Actions

Work Header

Trouble I'm In

Chapter Text

“That’ll be fourteen eighty-seven, sir.”
 
Taehyung pulls out his wallet, sleek brown leather with the word Gucci printed on the side in gold. He fishes for some crisp bills and hands it to the cashier who takes it with a rehearsed smile.
 
“You usually only buy two bottles,” she says and points at the extra bottle of soju with long, chipped red fingernails that are long overdue for a manicure. “Special occasion or rough night?”
 
Taehyung tries a smile but it probably makes him look more tired than anything. His eyelids feel heavy and his back aches from sitting in an office chair for nearly ten hours straight. He’s eager to get out of the suffocating, black suit and into something more comfortable.
 
“Rough night,” he replies with a dramatic sigh and she laughs, the sound awkwardly loud in the store.
 
Taehyung had spent the entire day in his office trying to get a proposal that his department had been working on for the past few months finalized, only for it to be rejected. He’d even stayed an extra two hours, only to be told that his ideas weren’t innovative enough or whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean. And now, he just wants to knock back a few bottles of soju and drown in self-pity before passing out.
 
The doorbell chimes and the first thing Taehyung is hit with is the overwhelming stench of perfume. Second, the clack of heels against the dirty, white tiled flooring. It’s midnight on a Wednesday and Taehyung is expecting a women with aching feet, tired from her miserable day at the office. But when he turns his head, what Taehyung sees has his eyes nearly bulging right out of their sockets.
 
It’s a man, that’s for sure. But men don’t wear heels, nor do they wear pink sequin dresses that shine under fluorescent ceiling lights. When he moves, the color seems to move with him, swirling in the small, plastic sequins that gleam brightly whenever the light catches them.
 
The man (who looks more so a boy) has no real physically feminine feature, no thin waistline and delicate wrists. Instead, he’s slightly tanned, not as dark as Taehyung but gently sunkissed. His shoulders are broad and the dress is loose, hanging off one shoulder, exposing prominent collarbones and the start of— holy shit are are those pecs? His entire appearance is disheveled, dress scrunched up to reveal the smoothness of his thighs and brown hair sticking up in tangled clumps as if it had been yanked at. He’s wearing makeup as well but it’s all smudged; the black coal of his eyeliner and mascara is running, mixing with sweat to create a coon-eyed effect and the red lipstick he wears is smeared across his chin. When he moves from the entrance and down a row of shelves, he wobbles in his heels a little; they’re cream colored, soft in a way that isn’t as loud as the glitters of the dress.
 
Taehyung doesn’t realize that he’s been staring until the boy looks up from the rack to stare directly at him. The boy smirks, pretty red lips quirking up knowingly. Only then does Taehyung look away sharply when his brain finally registers that he’s been caught. His cheeks heating up in something akin to shame, Taehyung is quick to mutter polite goodbyes to the cashier before grabbing the alcohol and hightailing out of the store to the parking lot.
 
It’s quite dreary, with the pavement worn and cracked from being run over by countless semi trucks. The once bold white colors of the parking lines have now chipped away and faded until they’re nearly blended into the tar. The lights from the gas pumps are almost blindingly bright in a way that’s obnoxious. It’s definitely a place where Taehyung expects to be murdered. But who knows, he’s a regular here so maybe he gets some kind of murder free privilege. He barely notices the cold before he’s settled into the comfortable leather seat of his silver Mercedes and lets out a breath he hadn’t realized that he’d been holding.
 
Still kind of dying from embarrassment for being caught staring so openly, Taehyung carelessly throws the soju in the backseat before pressing his head against the steering wheel and tries to will away the mortification. It shouldn’t be this big of a deal, really. Ever since Taehyung had moved further away from the crowded downtown area of Chicago a few years ago, it had become routine to swing by the truck stop after work every night and buy some alcohol. It was just off the highway, fifteen minutes away from his house and Taehyung took solace in the emptiness of the stop whenever he went.
 
There were always late night truckers parked at the side of the building smoking cigarettes or taking a leak but they never bothered him, which Taehyung was grateful for because they all looked shady. Most of them were fat, white old men with unkempt beards and stomachs that fell over too tight belts. They were often loud and drunk and sometimes would whistle at Taehyung’s fancy car and call him a “pretty rich asian boy.”
 
From the past few years, Taehyung’s seen all sorts of people go in and out of it but never someone like the kid from earlier, all prettied up and dressed like some sort of drag queen. Was it a costume party in the early fall? A dare of some sorts? Taehyung shakes his head. It shouldn’t matter because it’s not like he’ll ever see the guy again, so it’s ridiculous to even think so hard about it—but Taehyung has always been slightly curious by nature.
 
Lifting his head from the steering wheel and pulling himself together with a couple soft taps on the cheek, Taehyung turns the key into the ignition, the car coming alive with a soft purr. He’s just ready to shift the into reverse when the passenger door opens so suddenly that he lets out a small squeak of surprise.
 
“I saw you starin’ at me in there,” he says before Taehyung can even register who he is.
 
Taehyung blinks, rubs his eyes and then blinks some more because maybe he really is just this stupidly tired because there’s no way that the same kid from earlier is currently sitting in his passenger seat. Except, he is and Taehyung can do nothing but gape like a fish because holy shit is he so much prettier close up. In the small confine of the Mercedes, the smell of floral perfume is even stronger than before and Taehyung can’t help but push himself against the door, repulsed by the cheap smell and confused as to why this kid is sitting in his car without a care in the world.
 
“What—”
 
“Do you wanna fuck me?” the boy cuts in, not allowing more than one syllable out of Taehyung’s mouth. “If you give me a ride I’ll let you fuck me.” His sultry voice is deep in a way that matches his physique and not the way he’s dressed. “You’re a cute one, I’ll even let you cum on my face if you want.” The boy is crass with his speech in a way that has Taehyung gaping like a fish at a complete loss for words. This has to be some kind of prank, right? Maybe Seokjin hired someone to mess with him for fun because he’s always the one to complain about how Taehyung literally does not have a life outside of his work.
 
“I—I’m so—” confused ?
 
The boy smirks and under the stupidly bright lights hanging above the gas pumps shining through the car window, the shadows on his face makes it a little intimidating. “Aw, don’t play shy,” he coos. The boy’s hand moves to touch Taehyung’s thigh and he jolts, slapping it away. The boy frowns and leans back. “Hm? Are you rejecting me?”
 
“D—did Seokjin put you up to this?” Taehyung finally manages to splutter out, because this has to be a prank.
 
The corners of the boy’s mouth twitches before he laughs. It’s soft and breathy and Taehyung swallows. “Who’s Seokjin? I’m just tryna show you a good time.”
 
Taehyung frowns. “Sorry, I’m not into that.”
 
The boy’s silent for a moment, face expressionless and Taehyung wonders if he’s about to be murdered in a truck stop parking lot at the age of thirty. But then the boy laughs, smile a bit too bright for midnight.
 
“I was just kiddin’, dollface.” He pulls back, giving Taehyung room to breathe finally. “I honestly just need a ride home if that’s okay with you? Promise that I’m not gonna rob you or nothin’ just cos’ you drive a fancy ass car.”
 
Taehyung raises a brow. “Why don’t you just take the bus, kid?”
 
The boy has the audacity to pout. “Don’t wanna. Plus that shit gets expensive, yeah? Living in Chicago ain’t cheap.”
 
There’s some random kid. In his car. Asking for a ride home. What the fuck.
 
Taehyung just blinks.
 
“Take the bus,” he repeats lamely. There’s no way in hell he’s giving some stranger a lift just because he has a nice face. Not that Taehyung’s attracted to him or anything because that would be weird. Besides, Taehyung likes soft, long hair and petite and curvy figures. He likes how girls are soft and gentle and men are nothing like that.
 
His parents had taught him to be mindful of public appearances since the moment he learned how to talk and stand on his own two feet. Caution was something that Taehyung knew all too well.
 
The boy has the audacity to look irritated. “Do you really think that a pretty lil’ thing like me would be safe riding public transport this late at night? Hm?”
 
He has a point, Taehyung knows this. He is all too aware of how dangerous the city of Chicago can be this late, especially for someone as...unique as the boy next to him. But still.
 
“And getting into some random guy’s car is supposed to be safer how?” he retorts, arching a single brow. “Do you know who I am?” he asks stiffly, hand slinking towards the door handle in case he needs to make a quick escape. What if some rival company had hired a hitman? What if he’s about to be kidnapped for ransom?
 
The boy snorts in disbelief. “What? No. I—” he rolls his eyes, fingers finding their way through his hair as he attempts to comb out the knots, but he only succeeds in getting his fingers caught instead. He yanks harder and Taehyung flinches at the sound of hair being pulled out, which the boy tries to play off by smoothing down his messy hair instead. “Why are all of you rich guys so goddamn egotistical? Look, I don’t care if you’re some fancy CEO or the king of China or whatever. I just wanna get home safely and you don’t look like the type of guy to try anything funny.”   
 
Taehyung purses his lips, fingers drumming against the steering wheel thoughtfully as he weighs his options. Yeah, he could just kick the kid out and be on his merry way. The alcohol is still in the backseat where he’d thrown it earlier and Taehyung’s bones ache from the stress of the day. He has nothing to gain from this really and he’s never been particularly nice or considerate, especially not to strangers, but the thought of something awful happening to someone so young just because Taehyung’s kind of sketched out and doesn’t feel like giving him a ride home leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
 
“Where do you live, kid?” he asks.
 
“Rosemont.”
 
Taehyung hums and doesn’t tell boy that he lives in the same area as well. Taehyung stares at the shadow of the boy’s neck and though he can’t see the hickies, he knows they’re there. He hesitates for a long minute. The boy waits quietly.
 
“Fine,” he mumbles. “I’ll take you home.”
 
“At what price?” the boy is quick with his tongue and there’s a suggestion flirting with his words.
 
“None,” Taehyung deadpans.
 
The boy looks surprised. “Seriously? You don’t want me to—”
 
“Listen,” Taehyung cuts in with a tired sigh. “Do you want a ride home or not?”
 
The boy nods ever so slightly, mouth parting slightly in disbelief that Taehyung wants nothing out of this, something that makes Taehyung kind of bitter because does he really look that kind of sleazy person?
 
“Whenever you’re ready, dollface.”  
 
For a brief moment, Taehyung questions every life decision he’s ever made in his life to lead up to this point and lets out another dragged out sigh. He shifts into reverse, backs out of the parking lot and exits the ramp out onto the highway for what he’s prepared to be the longest and most awkward drive of his life.
 
“I’m Jay,” the boy says after another minute of silent driving.
 
Taehyung glances over. “Is that a nickname?” he hums, fingers tapping against the steering wheel again, something he tends to do when he feels uneasy.
 
“You sound like you don’t believe me.” The boy pushes the button on the side to recline the seat and puts his feet on the dash, heels still on and everything. All crass and no manners. “Is it ‘cos I’m Asian? My name ain’t Jackie Chan if that’s what you’re wondering.”
 
“I wasn’t thinking that at all.” He glares at the feet on his dash. “Could you sit like a normal person, please?”
 
“Don’t worry. I won’t scratch up your expensive leather you big baby.” His feet sway from side to side, almost as if he’s teasing Taehyung. “What about you, hm? Gotta name to go with that face of yours?”
 
“V,” he blurts out with instant regret because it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
 
The boy—Jay, laughs. The loudness startles Taehyung, causing him to jump.
 
“There ain’t no way in hell your name is V.” Taehyung keeps his eyes focused on the road but he can practically see the mocking expression that’s probably on Jay’s face. “At least I can make mine sound believable, but you?” he tsks. “Nah, you’re first generation Chinese American or somethin’. Definitely not a Jap. Bet you got some pretty boy name like Xiao.”
 
Taehyung frowns. “I’m Korean, not Chinese. And you shouldn’t say Jap, it’s kinda racist.”
 
“You musta’ been here for a long time,” Jay says. “Your english is damn perfect.”
 
“Something like that,” Taehyung mutters. “Didn’t you just admit to using a fake name?”
 
“Did I?” Jay smiles coyly when Taehyung turns his head to give him a pointed look. “Should we play along with these little white lies for tonight? I’m Jay and you’re V, yeah?”
 
Taehyung wants to say that he’s not much of a liar but people like him don’t get where they are in life with honesty. The art of faking his identity is something he’s mastered to protect his personal life and family.
 
He turns off the highway ten minutes later and Jay guides him down some familiar streets until he says, “drop me off right here.”

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks. It’s a familiar street with some old Czech restaurants and a park, and he knows that it’s a short walk aways from any of the neighborhoods.
 
“You’re cute but not cute enough for me to let you know exactly where I live,” Jay jokes before clambering out of the passenger’s seat when Taehyung pulls over to the side.
 
“It was nice meeting you...Jay,” Taehyung calls out hesitantly.
 
The boy (whose name is definitely not Jay) turns and leans down to peek his head back into the car. The makeup on his right eye is a little more smudged than before, probably from rubbing at it. He smirks. “It was a pleasure not really doin’ business with you, dollface—or should I call you V hyung?”  
 
Taehyung blinks in surprise. “You’re Korean?”
 
But Jay merely giggles. “Thanks for the ride. We’ll probably never run into each other again but if we do I’ll give you a kiss, hm?” he says instead.
 
Taehyung opens his mouth to tell Jay that he doesn’t swing that way, but in the span of twenty minutes he’s learned how abrupt of a person Jay is, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when he’s unable to even get a word in. Jay winks, blows him a kiss and calls him dollface one more time before slamming the door shut and strutting off down the sidewalk, tall and confident in killer heels. And for the millionth time that night, Taehyung is rendered speechless.

***

 
The second time they meet it’s nothing like fate, but more of an awkward coincidence. It’s been another long day, and when Taehyung steps out of the Mercedes he pops the first two buttons of his white dress shirt; runs his hand through his hair that’s starting to feel greasy, untamed. He sighs, and unlike last night he doesn’t exhale frost like dragon’s breath. It’s fall but the weather is bipolar; cold, warm, and then cold again. He tsks in annoyance, skin feeling like it’s melting in his black suit jacket, so he takes it off, throws it haphazardly in the car not really paying attention where it lands, the sound of the door slamming shut echoing throughout the lot.
 
The chime of the doorbell when he enters the store is familiar. He doesn’t check to see who’s at the register tonight, but rather he goes straight for the coolers, zoning in on the soju and grabbing two bottles this time. His stomach still feels kind of unsettled from last night. It had been yet another rough night, one of those nights where he had drank all his soju and had still felt empty so he had delved into his liquor cabinet. He turns around, spots a large glass bottle of Jack Daniels on one of the shelves and almost considers abandoning the soju for something with a little more kick for tonight, but reminds himself that that kind of alcohol is reserved for one’s lowest moments. Sure, Taehyung’s proposal that he’d worked on for months had been rejected but he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.
 
He should be used to this by now, really. He’s worked his ass off at the company for years to get such an important position, and yet nothing he does has ever been good enough. The disappointment and hurt following each rejected proposal should be something that doesn’t affect him anymore, and yet, Kim Taehyung is a pitiful man.                        
 
He turns away, continues down the aisle and heads for the register, only to stop dead in his tracks at the sight of a familiar figure. Taehyung can’t see his face but who else could it be apart from Jay? The boy is wearing a black crop top today that shows off the hard lines of his six pack with ripped jeans that hug his ass and— oh my god, his thighs.
 
Taehyung shakes his head to clear his mind and swallows. He’s ready to turn back around and hide behind one of the shelves when Jay speaks.
 
“Ah, damn. I’m a dollar short,” he says. “Mind doing me a solid this time?”
 
The cashier (Taehyung recognizes as being on the more uptight side) shakes his head. “No can do, kiddo. If you don’t have enough money to pay up you’ll just have to come back next time.” He moves to grab the cigarettes from the counter and put it back in the cabinet behind him, but Jay is quick to rest a hand adorned with various rings on top of the cashier’s.
 
“C’mon baby,” he purrs. “Can’t you give me them just this once?” from behind, Taehyung can see the way his head tilts to expose his neck.
 
It seems to have the exact opposite effect because the man yanks his hand away from Jay like he’d just been burned. “Don’t touch me you fucking freak!” He shrieks loudly, words harsh and cruel in a way that makes even Taehyung flinch back.
 
Taehyung can see the way that Jay’s shoulders stiffen and decides to step in, lest things turn any uglier. He smoothly steps in front of the boy, sets his soju down and pulls out some cash. “I’ll take those cigarettes as well.”
 
The cashier’s eyebrows shoot up. “You sure?”
 
Taehyung doesn’t look at Jay but he can feel the warmth next to him. To be honest, he’s afraid that if he looks he’ll lose whatever cool guy stunt he’s trying to pull off.
 
So he shoots a fake smile towards the cashier instead. “Positive.”
 
He pays for everything and it isn’t until they’re stepping out of the store that Taehyung finally turns around, holding up the pack of cigarettes towards Jay that he recognizes as Camel Blues. “You shouldn’t smoke,” he says. “It’ll kill you eventually.”
 
Jay doesn’t even hesitate when he daintily plucks the box out of Taehyung’s hands with manicured fingernails painted lilac. “You really didn’t have to do that, but thanks.” He doesn’t sound apologetic at all as he ignores Taehyung’s words and tears the wrapper off from the box. “I can pay you back any way you’d like.” Jay smirks suggestively around the filter of the cigarette he puts in his mouth, hand cupping around the flame of the lighter as he lights the stick up.
 
“It’s fine,” Taehyung replies curtly.
 
“Ain’t it crazy how we meet like this again?” Jay says with a giggle. “It’s only been twenty four hours. Couldn’t wait to see me, could you?” he winks, smirking around the cigarette. “Didn’t I promise you a kiss?”
 
Jay looks more put together today. There’s no runny makeup to create coon eyes and crusted eyeliner, plus his hair doesn’t look like sex. His eye makeup is smoky: all black with dark eyeshadow that extends into a cat-eye and lipstick a deep, burgundy color. He looks good like this, almost like some chic punk rocker. The entire concept is completely different from last time but enticing all the same.
 
“I come here after work a lot,” Taehyung explains, completely ignoring the flirtation.  
 
“Do you now?” Jay hums and Taehyung instantly regrets telling him this.
 
He gives Taehyung a once over, biting his bottom lip and making a pleased noise in the back of his throat. “Why does someone like you come to a shady ass place like this?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “I’ve been coming here for years and no one ever really bothers me.”
 
“Ooo, I like a man who’s fearless like that.” He takes another drag, and Taehyung watches the paper burn orange and Jay flicks the ash away. “But you must have some fears?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “Not really.”
 
“Everyone is scared of something, dollface.” Jay’s gaze is piercing in a way that makes Taehyung think that he can see something that Taehyung can’t, like he’s prying open Taehyung’s ribs to see what’s really inside of him and Taehyung looks away, skin burning with something unpleasant that makes him want to rip it all off. It’s like he’s staring into the wide mouth of the sea and no, he’s not scared. His parents had taught him how to kill his fears.
 
So he says “I’m afraid of spiders” to keep it simple because it’s such a common thing to be scared of and it won’t hurt him to say out loud. He doesn’t shake at this, doesn’t shake the way he did when he was sixteen and it’s easy, shallow. “All bugs scare me,” he adds on.
 
“Are you afraid of dying?”
 
“Everyone is,” Taehyung’s response is instant and sure. Because it’s true, everyone is afraid of death. Again, he tries to keep it shallow and not think about dying because he’s not sure if he would really even be scared.
 
Jay snorts. “You rich guys must have it so easy for your worst fears to be fucking spiders and dying.”    
 
Easy? Taehyung think about his monotonous ten to twelve hour office shifts and how he hasn’t taken time off of work in three years. He thinks about how much he has to pretend in order to get sponsors to like him and how he’s constantly under the public's scrutiny. Money makes me lonely he almost says because in an industry where the world wants to eat him, he’s never learned to be close to anyone and he wonders if he really does have it easy.
 
But instead, he chuckles and says, “I guess I do.”
 
Jay must sense a change in mood because he’s quiet for a moment. He looks around the lot and when he finally sees Taehyung’s Mercedes he smirks, blows smoke out and says, “mind giving me another ride?”
 
Taehyung should say no.
 
“Why not?” he says instead with a shrug. What the fuck is his problem? He pulls out his keys, the headlights flashing brightly when he hits the unlock button and Jay is quick to move to the passenger seat and get in before Taehyung’s even opened the driver door. “What are you doing, Kim Taehyung?” he mutters to himself, too low for Jay to pick up.
 
This time, Taehyung is a little bit more prepared for Jay’s weirdness on the drive back but not by much.
 
“So you come often after work, hm?” he has his feet on the dash again and Taehyung hates him for this. “What exactly is it that you do?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “Not much. Just a typical office job.”
 
“You really expect me to believe that?” Jay reaches down to pick up the suit jacket that Taehyung had thrown in the car earlier and fumbles with it to find the tag. “You’re like a walking closet of Armani and you expect me to believe that you’re some normal office worker?”
 
“It was a gift,” he says but it sounds like some lame excuse in his mouth.
 
“A gift,” Jay deadpans.
 
“Uh, yeah?”
 
“Was this Mercedes a gift too? Or how about that Rolex on your wrist, was that a gift as well?”
 
“I don’t think we’re close enough to be asking these kinds of questions,” Taehyung replies stiffly.
 
“Fine,” he huffs before he leans back and crosses his arms.
 
It’s silent for a few minutes and Taehyung knows that it’s best this way. The two of them don’t really know each other and he’s only just giving this kid a ride so he should really keep his mouth shut. But Taehyung can’t help it, honestly. He’s never met someone quite like Jay before and all of the questions just build in his throat to create a monument.
 
“What’s your real name?”
 
Jay, who’d been watching the street lamps pass by out the window, turns his head. “What’s yours?”
 
“You first.”
 
“I thought we aren’t close enough to be asking these kinds of questions,” he retorts. “Unless we’re fuck—”
 
“We’re not.” Taehyung can feel his left eye twitching in irritation because why does this kid have to make everything so goddamn sexual?
 
“Sad,” he says with the slight pout of his bottom lip. “I’m sure you’re great in bed.”
 
“That’s for me to know and you to never find out,” Taehyung replies dryly.
 
Jay laughs, throws a wink at Taehyung and says, “challenge accepted.”
 

***

 
It’s a Tuesday night and Taehyung is just as deathly tired as always. It’s his routine soju stop and these days it seems like he’s been buying a lot more alcohol for his midnight pity parties. It’s one of those nights where he’s really not in the mood for any kind of human contact, nothing particularly awful had happened at work, it had been the same, bone drying kind of day and besides his team cooking up a revised proposal, Taehyung had nothing but paperwork to do all day and he’d only had to stay thirty minutes after his shift ended this time. It’s just one of those days, really; one of those days when life seems so much more exhausting than usual and each sentence is punctuated by a long sigh and maybe he’ll cave in and grab that bottle of Jack Daniels tonight. It’s one of those no bullshit nights.
 
Too bad that bullshit always seems to find him anyways.
 
He’s barely just stepped foot into the store when a familiar voice, loud and angrily hits him.
 
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Jay is standing near the coolers, looking as striking as ever but that’s not what makes Taehyung frown. There’s an older white man in his late fifties that Taehyung recognizes as the store owner. He’s got a grip on Jay’s left elbow like iron and he doesn’t look too happy, face twisted in rage.
 
“I should be askin’ you that, boy!” he yells back. “You think I ain’t seen you stealin’ them beers?”
 
“I didn’t steal jack shit, you fuckin’ crazy old man.”
 
Jay tries to yank his arm away but the owner refuses to let go, gives him a sharp pull even and growls. “I have eyes in the back of my head, ya’ hear? You think I ain’t heard about you and what you been doing around these parts?” he squeezes, fingers creating craters in Jay’s smooth skin. “My employees been tellin’ me ‘bout all the weird shit you been doing!” his nose flares, eyes narrowed into slits. “Prancin’ in here dressed up like sum’ little girl trynna’ seduce good men for free shit. Wearin’ dresses and frills like a—like a faggot.”  
 
The slur is like a punch to the gut and Taehyung swallows, the air suddenly feels suffocatingly cold.
 
Jay’s body goes tight like a bow string. “Let go of me.” His voice is unsteady with emotion. “I didn’t steal shit,” he repeats lowly.
 
“Is something the matter here?” Taehyung finds himself speaking up.
 
Both of them snap their attention towards Taehyung and upon seeing who it is, the owner’s demeanor changes drastically. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, sir. Jus’ caught some kid stealin’ is all.” He waves a hand dismissively. “I’ll call the cops real fast.”
 
Taehyung doesn’t miss the way Jay’s eyes widen at the mention of law enforcement and while the logical part of his brain tries to convince him that it’s none of his business, that he should just walk away; Taehyung can’t help but feel a surge of protectiveness towards the stranger he’d only met days ago.
 
“How much does he owe?”
 
“There’s no need to worry ‘bout that, sir. The cops’ll—”
 
How much? ” Taehyung repeats more firmly this time.  
 
“Twenty-dollars.”
 
Jay looks red in the face, lips pulled tautly down as he opens his mouth and begins to say, “you—”
 
“I’ll pay twice the amount if you let him go.”
 
The owner’s eyes widen. “But sir, why would you do that? Do you know this kid?” he shakes Jay by the elbow again and something ugly and black bubbles in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach.
 
“Yes. So I suggest you let go of him right now,” he says coldly.
 
The owner is quick to comply at his icy words and almost instinctively, Taehyung steps to stand in front of Jay, who’s rubbing at his elbow, the skin around it red from where he’d been manhandled so roughly.
 
Taehyung pulls out his wallet and fishes out a twenty dollar bill.
 
“You shouldn’t be defendin’ that freak,” the owner says, shooting Jay a glare. “I reckon’ he ain’t bring ya anythin’ but trouble, sir.”  
 
Taehyung inhales deeply and tries to control himself. “I don’t think it’s very professional for someone who runs a business to talk to their customers that way.” He then leans forward to whisper lowly so that Jay can’t hear. “And if you ever put your hands on him like that again, I’ll fucking shut this shitty little place down, you hear me?” He watches the way the man gapes like a fish in disbelief. “What, you don’t think I’m serious?” he chuckles dangerously. “I’ll have you on the streets like a beggar next time you even look at him the wrong way.” Taehyung then pulls back, smiles apologetically and says loud enough for Jay to hear, “sorry about all the trouble. It won’t happen again,” and then guides Jay out by the small of his back.
 
“You need a ride?” he asks as soon as they step out. It feels like an ugly night, the vehicles from the freeway sound louder, lights brighter in a way that hurts his head.
 
Jay shrugs nonchalantly. “If you’re offering.”
 
He doesn’t seem affected by what had just went down, just throws himself against the passenger seat and makes an annoyed sound at the back of his throat. “What a stingy old man. It was just a few fucking snacks.”
 
“So you really stole then?” Taehyung inquires with a raised brow, not at all surprised but a little put off by the fact that Jay would admit it so shamelessly.
 
“What? You gonna call the cops?” he challenges with a roll of his eyes. He pulls out a piece of bubblegum from his pocket and pops it in his mouth, throwing the wrapper on the floor without care.  
 
Taehyung sighs in exasperation. “You’re really something else, you know?”
 
Jay winks, puckers his pretty lips to blow a bubble that expands and pops loudly in the car. “Oh, I know it, dollface.”
 

***

 
Taehyung doesn’t see Jay for the next week and he supposes that since the owner had damn near called the cops on him, he’ll never come back and Taehyung knows that this means he’ll never see the strange boy again. It shouldn’t bother him, really. They don’t know each other and from an objective point of view, Taehyung was just trying to help out some random kid going through what he presumes to be hard times. They hadn’t even learned each other’s real names.
 
And yet, Taehyung can’t help but feel that something is missing. Things seem a lot blander now. They had only met thrice, but Jay had brought some color to Taehyung’s monochrome world of adulthood. He still held the exhilaration and recklessness of youth that Taehyung had lost long ago and that had been something that he had slightly envied Jay for. The change isn’t mind blowingly different. This isn’t some shitty romance novel where the main character falls in love at first sight and honestly, Taehyung is able to go about his daily life without thinking much about it. He still has the perfect job and the perfect life. He still has girls constantly falling over him and his wallet only gets fatter every day. It’s only when he’s back in the truck stop for some more alcohol that things begin to get a little solemn.
 
It’s for the best though, Taehyung thinks. People like Jay are bad for his image anyway.
 
It’s a bit later than usual when Taehyung’s finally able to leave the office. He debates on whether or not he should make a detour to the truck stop and buy something lighter like a six pack of beer this time or if he should just go home and pass the fuck out. He decides the former and this time he doesn’t even think about Jay when he pays the cashier.
 
He’s ready to go home and maybe watch a short movie but he kind of really has to pee, and although Taehyung hates using public restrooms with a passion, his bladder is screaming at him. He shifts onto his right leg and doesn’t think he can hold it. He asks where the bathroom is, to which the cashier gives him a key and says that it’s outside, on the side of the building. He scrunches his nose when he realizes it’s that kind of bathroom.
 
He notices that there are a fair amount of truckers tonight. As usual, some are smoking or conversing with each other. There are voices interlacing into deep conversations, probably old friends catching up on old times. Taehyung notices two men standing close to each other next to the door of a green truck. One’s murmuring lowly and the other giggles. For a split second, the breathy noise sounds a little too familiar, but Taehyung doesn’t much of it because his bladder is demanding his attention.
 
The bathroom is disgusting of course. The urinal has a yellow tinge to it from piss and the drain is brown. Taehyung scrunches his nose in disgust but relieves himself. He uses a few paper towels to turn on the sink because there’s no way in hell he’s touching anything in this bathroom. He holds his breath nearly the entire time until he’s back outside, shuddering to himself because that was definitely the worst bathroom experience ever—or maybe he’s just being a privileged dramatic prick.  
 
He’s about to head back to his car when the same two men from earlier catch his attention. They’re still close but unlike before, nothing about their postures is relaxed or playful. The first man seems to have the other man pinned against the truck, gripping his wrists and pressing their bodies together. He’s whispering something harsh in the second man’s ear, who’s no longer giggling and struggles against the pressure. Taehyung doesn’t really have any interest in anything shady that goes on at truck stops and is just about to turn around and continue on his merry way when the first man stumbles back from being pushed by the man who had been pinned down.
 
It’s dark so Taehyung can’t really clearly make out who they are, but the second man hisses something lowly and begins to walk away. He doesn’t get far though because the first man grabs him by his wrist and yanks so hard that he nearly falls over.
 
“The fuck do you think you’re goin’?”
 
“Let go of me!” he yells and there’s something familiar about the voice that makes Taehyung swallow, dread stirring in the pit of his stomach. He squints his eyes to try and distinguish the two better with little success.
 
He shakes the first man off and the sound of heels against asphalt is all too familiar to Taehyung. But it isn’t until he steps further away from the truck and under a street light that Taehyung’s eyes widen in surprise. At the same time, the man that Jay had just shaken off marches towards him angrily.
 
It’s all in slow motion from there. The man yells some obscene words his way, chubby face twisted in anger and Jay rolls his eyes, opens his mouth to say something snarky that never comes because the pudgy man pulls his arm back before lashing out to hit his open palm against Jay’s cheek, his head snapping to the side with the force as he stumbles back. The sound of Jay being slapped is harsh and deafening, causing some heads to turn.
 
It’s none of Taehyung’s business. None. Of. His Business.


“Hey!” Taehyung shouts, feet heavy against the asphalt as they carry him across the lot to where they stand. He throws himself in between them, shielding Jay from the man. “Don’t touch him like that!”
 
“What are you doing here?” Jay asks in surprise, the same time that the pudgy man barks out a who are you?
 
“It doesn’t matter who I am. Don’t touch him like that.” Taehyung tries to seem intimidating, puffs out his chest and lowers his voice. The man is kind of scary, if he’s to be quite honest. He’s a bit shorter than Taehyung and definitely fatter, but he’s got tattoos snaking all the way up his arms and his neck. Although his head is shaved, his beard is unkempt with the salt and pepper look, signifying that he must be significantly older—definitely twenty years or so. He’s wearing a white shirt with a large brown stain on it, tucked into ill-fitted washed out jeans with holes in him.
 
“Are you trying to pick a fight, boy?” the man growls with a step forward, chubby fingers clenching into a fist.
 
To be honest, Kim Taehyung is not made for physical confrontation—like, at all. Sure he’s wealthy as hell and could shut this entire place down with just a phone call and yeah, if this guy starts throwing punches, Taehyung could file a lawsuit so big that it would put the man in crippling debt for the rest of his life. And if his parents found out...well, his mother had always been a little morally unhinged when it came to the whole revenge thing (he really wouldn’t put it past her to fabricate evidence that would throw this man in prison for at least a decade) but Taehyung also knows that if he gets a knife or gun pulled on him no amount of money can save him. Taehyung also knows that his arms are noodly, his stomach soft and that the last time he exercised was his junior year of highschool.  
 
So yeah, he’s kind of a pussy. Sue him.
 
Taehyung considers just apologizing and going on his merry way because this is really none of his business and the way that Jay holds his breath behind Taehyung has sweat beading at his forehead. His eyes dart around frantically as if a savior will magically appear and he knows that his next choice of words will determine whether or not he gets his ass kicked—or stabbed. (Who knows at this point).
 
“He’s mine!” Taehyung blurts out. He’s not even quite sure what mine is supposed to mean and internally he’s slamming his head against a brick wall at the cringe. It’s just that when Taehyung is put in these kinds of stressful situations where he really doesn’t know what to do, his brain kind of gives up on him and he’s left sputtering out nonsense.
 
He’s resigned himself to death at this point, but then the man laughs and he doesn’t look angry anymore but rather kind of nervous. “Sorry. I didn’t realize that he was one of yours,” the man says, sounding quite docile. “It gets hard to tell which ones are up for grabs at times. I ain’t mean to cause trouble to you.”
 
Taehyung furrows his eyebrows, mouth falling open at a loss for words. He’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to say in this kind of situation because he doesn’t know exactly what the hell is even going on in the first place. Luckily, Jay is quick-witted enough to put on an act. He steps forward, hand slinking around to link arms with Taehyung, he pushes his body against Taehyung’s side and tilts his head sideways with a pout.
 
“Please don’t be mad at me,” he practically whines. And fuck, Taehyung really should be mad that Jay put him in such an awkward situation but then Jay has the audacity to bat his stupid long eyelashes and Taehyung feels something weird in the pit of his stomach.
 
“I told you not to wander off,” Taehyung pretends to scold him and he really can’t believe that they’re putting on this ridiculous act—which seems to work by the way because the greasy man backs off and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate in grabbing Jay’s wrist and dragging him away before the man changes his mind.
 
He doesn’t stop until they’re back in the front of the store and turns around on Jay so suddenly that the kid crashes into him with a soft ompfh before stumbling backwards. “What the hell was that?” Taehyung’s tone is sharp and slightly irate.
 
“What was what?”
 
“You know what I mean,” says Taehyung with a scoff.
 
Instead of answering him, Jay walks over to the Mercedes and lightly taps on the glass of the passenger door. “It’s getting cold and I really don’t wanna be here in case that creep gets back. Say we get out of here, dollface?”
 
Taehyung sighs at Jay’s complete dismissal of whatever the fuck had just happened but relents anyways and unlocks the car (mainly because Jay is right and he really doesn’t want to be stabbed tonight).
 
“Ugh,” Jay groans as soon as they’ve hit the highway. His feet are on Taehyung’s dash again, heels taller than usual and Taehyung can see his painted toenails. He lulls his head back against the headrest and closes his eyes. “Men can be so fickle, I swear.” He lets out a rather dramatic sigh and says, “you’re the only one I can trust.”
 
Taehyung snorts. “We barely even know each other.” There’s a beat of silence that he quickly fills because there’s too many questions and not enough answers brewing in his head. “I think you owe me an explanation.”
 
“Not really.”
 
“I just saved your ass,” Taehyung points out. “So yeah, you do.”
 
Another shrug. “Nothing really. I was just askin’ him for a ride home and at first he seemed chill or whatever but then he got all fuckin’ creepy about it, man.”
 
His explanation sounds strange and rehearsed to Taehyung’s ear but he’s in no position to push a guy he’s known for only two weeks. So Taehyung doesn’t say what he’s thinking, that Jay is lying and there was definitely something more to that. But it’s not like Taehyung has any conclusion of his own and Jay’s explanation is plausible enough.
 
“Do you normally ask random truckers for rides?” he asks instead.
 
“Yeah. My job’s a bit far from Rosemont and I’m too broke to buy a car, plus bus fees add up so…”
 
Taehyung swallows at this revelation. The thought of someone like Jay all prettied up and attractive (in a completely hetero way of course) asking questionable truckers for a ride home every night makes him feel unsettled.
 
“You shouldn’t do that. It’s dangerous,” Taehyung admonishes.
 
Jay shifts in the passenger seat as if to make himself more comfortable. Eyes still closed, he sinks further into the seat, almost as if he’s about to doze off. But Taehyung knows that he’s still listening.
 
“I can handle myself.”
 
Taehyung averts his gaze from the road for a split second to give Jay a look of disbelief that he can’t see. “Yeah, because you were completely handling yourself back there.”
 
“Don’t expose me like that.”
 
Taehyung almost laughs but that would be too friendly and Taehyung’s not even sure what to classify their relationship as. They’re certainly not close enough to be friends but Taehyung also doesn’t go around saving strangers in parking lots either.
 
“I think you owe me your name while we’re at it.” He’s feeling a little bold tonight, like Jay isn’t completely intangible now that Taehyung has something to hold over him.
 
“We barely even know each other,” he echoes.
 
“I could have been stabbed or shot in the head saving your ass.”
 
Jay opens his eyes at this and gives Taehyung an exasperated look. “Are you really guilt tripping me into telling you my name?”
 
“Maybe.”
 
Jay rolls his eyes. “And I thought that I was the drama queen.”
 
“You are,” Taehyung deadpans. He doesn’t say it, but he desperately wants to know this kid’s name for some inexplicable reason. And it makes no sense because Taehyung is not the kind of person who cares enough to even try and get to know people past familiar pleasantries. He’s especially not the type to pick up weirdos who cross dress on the street either. But there’s just something about Jay that makes Taehyung alight with wonder and he hates it.
 
The car is silent after that. Jay doesn’t seem like he’s going to answer Taehyung’s question any time soon and the latter is too tired to pester him about it. Taehyung can’t help but feel bitter about it because he just really wants to know this strange kid’s name for christ sakes. It’s childish. Taehyung is never childish.
 
“Jeongguk.”
 
“Hm?”
 
“My name.” His words are hesitant. “It’s Jeongguk.”
 
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung tests the syllables on his tongue and decides that he likes it
 
It sounds nice.
 
“I’m Taehyung.” He hates the way he gives out his name so easily, something that his parents have always cautioned him of. Jeongguk hadn’t even asked and yet Taehyung opened his mouth without a second thought. It gives him slight anxiety, but he figures that there are plenty of other Kim Taehyung’s in America, right? Sure, it might be a little riskier since Jeongguk is also Korean but telling one person shouldn’t hurt.
 
“That’s a cute name,” says Jeongguk. “Definitely not the twink chinese name I was expecting.”
 
“That’s—”
 
“I’m joking.”  
 
Taehyung pretends to be annoyed because Jeongguk is offensive and immature in a way that should be distasteful, but he ends up almost laughing instead.
 
“You don’t smile much.” Jeongguk tilts his head and observes Taehyung with careful eyes.
 
“Yeah I do, just not around you.” Taehyung’s words seem like a lie to even his own ears but Jeongguk’s insightfulness is very much not appreciated. Taehyung is sure that he does smile often. He smiles at the cashiers at the truck stop, he smiles at his co-workers in the morning when they greet each other. But it all seems like a sham, like something abstract and unreal.
 
“I bet it’s beautiful,” Jeongguk teases and Taehyung’s ears burn because he’s not used to getting such unabashed compliments from other men.
 
“Stop being weird about things,” he mumbles and Jeongguk just laughs and calls him cute.
 
Taehyung doesn’t say much after that but Jeongguk talks enough to fill up the car with his voice and while Taehyung usually drives with the radio a little too loud, whenever Jeongguk’s around he doesn’t even turn it back on. Even the sound of other cars passing become like background noise because Jeongguk’s voice is warm and full of passion in a way that sings like a song in Taehyung’s ears. No homo, of course.
 
When Taehyung finally stops at the street that Jeongguk always asked to be dropped off at, he turns in his seat to face Jeongguk, seat belt digging into his shoulder. “Don’t ask people you don’t know for rides anymore,” he says.
 
“You expect me to walk home?” Jeongguk says dryly whilst rolling his eyes.
 
“No, I—” Taehyung swallows. It’s not too late to change his mind and just send Jeongguk on his way. It would be the smarter move, honestly. Taehyung had just learned his name after all. And yet, a part of him cares about this kid who dresses how he wants and wears glitter on the high points of his cheek and speaks vulgarly without care of social cues. “Give me your number.”
 
Jeongguk’s eyebrows disappear into his fringe before his eyes hood into something more sultry. “You need a booty call? Didn’t expect you to make a move so fast, we only just learned each other’s names after all.”
 
Taehyung really does blush this time. “That’s not it you idiot.” Jeon Jeongguk is completely unfathomable. “Can you just chill out and not be an immature pervert for once, kid?”
 
Jeongguk looks annoyed. “I’m not a kid so you can stop calling me that.”
 
Taehyung snorts. “You look like you could still be in high school.”
 
“I’m twenty-two you asshole,” says Jeongguk with a glare.
 
“You’re still a kid,” Taehyung deadpans even if he’s actually quite surprised that Jeongguk isn’t eighteen but an actual adult even if he doesn’t act like one. “Anyways, I’ll give you rides from now on which is why I need your number.”
Jeongguk looks suspicious. “Are you serious?”
 
“Completely.” Taehyung nods.
 
“But...why would you do that?” Jeongguk furrows his eyebrows, expression perplexed in a way that portrays his youth. Taehyung almost finds it cute. Almost.
 
“I don’t know,” says Taehyung with a shrug. For once, he’s being honest. When it comes to Jeongguk, he really doesn’t know. It’s an answer that evades him, something that leaves goosebumps on Taehyung’s skin because he’s the kind of man who always has the answers. He’s the kind of man who doesn’t leave any room for being unsure and the last time his hands had shook he’d gotten hit hard across the face.
 
Taehyung doesn’t like people he can’t solve. Taehyung doesn’t like people who leave his tongue swollen in his mouth. He had a schedule and Jeongguk just messes it all up.
 
He looks to Jeongguk’s six-inch heels, now halfway out of the car and how it turns him into the Eiffel Tower, and his fishnets and tight leather dress that looks way to sexy on him and—and Jeongguk is a catastrophe that Taehyung shouldn’t get any closer to.
 
Jeongguk steps out fully and turns around, leaning into the car just like the first time they had met. “I’ll only say it one time dollface so you better listen up.” Taehyung holds his breath when Jeongguk rattles off his number and doesn’t breathe again until Jeongguk’s slammed the door and strutted down the sidewalk.
 
He repeats the number in his head like a mantra, holds onto every syllable like a prayer. His fingers are clumsy when he fishes his phone out of the inner pocket of his suit and he almost forgets how to count when he pulls up his contacts list and adds Jeongguk’s number to it. A part of Taehyung’s mind reasons that giving out his personal number to some strange guy he’d barely known for two weeks is dangerous and that if he wants to call Jeongguk, he should just call Jeongguk from his secretary’s phone. But another part of him, the curious and secretly reckless part wants to take this risk—to hell with his career.
 
Taehyung isn’t sure when to text Jeongguk and it isn’t until  he’s sitting in his living room, watching reruns of the Office and halfway through his second bottle of soju that he finally summons liquor courage to do so.
 
You : When will I see you again?
 
He sends the message only for his face to quickly heat in embarrassment. Does he sound too desperate? He sighs, throwing himself flat against the couch, soju sloshing out and landing on his white t-shirt. At least it’s not Gucci.
 
The soju doesn’t burn going down anymore like it used to in his early twenties when the only thing he ever drank was a glass of wine or two at social gatherings because keeping face also means drinking shitty three-hundred dollar red wine so that no one could start whispering behind his back about alcoholism. But Taehyung’s older now and he has his own million dollar home with six extra empty bedrooms and god —he’s so fucking lonely.  
 
He laughs, a choked sound catching in his throat that he drowns with five more mouthfuls of alcohol. The last thing that he remembers before he passes out is Steve Carell making another joke that Taehyung’s heard a million times. He laughs anyways, even if it rings hollowly in his too big house. Even if it hurts
 

***

 
It’s been four days of Taehyung constantly checking his phone and Jeongguk still hasn’t texted him back, nor has he seen him at the truck stop (which shouldn’t be surprised after what happened the last time). In the meantime, Taehyung tries to avoid the fact that Jeongguk had totally read his message and ignored him by working on paperwork that’s been piling up—or he could have totally entered the wrong number which would be a million times worse.
 
“You look stressed,” Seokjin points out as he sets a bottle of painkillers and hot tea on Taehyung’s desk. “And this is the third hangover you’ve had this week. Might want to ease up on the alcohol a bit, boss.”
 
Taehyung tries to glare at his secretary but it turns into more of an awkward squint because his head is fucking killing him and making facial expressions hurt. “I’m fine,” he says stiffly. “Just a little headache is all.”
 
Right. It’s definitely not because your blood is made of alcohol or anything.”
 
“I don’t think this is something you should be discussing with your superior,” Taehyung warns with a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth.
 
Seokjin is unperturbed. He just snorts and says, “take your medicine you ass.”
 
Taehyung’s not the kind of boss with a wide smile and friendly laugh despite his pretty appearance. If he were to describe himself, he’d heard one of his female techs call him a “nightmare to deal with” . Some would say he takes his job way too seriously, which is something that Taehyung will never understand because of course he takes his job seriously. The industry he works in is cutthroat and there’s never any time to slack off or fool around. It wasn’t as if Taehyung was mean or anything, because he wasn’t, just incredibly stoic. Hard to impress and even harder to please, his employees often look at him with nervous eyes.
 
Seokjin has been someone that Taehyung has worked with since his early days at the company,  back when he was still young and had yet to secure his position. He had been a little different then, a little bit less stone faced and tight lipped and the bags under his eyes weren’t as prominent. Seokjin always complains about how boring he is and Taehyung only lets Seokjin get away with it because he’s the closest thing to a friend that Taehyung has.
 
Seokjin would even go as far as to call them best friends but Taehyung is the kind of person who is always tightly wound up and never lets anything get past the surface. He’s not quite sure if he’s the kind of person who has a best friend.
 
It’s when Seokjin turns to leave that Taehyung blurts out, “how do you know if someone is ignoring you?”
 
He whips around quickly, eyes narrow and calculating. Taehyung refuses to look at him, staring at the words on the paper before him and pretending to flip through the pages. He signs it without really reading what any of it says but he just needs something to keep himself from being too obvious.
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“I mean, hypothetically speaking, if you hypothetically have been kind of talking to someone for a couple of weeks now and they finally hypothetically give you their number,” he grabs another stack of papers, “and you hypothetically text them and it’s been four days and they still haven’t responded, are they hypothetically ignoring you?”
 
“Do you like this person?” Seokjin asks, not missing a beat. “Hypothetically of course.”
 
Taehyung shakes his head, still refusing to look up. “Uh, hypothetically they’re a bit too strange for that kind of relationship,” and I’m not gay, “but they are an interesting person so I guess in a hypothetical situation I would be hoping for a response.”
 
“Have you tried hypothetically texting them since then?”
 
“No.”
 
Seokjin shrugs. “Maybe you should.” The corner of his lips twitch and it’s obvious he’s trying not to laugh. “Hypothetically speaking.”
 
It’s a few moments of stagnant quiet before Taehyung speaks up again. “Seokjin?”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“Why are you still here?”
 
“Jeez, I’m going. I’m going already.”
 
He knows that Seokjin is right and that he should probably try and message Jeongguk once more. Maybe the kid had been busy and had just forgotten to respond, or maybe he didn’t take Taehyung’s offer seriously. But still, there’s something akin to embarrassment burning inside of him that makes him hesitant in a way that isn’t at all like how an almost thirty-year-old man should act.
 
Taehyung doesn’t text Jeongguk again. He does a lot of staring at the last message he sent, not knowing if Jeongguk was ignoring him or Taehyung had just gotten the wrong number. He repeats Seokjin’s previous words in his head in an attempt to gather some balls to just do it, but ends up typing out and deleting a million messages, only to throw his iphone on the glass desk and kicks his legs to roll his chair back in frustration.
 
This is stupid. He doesn’t know why he’s sulking over some kid almost eight years younger than him. Jeongguk’s young and vibrant and probably has a million other better things to do than to pay any attention to some irrelevant guy nearly in his thirties. Plus, hadn’t the only reason that Taehyung asked for Jeongguk’s number was just for in case he needed a ride? What if he had that situation taken care of? Then there would be no need to text Taehyung.
 
Taehyung nods to himself. He’ll forget about Jeongguk. Yeah, that’s exactly what he’ll do.  
 
It’s just then that his phone buzzes, blue screen lighting up with a notification of a text message. Taehyung darts forward so suddenly that he trips over the legs of his chair, hits his knees on the hard floor and bangs his forehead on the corner of the desk with a sharp cry of pain. He barely gives himself time to recover, standing on throbbing knees and unlocking his phone with his fingerprint.
 
Jeongguk: r u still at wrk?
 
You: Yeah, why?
 
Jeongguk: oh nvm thn
 
Taehyung chews at his bottom lip and looks at the clock.
 
You: I’m getting off soon, though. I can pick you up somewhere if you’d like?
 
Jeongguk: mmm tht wud b grrreeeeat. im downtown at the left side of 2nd & walnut st.
 
You: I shall be there in 20 minutes.
 
Jeongguk: thx dollface ;*
 
It’s only eight in the afternoon and Taehyung rarely leaves the office before midnight. He still has plenty of paperwork left on his desk and while the thought of leaving early for the first time in years makes him anxious, he throws on his suit jacket, grabs his keys and leaves before he can change his mind.
 
Seokjin’s sitting at the secretary desk outside, and his eyebrows shoot past his hairline when he sees Taehyung turn off the lights and lock the door to his office.
 
“What are you doing?” he asks suspiciously.
 
“I’m, uh, going home.”  Taehyung should have known he wouldn’t be able to sneak past his secretary.
 
“The last time you went home early was when you caught the flu and nearly had to be hospitalized two years ago,” Seokjin states in disbelief. “Did something happen? Is everything alright?”
 
“No, everything is fine,” Taehyung reassures quickly. “It’s just—um—well you see—”

Seokjin holds up his hand and shakes his head. “I’ll save you the embarrassment this time. I’m happy that you’re cutting yourself some slack for once so just go. As long as nothing terrible happened, I don’t need to know the details.”    
 
Taehyung nods and he’s just reminded of how grateful he is to have someone like Seokjin working directly under him.
 
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
“It’s gonna be Saturday, boss.” But Taehyung’s already zoomed down the hallway and to the elevator, fingertips tingling with something akin to excitement.
 
He gets to see Jeongguk again.