Taehyung's briefcase lies open on the floor. It seems like it would be more appropriate, somehow, to do this on the table, but since almost the day he and Jimin moved in, their tiny kitchen table has been covered in a potpourri of takeout menus, empty plastic shopping bags, bottles of water, phone chargers, spare change, MetroCards, and empty coffee mugs.
He's not sure they've eaten a meal there.
So, although the floor seems a little lacking in gravitas, the floor it is.
Sitting gingerly in his stiff new slacks, Taehyung rips open the packet of pens he bought yesterday. He slides them into the little slots of the briefcase (black leather, a gift from his grandmother after he called to tell her about his fancy new job) in color order: peach, pink, purple, sky blue, teal. He slips in the notebook he bought, and the paper clips shaped like flowers, and the tiger figurine wearing sunglasses, which isn't maybe an essential office supply, but he'd thought was funny and cute.
A door opens and Jimin, puffy-faced and swollen-eyed, shuffles blearily towards the kitchen. His hair is standing straight up, and there are red marks on his cheeks from his pillow. He fills the electric kettle, switches it on, and spoons some instant coffee into a mug.
Then, hands on hips, he frowns down at Taehyung.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting ready," Taehyung says.
Jimin shakes his head. "This isn't the first day of school, Tae. They're going to give you pens."
Taehyung sighs. Jimin is his best friend, but there are some things he just doesn't understand.
"Jimin," he says, earnestly. "Today I head to my doom."
Jimin starts to interrupt, but Taehyung raises a hand to silence him.
"No, listen," he says. "Today marks the start of my time as a cog in the machine, as a tool of the man, as a mindless drone in the bleak hive of capitalism. If I'm going to assimilate, the least I can do is make sure I have nice stationery."
Jimin snorts. "You've been spending too much time with Namjoon," he says.
Taehyung shrugs. So what if he has? So what if Namjoon lent him a copy of Das Kapital? So what if, in the twenty or so pages Taehyung read before he fell asleep, he thought some of it made some pretty damn good sense? Namjoon is studying philosophy; he’s following his passion. Taehyung is an artist, and in a just world, he would be able to pursue his own calling of photography without having to worry about crap like rent money and student loan payments and, worst of all, health insurance. But he’s spent the last few years working his ass off, and despite the seemingly endless number of jobs he’s taken shooting quinceañeras and golden anniversaries and senior proms, his bank account and public recognition are both sadly lacking.
"I have to be properly armed," Taehyung says, sticking a little sticky pad in the shape of a raindrop in next to his notebook. "I am about to enter the lair of my foes."
Jimin shakes his head again. "Taehyung," he says. "If you think this compromises your values so much, why don't you just not do it?"
Taehyung sighs. "Health insurance, man." He shakes his head. "My vision has gotten really bad. And my mouth has been killing me. Do you know how much it costs to get your wisdom teeth out?"
Jimin shakes his head. He doesn't have to worry about these things. He's a working member of the American Guild of Musical Artists, and pays nothing for his health insurance, which covers everything up to and including therapeutic massage.
"Yeah," Taehyung says. "So." He snaps the briefcase shut and gets to his feet. "Wish me luck."
"You don't need luck," Jimin says, shaking his head. "You're going to wow them, Taehyung. You're going to be the best damn legal secretary these people have ever seen." He reaches out and straightens Taehyung's lapels.
Taehyung squares his shoulders. Jimin is right. He's got this. He's a college graduate and a talented photographer and nearly a functional adult and...
"Oh shit," he mutters.
Jimin's eyebrows knit in concern. "What?"
"Almost forgot my wallet." Taehyung grins.
Jimin shakes his head, laughing, and holds the front door open while Taehyung dashes quick as lightning back to his bedroom to grab it.
"Good luck," he says, patting Taehyung on the head.
"Thanks, Jiminnie," Taehyung says, and then he takes a breath and steps out into the hall. The door slams shut behind him. "I'm gonna need it."
Taehyung shows up at the offices of Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker slightly damp and a lot out of breath. His train got held between Time Square and 47th Street for nearly fifteen minutes because of supposed train traffic ahead, so that even though he'd left Brooklyn with plenty of time, he'd had to run from the subway. Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker occupies a number of high floors in a tall, glossy building just off Central Park. The lobby is so big and cold and gleaming with chrome and black marble that Taehyung nearly feels like he's trespassing. He meekly gives his name to the security guard, who nods and signs him in. He waits with a milling crowd of busy office bees to board the elevator.
By the time they reach the 58th floor, Taehyung has to pee and is so nervous his palms are sweaty. Several people precede him off the elevator, and he glances down at his phone, checking the email with the instructions of where he's supposed to meet this morning. He uses the bathroom quickly, and then proceeds to get lost twice and be forced to ask directions before finally, at 8:56 AM, he finds himself standing outside of a modest room with three rows of tables and a sign on the door that reads 'HR Conference Room'.
He knocks. A polished, professional woman opens the door with a big smile on her face.
"Hello," she says kindly. "And you are?"
"Taehyung Kim," Taehyung says, smiling back.
She glances down at a list in her hand. "Great," she says. "Come in. We're just about to get started."
As it turns out, Taehyung's first morning of working for the man is fairly low key. There are three other people in orientation with him that day – two new attorneys, and a young woman who is going to work in accounting. Wendy Rodriguez, the kind woman from HR, welcomes them all to their first day, and then guides them gently through the labyrinth of on boarding paperwork they have to complete. They watch a short video about company policy and procedure, and then she leads them all downstairs to the 56th floor, where they get their pictures taken and receive their shiny new company ID.
The highlight of the morning is the benefits overview. A soft spoken man gives them each a folder full of shiny, colorful brochures, and explains the cornucopia of services of which they can avail themselves. Taehyung gets lost in a reverie. Last year he spent what felt like the entire winter sick with a series of miserable colds and flus. This year he’s going to get every single flu vaccine they’ve got, and even if he does get sick he can just go to the doctor and not have to rely on his grandmother’s delicious but dubiously efficacious chicken soup recipe.
At noon, Wendy leads them downstairs to the lobby. She points out a few of the local places that Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker employees like to frequent for lunch and tells them to meet back upstairs in an hour. Taehyung turns, smiling, to his fellow new hires — it just makes sense they’d all go get lunch together — but the two lawyers are already walking off towards the Dean & Deluca on the corner, in close conversation. Amanda, the young woman from accounting, gives him a gentle smile when he looks, panicked, towards her. He is momentarily relieved, but then she puts in her earbuds and sets off towards the park.
Taehyung sighs mightily. Right. This is the dog eat dog world of big business. He doesn’t know why he expected any better.
He gets some street meat from a cart down the street from the office, which past evidence suggests he is likely to regret later, and then sits and eats at a tiny plaza on the far corner of the block, where a few tables are shaded by a scraggly tree. It’s still hot and unpleasant out, and he can feel himself sweating through his shirt. He wants to loosen his tie, but it took him four attempts to get it tied right, and he’s not sure can repeat the feat.
When he’s halfway through his food, his phone pings. It’s Jimin.
Have you been assimilated yet??
Taehyung can’t help but crack a smile.
They still haven’t taken off their man suits, but I’m on my guard
He knows Jimin is busy — he teaches dance and gymnastics at a place on the Upper West Side three days a week on top of his endless series of auditions and rehearsals — and it makes Taehyung’s heart glad that he took a moment to text. Although they’ve only known each other since they were assigned as roommates freshman year, it seems often like they’ve known each other nearly forever. Jimin is Taehyung’s best friend, the first best friend he’s ever had.
At ten to one, Taehyung heads back to the building and takes the elevator up to the 58th floor. Amanda is already back, still listening to music, and so is Wendy, who smiles when he comes in, and asks if he has any questions about anything they covered during the morning session.
Taehyung knows it’s good to have questions — makes it seem like he’s paying attention — but he honestly can’t think of a single thing. He opens his mouth and stands there gaping like an idiot until the two lawyers come in and save him from further mortification.
“This afternoon you’ll each have another orientation with your respective department. I’ll be bringing you there now. Please know you can reach out to me at any time if you have questions about anything. It’s my job to make you successful at your jobs.”
They file out of the HR conference room and head to the other side of the floor, where Wendy deposits the two lawyers. Then it’s down the elevators to 56, where Amanda the accountant takes her leave.
Wendy consults her list for a moment before they continue. “Ah,” she says, “Yes. Taehyung Kim. You’ve been assigned to work with Mr. Min. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.” She laughs a tired little laugh, and heads back towards the elevators.
Taehyung frowns. Seeing a lot of each other? What’s that supposed to mean? Mr. Min? Is that the guy he’s working for? When he’d applied for this job as a legal secretary, the main appeal had been the tag line on the job posting — generous compensation and competitive benefits. He’s not sure how he beat out so many more qualified candidates — other than his copious natural charm and the fact that he lied enthusiastically about his passion for the law and dream of one day going to law school himself.
It wasn’t his finest moment, but hell, dental insurance. Vision insurance!
When he’d gotten the offer, he hadn’t thought twice about accepting, even though it killed him a little inside to sell out. It’s only now occurring to him that he doesn’t quite have any idea what he’s going to be doing – or who he’s going to be doing it for.
The elevator stops at the 61st floor and he follows Wendy out into a fancy reception area with black leather couches and some tasteful palms. The floor to ceiling windows look out over the East Side. The river sparkles with deceptive brilliance in the afternoon sun, and Brooklyn and Queens look charming and picturesque from such distance. An extremely handsome man behind the reception desk smiles nearly as brilliantly at the sun.
“Good morning, Wendy,” he says. “How is my favorite HR professional doing this morning?”
Wendy huffs, amused. “Good morning, Seokjin,” she says. “You know I already got Mr. Ndoko to approve your vacation request. You don’t need to butter me up anymore.”
Seokjin’s grin is a bit awkward. “Who’s buttering who up? I’m merely expressing my gratitude for your prowess.”
She rolls her eyes. “Seokjin, this is Taehyung Kim. He’s going to be working with Mr. Min.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Seokjin says, holding out his hand.
Taehyung, feeling a little sweaty, takes it and shakes. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“My name is Kim too,” Seokjin says. “Seokjin Kim.”
“Oh,” Taehyung says politely. “I see.” Kim is not exactly an uncommon name for a Korean person, and he’s not sure where this Seokjin guy is going with this.
Seokjin leans forward. “I’m going to offer you a provisional membership in the 61st Floor Kim Association. It’s very exclusive. Membership was formerly capped at one.”
Taehyung smiles. “Awesome,” he says. He likes this Seokjin guy. “Thanks.”
“Is Mr. Min in his office?” Wendy asks.
Seokjin nods. "Yes," he says, "but he's on a call right now."
"Ah," Wendy says significantly. She sighs. "I have a two o'clock I need to prep for. Seokjin, can you show Taehyung to his desk, and let Mr. Min know that he's here? I'll try to stop back up later."
Wendy smiles an aggressively friendly smile in Taehyung's direction, and then reminds him that he can reach out to her at any time with concerns – any concerns at all. Then elevator door shuts and she's gone.
Seokjin gives Taehyung a tour of the 61st floor.
"I work reception," he says, as they proceed down the hall, "and I'm sort of a floating administrative assistant for the entire floor."
He knocks on the doorframe of the first office and ducks his head inside. "Hey, Hoseok. This is Taehyung. He's going to be Yoongi's new secretary."
A cheerful man in a slightly garish suit gets up from behind his desk and shakes Taehyung's hand.
"It's great to meet you. I'm the office manager here, which basically means that if you have any particular type of coffee you'd like stocked, let me know." Hoseok smiles. It's charming.
"Hoseok is just being humble," Seokjin says, after they've moved on. "He's in charge of facilities for all of our North American locations. Normally he'd chat longer, but we're opening a new office in Toronto next week, and apparently the desk chairs are all missing."
Taehyung nods. "Missing chairs. Sounds serious. I guess you can't lawyer while sitting on the floor, huh?"
This isn't really meant to be a joke, but Seokjin laughs anyway.
That's a kindness, Taehyung thinks. That's more than he’d expected.
They wind through the labyrinthian series of offices and hallways. Taehyung shakes so many hands his knuckles start to hurt. Everyone is kind in an impersonal, disinterested way, but after a little while all the names and faces start to blur. By the time they finally reach the far side of the floor, his head is spinning.
"And this is you," Seokjin says, gesturing to a barren desk. "I'll get someone from IT to come up and set you up with a laptop this afternoon." He glances towards the closed office door. The light is on in there, and Taehyung can faintly hear someone talking inside. "I think Yoongi must still be on the phone. I need to head back up front. Why don't you get settled in?"
He smiles again, a little stiffly, and heads back off down the hall.
Taehyung, briefcase in hand, frowns at the generic beige office furniture, at the terrible fluorescent lights. There's a desk – in use but unoccupied – on the other side of the room, but he gleans no sense of personality from the contents: black coffee mug, stack of legal books, a pair of expensive Bose headphones.
With a sinking feeling of dread, he takes a seat in his own chair. He rocks back and forth. Something squeaks. He rolls up to his desk and sets down his briefcase and pops open the lid.
He takes out his notebook and his raindrop sticky notes and his colorful pens, and lines them up on his desk. There are a scattering of push pins stuck into the cloth wall of the cubicle, abandoned by the last occupant. Taehyung hangs up a few pictures – he and Jimin from last Halloween, he and Jimin and Namjoon at the zoo, a picture of his little brother and sister, his grandparents with their arms around each other.
They're just pictures, but once he’s got them hung up it feels like he's got a tiny smiling army of friends surrounding him, pushing back at the corporate gloom.
Once he's arranged his meager desk decorations, he puts his briefcase under his desk, and folds his hands in his lap. He can't hear anyone talking in the office any more, but the mysterious Yoongi Min hasn't made himself known. Taehyung takes out his phone. In his worst nightmares, he'd imagined showing up today and being immediately thrown into the deep end, drowning in a sea of incomprehensible spreadsheets and word documents thick with legalese. Instead, it seems like nobody knows quite what to do to him. He ends up scrolling through Instagram for a while, catching up with the artists he follows and wondering if he has anything worthwhile that he could post. He finds social media tedious, but he knows how important it is for an aspiring photographer to cultivate an online presence.
He's typing a comment on a new portrait by one of his former classmates that is doing some really fascinating things with light and shadow when the door to the office opens.
Taehyung is so startled he nearly drops his phone. He fumbles it, recovers, and then shoves it in his pocket.
He gets to his feet and says, awkwardly, "Hello, sir. My name is Taehyung Kim. I'm your new secretary."
"Oh, yeah," Mr. Min says in a low, quiet voice. "Seokjin said you'd be here today."
Yoongi Min is not anything like Taehyung imagined.
Years of television and movies have painted a picture in his head of a high power lawyer – tall, imposing, possibly with a cleft chin, definitely with a loud, booming voice.
Mr. Min is small. He's shorter than Taehyung by several inches, and he's slight. His black hair is neatly combed back from his face, but his features are soft, and his eyes are a bit sleepy. He's wearing an immaculate white shirt and a black tie, as though he's on his way to a funeral.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," Taehyung says, smiling. "I'm looking forward to working together."
"Just Yoongi is fine." He is looking at Taehyung like he's some kind of strange creature on display in a zoo. "Seokjin is going to have someone set you up with a laptop?"
"I think so," Taehyung says.
Yoongi nods. "Good," he says. He turns, and starts to walk back into his office.
"Sir," Taehyung says quickly. "Wait. Um. What can I help you with?"
Yoongi's brows knit. "I don't have anything right now. I'll let you know though."
He smiles a cold and mechanical half smile and steps back into his office. The door clicks shut.
Taehyung is alone.
At two thirty, a man comes up from IT with a laptop for him, and they spend an hour getting Taehyung’s credentials established and getting everything installed and updated. When the man is finished, Taehyung spends far too long setting up his signature in Outlook. He’s far from technologically illiterate, but all of this seems so much more complicated than it has to be. Finally, he's got the Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker template imported and has edited in his name, title, email, and phone number.
He's ready, now, for when Mr. Min – no, Yoongi – has an urgent email that needs sending.
He dithers around for a little while longer on his laptop, but that gets old pretty quickly. By quarter after four, he's on his phone again, playing some goofy game and willing the clock a little more quickly.
He expects Yoongi to come back out at some point, but he doesn't. The door stays shut, and the light stays on, and when five o'clock finally rolls around, Taehyung hasn't gotten another glimpse of his new boss.
He gets his briefcase out from under his desk, and straightens his suit jacket. He takes half a step towards Yoongi's door, hesitates, and then walks over and knocks gently on the door frame.
Cracking the door open just a quarter of an inch, Taehyung peers inside. Yoongi's office is large and spotless, and entirely devoid of person affects. The lights are off, and the shades are half drawn. It is dim, and cool. Yoongi sits behind a massive desk, looking just as professional and crisp he did earlier. The addition of a pair of wire-framed reading glasses does nothing to dispel that image.
"I'm headed home, sir," Taehyung says.
Yoongi looks up at him, blinking. His glasses glint. "Okay," he says.
Taehyung smiles. "See you tomorrow?" Oh damn. He didn't mean that to be a question. "I mean, I'll see you tomorrow morning, sir."
Yoongi ducks his head, a funny shuffling little motion. "Really, just Yoongi is fine," he mutters.
"Right," Taehyung says, squaring his shoulders. "See you in the morning, Yoongi."
"Goodnight," Yoongi says quietly.
Taehyung smiles once more, bright as he can, and then shuts the door. He squeezes his eyes shut.
"Okaaaay," he says under his breath. "Well then."
He manages to find his way back to the elevators without getting lost. Seokjin wishes him a cheery good evening from behind the reception desk, which is a tiny balm to Taehyung's bruised soul.
Compressed into the back corner of the elevator, he purses his lips. The thing is, Taehyung knows he's kind of odd. He's always been that kid with his head in the clouds. In elementary school, the teachers said he was extremely intelligent but lacked focus. The other kids played with him, but they never seemed to get too close. He was friendly with everyone, but friends – real friends – with no one. Not until he met Jimin, at least. He came out of his shell during college, and he's got a small but tight network of friends now. Just like everyone, he likes being liked and, yeah, this is a soul-draining corporate job, but he wants his boss to respect him. He's not sure what he did to get them off on the wrong foot.
Maybe he did nothing. Maybe Yoongi is the weird one.
He blinks as he steps out into the warm afternoon. The sky is blue and the weather is fine and okay, so his first day was pretty weird and his boss might be a heartless automaton, but he did just get paid $19 an hour. Plus benefits.
Things could be worse.
He brings up Jimin's number and presses the call button.
"Hey," he says, when Jimin answers. "Are you done with work? Want to go get fried chicken? I need comfort food."
"That bad?" Jimin asks laughing.
"You have no idea," Taehyung says darkly. "I think my boss is a robot."
When Taehyung tells the story that night, Jimin howls with laughter, like it’s all some big joke, but by the end of the week, Taehyung is almost positive.
Yoongi Min is a cyborg.
On Taehyung's second day, he gets into the office at quarter after eight, thinking that maybe Yoongi will be impressed by his prompt and dedicated attitude. But when there's no sign of Yoongi by quarter after nine, Taehyung slumps dejectedly in his squeaky office chair and starts playing a round of minesweeper. By eleven, Taehyung has nearly worked up the nerve to report Yoongi missing in action to Seokjin. He's just about to bring Seokjin's contact up in the office chat client, when Yoongi's office door opens and he emerges, wearing a suit and tie identical to yesterday's but looking as fresh and crisp as if he just put them on.
Holy shit. He's been lurking in there the whole entire time.
Taehyung is a fidgeter. He's a fidgeter and a snacker and frankly he has a weak bladder. In school and at library study sessions, he'd always had to get up and move around. Yoongi's been hiding away in his office without making so much as a peep for nearly three hours, which is basically a superhuman feat of endurance.
"Good morning, Yoongi, sir," Taehyung says, trying not to let his astonishment show. "How are you?"
"Oh," Yoongi says, blinking in Taehyung's direction. "Hey. Taehyung, right?"
Taehyung nods, smiling.
"Good morning," Yoongi says, and he kind of frowns and looks away, and takes off walking fast down the hall without another word.
Taehyung sighs and flops back in his chair. It squeaks consolingly.
"I don't know either," he says, shaking his head.
Taehyung had been planning to go get some food and sit in the park during lunch, but just before noon, Seokjin pings him and asks if he'd like to join Hoseok and him for lunch.
Taehyung's heart warms. Sure! Thank you so much!!
After such a strange, off color morning, it’s reassuring to know that not everyone at the company is a soulless droid.
They take him to a cozy little cafe just down the street from the office, tucked between two of the glittering high rises. They squeeze into a booth with red vinyl seats and order club sandwiches. The waitress pours them mugs of bitter coffee while they wait.
"So," Seokjin says, smiling. "What do you think so far?"
"Uh," Taehyung says, feeling the weight of their attention suddenly. "It's been okay."
Hoseok smothers laughter, and Seokjin grins, lopsided. "What did he do?"
Seokjin rolls his eyes. "It's okay," he says. "You don't have to pretend. I know how Yoongi is. I've worked with him for years."
Taehyung frowns. "He seems really nice," he says slowly.
Hoseok laughs. "Yoongi is nice," he says. "Once you get to know him. Just give him time to warm up to you."
Taehyung thinks of Yoongi – his cold eyes, his cold smile, his too-crisp, too-white shirt. Warm up? Can cyborgs warm up? Do they have to sun themselves like lizards? Maybe that's why Yoongi's in such a bad mood. He needs to open his blinds, let a little sunlight in.
Taehyung nods. "I will," he says. "Plenty of time. All the time he needs."
Seokjin slaps him on the back, good-naturedly, and then he and Hoseok go off on some long tangent about one of the partners, someone Taehyung hasn't met and doesn't care about. He desultorily eats his sandwich and drinks his coffee, smiling at the kind waitress when she refills his cup without asking.
He spends that afternoon playing sudoku on the New York Times website in an anonymous window in his browser. Yoongi emerges from his office only once. He seems startled to see Taehyung, as if his silence is normally powerful enough to dispel all intruders.
He smiles stiffly and makes his way down the hall, and Taehyung sighs and tries to figure out where to put that last 7.
On his third day of work, Taehyung finally gets something to do.
He's spent the morning on a crossword puzzle. It's a Wednesday, so the puzzle is of moderate difficulty, and he has to do some judicious googling to figure out the location of the Aswan dam. He's got just a few squares left to fill in when he hears the door to Yoongi's office open. He looks up, preparing to smile and be greeted with the now familiar wall of silence, when to his surprise, Yoongi clears his throat and says, "Taehyung, are you busy?"
It takes him a moment to recover from the shock of Yoongi actually addressing him directly. "No, Sir. Yoongi, I mean. What can I help you with?"
Yoongi produces a manilla envelope, sealed with a 'confidential' sticker. "Can you bring this down to Ms. Ongoco? I need you to wait for her signature."
Taehyung nods, maybe a shade too enthusiastically. "Of course," he says. "I'll get right on it."
Yoongi hands the folder over with a little reluctance, nods, and then retreats back into his office.
Taehyung realizes as soon the door is shut that he has no idea who Ms. Ongoco is, or where her office might be located.
Thank god Seokjin seems to know everyone at Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker.
He peers down at the manilla envelope through a pair of superfluous glasses. (He'd admitted yesterday at lunch that he doesn't need them, but thinks they help him cultivate an air of erudition). "Angelina Ongoco," Seokjin says. "She's the head of the International Law Division. 58th floor."
Taehyung takes the envelope back and nods. "Thanks," he says. "I owe you."
Seokjin smiles. "You could have looked in the company directory," he says, "but I was bored. Go get 'em, tiger."
Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut. Right. Company directory. He forgot about that.
The 58th floor is much busier than the 61st. He exits the elevator into a teeming waiting area, and has to wait to ask the woman at the reception desk directions to Ms. Ongoco's office. He's finally headed in the right direction, but with his goal in sight, another roadblock appears. Ms. Ongoco's office door is shut.
"Ah, shit," Taehyung mutters.
"Can I help you?" a stern looking older woman with curly grey hair asks.
Taehyung puts on his brightest smile. "I have something urgent for Ms. Ongoco to review. From Yoongi. Yoongi Min, I mean. I'm his new secretary. It's nice to meet you."
Her eyes narrow. "Ms. Ongoco is not available right now," she says. "You can leave whatever you have with me and I'll–"
"No," Taehyung interrupts. "No. I'm sorry. Mr. Min said I needed to wait for her signature."
The older woman sighs. "You'll have to wait then," she says, and she gestures towards a tiny sitting area with two chairs, a little side table, and a rather verdant potted ficus. Taehyung sits, clutching the envelope to his chest, and then realizes with alarm he might be crumpling the precious contents. He holds it in his lap instead, subtly smoothing away any creases.
It's a long wait. People come and go, speaking to the woman at the desk. The clock ticks. Various important looking personages walk past, serious and professional. Taehyung feels a bit dazed by it all, honestly. He expected this job to be fairly soul-sucking. He didn't realize how damn confusing it would be, too.
What would he have been doing last week? Back in his blissful pre-employment days, he would have slept in, and then gotten up for a leisurely breakfast of coffee and cinnamon raisin toast. In the afternoon, he might go out for a walk with his camera and see if he stumbled on anything interesting to shoot. He had freelance jobs a few times a week – taking pictures of concerts, mostly, but also doing promotional shots for bands and photographing weddings and anniversaries – honestly, anyone who wanted to pay him, especially if they were willing to pay him under the table.
It had been a good, carefree life.
But. Health insurance. His kicks in next week, on the first of the month, and he's already picked out his future dentist and optometrist.
He feels like an idiot right now, like a clueless stooge, but it'll be worth it to be able to see again, and to get his damn wisdom teeth out.
He's been waiting nearly an hour when a woman in a pinstriped pantsuit and very intimidating black heels comes walking down the hall. Her shoes make a funny 'click-clack' noise as she walks. Taehyung wonders how she manages it. He's been wearing his one pair of dress shoes this week, and his feet are killing him.
The woman in the heels stops to talk to the woman with the curly grey hair who motions covertly at Taehyung. The be-heeled woman glances in his direction, unsmiling. She says something else to the secretary, and then retreats to her office.
Taehyung looks up hopefully.
The woman with the curly grey hair shakes her head.
Taehyung sighs, and slumps down in his seat.
It's another twenty minutes before the grey haired woman, with some reluctance, tells him that Ms. Ongoco can see him. Taehyung gets up slowly and approaches her office. The door is shut. Tentative he knocks.
"Come on," she calls.
"Good morning, Ms. Ongoco," he says, and then immediately feels like an idiot. It's afternoon now – hardly morning. "Yoongi – Mr. Min, I mean – needs your signature on this urgently."
She takes the envelope from him and, breaking the 'Confidential' seal, takes out the sheath of papers inside. Slightly myopic, she holds them up for a closer view. As she reads each page, she sets it face down on her desk.
Taehyung shifts from foot to foot. He’s tired and hungry, and his feet do hurt. He’s going to need to invest in a better pair of shoes after he gets paid.
A better pair of shoes? He frowns. He isn’t even sure he’s going to stay in this job long term. Besides, after all the indignity he’s being forced to suffer, shouldn’t he at least get to blow his first paycheck on something fun? A new lens, maybe, or a really nice meal, or those shearling-lined Gucci loafers he’s been eyeing, or —
“Here you are,” Ms Ongoco says. She hands Taehyung back the papers, once again tucked safely in their envelope. “You’re Mr. Min’s new secretary, I take it?”
“Yes,” Taehyung says.
She nods. “Joelle said you waited here for an hour to get my signature.”
Taehyung nods. Shit. Was that wrong? Yoongi had said not to come back until he had a signature. Should he have have left them and checked back later? Should he —
“That dedication is admirable,” Ms. Ongoco says. “I hope I’ll see more such efforts from you.”
Taehyung beams. “Thanks,” he says.
“Tell Mr. Min that if he has nothing better to do than make you run silly errands, I’m going to have to see if I can get you transferred to my team.” She smiles. “Please shut the door on your way out, Mr. Kim.”
He nods, nearly trips in his haste, and all but slams the door shut behind him. His back and palms feel sweaty, and it’s not until he’s back in the elevator that he realizes she knew his name.
When he gets back to his little corner of the 61st floor, he finds Yoongi’s office door shut, unsurprisingly. He knocks, and then opens it when Yoongi calls for him to come in.
“Here you go, sir,” Taehyung says, a little breathless.
Yoongi frowns down. “What’s this?”
Taehyung’s face falls. “The papers, sir. You told me to get a signature from Ms. Ongoco.”
Yoongi looks thoughtful. “Oh,” he says. “Right. Is that where you were?” He huffs, amused. “You could have just dropped them off, you know?”
Taehyung feels his cheeks heat up. This asshole is the one who told him to wait for a signature. “Yes, sir,” he says, through gritted teeth.
“Good job, though,” Yoongi says, absently, putting the envelope down on his desk without so much as a glance at its contents.
“You’re welcome, sir,” Taehyung says.
Yoongi misses the irony in his tone.
“Just Yoongi is fine,” he says distractedly, already turning back to his computer.
Taehyung shuts the door behind him. “You’re welcome, asshole,” he mutters, and he drops heavily into his squeaky chair.
By Friday night, he’s convinced. “He’s a big jerk,” he mutters. “A jerk and a robot.”
Jimin giggles. Namjoon, beside him, grins.
“What did you expect?” He shakes his head. “These people sublimate their entire being in service to the almighty dollar.”
He’s a little drunk. They all are.
“He can’t be as bad as you say,” Jimin protests.
Taehyung takes a long sip of his beer. They’re at their favorite neighborhood dive, taking advantage of the $4 PBR special. “He’s worse,” he says. “He hasn’t given me anything to do but stupid bullshit work, and he’s so condescending and rude about everything.” He shakes his head. “Besides, the guy’s a freak. He’s worn the same thing to work all week. Either he goes to the fastest dry cleaner known to man or he owns like, five copies of the same suit. Either way, freaky.”
Namjoon looks thoughtful. “I think there’s something kind of refreshing about adopting a workplace uniform. It eliminates a daily distraction and lets you focus your energy on more meaningful decisions.”
Jimin elbows him in the side, a bit too hard. “That’s not what you said when they made you wear those tie dyes at the juice bar.”
Namjoon huffs. “Well those were really ugly,” he protests.
In addition to pursuing a doctorate in philosophy, Namjoon also works at a trendy juice bar in Park Slope, where he serves moms in Lulu Lemon wheatgrass smoothies and turmeric shots.
Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Namjoon,” he says. “You wear cargo shorts and birkenstocks. I don’t know if you have much room to talk about ugly.”
Namjoon blushes. “Cargo pants are useful,” he says. “You can fit a lot in these pockets.” He pats his, and they jingle. God know what he’s got in there.
Jimin shakes his head. “Just carry a bag,” he says. This is an ongoing debate, though, and not likely to be resolved tonight. He turns drunkenly towards Taehyung. “When’s the insurance kick in?”
Taehyung does some quick calculating on his fingers. “Next week?” He’s fairly sure that’s it.
Jimin nods. “Well make your appointments, get your shit fixed, and then quit, right?”
Taehyung nods. Sighing, he flops back in the booth. “That’s easier said than done,” he mumbles. He folds his arms and rests his head on them. “Maybe if I prove he’s secretly a robot I can thwart the upcoming rebellion.”
“Does he eat?” Namjoon asks.
Taehyung shrugs. “He barely leaves his office. I don’t even know if he pisses.”
Jimin giggles. “This guy sounds so weird,” he says.
Taehyung nods. “He really is.” He takes a last long sip of his beer, and then stairs mournfully down at the bottle.
“Another round?” Namjoon asks, motioning for the waitress.
Taehyung nods, and Jimin does too.
Jimin puts his hand on top of Taehyung’s. “It’ll be okay, Tae,” he says. “So this guy sucks. So what? Just keep your head down and think new glasses.”
Taehyung nods. “It’s gonna be worth it. To vision!” He says, lifting his empty pint glass.
“To vision!” Namjoon and Jimin echo.
Their glasses clink. That’s right. Fuck Min Yoongi and his dumb suits and his cold, sneering superiority. Taehyung will get what he needs out of this job, and then get out, back to doing something he cares about, back to doing something that matters.
By Monday morning, the weekend’s euphoria has worn off. The apartment is dark and quiet when Taehyung drags himself out of bed and into the shower. He fumbles the buttons on his shirt, and begrudgingly stuffs his feet back into his painful, pinching shoes. He stuffs his earbuds in his ears and slouches to the train, where of course he doesn’t get a seat. By the time he finally gets to work, he’s feeling fairly fatalistic about this whole endeavor. What’s so bad about being a sightless hobo with impacted wisdom teeth? It certainly can’t be worse than this.
In the elevator up to the 61st floor, he braces himself for another morning of being ignored by his boss and being frustrated by the crossword puzzle, but when he turns the corner to Yoongi’s office two things bring him up short.
There is an iced coffee and a blueberry muffin sitting on Taehyung’s desk, and there is a strange man sitting at the desk across from his, with his own iced coffee.
The strange man takes off his headphones and looks up, smiling. “Oh,” he says. “Hey, you must be Taehyung.”
He holds out a hand. He’s maybe Taehyung’s age or maybe a bit younger. He’s got a wide, engaging smile, and bold features, and the kind of carefully honed physique that is obvious even wearing slacks and a dress shirt.
“Yup,” Taehyung says, feeling immediately shabby in his ill-fitting suit. They shake hands. The stranger’s handshake is firm and engaging. It’s a professional handshake. It’s so good this man might hold a degree in handshaking. “Um. Who are you?”
The stranger laughs. “I’m Jungkook. Yoongi’s paralegal. Didn’t he mention that I was on vacation last week?”
Taehyung shakes his head. “No,” he says. “To be honest he hasn’t told me much of anything.”
Jungkook sighs, rolling his eyes. “That man,” he says. “I swear.” He sits back down. Taehyung drops his briefcase on his desk. “Well, I hope last week wasn’t too painful. Yoongi takes a little time to warm up to people, but he’s really a great guy once you get to know him. And, you know.”
“I know?” Taehyung wipes up the cold spot of condensation on his desk.
“Well,” Jungkook says, “He’s one of the premier intellectual property lawyers in the country. But you knew that, right?”
Taehyung bites his lip. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, of course. I definitely knew that.”
Jungkook laughs, loud and delighted. “If you didn’t know who Yoongi was, why did you apply for this job, exactly?”
Taehyung shrugs, sheepish. “Health insurance?”
Jungkook just laughs louder.
Taehyung grins too, because the laughter isn’t malicious, and it’s so nice to actually talk to someone who seems like a normal human being. They must be louder than they realize, because a moment later the door to Yoongi’s door cracks open.
“What’s so funny?” He asks, standing in the doorway.
Jungkook shakes his head. “Nothing. Hey, what’s the big idea not telling Taehyung about me?”
Yoongi glances quickly in Taehyung’s direction, and then glances quickly away, like Taehyung is something he doesn't especially want to see. Taehyung’s mood, momentarily buoyant, crashes.
“Just figured you could introduce yourself when you got back,” he mumbles.
“Yoongi,” Jungkook says warningly.
Yoongi sighs. “I know,” he says. “Jesus. I know, Jungkook.” He turns to Taehyung. “This is Jungkook. Better?”
Taehyung doesn’t know what to say.
Jungkook frowns at Yoongi, who frowns back at him. There must be some kind of weird legal ESP thing going on because Taehyung has no idea what those frowns are intended to communicate. Well, whatever. He leaves them to their staring contest and takes a bite of his muffin. It’s pretty good. He’s going to have to thank Jungkook later.
Having Jungkook around makes things better. It really does. Yoongi seems more relaxed, smiling occasionally and even once laughing at one of Taehyung’s jokes, which is so startling that Taehyung wonders if he’s done something wrong. He doesn't really loosen up — not totally. His suits are no less austere, and he still gets weird around Taehyung sometimes, especially when it’s just the two of them. Taehyung still wonders if he’s offended Yoongi somehow — the purple pens, maybe? — but when he asks Jungkook he just shakes his head and laughs.
Jungkook is a really great guy, also, and Taehyung enjoys working with him. He shows Taehyung the ropes of the office — where they keep all the supplies and where the mail room is and gets him set up answering the office email, which Yoongi, it turns out, has a habit of ignoring. This job is still meaningless bullshit, but it feels a little bit easier to convince himself there’s some point when he has some actual tasks to complete. He’s really grateful to Jungkook for helping him out, and for being such an all around nice guy.
Every morning this week he’s come into the office to find a coffee and some little treat waiting on his desk. It’s really rather thoughtful, but Jungkook hasn’t mentioned it so Taehyung has never worked up the nerve to say thank you. Whatever. He’s awkward, and he knows it. He feels so bad though that by Friday he’s decided he’ll take Jungkook out to lunch, as a token of gratitude for everything he’s done.
“Jungkook,” he says, as the noon hour approaches. “Um. Can I take you out to lunch today? I want to say thank you for everything you’ve helped me with this week, and for—“
Yoongi’s office door opens suddenly. He sticks only his head out, blinking. “Did someone say lunch? I need lunch today.”
Taehyung, who hasn’t seen Yoongi eat so much as a single piece of candy from the tray on Seokjin’s desk, frowns. He suddenly wants lunch today?
“Yoongi,” Jungkook says, “Taehyung wanted to treat, but you haven’t taken him out yet, have you? Let’s go out to that really good noodle place over on 9th Ave.”
The corners of Yoongi’s mouth turn down. He glances down at his watch. “That’s kind of far. I have a two o’clock, but if we leave now we should have time, I guess.”
“Of course we will,” Jungkook says. “You’ve been working too much anyway. You’re going to make Taehyung think we’re boring.”
Yoongi’s frown deepens. “I am boring,” he says, sounding a little offended to be thought otherwise, “but fine. Let’s go, then.”
When they’re out on the street, Yoongi calls a Lyft.
“We can just walk,” Taehyung says nervously. He just wanted a nice casual lunch with Jungkook. He doesn’t want them to go out of their way, or to offend Yoongi again, or corrupt his programming so that he experiences real human emotion and and his CPU crashes or something.
“In this heat?” Jungkook shakes his head. “Yoongi would melt, I think.”
Jungkook left his suit jacket upstairs and Taehyung did the same, but Yoongi is still wearing his, looking funereal in the white glare of the summer sun.
“Oh,” Taehyung says, awkwardly. “Right.”
Taehyung takes his sunglasses (aviators with iridescent lenses he got at Forever 21) out and feigns cleaning the lenses. The car finally fights through the traffic. Taehyung gets in first and scoots over to the driver side. Yoongi takes the other back seat, and Jungkook goes up front — Or tries to. The driver has a bunch of shit piled on the passenger seat.
Jungkook makes a little noise of annoyance and then says to Yoongi, “Shove over.”
Yoongi shifts over awkwardly so he’s sitting in the middle of the back seat. Jungkook climbs in, and they’re off.
It’s not a long ride at all, but Taehyung is extremely aware of Yoongi’s thigh, just a few inches from his own. He’s aware, too, now of how — petite Yoongi is. Is that the right word? Maybe. With his suits and scowls and impressive corner office, he looms large in Taehyung’s imagination, but tucked up beside each other on the back seat, he notices how Yoongi sits with his shoulders hunched in, and his hands in his lap, and that makes him look smaller still than he already is.
The driver takes them through Central Park and out onto the West Side, and then makes a too-sharp turn onto 9th Avenue to beat the light. Jungkook slides into Yoongi, who slides into Taehyung. Horns blare. Yoongi carefully shifts back into the middle of the bench seat. He doesn't say anything, but if Taehyung’s eyes aren’t playing tricks, he’s blushing.
Things are marginally less weird by the time they get to the restaurant, which is nothing at all like what Taehyung expected. Fancy lawyer types go to fancy lawyer type restaurants, right? This place is dim and homey, up a flight of grim stairs and down a long hallway. There are maybe a dozen tables and no menu. Jungkook and Yoongi seem like regulars, though. The waitress greets them by name.
They sit near the window — Jungkook and Yoongi on one side of the table, and Taehyung on the other. Jungkook tells Taehyung he has to get the house noodles with pork.
“I don’t even like noodles,” Yoongi says, “but they are pretty incredible.”
“Who doesn’t like noodles?” Taehyung asks, horrified.
Jungkook cracks up.
Yoongi blusters. “They’re just so — I don’t know. Mushy. Weird.”
“Yoongi is a picky eater,” Jungkook whispers conspiratorially.
Yoongi scowls. “If by that you mean I’m not a human garbage disposal, fine.”
This is the most he’s ever heard Yoongi say about something unrelated to work. He’s so much more comfortable around Jungkook than Taehyung has ever seen him that he almost feels like he’s intruding.
“You guys know each other pretty well, huh? How long have you worked together?”
“Jungkook interned with me after his sophomore year of college,” Yoongi says. “He was even more of a little punk back then, if you can imagine it.”
Jungkook feigns hurt.
Yoongi rolls his eyes.
“Anyway, he was a smart little punk, so I offered him an internship the following summer, and a job when he finally graduated.” He sighs. “I don’t know what I’m going to do after he leaves.”
“Yoongi!” Jungkook protests.
“Oh,” Taehyung says, frowning. “Are you taking another job, Jungkook?”
Jungkook scows. “No,” he says. “I mean. I’m studying for my LSATs now, and if I do well enough I might be applying to law schools, but I’m not —“
“If you do well enough,” Yoongi says, rolling his eyes.
“Well,” Jungkook says, a little flustered. “I mean, I might need to take them again. It’s not like —“
“Jungkook,” Yoongi says, suddenly very serious. “You know more than half of those boneheads we work with. You’re a better lawyer now than most of them will ever be. You’re going to do fine. Disgustingly fine, if I know you.”
Jungkook can’t help but grin, pleased and shy.
Taehyung swallows. “Huh,” he says, feeling a little off kilter. Those were some distinctly un-robot-ish words from Yoongi. “Well, that’s awesome, Jungkook.”
“What about you?” Yoongi asks, “What are your plans, Taehyung?”
“Ummmm,” Taehyung says. His normal spiel — cribbed from his senior thesis — about ‘capturing the delightful and ephemeral hiding behind the veneer of normality in everyday life’ — seems shallow and absurd, like a kid trying to obscure his uncertainty with three syllable words. “I’m a photographer. I mean, I went to school for photography. I really love it, but it’s. You know. Not easy to make a living. I need something more steady right now, so here I am.”
“Oh, cool,” Jungkook says. “You’re an artist. I guess it was fate you ended up working with Yoongi then.”
Taehyung doesn't know quite what to make of that.
“I’d like to see some of your work sometime,” Yoongi says quietly, not quite smiling but not quite not smiling. He sounds almost sincere.
Taehyung is saved from having to reply by the arrival of three giant bowls full of hand pulled noodles in fragrant pork broth. The noodles really are delicious, and the meager conversation they squeeze in between bites is mostly about other places Yoongi and Jungkook think Taehyung needs to try.
After that day, things get easier. A bit. A bit easier. Yoongi isn’t quite so distant, and Taehyung has more to do. Yoongi is preparing to file a brief in a very important case about… the internet. It has something to do with the internet, and content, and ownership. Taehyung isn’t too certain beyond that, but he’s too embarrassed to ask. He spend a lot of time looking things up for Yoongi online, and getting books for him, and delivering papers, and doing a hundred little tasks that are all pretty trivial by themselves, but together provide the essential support Yoongi and Jungkook need to do all their lawyerly things.
It’s weird. Taehyung has no delusions about this job mattering, and although it seems that Yoongi isn’t a robot after all, he’s not so sure about some of the other people in the firm. Still, when he manages to track down a copy of an obscure journal that Yoongi’s looking for and Yoongi thanks him with a smile and a ‘Good job, Taehyung’, Taehyung can’t help but feel a little proud.
“Well,” Jimin says, when they’re sitting on the couch on Friday night eating Indian takeout from the place down the street. “I mean. It’s not like you’re doing something totally vapid, Tae. It’s a law firm, right? That’s pretty serious stuff.”
Taehyung shoves another forkful of chana masala into his mouth and chews thoughtfully. “Yeah,” he says, “I guess. I just feel like. I don’t know. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I don’t really care about it, but I still want to do a good job. Isn’t that weird?”
Jimin shrugs. “Not everyone’s job has to be their life’s calling.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Easy for you to say,” he mutters.
Jimin has recently gotten promoted to the dance corp for next season; it’s an incredible accomplishment, and Taehyung is unbelievably proud, but it’s a bit rich of him to talk about work not being one’s passion when he’s literally living his dream.
Jimin smiles. “Fine,” he says, laughing. “You got me. But, I mean, even though this is my dream or whatever, there are still a lot of parts of it that get on my nerves. There’s so much gossip, and really a lot of people aren’t very nice.”
Taehyung nods. “I guess,” he says.
“Besides,” Jimin says. “You’re enjoying the new glasses, right?”
Taehyung slips them off — his first pair of new glasses in years! He’d picked them up last week and has to admit they’re kind of awesome. Little round lenses in silver frames, with a brow bar – very retro. He hasn’t worn them to the office yet, but he loves them.
“Definitely,” he says.
“I guess this gig is working for you for now, then, huh?”
Taehyung nods slowly. “I guess so,” he says. “It’s still kind of strange though. Did I tell you that Jungkook is still bringing me coffee? I don’t know how to tell him to cut it out.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Just tell him not to do it if you think it’s weird.”
Taehyung frowns. “It’s really good coffee though,” he says. “From one of fancy places near the office.”
Jimin laughs. “Bring in donuts or something, then. I don’t know. I’m sure he’s just being nice.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says. “That’s a good idea. Donuts. Everyone likes donuts!”
The next Monday morning, Taehyung shows up with a box of donuts in tow. They're from this fancy place down in the Village, and he has to leave extra early to go pick them up and make it to work on time. He's feeling grumpy and sleep deprived, and not entirely sure that any amount of gratitude would be worth this.
Still, Jungkook's eyes light up when Taehyung sets the box on the little table in front of Yoongi's office.
"Wow," he says. "I've been wanting to try this place forever, Taehyung. I've heard the lines are out of control."
Taehyung blearily nods. At quarter past seven it had already stretched down the block.
"Supposed to be worth it though," he mumbles, taking a grateful sip of the iced coffee waiting for him on his desk. "My roommate says they're really good."
Jungkook selects one – iced white with little orange sprinkles on top. He takes a bite, and then makes a nearly obscene noise. Mouth full, he says, "Okay, yeah. They're good. Really good. Thank you, Tae. You didn't have to do that."
Taehyung shrugs, a little uneasy. "Just wanted to do something to say thanks for all the –"
Yoongi's door opens then. Does he have a fucking camera or something? "What's going on out here?" he asks, gruffly.
"Taehyung brought donuts," Jungkook says happily, already reaching for a second. He's a gym rat, and has the appetite to match.
Yoongi frowns at the donuts, looks up to frown at Taehyung, and then frowns at the donuts again. "You didn't have to do that," he says a bit indignantly.
Taehyung pretends to busy himself with his laptop. “It’s nothing,” he says airly.
Yoongi selects a donut – rippled and glazed pink. He takes a bite. A bit of frosting lingers on his lower lip, and he licks it off delicately.
Taehyung looks pointedly away from Yoongi's mouth.
"Tastes like flowers," Yoongi says thoughtfully.
Taehyung tilts his head. "Do you eat a lot of flowers?"
Yoongi snorts. "I've eaten a flower or two in my day," he says, and he takes another bite. "These are good. Thank you, Taehyung."
Taehyung makes a series of inarticulate noises that might be construed as a demurral. Yoongi takes another donut and retreats into his office.
Jungkook, already done with his second says, "Do you mind if I grab another –"
"Go for it," Taehyung says.
Later, after he's feeling a little more settled, Taehyung finally tries one of the donuts – chocolate, filled with peanut butter and jam.
They are pretty good. Maybe not quarter after seven in the morning good, but close.
Hearing Yoongi say thank you is worth even more.
Taehyung gets his wisdom teeth out on a Wednesday in August. Jimin takes off work and goes with him to the appointment. They give Taehyung something that makes him feel all slow and dopey, and he remembers very little of the procedure. He takes two days off of work to recover, which he spends on the couch watching episodes of Fixer Upper and eating ice cream. It’s not bad, really, all things considered, but he’s surprised to find that by the time Monday rolls around again, he’s ready to get back to work.
They’ve got a pretty good little system giong now in the office. Taehyung is busy all day, doing whatever Jungkook and Yoongi need. Sometimes they all get lunch together, but sometimes he goes on his own, taking long walks and stopping to snap pictures of whatever catches his eye. In the evening, if Jimin isn't working, they watch bad TV and order takeout – now that Taehyung is working he doesn't have to subsist entirely on a diet of instant ramen. On the weekends, he sleeps in, and catches up with his gaming and photography, and every once in a while does a photoshoot or two on commission.
Things seem okay, really. The job isn't fascinating, exactly. It's not Taehyung's dream, but the money is really nice and he's slowly starting to feel like he knows what he's doing, which is a very nice change.
They all get along well, too – well, mostly.
Yoongi teases Jungkook and Jungkook teases him back and they joke in the way long time coworkers do. They don't even seem to mind too much when Taehyung chimes in, even though he's not always sure if his jokes are funny or if they're just humoring him. Things are fine with Jungkook and Taehyung – they work together well, and although Taehyung is never going to take Jungkook up on his invitation to hit up the gym after work, they might almost be something like friends – especially after he learns that Jungkook is a hardcore gamer.
The only time things get really weird is when it's just Taehyung and Yoongi alone together. Taehyung's still not sure what he's done, but Yoongi gets all uncommunicative around him. He shuts down, and won't meet Taehyung's eyes. There's one day when they're sitting in his office compiling documents for a briefing, and they both reach for a paper at the same time. Their hands brush – Yoongi's hand are large and masculine, somewhat at odd with his slight frame. Yoongi looks up, eyes wide, like he's been burned. Taehyung opens his mouth to apologize – but why?
Before he can say anything though, Yoongi pulls his hand back into his lap, and starts talking loudly about something entirely unrelated.
Weird. It's weird.
Still, it's not so weird that Taehyung can't ignore it, especially not now that he's been promoted to twenty two dollars an hour after passing his three month probationary period. He's making so much more money now that he and Jimin are even thinking about looking for a new place when their lease is up. It's not that anything's wrong with their current place, exactly, but the idea of having a bedroom larger than a closet is appealing.
They're talking, but Taehyung isn't sure. Moving into a more expensive place means committing to this job in a way he's not sure he's ready to do yet. He doesn't hate it like he thought he would, but he's not sure really likes it either. It's just... a job. Just a job, but he spends the better part of his week here, in the little beige cubicle, under the flickering fluorescent lights.
He's not sure that's what he wants for himself. Not forever, at least.
Still, their lease isn't up until April, and it's only October now, so he's got plenty of time to figure it out.
"You're being ridiculous," Jungkook says, frowning. "You're going to get us all sick."
It’s Tuesday morning, and the second day in a row Yoongi’s come into the office despite what is obviously a very bad cold. Taehyung stopped at the pharmacy last night on the way home from work to pick up a pack of surgical masks.
Yoongi sniffs dejectedly and reaches for another tissue. "I'm fine," he says in a strange, honking voice.
Taehyung rolls his eyes. "You are not fine," he says. "You are snotty. You're a snotty ball of snot."
"I'm fine," Yoongi protests again, but it has none of the usual heat. "I just took some cold medicine. I'm sure I'll be better in –"
Taehyung slams the stack of folders he's carrying down on the conference table so hard it rattles. "Yoongi," he says. "Listen to me. I spent years without health insurance. I know what it's like to power through a cold. Right after college I was working as a nanny for these two sweet little kids who harbored every germ known to mankind. I was always sick when I was around them, but I needed the money really badly. The summer was okay, but I always get sick when the weather gets cold, and that year I got really sick. I was sneezing and exhausted and coughing constantly. I kept making chicken soup, because that’s what my grandmother used to do when I was a kid. I kept myself going on coffee and Sudafed until I literally passed out shooting this show at Mercury Lounge. My roommate had to come get me and take me to the ER. I had pneumonia. The doctor said I could have died."
Jungkook and Yoongi are staring at him, eyes wide. Taehyung frowns. They don't understand what it's like, having to struggle and fight and claw every inch of the way. Is it embarrassing? A bit, maybe, but whatever. Taehyung had been young and felt invincible, and it had all worked out okay in the end. He’d spent a lazy few weeks recuperating after a few days in the hospital, and it had provided him the motivation he needed to stop nannying and get serious about photography. He's only just paying off the ER bills now, though.
"You're a grown man with good medical insurance," Taehyung says, pointing a finger in Yoongi's general direction. "You're supposed to be the smart one, aren't you? Go call your doctor, get an appointment as soon as possible, and then go home and sleep."
Yoongi nods slowly. "Uh," he says. "Okay."
Taehyung nods, grimly satisfied.
A half an hour later, Yoongi is bundled up in overcoat and scarf and hat, looking small and – Taehyung is hesitant even to admit – honestly kind of adorable.
"Jungkook," Yoongi says stuffily, "You won't forget to file the –"
"Of course not, Yoongi," Jungkook says easily. "You've reminded me three times."
"And Taehyung, you'll make sure the transcriptions get sent to –"
"Already done," Taehyung says. "Go." He makes shoo-ing motions with his hands. "Take a cab to the doctor, and don't let me catch you online later, either."
"Yes, sir," Yoongi says meekly and he shuffles off towards the elevator, sneezing once as he rounds the corner.
Taehyung shakes his head. "I know he's a workaholic or whatever, but doesn't he ever take time off?"
Jungkook shakes his head. "Not really," he says. "Not since he broke up with his ex, anyway."
"Ex?" This is the first time Taehyung's heard mention of any significant other. There is no ring on Yoongi's finger, and Taehyung had assumed for a long time that he was just too busy or disinterested to pursue a relationship.
"Oh yeah," Jungkook says. "He was dating this guy he met while he was in law school. I think Yoongi thought they were going to get married or something. You know. Now that it's legal."
Taehyung opens his mouth and then shuts it. "Yoongi is gay?"
Jungkook narrows his eyes. "Why? Is that a problem or –"
"No," Taehyung says quickly. "No, no. Not at all. I just. Um. I didn't realize."
"Well," Jungkook says slowly. "He's a pretty private guy. I probably shouldn't have even told you about his ex, but I don't think he'll care. Anyway, after the breakup he really threw himself into his work. He got made partner within a few years, so I guess it was worth it, but he's not exactly the greatest at taking care of himself these days."
"Ah," Taehyung says. "Yeah."
"Good thing you're here to bully him into doing it," Jungkook says, grinning.
Taehyung frowns. He hadn't bullied Yoongi. Taking care of yourself is one of the hardest things you can do. Sometimes you just need a little help. God knows Jimin has reminded him often enough to get off the computer and go to bed (little room though he has to talk about getting enough sleep.)
"It was purely self interest," Taehyung mumbles. "I have a delicate constitution." He glances down at the stack of papers in his hand. "Do you have the rest of the depositions from the Winston case?"
Jungkook shuffles through his stacks of paper before locating them. "Yeah," he says. "Here you go."
They work hard for the rest of the day. Jungkook loves this stuff, but Taehyung just doesn't want Yoongi to feel bad about taking time off. He doesn't call after his doctor's appointment, which Taehyung takes as a good sign. Hopefully some medicine and a good day of sleep will have him back on his feet. They get everything in order for the court date the following week, and Taehyung catches up on all the office email. Jungkook packs up at six to head to the gym, but Taehyung has just a few emails to send before he's done for the day.
"See you in the morning," Jungkook says, saluting as he walks off towards the elevators.
"Yup," Taehyung says, re-reading the email he's about to spend. He's not the best writer, and he has to check himself to make sure he doesn't make a mistake or spell something wrong. He wouldn’t want to embarrass Yoongi like that.
He's just about to hit send when his phone rings.
"Hello, this is the office of Yoongi Min."
"Taehyung?" The person on the other end sounds downright froggish.
"Yeah," Yoongi croaks. "Hey. I’m glad I caught you."
"What's up?" Taehyung asks, frowning down at the phone.
"I hate to ask you this," Yoongi says, "but there's a folder on my desk I really need. Is there any way you could run it down to my place?"
Yoongi's place? Taehyung doesn't even know where he lives.
"I thought you weren't going to work," Taehyung says warningly.
"I just need to do this one thing," Yoongi mumbles. "I slept for hours. I promise. I just really need to get this done tonight. Take a cab down here, and then home. You can expense it."
Taehyung sighs. "Okay," he says. "Give me your address."
Yoongi's place, surprisingly, is down in Chinatown. Taehyung hadn't ever really thought about it, but he'd kind of figured Yoongi would live in some ritzy pre-war place on the Upper East Side or maybe in some glittery skyscraper down in the Financial District with the other young titans of industry. He's not sure why. Yoongi, although young enough and successful enough, never comes into work on Monday morning with stories about the weekend's drunken conquests. He doesn't go to the gym, and has never mentioned going to the Hamptons. He mostly just works, quietly and with great dedication.
Taehyung thought that meant he was boring. He's starting to admire that dedication now.
He finds the folder Yoongi is talking about on his desk easily enough, and slips it into his briefcase. (He feels a bit funny carrying it still, since he doesn't really usually have anything to bring home, but it was a gift from his grandmother and besides, he likes the official air it lends him.) He pulls on his jacket and his hat and the purple scarf that Namjoon had made him the year before during his knitting mania.
Outside, the evening is dark and low and blustery. Leaves tumble down the streets. Pedestrians hunch against a cold wind. Taehyung takes the stairs down into the 59th Street subway station two at a time. The platform is crowded. The fluorescent lights flicker. He feels tired, although he didn't stay up too late, didn't do anything that should give him reason to be tired.
He hopes he's not getting sick.
Finally, the train comes, and he squeezes on with all the other tired people on their way home from work. He'd thought, before he started working a nine to five himself, that all those blank expressions of the people riding the trains home at night were a reflection of the banal and meaningless days they spent, of all the time wasted, of all the stifling, dull nothingness they endured in the endless rat race.
He's not so sure he thinks that now. Everyone has their own small concerns, their own small worries. This job isn't Taehyung's passion, but he cares about it and wants to do well. There's nothing wrong with that. His coworkers, too, are kind people, for the most part. Yes, some of the partners are pompous assholes, but so were some of Taehyung's photography professors back in school. Seokjin and Hoseok and Jungkook and even Yoongi have been kind to him, without any real reason. Besides, when he does finally get his big break, nobody is going to look at his work and sneer that his photos are no good because the man taking them worked at a law firm.
He gets off at Canal Street and climbs the stairs to street level. Car horns sound. Traffic is backed up headed to the Manhattan Bridge. Neon signs flash and flicker. He turns left, heads north. He's not exactly sure where Yoongi's place is located, so he gets out is phone and types in the address.
Halfway there, he passes one of those little cubbyhole places that's nothing more than a counter to order and another little counter where you can stand and eat. A delicious smell emanates from inside. Taehyung didn't eat lunch today – they'd had so much to do, and he'd just kind of forgotten. His stomach growls pitifully. He wonders if Yoongi's eaten anything. It's not good to eat too much when you have a cold, but according to Taehyung's grandmother soup is a sovereign remedy.
He ducks into the shop and orders a liter of chicken soup with thick homemade noodles, broth fragrant with ginger and herbs.
Maybe it's presumptuous. Whatever. He just wants Yoongi to get better soon.
Yoongi's building isn't one of the newly renovated places that spring up between the old shabby brick buildings like mushrooms after rain. It's entirely unprepossessing – just a grey metal door in a brick wall, covered with scrubbed out graffiti. Yoongi's name is scribbled next to the buzzer for 3B. Taehyung presses and holds it, and a moment later the door unlocks.
The hallway is clean but old, with peeling linoleum and those brown rubber mats that seem to be in every old building in the city. Taehyung climbs up to the first floor, and then the second, and then the third. There are just two apartments up here. Yoongi's neighbor 3A has a wreath on their door – faded silk ivy and pink and blue flowers. Yoongi's door is bare, but there is a sensible mat in front of it.
Taehyung knocks. He feels strangely nervous, like he shouldn't be here. Yoongi is basically a part of the office furniture, as much so as the plants in the reception area that Seokjin keeps forgetting to water. Taehyung wears long pants to sleep – his favorite pair are paisley and silky. It's impossible for him to imagine Yoongi wearing pajamas. Maybe he sleeps in his suit, buttoned up and prim. Maybe he –
The door opens, and a man is standing there, but it takes Taehyung a moment or two to recognize that man as Yoongi. For one thing, he has showered and his normally carefully gelled hair hangs loose and floppy in his face. His eye are puffy, and his nose is red, and he's wearing flannel pajama pants and a sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up and –
"You have tattoos!"
Yoongi glances down at his bare forearms. The right is covered in a dense, dark filigree of thorny vines and twisting leaves and tiny flowers. The left is covered in a more abstract design, overlapping rectangles of different shapes and sizes that look almost like a cityscape.
"Yeah," he says.
"Oh," Taehyung says, feeling a bit embarrassed. "Um. I thought you just really loved wearing suits."
"I think they're really pretty," Taehyung blurts out.
Yoongi glances down at his arms again.
"Thanks," he mumbles, cheeks red.
It's almost cute.
Taehyung holds up the bag of soup. “I got you dinner,” he says. Then, grinning, he adds, "I got dinner for myself, too, if you don't mind some company."
Yoongi stares at him for a moment, eyebrows knitting. There's a dark spark of mistrust in his eyes, and the corners of his mouth are turned down, but that expression – so familiar now! – is not nearly so intimidating when he's wearing fuzzy pajama pants.
Finally, after a moment of some internal conflict, Yoongi sighs. "Yeah," he says. "Fine. Come on in."
He steps aside, and lets Taehyung in.
Yoongi's apartment is nothing at all like Taehyung expects. It's shabby – the wood floors are old and haven't been refinished in a long time. Decades of dust and debris fill the cracks between the wide old boards. The living room isn't large, but the ceilings are high, and there's a skylight that must, in the day, let in at last a modicum of sunlight. Two windows look down on the street below. There are some plants hanging near the windows, and a shabby couch, and a whole wall of bookshelves. Tucked in one corner, behind a funny old armchair, is a keyboard.
"This place is great," Taehyung says. "How long have you lived here?"
Yoongi shrugs. "A while," he says. "I know it's not that nice or whatever but it's rent stabilized and moving is the fucking worst. Way too much work."
"I think it's really nice," Taehyung says, with the gentlest reproach. "It has a lot of character."
"It has a lot of roaches," Yoongi mutters, "but I guess it's home." He takes the bag of soup that Taehyung is still holding. "Come on, let's eat, then."
The kitchen is pint-sized. Taehyung lingers in the doorway slightly awkwardly while Yoongi takes two bowls out of a cupboard. He pours the half the soup in one bowl and half in the other, and then sticks a spoon in each.
"Here," he says, handing one of the bowls to Taehyung. "I don't really have a table, so we have to eat on the couch." He sounds slightly embarrassed, like not having a dining room table is some kind of mark of shame.
"My roommate – Jimin, he's great – got a table for our place when we moved in, but we never eat at it," Taehyung says, following Yoongi back into the living room. "I think it's more comfortable eating on the couch anyway."
Yoongi gives him a little hesitant half smile. He sits down at one end of the couch. Taehyung sits down at the other. The soup is hot and good. Taehyung slurps a grateful spoonful. There's no television in Yoongi's living room, but Taehyung realizes that music is playing quietly – some soft pretty electronic wash of noise that he doesn't recognize but enjoys.
They eat in silence. Yoongi snuffles and has to blow his nose. His eyes are red and watery, and he looks sleepy. Hopefully he'll get to bed after this. Hopefully he'll be willing to stay home tomorrow and let himself rest. Hopefully –
"Oh," Taehyung says, setting his bowl of soup down on the coffee table. "I have your papers."
He reaches for his briefcase, which he'd set down beside the couch earlier. He takes out the folder that Yoongi asked him to bring. "Here you go," he says, handing it over. "I know you're pretty dedicated to your job and all, Yoongi, but whatever this is I'm sure it could have waited until next week. Jungkook and I are making sure –"
"It's not for work," Yoongi says, taking the envelope.
"Huh?" Taehyung frowns at him. "What's it for then? If it's not for work you really shouldn't be worrying about it. You're sick, Yoongi. You need to –"
"I help run a nonprofit," Yoongi says, staring down at the envelope in his hands. "We provide free and low cost legal services to artists. I'm working with a woman right now who – anyway, I need to get this sent tonight."
Taehyung frowns. "A nonprofit?"
Yoongi glares at him, shoulders hunched. "Yeah," he says, and that defensive hard edge is back in his voice. "Don't worry. The managing partners are all aware. I'm not sneaking around or anything. I –"
"No," Taehyung says, shaking his head. "No, no. I mean, it's good that they know, but I'm just surprised. You're helping artists. That's so cool."
Yoongi ducks his head. "That's kind of the point," he says. "It probably seems really boring to you, but the law is meant to help people."
"It doesn't seem boring," Taehyung protests, but it sounds half-hearted even to him.
Yoongi smirks wryly. "You don't have to bullshit me," he says. "I had a... friend. A good friend. My ex, actually. He felt the same way. Thought I was making a huge mistake when I took the job with Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker. Told me I was selling out. And yeah, I do work a lot, but I enjoy it and the money I make lets me support other stuff I care about, you know?"
Taehyung does not know. He has never had a legal job that paid more than minimum wage before this one, and he's only just started getting used to the luxury of being able to buy a peppermint mocha at Starbucks without having to hunt for change in the couch.
"That's... really awesome," Taehyung says quietly. He feels strange now. His stomach is a little upset. He'd been so ready to dismiss Yoongi, so ready to paint him as a flat cartoonish figure, dry and tasteless as cardboard. He hadn't expected to discover, behind the glossy facade, this small grumpy charming person with beautiful tattoos and deep passions and a shabby cozy apartment full of plants and books and music.
Yoongi sighs and brushes the hair out of his face. Something shifts, and where before all Taehyung saw was suit and boss and corporate drone he sees Yoongi – his long eyelashes and high cheekbones and how expressive his mouth is. His large square hands, and his lean forearms, decorated with those dark, inscrutable tattoos.
Taehyung swallows. It's like something blurry that's been floating around periphery of his vision has come quickly into focus. Yoongi is really attractive – beautiful honestly. Also, funny and intelligent and successful and passionate with a great snarky sense of humor and honestly, what kind of moron was Yoongi's ex?
Yoongi narrows his eyes. "Are you okay? You look kind of pale."
Taehyung swallows. He isn't okay, but he can't tell Yoongi why. "I feel kind of weird," he says, too quickly. "My stomach is funny. Yeah. I thought the soup would help settle it but I guess I was wrong. Weird how that works, right? I think I have some antacids in my bag."
He reaches for his briefcase. The clasps open with an audible snap. He's got takeout menus in here, and colorful pens, and a coaster from a bar he went to with Hoseok and Seokjin one day after work that served fried pickles he thinks Jimin would love, and a colorful silk scarf he found at a vintage store during lunch last week, and...
“I must have forgotten my antacids today, but I'm sure I have some at home."
Yoongi's frown deepens. "Did you take a cab here?"
Taehyung shakes his head. He feels too hot now, even though the evening is cool. He swallows.
Yoongi rolls his eyes. "Well take a cab home," he says. "You can just expense it. It's not like it's coming out of my pocket, anyway."
He smirks, amused and a little arrogant and holy shit. How did Taehyung not notice that expression before?
His stomach twists again, in a way that has nothing to do with what he's eaten today.
Taehyung's no novice to the ways of love. In high school he fell in love with the captain of the football team, who was tall and popular and made sense in a way that Taehyung himself didn’t and thought he never would. That had been a pitiful, pining thing, never anywhere near fruition. In college there were a whole series of little loves. He fell in love with their smiles and their laughter and their warmth. With Julia's long red hair and Miguel's dark expressive eyebrows and the sweet way Taylor would surprise him with little trinkets or flowers for no reason at all. He'd even, for a little while, been in love with Jimin – fiercely loyal, strangely protective Jimin, who was so beautiful in ways he never seemed to realize.
Taehyung doesn't guard his heart very well. He glimpses some pretty fragment and lets himself get enchanted without bothering to look closer. Once he got to know Jimin better, the thought of falling in love with him seemed absurd. Jimin was his best friend and his partner in crime. Familiarity had bred not contempt, but contentment.
Somehow, this feels different. He thought he had Yoongi figured out; now he realizes his mistake. Yoongi is strange and private and contradictory and Taehyung wants to peel back all the layers – unbutton that stiff suit jacket – and see everything he's kept hidden from sight.
He feels lightheaded. There is a real possibility that there are actual hearts in his eyes.
"If you really don't feel well," Yoongi says again slowly, "don't bother coming in tomorrow."
"Only if you promise to do the same," Taehyung counters.
Yoongi rolls his eyes. "Fine," he says.
"Shake on it," Taehyung says. He holds out his hand.
Yoongi stare at it, but then sighs and they shake. Yoongi's hand is large and his grip is firm.
"See you tomorrow," Taehyung says, pulling his hand back a little too quickly. "Or, not. If you’re still sick, I mean. Stay home and get lots of rest!" He practically throws himself out into the hall.
"Thanks for the soup," Yoongi says as way of goodbye.
The door shuts definitively.
Taehyung breathes out. His heart is still fluttering, and his throat is dry. These are symptoms he recognizes. He's getting sick alright. Love sick.
Yoongi doesn't come into work the next day. He leaves them a voice mail in a croaking voice saying he's still under the weather and he's trying to sleep it off but he should be online by noon. It's fine. Totally fine. Taehyung is thankful for the reprieve actually. He and Jungkook are so busy that he barely has time to think about how soft and pretty Yoongi had looked in his pajamas last night, with his hair falling floppily in his eyes. They're so busy he barely has time to think about anything at all until they both look up and realize it's almost one and they need to get lunch.
"And caffeine," Taehyung mumbles. "You didn't bring me my iced coffee today."
Jungkook looks at him with wide eyes. "Tae," he says. "That wasn't me, dude. Yoongi's the one who's been bringing you the coffee." He shrugs. "He always treats once in a while but I figured he must have asked you about it or something while I was out. You guys seem like you had a system going."
Taehyung swallows. "Oh," he says. "Haha. Yeah. I mean." He squeezes his eyes shut. "I was just kidding?"
Jungkook tilts his head. "Right," he says. "We can go get coffee though if you want. There's a pretty good place not far from here that makes a decent sandwich too."
"Okay," Taehyung says. He'd agree to anything at this point. He just wants to change the subject. He's already reaching for his coat. "Sure. Sounds good. Let's go. I'm starving."
Jungkook is right. The little cafe does make a decent sandwich, and Taehyung enjoys his brie and apple grilled cheese very much.
The iced coffee though isn't half as good as the stuff Yoongi gets.
Not even close.
"It's not funny," Taehyung mutters. He is lying perpendicular across Jimin's bed with his legs up the wall and his head hanging towards the floor.
Jimin is sitting cross-legged beside him, cackling. "I'm sorry, Tae," he says when he’s recovered himself, "but from the way you described him I was picturing some middle-aged L.L. Bean model with a wife and two point five kids and a golden retriever."
“I wonder if Yoongi would want to get a golden retriever,” Taehyung says, a little dreamily. Then he shakes his head. "No. No, he's not like that at all. He's cute Jimin. Really cute. He's got this adorable little smile, and really pretty eyes, and he's funny and smart and he wants to help people. Help artists!"
"He sounds like a good guy," Jimin says agreeably, carding his fingers through Taehyung's hair. "So what's the problem?"
If only it were just one problem. Taehyung ticks them off on his fingers. "Firstly, I feel like an judge-y asshole for assuming he was just some boring empty suit. He probably could tell, and that's why he was so distant at first. And even if he doesn't hate my guts or think I'm a weirdo, I can't date him. He's my boss." This last bit comes out a little like a wail.
Jimin nods thoughtfully. "So quit," he says. "You got your glasses. You got your wisdom teeth out. Hand in your letter of resignation and give him your number at the same time."
"He'd lose any meager respect he has for me if I quit,” Taehyung mumbles.
"Sounds like a catch-22," Jimin says after a moment. "Sorry, Tae."
Taehyung sighs and lets his head flop limp. "What am I going to do?" He squeezes his eyes shut.
"You need to figure out what's more important to you," Jimin says.
"I don't want to," Taehyung mumbles. He throws an arm over his eyes, and despairs.
Jimin laughs again, high and clear. "I'm sorry," he says. "Do you want sushi?"
"Huh?" Taehyung opens one eye.
Jimin shrugs. "It's a shitty situation," he says thoughtfully, "but it won't seem as bad if you have dinner. You want your usual?"
Taehyung nods, which feels pretty funny when you're upside down. "You're so smart," he says. "The best best friend."
A sweating plastic cup of iced coffee is waiting on Taehyung's desk when he gets to work on Monday morning.
The door to Yoongi's office is ajar. Taehyung knocks on the doorframe, but doesn't wait for a response before sticking his head in.
Yoongi is behind his desk, wearing his glasses. Unconsciously, he pushes them up his nose. He stares with fixed concentration at the sheath of papers he's reading. The morning light that filters through his half raised blinds is soft and generous, pearly and pink. He finishes the page he's reading, turns it over onto the finished stack, and then looks up.
When he sees Taehyung standing in his doorway, he almost smiles.
"Good morning," Taehyung says. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," Yoongi admits. He sounds better. His voice is still low and a bit rough, but it’s always a bit like that. Taehyung likes it.
"Good," Taehyung says. He smiles, and then takes a deep breath. "I just wanted to say that you don't have to keep bringing me coffee."
Yoongi frowns. "Oh," he says. "You like it though, right?"
"Yeah," Taehyung admits. "It's really good. Way better than the place I go to. I don't think their coffee is really cold brew though – they just stick whatever they don't sell from the day before in the fridge."
"Don't worry about it then," Yoongi says. "I'm getting coffee for myself anyway. It's not that big of a deal to get a second cup."
"Oh," Taehyung says. "Right."
"Hey," Yoongi says. "Thanks for the soup, by the way."
Right. The soup. "It was my pleasure," Taehyung says. Oh shit. No. That's not right. "I mean, I know when I'm sick I never want to cook."
"I make a mean fried egg," Yoongi says, "but otherwise I'm not much of a chef even at the best of times."
"Me neither," Taehyung admits. "I mean, I try, but even when I follow the recipe things never look as nice as they do in the pictures online."
"But the taste is what counts, right?" Yoongi is smirking again, like Taehyung's said something funny, even though he didn't mean to make a joke.
Before – before seeing Yoongi's apartment and his tattoos and fuzzy pajama pants, before love fell in front of his eyes like rose colored glasses – he would have suspected Yoongi of poking fun of him. Now, it seems like they're in on the joke together.
Something has changed, subtle but fundamental.
"Yeah," Taehyung says softly. "Taste is what counts."
Seokjin lands a speaking part in an episode of Law & Order: SVU as 'College Student Jimmy'; Hoseok arranges for them all to go get drinks after work to celebrate. He and Seokjin walk over to Taehyung’s desk at quarter to six, already wearing coats and scarves.
"You guys ready?" Hoseok asks.
He made a reservation and wants to get there on time.
Jungkook stands up, stretches. "Yeah," he says. "I'm just packing up."
Taehyung clicks send on the email he's writing and logs off his computer. "I'll meet you guys there in a half an hour. I just need to run something downstairs first."
"Don't be late," Seokjin says, beaming. He's been on cloud nine since he got this part, which is, he assures them, the first step on his path to fame and world domination.
Yoongi's office door is shut. He had a conference call scheduled at five. Taehyung's not sure if he's off yet.
"Is the boss coming?"
Hoseok rolls his eyes in the direction of Yoongi's door. "I invited him," he says. "He said he'd show up."
"He better," Seokjin says cheerfully. "I still have those pictures from the time he wore that sexy cat costume for Halloween."
Taehyung snorts. "Yoongi dressed up as a sexy cat?"
Seokjin shakes his head. "He lost a bet," he says opaquely.
"I'm sure he'll make it," Hoseok says testily. "Come on. They're going to give the table away if we don't get there by six thirty."
Jungkook, Seokjin, and Hoseok head out. Taehyung picks up the envelope he needs to drop off down on 58. Yoongi's door is still shut. For a moment, Taehyung hesitates. Maybe Yoongi's lost track of time. Maybe he needs a reminder. Maybe –
No. If he shows up, he shows up. Taehyung will leave it up to fate.
The 58th floor is half empty; Taehyung knows the way through the ranks of cubicles now though. He waves hi to a few people he knows by sight, and is happy to see that Mr. Moja is still in his office. He exchanges a few pleasantries and then hands over the packet.
When he gets to the elevator bank, there's a small crowd waiting. Nobody he knows at first glance. He takes out his phone. It's only ten after six. He's got plenty of time to get to the bar.
Taehyung looks up, startled. Angelina Ongoco is smiling at him. Taehyung barely knew who she was when he had to deliver those papers to her all those months ago. He knows now she's one of the five or six most important people in the company. He's sat in meetings she's run a few times, but he can't believe she remembers his name.
"Hi," he says, brightly, stuffing his phone back in his pocket. "Um. Hello Ms. Ongoco."
"Just Angelina is fine," she says, smiling. "How are you? Still running errands for Yoongi, I see."
Taehyung grins. "I just wanted to drop this off before I left," he says. "Everything's great, actually. It took me a little while but I'm finally starting to figure this place out."
She laughs politely. "I've heard very good things about you," she says. "Do you know that we offer a program for employees who want to become certified paralegals?"
She's heard good things about him? From who? And becoming a paralegal? That seems like a big commitment.
"Um," he says. "That sounds really cool."
She laughs. "You feign polite interest pretty well," she says. "You should think about it though. I'll ask Yoongi to send you the information."
The elevator arrives then and Taehyung squeezes himself into the far back corner, far away from Ms. Ongoco – Angelina – and her questions.
It's just a short walk to the bar – ten blocks uptown, and then a few blocks east. It's a cold night, though, and Taehyung tugs his hat down lower over his ears and jams his mittened hands in his pockets.
Paralegal Taehyung Kim. Hm. There's something appealing to that in a way. Taehyung's not someone who hides behind labels, but he likes the idea of being able to become that person: someone with sharp suits and an impressive legal vocabulary who goes out for martini lunches. He knows the inherent falseness of it: Yoongi is an actual lawyer and while he has the sharp suits and definitely has the vocabulary, in every other way he is nothing like the stereotype that Taehyung supposed him.
It's just not fair, having to choose. Why can't he be a paralegal and a legal secretary and a famous photographer and Yoongi's boyfriend too? This indecision has always been a flaw of his. As a kid he could never choose a Halloween costume. One year he went as a ghost pirate, another as a fairy robot. In college he changed his major three times, and would have changed it again, probably, if he hadn't actually liked photography so much, and hadn't been afraid of running out of financial aid before he managed to complete the requirements for at least one of his degrees.
Maybe that's what had terrified him so much about the job: about any boring office job, really. It felt like a cage. A trap. A narrowing of life's deliriously brilliant options until everything became the drab dry color of a cubical wall. He'd thought that because he'd been afraid to choose and choose wrong. He thinks now, maybe, that if he chooses wrong, he can try again. He thinks now that he can be whoever he wants to be, no matter what he does to bring home a paycheck.
But he has to decide what he wants first.
He finally reaches the bar. It's one of those hip but stilted places that mimics some hipper and more raw aesthetic: subway tile, reclaimed wood, matte black metal, and a farm to table menu.
In the entryway, he unwinds his scarf and takes off his hat. He stuff his gloves in his pocket, and gives it to the woman at the door to check. He gives looks around. The room is long and deep and he doesn't see his friends right away – but then he hears Seokjin, loud even over the din of the room, and heads towards the sound.
They're in a big circular booth in the back of the room, already with a round of drinks. Seokjin's on one end, then Hoseok, and then Jungkook, and then...
When had he even left the office?
Taehyung takes a deep breath and slides in beside him.
"Hey!" he says. "Congratulations Seokjin!"
"Thanks, Taehyung,” Seokjin says. "I won't forget this when I'm famous." He waves a magnanimous hand.
Hoseok rolls his eyes.
Jungkook says, "But I thought you just said that you only had two lines?"
"Two lines with Mariska," Seokjin corrects him.
"What are you drinking?" Taehyung asks, peering around. Yoongi is right beside him, still wearing that silly suit. He can feel the heat from Yoongi's thigh, which is just barely not touching his.
"Long Island iced tea!" Seokjin says, raising his already half empty glass in salute.
"This is not going to end well," Hoseok mutters.
He and Jungkook are drinking beer, and Yoongi has bourbon on the rocks.
Taehyung honestly doesn't like to drink much. It makes him sleepy and makes his cheeks flush. Still, he thinks maybe having just one drink will help. When the waiter comes back over, he orders a tequila sunrise, which is his favorite just because he thinks it looks pretty and because it comes with maraschino cherries.
Seokjin treats them to a recap of his audition – what he wore, who else had been there, what the casting director had said. When the waiter finally comes back with Taehyung's drink – pink and orange and even with an umbrella! – they order snacks. Taehyung takes the umbrella out of his drink, licks the end off, and tucks it behind his ear. Yoongi glances at him, smirking.
"What?" Taehyung asks.
"Nothing," Yoongi says. "Just... that looks nice."
Taehyung's heart goes thump thump thump, and he poses hands on his cheeks and lashes fluttering. Jungkook laughs at him, and slaps him on the shoulder from Yoongi's other side.
It's nice, really. A nice evening. Taehyung takes a sip of his tart-sweet drink, listens to Hoseok and Yoongi talk about a new office the company is opening somewhere. Seokjin and Jungkook are playing some little game – plastic pegs and a little wooden board. Neither of them seem to know the rules very well. Taehyung leans forward to watch.
"No," he says. "No, Jungkook, that's not right. You're not allowed to do that. You –"
He leans forward too far, and almost over balances, but Yoongi catches him around the waist.
"Careful," he says, as Taehyung settles back in his seat.
"Sorry," Taehyung mumbles. "I didn't –"
"No big deal," Yoongi says, but he looks away too quickly and takes a long sip of his bourbon.
The food comes. Wings and sliders and fried cauliflower, each with some epicurean twist. Conversation dies down while they eat. Slowly, as the food is demolished, Yoongi's thigh and Taehyung's thigh seem to gravitate towards each other, as if drawn by some natural force. Their knees brush. Taehyung, wing sauce all over his face, mutters an embarrassed apology and pulls his knee away.
Some of Seokjin's other friends show up – Ken and Youngjae and someone else who's name Taehyung doesn't catch. The waiter come around again. Despite his better judgement, Taehyung orders another neon drink. The bar is louder now. It's Friday night and everyone who has forced themselves to endure a week of 9 to 5s is letting loose, enjoying themselves.
"It's hot in here," Yoongi mutters, and awkwardly shrugs off his suit jacket.
Taehyung can see the tattoos, faintly, through the white fabric of his shirt. Dexterously, Yoongi unbuttons his cuffs and rolls them up, first the left, then the right.
Taehyung, a bit more wobbly than he thinks he should be after a drink and a half, says, "What're you doing? Thought those were a secret."
The other half of the table is engaged in a heated discussion about Overwatch – not Taehyung’s game of choice. Hoseok, who's had a few beers and doesn't seem like much of a drinker, watches them in dazed fascination. Nobody pays Yoongi and Taehyung any attention.
Yoongi looks up at Taehyung. "What secret?" He shakes his head, smiling. "I just would rather not answer questions about them at work, you know?"
“Will you answer questions about them here?”
That’s definitely that second drink talking.
Yoongi swallows. Licks his lips. “What do you want to know?”
“Can I touch?”
Yoongi snorts. “Sure,” he says. “Go for it.”
Taehyung traces a finger up Yoongi’s forearm. “Funny,” he says. “I thought I’d be able to feel it.”
Yoongi tilts his head. “Feel what?”
“Your tattoo. The thorns.”
Yoongi’s eyes narrow. “You can’t feel healed tattoos,” he says. “Not unless the artist has a heavy hand or something and goes too deep.”
“Oh,” Taehyung says. Yoongi is leaning close. He doesn’t look drunk, except for the slightest flush on his cheeks. Doesn’t seem drunk at all, but this is the third bourbon he’s ordered. “I never felt a tattoo before.”
“You don’t have any?” Yoongi sounds a little surprised.
Taehyung shakes his head. “I don’t think I’d ever be able to decide what to get,” he admits. “I’d have to go the minute I came up with the idea, or I’d change my mind. Besides, I’m scared of needles.” He takes a sip of his drink. “Why? Is that surprising?”
Yoongi shrugs. “You just seem like the type,” he says quietly.
“What does this one mean?” Taehyung’s fingertips are still on that petal soft skin on the underside of Yoongi’s forearm. What kind of moisturizer does he use? His skin is really soft. Ridiculously so. It is warm in here, and Taehyung can feel Yoongi’s pulse, faint but steady.
“Doesn’t mean anything,” Yoongi mutters. “Just. You know. Every thorn has its rose.”
“That’s not how that goes,” Taehyung says, leaning down to get a closer look.
“That’s how it goes for me,” Yoongi says quietly. The note of sorrow in his voice that goes right to Taehyung’s heart.
The vines are stylized, angular and sharp. The line work is bold, but the shading is surprisingly delicate – thousands and thousands of tiny dots.
"It's really beautiful," Taehyung says. "When did you get it?"
Yoongi wets his lips. "The year I started at Jones, Jones, Smith, & Baker." His eyes close. His eyelashes are very long. "Wasn't the best time for me. I broke up with the guy I'd been seeing in law school when I moved here for the job. Didn't know anyone. Barely had any money. I was living in this little ten by ten room out in Bed Stuy. I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was a kid, but it felt like everything was killing me by degrees, you know?"
He swallows again. His eyes are downcast.
"It's hard to move to a new place," Taehyung says quietly. "It was really hard for me too, but I must have done something right in a past life because my roommate freshman year ended up becoming my best friend. I don't know what I would have done without him."
Gone home, probably, or taken off to pursue some other dream when the going got rough. Run away.
"You stuck with it though," Taehyung says, finally letting go of Yoongi's arm.
Yoongi nods. "I did," he says. "The world is pretty shitty, but this helps me remember to look out for the good things, no matter how fucking rare they might be."
"That's a really beautiful thought," Taehyung says. "I don't think they're that rare, though, do you? Maybe it's the photographer in me talking, but even things that seem ugly at first can be beautiful if you look at them the right way."
Yoongi shakes his head and finishes the last of his bourbon. Golden gleam in the dim light. The Overwatch conversation is growing heated. Seokjin's cheeks are red and they've gotten loud – but this is a loud place and they don't attract undue attention.
"You would think that," Yoongi says, laughing.
"Huh?" Taehyung blinks.
"You see the best in people, don't you?"
Taehyung shrugs. "I try to," he says. He takes another sip of his drink. "But when I first met you I thought –"
Yoongi smirks. "What did you think?"
"I thought you were going to be awful," Taehyung admits, embarrassed. "You ignored me and looked so serious and business-y and and I felt like such an idiot."
Yoongi shakes his head and sighs. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Jungkook is always telling me not to be such an asshole. I just get kind of nervous around people I don’t know.” He shakes his head. “And now? What do you think now?"
"I think –"
"Waiter!" Seokjin wails, empty glass in hand. "Where'd our waiter go?"
Yoongi and Taehyung glance at each other and smile.
"Think we lost him," Yoongi says. "Taehyung and I will go up and get another round. Who needs a drink?"
Everyone does except Hoseok, who looks half asleep but is smiling contentedly.
Taehyung scoots out of the booth first, and Yoongi follows. It's getting later and the bar has filled up. It's loud and hard to think here, let alone speak. They have to fight through the fray and then wait a long time before they can get the bartender's attention and give their order.
Yoongi stands behind Taehyung, just to his left. A waitress comes past with a tray full of drinks. Someone stumbles into her, and she just barely keeps her balance. Gently, Yoongi places his hand on Taehyung's waist to guide him out of the way. Taehyung breathes in, and then eases into Yoongi’s touch. Even after the waitress goes on her way and there's no reason at all, Yoongi leaves his hand there, resting gently on Taehyung’s waist.
"I got interrupted before," Taehyung says, too quickly.
Yoongi glances up at him. His cheeks are still a bit red, and his hair is all disordered now. "Huh?"
"I never got to tell you what I think now," Taehyung says.
"Well?" Their eyes meet. It's one of those bizarre cinematic moment when all the rest of the world fuzzes into a remote cloud of noise and light.
"I think," Taehyung says slowly, "that beneath the suits and scary intelligence and snark, you are one of the most passionate and caring people I've ever met."
Yoongi tries hard not to smile. "Didn't mean to be rude," he says, looking mostly at Taehyung's feet. "That first day, I mean, but you’re even more intimidating than most people. You have to know you're gorgeous, Taehyung."
Oh. Oh. Taehyung feels his heart shake. People tell him that, sometimes, but he doesn't get it – not really. He's never felt like one of those well dressed and attractive people he sees on the city streets – people who look totally in control of their destiny, people who don't look like they ever deign to so much as consider something as crass as money, let alone look for jobs just so they can afford a new pair of glasses.
But for Yoongi to say it – that has to mean something, doesn’t it? Yoongi, who is so smart and kind and beautiful. Who Taehyung likes so much.
"Yoongi," Taehyung says. "This isn't just me, right? I mean, I'm not imaging this, right?"
Yoongi laughs, low and incredulous, and shakes his head. His grip on Taehyung's waist tightens, and he turns Taehyung and walks him backwards so that his back is flush to the bar, and then, leaning up just a little bit, kisses him. Yoongi's mouth is smokey with the taste of the bourbon, and his hand is firm on Taehyung's back. Taehyung's hand comes up to his shoulder. Everything is soft, edges smoothed away by the pretty pink drinks he's been drinking, and all Taehyung can think is that this is so much sweeter than he expected, and so much better.
Someone clears their throat.
Yoongi steps backwards.
Their drinks are ready. Yoongi gets out his wallet and hands the bartender a card. He folds his arms over his chest. "Not just you," he mumbles.
Grinning, Taehyung slides an arm around his shoulder. "Good," he says. "I was really hoping not."
The breakdown doesn't happen until the next day. Taehyung wakes up with a terrible pounding in his head and very little idea of where he is or how he's gotten there. He blinks. Familiar purple bedspread. Oh. A survey of his surroundings reveals that he's in own bed, in his own room, in his own apartment, and he's alone.
It takes a superhuman effort for him to drag himself into the living room, where he finds Jimin and Namjoon assembling a Lego model of the Capitol Building on the coffee table.
"Hey," Namjoon says, "How are you feeling?"
"Not good," Taehyung admits.
Jimin shakes his head as he carefully snaps another block into place.
"You were pretty wasted," he says.
"Did you... Did you come and get me?" Taehyung doesn't remember much of the evening's proceedings after that next drink – the sweet-tart taste of it, and Yoongi pressed up against him in the booth. Kissing Yoongi as the other guys cheered. Yoongi's soft mouth, and soft skin, and the soft pink flush of his cheeks.
"You texted me and told me that I had to come meet the love of your life," Jimin says, deadpan, not looking up from his Legos. "Luckily Joonie and I were at the Bowery Poetry Club. Love of your life or not, there's no way I was coming back into the city once we got back to Brooklyn."
Taehyung drops heavily onto the couch. "Did you meet him, then?"
Jimin gets up and walks over to the kitchenette. He takes a bottle of aspirin out of the cupboard by the stove, shakes two out, and fills a glass with water from the pitcher in the fridge. He hands the glass and pills to Taehyung, who swallows them gratefully.
"We met him," Namjoon says, peering at the instruction booklet for their model. "He seems like a really nice guy."
"I mean," Jimin says, "You know. It's not like we had a chance to talk much, since the two of you were joined at the lips."
Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut. "Oh no," he says.
"He didn't seem like he minded," Namjoon says helpfully.
"Oh god," Taehyung says. "Everyone from work was there. Everyone saw."
Jimin shrugs. "They didn't seem like they minded either, Tae."
"Yeah," Taehyung says. Something heavy and miserable is ripening in his gut. "He's my boss, though. I can't... I don't want to get him in trouble."
"You can quit," Jimin says softly. "Quit, and ask him out for real."
"I don't want to quit," Taehyung moans. "I know this sounds crazy, but I think I like working there."
He throws his head back against the couch cushion, despairing.
"Jimin," Namjoon says. "Do you have a two by six grey block?"
Jimin shuffles the pieces, which they've dumped out into a shoe box, and then hands Namjoon the desired block.
"Maybe you just need to look for another option in the company," Namjoon says. "I mean, if you really like it."
Another option in the company? How is Taehyung going to find another job? He still can barely believe the got the first. Who's going to –
He gasps, remembering.
"Tae, are you okay?" Jimin asks, frowning. "Things will work out somehow. Maybe you can –"
"No," Taehyung says. "It's not that. I have an idea. Namjoon, you're a genius."
Namjoon grins, pleased, and Jimin pats him on the cheek.
“Yes, he is,” Jimin says fondly.
"Can I borrow your laptop, Jimin?" Taehyung asks. "I have an email to send."
For the first time in his half year of employment at Smith, Smith, Jones, & Baker, Taehyung gets to the office before Yoongi does. He sets his briefcase down on his desk and opens it. He takes out an envelope with Yoongi's name printed on it and sets it on his desk, and then he waits.
The office is quiet this early. Peaceful, even. He turns on his laptop and opens Outlook. Angelina Ongoco's reply to Saturday morning's urgent email is still the first item. He reads it again, reassuring himself.
Yoongi shows up at quarter after seven. He comes down the hall so quietly that Taehyung jumps when he rounds the corner.
"Oh," he says. "Taehyung. Hey." There's something hesitant in his voice that makes Taehyung's stomach lurch.
"Yoongi," he says, standing up too fast. "Hi. Um."
Yoongi's expression – hesitant, wondering – twists into a frown. "Listen," he says slowly. "About the other night. I –"
Taehyung feels almost sick to his stomach, but he knows this is what he has to do. "Yoongi," he says, taking a deep breath. "I quit."
Yoongi's face goes white, then red. "What?"
"I quit," Taehyung says, holding out his typed letter of resignation. Jimin doesn't have a printer – he'd gone to the extent of buying fancy paper and going to the library to print it on a Sunday.
Yoongi's face kind of crumples. "Oh my god," he says, and he closes his eyes. "I am so sorry. You don't have to quit. We can just pretend that –"
"No," Taehyung says. "I'm quitting. I'm going to work for International Law. Angelina offered me a position with her department."
Yoongi opens one eye. "What?" He's wearing his customary black suit, and his hair is neatly combed and smoothed back, but all Taehyung can think about is how soft he'd been, and sweet, and not perfect, but so much better. Full of strange and unexpected sorrows and pleasures and mysteries that Taehyung wants to learn, inch by inch, day by day.
Taehyung swallows. "I really like you," he says slowly. "Like, a lot. I don't have a fancy law degree, but I'm smart enough to know that it's not going to work for us to date while I'm working in this office."
Yoongi nods slowly.
"I don't want to cause any problems for you," Taehyung says slowly.
"I'm not actually your HR supervisor," Yoongi says. "So it's not against the rules or anything." He flushes. "I checked the employee handbook."
Taehyung swallows again, and tries hard not to smile. "Oh," he says.
He hadn’t realized Yoongi had been thinking about it that much; the thought makes him feel effervescent, fizzy and full of life.
"Still," Yoongi says, considering, "It would avoid any appearance of impropriety if you transferred to another division."
Taehyung grins. He can't help it. "Yeah," he says. "That." He takes another deep breath. "I quit," he says. "Effective this Friday."
"I'll be sorry to see you go," Yoongi says gruffly.
“I think you might see me around,” Taehyung says. He glances down at his phone. "It's only seven thirty. Do you want to go get breakfast to celebrate my new position?"
"Are you asking me out?" Yoongi is trying hard not to smile.
Taehyung nods. "Yeah," he says. "Let’s go to that place down the block with the croissant french toast. I want to hear about your other tattoo."
"Other tattoo?" Yoongi smirks. "What makes you think I have only the two?"
Taehyung feels electric right now. He wants to see every inch of Yoongi: heart and skin and soul. He wants to show Yoongi every inch of himself, open himself up like a book.
"I don't know," he says, grinning, goofy, delighted. "I guess I'll need to do some discovery."