Jeongguk has been both anticipating and dreading this meeting all month.
A cluttered gathering of investment advisors, budget analysts, project managers, and a hundred other ridiculously important people all stuffed into one board room, listening to Jeongguk’s presentation, watching his every move like the blood-thirsty hawks they are. They’ll dissect his speech, critique his argument, look for any and all opportunities to prove him incapable, to prove him wrong.
And they will all come up woefully empty-handed.
Jeongguk has been preparing for this presentation since his time in graduate school, and nothing could come between him and his success at this point. He’d exercised such strict self-discipline all throughout his schooling, his “golden days” of youth, and the payout was finally in sight.
Nothing and no one could mess this up for him now.
T-minus twenty-four minutes, and Jeongguk will taste victory.
Something big always ends up happening when Jimin is drunk.
He got drunk the night he was accepted into his dream university, which promptly led to his loss of virginity in the cramped backseat of some sort of KIA. He was drunk when his best friend told him he was getting married, the both of them dripping snot and tears onto the tabletop.
He was drunk when he met his soulmate.
After months and months of leaving intimate, heart-lifting drawings littered across the backs of his hands and the insides of his wrists, Jimin was more than a bit dejected. He’d started small – text so microscopic, you’d have to get painfully close to be able to make it out, yet in dark enough ink that it’d be impossible to miss on the palest part of the wrist. When he was met with silence after those attempts, he switched to less direct communication and opted for itty bitty little pictures to bring a bit of cheer to his soulmate’s days. He got quite proficient at doodling sparkly suns, barking puppies, hearts that formed intricate patterns.
Silence. Always silence from the other end.
Three semesters in to his university experience, and Jimin was beginning to worry his soulmate either didn’t exist or didn’t care enough to respond – he wasn’t entirely sure which option hurt more the longer he dwelled on them.
It was an inconspicuous Friday evening and Taehyung had convinced him to go out for cocktails, again. He knew that Jimin turned into a rambunctious, giggly mess of a human being with enough sugary booze in his system, and that is exactly what he figured his best friend needed with such a gloomy cloud perpetually hanging over him.
That’s how Jimin found himself six drinks in – healthily sandwiched between glasses of cold water and appetizer platters – dancing in the corner of the club with Taehyung noodling around in front of him. They chose to wiggle their limbs like fools, jumping up and down with little regard for the actual beat of the song, feeding off of each other’s chaotically bubbly energy. Most clubbing nights led to this endgame, with the two best friends steering clear of strangers and screaming like children just because they could. It was their happy place.
What quickly became atypical for this particular Friday evening was the fact that Jimin managed to bump into a woman so hard that the contents of her purse went skittering across the filthy floor of the club. He’d apologized frantically, swooping down to help her gather everything despite the wobble in his step and the blur to his vision. Before he’d comprehended what happened, a different patron had stepped on her tube of mascara before Jimin could reach it – this led to Jimin crying while cradling said tube, clumsy little fingers trying to scoop the black gel back into the opening with little regards to how physically impossible the task was.
Both the mascara’s owner and Taehyung watched on, pitifully endeared, as Jimin whispered to the makeup and apologized to it for being “squished by the jerkhead”. By the end of the affair, his chubby hands were smeared in waterproof black (‘Absolute Ebony’, to be specific) and he’d managed to wipe an alarming amount of it across his cheeks as he’d dabbed at his tears.
He looked like he’d been attacked by an octopus, with opaque black gel splattered and streaked all over him. Taehyung wished he’d gotten a picture.
By the time Taehyung had managed to drag Jimin’s blubbery self over to the club’s single restroom, a line of at least six other customers was formed outside the door. He whined out loud at the sight, boldly excusing himself as he hauled his best friend up to the front of the line. Any complaints of cutting were promptly silenced when Taehyung dramatically gestured to Jimin’s stained cheeks and hands.
He banged his giant fist against the door over and over, uncaring of the shouts he was receiving from the other side in response. Some muffled yells about “Occupied!” which quickly morphed to “I’m fucking busy in here!”.
No stranger to juggling an incoherent Jimin while also causing plenty of collateral damage, Taehyung lifted his boot-clad foot up high and crashed it down against the bathroom door handle, sending the entire thing careening towards the floor. The wood had splintered, ripping a giant hole where the knob once was, and with that Taehyung was free to push the door inwards.
Drunk as he was, Taehyung will never forget the sight waiting for him inside that cramped club restroom.
“Holy fuck, your face.” He remembers himself screaming.
Taehyung was seeing double, no thanks to the cocktails – an unfairly handsome man stood in front of the sink, hot water still pouring from the faucet, sleeves rolled up to his biceps and hands dipped under the spray of water.
Every visible inch of his skin was splattered with black, like one of those blot paintings that therapists use.
And every single speck was a perfect mirror of Jimin’s.
It is largely unfortunate that Jimin doesn’t remember his initial encounter with his own soulmate, and it is a tragedy that he laments (very loudly and very often) to this day. Taehyung always makes sure to start his retelling of the story off by reminding Jimin and any other listeners that the first (and only) coherent words out of his best friend’s mouth at the sight of his soulmate were, “Bunny! Handsome bunny!” before he promptly upchucked all over the restroom floor.
Five years later, it comes as no surprise that Jimin is – once again – drunk with his best friend. At two o’clock in the afternoon, for that matter.
Taehyung is visiting Seoul for the first time in almost a year, and the two aren’t planning to waste a single moment together during his brief vacation. Thus, mimosas with brunch had bled into cocktails during their afternoon movie, followed by another inexplicable round of mimosas in celebration of finishing said movie.
Jimin really doesn’t indulge in the devil’s nectar all that often anymore. He and his husband share a healthy love of fine wine and soju, typically paired with a home-cooked meal, and in careful moderation. His partying days are far, far behind him, but Taehyung has always been the storm-bringer in their friendship, and lord knows Jimin has plenty of stress to drink away.
“Jiiiiimiiiiiin, the mailman said he hopes you have a good weekend!”
Taehyung’s booming voice rings out from the next room over, startling Jimin where he was anxiously picking at his nailbed. Mimosas did little to numb the worry, it seems – one mention of mail and Jimin was as jumpy as a cricket.
A daunting manilla envelope is slapped down on the counter in front of him before he registers Taehyung’s reentry to the kitchen, and Jimin feels his heart rabbit in his chest.
“Aren’t you gonna open it, pumpkin?”
Mimosas also did little to give him courage when he needed it most.
“Thanks to this, we are very likely to see the investments skyrocket during our fourth quarter.”
Jeongguk feels every pair of eyes on him, burning through his suit jacket, raking over him in desperate search of a flaw they won’t find.
He’s fucking killing this.
He’s nearing the climax of his presentation, the hook that will sink deepest, pierce through any remaining skepticism in his audience of superiors. This is checkmate, as far as he’s concerned.
“The following fiscal year will consist of a more aggressive approach,” It's then that Jeongguk feels it. The faintest tickle, like a fine hair that’s dancing across the skin but can never be found if you try to grab for it. He feels it just beneath his nose, and he almost writes it off as an incoming sneeze. “but our stance on global cooperation will not budge.” He feels it again.
More definitive. More purposeful.
Like a line, being drawn from just above his upper lip and outward, toward his cheek.
Then he feels another, and another, running parallel to the first.
He keeps his composure frighteningly well, no muscle in his face twitching, no ounce of his demeanor cracking. He assesses the crowd of businessmen hunched over the table, watches the swift shift in emotions that plays out across so many of their pudgy faces. He watches how a few of them stifle laughter, lips rolling inward in their attempts to keep their expressions neutral. He sees how others are more dumbstruck than anything, ogling Jeongguk’s face like it’d just grown a tail.
He sees the few who smirk, who feel victory falling into their laps as the situation unfurls.
He tilts his head to the side in a swift jerk, cracking his neck so loudly that any chatter threatening to crescendo instantly dies back down into silence.
Jeongguk still has three whole slides to get through, after all. The least they could do is listen.
“Jeongguk is going to fucking kill me!”
“This is the best day of my life, Tae!”
“No, really, he is going to castrate me and gut me! Like a fucking fish!”
“Have you ever seen me this happy before? I’ve never seen me this happy before!”
“Jeongguk knows where I live, for fucks sake! Distance is no obstacle for that man, he’s actually going to hunt me down and skin me!”
Jimin giggles so hard he crumples into himself, throwing himself off-balance and toppling over onto the couch he was previously jumping on. The leather cushions catch him gently and he rolls around on them like a capsized turtle, tiny fists clenched in joy, face beaming and brilliant.
“Jimin, do you even hear me? Don’t you even care that I’m about to die?!”
Jimin throws an amused look at his friend, cheeks bunched up so high that he can barely see, but his smile simply won’t be subdued. “Jeongguk’s not going to kill you, silly willy. He’s a harmless bunny!”
Taehyung throws his arms up in defeat, words slurring just a hair with every passing sentence. “He vowed to put an end to me if I ever got you – and, by proxy, him – into any more ridiculous, drunken shenanigans! I am quoting him verbatim, here, Chim!”
A cheery giggle bubbles out of Jimin’s lips, teeth on full display as his smile stretches and stretches.
“He’s going to be so happy, Tae. My bunny has dreamt of this as long as I have.”
Taehyung’s entire stance relaxes at that. He appraises his best friend, curled up in a little ball of unbridled joy, the envelope and all its contents sprawled out on the adjacent coffee table.
He smiles warmly at the sight, taking the best mental picture he can in his inebriated state, hoping to capture every last detail – particularly the pale pink whiskers streaked across his best friend’s glowing cheeks.
Jeongguk has made it his personal mission to hold eye contact with every single member of the audience at least once during these last few, crucial minutes of his presentation.
“And that is how I propose we steer our agenda over the course of the next five years to maximize both profit and reputability.” He takes his piercing gaze off of the crowd for one brief moment to bow his head ever-so-slightly, more of a nod than anything, before looking back up to stare them all down yet again. His eyes are daring any one of them to speak up, to question or to point out.
He fucking dares them.
As the tentative, almost anxious applause starts up, he feels the tickle on his left palm, in rushed, haphazard strokes.
He casts one final sweeping, heated glare across the room before uncurling his fist and tilting his palm upward, just enough for his eye to catch the ink scrawled across his skin.
His composure drops for the first time in the last three hours – eyes popping and lips parting with a sharp inhale. A notable lump makes its way up his throat in an instant, the room suddenly fading away to a hush as his vision tunnels on the messier-than-usual handwriting of his husband, doodled along his left palm like a child that had gotten hold of a sharpie.
He must be quite a sight, standing up in front of all these hotshots, whiskers streaking across his stern face, eyes watering as he stares down at his own hand like he’d never seen the damn thing before.
He doesn’t care. For the first time in lord knows how long, Jeongguk doesn’t care about the presentation. He doesn’t care about the fool he’d been made out to be in front of these executives.
He only cares about getting home as fast as humanly possible, confirming this sloppy sentence with his own two eyes, and holding his husband in his arms.
“We were approved! We’re gonna be fathers!!!!!”