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“Did you see who the boss hired?”

“Did I see him? Did I see him? I couldn’t look away. That boy is all alpha.”

“Think the boss will finally slip up now?”

“With that body? No question.”

Jungkook straightened his tie as he passed, pretending that he didn’t hear all of the gossip being murmured around the labyrinthine cubicle walls. For some reason there appeared to be a lot of it, and the other office workers didn’t seem to care much for keeping their voices down. A few were even openly staring, looking him up and down as if they thought he couldn’t see them.

The whispers all seemed to be focused on the fact that he was an alpha, probably centered around him accepting the assistant position. His own parents had given him a judging stare when he’d told them about the job, chastising him for ‘settling’ on the assistant position when most alphas accepted nothing less than one of leadership.

“People will think that you’re weak, son,” his father had said, concern etched in the creases on his forehead. “They’ll walk all over you.”

“Aren’t you assistant manager at the factory, Dad?” Jungkook had countered. “People don’t walk all over you.”

“Yes,” his father said slowly, “but I’m not an alpha. It’s different.”

Jungkook thought it was ridiculous, but that’s always how society has been. Alphas were the leaders, the managers, the CEOs. They weren’t assistants.

But Jungkook would have been a fool to pass up a job opportunity like this one. He was fresh out of graduate school at the young age of twenty-four, had no job experience outside of part-time jobs to fund his schooling, and yet he’d been hired as assistant to the regional manager at the most successful branch of a pharmaceutical company. As far as Jungkook was concerned, he could have done a hell of a lot worse.

Perhaps he might have been more uneasy about accepting the position if his boss was one of those alphas that he’d always tried to avoid turning into. The ones in movies and television shows always seemed to fit that mold, ruling with an iron fist and ordering everyone around all the time, keeping a docile omega at their hip to remind everyone who exactly was in charge. It would be one thing if his boss was that particular brand of obnoxious, power play loving alpha, but Park Jimin definitely hadn’t seemed that way at all, at least from what Jungkook could tell from their Skype interview.

(In fact, he’d hardly seemed like an alpha at all, with his small frame and high voice, though that was neither here nor there.)

It was only his first day, and he wasn’t going to let any judgment from his new coworkers bother him. He was there to work, not to be criticized for not fitting the stereotypical mold of what an alpha should be.

Near the back of the office was a desk with a much larger computer than the ones in each cubicle, a full-screen Youtube video of puppies in a kiddie pool playing on the monitor. Next to the computer was a nameplate that read “Kim Taehyung, Human Resources.” Jungkook looked at the back of his head for a few seconds and then approached the desk, not entirely sure what to make of the display in front of him.

“Um, hi,” he said, leaning down a bit to look at Kim Taehyung, who was so entranced by the video that he apparently hadn’t noticed Jungkook standing near him until he spoke.

“Oh!” Taehyung said, spinning around in his chair, not bothering to hide what he’d been doing. He jumped to his feet, grinning widely with all of his teeth showing. “You must be Jungkook. I’m Taehyung, but people usually just call me the H.R. guy.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jungkook said, a bit taken aback by his enthusiasm. When he pictured human resources, he normally imagined some dull wisp of a man that carries around a binder of company policy that hasn’t been updated since the nineties. He certainly didn’t picture relatively young guys that watch puppy videos on company time and keep a framed photo of the Gucci logo on their desk.

“Likewise,” Taehyung grinned. “I’m digging the tie, by the way. You’re a sharp dresser. The boss is really going to like that.”

Jungkook glanced down at his own tie, his lips twitching upward. It was a knockoff Armani from the discount rack at the local department store, but if it could score him some brownie points with his boss on the first day then that was even better. “Thanks,” he said. “Does the boss like fashion?”

“Something like that. Not a lot of alphas take so much care with their appearance,” Taehyung said with what looked like a knowing smile that only served to confuse Jungkook even more. He didn’t give Jungkook a chance to react to that, instead turning back to his desk and producing a manila folder of what appeared to be documents. “You’ve read the handbook and whatnot, right?”

He had, the night before, but there had been a lot of it to go through and he’d kind of figured it was like the Terms and Conditions page to every new app or service: really long, really boring, and really irrelevant to any casual user. He definitely skimmed it, at least.

“Yes,” he lied, accepting the folder and carefully pulling back the corner to peek at its contents.

“Great,” Taehyung said, clapping his hands together. “Then I’ll hand you off to Jimin, and he’ll brief you on everything you need to know.” He set off walking past the rows of cubicles and Jungkook followed behind closely, ignoring the watchful eyes of the other employees that couldn’t seem to stop staring.

“You call the boss by his first name?” Jungkook asked, feeling like he needed to keep his voice down, even though he could hear a few others in the office speaking at normal volumes.

“Yeah,” Taehyung said. “That’s more Namjoon’s thing, though. Our CEO. He believes in completely equal work environments.”

“So...you don’t use titles at all?” Jungkook gaped.

“Well…” Taehyung glanced at one cubicle in particular, where a broad-shouldered man was tapping away at his keyboard, his face partially obscured. “Not necessarily. A couple of the guys here insist on honorifics based on age, but as far as titles go, we’re all basically on the same level.”

Jungkook shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. “So, I should just call you ‘Taehyung,’ then?”

Taehyung grinned over his shoulder. “Knock yourself out. But I get to call you Kookie in exchange. Deal?”

“I— I guess,” Jungkook said. He started to wonder if all of this wasn’t just some fever dream he’d fallen into.

The office marked with “Park Jimin, Manager” on the door was at the far corner, blinds covering the glass walls to block the view inside and Jungkook had to wonder what exactly he was in for. Taehyung stopped in front of the door, knocking twice.

“Who is it?” called an oddly high voice from inside.

“It’s Taehyung. Your new assistant is here,” Taehyung replied, giving Jungkook a thumbs-up when Jimin’s voice called back to come inside.

Jungkook hesitated for half a second, unsure as to why he was so nervous. He normally was fairly confident in what he did, and hadn’t been shy around strangers since he was a teenager, but for some reason the prospect of meeting Jimin had his heart racing. It’s not a big deal, he reminded himself, opening the door. He’s just another alpha. Not a big deal at all.

When he stepped inside, the first thing he noticed after saying a nervous “Sorry to intrude,” was that Jimin’s office was decently sized, with a nice view of the city through the large window on the far wall. There was a fair amount of clutter on his desk, little knickknacks and oddly shaped office supplies, including a stapler that had a tiny cat figure glued to the top. So he’s a little eccentric, Jungkook thought, nothing wrong with that.

What did grab his attention, though, was the muted smell in the office. It was good, like someone had come through with freshly baked cookies and let them sit for a while, filling the office space with that sweet, warm scent. Jungkook tried to place what it was, and then it hit him.

It smelled like an omega had been in there, and for an omega’s scent to be lingering so heavily, they would have had to be inside for a long time.

Jungkook felt a pang of disappointment, even as he saw the bright smile on Jimin’s innocent looking face. He seemed like a nice guy, but maybe his first impression had been wrong after all, and Jimin was exactly the type of alpha that Jungkook had been worried about. What kind of power move was this? Marking up his office with an omega’s scent, like he had to remind everyone that he slams ass all the time or something? The scent was so strong, in fact, that Jungkook couldn’t even detect any pheromones that he usually smelled on other alphas. How gauche, he thought, taking a seat across from Jimin.

“You’re much taller than you seemed over our video call,” Jimin said, smiling pleasantly. His black hair was carefully styled out of his eyes, and his suit was perfectly tailored to his slim shoulders; maybe that’s what Taehyung had meant when he pointed out Jungkook’s fashion choices. He definitely seemed to take pride in his appearance.

“I get that a lot,” he replied, eyeing Jimin’s height. He was sitting down, so it was hard to tell, but he definitely looked tiny, especially for an alpha.

“Sorry,” Jimin said. “I always get annoyed when people bring up my height, but it must be the same for tall people, right?”

“Not really,” Jungkook lied. It did bother him a bit when people used his height to shove him under the same umbrella as all the other tall muscular alphas, but when Jimin said it, somehow it didn’t feel that way.

“Well, in any case, it’s nice to finally meet you in person.” Jimin’s smile just looked so genuine, it was hard to stay annoyed at him, even if he was one of those obnoxious alphas.

“Likewise,” Jungkook said, hating that his voice sounded so nervous. If there was one thing he knew about alphas, it was that one hint of weakness from another alpha was like an open invitation for ridicule.

Jimin didn’t seem to be judging him, or sizing him up, or really treating him like much of an alpha at all, really. He was just acting like a normal boss going through the standard hiring procedures, reiterating what the handbook had said and smiling warmly at him the entire time.

“So I printed off all of the paperwork you need to fill out and other forms to look over in this folder,” Jimin was explaining, “And whenever you finish going through them, just bring them back to me.”

Jimin reached across his desk to hand Jungkook the folder, and that’s when Jungkook saw the small band around his wrist when his sleeve was pushed back slightly. At first glance, to the unassuming eye, it could have been a thin watch, but Jungkook knew better. After all, it was one of the products sold by the company he’d just been hired at. It was a scent masker worn not by alphas, but by omegas.

Suddenly it all made sense. The muted scent in the room, Jimin’s small stature, and the reason that the other employees had been gossiping about Jungkook being an alpha hadn’t been because they were judging him for accepting a lower position than manager, it had been because he was an alpha hired by an omega.

“I— I, uh. Thank you,” Jungkook stuttered, the sudden realization making his brain short-circuit for a second, and he had to regain his footing. He took the folder and tried not to look directly at Jimin’s face, which had taken on a concerned expression.

“Are you alright?” he asked in that voice that could really only belong to an omega. Jungkook’s stomach flipped and he forced a grin.

“Yes! Yes, I’m fine, I’m sorry. I had something...caught in my throat,” he lied, faking a small cough for emphasis.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the meeting, all Jungkook could focus on was Jimin’s scent that smelled so deliciously of baked cookies, his plump pink lips, his slightly rosy cheeks, his delicate figure…

God. Jungkook had spent this entire time assuming that Jimin was the douchey stereotypical alpha, but now it was Jungkook himself who was sitting there unable to focus on anything other than the omega in front of him.

He became even more aware of that fact once Jimin stood and motioned toward the door, enthusiastically informing Jungkook that he was about to take him on a tour of the office. Jungkook tried to match his enthusiasm, but deep down he was dreading having to face his new coworkers, especially now that he knew the real reason why they were all gossiping about him.

Jungkook had known already that Kim Namjoon, the CEO of their company (one of the youngest to date, as he was famously known), was involved in countless activist groups and participated in many programs around the area designed to help omegas find stable jobs and receive equal pay, but he never expected his progressiveness to go so far as to hire in an omega as the branch manager. Jungkook had no problem with it, of course, having grown up thinking that the expectations placed on alphas and omegas was ridiculous and arbitrary, but the rest of the office might not share that same sentiment.

There were two other alphas in the office aside from himself: Kim Seokjin, a broad-shouldered man with a book titled “Top 1,000 Best Office Puns” on his desk, and a grouchy looking man named Sungchul, both of them in sales. The rest of the employees were betas, save for the omega receptionist, a young, pretty girl named Sooyoung with hair cropped to her shoulders and a bright green scent masker around her wrist that she didn’t bother hiding.

Jimin took him over to a desk across from Taehyung’s, where a man who was practically radiating cheerfulness was casually sitting in his chair, his lips turned up into a dazzling smile while he reassured some customer over the phone. His nameplate read “Jung Hoseok, Customer Service,” and once he hung up, he greeted Jungkook so warmly that for a second he forgot that he was at work and not at someone’s house party.

The desk beside Hoseok’s was taken by a man with thick-rimmed glasses and jet black hair that was typing away at an order form, but he turned and gave Jimin his full attention when he heard him approach. Jimin introduced him as Min Yoongi, the office administrator. Jungkook had almost expected him to be another alpha from the way he carried himself, but to his surprise, he ended up being a beta.

“I’ve got your ID badge queued up to print,” Yoongi told him. “Once you get it, you’ll officially be a new employee here.”

“I look forward to working with you,” Jungkook said formally, which made Yoongi laugh.

“Oh, I like this one,” he said. “Even with Namjoon’s hippie policy, he knows to respect his elders. You should take a page out of his book, Hoseok.”

“The day I call you ‘sunbaenim’ is the day I stop being Employee of the Month.”

“So, next month, then?” came Seokjin’s voice from behind them, startling Jungkook into jumping a bit. That didn’t go unnoticed by Yoongi, but thankfully he chose not to comment.

“You wish, Seokjin,” Hoseok said. “Just because you’re the top salesman doesn’t mean you’re the best employee. Half the complaints I have to deal with are about you.”

“Okay,” Jimin said, clearing his throat. “Let’s at least let Jungkook get settled in here first before we start freaking him out.”

“He’ll get used to us eventually,” Hoseok said with a wink.

“It’s okay,” Jungkook said. “It’s nice to meet you, and I look forward to working together.”

“Loosen up, kid,” Hoseok said as they began to walk away. “We don’t bite.”

Back in Jimin’s office, where his sweet scent was impossible to ignore, his scent masker sticking out like a sore thumb under his black sleeve every time he moved his arm, Jungkook began to feel uneasy.

An omega working as a manager was one thing, but an omega working as a manager and willingly hiring an alpha to be his personal assistant? Even though he was actively working to dispel any internalized prejudice he might have thanks to the society they lived in, the rumors that were circulating around the office had wormed their way into Jungkook’s head.

“He needed help with his heats,” one beta had whispered. “That’s why he hired an alpha. He’s a heat assistant.”

“What do you think so far?” Jimin asked. “I know some of the employees can be a bit much, but it really is a good environment to work in.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook said. “Yeah, it seems great. Thank you for showing me around.”

Jimin closed the door behind them and hesitated for a moment before strolling back to his desk.

“Sorry, this might be awkward,” Jimin began once they’d both taken a seat back at his desk, “but there’s something else I’ll need you to do that wasn’t exactly in the job description. I wanted to wait until you were a bit settled in before bringing it up.”

Jungkook blinked, his lips parting slightly. Jimin wasn’t going to… He couldn’t possibly…

“So, um,” Jimin coughed uncomfortably. “There’s really no point in hiding the fact that I’m an omega. You probably could tell right away, right?”

“I saw your masker,” Jungkook said, his voice sounding oddly thick from the lump in his throat.

“Right,” Jimin said, fiddling with his sleeve to cover the white band around his wrist. “It doesn’t really work that well, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“It’s our brand, though,” Jungkook said without thinking.

Jimin chuckled. “Yes. But I’m kind of an odd case out. Maskers have never worked well for me; this is the one that’s been able to stifle the scent the most. And as far as suppressants go, they don’t work on me. At all.”

“O-oh.” Jungkook nodded to show that he was listening, growing more nervous by the second about where this conversation was headed.

“So once a month, I have to take three days off work, for...you know. I’m hoping that you can work my schedule around that; just making sure that I don’t have any meetings or important calls on those days, and keeping an eye on the office while I’m gone.”

Jungkook nodded again, relief coursing through him, quickly followed by shame that the thought had even crossed his mind in the first place. “Of course,” he responded. “That’s no problem at all. I’d be happy to help.”

Jimin smiled at him. “Thank you for being so understanding. Not everyone around here shares that particular trait.”

The implication being, of course, that the other employees didn’t respect him, which Jungkook had witnessed firsthand during the little tour Jimin had taken him on around the office. A few of the employees had greeted him like they would anyone else, but a couple of the betas in sales and the alpha named Sungchul had regarded him with a scoff or annoyed glare.

It was something that Jungkook would have expected from a situation like this, where an omega was in a position of power, but it didn’t make it any less prejudiced or awful. Jimin was poised, professional, and seemed to have his wits about him; why should his status have to determine what path he took in life? Why should anyone treat him as though he were any less qualified to run an office just because he presented as an omega?

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jungkook said, and he meant it.

All his life he had been treated a certain way and expected to act a certain way because of his status as an alpha, but he couldn’t even imagine the pressure placed on Jimin for his status as an omega.

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Jimin replied, still smiling, still breezy, still acting as though this was just old hat to him, as though he was so used to this that it had just become something he already expected. “I’m just happy to have an open-minded individual joining our company family. I’m sure you’ll be a great fit.”

Jungkook gave him the warmest smile he could. “I hope so,” he said.

At lunch, Jungkook sat down at one of the empty tables in the break room and tried not to make eye contact with the other employees. It was an odd feeling, being their superior in terms of title but at the same time so intimidated by them. By all accounts, as both an alpha and as someone with a manager’s position, he should have been confident and outgoing and unafraid to interact with his subordinates.

Therein lied the problem, however. He never could quite wrap his head around the idea of anyone being his subordinate, be it another alpha, a beta, or even an omega.

“Hey, Boss Jr.” Taehyung took a seat beside him and nudged his shoulder. “You don’t have to sit so far away, you know. We don’t bite.”

“It’s okay,” Jungkook said. “I’m fine here.”

Taehyung was quiet for a second. “Look, I know some of the others made a bad impression on you with all their gossip, but I swear we’re not all like that.”

“It’s really okay, I—”

“Hey. I’m head of H.R.” Taehyung grinned. “It’s my job to make sure you’re comfortable in the workplace. I promise that if you ignore the rumors and the people gossiping, you’ll see that this is actually a really good company.”

“Hard to ignore when the rumors are about me,” Jungkook said.

Taehyung glanced over to where Sungchul was brewing coffee. “Don’t pay them any mind. The rest of us are normal.”

Jungkook looked at the table where Taehyung had been sitting before, the one closest to the door with Yoongi, Hoseok, and Seokjin sat around it. Of the other employees he’d met today, they had seemed to be the most laid back and inviting. Taehyung certainly wasn’t shy when it came to introducing himself, though Jungkook supposed that did come with his position.

“Alright,” Jungkook conceded, gathering his chopsticks and cup ramen and getting up to join Taehyung and the others.

“Hey there,” Hoseok said with a wave, his tie loose and his arm slung around Yoongi’s shoulders, who was gripping the cup of coffee in front of him as if for dear life. “Good of you to join us; we were just talking about how we’re interested to hear a bit more about Jimin’s new assistant.”

Jungkook flushed a bit, used to being the center of attention thanks to growing up in a neighborhood of betas as the only alpha but still somewhat shy under the spotlight. “There’s not much to say about me,” he said. “I’m pretty boring.”

“No way,” Seokjin said, one cheek bulging with the rice he’d just scarfed down. “You have that look to you. The I’ve got a deep dark character-defining secret look.”

That brought a laugh from Jungkook. “This isn’t a drama,” he said. “I’m just a twenty-four year old guy with a business degree who needed a job. I have a mom and dad back in Busan, and I like video games. That’s pretty much it.”

Seokjin blinked. “Wow, you are boring.”

“Thanks,” Jungkook chuckled.

“Don’t worry, you’ve got work friends now,” Hoseok chimed in, in what Jungkook assumed he probably thought was a reassuring tone. “We’ll make sure you aren’t wasting your life away just working and sleeping.”

“Hey, come on,” Yoongi said, pushing Hoseok’s arm from off his shoulder. “You’re all freaking him out.”

“No, it’s okay,” Jungkook said, and he meant it. None of this was what he was expecting from his new job, but if this first day was anything to go by, at the very least it wouldn’t be boring.

He glanced over to where Jimin’s office was nestled, thinking again of the faint scent of freshly baked cookies.