in his flannel pants and tired bags under his eyes. “So here’s the situation everyone.”
Taehyung caught Baekhyun’s gaze as he switched from Jongdae’s face to Namjoon. Their eyes locked for a split second, but it was long enough to sting. He tried to mouth something, anything, but the red-haired boy cut his eyes to their editor and chief who was rubbing his chin in anticipation.
“We won a cruise?” Yoongi asked.
“If that cruise ends with most of the people in this room losing their jobs, then yeah, congrats on that one.” Namjoon took his glasses off, but didn’t clean them on his shirt like usual. Instead he slipped them into his pocket and took on a much more sober state. “We’re looking at the legal implications of filming somebody without their permission. Even though it’s in a public place, since we didn’t get evidence …” He trailed off. “BigHit News is going to lose everything if we run this story.”
Kyungsoo looked up, “Then don’t run the story. We can’t afford to lose our jobs. I have a wedding to pay for an Yixing has a daughter.”
Sehun agreed. “I’m sure that you guys have more than just a confusing layout of an office building to protect so.”
Namjoon looked over to Junmyeon, who shrugged. Yifan nodded as well, seemingly okay with whatever convoluted game of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell they were about to start playing. And nobody seemed to object for the moment. They were avoiding eye contact, keeping their own trepidations to themselves.
And then Taehyung did it again.
“Really?” Baekhyun asked.
Taehyung was taken a back. His mouth was half-open, words ready to rocket from his tongue, but intsead Baekhyun had pulled those words straight from his mouth. The boy in question pushed himself off the copy machine he was leaning against and all but stormed into the center of the area. When he got there, Junmyeon raised an eyebrow, but was met with a little shove from Baekhyun.
“Really?” He repeated. “This is entirely out of control. Do you know that this is like life in prison heavy or are you guys just ignoring that? Do you really trust these journalists?”
Yifan snorted. “If they know what’s good for them, they’ll keep quiet. They won’t lose their jobs for one story.”
“Bet.” Baekhyun said, a little ice on his tongue.
Taehyung sunk down his chair. He felt a little slashed by the comment, and Jin immediately took notice, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Only a few steps away, his entire future was being decided by his boss, ex-not-boyfriend, and a drug dealer he’s only seen when he goes to hustle people at the arcade on the weekends.
Namjoon maintained his disposition, looking at Baekhyun with those quiet eyes. “So what are you gonna do about it?”
“I …” Baekhyun realized he had stormed into the limelight with absolutely no alternative to what he was shooting down, “Don’t … know. But,” He turned on his heel, addressing the others in the room like he was The Toy Who Saved Christmas, “Aren’t we tired of this?”
Every member of EXO coffee broke his gaze. They were neither the good guys or the bad guys. Merely victims of a situation that had stretched far beyond their realm of control. A few times since this plot began they had tried to pull themselves away, but every time the hammer that was a larger company came down on them, forcing them to make late night drug runs and slip drops of illegal substances into unwitting business men’s coffees. The consequences were always looming, it just hadn’t quite stared them this close in the face since they began.
Sehun’s phone rang. He caught a look from Junmyeon.
“It’s,” Sehun cleared his throat, “It’s Jongin.”
Junmyeon nodded, turning to Namjoon, “He’s the other employee.”
Sehun took the call, “Hey, sorry. I know I’m late coming home. There was a bit of a hold up-wait what?”
The college student listened to his room mate for a moment, the muted sounds of Jongin’s slightly frantic voice putting Junmyeon and Baekhyun on edge as well as most everybody in the room. He looked to Junmyeon briefly before finishing up, “Yeah, I’m with him. I’ll tell him.”
The minute Sehun ended the call, everybody started to speak at once, but Sehun held up a hand, eager to keep the hounds at bay. “Jongin says there’s going to be a visit tomorrow from corporate. Just came down the pike.”
Junmyeon and Baekhyun exchanged looks. “Fuck.”
“What?” Namjoon blinked, “What does that matter?”
“Well,” Baekhyun started, “It wouldn’t if not for the fact that you all have us trapped here so we won’t have time to prepare.”
Yifan rolled his eyes, “It’s not even their fault. Just that one.”
He pointed to Hoseok who sank a little bit, trying to laugh it off.
Yoongi snapped in his stead. “Why don’t you mind your own business, Christopher?”
Luhan piped up, “Don’t yell at him if you know what’s good for you.”
Sehun scoffed, “Oh, so now you’re worried about someone?”
Tao let out a sigh, “Seriously, you two?”
Jongdae put a hand in his hair, “Can we all calm down?”
“No way.” Jimin kicked his feet up, “I’m living for this.”
“Jimin, don’t instigate.” Jin scolded him.
Yixing made a pained expression. “I can’t believe my daughter is sleeping in the house alone right now.”
“I can’t believe I’m not sleeping right now.” Kyungsoo mused.
In a matter of seconds, the entire room was ablaze with yelling and chattering and complaining. Sehun and Luhan were just barely being held back by Baekhyun and Tao respectively while Yifan and Yoongi continued to bicker endlessly over Hoseok who had retreated into his hoodie a little further. Jimin and Jungkook were getting a full overreaction of a lecture from Seokjin and Namjoon was attempting to reason with Junmyeon who had started on his way to a nervous breakdown much like Yixing.
Taehyung sighed, snatching a large piece of poster paper from the bin behind him and hoisting himself up on top of his desk. With no problems at all he rolled it up and putting it to his mouth before ushering in the lowest, strongest bellow he’d ever let out in his life.
It was something like the word: Hey.
But it was deafening and everybody became hush instantly.
Which was a good call considering the fact that Sehun and Luhan were wearing their oppressors thin and Tao and Baekhyun were thinking it might be easier to let them just kill each other. But now they were all a little slack jawed as they watched Taehyung lower the make-shift megaphone to his side.
Taehyung nodded, speaking more softly now. “Thank you for your attention everyone. I’d like to point of firstly that fighting has never solved anything outside of Mortal Kombat. Secondly … I think there’s a reason this happened.” He paused, watching a couple of questions rise in everyone’s eyes, “EXO Coffee doesn’t deserve to go to jail. Neither do we. And even if we do, what’s to say that’ll fix anything. Our companies will hire new people to replace us. The same things will go on, but we’ll lose what we’ve worked so hard to protect.” He looked around to some of Baekhyun’s coworkers, “Like our daughters and futures and stuff. How about we use this night to figure out a plan.”
A little silence followed, poking at Taehyung’s confidence like the whisper of a devil.
Luckily, Junmyeon broke the silence. “A plan to do what?”
Taehyung smiled. “We have seven dysfunctional journalists, six resourceful coffee shop employees, and three cartel applicants. I think that’s a recipe for figuring out how to put the real people in jail.”
Junmyeon spoke again. “And those people are?”
“You know.” Taehyung hopped off the desks, “The ones that threatened to fire you if you don’t make sales. That’s kind of against the law.”
Baekhyun let go of Sehun in one motion, letting him drop to the floor in a clumsy display. “I’m in.”
Taehyung met eyes with him.
Then one by one, everybody else agreed too. And they went to work.
The plan was nowhere near perfect. In fact, Baekhyun had hardly expected it to work.
As he sat there, screwing in a tiny hidden camera he had mounted in the corner of the coffee shop, he watched the sunrise reflected in the little lens. It was almost 7 in the morning and he knew that today was perhaps one of the biggest and scariest days of his entire life. He’s never really been one for getting worked up over things, but when facing a definitive life sentence, solemness is just appropriate.
His mind wandered a bit as he did his task. He thought about his head on Taehyung’s chest. He thought about what his lips tasted like. He thought about sitting on the couch with him and playing video games until their fingers were too sore to move. Only some of those things were fantasy. The others past reality.
And he thought about the feeling he had when he realized what had happened. That Taehyung had spilled his secrets to an entire cast of news reporters. That he used Baekhyun’s late night whispers to hurt him. His throat ached and hole in his chest threatened to swell. Baekhyun didn’t have the time or energy to devote into feeling bad.
He’s flirty and he’s funny and he’s witty and petty and bitchy.
But he’s strong and he’s sure and he’s confident and kind and inexorable.
“Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.” He muttered, watching the little red light on the camera blink to life.
He hopped backwards off the tabletop, unable to see the little pin hole of red light from where he had hidden the recording device. It was perfectly placed. Unnoticeable if you hadn’t been looking for it. Which, nobody would until it was too late.
He smiled, crossing his arms, “Go directly to jail.”
Taehyung’s mouse navigated over to the send button. His pointer finger rose, poised to land on the left click and send the biggest e-mail of his life.
“Wait,” Hoseok said, “You don’t have to do this.”
Taehyung looked behind him. Hoseok may have had a hand on his shoulder and sheer trepidation on his face, but Jimin and Jungkook were standing behind him, their shoulders pressed together and offering reassuring smiles. Off to his side was Namjoon and Seokjin, both of them looking equally supportive of whatever was about to happen. Even Yoongi who was the furthest from reach seemed to be smiling.
“Thanks,” Taehyung smiled, “But I do.”
He hit send.
A revised list of things Baekhyun hates:
People that grid block
Being woken up from sleep
When Jongin calls off
When some dumbass comes into the store before it closes
Watching the nightly news
Yet here he was, watching the nightly news with Jongin and Sehun on the couch next to him. He tried his best to steer clear of the university if he can, but neither him nor chanyeol had any interest in paying for cable so this was his only option to watch the nightly news.
A young and attractive woman appeared after an interesting selection of gradients rolled past on screen. She had a gorgeous smile and an even more gorgeous voice, “I’m Kim Jisoo and thanks for tuning in. Tonight we’ll hear a testimony from the PTA Bra Strangler, more on if it’ll rain tomorrow, and some recipes to spice up your family meals. Also, stay tuned for an exclusive about the EXO Coffee scandal.”
God, he was going to need another drink, wasn't he?
But, it worked.
They were able to catch enough evidence from the visit to officially show how shitty their management was. The sound bytes from Junmyeon’s office alone were good enough to seal the deal. It was an impeccable piece, showing only evidence with just a touch of spin.
And sure, it cost them their jobs. They knew that would happen. But nobody went to prison.
In fact, in a stunning display of gray morality, Luhan and Yifan planted some drugs on the corporate boss while he was in the coffee shop, leading to an interesting experience when the police dog sniffed at him going down the street later that day.
Taehyung laid back in his bed, staring at his phone and reading story after story on the subject. At first it had made him really happy to think that they solved everything with as little bloodshed as possible. But, with every tweet and article he scrolled through, he couldn’t help but feel a bit emptier, like the ghost of a situation gone by had taken up residence in his chest cavity. It just expanded with the days until he couldn’t take it anymore.
Baekhyun knocked the snow off his boots as he entered the little shop. Once the crushed chunks of flakes fell to the door mat, he grabbed the handle, yanking the door open and letting himself out of the cold cruel winter world outside and the slightly warmer, dull interior of the corner shop.
He hadn’t expected job searching to be easy. In fact, he knew it would suck this much. Looking for crappy job after crappy job, each one he was more qualified for than the last. So when this one reached out to him, he had to snatch the opportunity. Even if it was sketchy, the pay itself and job description boasted ability for the future.
It had been a while since he had spoken to almost anyone that he worked with at the shop. Chanyeol had started to lock Baekhyun out of the apartment when he went to retrieve the mail just so he couldn't’ sit around and sulk anymore. This usually ended with Baekhyun laying on the ground in the hallway on his phone until it died and then loudly complaining until Chanyeol folded or the neighbors called the front desk to file a noise complaint.
So imagine his surprise when he sees almost every single one of them standing in this little boutique area, what was once a bakery he thought.
“This is weird.” Baekhyun said.
They all nodded.
Then came a voice he didn’t recognize. “I hear you guys used to make coffee?”
He looked up to see a man with pushed back hair, beautiful eyes, and a lopsided smile that instantly endeared him. But, his next few words knocked Baekhyun back down a peg. “Well, I can’t afford to train an entire coffee making staff so you’ll have to do. No drugs business though.”
“Wait …” Baekhyun eyed the others, then back to the man, “Who are you?”
“Kim Minseok.” His smiled faded, “Ready to start?”
Taehyung was deep in his phone, stepping into Minseok’s new coffee shop and waltzing up to the register without even thinking. It was so easy to fall into the newspaper headlines. He needed something to pitch that day or Namjoon was going to start stuffing bills in his jar for the “Pie Face For Charity” thing. And as much as he loved taking a pie to the face, everybody agreed to gang up on Jungkook’s jar so it would be a travesty to lose all that work.
“How can I help you?” A familiar man asked him.
Baekhyun. Why call him familiar at this point?
Taehyung looked up, a bit stunned to see the coffee shop full of employees he knew all too well. His mouth started to function again, but quickly lost track, the little muscles responsible for making his body go were suddenly unresponsive.
“Caramel latte it is.” There was no joy in Baekhyun’s voice. He tapped some things down and looked back up, his eyes as dull as his fading hair color. “Total on the screen. Card? Right there.”
Taehyung swallowed his pride and completed the transaction wordlessly. There was nothing to say. He left him with a nod and rounded the corner to wait for his drink, but he must have caught the new coffee shop on a good hour because it slid effortlessly across the counter towards him only a few minutes later.
Coffee in hand, he stepped outside, unwilling to sit in there under Baekhyun’s gaze and question why Minseok would hire the body of people that once were responsible for putting him out of business. So the bitter taste of winter air would have to suffice for company.
He clutched the coffee closely, taking a sip and almost wondering how he didn’t notice the strangeness of the drugged coffee from before. Lately, however, he had more questions than answers, though, so there was no point in paying them much mind. A few more steps brought him to a second sip and on the way down he noticed something written on the cup.
Carefully, with mittened fingers, he turned the cardboard cup to the side to read what had been scribbled there.
The word douchebag, crossed out.
Then in crisp handwriting: handsome douchebag.