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The Romance of Old Clothes

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Taehyung is talking to Jungkook on FaceTime when he first spots Kim Seokjin rooting around in the sparkly thong bin.

Usually Taehyung would pop up from behind the counter, all sunshine and clamor, launching into his Welcome to Vintage Minnie spiel and pointing out all the new stuff they’ve got. There’s a whole rack of 70s Gucci and Moschini that Seokjin might particularly be interested in. He’s one of their big media clients, always costuming some actor or model in big name shows and dramas, but Taehyung resists.

He’s not talking to Seokjin today.

“Hullo?” Seokjin calls, dropping a vintage Victoria’s Secret thong back into the bin. “Jimin? Tae?”

Seokjin is wearing a magenta suit and a distinctly flustered expression. Taehyung spies on him from beneath the counter and knows that the frown isn’t because of the fake rhinestones on the lacy lingerie he’s now holding up. Seokjin may look polished and bright, his face a transcendent paen to beauty, but Taehyung’s worked long enough in fashion to sniff out the purgatorial aura of corporate frazzle.

Something’s wrong at work—again.

When Seokjin spots the top of Taehyung’s head—this month a pale, faded purple—he begins to wave frantically.

“Taehyung!” he calls, madly cheerful. “Fancy meeting you here.”

The boutique literally belongs to Taehyung and Jimin, so either Seokjin is going through some sort of incredible neurological crisis, or he’s fucking desperate. Either way— Taehyung tells himself—he doesn’t care.

Seokjin’s not his problem.

“Don’t ignore me, Taetae. I said I was sorry.”

Taehyung scowls a little and squeezes Yeontan tighter. The puppy nips at his finger in annoyance. “Ow. Thanks, dude.”

“Are you talking to Yeontan again?” Jungkook asks, then squints like he’s trying to peer around the phone. “Is that Jin hyung I saw for a moment there?”

“Nope.”

“Hi, Jin hyung!”

Seokjin sighs resignedly. “Hi Jungkook.”

“Hyung, you should go talk to Jin hyung.”

“Nope.”

“He looks like he needs help.”

“I don’t care.”

“He can literally hear us right now.”

Taehyung blinks innocently. “Who do you mean? Is there someone in here?”

Yeontan barks unhelpfully, friendly and excited as he tries to see around Taehyung for Seokjin.

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Oh my god, are you still moping about last Wednesday?”

“Jimin said it’s okay if I ignore customers as long as they’re not asking questions or buying something. We believe in non-assisted choice making.”

Jungkook smirks. “Jin hyung looks like he’s buying something.”

“Not unless it’s an 80s pineapple-print silk thong, he isn’t,” Taehyung says, crossing his arms. “You’re so useless, Jungkook-ah. Weren’t you supposed to be reading my cards?”

“I am, I am. I have a good feeling about you talking to Jin hyung today,” Jungkook says, shifting a bit so that a ring of sparkling fairy lights suddenly flutter atop his head. He looks like he’s in a badly positioned Snapchat filter. “A very good feeling.”

“You just don’t want to lose the standing invitation to dinner at his house on Fridays.”

“No, no,” Jungkook’s eyes begin to glaze over. “I see…change.”

For a moment he looks like some of the elder witches Taehyung has run across during coffee-meets in Seoul—wise and gifted with foresight and actually magic, not Tumblr-taught like he, Jimin and Jungkook were. Taehyung holds Yeontan a little tighter, eyes wide, wondering if this is a Moment somehow, like that one time he and Jungkook were fucking around with crystals and a curtain randomly caught on fire. Or the other time when he and Jimin messed around with a purported love potion, spilled it in the elevator, and had all of Taehyung’s apartment falling in love with his shoes.

But then Jungkook swallows, visibly, and Taehyung deflates. “You probably just see Jimin walking around pants-less right now, don’t you?”

“What? Uh—right. Yeah. It’s distracting. Never mind that! As your conscience, confidante and singular coven-bro, I really foresee change for you, hyung. Good change.”

Jungkook ducks out of the screen for a second. Taehyung distinctly hears a gentle smack and a loud giggle.

“I’ve got to go. Talk to Seokjin hyung!”

“I don’t want to—”

“Non-negotiable. Bye! Also, Yeontan is eating your Death card.”

“Shit. Yeontan, no.”

It’s too late. Taehyung wrestles madly for what’s left of the tarot card with the angry ball of fur determined to swallow it. He’s in a full-blown yipping competition with his dog by the time Seokjin starts ringing the giant golden bell on the counter.

“Come on, Tae. You can’t ignore me forever.”

Yeontan lets go of the card. The glossy midnight-blue stock is a mess of drool and the skeleton on the face-side has lost his skull. Taehyung drops his head resignedly onto a pile of yellowing wedding dresses. They whisper lightly to him about heartbreaks and divorces.

It’s only eleven in the morning. All he wants is peace and love and for Yeontan to learn to stop eating everything.

Seokjin rings the bell again. He’s holding up the pineapple thong. “Now you have to come ring me up, Taehyung,” he says, smug. “I’m a customer.”

“Fine.

Taehyung gets slowly to his feet and walks towards where Seokjin’s waiting. He checks himself in the ceiling mirror. With his hair under a snapback the Resting Bitch Face he’s got on is impressive, but the effect is slightly ruined by the wriggling dog in his arms.

“Is this really from the 70s?” Seokjin asks, when Taehyung wordlessly rings him up. He checks the elastic a couple of times and looks unduly pleased. Then he reaches to pet Yeontan and the traitor lets him.

Taehyung glowers. The thong is bright and gossipy, whispering loud about something in Bahamas. He stuffs it in a bag.

 “This puppy’s grown so big,” Seokjin croons. “He was so small just a month ago!”

When Taehyung doesn’t respond, Seokjin takes an exaggerated bite off what looks like a churro from that upscale bakery down the street Taehyung can’t afford. And then he holds up another greasy bag, like a ringmaster enticing a lion with a particularly delectable cut of meat.

“Come on. I got your favorites. I said I was sorry, Taehyungie—what more do you want?”

Taehyung narrows his eyes. “What do you want?”

“Eat first,” Seokjin says, and pinches his cheek. “Every time I see you it’s like you’ve become skinnier.”

Taehyung glares but takes the bag of bakery goods. There’s something in there that’s definitely strawberry flavored. Expensively strawberry flavored—Taehyung can tell the difference.

Taehyung smells a bribe.

“Not amused,” he says, stuffing his face with a pastry, and Seokjin just laughs.

For a few minutes it’s just him and Seokjin quietly eating beneath the canopy of feathers and fairy-lights Jimin’s strung together. Taehyung sits on an overturned carton suspiciously looking over Seokjin while the older man inspects a mannequin. Yeontan curls around Taehyung’s feet, uncharacteristically quiet.

 “Yah, Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin ventures, his eagle-eye picking out the moment Taehyung bites into the strawberry cake. Seokjin may look harmless, but Taehyung knows very well that he’s a gentle shark, fishing for vulnerability. “About last Wednesday…”

“You abandoned me, hyung.”

“I was literally one room away.”

“He called the boutique an over-hyped rag store.”

“I know—”

“He called me an artless, snobbish, air-headed scam-artist.”

“I know—”

Taehyung’s voice cracks and he hates himself. “He said I’m a spoiled, sheltered rich boy who wouldn’t know the real world if it bit me on my ass.”

Seokjin’s eyebrows furrow. “Since when do you care what other people say about you?”

Taehyung fiddles with his embellished belt. He’s wearing clothes he fixed up himself today: 70s white Gucci cargo pants that he painstakingly removed rust-stains from, a shiny belt he saved from a bin of rejects, a  Versace shirt with silver heart-shaped buttons that’s at least three decades old. He’s got a long, silver earring on one ear to match, gold disco platform shoes, and he knows he looks unorthodox. He doesn’t usually care. Taehyung’s been unorthodox all his life. His accent is odd. His interests, his quirks, his fashion—everything about him is odd. The fact that he talks to clothes and they talk back is odd. He’s learned to ignore being stared at.

But there are lines he draws.

“I’m not stupid,” he says. “I don’t care about the other shit. I don’t like being called stupid.”

“You’re gorgeous and smart and very enterprising,” Seokjin crows, patting Taehyung’s thigh. He sounds like he means it. Taehyung sniffles a little and looks away. “And Yoongi knows that. You know he knows that. He was just having a bad day. And then you started with the—uh, the magic—”

Taehyung sighs. Min Yoongi is Seokjin’s best production designer—perhaps the best in the industry. When Seokjin first asked Taehyung to meet him to discuss a project, he and Jimin had nearly vibrated out of their bodies in excitement. Most people in the industry knows him and Jimin as the cool, eccentric BFFs with a great head for the vintage market. But in private, Taehyung and Jimin are incorrigible fanboys of a huge number of things—starting with fashion, detouring through anime, and tangled up all the way in Internet witchcraft.

Min Yoongi and his brilliant, evocative production work brings out the latter in them. They coo over the sheer visual artistry of all his advertising and drama work. Taehyung has a huge poster of a make-up brand campaign Yoongi’s worked on— all shimmer on dark skin, a summer-in-Eden palette of a gorgeous autumn harvest—framed and hanging on his bedroom wall.

But then last Wednesday happened.

“He had a rack of Dior knock-offs,” Taehyung pouts now, rubbing the top of Yeontan’s head. “I told him they were knock-offs. He didn’t want to believe me.”

“You told him these clothes aren’t really speaking to me.”

“Because they weren’t!” Taehyung protests. “They had no history. They were knock-offs.”

Seokjin sighs. “You told him I can’t hear their stories.”

“Hyung, you know I—”

I know,” Seokjin says, firmly, finding Taehyung’s hand to give it a little squeeze. He runs his gaze once around the store like he expects the clothes to start speaking to him as well. “He thought you were being flaky and weird on purpose. That you were bullshitting him with your artsy hipster stuff.”

“I’m not an artsy hipster.”

“You run a high-fashion vintage boutique, buy green coffee and artisanal honey, and fuck around with herbs and crystals. You’re weird people. Own it.”

Taehyung frowns, rubbing gently at his temples, trying to think past the fort of defensiveness he’s constructed in his head. He supposes he can come off flaky and weird—sure.

It still doesn’t warrant all the other shit Yoongi yelled about.

“He didn’t have to be so rude.”

“His department paid a lot of money for those,” Seokjin says. “He thought you were making fun of him.”

“Serves him right to buy a whole rack of mass-manufactured fakes without consulting someone who knows their shit first.”

“That’s exactly why we called you,” Seokjin sighs. “You know there’s crazy money in this project. Yoongi is a perfectionist—if the set demands vintage, he wants vintage and he wants it fast. You guys are the best wardrobe consultants in this field. Please just talk to him.”

“I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Taehyung,” Seokjin wails. “We’re already so delayed! Netflix might pick it up if the pilot works, Namjoon is freaking out over production already, we need—”

“Take Jimin. I’m not meeting Min Yoongi again. He hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you, he just thought you were being waspish and new-agey and—”

“Stupid,” Taehyung whines, and swallows the rest of his cake. “Hyung, he thought I was a stupid, vapid moron who says LOL out loud just because I told him his stupid clothes are fake.”

“You do say LOL out loud.”

Taehyung wishes Yeontan would try to eat Seokjin instead of that hatbox he’s presently nibbling.

“Do this for hyung,” Seokjin wheedles. “I’ll buy you noodles. I’ll make you my special japchae. I’ll take you out for kebabs at that place you like.”

“No food can sway me, hyung. Ask Jimin.”

Seokjin sighs. “You know Jimin won’t go without you.”

Taehyung hesitates. This is true. Jimin is the best at finding the good stuff—he’ll jet it all over the world for a rare 20s Chanel dress or a Schiaparelli hat—but when it comes to dealing with costume designers and art directors, Jimin just loses interest. You have thicker skin, he tells Taehyung, you deal with them. This is true, in a way: Jimin is too nice and considerate, often lets people walk over him. Taehyung most usually doesn’t give a fuck.

Unless, apparently, when it comes to Min Yoongi.

Taehyung is still a fanboy. He’s a fanboy who likes art and color and the clean, clear visual aesthetics of every single thing Yoongi’s worked on. He thinks Min Yoongi can make an ad for toilet paper belong in the Museum of Modern Art.

Maybe he gives a fuck.

Maybe it hurts that of all people, it’s Min Yoongi who thinks he’s a fluff-headed vapid fashionista with nothing to him but an over-blown sense of importance.

“Taehyung-ah,” Seokjin says, wily and soft, “You’re not scared of meeting Yoongi, are you?”

Taehyung knows this is bait. Seokjin knows this is bait. Even Yeontan, running circles around Taehyung now, knows this is bait. His angry brows are very expressive, and right now they’re saying don’t take the bait, don’t be a stupid fish.

Maybe, when it comes to Min Yoongi, Taehyung’s kind of just a stupid fish.

“Fine,” he says, through gritted teeth, trying not to focus on Seokjin’s smug look as he reels Taehyung in, hook, line and sinker. “Fine. But tell him to get the stick out of his ass, first.”

Seokjin kisses his cheek. “I love you so much,” he says, and bolts upright. “I love you so, so much. I’ll really make you that japchae, Taehyungie, I promise!”

Yeontan stops running and sniffing to look at him, deeply judgmental.

“Don’t you start, too.”

Taehyung wishes he could disappear into the earth—it’s preferable over meeting Yoongi again. But this is also his pride at question here, that single most annoying thing of not being taken seriously when he’s built a life around something.

Taehyung wants to prove himself.

He hates it, knows it’s dumb and stupid, but that’s what he wants. He’s never been very good at ignoring his own impulses.

He grabs onto Seokjin’s pants when he tries to leave.

“At least buy your stupid pineapple thong, hyung.”

***

“Your profile says you’re into hobby witchcraft. What even is that?”

“It’s an alternative to getting drunk out of my mind and dying at twenty seven,” Taehyung says, sunnily. “Your profile says you’re Min Yoongi’s personal secretary.”

“I’m also his best friend and mood translator,” Jung Hoseok says, smiling wide at Taehyung. “It means that when he’s fucking shit up by being in one of his ridiculous moods, I make sure the boat doesn’t rock too much.”

“Jeez. Where were you last Wednesday?”

Hoseok grins happily. “Right here. You handled that quite well.”

Taehyung blinks. “I stormed out.”

He doesn’t add while nearly bawling my eyes out, but Hoseok seems entirely comfortable in dealing with people who’s found themselves caught up in a Yoongi thunderstorm. Taehyung thinks he already gets it.  That knowing look definitely speaks volumes.

All Hoseok says is, “But you didn’t throw your coffee at him, Taehyung-ssi.”

Taehyung wishes he had known this was a regular occurrence.

“Should I have?”

“I don’t know. Do you make enough money to support your expensive Starbucks habit?”

Taehyung frowns at the venti cup in his hand. It’s chai latte, he wants to say, which is sweeter, stickier, and therefore a better substance overall to throw at somebody. He thinks Hoseok will get a laugh out of it. But then he thinks of actually throwing it at Min Yoongi and his stomach does a horrible swoop again.

Hoseok turns to type something up on a computer. “Weren’t there two of you?”

“My partner’s in Japan, picking up some stock.”

“Ah, Park Jimin. He’s the procurer? The Minnie to your Mickey?”

“It’s kind of the other way around. We’re Vintage Minnie.”

“Cute.” Hoseok croons. He’s looking at a grainy magazine picture of them on the Internet, zooming in to see their faces. Jimin has his arms locked tightly around Taehyung in the picture, Taehyung’s cheek smushed up against the top of his head. They’re both grinning goofily at the camera. “D’you two date?”

“No, he’s more like my soulmate.”

“Okay—but there’s no way you haven’t fucked. So friends with benefits?”

Taehyung’s used to forward, but Hoseok is something else. “Sometimes? He has a boyfriend.”

Hoseok looks curious. “But what, it’s an open relationship?”

“Yeah, I guess. We don’t really define it. Does it matter?”

Hoseok winks. “It pays to be informed. Just wait right here. We’re doing some work with set design today. I’ll call when we’re ready for you.”

Jung Hoseok writes Taehyung’s name on a card, slips it into the most bafflingly ugly pouch Taehyung’s ever seen, and breezes through a giant glass door into the depths of the concrete giant that serves as Yoongi’s office.

Taehyung waits. He walks around the reception, hands in pockets, looking at the art prints on the wall and the tasteful, modern chandelier spilling light from the recesses of long, onyx columns.

The last time he met Yoongi, it had been in the studio Seokjin’s media house owned. The personal office is more Yoongi, has a bit of his touch, even if the biggest vibe Taehyung is getting from it is that of Yoongi saying he doesn’t care for appearances.

Why show-off  something with superficial assets when you’ve got the real talent?

The sofa looks old and worn and expensive—and whispers gently about sordid affairs that had taken place on it— but clashes with the carpet and the color scheme of the reception. A large decanter holds lemon water and is stood on a small, round table with stout legs. There’s an art print of a dying gazelle—which is weird—but artful and aesthetically pleasing still.

Everything matches, but nothing does. Everything is tasteful, but in a dark way, like Edward Gorey or David Lynch.

Taehyung’s a bit terrified. There’s something…sardonic about it.

An inside joke. A gentle savagery.

“Get a grip,” he mumbles to himself. “Get a fucking grip, Kim Taehyung.”

But it’s pointless.

If Yoongi’s office is throwing him out of his depth, then he doesn’t know what he’s going to do when he meets the man. Their first meeting is a blur of color and memory and a burn of unwanted tears. Taehyung’s determined to keep his calm this time.

He’s even wearing his favorite beige silk jacket.

The fabric whispers to him.

The jacket is a bespoke creation that had been made for some actor to wear on a red carpet nearly forty years ago. He’d won an award that night, screwed some lovely starlet, and fallen in love with another lovely starlet who he later married. There’s only good stuff associated with this.

“You’ve got this,” Taehyung mutters, pacing the carpet, touching the dead gazelle on the painting once for good luck. “You’ve got this. It’s clothes. You know clothes. No one knows clothes as well as—”

“Taehyung-ssi?” Hoseok is beaming at him. “Come on in.”

Taehyung dies a little in his head. His phone buzzes in his hand, and he looks down, sees a message from Jimin: give him hell, TaeTae.

Right. Sure.

Give him hell.

Taehyung can do that.

He thinks even the gazelle looks at him a bit pityingly. Considering it’s dead, that’s saying something.

 

***

Min Yoongi’s personal office is a mess of vision boards and white set mock-ups, props and fabric, wallpaper swatches and trophy cabinets. Taehyung’s immediately rattled. He spots awards for campaigns he knows, spies a Cannes Lion somewhere in there, and licks his lips in nervousness.

His stomach churns. He clenches the little jade charm Jungkook had made him in his fist. Why did Taehyung agree to this? No noodles in the world is worth the butterflies in his stomach.

He stands still in the middle of the room and forces himself to think of Yeontan chewing on a toy. The angry faces he’d make. Or Jungkook when he’s trying to fire up his Inner Eye—that concentrated, constipated look he gets is the best thing about their fun attempts at witchery so far.

Yoongi’s voice is a gentle whisper emanating from somewhere within a large leather couch.

“I know you two are practically married by now, but that’s a really ugly pouch, Hoseok-ah. Please get rid of it.”

Hoseok’s smile gets brighter. “This pouch is the reason your meetings happen on time and you’re not dying under the weight of a thousand deadlines, hyung. Be thankful for it. Also, Seokjin hyung’s vintage expert is here. Don’t eat him up, he’s a cute cupcake.”

“Cupcakes are supposed to be eaten, Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says. He sounds nothing at all like the angry, crazy person Taehyung had met last Wednesday. “Cupcakes are to be devoured.”

“Well, this one’s called Kim Taehyung.”

Yoongi is quiet for a beat. Then he sounds a little confused when he asks, “Kim Taehyung—why’s this name familiar?”

Taehyung speaks up. “You sort of yelled at me last Wednesday.”

Yoongi stands up. Taehyung knows the man is hot—this is an objective observation he’s already made, long ago, having watched Yoongi’s interviews on industry web-zines and award shows. It’s not a conventional handsomeness. It’s intense, somehow both soft and sharp, his dark, slender gaze piercing through the screen and acute enough to flay Taehyung alive. It’s no different in real life—Yoongi looks at him, head to toe, and Taehyung feels giddy and pared down to bare bones when he’s done.

“Did I?”

 Yoongi’s dressed in what looks like really snuggly sweatpants and has soft hair falling in fucked-up layers across his forehead. His white sweater looks weirdly fluffy, too, enormous on his light frame, and suddenly Taehyung feels dreadfully overdressed. Here he is, in business formals and dress shoes, and Yoongi’s just throwing him off with his casual sleepwear style.

He doesn’t like this sudden ballast of wardrobe insecurity lapping at his heels.

Whatever. Min Yoongi can suck it. Taehyung knows he looks great in these clothes. He’s going to own it.

Taehyung slides his glasses up his nose and squares his shoulders. “Seokjin hyung sent me to assist you with the vintage looks you need.”

Yoongi frowns. “Wait—what was that about last Wednesday?”

“I came to meet you in the Big Hit studio. You yelled at me.”

“What for?”

“You don’t even remember?”

Yoongi shrugs. It’s an easy, rolling motion of his shoulders, soft and dangerous. “I meet a lot of people. Most of them annoying.”

Taehyung splutters. He walked in here with a bucketful of irritation and righteous anger, and now he just feels doused with cold water. He’s nursed this annoyance with Yoongi in his heart the whole week, and he didn’t even register enough to Min Yoongi to bother remembering. It’s irritating. He feels small, and for the longest time in his life, Taehyung has hated being made to feel small.

Small is the lost Kim Taehyung who uprooted himself from the farms in Daegu to make it big in Seoul. Small is the Kim Taehyung who got laughed at in high school. Small is the Kim Taehyung who kept his head down through most of college because everyone was cooler and richer and more fashionable than him.

He’s not small anymore.

Not in front of the world, and definitely not in front of Min Yoongi.

“Yeah,” he says. “You had a bunch of shitty clothes someone fooled you into thinking were authentic vintage high fashion. I told you they weren’t. You blew up.”

“Ah!” Yoongi says, low, like a light’s gone on somewhere in his head. “I remember now.”

“You do?”

“Fairy boy. Yeah. I remember you.”

What even.

“Wow,” Taehyung whispers, shocked speechless. “Wow.”

“Jin hyung said you were coming today,” Yoongi continues, oblivious to the silent storm raging through Taehyung’s head. He’s closer now, and in the bright lights of the office his skin is flawless and pale, like porcelain china Taehyung would very much like to smash. “Do you want Hoseok to take you through the project’s details?”

“No.” Taehyung grits out. Be professional. “I saw the dockets already.”

“Great,” Yoongi drawls. “So you know the subject. Scandal, high fashion, love motels, blah blah. You can take a look at the vision boards if you want. We’re still early on so the mock ups of the sets haven’t been made, but there are some designs and reference images for that, too. Does your schedule allow you to come see a few locations with me?”

“Yes.”

“I do it at night. Less traffic equals more work done. You’ll need to stay up later than normal.”

“I sleep late anyway.”

“Great. Hoseok will mail you the storyboards for the scenes you’ll be helping me with. Have a good day, Taehyung.”

“Wait—that’s it?”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Taehyung bites his lip. “You’re just going to insult me, then talk all over it and be all business? How does that work?”

Yoongi at least bothers to look a bit surprised—whether at Taehyung calling him out or because he doesn’t remember is left up to mystery. “Did I?”

“Did you what?”

“Insult you?”

“You literally called me Fairy Boy not five minutes ago.”

Yoongi waves a hand dismissively. “That’s because you were wearing an odd sparkly thing the last time we met. I’ve worked on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was almost exactly how I costumed Puck.”

Taehyung’s been called Puckish before, and not nicely. It just gets him even more emotional. “I have a name,” he says, clipped and quiet. “You called me a scam-artist the last time we met.”

“You said some weird shit, then,” Yoongi says, a tad defensively. “But Seokjin hyung said to let it go, that you were very young, in the art scene and probably had a habit of psychoactives—

Fucking hell. What? Taehyung’s going to have to come up with an innovative way to murder Seokjin.

“You think I was stoned when I met you?”

Yoongi’s stare is steady. “Weren’t you?”

“No! Of course not.”

Yoongi’s lip curls in a hard smirk. “You were having a dialog with the clothes. I swear, and I quote, you said ‘this one says it’s from a sweatshop in China’. And then you picked out a dress and went this one has nothing to say at all.

Hoseok nods violently next to Taehyung, but sends him a quick look of apology. “True story.”

“That’s because it—that’s because I —”

He’s spluttering. He’s never been actually able to explain the clothes-whispering to anyone besides Jimin and Jungkook. They’re the only ones who heard him out and then embarked on this quest of Tumblr spells and aesthetic moodboards. No one’s ever believed him who he’s told except the two of them. The nicer people think it’s a quirk—Kim Taehyung who touches clothes and learns their histories—and the not-so-nice people think…well. What Yoongi thinks. That Taehyung’s either out of his mind, or on some weird acid trip.

“I don’t know if you know this,” Yoongi says, coolly,  “But I have a really low tolerance for this artsy bohemian stuff.”

Hoseok clears his throat, like he wants to mediate, but Yoongi just continues talking over him. There’s an itch in Taehyung’s throat, suddenly, a burn in his chest.

“This is work,” Yoongi goes on. His gaze is dark and heavy, withering. “Shit loads of work. It needs doing. So if you can do it like Jin hyung claims you can—great. If not, we’re going to need to find a different arrangement.”

Taehyung looks at him, a thousand responses spinning through his mind. Even in sweatpants and with his hair all mussed up, Yoongi looks perfect and unreachable, a Titan-esque larger-than-life creature with a dazzling mind Taehyung can’t hold a candle against. Taehyung’s been idolizing him for what feels like forever: ogling at the elaborate sets he makes for k-pop videos, marveling at the aesthetics in his commercials, dreaming of working in costuming under him.

Now he’s here and he can’t even find his words, and Min Yoongi’s looking at him like a thousand people before him have looked at Taehyung. Eyes narrowed and cat-like, eyebrows arched and heavy with judgment.

Like Taehyung’s an idiot.

An insignificant, fleeting curiosity.

Like he has no integrity, no sense of responsibility, no working mind to build anything respectable out of himself.

And just like every time this has happened before, Taehyung chokes up. The walls go up and he can’t breathe, so he just rolls his eyes in some show of irreverence, spins around on his heel, and leaves. He thinks Hoseok comes after him, even hears him call his name, but there’s a ringing in Taehyung’s ears that’s entirely too loud.

It’s like the ceiling’s coming crashing down on him. And when he’s out, it’s like the sky is crashing down on him, the wide blue of it smothering him from all sides. He thinks his heart is about to break out of his chest with how hard it’s going, and a litany of all the words he could have said to change things—turn the situation around, make him look better than a whiny, sensitive idiot—rises up in him till Taehyung thinks he’s going to suffocate.

It only really stops when he’s back in the shop.

Jungkook’s already there when he gets there, with a cup of tea on the counter even. He looks up wide-eyed from the comic book he’s reading when Taehyung rushes in.

“I spied with my little psychic eye that that didn’t go well?” he says, gentle and Bambi-eyed, and that’s when Taehyung—stupid, stupid Taehyung—bursts into tears.

 

***

 

“It’s worse because it’s him,” Jimin mumbles, one hand carding through Taehyung’s hair, the other flipping switches on the remote controller mindlessly. Taehyung’s not sure when he got back home— just that he has. He’s glad because having Jimin around automatically means 100% more cuddles, which is just what his inner doctor always prescribes for anxiety. “He loves Yoongi. I like his stuff too, but Taetae’s always idolized him, hasn’t he? He got into costuming because of him.”

“Yeah,” Taehyung mumbles, hoarsely, a pathetic creature confined within the void of a heavy blanket. Somehow, on top of fucking things up on the work front with Yoongi, he’s also managed to catch a miserable cold. He wonders vaguely if he should tell Jimin to save himself from it, leave Taehyung alone to his misery, but then remembers that they’ve both given each other worse. Their friendship can withstand a cold. “I’m a grade A dumbass.”

Jimin rubs circles on the top of his head. “No you’re not. Stop that. He was an asshole, you nearly had a panic attack— that’s all this is. Do you want to go eat chicken? Cake?”

“Yes.”

“No,” Jungkook says, from where he’s bent over a table photographing their latest witch aesthetic for their thriving Tumblr blog. “He’s sick. Feed him soup.”

“We’ve eaten fried squid when dying from 103 degree fevers in college, Jungkookie,” Jimin says, sagely. “We survived.”

Jungkook snorts. “O, Sir Jimin, Wise and Noble. If he throws up you’re in charge of cleaning up.”

“Oh shit,” Jimin looks down at Taehyung, eyes wide and worried. “Are you gonna throw up, Tae?”

Taehyung head-butts Jimin lightly in the stomach. “I’ve cleaned up after you, you ingratiate.”

Once.”

“Fuck you, Park Jimin. Was it my corpse that got you through hangover hell after every party in college ever?”

Jimin squeezes him. “Only because you’d walk into our apartment completely debauched at ten in the morning the next day. Our hangovers ran different circadian cycles.”

Jungkook frowns at them, but the corner of his mouth twitches in amusement. “You said you survived a roller-coaster while drunk, a marathon gaming session while stoned, and a viva exam on a six-pack of Redbull. What the fuck were you guys doing in college, running for first place in the Idiot Olympics?”

“It’s called living,” Jimin says, primly. “Right, Tae?”

Taehyung feels like dying right now. He groans and presses his face into his pillow, and Jimin rubs his back consolingly. Jungkook, sat at the other edge of the couch with Taehyung’s feet on his lap, reaches out to pat his knee.

“I can make the soup,” Seokjin pipes up, from where he’s been collapsed into Jimin’s bean bag doing some work on his shiny Mac. Yeontan naps on a dog bed next to him. “In fact, fuck it. I’ll make some tea too.”

Taehyung scowls at the ceiling. “Make sure you don’t put any LSD  in it.”

Jimin flicks his forehead. “Stop being lame, Taehyungie. Jin hyung swears he didn’t even actually say that.”

“Jin hyung’s smart,” Taehyung mumbles, suspiciously. “He only looks sweet. He’ll say anything. Today he’ll feed you chicken soup. Tomorrow he’ll sell you to the devil.”

Seokjin just laughs, loud and squeaky. “Glad my evil genius is finally being appreciated,” he says, and Taehyung hears him move towards the kitchen. “But honestly, this is all such a weird misunderstanding. You and Yoongi are both the nicest people I know. It’s a clear case of clashing personalities. You just need some time to settle into each other.”

Taehyung shudders and picks up his phone. “I never want to see him again.”

“It’s just the pilot, Tae. You saw the storyboard—it’s barely any scenes. Period dramas are so rare these days. Who knows when this opportunity’s going to come again?” Seokjin sounds sincere. Sincerity and Seokjin can both go drown themselves in a well as far as Taehyung is concerned. “It’s a great angle for your marketing as well.”

“Uh huh.”

“Jimin hyung, can you come help me string these lavender bunches together?”

Jimin goes to help Jungkook. Seokjin tries to peer over their shoulders. “Does any of this shit actually work?”

“Some of it, yeah. You won’t believe how many freakishly real spells actually float about on Tumblr. Mostly it just looks pretty and I can sell some of our stuff for easy money,” Jungkook says, shrugging.

"That's a very chaotic neutral position to take."

"I'm aware," Jungkook grins, big eyes wide. “This is sex magic. Wanna try?”

“Does it work?”

“Oh yeah,” Jimin smirks, cat-like, leaning into Jungkook. “We did a lot of trials.”

Seokjin hits him over the head with a spatula.

Taehyung forgets about his cold and TV pilots and witchcraft for a while, engrossed in texting until Jungkook climbs over him to look into his phone. “Who are you texting?”

“Jung Hoseok. He’s Yoongi’s best friend.”

“Wow. Why?”

“He’s funny. He likes puppies. We’re yelling about Yoongi together.”

“…okay.”

Taehyung shrugs. “He texted because he felt sorry about the way things went down. He’s buying me bubble tea when I’m better.”

They just look at him. They don't even seem surprised when this happens anymore - just amused.

“Says he’s my hyung now,” Taehyung continues, beaming. “I’m not complaining.”

“You’ll make friends with a pole if we let you,” Seokjin says, chuckling. “It’s not going to be any different with Min Yoongi. Just give it some time.”

“ I don’t care. Jimin can meet him.He makes me feel like shit. You’ll meet him, won’t you, Jiminie?”

Jimin sighs and pretends to choke Taehyung. “Fine, Mr. Dramatic. I’ll do it.”

Taehyung pumps his fist weakly. “Yay.”

And that’s that, Taehyung thinks. From where he’s lying with his face half smushed against Jimin’s thigh, he can see the giant framed poster of that dazzling campaign visual Yoongi had worked on. It’s upside down, all the yellow pooling together into a beehive pattern, each shape, color and pattern dripping with meaning, value and symbolism. It’s so simple to look at—like a mathematical equation, clear and exact. The solution to it unravels in Taehyung’s mind in the precise form of the product Yoongi’s trying to sell.

It’s sort of exactly like magic.

Min Yoongi—he still thinks—is a fucking genius.

Too bad it’s been canonically proved that most geniuses are also assholes.

 

***

 

Taehyung’s  buried himself in an enormous woolen coat, armed himself with two giant flasks of tea, and is curled up in a chair behind the counter of the shop when someone walks in. He smooths his hair down a bit and sits up a little straight, but doesn’t move out of the chair. His head still feels like something small has crawled in there and is hammering away at his frontal lobe. His mouth tastes like cough syrup. There’s probably a giant splotch on his cheek from where he’s been resting it against the marble counter-top while he fell in and out of light naps.

It’s rather late in the night and they usually close at seven. But Jimin had mentioned a celebrity walking in for some last minute shopping before an overseas red carpet, and he’s back in there somewhere trying to pull up a rack of options for them. Taehyung can hear him if he tries hard enough, humming and busying about, occasionally mumbling to himself.  It’s very quiet in here, just the soft whine of Jimin’s fairy lights and the whispering of the clothes, layers of history tumbling over each other in the language of silk and tulle and leather.

—a fever dream, Taehyung hears, a set like the world of Kublai Khan come alive, and we twirled and twirled all night—

she wore red and hooked her fingers through these belt loops, skin against soft leather—

Usually Taehyung finds it comforting. The whispering is gentle, sweetly cadenced, sweeping through him in calm, measured waves. Even the coat he’s wearing is contributing, soft and gruff, something about hills and winters and sex.

What is it about fashion and sex that they’re so inextricably interlinked? It’s a passing thought, light and quick as butterflies. He follows it up with watery eyes and a yawn.

The origami butterflies hanging from the ceiling flutter as the person wanders through the store, past half-clothed mannequins and some of their more fanciful displays involving Victorian lace or 20s sequined confections. The light from the street outside filters through their half-drawn blinds and paints the person in a chevron of dark and white. Taehyung yawns, presses his hand to his mouth, and curls tighter into himself. Maybe, once Jimin is back in here, he can go upstairs and drink some more tea and sleep on the shop’s couch until it’s time to go back home.

The music in the shop shifts to Bach. There’s a tap on the counter.

Taehyung tries to stand up, tangles his feet on the throw blanket Jimin had thrown on him at some point in the last hour, and nearly falls. It’s disorienting, and for a moment he sways heavily. A hand reaches out to grab his elbow and steady him.

“Whoa, there.”

“Thanks, sorry—” Taehyung starts, raises his head, and looks right into Min Yoongi’s dark, dark eyes. “Oh.”

His heart stills. In the uneven light, Yoongi’s jaw looks sharp enough to carve through diamond, and the shadow his spiky lashes throw across his cheeks is vaguely spider-like. His hair is slightly damp from the light snow outside, and there’s a dusting of it across his shoulders as well. He’s wearing round, gold-framed glasses, which makes him look older and gentler, even as his mouth curves into a dark smirk of distaste when he spots Taehyung.

“Well, look at that,” he says, in that gravelly voice. “It’s you.”

Taehyung wraps his coat tighter around himself. “Welcome to Vintage Minnie,” he says, flatly, in the most unenthusiastic voice he’s ever said those specific words in. “Are you looking for something in particular?”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. He has a bit of color in his cheeks, soft and spreading, and Taehyung smells the slight scorch of bourbon.

Fun night, then.

“Ah,” Yoongi says, in a quiet exhale. “You see, I’m in a bit of a situation.”

There’s something playful and predatory about the way he says it. Taehyung swallows despite himself and the waves of annoyance rising to surface within him. Yoongi’s wearing snug leather now, taut across his shoulders, and silver glitters on his ears. His fingers are still hot against Taehyung’s elbow, tight and branding, almost like he doesn’t realize he’s holding on. Taehyung shakes him off and he withdraws his hand, still smirking, reaching up to brush a wing of dark hair off his forehead.

Taehyung forces his voice steady. “What sort of situation?”

“I need to pick some wallpapers for my set.”

“We’re not Sassy Spoon Home Decor. That’s next door, if you’re wondering.”

“I can’t pick a wallpaper unless I have wardrobe.”

“I’m sure you’ve found a pleasing arrangement that doesn’t involve us.”

“Unluckily, no,” Yoongi wanders towards a mannequin to inspect the Balmain sweater it’s wearing. He picks up a hat. “This a Borsalino?”

“Yes,” Taehyung squeaks, and then changes his voice to a lower timbre. “Yes.”

Yoongi just looks at him, eyes dark and soft and a little terrifying.

Taehyung tries a bit of telepathy. This involves squeezing his eyes shut and fervently wishing for Jimin to appear, like a tiny djinn or something. It works sometimes. But apparently, Yoongi is Taehyung’s mental equivalent of a signal jammer, and he can’t get past the weird panic of having him here.

Yoongi stops in front of a flowy blouse. “And this is—?”

“Biba.”

“How much is this?”

Taehyung clears his throat. “Uh. Your—your character wouldn’t wear that.”

Yoongi’s stare is dagger-sharp. “No?”

“She’s experimental, but she wouldn’t wear auntie colors. She’s a fashionable ex-pat New Yorker married to a man in show business,” Taehyung mutters, walking towards the shelves at the farther end of the store. He’s already given this too much thought, knows exactly what he wants and where it is. They didn’t even have these things when Seokjin first told them about the pilot: Taehyung and Jimin had scoured a few stores in Gwangjang market, put in some requests with a couple of procurers they knew in Taipei and Tokyo, got these shipped in.

Yoongi doesn’t follow Taehyung but stops to inspect some platform shoes, eyebrows furrowed. Taehyung is a bit glad. He stops in front of the shelf he needs and looks back, a little shudder running up his spine.

Why is Yoongi here now, today, out of the blue?  Taehyung curses Seokjin fervently in his mind, watching furtively out the corner of his vision as he picks up Bergdorf, Yves Saint Laurent, all the stuff that he thinks Yoongi should be putting on on his scandalous, high-maintenance character. Yoongi’s just standing there, frowning at a silver shoe like it’s personally done something to offend him. Even motionless he exudes power.  Taehyung doesn’t know how someone so small and soft and cute can be this intimidating, every look and word like an arrow finding a deep mark.

This is all new to Taehyung: he’s always been one to walk away from things that aren’t right for him. He’s always asked for and worked for and reached out for what he wanted. He’s a happy person because he chooses to be; because he’s decided long ago that he doesn’t need to spend time worrying about what he can’t control.

But Min Yoongi gets under his skin.

Does Taehyung have to go back? He wishes the shelf would just swallow him whole right now. But Yoongi’s already looking at him, impatient and expectant, and Taehyung goes back.

“No,” he says immediately to the red Michael Kors. “She’s never going to fit in this.”

Taehyung gives a pained smile. It’s the most he can manage without giving in to his sudden urge for running out the door.

“This sort of thing was luxury fashion then,” he says, instead, presenting a fur coat to Yoongi. It whispers smoothly of whiskey and music festivals in winter, but Taehyung doesn’t mention that.  “Yoko Ono apparently had like a hundred of these.”

Yoongi’s gaze snags on a moody gold tulle and lame gown.

“Halston, 1967, for Bergdorf Goodman couture,” Taehyung informs him. “This is second-hand. This one made it into a Vogue editorial back in the day.”

Yoongi looks unimpressed. “Did people from the 70s not have hips?”

 “Probably the drugs,” Taehyung shrugs, fiddling with a rack to hang the clothes. “Your team can probably silk-screen print this in the size required—might end up close enough to the real thing.”

“No. The real thing has a gravity to it. I’ll want originals, as far as possible.”

“Demanding, are we?”

Yoongi slides his gaze up to meet Taehyung’s. His lips part, slightly, and Taehyung’s stomach does a little flip. “Yes, Taehyung. Were you not aware of that?”

Taehyung is aware. The reputation follows Yoongi around perhaps not as publicly as some of the others in the industry, but Taehyung’s heard stories. Angry directors cowing in front of his steadfast determination to do things exactly the right way. Set designers melting down over getting the machinery to work just right so as to complement the lighting team’s effort in creating negative space.

And now Min Yoongi’s judging the hell out of Taehyung’s authentic, gorgeous Halston that whispers of gold and eyeliner and quick fucks in wardrobe closets, and all Taehyung wants is to fix it up somehow, give Yoongi something worth his while.

It’s a bit pathetic. He’s a bit pathetic.

“I—uh, I have more. I can put up a selection for you, if you want.”

You shouldn’t, the bitter part of his brain goes. Give him hell.

But he’s already said it now, and Yoongi’s watching him with a shrewd, calculative gaze. It’s heated and heavy, drags over his body.

Taehyung swallows thickly.

“How fast can you do it?”

“How fast—how fast do you need it?”

“There’s an ice-cream store at the end of the street. A trip there and back would be…twenty minutes?”

Twenty minutes. Taehyung thinks he’s going to hyperventilate right out of this plane of existence. “What,” he whispers, and Yoongi just looks at him in this dark, devouring way, like Taehyung really is just a fucking cupcake he can crush in one fist.

If Min Yoongi was an Aztec God, he’d probably be the type that demanded, like, six thousand human sacrifices for one measly downpour of rain. If  Min Yoongi was in the Greek Pantheon, he’d be some wrathful old Titan, asking eagles to go eat a dude’s liver every single day for all eternity.

But Min Yoongi is here, and somehow, Taehyung is prey.

Taehyung does not like being prey.

Yoongi picks lazily at his cuticles, pouting soft, peering up through dark bangs. Almost coy. “Did you say anything, Taehyung-ssi?”

“No,” Taehyung says. “Twenty minutes. Cool. Got it.”

He steps backwards and trips over the silver shoe. Yoongi grabs his elbow to steady him again.

“Careful,” he says, chuckling. “That’s probably expensive.”

 Taehyung scowls darkly and reaches down to pick up the shoe. When he straightens, Yoongi’s already at the door, picking up an umbrella from a bunch in their stand.

“Looks like it might rain,” he says. “Twenty-five minutes. Alright, Taehyung-ssi?”

Taehyung huffs. Throws him an irreverent, smirking mock salute.

“Sir, yes, sir.”

For a second Yoongi’s expression flickers a bit, as if he’s genuinely surprised that Taehyung is giving him lip. Then he grins that slow, venomous grin and walks out of the door.

There’s a bit of a clatter from behind him. “Taetae?”

Taehyung turns around to see Jimin, standing by the counter, wide-eyed and holding a giant feathery skirt. “Was that…Min Yoongi?”

“Yep.”

“Did it go…okay?”

“Not in the slightest,” Taehyung mutters, and puts the Halston away. “I have twenty minutes to come up with a selection for him.”

Jimin’s brows pull together. “Do you—do you want me to do it? You can go upstairs if you want. I’ll deal with him.”

“No.”

“No?”

“You know that thing they say? That if you’re going to get wet, you might as well swim?”

Jimin nods, eyes still huge and confused.

Taehyung picks up his glasses. “I’m going to give Min Yoongi what he fucking wants.”