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Gusto d'Italia

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“Good morning!” Seokjin greeted his staff members at the door. “Yes, good morning. Good to see you. Right, come on in. Have a seat.”

 

Jungkook reclined in the wooden chair he’d pulled out from a nearby table, bouncing his knee up and down anxiously. The entire staff at Gusto d’Italia filed into the large serving room, eyeing one another with curiosity. It wasn’t unusual for Seokjin, the young owner of the Italian restaurant, to hold regular meetings with his staff every few weeks. This time, however, the vibe in the air was quite different.

 

“I think… we’re all here,” Seokjin murmured as he scanned the room. After confirming his suspicion, he finally smiled and nodded at the group in a signal to begin their meeting. “As many of you know, we have had some staff overturn this week.”

 

Jungkook was relatively sure he heard Taehyung snort behind him at the delicate way his older brother had approached the subject. It was no surprise to anyone in that room that Seokjin and their executive chef didn’t get along. When Seokjin had purchased this restaurant the year prior, he’d made the decision to keep on the full staff. While this had been an easy transition for some – namely those who were relatively new to the staff and willing to make changes – others that had been here longer and were used to the “old ways” that the business had been run were unable to refrain from trying to tell Seokjin how to do his job. In a fit of rage over something fairly inconsequential, the head chef had yelled at Seokjin for the final time in the middle of the dinner rush and had been promptly fired on the spot, leaving Seokjin to fill in at the stove for the remainder of the evening and Namjoon, the restaurant manager, to apologize to any customers that had witnessed the incredibly unprofessional scene.

 

For several days, Seokjin had been holed up in his office during the off hours to interview new candidates for the position, including their resident sous chef. It had been assumed for the last week that their sous chef would simply take over the role as head chef.

 

But as Jungkook glanced across the room with a sinking feeling at the sous chef’s solemn expression, he was almost positive that this wasn’t the case.

 

Jimin leaned over to whisper to Taehyung and Jungkook, echoing Jungkook’s unspoken thoughts. “So, apparently Minjoon isn’t getting that promotion he kept telling us he had in the bag?” He raised his eyebrows at Taehyung, as if trying to express his true opinion on the matter without stating it aloud.

 

“Initially, I purchased Gusto d’Italia when the original owners were struggling to make ends meet,” Seokjin told the room. “There have certainly been improvements made across the board and we have continued to steadily increase sales – and that’s entirely due to the hard work each and every one of you put in to your jobs since I’ve arrived.” Seokjin gave the room an award-winning smile in the hopes of providing the staff a gentle morale-boost after the bizarre week. “However,” he continued with a serious air of concern, “if we simply continue to do things the same way that we’ve always done them, all we’ll ever see is a slight increase in sales across the board.”

 

Jungkook’s leg stopped shaking and he leaned forward with interest. Suddenly, he was interested in the direction Seokjin was taking his announcement.

 

“I’ve decided that we need to inject more life into this establishment.” Seokjin spoke passionately from the heart. “For far too long, we’ve all been stuck in a rut. This restaurant is still operating the same way that it did when it first opened three decades ago under old management, but I believe that it’s time to move us into the twenty-first century and revitalize this restaurant into the successful business we all know it can be.”

 

Seokjin scanned the room with a kind smile, despite radiating strength and leadership in every look.

 

“Over the course of the next few months, you will start to see some significant changes in our restaurant. By far, one of the most noticeable changes comes in the form of our menu.” Seokjin lifted his gaze to the back of the room, gesturing to a man who was wearing a white, chef’s uniform with a towel flipped over his shoulder, slumped against the wall next to the kitchen. “After interviewing a number of highly qualified candidates, I’ve decided to bring in an outside hire onto our team. Please give a warm welcome to our new executive chef who will help us implement these changes – Min Yoongi.”

 

Yoongi slowly pushed off of the wall, glancing around the room with a stoic expression while the rest of the staff politely applauded the announcement. The sous chef that had been overlooked for the position sulked sourly in the corner, glaring daggers at the outsider.

 

“Anything you would like to say to the staff?” Seokjin asked him when the applause died down. For a moment, Yoongi seemed genuinely surprised by the question before ultimately pushing himself off of the wall in order to put his hands behind his back in a commanding pose.


“Uh, yeah. So – ” Yoongi shrugged “ – I’m Min Yoongi. Don’t call me Yoongi-ssi. Don’t call me hyung. You can call me chef.” He cocked his head to the side in a bored pose as he continued to speak. “I’m good at what I do, and I know what tastes good.” He looked back at Seokjin. “That’s all.”

 

Jimin started giggling at the bizarre speech. He immediately stuffed a hand into his mouth to mask the sound and hid his face behind Taehyung’s shoulder until he was able to get himself under control. Taehyung, it seemed, was just as amused. “‘I know what tastes good’,” Taehyung mimicked in a low voice. “Do you think that’s what he said to Seokjin in his interview to get the job?”

 

Seokjin nodded slowly at Yoongi’s strange demeanor. “Um… ok. Thank you.” He turned back to the large group, about to continue, before Yoongi interjected once more.

 

“Also,” he continued in a flat voice, “I need to see all of the wait staff and kitchen staff in my kitchen immediately after this meeting.” He arched a challenging eyebrow at them. “Don’t be late.”

 

Jungkook stared at the man, struck by his demanding nature.

 

“Right,” Seokjin swiftly cut him off. “You see? Change.” He smiled, this time appearing slightly more forced than it had been before the meeting. “I can already tell that we’re moving in the right direction.”

 

Jungkook eyed the rest of the room, noticing the similar level of unrest as various employees turned to their neighbor and began whispering, much like Jimin and Taehyung had done. Even Namjoon, the professional and hard-working manager, turned to his friend, Hoseok, and raised both of his eyebrows in silent communication.

 

“I suppose I’ll let you get to it, then,” Seokjin dismissed them with a clap of his hands. “Good luck, everyone. I hope tonight is a great success!”

 

As the room immediately stood and began shuffling about – a number of them headed towards the kitchen per Yoongi’s instructions – Jungkook quickly left Taehyung and Jimin behind to make his way across the crowded area in order to get to Seokjin.

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook called out to get his attention before he could leave. “Hyung, could I talk to you for a minute?”

 

Seokjin looked over his shoulder at Jungkook with a kind expression. “You’re not supposed to call me ‘hyung’ at work, Jungkook,” Seokjin gently reminded him as he turned around to face him. “I know you grew up next door, but we have to separate our work and personal life, remember?”

 

Jungkook nodded hastily. He’d lived next door to the Kim family since he was seven. He’d immediately been swept up by the whirlwind that was Taehyung, and the two of them had subsequently gained Seokjin as a babysitter whenever their parents were out for the evening. As such, it was still difficult to address Seokjin as his boss rather than as a friend.

 

“Sajangnim,” Jungkook hastily corrected himself. “I just… wanted to see if you put anymore thought into that idea I mentioned before.” He smiled timidly. “You know, about me…” He swallowed nervously. “Working in the kitchen?”

 

Seokjin tipped his head to the side in a show of apology before patting Jungkook on the shoulder. “Yes, I thought about it,” he confirmed with a nod. “Unfortunately, Jungkook, it just doesn’t make sense at this point. Minjoon is still our sous chef, so we don’t need to hire anyone new in the kitchen, I’m afraid.”

 

Jungkook refused to back down. “Right, but – what about prepping food?” Jungkook suggested. “I know that having someone to prep the meats and vegetables in the morning could streamline the process, right? Plus,” he added excitedly, “it’s not anything you specifically need to have a background to be able to do, so… I could do it.”

 

Another sympathetic smile.

 

“Jungkook, I appreciate your enthusiasm. I really do – but right now, the place where I need you the most is right where you’re at on the serving floor. Besides,” he added with a secretive smirk, “the money is far better with tips as a waiter than working as a low man on the totem pole back in the kitchen.”

 

Jungkook wanted to tell him that he already knew that. He wanted to say that it didn’t matter to him when becoming a chef was his long-term goal. He wanted to say that any experience in the kitchen would be far more valuable than anything he could get on the floor.

 

But he couldn’t find it in himself to say a word. Not when Seokjin had been kind enough to get him this job in the first place.

 

“Of course, hyung.” Before Seokjin could correct him once again, Jungkook shook his head. “I mean – sajangnim. Sorry.”

 

Seokjin grinned and nodded back at the kitchen. “You better get back there for your meeting with the new chef.”

 

Jungkook obediently bowed his head at Seokjin’s words and turned towards the kitchen.

 

And walked straight into the icy glare of Min Yoongi.

 

“Are you always this late?”

 

Jungkook tried to bite his tongue. “I was talking to – ”

 

“I don’t care who you were talking to,” Yoongi snapped. He had both arms crossed firmly over his chest as he continued to berate Jungkook in front of the rest of the staff. “How am I supposed to trust you to get my food out on time if you can’t follow a simple direction that I gave less than five minutes ago?”

 

Jungkook stared at his feet. “It won’t happen again, chef.”

 

He felt a hand graze his back, patting him gently on the shoulder. He instantly recognized Taehyung’s calming touch.

 

“Better fucking not,” Yoongi delivered his final remark before turning back to the others crowding the kitchen. “As I was saying,” he continued, “our menu will look relatively similar to the old one with just a few minor changes.” He handed a stack of papers to the girl on the end which she, then, promptly began passing down the line. “Study and memorize the menu. I took off at least half a dozen items. Our goal, here, is to run an efficient and cost-effective kitchen that can spend more of our time making every meal great rather than spreading ourselves too thin and becoming simply mediocre.”

 

Jungkook received the last menu, looking it over. It didn’t seem too hard to memorize. It still contained many of the classic Italian favorites that had been staples on their menu for years.

 

“For the next few weeks, my job is to learn which meals are working and which ones aren’t so we can gradually design a menu that the customer wants.” He abruptly unfolded his arms and pointed his fingers at the staff. “Your job is to get me feedback. It’s not going to hurt my fucking feelings if someone tells me they don’t like their meal, so you need to tell me everything – got it? Otherwise, there’s no possible way that we’re going to get better.”

 

To his own surprise, Jungkook nodded in understanding. Min Yoongi was clearly an ass, but he obviously appeared to have the restaurant savvy needed to succeed in this business.

 

It finally made sense why Seokjin hired him.

 

“You’ll notice that I’ve added a chef’s special to the menu,” Yoongi continued. “Every night, I’ll be experimenting with something different to see if there’s something out there that our customers positively respond to. Over time, we can pair down our menu to hold only the best and increase business. Until then – ” Yoongi began picking up various dishes that he’d been keeping on a counter behind him and set them out in front of the wait staff “ – time for you to try your new food. Same names as before – but different recipes,” he explained as he set out a pile of forks. “I need you to be able communicate effectively with your customers if they ask for recommendations or a description of what they’re getting, so – ” he gestured at the dishes “ – dig in.”

 

“Shit,” Taehyung muttered as he and Jungkook moved through the line and tasted each meal. “He’s the real deal, isn’t he?”

 

Jungkook nodded, licking his fork clean after every bite. “He can’t be that old, though, right? He’s got to be, maybe… three years older than me? Four max?”

 

Taehyung got through the end of the line after taking a small bite of each dish and tossed his fork into the sink filled with soapy water. “But he’s the most socially awkward person I’ve ever met, though.”

 

Jungkook snickered. “No arguments here.”

 

*

 

Their first evening went about as well as it could have gone with a new chef and a new menu. Truthfully, most of those hiccups occurred with the wait staff as they simply struggled to wrap their heads around what was and wasn’t available any longer. On the other hand, each and every time Jungkook stepped into the kitchen, Yoongi was moving around at such an incredible speed and plating one dish after the other without delay that he couldn’t help but be in awe of the new chef.

 

The kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine. Jungkook had expected the regular shouting and barking of orders that he’d always heard from the old chef. It wouldn’t have been a surprise, especially given the change in menu and the surly demeanor of the new chef. Instead, he was met with Yoongi’s gentle reminders to his sous chef on how to perfect his recipes and regular words of encouragement to keep their morale up.

 

And despite the poor first impression he and Min Yoongi had of one another, Jungkook couldn’t help but to imagine what it would be like to work with the talented chef.

 

For years, Jungkook had worked odd jobs at various restaurants in an attempt to earn enough money to put himself through culinary school. In the end, Jungkook was still stuck in his parents’ home, but he was slowly beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Culinary school had always been his dream, but Jungkook was getting closer each and every day to believing that it might not be a pipe dream for much longer. He was exhausted working every waking hour of his day, but his dream was so close he could practically taste it.

 

But to have such a dream and then witness just how lucky the kitchen staff was to be able to work with such a talented new chef – it made Jungkook want it that much more.

 

“Not a bad night for tips,” Taehyung murmured with a proud grin as the last of their customers left the building. “I got a table of nine tonight.”

 

“Cool,” Jungkook mumbled. He didn’t have to ask how well Taehyung had done. He always got great tips, just like Hoseok. Both of them were incredibly personable and always seemed to light up the room the moment they entered it. While Jungkook wasn’t a bad waiter per se, he just simply had a more difficult time building an instant connection with his customers. He could smile all night long, but it would never have the same effect that Taehyung and Hoseok had on their patrons.

 

“Should we ask Jimin how he did at the bar?” Taehyung asked.

 

Jungkook thumped him on the shoulder. His crush on Jimin was perhaps one of the most poorly kept secrets in the restaurant. “You know, I really think you should go over and do that yourself, don’t you?”

 

Taehyung nodded, unaware of Jungkook’s motives. “Yeah, alright.” He quickly unloaded the dirty dishes in his hands on Jungkook and smirked. “Why don’t you take these back since you’re on your way?”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes, but did as he was told.

 

A few other waiters were milling about in the kitchen, bringing in the remaining dishes to load into their industrial dishwasher. Yoongi was still around, to Jungkook’s surprise. Most nights, the chefs were already long gone after their last table was served. Instead of vanishing, Yoongi was busy cleaning down every nook and cranny of his workspace and, it seemed, had also forced his sous chef to join him in the process.

 

“Wow,” Jungkook murmured as he passed by. “It looks really clean in here, chef.”

 

Minjoon was not amused by the comment. He looked up from the floor he’d been mopping with a cold stare. “Fuck off, Jungkook.”

 

Yoongi, it seemed, shared the same glare, though his seemed to be because he thought Jungkook was being sarcastic.

 

“No, I – I mean it,” Jungkook muttered. He looked to Yoongi, hoping that he hadn’t offended him for the second time that evening. “The last chef – he never really cleaned up after himself. Personally,” Jungkook continued, “I think it means you take pride in your work, you know? You want to have a clean and organized workspace.” He nodded enthusiastically. “I get it.”

 

Yoongi looked at him for a split second longer before he turned back to the stovetop and continued scrubbing away.

 

Jungkook took his cue, deciding to simply mind his own business from here on out. He quietly loaded his dishes and closed the lid to start a wash cycle, but nearly jumped when he suddenly heard Yoongi addressing him.

 

“Jungkook, right?”

 

Jungkook spun around with wide eyes. “Yes. Jeon Jungkook.”

 

Yoongi didn’t waste time acknowledging his full name. “How did everyone like their food tonight?” he asked. “Any complaints?”

 

“Oh – well, not really.” Jungkook tilted his head as he thought through the conversations he had over the course of the evening. “Everyone thought it was great. There was just this one lady who said there was too much oregano in your lasagna.” Jungkook shrugged as if he thought her opinion was wrong. “I mean – she ate the whole plate, so it’s not like she still didn’t love it, so… it was probably just a personal preference, I think.”

 

Yoongi nodded at the comment. “Still,” he replied. “Keep your ear to the ground. Let me know what else you’re hearing.”

 

Jungkook nodded eagerly. “Sure, of course.” He paused for a moment, watching as Yoongi returned to his stovetop. Their conversation appeared to have stopped just as abruptly as it had begun, which bothered Jungkook. He steeled his nerves and tried to continue speaking to the chef. “Actually, um… earlier when I tried it, I thought your lasagna tasted incredible.” Yoongi only nodded at him in acceptance of his compliment. “Maybe – someday – you could show me how you make it?”

 

Yoongi glanced up at Jungkook.

 

And laughed.

 

“Yeah, sure, kid,” he chuckled, and immediately resumed cleaning.

 

*

 

“Good evening,” Jungkook greeted his new table of customers with a pleasant smile. “My name is Jungkook and I’ll be your waiter tonight. Our chef’s special this evening is a lemon-herb risotto with seared scallops. Absolutely fantastic, if I do say so myself,” Jungkook enthused with a reassuring nod – and he meant it, too. Their new chef had been creating countless specials for the past two weeks, and this one had been one of his favorites by far. “Are there any drinks I can get for you?”

 

The older couple remained quiet throughout Jungkook’s standard spiel. “Water,” the woman demanded after he had finished. “No ice. No lemon.”

 

Jungkook kept his face in check at her curt demeanor. “Of course. And for you, sir?”

 

“A water as well,” the man replied. He pulled down his menu to glance at Jungkook over the top with a tiny smirk. “But you can bring on the ice and the lemon.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the man’s sense of humor before nodding at the both of them. “Excellent. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

 

Jungkook hurried to the bar along the far wall and stepped behind it to grab two glasses.

 

“Kookie!” Jimin handed over a mixed drink that someone had asked for down on the end of the bar before practically skipping to the opposite side to see Jungkook. “Taehyung invited me out for drinks tonight after work.” He nudged Jungkook’s arm with his elbow. “You in?”

 

Jungkook frowned at the words Jimin had used. It sounded suspiciously like Taehyung had asked Jimin out on a date… and Jimin had no idea what he’d agreed to. “Hyung, that doesn’t exactly sound like Taehyung invited me for drinks…”

 

Jimin rolled his eyes. “Of course he did,” he assured him. “The more the merrier!”

 

Jungkook smiled at the invite from the bartender, but shook his head. “Not tonight. I work in the morning.”

 

Jimin’s shoulders slumped dramatically in disappointment. “That’s what you always say.”

 

Jungkook snorted as he reached for the soda gun, set it to the water setting, and filled both glasses for his table. “That’s because it’s true, hyung.”

 

“Well – when are we supposed to hang out?” Jimin complained. “You work at the restaurant every night until eleven. In the morning, you get up at four just so you can open up the gym at five and man the front desk. Do you ever take a day off?”

 

His employment at the nearby gym had been a recent addition to his busy schedule. Jungkook had spent the better part of last year searching for more than one source of income to go towards his tuition for culinary school. Finding a job at the gym had turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he could get in an additional eight hours of work before he was even needed at the restaurant in the evening. It certainly put a drag on his social life for the last month, considering that any time he spent outside of work he was busy trying to catch up on sleep. It was starting to finally take a toll on his friends, as well.

 

“Look,” Jungkook murmured as he placed a slice of lemon on the rim of one of his glasses. “It won’t be for long, alright? I just need to make enough money to be able to enroll in school and then… I don’t know, maybe I won’t have to work two jobs,” Jungkook mused with a tiny smile of his own. It might have been too much to hope for, but he still wished that what he was saying was true. “Why don’t you just hang out with Taehyung tonight?” Jungkook proposed in an effort to act as Taehyung’s wingman without his knowledge. “I doubt he would care that I’m not there.”

 

Jimin sighed, placing both hands on the counter as he surveyed the room. “Yeah, I guess. Oh – or maybe I could ask Hoseok to join us for drinks!”

 

Jungkook frowned at the idea. “Hoseok’s great,” he muttered. “But, um… Seriously, Taehyung wouldn’t mind if it was just the two of you.” Jungkook wasn’t sure how else to get the message across to Jimin without being too obvious. “You know, alone.”

 

Jimin, however, still seemed to be completely oblivious to Taehyung’s crush on him, as well as to the not-so-subtle hints Jungkook was trying to drop. “Taehyung loves Hoseok,” Jimin assured him, mistaking Jungkook’s words for concern. “Maybe I’ll even invite Taehyung’s brother, too. It can’t be easy for Seokjin, right? You know – being the owner and feeling like you have no friends at work since everyone’s your subordinate.”

 

Taehyung appeared from nowhere, returning to the bar with a drink order of his own and grinned at Jimin. “Hey,” he greeted both of them with a small head nod. “What’s up?”

 

Jungkook quickly picked up both of his glasses and swiftly vacated the premise before Jimin could surprise Taehyung with the “good” news that their quasi-date was about to be crashed by two more people.

 

*

 

“This is a typo, right?”

 

Jungkook had been on his way out of the kitchen when he stopped in his tracks and turned back. “Sorry?”

 

“This ticket,” Yoongi said, holding up the receipt for the order that Jungkook had placed earlier. “You have a customer that wants spaghetti and meatballs, but I’m supposed to hold the meatballs and add chicken. Then they want their chicken without any seasoning?” Yoongi slapped the paper on the counter and slid it over to Jungkook to inspect. “With the marinara on the fucking side?

 

Jungkook held his hands up in defense. “It’s not a mistake,” he protested. “That’s exactly what she wants.”

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Yoongi growled, throwing a chicken breast into a skillet. “Some people are fucking morons who wouldn’t know good food if it hit them in the face.”

 

“It’s not your job to critique someone’s order,” the sous chef interrupted with a tired grunt, shaking around a skillet to prevent the food from sticking to the bottom of the pan. “Just make their fucking food liked they asked and get it out of the kitchen.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes at Minjoon’s comment and turned back to Yoongi with a fond smile, having felt the same way about her ridiculous order; it felt good to be vindicated by the head chef. “She complained that the last time she got the chicken here, it was too salty. And the time before that, she said her pasta was drowned in sauce.”

 

“Idiot,” Yoongi grumbled. He flipped over various other meats on the grill before turning back to Jungkook and pointing at him with the set of tongs he’d been using. “She’s going to hate her food,” Yoongi predicted as he waved his cooking utensil around in front of Jungkook’s face. It was amusing seeing how worked up Yoongi got over his own dishes. The skull-and-crossbones bandana he’d wrapped around his head as a cover for his hair gave off the image of a tough guy, but his fiery rant about the quality of his food and his small stature in comparison to Jungkook’s only made the waiter want to laugh. “She’s going to come back and tell you that everything she ordered is bland because there are no fucking seasonings on it. Did you tell her that her food is going to be bland?”

 

“I can’t tell her the food’s going to be bad with the way that she ordered it!” Jungkook countered nervously. Was that what Yoongi expected him to do? Argue with his customers?

 

“I know,” Yoongi hissed, surprising Jungkook. Clearly he knew that Jungkook couldn’t cross that line, but it didn’t change the fact that Yoongi still felt the urge to prove his point with the customers. “Whatever. You know what? There.” Yoongi finished grilling the plain chicken breast, plating it on top of a bowl of noodles along with a small cup of marinara sauce on the side. “Take that to her, have her shove it down her gullet, and tell her to enjoy her fucking food.”

 

Jungkook carefully checked his amused grin at the exit to the kitchen before he brought the meal over and set it down on the couple’s table. They nodded appreciatively at him and dug into their food. Jungkook stopped by three more tables to take care of refills while simultaneously checking on the couple from across the room as he moved. The man clearly enjoyed his meal, devouring the entire plate. The woman, similarly, had eaten a substantial amount of her food. But then, just as Jungkook finished taking an order for a table of five, he noticed that the woman in question was extending a hand up into the air and had begun snapping her fingers.

 

Snapping.

 

She was fucking snapping at him.

 

Jungkook carefully bit his tongue and walked calmly to the table. “How is everything?” he asked politely.

 

The woman, sitting with her legs crossed and hands folded in her lap, arched an eyebrow at Jungkook. “This chicken is far too bland,” she complained, just as both he and Yoongi had suspected that she would. She gestured to the meat, the majority of which she had already consumed, as she said, “It just… tasted like plain chicken.”

 

Jungkook glanced over at her husband, as if seeking out reinforcement from him at her ignorant comment, but he simply rolled his eyes at his wife and stared out the window. Obviously this wasn’t the first time he’d seen her throw a fit in a restaurant. “I’m sorry,” Jungkook apologized quietly. “But… you asked for the chicken without any seasoning.”

 

“And this pasta,” she continued, refusing to be corrected. “I asked for sauce on the side, and this is all that you brought out?”

 

Jungkook wanted to tell her that it was exactly what she ordered. He wanted to tell her that she could have asked for more sauce if that was what she wanted! Instead, he calmly pasted a smile on his face and bowed his head. “I’ll let the chef know,” he responded politely. Then, he immediately left the table before he could lose control of his emotions.

 

Jungkook walked swiftly to the kitchen, throwing the doors open and hurrying to the grill. “Chef,” he called out. He had to raise his voice to be heard over the various humming instruments in the back. “Guess what.”

 

Hoseok, who had been loading several plates in a miraculous balancing act on his tray, looked over at Jungkook with interest. “What?” he asked, but it was Yoongi that Jungkook was watching.

 

Yoongi turned around from his work station and tilted his head in question.

 

Jungkook lifted both eyebrows in answer.

 

Yoongi’s eyes narrowed.

 

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

 

“Not even a little bit,” Jungkook replied with an angry bite in his tone. He leaned forward over the counter to get his point across while waving a hand at the door. “She just yelled at me because she ate bland chicken without enough sauce.”

 

Yoongi immediately moved the skillet he’d been using over to a burner that was set on a lower level of heat, wiped his hands off on the towel at his waist, and threw the towel onto the counter before walking around his work station and towards the serving area.

 

But it wasn’t until Yoongi threw open the doors to the dining area that Jungkook realized just what he had done.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Chef – you really shouldn’t do this.”

 

Jungkook attempted to intervene the moment he realized what was about to happen. He had seen just how angry Yoongi could get when he was worked up – especially when it was concerning his food – and he knew that it would be bad for business if the customers were on the receiving end of his rage.

 

“Just – let me handle it, ok?” Jungkook pleaded. “That’s what servers are supposed to do.”

 

Yoongi yanked the skull-and-crossbones bandana covering his hair off of his head and stuffed it into his pocket. “Where is she?” Yoongi spit out as his eyes scoured the room through the small kitchen window. Immediately, his gaze fell on the table with the peculiar dish he’d sent out several minutes ago and his eyes narrowed. “Never mind.”

 

“Chef, stop,” Jungkook hissed. He wasn’t quite sure whether or not he should try to grab Yoongi’s arm and drag him back to the kitchen. Would he even let Jungkook take his arm when he was this fixated on talking to the rude customer? Unable to make a decision, Jungkook trailed close behind, whispering his frantic pleas to the chef. “Please – you’re going to make it worse, chef.”

 

But Yoongi had already approached the table – and then Jungkook witnessed the most miraculous thing.

 

“Good evening,” Yoongi greeted the couple with a deep bow. “I understand that you didn’t enjoy your dish this evening?”

 

The woman was somewhat taken aback by Yoongi’s startling presence, dressed from top to bottom in his white uniform. “Ah – yes,” she confirmed once she recognized that she was speaking to the chef. “My food was bland and quite simply unappetizing.”

 

Yoongi nodded in a sympathetic manner, before asking, “Did we make a mistake with your order? We were told that you had specifically requested chicken without any seasoning. Was that incorrect?”

 

“No, I did,” she confirmed with a small nod. “The last time I was here, there was so much salt on my meal that I could hardly finish it. I assumed this would have corrected the mistake, but clearly it didn’t.”

 

Jungkook could feel his own blood boiling at the way that this woman was speaking to Yoongi. He wanted to intervene on his behalf, but Yoongi responded just as eloquently as he had begun.

 

“Ah! I think I know what the problem is,” he stated, as if he’d only just come up with a solution at the opportune moment. “I’m the new executive chef at Gusto d’Italia. Many of our recipes have changed in the last few weeks due to a flavoring issue with the old chef. I assure you,” Yoongi said with a hand over his heart, “that I am the same way as you, ma’am. I hate when there’s too much salt on a meal.”

 

The woman’s eyes lit up at the understanding she was getting from the chef. “Exactly,” she agreed with an enthusiastic nod.

 

“I think there was simply some miscommunication because you were used to the old menu,” Yoongi explained away the problem with a kind smile. “Why don’t the two of you join us again later this week,” he suggested. “Find this fine, young gentleman, here – ” Yoongi reached out to thump Jungkook on the back “ – and both of us will personally take care of your next meal. I’ll make a brand new dish that I think you will find exquisite.”

 

The woman suddenly looked impressed by the offer of a meal cooked personally by the executive chef.

 

“If you’re still unsatisfied with the new dish, then your meal is on the house,” Yoongi promised with a charming smile. “What do you say?”

 

The woman smiled smugly, feeling as if she were the most important person in the room. “I suppose we could make one more trip out.”

 

Yoongi grinned. “Fantastic,” he said. “I certainly understand how difficult it can be to find food that can fit such a sophisticated palate as yours, so I am sure you will be more than pleased.”

 

And then he winked.

 

The woman giggled flirtatiously before looking back to her husband. “Finally,” she told him, “a chef who understands me.”

 

The man hardly cared about whether or not Yoongi understood his wife. He seemed more pleased by the fact that their evening had ended in laughter rather than in a shouting match with the establishment. “We’ll absolutely be back,” he assured Yoongi as he reached out to shake his hand. “Thank you, chef.”

 

Yoongi’s award-winning smile never faltered. “Of course. It’s not a problem.” He bowed once more at them as he stepped away. “Have a lovely evening.”

 

Jungkook watched in amazement as Yoongi turned his back on the couple, dropped his smile, and immediately headed back to the kitchen.

 

“Um – I’ll, uh…” Jungkook stepped forward in Yoongi’s absence. “I’ll get you the check, then?”

 

The remainder of the evening went smoothly. Jungkook moved around in a bit of a daze as he tried to process the phenomenal scene he’d witnessed.

 

He was pretty sure that Min Yoongi was his new idol.

 

It wasn’t until Namjoon finally closed the door and locked it behind the last customer that Jungkook had the chance to talk to Yoongi about what had happened. He bided his time, silently loading the dishwasher in the corner while Yoongi and Minjoon cleaned their space. The moment Minjoon deemed his area complete, he bolted for the exit while Yoongi quietly swore under his breath and slid over to finish cleaning the spots that Minjoon had ignored.

 

Jungkook picked up a clean rag and seized his chance.

 

“Chef.” Jungkook sidled up next to Yoongi and began to assist him. “Earlier today, what you said to that customer – I thought that was incredible.”

 

He caught Yoongi’s small nod out of the corner of his eye.

 

“I mean – that lady was actually crazy,” Jungkook continued with a chuckle. “I think you managed to put her in a better mood than she was when she got here.”

 

Yoongi moved around, scrubbing underneath each and every shelf with a level of precision that Minjoon lacked. Jungkook was convinced that Yoongi wouldn’t say anything more to him, so he quickly finished helping him clean and moved to the large dirty laundry bin to toss the old rag in. But then, to his surprise, Yoongi turned back around, leaned against the nearest countertop, and shrugged at Jungkook. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Yeah, but – she was the one that made the mistake, not you.”

 

Yoongi gave him a cocky shrug. “That’s almost always the case.”

 

“Also,” Jungkook tagged on, “are you even allowed to offer anyone a meal on the house? You only just started working here a few weeks ago.”

 

Yoongi seemed unconcerned by this detail. “If they come back and don’t like their food, Seokjin can take the cost out of my pocket.” Then he cocked his head at Jungkook. “But that’s only if she doesn’t like her food. She will. Trust me.”

 

“Still,” Jungkook continued with a grin spread wide across his face. “You were a rock star out there.”

 

Finally, Yoongi gave him a genuine smile.

 

“Thank you.”

 

*

 

“Alright, folks, we’re looking at about two days closed,” Seokjin told his staff at their next meeting. “Everyone has the evening off tonight, but tomorrow, I expect all of you to arrive at your usual time. We’re going to need some help with the remodel.”

 

Jungkook couldn’t decide whether Seokjin’s news was good or bad. He wanted the day off – but the rational side of him still wanted to get paid. At least this way, he might actually be able to catch up on some lost sleep.

 

“We have several workers coming in today to work around the clock to remove our carpet and furnish the wood flooring beneath it. You may have already noticed,” he added dryly as he gestured to various construction tools and milling workers at the back of the room. “We’re attempting to upgrade to a slightly more upscale restaurant. Serving staff, tomorrow we will be getting in some new tables and chairs as well as several centerpieces. Your job is to help construct everything and then do a deep clean of our serving room. Kitchen staff, you’re doing a full stock cleaning. Go through everything in the refrigerator – keep it all fresh. We don’t need to be finding anything in the back that’s even remotely old.”

 

Jungkook glanced at Yoongi across the room where he was nodding at the direction. With Yoongi’s regular cleaning habits in the kitchen, Jungkook wondered if there was truly all that much to find in the back that needed to get thrown in the first place.

 

“Until then, enjoy your evening off!”

 

Jungkook glanced over at Taehyung and smiled. “Sweet,” he said. “A night off.”

 

“Seokjin already told me we would be getting the night off,” Taehyung murmured conspiratorially to Jungkook. “I reserved a table at this place downtown for Jimin and me to have dinner after this meeting.”

 

“Seriously?” Jungkook glanced across the room at Jimin where he was busy chatting animatedly with Hoseok and Namjoon. “Did you finally ask him out?”

 

“Not exactly,” Taehyung hemmed. “I just told him we would have the evening off so we should hang out. I can never catch him alone,” he lamented. “I want just one night with the two of us, right? Then maybe I’ll finally work up the guts to say something.”

 

Before Jungkook could reply, Jimin came bounding up to them. “Kookie!” he cried out excitedly. “Are you joining us for dinner tonight?”

 

Jungkook didn’t need to see Taehyung’s laser-like glare to know what his answer should be. “Oh – no, sorry,” he apologized. “I’m really tired. I should catch up on sleep.”

 

“The one time you don’t have to work!” Jimin argued with him. “Come on, you have to come! When else are we going to see you if you never have a day off work?” Jungkook was prepared to refuse the offer once again when Jimin added, “Namjoon and Hoseok are coming, too! It’s going to be tons of fun!”

 

Taehyung turned to Jimin in surprise. “They are?”

 

“Yeah, I just invited them,” Jimin replied with an oblivious smirk. He looked back at Jungkook. “What do you say?”

 

Taehyung rolled his eyes and slowly shook his head in disappointment.

 

“Uh – ok, sure,” Jungkook finally agreed. At the very least, maybe he could comfort Taehyung since his plan for the night was going to shit. “Yeah, I’ll come for a bit.”

 

“Great,” Taehyung replied in a monotone voice. He feigned a smile as Jimin glanced over at him. “Glad you can make it.”

 

Jimin continued to talk animatedly, gradually leading the small group towards the door as he spoke about the different restaurants on the other end of town that they might want to try. Once Namjoon and Hoseok had joined their party and they were about to head out the door, Jungkook caught sight of Yoongi standing along the wall as the others mingled.

 

Jungkook studied his silent, stoic form before he ultimately decided to step towards him with a nervous smile.

 

“Hey, chef,” he greeted Yoongi. “Some of us were going out to get something to eat.” Jungkook shrugged nervously and stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Do you want to come with us? I mean – if you have nothing else you’re supposed to be doing.”

 

Yoongi was surprised by the invitation, though he tried not to show it. He glanced through the window at the noisy group that was milling about outside the restaurant and then back at Jungkook. “Uh – better not,” he finally said. “I think I’m going to get a head start on cleaning out the refrigerator in the back so it isn’t too much work for tomorrow.”

 

Jungkook nodded slowly at the strange excuse. Why would he work today if the entire kitchen staff would be available to help him tomorrow? “Yeah, sure. Alright.” He smiled. “Have fun.”

 

Yoongi nodded. “You, too.”

 

Jungkook quietly slipped out of the door and rejoined his small cluster of friends, not noticing the pair of eyes that followed him through the window.

 

*

 

If you looked past Taehyung’s sour demeanor, their evening out was quite enjoyable. It had been sometime since Jungkook had eaten dinner at an actual restaurant, despite having worked at one for awhile. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d eaten his food while sitting down. The last two weeks, he’d scrambled to finish a sandwich as he walked from his job at the gym to the restaurant. This was far better.

 

“This place is so cute,” Hoseok said with an excited look in his eyes. “Look at all of the candles – Taehyung, what a great suggestion!”

 

Namjoon quirked his head at their dim surroundings. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “It kind-of seems a little too romantic for a group of five guys to hang out.”

 

Taehyung nodded numbly at his comment with a blank expression. “It does, doesn’t it?”

 

Jungkook refrained from snorting in amusement.

 

Their server quickly visited the table, getting them taken care of with drinks. By the time they placed their order, Jimin’s interest was piqued by the movement across the restaurant.

 

“They have live music!” he murmured with a gasp. “Oh my God, I love live music. Look – a guitar-vocal duo!”

 

Jungkook made himself comfortable and slumped forward onto the table, holding his head up with the palm of his hand. They listened silently for a few minutes as the duo began their acoustic set. “It really draws in the crowd, doesn’t it?” Jungkook interjected once he noticed the people seated at the bar that had also stopped their conversation to listen to the performance. He slowly began to frown in deep thought. “Tae – your brother should bring in live music.”

 

Taehyung woke himself up from his apathetic state. “What?”

 

“Seokjin,” Jungkook repeated, feeling slightly more energized by the idea than the first time he’d said it. “He needs something like this to draw in a bigger crowd at the restaurant – am I right?” he abruptly asked the table.

 

Hoseok immediately began nodding, nudging Namjoon – their manager – in the side with his elbow. “That’s a brilliant idea.”

 

“I mean – he’s trying to transform the space into this upscale, fine-dining location, right? What better than to add just that little bit of romance by setting the mood with some music?”

 

Namjoon tilted his head in interest. “Live music can cost a lot of money,” he explained logically. “I’m not sure the draw would offset the costs as much as you would hope.”

 

“Ok,” Jungkook conceded, though he still refused to back down on his idea. “Then something else, maybe?” He began spitting out potential ideas. “An evening reserved for wine tasting?”

 

This time, Jimin put in his two cents worth. “Wine is expensive, too,” he murmured as he chewed on his lower lip. “What about a poetry night?”

 

Taehyung made a face. “Gross.”

 

Namjoon kicked him under the table, earning a yelp from Taehyung. “I like poetry,” he snapped.

 

“Nobody else does,” Taehyung grumbled bitterly. “Are you going to scare our regular customers away if you force them to listen to stupid sonnets talking about love?”

 

“Wait.” Before he could even finish his idea, Hoseok began giggling at the idea he had. “We’re only open for dinner. All you have to do is set up an event before four.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes suddenly widened. “Guys.” He sat bolt upright and slammed his hand down on the table. “Guys.” Once he had all of their attention, Jungkook grinned. “We should use the lunch hour to host cooking classes.”

 

No one said a word as they processed the new idea. Even Taehyung, who had been in a terrible mood since three people had crashed his non-date with Jimin, seemed moderately interested.

 

“The only cost that you have to offset is the cost of food, but if it’s a demo class where Yoongi teaches everyone how to make a three-course meal, you add the cost of food to their bill and serve the food.” Jungkook’s hands started flying around in the air as the idea slowly developed in his mind. “You’re basically drawing in a small crowd for lunch, you charge them at least double the amount you would for a normal patron, and then you provide them with a service that costs us nothing – knowledge.”

 

Namjoon folded his hands together, holding it over his mouth in thought. “But you can’t just… give everyone the restaurant recipes,” he mused.

 

“What about the chef specials?” Hoseok suggested with a blossoming grin. “It’s something that is unique to the restaurant, but isn’t on the regular menu. Plus, a different menu each time you teach the class – you can have the same customers coming back every weekend.”

 

Jimin was still somewhat unconvinced. “But Yoongi can’t do it,” he whispered, as if worried that the man in question was around to overhear him. “He has, like… no people skills.”

 

“Not true,” Jungkook interjected with a small, private giggle at the truth of his statement. “I’ve seen him interact with customers,” Jungkook told them. “He’s awesome.”

 

“It’s true,” Taehyung added. “I actually saw him smile at Jungkook, once.”

 

Jungkook blinked at the bizarre evidence to support his claim, but was flattered by it nonetheless. “Yeah,” he quickly agreed. “He’s great with customers.” Jungkook shrugged. “I think it would be amazing.”

 

Finally, Namjoon smiled.

 

“Alright,” he agreed. “You should tell Seokjin you’re idea when you see him tomorrow. I think he’ll love it.”

 

Jungkook grinned.

 

*

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

Jungkook stared at Seokjin in disbelief. “No?”

 

Seokjin shook his head. “Yoongi is already working seven days a week. There’s no possible way I can ask him to come in for another shift without overworking him and eventually pushing him out the door. No way.”

 

Jungkook was at a loss for words. He thought it had been a brilliant idea – but Seokjin had shot him down faster than he could have ever imagined. “But – what if he’s only there for one or two hours? You could have someone else do all the prep work for him, right? That makes his hours shorter.”

 

Seokjin smiled sympathetically at him before pulling him in for hug and a gentle ruffle of his hair. “I know you want to help in the kitchen, and that’s really adorable, Kookie, but you just don’t see the big picture, here.”

 

Jungkook frowned. Adorable? What about his suggestion to increase profits for Seokjin’s business was adorable?

 

“Look, I really need you helping the rest of the staff to clean this place up,” Seokjin cut their conversation short. “There’s far too much sawdust left behind after the construction yesterday.”

 

And then Seokjin simply walked away, leaving Jungkook stunned.

 

Seokjin was one of his closest friends. They had grown up together as neighbors well before he’d ever purchased this restaurant. Yet, every time Jungkook spoke to him about his restaurant, Seokjin never seemed to seriously consider anything he ever said. Were his ideas really that terrible?

 

Fighting the urge to show his true emotions in front of his hyung – his boss – Jungkook moved to the back of the room to work quietly. Both Taehyung and Jimin had stopped over to ask how his idea had gone over with Seokjin, only to be disappointed that it hadn’t been accepted. Even Namjoon had paused in the middle of his work to inquire about the same thing, but he’d been rather surprised to hear Jungkook’s response. After that point, Jungkook decided to move further back into the kitchen to work where no one could find him to ask about his failed idea.

 

Jungkook kept to himself, packing away the old decorations they had once used on the tables out front. He ignored the bustling of the kitchen staff as they scrubbed down the inside of the walk-in refrigerator and tossed out items that were no longer fresh.

 

He should have known how sad he must have looked when Yoongi actually spoke to him first.


“Hey. Kid.”

 

Jungkook looked up from the box he was packing on the floor. “Yeah?”

 

“What’s wrong with you?” Yoongi asked. He had both hands on his hips and a towel slung over his shoulder. His skull-and-crossbones bandana was on, much like it was during his usual shifts, but this time it was folded carefully and acted as a sports band, keeping his hair off of his forehead while he worked. “Usually I can never get you to shut up.”

 

Jungkook laughed weakly at his comment. “Sorry,” he apologized somewhat sarcastically. “I’ll keep that in mind in the future.”

 

Yoongi sighed, deciding to sit on the ground beside Jungkook with a heavy groan. Once he got himself situated, he wrapped both arms loosely around his knees and lazily cocked his head at Jungkook. “Just so we’re clear, this kind of thing never happens, so you better appreciate it,” Yoongi snapped irritably. Then he quickly followed up his words by saying, “Tell me what’s wrong, Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook released the table centerpieces he was holding, setting them back down on the floor beside the large box meant for storage. “It’s a really dumb thing to be bothered about,” Jungkook explained timidly. “I just – I had this idea for making more money at the restaurant, and Seokjin didn’t like it. That’s all.”

 

Yoongi waited a beat before asking, “Well, what was the idea?”

 

Jungkook suddenly looked embarrassed – especially considering that said idea involved Yoongi. “I thought there could be cooking classes held here on the weekends or something,” Jungkook murmured with a casual shrug. “You could teach a whole bunch of people to cook a meal, and then everybody would get to eat it. Obviously,” Jungkook continued, “you would have to be onboard with this idea, but I never even got the chance to ask you because Seokjin didn’t like it.”

 

Yoongi mulled it over with a tiny frown. “Why not?”

 

“He said you’re already working seven days a week.”

 

“And he doesn’t want to pay me for more time?” Yoongi asked.

 

Jungkook shook his head. “No, it’s more like… he doesn’t want to overwork you and accidentally force you to leave.” He laughed nervously. “I suppose that’s a compliment. Shows how much he likes having you around, right?”

 

Yoongi contemplated the idea. “I could do weekends.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes widened. “What?”

 

“I mean – maybe we try out a day every now and then, right? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to do it once as an experiment.”

 

Jungkook couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Seriously? You like my idea?”

 

“Sure.” Yoongi pushed off the wall and got to his feet. “Let’s go tell him.”

 

It took a moment for Jungkook’s feet to catch up to his brain. He scrambled after Yoongi in a mad dash. “Wait, what?”

 

But Yoongi was already at the door, calling across the seating area at Seokjin where he was busy scribbling something down. “Sajangnim!” he called. Once Seokjin looked up, Yoongi pointed over his shoulder at Jungkook who was staring out at the serving room from behind the kitchen doors with a nervous expression. “I like his idea. Let’s do it.”

 

Seokjin stared at them for a little too long, making Jungkook feel uncomfortable. He tried to make himself invisible as he attempted to hide behind Yoongi’s strong presence, despite the man’s unusually small stature.

 

“I’m sorry?” Seokjin asked as he closed his notebook and crossed the room. “What idea?” he asked once he got closer.

 

“He said he told you about having a cooking class,” Yoongi explained. “I think it’s a great idea.”

 

Seokjin turned his gaze to Jungkook, narrowing his eyes. “What are you doing?” he quietly demanded. “Were you so upset that I turned you down that you decided to go around me?” He laughed hollowly. “Jungkook, that’s poor business. You should know better than that.”

 

Yoongi sidestepped to stand directly in front of Jungkook, sufficiently breaking off Seokjin’s glare by interrupting his view. “I made him tell me,” Yoongi cut off his scolding. “He looked upset, so I asked why he was sad and he told me. Personally,” Yoongi continued, “I don’t see why it’s such a problem to experiment once or twice, just to see if it’s a worthwhile idea.” Then he tilted his head to the side in a challenge. “Do you?”

 

Seokjin sighed, holding a hand up to his forehead. “My concern was for you,” Seokjin tried to explain. “I don’t want to overwork my own executive chef and risk losing him in the future.”

 

“I’m the one volunteering,” Yoongi argued. “If I’m the one agreeing to the idea, then I don’t see the harm in trying.”

 

Seokjin gazed once more at Jungkook and then back to Yoongi. “Fine,” he agreed in a tight voice. “We’ll set something up for next week.”

 

“Excellent.” Yoongi nodded. “Start with a small group of people – max of ten or twelve. I’ll have someone in my staff prep the night before.”

 

Seokjin quietly agreed to his suggestions. “I’ll be there, of course. I can help you make enough meals for everyone in the back while you teach the recipe out front.”

 

“The kid will come, too,” Yoongi added, pointing at Jungkook once again. “I’ll need some extra help.”

 

Seokjin smiled tightly. “Sounds good.”

 

Yoongi smirked. “Great.”

 

And then Yoongi walked back into the kitchen, leaving Jungkook to scurry nervously after him.

 

“Shit,” Jungkook whispered as he watched Seokjin walk away through the small kitchen window. “He’s pissed at me.”

 

“No, he’s pissed at me,” Yoongi corrected him. “I pushed him into it, so I’m the only one that’s taking the blame if it fails.” He looked back at Jungkook. “You better not be wrong about this.”

 

“I won’t be,” Jungkook assured him with wide, eager eyes. “I’ll do anything to help.”

 

Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “You want to help?”

 

Jungkook nodded rapidly.

 

“Then get this fucking shit out of my kitchen,” Yoongi grumbled, kicking at the cardboard box that Jungkook had left on the floor in the middle of packing it up, “and get back to work.”

 

Jungkook grinned at his words, starting to think that Yoongi didn’t sound nearly as threatening as he once did. “You got it, chef.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“There it is – bring it to a boil, and then it’s time to put them in. Now,” Yoongi continued to narrate to the small group of onlookers as he worked, “it’s important you go by sight when you’re working with mussels.” He poured a large bowl of mussels into a silver pot. “Once you see the mussels opening, that’s your cue to remove them from the pot. You don’t want to overcook anything.”

 

Yoongi stepped to the side to give them a few minutes to cook as he continued addressing the group. “Of course, these ingredients are what I like to use when I cook mussels. Feel free to experiment with some different seasonings or try to increase the spiciness of the dish. One thing I would caution you on is salt – mussels are already a naturally salty dish, so you won’t need to add anymore.” He glanced over at the woman seated to his left and gave her a playful wink. “Am I right?”

 

The woman – the same one that had complained to Jungkook about her bland food and had subsequently been schmoozed by Yoongi – covered her mouth and giggled as she nodded in affirmation.

 

“He’s killing it,” Jungkook whispered excitedly to Seokjin. “They love him!”

 

Seokjin smiled. “That’s good,” he agreed, then swiftly redirected their conversation. “Now, would you mind plating these for me while I work on throwing together their salads?”

 

Jungkook returned to assist Seokjin behind the counter. “I can do the salads,” he said. “That’s not a problem.”

 

“It’s fine, I’ve got it,” Seokjin assured him. He nodded to his left. “The plates are over there. Make sure you don’t drop them.”

 

Jungkook snorted at him. “Seokjin, how long do you think I’ve been working here?” he asked. “I’m not a moron.”

 

“I know you’re not,” Seokjin replied hastily as he kept his head ducked down to finish preparing the salads. “You’re just – you’re young, Jungkook, and it’s natural for me to worry about my dongsaeng.”

 

Jungkook paused in middle of pulling a plate from the shelf. “Hyung,” he quietly spoke, intentionally choosing to use a familiar form of address instead of the usual professional one that Seokjin preferred for him to use at his restaurant. He needed Seokjin to see him as his friend – not his boss. “How old do you think I am?”

 

Seokjin looked up from what he was doing, seeming to be amused by Jungkook’s question. “Is this a guessing game?”

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook pressed. “Seriously. You know that I graduated high school years ago, right?”

 

Seokjin looked at him for another moment before turning back to his salad. “Of course I know that,” he murmured.

 

“Right, but – ” Jungkook set down the stack of plates he’d gathered from the shelf “ – sometimes I think that maybe you still see me as a kid.”

 

Seokjin scoffed. “You are a kid.”

 

“But I’m not,” Jungkook immediately refuted. He sighed as he got closer to the root of their problem. “Sometimes… I think you still see me as the kid that you used to babysit when I was seven.”

 

Seokjin threw a large handful of various vegetables into an enormous bowl of lettuce before he looked up at Jungkook with a sad sigh. “I don’t think you’re seven,” he tried to comfort Jungkook. “But…” Seokjin paused what he was doing to give Jungkook his full attention. “I suppose sometimes there are moments when I still think you’re younger than you are.”

 

Hyung,” Jungkook exhaled in disappointment at his words. “You know that I’m legally old enough to drink, right? And I have a driver’s license.”

 

Seokjin nodded his head as he calmly listened to Jungkook’s frustrations. “Yes, Jungkook, I’m well aware.”

 

“And last year I dated this guy Taehyung introduced me to,” Jungkook continued unwaveringly, “and we – you know, we did stuff. Adult stuff.”

 

“Oh, God – stop!” Seokjin snapped at him as Jungkook took things one step too far. “I don’t need to hear that, no matter how old you might be!”

 

“My point is,” Jungkook stubbornly argued his case, “I’m an adult and I don’t want you to treat me like a kid anymore.” He bit his lip nervously. “So just… don’t assume that my ideas are bad ones until you hear them out, ok? Personally,” Jungkook added in a soft voice, “I thought this cooking class idea was a great one – you’re making about as much money as you would at a dinner service, but spending less on food.”

 

Seokjin finally smiled at him. A true, sincere, apologetic smile. “You’re right,” he conceded. “This was a fantastic business idea, Jungkook, and I should have listened to you. I’m sorry.” Jungkook basked momentarily in the glow of success before Seokjin snapped at him again. “Now – stop yapping and get over here so we can plate this food while it’s still warm and before I decide to take back my apology.”

 

Jungkook was more than happy to follow his direction.

 

They finished preparing the food that Yoongi had taught the group of patrons how to make on their own. Just as he was finishing up his final dish – the mussels – Seokjin and Jungkook entered the room with plates in hands and quickly set them in front of the customers so they could try his recipes first hand.

 

“You did great,” Jungkook complimented the chef with a wide grin when he managed to get a break. “They loved it.”

 

Yoongi took a moment to drink half of the water bottle that Jungkook had brought to him. He sighed in relief at the refreshing taste and then nodded. “It was kind-of fun, to be honest,” Yoongi admitted. “I’m always stuck behind a wall when I cook, so I never get to see people appreciate my food. That’s supposed to be the most gratifying part, isn’t it?” He looked at Jungkook and shrugged. “We should do this again. Maybe draw in a bigger crowd next weekend? What do you think?”

 

Jungkook couldn’t wipe the grin from his face.

 

In fact, even after their lunch customers had left the building with incredibly generous compliments for Yoongi and the early dinner staff started filling the kitchen, Jungkook was still sitting on cloud nine.

 

“It was awesome,” Jungkook told Jimin the moment he arrived. “It – was – awesome!

 

Jimin hadn’t even had a chance to discard his jacket by the time Jungkook had run over to the bar and leaned so far over it in his excitement that his feet had come up off the ground. “What?” Jimin asked in confusion, though there was already a preemptive smile on his face at Jungkook’s cheery mood. “What was awesome?”

 

“The cooking class!” Jungkook hurried to explain as his excitement threatened to bubble over. “Yoongi ran a class this morning, and it was amazing! Tons of people want to come back to see him cook another meal!”

 

“Wow!” Jimin held out a hand for Jungkook to high-five. “That’s great!”

 

“I know – and just because I’m so happy, I’m going to let you in a secret that’s going to make you happy.” Then, with little preamble, Jungkook blurted out, “You should ask Taehyung on a date after work. He’s got an enormous crush on you.”

 

The smile on Jimin’s face disappeared. “What?”

 

Jungkook drummed the counter top excitedly and pointed both fingers at Jimin before quickly departing. “You’ll thank me later!”

 

But two hours later, the thanks that Jungkook had expected did not come in the form that he’d anticipated. During the peak of their busy hours, Taehyung somehow managed to corner Jungkook in the kitchen as he was loading up his next order to take to a large table.

 

“You told Jimin I have a crush on him?”

 

Jungkook looked up at Taehyung, surprised by his entrance, and then relaxed into a smile. “Yep,” he confirmed cheerily. “I thought I would help you move things along since Jimin wasn’t exactly picking up on your signals.”

 

“That was my problem to handle, Jungkook,” Taehyung argued in a voice just loud enough to get his point across, but not so loud that the customers in the restaurant could hear him. “Not yours!”

 

Jungkook shrugged in an easygoing manner. “It’s going to be fine,” he assured his best friend. “You’re mad now, but you’ll appreciate it tomorrow.”

 

Taehyung’s usually upbeat expression turned into a glare that he directed at Jungkook. “He said he wants to go out for drinks after dinner.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes lit up. “See?”

 

“To talk.”

 

His shoulders sank. “Oh.”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung agreed sarcastically. “Oh.”

 

“I’m sure he just wants to talk about how to move your relationship forward,” Jungkook suggested feebly. “Right?”

 

Yoongi finally stepped in and interrupted their conversation, saving Jungkook from his encounter with Taehyung. “Hey – kid – get the food out to the table before it gets cold.”

 

Jungkook immediately nodded. “Yes, of course.”

 

Taehyung sighed when Jungkook obediently picked up the last of his plates and swiftly walked around the path that his friend had attempted to block. “I’m not finished yelling at you!”

 

“I know,” Jungkook morosely replied. “I’ll let you yell at me later.”

 

Taehyung nodded affirmatively. “I will.”

 

Jungkook’s mood severely decreased after the news that Taehyung had shared with him. He’d let his own excitement cloud his judgment and unintentionally blew his best friend’s secret. He thought about talking to Jimin again to try and rectify the situation, but knew that it would only make the situation worse.

 

Instead, he decided to hide in the back of the kitchen where he was less likely to run into either one of them.

 

Yoongi, of course, quickly caught on to what he was doing. “No sulking in my kitchen.”

 

“I’m not sulking,” Jungkook protested feebly. “I’m just… hiding.”

 

“No hiding in my kitchen,” Yoongi swiftly amended his words. “Go check the tables and make sure no one has any empty glasses.”

 

“I already did.” Jungkook nervously chewed on his thumb as he watched Taehyung’s movement through the small kitchen window. His thoughts were interrupted when Yoongi turned around and gave him an annoyed look.

 

“You interfered with your best friend’s love life,” he stated plainly, clearly having overheard the entire conversation earlier. “What were you thinking?”

 

Jungkook watched as Yoongi flipped a piece of salmon. “I was just excited!” Jungkook explained. “I had so much fun this afternoon with that cooking class that you did, that it just – it came out! I thought – ”

 

“Your what?

 

There was a loud crash as a pan clattered noisily onto the kitchen burner.

 

But it wasn’t Yoongi’s – it was his sous chef, Minjoon.

 

“You had a cooking class?” he echoed. “Here?” Minjoon scoffed derisively, looking at both Jungkook and Yoongi. “And no one consulted me for a second opinion? The chef that’s been here the longest?

 

While Jungkook instantly panicked at Minjoon’s sudden shift in temperament, Yoongi didn’t appear to be shaken. “It was a test run,” he calmly explained. “I’m sorry you weren’t consulted, but at the time you weren’t critical for the trial. In the future, I would imagine – ”

 

“I’m not critical?” There was a chilling laugh that made Jungkook shudder. “Alright. I’m not critical.” Minjoon ripped the hat off his head and threw it at Yoongi. “The owner passes me over for your job, and now you tell me I’m not critical? Clearly I’m not going anywhere at this restaurant, and you certainly don’t need my help so – ” Minjoon held up his empty hands and walked backwards to the street exit “ – I quit.”

 

“Minjoon,” Jungkook desperately tried to step in. “Wait – Minjoon, come back. You can’t leave in the middle of a shift!”

 

But the only response they got before the door slammed closed was a gruff, “Watch me!

 

Yoongi allowed three seconds to process what happened before turning back to his stove in disbelief. “Shit.

 

“He just left,” Jungkook murmured in astonishment. “We’re not even through the rush and he just – ”

 

“Jungkook – I really need you to shut up and get out of my kitchen so I can concentrate,” Yoongi snapped. He quickly scanned the orders that they were already working on filling and tried to determine which dishes Minjoon had been cooking at the time that he stormed out. “Just – fuck – get out, ok?”

 

Jungkook stared, watching in awe as Yoongi moved around like a madman. He was about to obediently follow his directions and step outside of the kitchen when Hoseok entered the room with an excited smile. “Good news, people – we’ve got a table of ten coming in! Business is booming!”

 

Yoongi stared at Hoseok in horror.

 

Fuck.”

 

Jungkook didn’t think twice. He suddenly thrust his notepad into Hoseok’s chest. “Here,” he commanded. “I need you and Taehyung to cover my tables, ok? Can you do that?”

 

Hoseok looked down at the small book and back up at Jungkook in confusion. His eyes followed Jungkook’s movement around the room as he grabbed Minjoon’s cap from off the floor to cover his own head of hair, and then tied a black apron around his waist. “What’s going on, here?” Hoseok asked. He watched Jungkook wash his hands. “What are you doing?” Then something finally clicked in his brain. “Wait – where is Minjoon?”

 

“Minjoon quit,” Jungkook told him. “I’ll help chef prepare the food – you take care of my tables, ok?”

 

Hoseok eventually nodded shakily, leaving the room with a renewed vigor, while Jungkook turned to Yoongi.

 

“Tell me what to do,” he demanded of the chef.

 

Yoongi flipped the sizzling meats over in their pans. “You’re not a chef,” he said. “Get back out there and take care of your tables.”

 

“No,” Jungkook firmly ignored his orders. “You need my help. Now – tell me what to do.”

 

Yoongi glanced up at Jungkook, struck by his determination. Then, with a weary sigh, he shook his head in resignation. “Do you at least know how to boil a pot of fucking noodles?”

 

Jungkook noticed the large, empty pot sitting on the back burner. “Yes,” he answered as he filled it with fresh water. “I can boil a pot of fucking noodles.”

 

“Yah.” Yoongi snapped at him. “Don’t swear at the chef.”

 

But when Jungkook glanced over and looked at Yoongi, he was smiling.

 

*

 

Jungkook had thought this day couldn’t have possibly gotten any better after his cooking class idea had been a success.

 

But working side by side with Yoongi only proved him wrong.

 

It was like an intricate dance. Jungkook had only ever had the opportunity to experiment with cooking dishes on his own at home, but this – this was living. Yoongi called out a direction, and Jungkook jumped to fill it. Jungkook set his food on an empty plate, and Yoongi spun on a dime to complete the remainder of the order. Jungkook ran to the refrigerator to replenish their low vegetable stock, and Yoongi had to stop speaking mid-sentence when he realized that Jungkook had already gotten him what he was asking for – before he even asked for it.

 

Jungkook was so happy he could cry.

 

“Last order!” Jungkook called out eagerly as they completed their final ticket of the evening. He watched in anticipation as Yoongi carefully arranged a leafy garnish at the side of the plate, drizzled a light glaze along the edge in a decorative pattern, and then carefully handed the plate right into Taehyung’s waiting hands. “Chef!” Jungkook exclaimed as he turned to face Yoongi. “We did it!”

 

To his surprise, Yoongi had been just as fired up over the dinner service as Jungkook. He had never seen Yoongi look as excited as he was in that very moment.

 

“Fuck yeah we did!” Yoongi laughed, throwing his arms around Jungkook in a tight – and unexpected – hug. Jungkook didn’t have time to process just how awkward the gesture was between them. It was an impassioned response to the absolutely hectic night the two had experienced.

 

“That was seriously amazing,” Jungkook gushed. He quickly wiped a stray piece of food off of his hands and onto the corner of his towel before throwing his towel back on the counter. “I always wanted to cook, but I had no idea it could feel like that. It’s such a rush.”

 

Yoongi’s pleased smile remained, but he tilted his head in surprise. “You want to be a chef?”

 

“I always have.” Jungkook looked around the room, surveying the place where he’d spent the evening cooking up a storm. It gave him a sense of pride to see the damage he had done on his side of the room – a true mark of a chef that had been busy. “I feel so energized – I could probably do that for another two hours.”

 

Yoongi laughed loudly at Jungkook’s comment, almost startling him with just how free and relaxed he had become around Jungkook, especially in comparison to how their relationship had begun. “You certainly talk like a chef,” Yoongi finally said after his laughter died down.

 

Jungkook blushed at the subtle compliment.

 

“Gentlemen!” The door to the kitchen flew open as Seokjin walked through with a wide grin and both hands up in the air. “That was incredible! Do you know how many compliments I got this evening? And the speed that our waiters were moving, trying to keep up with your orders? I can’t believe – ”

 

Seokjin froze, staring at Jungkook in an apron and chef’s cap.

 

“Where’s Minjoon?”

 

Jungkook suddenly felt like he had suddenly turned back into that seven-year-old that lived next door to Seokjin.

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook murmured quietly. “Minjoon quit two hours ago.”

 

Seokjin’s eyes went wide with horror.

 

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

 

“I don’t think they wanted to worry you,” Jungkook replied. “I just – I told Hoseok to help cover my tables and I jumped in to help Yoongi so we didn’t get behind.” He shrugged nervously. “There was nothing else that we could do. He needed help and – ”

 

“There was nothing else you could do?” Seokjin echoed in a loud, disbelieving voice. “You could have told me! I was right out front! I used to be a chef – I could have stepped in!”

 

Yoongi kept his calm under Seokjin’s raised voice. “Look, it’s over, now,” he quietly intervened. “You said yourself how many positive reviews you received tonight. Clearly Jungkook made the right decision.”

 

“The right decision? Yoongi – he’s never taken a cooking class in his life,” he snapped. “What if his inept skills sent someone home with food poisoning?

 

Relax,” Yoongi countered with a small glare. “I handled all of the meat. He did the pasta and vegetables. No one is getting food poisoning. Besides,” he added with a defiant jut of his chin, “do you think I would ever let a single dish leave this kitchen without my stamp of approval? I would sooner throw out an entire pot of overcooked pasta than try to serve it to a customer. You hired me for a reason, sajangnim. Give me a little bit of credit.”

 

Seokjin, clearly unable to get through to Yoongi, turned back to Jungkook and sighed. “Thank you for stepping in,” he finally showed his gratification. “But you understand that this can’t happen again?”

 

Jungkook swallowed, nodding reluctantly. No matter how badly he wanted this, Seokjin was right. He had no formal training. He could easily slip up and make a serious mistake if he handled anything incorrectly. He may have been an amateur cook – a pinch hitter when Yoongi needed it – but he wasn’t the real deal.

 

Yoongi, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to accept Seokjin’s ruling without a fight.

 

“Why?” he challenged him. “This kid has an insane amount of talent in the kitchen that you’re wasting by putting him out on the floor.”

 

“This kid,” Seokjin parroted Yoongi’s words back to him, “is inexperienced. He can’t work in a kitchen.”

 

“Hire him as a prep chef,” Yoongi said. “You don’t need to have a degree to be able to prep food. You just have to be able to take instructions.”

 

Jungkook was slowly beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yoongi was fighting for his place in the kitchen. Would he finally be able to work with him after all?

 

“You already have someone that preps food before you get here,” Seokjin explained. “You don’t need two. You need a sous chef. A second in command.”

 

“No, I don’t,” Yoongi argued confidently. “I could have served the entire room by myself if I wanted to. Jungkook, here, just made sure that I had everything in my hands before I ever asked for it. If that’s not a prep chef, I don’t know what is.”

 

“You got lucky,” Seokjin argued. His face was slowly turning red at the fight Yoongi was putting up. “If every table had been filled out there, you would have been completely out of your depths!

 

“You’re right,” Yoongi confirmed with a nod. “But as soon as I teach my new prep chef how to make one or two of the simple dishes on his own, then even on a busy night it won’t matter.”

 

“Absolutely not.” Seokjin brought his hand down on the counter, making the various pots and pans sitting on the shelves clatter around noisily. “And I’m not saying it again.”

 

Yoongi sighed heavily. “Fine.” He pulled his skull and crossbones bandana off of his head and tossed it leisurely onto the table behind him. He casually crossed both arms over his chest and shrugged at the owner. “Then I’m done.”

 

Seokjin glared at Yoongi incredulously. “I’m sorry?

 

Yoongi cocked his head to the side. “Move Jungkook into the kitchen – or I quit.”

 

Jungkook was frozen, unable to believe what was happening before his eyes.

 

Seokjin laughed in disbelief. “Is that a threat?

 

Yoongi calmly scratched the back of his head. “Is it a threat if I’m willing to follow through on it?”

 

“Unbelievable.” Seokjin ran both hands through his hair, making it stand on end. “Un-fucking-believable!”

 

“Look – it’s really simple.” Yoongi laid everything out for Seokjin. “If you let me work with Jungkook, I’ll teach him everything I know and your restaurant gets two of me. If you don’t – then I walk.” He raised both eyebrows in an attempt to get his message across. “I really don’t think you can handle losing two chefs in one night.”

 

Jungkook couldn’t believe the lengths to which Yoongi was going for him – it was far too much. “Chef,” he whispered nervously. “You can’t do that. You can’t quit – this restaurant needs you.”

 

Yoongi turned on Jungkook and shot him a glare. “That’s not your decision, kid. Stay out of it.”

 

Jungkook obediently closed his mouth and waited for the two men to battle out his future.

 

Seokjin chewed angrily on his lip, running a hand over the back of his head as small beads of sweat began to form. Finally, he spun on Jungkook and spit out, “You have one week, got it?” He turned back to Yoongi and began gesturing violently. “If he doesn’t meet my expectations, he’s out of the kitchen – understood?”

 

Yoongi scoffed. “My expectations in my kitchen are higher than yours. If he doesn’t meet my expectations, I’ll be the first one to kick him out.”

 

“One week,” he repeated to Jungkook. His fury slowly gave way to the thin layer of fear he hid beneath his angry exterior. “And you had better prove me wrong about all of this, Jungkook.”

 

This was it.

 

This was really happening.

 

It was the moment he’d been waiting for.

 

“I will,” he accepted with an overly eager grin on his face and tears welling up in his eyes. “I won’t let you down, hyung. I promise.”

 

Seokjin sighed, all of the fight drained out from him. “Stop calling me hyung.”

 

“Sajangnim,” Jungkook instantly corrected with a tiny laugh. “I won’t let you down – sajangnim.”

 

Seokjin wearily left the kitchen with a resigned shake of his head in Yoongi’s direction, mumbling, “Pain in the ass…”

 

Yoongi was the first to break the silence in the kitchen. “Well?” He turned to Jungkook, unshaken by the past five minutes. “You’re good, but you’ve still got a long way to go. Shall we get to work?”

 

A tear fell from the corner of Jungkook’s eye.

 

Hyung,” he rasped, throwing his arms around Yoongi for the second time that night, this time for an entirely different reason. “Thank you,” he choked out. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

 

Yoongi gently patted his back. “No need to get so sentimental,” he grunted, suddenly uncomfortable at the affection – very much unlike the way he had been before during the high of their success. “You proved to me that you could handle one night – now you just have to prove it to Seokjin.”

 

Jungkook sniffed, wiping at his eyes as he pulled away from Yoongi. “Of course. I will, hyung. I’ll work really hard. I can do it.”

 

Yoongi arched an eyebrow at Jungkook. “You can’t call me hyung, either.”

 

“Right,” Jungkook hastily agreed with a rapid nod of his head. “I mean chef.”

 

“No,” Yoongi corrected him again. “I’m your teacher, now. You can call me seonbae.”

 

Jungkook bit down on his lip to hide his grin.

 

 

Chapter Text

The following morning, Jungkook immediately quit his job manning the front desk at the gym. It would certainly be less money than he was used to earning every week. However, he couldn’t regret the loss of a second income, because he knew just how dedicated he wanted to be to the dream job he had miraculously landed overnight.

 

Yoongi had asked Jungkook to arrive at the restaurant in the early afternoon so that he could teach him a few things in the kitchen before they needed to start preparing food for the dinner service. Feeling a constant buzz of excitement thrumming through his system, Jungkook showed up at the restaurant far earlier than he needed to be. Yoongi turned up at the back kitchen entrance with keys in hand, only to find Jungkook sitting perched on top of an upside down, tin trash can.

 

“Good start,” Yoongi quietly praised him as he walked past and unlocked the door. “Punctuality is always important.”

 

Jungkook jumped off of the trash can and hurried to Yoongi’s side, unable to contain his enthusiasm. “Yes, I’m – I’m really excited,” Jungkook answered with a wide grin.

 

Yoongi yawned as Jungkook eagerly hopped along behind him. Clearly, the chef’s normal waking hours were vastly different from the average human, as Jungkook easily recognized when Yoongi finished the last of his iced coffee and tossed it into the nearest garbage can.

 

“Alright,” Yoongi suddenly announced after he tied a small apron around his waist and pulled back his hair to hide beneath his bandana. “You ready to start?”

 

Jungkook mirrored Yoongi, pulling on a similar apron that had been hanging near the back door and tugging a baseball cap onto his head. “Ready.”

 

Yoongi glanced up at the cap with a look of distaste. “No,” he suddenly announced. “You’re going to sweat like crazy with that thing on in a kitchen.” He ripped the hat right off of Jungkook’s head, tossed it in the opposite direction, and handed him a second bandana that he must have brought from home. It didn’t have the decorative skull and crossbones like Yoongi’s, but it was still solid black. “Here,” he said. “I brought one for you. Keep it.”

 

At the kind gesture, Jungkook suddenly didn’t feel so bad about Yoongi flinging his hat away.

 

“Ok – now I’m ready,” Jungkook answered with a confident nod of his head.

 

“Good.” Yoongi moved about the kitchen space, searching for two knives before handing one to Jungkook. “Lesson one – safety.”

 

Jungkook, who’d initially looked at the knife Yoongi was handing him with glee, suddenly stared at Yoongi with a sour taste in his mouth. “Safety? Seonbae,” Jungkook immediately tried to persuade him. “I’ve been cooking at home for several years, so I think I’ve got the basics down. I was mostly hoping to learn how to do something I’ve never done before – you know, I’ve never really learned how to properly fillet a fish.” He wondered if his doe eyes would work on the chef like they did with his parents. “That could be helpful in the kitchen, right?”

 

Yoongi’s lip curled up in disgust. “How about I teach you that after you’ve learned to keep all of your fingers on your hand?”

 

Jungkook sighed, preparing to argue his case, but a sharp glare from Yoongi shut him up.

 

“First,” Yoongi declared, “always sharpen your knife before you start cooking. Dull knives force you to use more strength than you need. If you so much as slip while cutting, your strength will be your undoing.” He picked up the sharpening rod, carefully tucking his fingers beneath the hilt. “Front – back – front – back – as long as you’re consistent about it and you sharpen the entire blade, it doesn’t take much time.” He handed the rod over to Jungkook. “You try.”

 

Jungkook replicated the same positioning Yoongi made with his hands and carefully sliced the blade back and forth, hearing a satisfying shing as it sharpened.

 

Yoongi nodded in approval, taking the rod back when Jungkook finished.

 

“Next – you need to learn how to hold a knife.” Jungkook sighed, leveling Yoongi with a hard stare. Yoongi appeared to have noticed it, but remained unaffected by Jungkook’s annoyed looks. “Glare all you want,” he coolly rebuked the overeager boy, “but I’m not letting you back into my kitchen if you don’t go through the basics. Got it?”

 

Jungkook quickly dialed back his frustration and nodded obediently.

 

“Thumb on this side of the blade – index finger on the other – the rest of your fingers should be gripping the handle. This positioning gives you more control over your blade.” Jungkook carefully followed Yoongi’s instructions, watching his instructor’s hands fold themselves into position over his own knife as if the knife itself were no longer a utensil but an extension of his own hand. “When you actually cut, you want to avoid chopping straight down.” He brought the knife straight down on the countertop as an example. “Instead, you want to roll it. Point first – roll it back.” He slowly demonstrated it to Jungkook. “It should feel like a nice gliding motion.”

 

Jungkook tried simulating the movement. “Like this?”

 

“It’s all in the wrist.” Yoongi set his own knife down and circled Jungkook, layering his hand over the top of his. “Point and roll, see? Roll.” After several reiterations, Yoongi finally removed his hand, allowing Jungkook to try it again on his own. “There it is – good.”

 

Jungkook continued practicing the action several more times before Yoongi suddenly thumped an onion down in front of him.

 

“You’ve finally graduated to food,” he announced dryly.

 

“Thank God,” Jungkook murmured under his breath. Then, a bit louder, he asked, “So – do you have some sort of top secret method to chop onions or something?”

 

“Of course,” Yoongi answered without missing a beat. “But that’s a lesson for tomorrow. Today, I’m just teaching you how to make a proper cut without slicing off your finger.”

 

Jungkook silently bit his tongue.

 

*

 

“So, you’re, like… a chef, now? Just like that?”

 

Jungkook reclined against the brick wall out back, seated next to Taehyung in the chilly evening air. He was taking a much needed moment off of his feet before the restaurant opened for dinner.

 

“I mean – kind-of,” Jungkook said, shrugging. “I guess I’m not technically a chef yet since I’m on some sort of a trail basis. Your brother wasn’t very happy about it.”

 

“Yeah – I heard,” Taehyung admitted with a nod. “He told me about Minjoon quitting and you filling in back in the kitchen without telling him.” His head, which he had been resting against the wall, lolled to the side so he could smile lazily at Jungkook. “Gutsy move.”

 

He threw his hands up in the air. “I thought I was helping,” Jungkook protested adamantly. “Honest, hyung.”

 

Taehyung chuckled. “I know. He’s probably just stressed out because our dad is in town this week.”

 

Jungkook winced. Although he’d lived next door to the Kim brothers for – quite literally – decades, he’d only met their father a handful of times. Unfortunately, all of the times that he had met him were memorable for all of the wrong reasons.

 

Their father wasn’t an easy man to get along with. Jungkook knew that. Taehyung, who had never been one to conform to the expectations of another, had long since strayed from his father’s hold on him. Of course they were still civil with one another, but Taehyung and his father acted more like casual business acquaintances than family.

 

Seokjin, on the other hand, often felt the pressure as the eldest child to please his father in everything that he did. Jungkook had never understood the drive Seokjin had to make his father happy, even after getting beaten down by his verbal lashings, one right after the other. Jungkook had seen it happen far too many times to count.

 

“Is he coming to the restaurant?” Jungkook asked. Maybe that was why Seokjin was truly upset after last night and wanted Jungkook out.

 

“Doubtful,” Taehyung muttered. “He wasn’t happy that Seokjin bought a failing restaurant to begin with.”

 

“But… we’re not failing anymore,” Jungkook refuted. “He’s the one that got this place their customers back. Isn’t your father happy about that?”

 

Taehyung clasped his hands and rested both arms on his knees as he stared at the green dumpster at the end of the alley. “Of course not,” he sourly replied. “He probably planted some sort of idea in hyung’s brain that the restaurant business is beneath him, and that he should be working at his law firm instead.” Taehyung rolled his eyes, dropping his chin to his knees. “He’s too selfish to even think of his own Seokjin’s success.”

 

Jungkook let the silence linger just a bit longer before he quietly changed subjects. “Yoongi spent two hours teaching me how to hold a knife today.”

 

It gave him the reaction he wanted.

 

“Seriously?” Taehyung asked with a snort of amusement.

 

Two hours,” Jungkook repeated with an emphasis to get his point across. “And then he had me practice cutting onions until I had tears streaming down my face.” He laughed at the ridiculous memory. “I’m surprised he didn’t also try to teach me how to wash my hands properly while he was at it.”

 

Taehyung tilted his head in thought before turning to Jungkook. “Is it weird?” he suddenly asked. “You know – working with the chef?” Taehyung shrugged. “He seems… intense.”

 

“Oh – no, he’s a total fluff ball,” Jungkook responded with an easy shrug.

 

Taehyung arched an eyebrow at this surprising answer. “Are you serious?”

 

“He’s, like… all bark and no bite,” he said, and then quickly amended his statement. “Ok – he has bite. But he’s really just a big softie at heart. I think he’s just… really awkward sometimes because he’s so passionate about what he does, so he pretends like he’s tougher than he actually is.”

 

“Weird.” Taehyung made a face. “That’s… not at all what I thought he would be like.”

 

Jungkook smiled genuinely. “He’s kind-of an amazing chef when you get to know him a bit better.”

 

Taehyung studied his friend carefully. He was intrigued by his words. “Yeah?” He carefully hid his laugh behind his knees pulled up against his chest before telling him, “Jungkook – I think you have a bit of a crush on our chef.”

 

“I do not,” Jungkook quickly denied the statement. The last thing he needed was Taehyung believing that Jungkook’s role in the kitchen was anything but professional. “I see him more, like… a superhero, you know? He’s an amazing chef with all of these crazy skills up his sleeve, and I would be a complete imbecile to not idolize him and want to learn from him. Right?” He glanced over at Taehyung, waiting for him to nod in agreement. When Taehyung simply remained still and listened, Jungkook quickly plowed on. “I mean – he’s cool, but not… you know.” Jungkook loudly cleared his throat and changed the direction of their conversation. “Speaking of crush – how did drinks with Jimin go?” He winced slightly at the way he and Taehyung had left things the night before. “Are you still pissed at me?”

 

Taehyung sighed. “No,” he grumbled. “To be honest, it’s probably best that you got involved and told Jimin about my feelings before they could get any worse.”

 

Jungkook didn’t like the sound of that. “So… it didn’t go well?”

 

Taehyung shook his head sadly. “He kept telling me all about how he’d never thought of me as anything more than a friend. All I kept hearing was how much he wanted us to stay friends and how he couldn’t stand the thought of this making things awkward between us and – ”

 

Taehyung swallowed, cutting his words short.

 

Silently, Jungkook reached out a hand, wrapping it around Taehyung’s shoulder and pulling him into his side for a comforting hug.

 

“I’m fine,” Taehyung hastily continued with a shake of his head. He refused Jungkook’s consoling touch and untangled himself from his arms. He decided, instead, to return to leaning back against the cold, brick wall. “It’s fine, really. Like I said – I’m just glad I know now before I let my feelings for him get out of control, you know?”

 

Jungkook didn’t have the heart to tell Taehyung that he was pretty sure that they already had.

 

“Right,” Jungkook quietly lied for Taehyung’s sake. “Good thing.”

 

Taehyung exhaled sharply, suddenly slapping both of his legs. “Anyway,” he exclaimed, loudly concluding their discussion of his relationship with Jimin. “Should we head back in? I’m sure you’ll want to have some time to yourself before the dinner rush starts, right?”

 

Jungkook felt the butterflies fill his stomach, unlike they ever had before. Even the night before, Jungkook had been running on pure adrenaline and couldn’t afford to feel nervous. Tonight, he couldn’t stop the low thrum of nerves, even if he had tried.

 

Taehyung got to his feet, offering a hand to Jungkook to help him up. But as the opened the door to the kitchen, the light butterflies in Jungkook’s stomach turned into a whirlwind of nausea as he spotted Seokjin standing beside the oven range with two arms crossed over his chest.

 

“Hyung – er – sajangnim,” Jungkook quickly corrected himself. He washed his hands in the large sink, watching Seokjin curiously. “What are you doing back here?”

 

“This is part of your trial,” Seokjin explained simply. “I need to see you work.”

 

Jungkook stared at him in sheer terror.

 

“But – don’t they need you at the front of the house?” he asked in a feeble sounding voice. Taehyung walked past, lightly squeezing his shoulder in a sign of support, and quietly continued into the serving area.

 

“Namjoon can handle it on his own,” Seokjin replied without concern. “I go where I’m needed. And tonight – this is where I’m needed.”

 

Jungkook silently turned off the sink, allowing his hands to drip in the basin. He turned wordlessly to Yoongi, praying that he would somehow back Jungkook up much like he had the night before and find a way for Seokjin to leave so he didn’t feel this insane level of pressure.

 

But Yoongi simply pulled on his skull-and-crossbones bandana and shrugged carelessly.

 

“You got this,” he confidently told Jungkook. “It’ll be a breeze.”

 

Jungkook wanted to feel reassured by Yoongi’s comments, but for some reason, they only served to heighten his anxiety.

 

*

 

It wasn’t perfect by any means.

 

For a long time, Jungkook started to wonder if he’d somehow imagined the heightened level of cooperation he had with Yoongi the evening before – because it wasn’t happening tonight. Every time he caught Seokjin’s stern gaze, watching Jungkook in a muted silence, he couldn’t help but slip up and forget something as simple as checking the noodles that he’d been boiling on the back burner to ensure that they were cooked just right. Twice, he had to dump the entire pot down the drain when he’d ruined the batch. Afterwards, his ears had burned red in embarrassment at having done something so stupid in Yoongi’s kitchen.

 

After the second pot was removed from the stove, Yoongi rounded on Jungkook with one hand firmly gripping the front of his chef coat and pulling him in close with a jolt.

 

Jungkook’s eyes widened in surprise at his suddenly close proximity to the chef.

 

“Get a grip,” Yoongi hissed, glaring up at Jungkook. “What’s gotten into you?”

 

“I’m sorry, seonbae,” Jungkook hastily apologized with an ashamed look on his face. “I’m just – I’m nervous,” he whispered, eyes looking guiltily towards Seokjin. “I’m worried he won’t let me stay in the kitchen.”

 

“And if you let him get inside your head, then you might as well walk out of this kitchen right now.” Yoongi tugged on Jungkook’s uniform to pull him one step closer, making him swallow at the sudden invasion of his personal bubble. “Is that what you want?”

 

“No – of course not.” Jungkook frantically shook his head.

 

“Then focus.” He released Jungkook’s uniform, lightly pushing him back towards his station. “Talk to me,” he suddenly barked. “What are you working on?”

 

“Uh – I’m about to create some house salads for table eighteen,” Jungkook shakily recited the ticket they’d just received moments before.

 

“Good,” Yoongi said as his hands flew around the grill on his half of the kitchen, dropping one meal onto a hot burner and flipping another over once it was perfectly seared on the bottom. “How many do you need?”

 

Jungkook’s eyes went to the ticket again, reading the order for the umpteenth time while his hands moved impulsively for the stack of small, chilled plates. “Four,” he answered, laying the dishes out on the counter in front of himself and reaching for the large container of lettuce that had already been cleaned and prepared before the dinner service.

 

“How about the fresh batch of noodles you put on the stove – are you going to be throwing those out, too?”

 

Jungkook ignored the light jab and looked back over his shoulder to eye the pots and their timers overhead. “Two minutes and four seconds,” Jungkook said. He eyed the second pot, turning down the burner just enough to prevent bubbles from boiling over the top. “Both need more time.”

 

“That should be just enough time to finish the salads and get them out to the table,” Yoongi summarized Jungkook’s thoughts aloud. “Do you remember how to plate them?”

 

At this, Jungkook snorted. “I knew how to plate the salad before I worked in the kitchen,” he shot back. “Do you know how many of these I’ve taken to customers over the last year?”

 

“Ok, hot shot,” Yoongi grumbled. He took a step back from his stove as he flambéed his dish, watching the flames fly high into the air. “Then tell me what you’re supposed to do.”

 

“Two slices of a cucumber – quartered and mixed in,” Jungkook said, doing the actions as he said them aloud. “A sprinkle of cheese and a few croutons over the top – then you halve two grape tomatoes, put them in opposite corners and drizzle the dressing in a spiral until it lands – just – so.” Jungkook pulled the small ladle away from the first completed dish with a satisfied smile at the presentation before moving on to the next one.

 

“Are they all ranch-eaters?” Yoongi asked conversationally.

 

“Ranch, ranch, low-fat ranch, and French,” Jungkook answered without hesitation as he continued to work. “And the French one doesn’t want tomatoes or cucumbers.”

 

“Wow,” Yoongi replied in a dry voice. “They sound like a picky eater.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the light joke, feeling the load on his shoulders lighten immensely.

 

“How’s that pasta coming?”

 

Jungkook glanced over his shoulder again as he finished placing the salads on the counter for Hoseok to stop by and pick up to take to his table. “I think this one’s nearly there,” he said, stirring the pot that had been boiling the longest. He pulled out one noodle, checking its consistency, before nodding his head. “I’ll give it another thirty seconds,” he said, pulling out a stack of bowls for the upcoming order. “How about you?”

 

“Same,” Yoongi replied just as he pulled off two skillets from the grill and put a separate dish into the oven to bake. “Do I need to plate these, or can you handle it?”

 

Jungkook reached for the skillets Yoongi had removed from the flames. “I got it, seonbae,” he answered without hesitation.

 

“Good,” Yoongi murmured.

 

With Jungkook’s head buried in the meal he was trying to put together, Yoongi craned his neck over Jungkook’s head and arched an eyebrow at Seokjin in silent conversation, receiving a quiet nod in return. The chef cleared his throat and looked back at Jungkook.

 

“Alright – let’s keep up the pace. Tell me what’s next.”

 

*

 

“Last order,” Yoongi called out as he completed his final ticket of the night. “Jungkook – I need my last plate.”

 

“Right here,” Jungkook answered without pause as he spun and offered up the dish, already filled with pasta for Yoongi to complete with a chicken breast and light marinara. He waited for Yoongi to top the plate with a light garnish, and then he turned to hand it straight across to Taehyung – but was surprised when Seokjin was the one to pick it up.

 

“I’ll take it out,” he told him. But just before leaving, Seokjin sent one last look at Jungkook. “I’ll be back tomorrow night.”

 

Jungkook stared after him, holding his breath as Seokjin walked out of the kitchen.

 

“Wait.” Jungkook turned to Yoongi in confusion. “Is that good… or bad?”

 

Yoongi hummed in confusion, glancing up from where he was already cleaning up his station. “Is what good or bad?”

 

“Seokjin!” Jungkook shouted back in a panic. “He said he was going to be back to watch me tomorrow night. Is that ‘I’ll be back’ as in I did well and I have another chance tomorrow, or is it ‘I’ll be back’ as in… everything went awful and he doesn’t trust me?” Jungkook deflated, throwing one hand against his forehead while his brain felt like it was imploding. “Fuck,” he whispered in disappointment. Without hesitation, his mind went directly to the worst case scenario and he began to worry. “I’m royally screwed, aren’t I? I overcooked the food, I dropped half a dozen things on the floor – shit – I couldn’t even help – ”

 

“Jungkook – Jungkook – hey.” Yoongi quickly dropped his wash rag and moved to Jungkook’s side in concern. His hands settled instinctively on Jungkook’s shoulders, as if he wanted to shake some sense into him. The chef quickly noticed Jungkook’s distressed expression and carefully pulled Jungkook’s hands from his face. He sighed once he realized that Jungkook’s eyes were flooding with tears.

 

“Stop,” Yoongi whispered just as Jungkook’s face crumbled, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. Impulsively – tenderly – Yoongi swiped them from his cheeks and smiled patiently. “You did just fine tonight, Jungkook. You have nothing to worry about.”

 

“No – Seokjin’s right,” Jungkook countered with a sniff. “I don’t – I don’t know anything about cooking. You need a sous chef and I’m – I’m not it.” He hated the words that he was saying, but knew that he was acknowledging the truth of the situation. “This is so embarrassing,” he murmured to himself as he reached up for the black bandana that Yoongi had given him and pulled it off his head. “I shouldn’t even be back here.”

 

“Ok – knock it off,” Yoongi abruptly cut off his line of thinking. “You were born to be back here.” Despite Jungkook’s scoff of disbelief, Yoongi continued. “Seokjin saw exactly what I saw in you last night. He saw how efficient you were with your time,” Yoongi explained, “and he saw how you were able to anticipate everything that I needed before I asked for it. You see the big picture – and not everyone does,” he said. “And you didn’t let any of your mistakes trip you up.” Yoongi lifted his eyebrows and tilted his head in the hopes of getting Jungkook to agree with him. “Right?”

 

“But they were stupid mistakes,” Jungkook argued. “I mean – who overcooks a pot of fucking noodles?

 

“Obviously someone who’s under an extreme amount of pressure,” Yoongi answered seamlessly. Then, with a tiny quirk of his lips, Yoongi said the last thing that Jungkook had expected to hear. “You do realize that I’m the one that told Seokjin to literally stand over your shoulder to intimidate you – right?”

 

Jungkook froze in the middle of swiping his tears away and dropped his hands to his side. Yoongi’s words made Jungkook feel as if he’d been betrayed. “What?” he whimpered. “But – why?”

 

“I put you in a stressful situation on purpose,” Yoongi explained as if it were obvious. “You can’t know the true measure of a chef until they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Yeah – you made some mistakes,” Yoongi acknowledged. “Some really dumb mistakes.” Before Jungkook fall back into his depressed state at the reminder, Yoongi hurried on. “But look at what you did to solve them!” Yoongi paused. “Come on – tell me what you did.”

 

Jungkook managed to get his tears under control, but he couldn’t stop his sniffling. “I don’t know,” he mumbled petulantly. “I threw out the bad food.”

 

“You were mature enough to acknowledge your mistake,” Yoongi added on to his example. “You showed that you cared more about the quality of the food that you were serving rather than sending half-assed food to a paying customer just so it would make you look good in front of your boss.”

 

Jungkook fell quiet. Hearing it explained from Yoongi’s perspective changed things.

 

“Are you a beginner?” Yoongi continued his pep talk. “Absolutely. Did you make some major rookie mistakes? You bet. But do you have what it takes to learn from them?”

 

Jungkook’s eye flicked up to meet Yoongi’s. He swallowed nervously.

 

Yoongi gave him a half smile. “Hell yeah.”

 

Finally, a relieved laugh slipped through Jungkook’s lips. “Thanks.”

 

“Don’t thank me. I didn’t do anything.” He poked a finger into Jungkook’s solid chest, leaving a light bruise behind. “You’re the one that still managed to keep your focus and got right back to work, even when you screwed up. That’s the kind of person every owner wants in their kitchen.”

 

Jungkook nodded, appreciative of his remarks.

 

“So,” Yoongi slowly shifted the subject, “now that you’ve had the chance to work in a stressful environment – do you think you could maybe not ruin the pasta tomorrow night?”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Yes, seonbae,” he quickly agreed. “I’ll stay focused.”

 

“Good.” Yoongi finally released his hold on Jungkook’s shoulders and stepped away. “Because it really was kind-of embarrassing that you did it not once – but twice.”

 

“I thought you said I did well!” Jungkook protested as Yoongi finally began ragging him for his mistakes earlier in the evening. He liked it far better when Yoongi was trying to comfort him.

 

“You did – for your second night in the kitchen,” Yoongi was quick to explain. “But now we need to step up your game.” He reached for a clean knife and then pointed at a second one nearby. “Pick up your knife.”

 

Jungkook slowly stepped towards the freshly washed space and picked up the cutting utensil. “Why?”

 

“You learned the basics,” Yoongi said as he dug around for the large tub of vegetables they kept beneath the counter during evening services and dropped it in front of Jungkook. “It’s time to give you more responsibility.”

 

Jungkook’s head whipped to the side in surprise. “Really?”

 

“Tomorrow night, you’re in charge of our vegetarian dish.” Yoongi pulled out two onions – one for Jungkook and one for himself – and immediately began making cuts. “You asked for my top secret method to chopping onions efficiently – and now I’m going to teach you.”

 

“You are?” Jungkook quickly jumped in and began to mirror Yoongi’s movements with wide, inquisitive eyes. “Wait – seriously?”

 

“Keep up,” Yoongi said brusquely. “I can’t have you slacking off if you plan on learning an entire dish from start to finish tonight.”

 

Jungkook felt a thrill of excitement course through his body.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Busy night.” Hoseok sighed after their late shift finally ended and Namjoon had locked the front door behind the last customer. “Who’s going for drinks?”

 

Jungkook smiled at the question from behind his work station. “I’ll pass,” he replied. “I need to get back home.”

 

“No chance in hell,” Taehyung ratted him out. He stacked two more dirty dishes into the sink before turning on his friend. “I know for a fact that everyone in your family is already asleep, so there’s literally no reason for you to rush home. You’re coming out for a drink with us.” Taehyung pointed at Jungkook and lifted an eyebrow. “It’s about time we celebrate your new job!”

 

“It’s not my job yet,” Jungkook quietly reminded him. He’d been at Yoongi’s side for four days, now, and Seokjin had yet to declare whether he planned to keep Jungkook in the kitchen or not.

 

Please,” Taehyung scoffed. “My brother hasn’t kicked you out of the kitchen, yet. You’ve got this in the bag.”

 

“He’s right,” Hoseok agreed. He clapped a firm hand on Jungkook’s shoulder. “You’re coming with us.”

 

Jungkook finally grinned, turning towards Yoongi in question. “What do you think, seonbae?” he asked. “Want to go out for a drink with us?”

 

Yoongi seemed surprised at the invitation. “Uh – better not,” he hastily answered. He tugged his skull and crossbones bandana off his head, running one hand through his hair until it stood on end. “I wanted to experiment with a new dish for the special tomorrow night.”

 

Jungkook tried to not look as disappointed as he felt. “You can do that tomorrow,” Jungkook told him. “I can even help with that if you want.”

 

Yoongi shook his head. His hands fidgeted somewhat anxiously with the bandana in his grip. “I should… really work on it now.”

 

Taehyung made a face at Jungkook from across the kitchen at Yoongi’s adamant refusal to join them. “Sure,” Jungkook eventually conceded – but he wasn’t willing to give up entirely. “But, you know – if you finish early you can still meet up with us.”

 

“Yeah, ok,” Yoongi mumbled. “Thanks.” He nodded at Jungkook’s words just before he quietly slipped out of the room and stepped into the walk-in refrigerator at the back of the kitchen.

 

“What’s his deal?” Taehyung hissed when he disappeared. “Continuing to work after his shift? He might actually be insane.”

 

“Who’s insane?”

 

The three remaining employees left in the kitchen turned to see Jimin walking a large tray of dirty glasses from the bar through the room and moving towards the dishwasher. “We’re just talking about the chef,” Hoseok quietly filled him in. He checked nervously over his shoulder, as if worried that Yoongi would walk back into the room without him noticing. “He would rather keep working than go out for drinks with us.” The waiter suddenly lifted his eyebrows in the bartender’s direction. “You want to come?”

 

“Um.” Although Taehyung had turned towards the kitchen sink and had immediately tried to look busy the moment Jimin entered the room, Jimin’s eyes still flicked over to the back of Taehyung’s head nervously. “Yeah. I guess I can go.”

 

It wasn’t very difficult for Jungkook to notice the stiff muscles in Taehyung’s back at Jimin’s agreement.

 

“I could really use a drink,” Jungkook tried to ease the tension in the room. “Shall we?”

 

“I heard of this new bar two blocks away – it just opened up last week,” Hoseok told Jimin excitedly as they exited the kitchen together. “We should check it out!”

 

Their voices gradually trailed off as the door swung closed behind them. The moment they disappeared, Jungkook spun around to face Taehyung, prepared to check in on his friend’s fragile emotional state, only to be surprised when he realized that Taehyung was already turned around and looking at him.

 

“I’m actually… I’m kind-of tired,” Taehyung feebly made an excuse for himself. He wiped the soap suds from the sink off of his hands on a nearby towel. “I think I’m actually just going to go home instead.”

 

Jungkook sighed, having expected this sort of a response when Jimin had agreed to join their outing. “Hyung.

 

Taehyung ignored Jungkook’s plea. “Maybe tomorrow night?” Taehyung suggested instead. “Just you and I can go out. I’ll buy you a drink.”

 

Jungkook rubbed a weary hand over his brow. “Come on,” he tried once more. “I’m sure you’ll have fun.”

 

Taehyung smiled sadly. “Another time.”

 

Jungkook grit his teeth as Taehyung decided to sneak out of the back exit behind the kitchen to avoid having to see Jimin at the front of the restaurant.

 

Dammit. How was he supposed to enjoy his night out after this? Jungkook wasn’t very social to begin with. But now, not only had Yoongi turned down his offer – for the second time – to hang out outside of work, but Taehyung had also bailed the moment Jimin agreed to join them. For Jungkook, the entire evening put a sour taste in his mouth.

 

With a heavy sigh, Jungkook took off his white chef’s jacket and changed back into his simple, black t-shirt, walking out of the kitchen to search for Hoseok and Jimin. They were finishing their restocking behind the bar when they glanced up at Jungkook.

 

“Ready?” Hoseok asked. He shrugged into his lightweight jacket and stepped out from the bar.

 

Jungkook followed suit, stepping towards the exit. “Yeah, let’s go.”

 

“Wait.” Jimin stopped in his tracks. He looked around the room, and then peered towards the kitchen in confusion. “Wasn’t Taehyung coming with us?”

 

“He was,” Jungkook muttered sourly. He didn’t mean to take out his frustration at the situation on Jimin, but he couldn’t help but put up an invisible wall between them when his best friend had been so badly hurt by him in the first place. “Apparently he decided he was tired after all.”

 

Jimin’s face fell at the realization. “He… did?”

 

For an instant, Jungkook glared at Jimin before stopping himself. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “He did.”

 

“His loss!” Hoseok sang, unaware of the situation brewing. “You two ready?”

 

Jungkook let out a slow exhale. His enthusiasm for their evening was dwindling. “Yeah, sure.” He glanced back at Jimin. “Coming?”

 

Jimin looked up from the floor where his eyes had glazed over in thought. “Right,” he agreed with a decisive nod. “Yeah, I’m coming.”

 

*

 

At the end of Jungkook’s trial week under Seokjin’s watchful eye, he’d grown far more confident in his own skills in the kitchen. In addition to his regular tasks, Yoongi had even taught Jungkook the recipe to a number of their original sauces and soups. Bit by bit, Jungkook was finally beginning to feel as if he was actually a help in the kitchen instead of a person that was simply available to anticipate every one of Yoongi’s needs. It felt nice to be able to actually create a meal for the dinner service.

 

He’d also quickly grown out of his rookie mistakes. After the intense scrutiny of the first night, Jungkook quickly moved past the idea of Seokjin watching over his shoulder. Since then, he hadn’t burned or overcooked a single dish. Every bit of food that was cooked in their kitchen was happily consumed by their customers without an ounce of it ending up in the trash.

 

On the last night of his trial period, Jungkook had expected the same routine with Seokjin hovering behind him while he worked. Instead, he was surprised to note that Seokjin was nowhere to be found. When asking Yoongi about it, he got nothing more than a single shrug and a grunt to get back to work. It wasn’t until Taehyung stormed into the kitchen, throwing emptied plates into the dishwasher with a crash, that Jungkook realized that something was up.

 

“Hyung?” Jungkook asked over the sizzling of the pan in front of him. “What is it?”

 

“My dad,” Taehyung hissed venomously. “He fucking waltzed into the restaurant without telling anyone he was coming, and now he’s sitting out there – at my table – judging everything I’m doing.”

 

His words made Yoongi turn around in interest. “What table?” he asked calmly.

 

“Four,” Taehyung answered, running his hands anxiously through his hair. “I just put his order in.”

 

Yoongi glanced across the board where their tickets were lined up. As his eyes caught the ticket he was searching for, he quickly reached up and pulled it down, studying it carefully. “I got it,” he quietly assured Taehyung. “I’ll have it out soon.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the reassuring gesture. He knew, having grown up next door to Taehyung and Seokjin, just how frustrating their father was at home. It was nice to see that Yoongi had also figured that out without needing to ask any questions, and had immediately jumped into action to help.

 

Taehyung let out a slow exhale, nodding gratefully at Yoongi. “Ok, good,” he murmured. “Do whatever you need to – just – get him out of here as fast as possible.”

 

Yoongi snickered softly as he quickly drizzled a small amount of oil into a skillet and began sliding the liquid back and forth until it covered the bottom of the pan. “Technically, if you want him out of the restaurant as soon as possible, the solution, here, is to give him food poisoning.” He arched an eyebrow over his shoulder at Taehyung. “Unfortunately, I’m too talented to be able to do that.”

 

“Just get him out,” Taehyung muttered one last time before pasting a false smile on his face and exiting the room to tend to the rest of his customers.

 

Within ten minutes, Taehyung’s father’s order was ready to go out to the table – which Taehyung was quick to deliver in an effort to speed up his dining process. Once Taehyung had cleared the dishes from the table, he practically exhaled in relief in the back of the kitchen.

 

“What an ass,” he grumbled with a shake of his head.

 

Yoongi turned around in surprise. “Your dad?” he clarified. Then his eyes narrowed. “Wait – did he not like my food?”

 

“He said it was fine.”

 

Yoongi angrily thumped his spatula down onto the counter with an echoing thud as everything else on the table top rattled upon impact. “He said it was fine?

 

“That’s just my dad,” Taehyung explained wearily. “He can’t give a compliment to save his life. In his words, ‘fine’ basically means it was incredible.”

 

“So, that’s… good, right?” Jungkook checked as he glanced up from the bowls of soup he was setting out on the counter. “Is he leaving?”

 

Taehyung loaded the next order onto his tray, preparing to take a table full of food out of the kitchen. “Yeah,” he grumbled. “I think that’s about as good as it’s ever going to get with that man.” He hefted the tray onto his shoulder as he shook his head. “At least it’s done.”

 

Later that evening, long after Taehyung’s father had left the restaurant, Jungkook exhaled in relief. He’d completed his trial week. As far as he knew, Seokjin hadn’t had any major qualms with his skills in the kitchen. He wasn’t perfect, but he knew that he was showing major improvements. He’d always learned skills quickly, and this was evidence of that. He hoped that it was enough to show his hyung – the owner – just how much he wanted this job.

 

After closing down the kitchen, Jungkook thought it would be best to at least speak to Seokjin for once, rather than attempt to read his mind like he’d tried to do the entire week. He needed to know one way or the other whether or not he was staying in the kitchen.

 

“Goodnight, Jungkook,” Hoseok called out to him as he crossed through the restaurant and headed for home. “See you tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah, see you.” Jungkook distractedly waved in his direction as he proceeded towards Seokjin’s office.

 

From behind the bar, Jimin’s gaze followed Jungkook as he walked past. “Bye, Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook gave Jimin a brief nod and a tight smile, stubbornly ignoring the saddened look Jimin sent him at his non-answer.

 

He ran into Taehyung at the front counter, cleaning off their menus to use for the following day. He smiled as Jungkook got close. “Are you going home?”

 

“Yeah, I was just stopping in to visit with Seokjin,” Jungkook murmured quietly, hoping that his anxiety over the imminent conversation wasn’t showing. “He’s still here, right? He hasn’t left?”

 

“As far as I know, he is.” Taehyung closed the last menu and set it back underneath the counter. He nodded towards his brother’s office. “Let him know I’m leaving, would you? And tell him not to stay up too late!”

 

Jungkook smiled at Taehyung’s thoughtful words towards his older brother. “I will.”

 

“Right – talk to you later!”

 

Jungkook smiled at his retreating form and quickly hurried towards Seokjin’s small office located near the front entrance. Taehyung was right to try and remind his brother not to stay late. It was no secret that Seokjin often stayed cooped up in his office before and after dinner services to check – and recheck – their numbers from each dinner service. Jungkook absolutely intended to pass along his message.

 

At least he did – until he noticed that his office door was already cracked open and there were two voices talking inside.

 

“I can’t stand that man,” Seokjin spoke in a low voice.

 

“I know.”

 

“He’s a terrible human being.”

 

Jinnie.”

 

“I know, I know – I’m sorry,” Seokjin immediately apologized for his words towards his father. Jungkook noticed a slight tremor in his voice as he spoke. “He just – he makes me feel so small. I invited him to eat at my restaurant, and – I just wanted to show him everything I was able to accomplish.” There was a moment of silence. Jungkook heard a sniffle. Then Seokjin lowered his voice as he choked out, “He practically spit in my face.”

 

“Stop, Jinnie – don’t cry.”

 

Jungkook stepped just a little to the left, eyes widening in surprise at the scene before him. Seokjin, as he had expected, was standing in the middle of his office with his head bowed in disappointment. Perched on the front edge of his desk, Namjoon was stretching both hands out towards Seokjin. He wrapped them comfortingly around Seokjin’s waist, pulling him forward to stand between his legs for a hug. After a few moments, Namjoon reluctantly allowed Seokjin to step away, but still maintained their physical connection with each of his hands remaining on Seokjin’s hips. He smiled sadly up at the man, reaching out one hand to Seokjin’s cheeks to lightly swipe away the tear that fell from the corner of his eye.

 

“It’s like – nothing I do is ever good enough for my father,” Seokjin whispered between shallow gasps of air. “I don’t even know why I still get so upset.”

 

“Hey,” Namjoon swiftly cut off his train of thought. “It’s not your fault. You have every right to be upset.”

 

“It’s just – I run a fantastic business,” Seokjin insisted.

 

Namjoon nodded in agreement. “You do.”

 

“And I serve great food.”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“And Taehyung was his waiter!” Seokjin continued. “My brother – his own son! I watched them all night – Taehyung brought his food out the minute it was ready.”

 

“Yes, he did.”

 

“But he still had the nerve to tell me on the way out the door that he – he had higher expectations of me,” Seokjin concluded with a hiccup in the midst of his sentence as he tried to control his tears. “He thinks I’m not good enough.”

 

This time, Namjoon stood up from the corner of the desk and wrapped his arms in a secure hold around Seokjin’s shoulders. “You’re good enough,” Namjoon immediately assured him with a low, soothing tone. “You’re more than enough. If you ask me, he’s the one who’s lucky to have you for his son.”

 

Seokjin finally lowered his head to Namjoon’s shoulders, lightly snaking his arms around the manager’s lower back. “Thank you,” he murmured appreciatively. “I really needed to hear that.”

 

“Your father has no idea what he’s missing,” Namjoon told him. He slowly began to rock them back and forth in the center of Seokjin’s office in a lulling gesture. “You’re a beautiful, smart, and incredible person,” he murmured, speaking directly into his ear as a light smile played on his lips. “And your father is a fool to not see what I see.”

 

Seokjin’s grip tightened on Namjoon’s shirt, fingers clutching tightly to the fabric at his back. Namjoon pressed his lips to the top of his head, kissing him affectionately. Seokjin nuzzled closer to Namjoon, whispering, “I love you.”

 

Namjoon smiled. “I love you, too.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, quietly backing away from the door.

 

He… wasn’t supposed to see that. Of that much, he was sure. Jungkook had clearly walked in on a very private moment, and he suddenly felt guilty that he’d stayed as long as he had.

 

Apparently… it would be best to speak to Seokjin in the morning.

 

*

 

“You’ll want to sear the fish on both sides until it’s an even brown. The trick, here, is to press down on it with your spatula so the meat doesn’t curl – but for only thirty to sixty seconds. Not for long.”

 

From behind the kitchen doors, Jungkook watched Yoongi’s cooking class – nearly double the size of the first one – as they gaped, in awe of Yoongi’s skills. A number of them sat forward in their chairs, trying to get a better look of how he handled the fish he’d just filleted in front of them moments prior. A few – some he recognized from the first class – had even brought a small notebook and pen with them and were busy jotting down notes to themselves as he worked.

 

Their lunch hour cooking classes were clearly a success. Yoongi – perhaps more than anyone else – seemed most excited about them. He practically lit up in front of the customers as they asked questions or widened their eyes in excitement at his talents. He was truly in his element, and it brought a wide smile to Jungkook’s face.

 

“You’re being quiet today.”

 

Jungkook stepped away from the door and glanced at Seokjin, who was once again manning the kitchen in the back to prepare the group’s meal while Yoongi taught his lesson. “Sorry, sajangnim,” Jungkook apologized.

 

“You don’t need to apologize.” Seokjin lifted a large pan into the open oven and kicked the door closed behind him. “I just… thought you would be chattier.”

 

Truth be told, Jungkook felt like he was walking on eggshells around Seokjin. Between hearing about his reaction to his father’s visit to his restaurant, as well as finding out about his apparently secret relationship with the restaurant’s manager, Jungkook wasn’t quite sure what to say to his boss anymore.

 

“I was hoping,” Seokjin continued, “that you might assist me with this fish?”

 

Jungkook looked up at him in surprise. “Really?”

 

“Well,” the owner murmured as he reached over to a burner and turned down the heat two notches, “I just thought it only made sense for you to help me with the cooking as the restaurant’s resident sous chef.”

 

Jungkook’s jaw dropped at the confirmation he’d been waiting to hear. “You mean it, hyung?”

 

Seokjin finally looked over his shoulder at Jungkook and smiled. “Yeah.”

 

Jungkook barely managed to refrain from jumping around the kitchen to hug his boss. Instead, he simply bobbed happily in his spot, trying to contain his glee, and eagerly replied, “I won’t let you down.”

 

“I know you won’t,” Seokjin answered in an assured voice. “Now, get over here. Four hands are better than two.”

 

Jungkook pulled out the black bandana Yoongi had given to him – the one that he now had a habit of keeping on hand – and quickly tied it around his head. Within minutes, Jungkook was ready to jump in beside Seokjin, eager to work at the grill. It only took a few short minutes of directions from Seokjin to understand what needed to be done, and then Jungkook was off, flying around the kitchen at his regular pace. He only stalled briefly as he attempted to break his silence with Seokjin.

 

“Taehyung told me your father came to the restaurant last night,” Jungkook commented lightly. He knew that it wasn’t his imagination playing tricks on him when he noticed Seokjin’s entire body tense up out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Uh – yeah,” Seokjin answered with a nearly imperceptible nod. “He did.”

 

The silence lingered as Jungkook flipped the eight cuts of salmon cooking in the various skillets in front of him. When he finished, he said, “Taehyung told Yoongi to give him food poisoning. You’ll be happy to know that Yoongi refused.”

 

Seokjin snorted, giving Jungkook the reaction he was looking for.

 

“I bet he did,” Seokjin replied with a more comfortable smile.

 

“I think he was trying to get him to leave as soon as possible,” Jungkook explained, though he was sure Seokjin was already aware. “I thought it might have actually been easier just to send Jimin over with a glass of red wine and ‘accidentally’ trip on his way to the table.”

 

This time, Seokjin threw back his head and laughed. “That would have been quite the sight, wouldn’t it?”

 

Jungkook smiled as they joked easily with one another. Seokjin’s father had been a great strain in his life, and Jungkook knew that he needed a friend in this moment far more than a co-worker. And in that moment, he also needed to talk to his hyung – his next door neighbor – and not his boss.

 

“Hyung?” Jungkook tentatively broke the quiet. “Do you… really think I can be a sous chef? I mean – you’re not just giving me the job because you know me, right?”

 

Seokjin seemed moderately appalled by the question in the first place. “I don’t play favorites,” he snapped. “I nearly fired my own brother in the first week that he worked for me. He spent his entire shift flirting with my bartender.”

 

Jungkook refrained from pointing out that Taehyung had never stopped, but had only found sneakier ways to go about it.

 

“So, yes,” Seokjin concluded confidently. “I do think you can be a sous chef.”

 

They shifted effortlessly around the kitchen, moving hot dishes to clean plates and preparing them for the participants in Yoongi’s class.

 

“I’m planning on applying for school next semester,” Jungkook quietly confided in his friend. When Seokjin looked over at him with interest, Jungkook felt his ears turn red as he blushed. “Culinary school – at Le Cordon Bleu in downtown Seoul.”

 

A proud sort of smile crossed Seokjin’s face as he paused in the middle of his dish to give Jungkook his full attention.

 

“I mean – I’ll be paying off school loans for the rest of my life, and I’ll probably live at home until I’m forty, but… yeah.” Jungkook shrugged. “I’m really excited.”

 

“Are you still going to be able to work at Gusto d’Italia?”

 

Jungkook thought about this for a moment. “I think?” he mumbled, unsure of his answer. “I’d like to, at least.”

 

“Well, I’m not going to be the one to break the news to Yoongi if you aren’t,” Seokjin countered with a soft laugh. “You’d have to be blind not to notice just how fond he is of you. I can only imagine how upset he would be if you quit.”

 

Jungkook glanced back over his shoulder, eyeing Yoongi through the small window of the kitchen door. The chef spoke animatedly, grinning as he stirred the contents of his dish. It would be sad, Jungkook realized. He’d only just gotten the opportunity to work side-by-side with the phenomenal chef. He would hate it if he couldn’t work with Yoongi anymore.

 

Besides – he was fairly certain he had no interest in seeing Yoongi upset.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Jungkook?”

 

Jungkook glanced up from prepping several items for the evening service, surprised to see Jimin in the kitchen. It wasn’t often that Jimin ventured into the back of the restaurant – and even more of a surprise when he did so before his shift was supposed to begin.

 

“Do you, um… think we could talk for a minute?”

 

Jungkook carefully set down his knife, silently following Jimin out back.

 

While it was getting chillier with each day, the early evening air didn’t have the usual bite to it. In the back alley behind the kitchen, they were sheltered from the sharp wind, allowing them to step outside without needing jackets to stay warm. Jimin was already dressed in his white button-down uniform, but the way that he awkwardly put his hands into his pockets and kicking up stray debris as he waited for Jungkook to close the door behind him didn’t exactly give off the impression of a mature and confident bartender.

 

“Yeah?” Jungkook finally asked as he arrived. “What’s up?”

 

“Look,” Jimin began timidly, “I um… I feel like the last few times we’ve spoken, I get this feeling that, um…” He shrugged, unsure of himself. “Well, it feels like you’re mad at me for something.” But as he said the words out loud, Jimin suddenly broke out into laughter and ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry – it just – now that I’m saying it, hearing it out loud seems ridiculous. I’m sure it’s all in my head, but I thought – ”

 

Jungkook stared at the ground.

 

“It’s not.”

 

Jimin froze.

 

He let out a shaky exhale. “Oh.” Jimin furrowed his brow, seemingly perplexed by his answer and, obviously, trying not to appear as hurt by his response as he clearly was. “I, um… I guess – I’m not sure… why?”

 

Jungkook slumped against the wall, crossing one foot over the other. “Taehyung,” Jungkook answered simply. If he was going to be upset with Jimin, he could at least be straight to the point. “You broke his heart.”

 

Jimin frowned. “That’s… why you’ve been mad at me?”

 

And then, to Jungkook’s shock, Jimin let a derisive laugh slip out.

 

“Has he been badmouthing me ever since I turned him down?” he asked. “You know – I thought you were better than that, Jungkook. I thought we were friends and you would be above taking sides. I knew Taehyung was trying to avoid me because he’s pissed at me, but I didn’t realize he was trying to convince you to hate me, too.”

 

“Hate you?” Jungkook echoed in disbelief. He couldn’t believe the words spewing forth from Jimin’s mouth right now. “Is that what you really think about Taehyung?” This time, Jungkook was the one laughing in surprise. “Then I’m glad you turned him down. Clearly, he’s too good for you.”

 

“What?” Jimin hissed. “I’m the only mature adult, here! I’m the one that has been trying to keep things professional. Meanwhile, you’re sending me glares every chance you get, and Taehyung is poisoning your brain with – ”

 

“Don’t talk about Taehyung like that,” Jungkook snapped, anger radiating from him as he pushed himself away from the wall and walked towards Jimin. “Not once has Taehyung said a single negative thing about you – so you can go fuck yourself.”

 

Jimin blinked at him. “He hasn’t?”

 

No.”

 

The ire melted away from Jimin’s gaze. As the tension gradually deescalated between them, Jimin slowly tilted his head to the side in question. “But… I don’t understand. Why are you mad at me?”

 

Jungkook sighed, trying to shake off his anger before speaking again. “You know – I still feel guilty that I’m the one that told you about Taehyung’s feelings. I’m the one that thought it would be a good idea to give Taehyung the push he needed. But when you turned him down flat – do you know what he told me?” Jungkook asked him. At Jimin’s blank expression, he pushed on. “He said it was his own fault that he let his emotions get out of control for you. He said it was a good thing that you turned him down before his feelings could get any more intense than they already were.” Jungkook laughed hollowly. “He fucking praised you for turning him down.”

 

Jimin abruptly pulled his gaze from Jungkook, staring blankly at the opposite end of the alley in deep concentration while Jungkook spoke.

 

“He’s selfless, and he has yet to say a single bad thing about you,” Jungkook told him, “and that’s why I’m pissed at you. You never even gave the guy a chance, and he’s still madly in love with you.”

 

Jimin suddenly shook his head, wide eyes darting back to Jungkook’s. “He’s not,” he insisted adamantly. “He just… thinks he is.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “He’s been talking about you ever since that day the two of you met in this restaurant. There’s no way this is just a phase.”

 

“But… we’re friends,” Jimin protested. His voice grew shaky the longer he spoke. “I’ve seen how he flirts with all of his customers. We never would have worked out – I would have been nothing but a notch on his bedpost. Everything would have changed if we tried to date – and I didn’t want to make things weird or awkward and risk ruining our friendship.”

 

“And you’re telling me that all of this – you shooting him down – hasn’t made things awkward?”

 

Jimin abruptly closed his gaping mouth, looking ashamed as his chin fell to his chest.

 

“Hang on – are you seriously saying that the only reason you turned Taehyung down was because you thought his feelings for you weren’t genuine? Did you think he had a fleeting crush on you – for a year?” Jungkook huffed in frustration at the realization. But as he paused to take a breath, something finally began to dawn on Jungkook.

 

“Jimin – do you have feelings for Taehyung?”

 

Jimin bit his lip, stubbornly avoiding eye contact.

 

That was all the answer Jungkook needed.

 

“Jimin – fuck – you really screwed this up.”

 

Both of Jungkook’s hands went into his hair, gripping it tightly as he shook his head in disbelief at the absolute mess Jimin had made with his best friend.

 

“Hyung – you really need to tell him the truth.”

 

Jimin looked up at Jungkook, eyes glassy with unshed tears.

 

And then Jimin bolted back inside the restaurant.

 

*

 

Just as Jungkook’s shift was coming to a close, Taehyung entered the kitchen with a dazed look on his face.

 

“Tae?” Jungkook frowned at his friend. “You… doing ok, there, buddy?”

 

Taehyung stumbled towards the nearest counter, gripping the tabletop to keep himself vertical. “Jimin just… asked if I wanted to get a late dinner after work.”

 

Jungkook carefully schooled his expression, trying to act as if he hadn’t seen this coming. “He did?”

 

Taehyung nodded dumbly. “I can’t figure out whether I should be excited or not,” he admitted. He looked up at Jungkook. “Is it weird that he wants to meet me after work?”

 

Jungkook shrugged. “I don’t know,” he answered nonchalantly.

 

“But what if…” Taehyung suddenly looked worried. “What if I’m getting my hopes up, and he just set up another one of those stupid group dinners so there’s a buffer between us whenever we try to talk?”

 

“I doubt it,” Jungkook responded loftily. “But if he did… he hasn’t asked me to go.”

 

Taehyung looked hopeful. “You think?”

 

Jungkook sighed, feeling a smile tug at the corner of his lips. “You should finish up so the two of you can get out of here as fast as possible – that’s what I think.”

 

Taehyung nodded without a moment of hesitation. “You’re right.” He spun towards the exit. “See you later.”

 

Jungkook smirked as the door swung closed behind Taehyung’s rapid footsteps.

 

“So… that’s on again?”

 

Jungkook glanced over his shoulder at Yoongi, shrugging. “I talked to Jimin earlier,” he explained. “It sounds like the entire thing might have been one giant miscommunication between them, to be honest.”

 

Yoongi made an irritated face, as if the mere idea of their drama-laced relationship was appalling. “Seriously?”

 

Jungkook laughed at the chef’s lack of tolerance regarding the absurd mess Taehyung and Jimin seemed to have gotten themselves into. “Not everyone is as blunt as you, seonbae.”

 

Yoongi didn’t appear to mind the negative connotation behind Jungkook’s comment. Instead, he seemed to embrace the fact with a nod of confirmation.

 

“Look – speaking of dinner,” Jungkook managed to easily segue their conversation, “Seokjin officially made me sous chef and you haven’t even bought me a congratulatory meal, yet.”

 

Yoongi arched a challenging eyebrow in his direction. “Where in my job description does it say I’m required to buy new hires a meal?”

 

Jungkook huffed. “Oh, come on,” he grumbled petulantly. “It’s basically tradition, right?”

 

“Hardly,” Yoongi scoffed with a roll of his eyes. “Go out with your friends. Let them treat you to a meal.”

 

“But you are my friend,” Jungkook insisted. “And anytime I try to invite you to go out with us, you’re always busy. Please?” he begged him with his hands clasped together in front of his chest in a pleading motion. “Just this once?”

 

Yoongi stilled, in the process of pulling the bandana from his head.

 

He tilted his head to the side in confusion.

 

“…Friend?”

 

Jungkook stared at him, letting the single word sink in. After everything that Jungkook went through to earn his job at Gusto d’Italia, did Yoongi still not see Jungkook as his friend?

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook murmured, suddenly self conscious. “Well – aren’t we?” he verified. “Friends?”

 

Yoongi shook himself from his frozen state, nodding rapidly. “Yeah, yeah,” he hastily agreed. He quickly switched off the pilot lights on the stoves and turned to give Jungkook his full attention. “Ok – name your dish.”

 

Jungkook blinked, puzzled. “Dish?”

 

“What do you want to eat?”

 

Suddenly nervous, Jungkook spit out the first thing he could think of.

 

“Lamb kebabs.”

 

Slowly, Yoongi nodded.

 

“I know just the place.”

 

*

 

It took twenty minutes to catch a bus downtown.

 

It took less than ten minutes for Yoongi to pop inside a local grocery store and walk back out with a bag full of food.

 

And – incredibly – it took another five for Jungkook to realize that Yoongi wasn’t taking him to a restaurant.

 

“Welcome,” Yoongi muttered somewhat anticlimactically as he unlocked his front door, unceremoniously dropped his jacket onto the floor, and strode into his apartment. “You can just… kick your shoes off over there. The slippers are on the first step.”

 

Jungkook followed behind Yoongi in a stupor. “You know, when I said you were supposed to buy me food… I didn’t mean you had to make it.”

 

Yoongi began flicking on lights around his modest sized apartment as he entered his kitchen. He had already unloaded half of his bag before he glanced back up at Jungkook and said, “I know.” He went back to his bag of groceries. “But my lamb kebabs are five thousand times better than any restaurant around here.”

 

Jungkook felt a smile spread across his lips at the familiar, cocky line from the chef. “You’re incredible, you know that?” Jungkook retorted. He pulled out a bar stool that was sitting at the kitchen island and made himself comfortable while Yoongi began washing his hands. He was pleased to have a front row seat so he could watch Yoongi cook just for him. “How on earth did your head get so big, seonbae?” he teased lightly.

 

But Yoongi didn’t hear – or chose to ignore – the teasing in his voice. “You have to believe you’re the best if you want to succeed in this business,” Yoongi answered simply. “And that’s easy to do, since I am the best.”

 

“You see?” Jungkook pointed out with a laugh. “You can’t actually have an ego that large, can you?”

 

Yoongi laughed quietly, but the sound faded away far too soon for Jungkook’s liking. Although he was momentarily facing away from Jungkook, washing his hands at his kitchen sink, it was easy to notice the particularly stiff, upright posture in his tense shoulders. Yoongi had always come alive when he worked in the kitchen, but somehow Jungkook had said something that had extinguished that flame of passion.

 

“I mean – your food is actually incredible,” Jungkook amended with a nervous smile. “I already know that. I just find your confidence… interesting.”

 

Yoongi smiled faintly. “No – I know what you mean.”

 

Jungkook swallowed nervously. “Hyung,” he timidly addressed him in a more familiar manner – something he didn’t usually do. “Did I say something wrong?”

 

Yoongi swiftly began chopping various vegetables on his cutting board at an incredible speed, each one as uniform looking as the slice before it. “No, you didn’t.”

 

Jungkook could practically feel Yoongi slipping away from him. He had  said something that, apparently, had touched a raw nerve with Yoongi. He had to rectify this and fast. “I wasn’t trying to – ”

 

“It’s not your fault,” Yoongi, again, assured him with a half smile. “I just…” With a deep breath, Yoongi carefully set down his knife and looked up at Jungkook. “I meant it when I said that this level of confidence comes with the job.”

 

Jungkook immediately sensed something hidden beneath. He stayed quiet, waiting for Yoongi to elaborate.

 

“In a normal university, you have study groups and you help each other succeed. You can be just as successful as the next guy and not have it ruin your GPA. In culinary school… everything is a competition,” Yoongi explained in a tired sounding voice. “If your food is the same as someone else, then you’re nothing but mediocre. It has to be better – and you need to believe in your own abilities and your own creations if you want the leg up. If you don’t have any confidence in your own food, you might as well quit on the spot.”

 

Jungkook stared at Yoongi wordlessly. He’d never seen the man speak to him in such a vulnerable fashion – not since he’d met him. Naturally, Jungkook felt a foreboding feeling the longer that Yoongi spoke, sure that he wouldn’t like the end of his story.

 

But he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride that out of everyone in that restaurant – Yoongi was confiding in him.

 

Yoongi placed both hands on the kitchen counter, shrugging as he stared down at his cutting board. “Some people can balance their ego and still have some basic social skills. Others…”

 

He gestured to himself.

 

“In culinary school,” the chef continued quietly, “it was impossible to make friends once everyone realized how talented I was, and I somehow managed to lose the ones that I thought I had.” He shrugged, as if there was so much more to say – but he couldn’t bring himself to say it just yet. “So, needless to say – I have a few… trust issues.”

 

Suddenly, Yoongi’s confusion when Jungkook had simply assumed they were friends made much more sense.

 

“You don’t have any friends?” Jungkook asked quietly.

 

Yoongi turned back to his cutting board, resuming his chopping. The tips of his ears turned red in embarrassment, even as he answered Jungkook with the truth. “Nope.”

 

“So… those nights when we all invited you out for drinks after work and you claimed to be busy – you just came home?” Jungkook frowned. “Alone?”

 

Yoongi scraped the vegetables onto a plate. “Yep.”

 

Jungkook scoffed. “You idiot.”

 

Yoongi froze, arching an eyebrow. “Pardon?”

 

“We were trying to get to know you so you could be our friend,” Jungkook pointed out, like he was talking to a four-year-old. “I mean, I get that you probably haven’t made a new friend in years, but it really is as easy as it looks – all you had to do was accept the invitation.”

 

Yoongi shook his head adamantly, as if convinced that he’d made the right choice the first time. “I don’t do well with large groups.”

 

“What a lousy excuse,” Jungkook protested, refusing to take his bullshit now that he had heard his story. “Look – if that’s really a concern, then you should try hanging out with just one person,” Jungkook suggested like it were obvious. Then he pointed to himself. “All you had to do was ask!”

 

Yoongi made a face. “No. That’s weird.”

 

“What’s weird about making friends?” Jungkook exclaimed. Then, before he could berate Yoongi any further, he abruptly shook his head and waved his arms around in front of himself to switch tactics. “Never mind. Clearly you need a more serious intervention.”

 

Yoongi finished chopping the last of his food and began putting them on thin, metal skewers. His embarrassment had long since vanished, and he now seemed more intrigued by Jungkook’s impassioned response to Yoongi’s problem. “What are you talking about?”

 

“You need a wingman!” Jungkook insisted enthusiastically. “You need someone to help you pick up… well, friends.”

 

Yoongi laughed at the mental image. “Are you serious?”

 

“Yes!” Jungkook shouted. “Hyung, trust me. You’ll be friends with so many people before long, that you won’t even have free time anymore.”

 

Yoongi seemed mildly amused, but maintained a cool headed expression. “You’re not supposed to call my hyung,” Yoongi quietly reminded him. “You call me seonbae, remember?”

 

No,” Jungkook argued instantaneously. Yoongi seemed surprised by this defiant attitude but Jungkook wasn’t willing to back down – not from this. “We’re not at work. You’re my friend, hyung, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

 

To Jungkook’s surprise, Yoongi didn’t put up a fight. Instead, he returned to stirring together a bowl of various seasonings before sprinkling the mixture over the skewers. “Fine,” he lightly agreed. “It’s ‘hyung’ after work and ‘seonbae’ during work.”

 

“Of course,” Jungkook cheerily replied. He glanced down at the food Yoongi seemed to be preparing to cook. Suddenly, he realized that he hadn’t helped a bit in the time since they’d arrived. “Is there anything else I can help cook?” Jungkook asked. “I’m not sure I even asked…”

 

“No,” Yoongi told him as he finished preparing the last skewer. “You’ll make the next meal.”

 

Jungkook looked back at him in surprise. “What?”

 

“Next time we hang out,” Yoongi glanced up and explained without hesitation. “You can cook for me.”

 

*

 

“Ta-dah!”

 

Yoongi stepped away from his station as his eyes lazily moved from Jungkook’s hands and up to his face. “What the fuck is that?”

 

Jungkook waved the bandana in front of him. “It’s a new bandana!” he told him enthusiastically. “It’s a head cover for you to use while you’re cooking!”

 

Yoongi’s lip curled up in a sneer as he got a closer look at the offensive bandana. He hadn’t yet had a chance to put on his regular skull-and-crossbones bandana when he’d arrived at their dinner service, but he was now regretting not putting it on one minute sooner. “I don’t want it.”

 

Jungkook grinned, shaking the light blue bandana covered with small, animated cookies directly in front of his face. “Yes, you do.”

 

“No,” Yoongi argued stubbornly. “I don’t. Seriously – it’s like you don’t even know me.”

 

“I’m your wingman, remember?” Jungkook reminded him with a raised eyebrow. “This is how you make friends.”

 

Jungkook wasn’t very surprised when Yoongi continued to make a disbelieving face at him. “I’m sorry – how is that supposed to help?”

 

“It’s cute!” Jungkook told him in a matter-of-fact voice. “It stands out – especially in comparison to your old one – and it’s a great conversation starter. Once someone’s talking to you, gradually shift the conversation into talking about your other hobbies and interests, and then – bam! – next thing you know, you’re hanging out on the weekends!”

 

Yoongi snatched the bandana from Jungkook’s hand, but not before giving him an eye roll that reached the ceiling. “I’m going to look like a moron.”

 

“Here – look.” Jungkook pulled out a second bandana from his back pocket, showing it to Yoongi. His was a bright yellow one with dozens of pink cartoon bunnies in varying poses. “I knew you’d freak out if you had to wear one alone.”

 

Yoongi looked back down at his bandana and then back to Jungkook’s. “So you bought us couple bandanas?”

 

“Um.” Jungkook stared at the vibrant bandanas and then looked up at Yoongi with a blank expression. “Yeah, I guess.”

 

Yoongi sighed. “Whatever,” he eventually caved, pulling on the bandana. “This is never going to work.”

 

Hoseok entered the kitchen with the first order of the night.

 

“This chicken dish needs to be cooked on a separate grill – she has a severe shellfish allergy,” he called out to the two in the kitchen. Then, just as he was about to turn and leave for his next table’s order, he spun back, eyes widening. “Oh my God – that is literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Hoseok cooed, pointing at the miniature cookies adorning Yoongi’s head. “Seriously, where did you get that?”

 

Yoongi stared at Jungkook.

 

Jungkook shrugged and smirked.

 

So Yoongi flipped him off.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Are you going to keep the contents of that bag a secret all night, or…?”

 

Jungkook was startled by Yoongi’s voice, despite the fact that they had been traveling together for quite some time after leaving the restaurant. He nervously set down the large shoulder bag that he’d brought with him from work and, now, to Yoongi’s home kitchen. “It’s, um… ingredients.”

 

“Ingredients?” Yoongi asked. The scenario was much like the one several evenings before, only this time Jungkook was standing in Yoongi’s kitchen while Yoongi hopped up onto a bar stool to watch. “I assumed you would just make something with the food that I had on hand.”

 

Jungkook unloaded the cloth bag, setting out one item after another – peppers, sausage, mozzarella, red onion – before finally taking out –

 

“Is that… dough?”

 

Jungkook smiled timidly. “Yeah,” he said, showing the closed container to Yoongi. “I made some last night.”

 

Yoongi nodded, impressed. “So… pizza?”

 

Jungkook glanced up at Yoongi, stomach writhing in fear. He knew that Yoongi was supposed to be his friend, but cooking for such an insanely talented chef instantly made him panic. “Is that alright?”

 

“Yeah, sure – I love pizza,” Yoongi answered. “I’m mostly surprised you went to such lengths to make homemade dough instead of just buying something at the store.”

 

At the somewhat insulting comment, Jungkook finally found his voice, replying, “You think so little of me?”

 

Yoongi snorted. He laid his arms flat on the counter while Jungkook worked across from him. “No – I just figured it would be easier, given the long hours you’ve had lately.”

 

This time, Jungkook scoffed. “I used to work a second job,” he informed Yoongi. “Working one job is a breeze.”

 

Two jobs?” Yoongi asked with wide eyes. “But you work full time at the restaurant – plus you’re putting in extra hours with me with those cooking classes. When did you sleep?

 

Jungkook shrugged. “How else am I supposed to make enough money for culinary school?”

 

Yoongi hummed as he contemplated his words. “Have you enrolled yet?”

 

Jungkook grabbed a small handful of flour, scattering it across the surface of his countertop before dropping his dough on top of it, gently kneading it. “I, um… just dropped my application in the mail last week,” he confessed nervously as his hands diligently worked the dough into the right texture. “So… assuming I’m accepted, I start classes in a few months.”

 

“Huh.” Yoongi watched Jungkook’s hands for a few more minutes before quietly asking, “You’re still planning on working at the restaurant, right?”

 

“Yeah – for sure,” Jungkook agreed heartily. “I mean – unless there’s a conflict in the evening. I might need to take an extra day or two off each week, just so I can stay on top of my work, but – well, I want to stay.”

 

Yoongi smiled, satisfied with the answer. “Ok, then.” He pointed at the pizza with renewed interest as their conversation came to a close. “So, what kind-of pizza are you making?”

 

“My dad’s favorite,” he said with a fond expression, hands gently stretching the dough. “It’s a sausage and pepper pizza.”

 

Yoongi hummed, leaning forward.

 

“And,” Jungkook continued with a slightly more hesitant expression, “I thought I might also show you another pizza I experimented with a few months ago. Maybe… get some feedback?”

 

Instantly, Yoongi was intrigued. “Really?” He eyed the ingredients along the counter. “What is it?”

 

“It’s a, um…” Jungkook shrugged, not quite sure how to explain it. “A Spanish pizza?”

 

“Oh, you mean a taco pizza?” Yoongi clarified.

 

“No, not taco.” Jungkook shook his head, dismissing the idea. “It’s more like… Spanish flavors.” Jungkook winced as he spoke, suddenly feeling incompetent in front of someone as brilliant as Yoongi. “But, you know… on a pizza.”

 

Slowly, Jungkook managed to divide the dough in half and form each ball into a flat layer for him to begin adding ingredients. “Maybe you’ll think it tastes weird,” he tried to make excuses for his dishes before Yoongi had even tried them, “but… I don’t know, I think they taste ok, so…”

 

“I’m really excited to try them,” Yoongi assured him. Jungkook glanced up, surprised by the confidence in his friend’s voice. “Seriously. It sounds awesome.”

 

Jungkook quickly ducked his head to return working on his pizza before Yoongi could notice that his ears had turned red.

 

*

 

“Oh, fuck.” Yoongi kicked both feet up onto the free kitchen chair, placing a hand over his bloated belly. “That was incredible.”

 

Jungkook was incapable of masking his emotions at this point. Yoongi had been full of compliments since he’d bit into his first slice of pizza, and it sent Jungkook’s confidence skyrocketing. “Pizza is one of my favorite things to make.”

 

“You have to come up with a better name for this Spanish pizza, though,” Yoongi explained with a serious expression. “None of this random-pizza-that-tastes-like-Spanish-food crap. You need a good, solid name, like…” He narrowed his gaze towards his living room as he stared into the distance before abruptly snapping his fingers and looking at Jungkook with a twinkle of humor in his eye. “Flamenco Pizza.”

 

Jungkook threw back his head and laughed. “You want me to name the pizza after a Spanish dance?”

 

“Why not?” Yoongi challenged with an amused grin of his own. “It’s like a party in your mouth, isn’t it?”

 

“Then you might as well name it Fiesta Pizza!” Jungkook countered with a chuckle.

 

Yoongi looked at Jungkook with wide eyes before giving him a dramatic, slow clap from across the table. “That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Call it Fiesta Pizza!”

 

“I’m not going to do that,” Jungkook replied with a grin.

 

“You’re right.” Yoongi agreed with a nod and a smirk. “Besides, I’m pretty sure that pizza exists already.”

 

Jungkook’s shoulders continued to shake as his giggles persisted.

 

“But seriously, though,” Yoongi insisted, “you need to come up with a name.”

 

Jungkook picked up their plates and walked around the kitchen table to take them to Yoongi’s sink. “It’s really not a big deal,” Jungkook said with a smile. He appreciated how motivated Yoongi was to help him find a name for his creation, but he really didn’t need an official name for something that he could so easily sum up for his friends into the phrase “Spanish Pizza.”

 

“It really is,” Yoongi pushed back. He crossed both hands over his stomach, following Jungkook’s movements around his kitchen with his eyes. “How are people supposed to order it?”

 

Jungkook snorted, glancing over his shoulder at Yoongi as he walked. “Pardon?”

 

“I’m putting that on the menu,” Yoongi said, as if it were obvious. “That’s our special on Friday night.”

 

A deafening noise filled the apartment as glass shattered on the tile floor of the kitchen. One of the plates had slipped from Jungkook’s grip as his entire body went numb.

 

What?

 

*

 

“Why the fuck did I ever agree to this?”

 

Jungkook added another pinch of flour to his dough and then dropped it on the table in front of Taehyung. “Because I’m your best friend and you have no other choice.”

 

“It’s seven in the fucking morning,” Taehyung lamented, but he obediently followed Jungkook’s instructions and began kneading the dough just like Jungkook had taught him. “We couldn’t have done this last night when we were already awake?”

 

“I’m pretty sure you would have been unavailable last night,” Jungkook commented lightly before glancing over at Taehyung with an arched eyebrow, raised knowingly at his friend.

 

“I – well, um…” Taehyung stammered, a pink blush rising to his cheeks. Then he glanced back at Jungkook with what he assumed to be a blank expression, but actually held a bit of a smile. “It’s possible that I might have been busy.”

 

“Busy,” Jungkook echoed with a serious nod of his head. “Busy sticking your tongue down Jimin’s throat?”

 

“Hey!” Although Taehyung’s hands were covered in sticky dough, he still managed to twist his body just enough to kick Jungkook in the rear. “That’s crass!”

 

Jungkook stirred the bowl in front of him rapidly, stopping to briefly check the consistency of the mixture before resuming. “But true?” he asked his friend.

 

Taehyung sighed, letting a full-fledged smile break through. “Maybe it’s a little true.”

 

Jungkook snorted. “A little true,” he teased. He finally managed to mix his flour into the mixture in the bowl, creating another large ball of dough. He glanced over at Taehyung’s progress as he dumped his fresh ball of dough on the table in front of himself. “More flour,” he directed, nodding at his friend.

 

Taehyung obliged. “This good?” At Jungkook’s nod, he went back to kneading.

 

“So… are the two of you actually a thing, now?”

 

Taehyung shrugged, though he continued to smile. “We’re something,” he mumbled in embarrassment. “A few nights ago, Jimin just came up to me and decided we needed to talk and clear a few things up and…” He laughed softly to himself at the incredulity of the entire thing. “Well, it seems as if he actually had feelings for me, too, and had just been worried about it all falling apart before it ever started, so… yeah.”

 

Jungkook stretched and folded his dough over three more times, added a sprinkle of flour, and looked over at his friend. “So…?”

 

“So,” Taehyung continued, “he kept talking about how he was so worried that it could all be a mistake in the end, so I just… kissed him to shut him up.”

 

Jungkook’s hands stilled. “You’re kidding.”

 

This time, Taehyung laughed outright. “I’m not.”

 

“Wow.” Jungkook wiped his hands off on a nearby towel. “You have balls.”

 

Jungkook nudged Taehyung out of the way to check the consistency of his work. “Well, he wasn’t making the first move, so someone had to!” Taehyung defended as he held his doughy hands above the table. He watched Jungkook pick up both balls of dough, drop them into their individual bowls, and cover them before he took them back to the walk-in refrigerator at the back of the restaurant to rise. “He didn’t seem to be complaining about it afterwards.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “I never pegged you for the aggressive romantic,” he called back over the hum of the refrigerator.

 

“I’m not,” Taehyung answered. Jungkook securely latched the refrigerator and returned to their workspace to make another batch. “But… I don’t know – it needed to be done, right? Or we’d still be sitting in limbo.”

 

“Probably,” Jungkook agreed. He quickly made two more batches, plopping each one in front of them to knead.

 

“How many of these are we making?” Taehyung suddenly asked.

 

“Well, each batch makes two individual sizes of pizza, so…” Jungkook shrugged. “I have no idea. We need enough to be able to make it through one night. I’m sure Yoongi will be able to find a use for the extra dough we make somewhere else on the menu. Maybe he’ll make pie as a special dessert for one night?”

 

“You have no idea how many you want to make,” Taehyung murmured in a teasing voice, “but yet, he’s still giving you the special for the night?” He let out a low whistle and turned back to his dough. “He must have really liked your pizza.”

 

Jungkook exhaled slowly, exhausted even thinking about it. “Or he’s trying to kill me before I reach twenty-five.”

 

For an instant, Taehyung appeared concerned. “I thought you got along with the chef?”

 

“No – I do,” Jungkook quickly assured him. “It’s just – ”

 

Jungkook abruptly stopped what he doing, putting both of his floury hands on either side of his dough. Taehyung followed suit, eyeing his friend curiously.

 

“Do you really think I’m qualified to be here?” he asked Taehyung in a timid voice. “I mean – actually qualified. Don’t answer as a friend,” Jungkook insisted. “Be honest. Do you think I deserve to be a chef in this kitchen?”

 

Taehyung didn’t waste time making a face at his friend. “Whether you’re my friend or not, I would still answer the same fucking way – of course you do, moron.”

 

Jungkook didn’t believe him. “But sometimes I feel like I’m barely helping him in the kitchen,” he admitted in a whisper, as if he was worried that someone would overhear his confession and fire him on the spot. “I basically take care of all of the soups, salads, and the pasta. On a slow night, I might actually get a chance to try a main dish with Yoongi watching me every step of the way, but… he’s really doing the work of two, isn’t he?” Before Taehyung could roll his eyes and dismiss his fears, Jungkook pressed on. “I mean it,” he persisted. “He’s either doing most of the work and putting together all of the entrees, or he has to babysit me to make sure I don’t screw anything up!”

 

Taehyung finally intervened. “You’re blind, you know that?”

 

Jungkook shook his head, returning to knead the dough.

 

“Hey!” Taehyung shouted to get his attention back. Once Jungkook lazily lifted his gaze back to his friend, Taehyung continued. “I mean it,” he snapped. “He’s not doing more work because you’re here,” he said. “He’s just dividing your roles. Do you really think it would be easier if you just split the meal tickets down the middle and had to make everything for one table? No!” Taehyung answered his own question. “If you’re the one that’s making the salads and soups, that’s one less thing the chef has to worry about when he’s cooking the main dish.” Then he arched an eyebrow at Jungkook, daring him to challenge his statement. “Am I wrong?”

 

Jungkook felt like a child being told off. “No,” he petulantly replied. “But still – ”

 

“Still nothing,” Taehyung shut him down. “Don’t you know why he’s watching you make the entrees on the slow nights?” he questioned. “It’s because he’s going to start swapping dishes with you so that you can be the one that’s in charge of those entrees, and he can be the one sending out the fucking salads and soups!”

 

Jungkook frowned at the idea. Why on earth would Yoongi want him to take charge of the entrees in the kitchen? Yoongi was clearly better at cooking than Jungkook. It didn’t make any sense.

 

“He’s trying to show you that he trusts you,” Taehyung answered his unasked question. “He’s giving you full reign on the special tomorrow night,” he pointed out, as if it were obvious to him, even when Jungkook couldn’t see it quite yet. “He clearly thinks you’re an incredible chef with tons of talent in the kitchen!”

 

So, after a calming breath or two, Jungkook finally nodded. “Ok,” he agreed quietly. “Yeah. Thanks.” He smiled up at his friend. “I think I really needed to hear that.”

 

“You’re fucking right you did,” Taehyung shouted back. Then he abruptly pointed at the bandana covering Jungkook’s head. “And since I’m already shouting, why the fuck are you wearing pink, dancing bunnies on your head – ” his finger swung around to his own bandana “ – and why do I have dozens of red hearts on mine?”

 

*

 

Jungkook ran on pure adrenaline the following night. He’d arrived at work an hour earlier than scheduled, and spent the entire time checking on the ingredients he needed to have prepped for his pizza. He must have triple checked that he had everything prepared – including the rising dough he’d made the day before – before Yoongi arrived and managed to drag him away from the refrigerator before he internally combusted.

 

For a short while before the dinner service, he’d managed to calm down and run through his regular routine – but the moment the first order came back with a request for the Spanish Pizza, Jungkook very nearly vomited.

 

“Oh, shit,” Jungkook murmured to himself. He paced back and forth in front of the oven. “Shit, shit, shit. I think I’m going to pass out.”

 

“Not in my kitchen you’re not!” Yoongi snapped at him. He stepped away from his grill to point an accusatory finger at Jungkook. “Get your head screwed on, Jungkook!” he shouted. “Your food tastes fucking delicious, and it’s about time you recognize that – so suck it up and fucking cook something!”

 

And those seemed to be the magic words.

 

He needed the kick start to get himself focused. It had the same effect as it had during his first night working side-by-side with Yoongi and Seokjin watching over his shoulder the entire evening. But now that Jungkook looked back on it, he would have gladly taken another night of that stress over the responsibility of preparing the special for the evening.

 

Finally, he managed to complete the first meal with shaky fingers and sent it off to the dining room with a huge sigh of relief. One order at a time, Jungkook finally managed to regain more of his confidence. He kept his nose to the ground and stayed busy, not even able to recognize just how many pizzas he’d sent out in the end with how focused he’d become.

 

It wasn’t until Taehyung came back into the kitchen that Jungkook finally broke his focus.

 

“Table fourteen wanted me to come back here and give their compliments to the chef.”

 

Yoongi seemed to be the only one that had even heard, since Jungkook was busy squinting at his own preparations as he carefully plated the next meal. He turned to Taehyung. “What did they order?”

 

Taehyung glanced at their check. “Uh – they had the Spanish Pizza.”

 

Yoongi raised his voice to get Jungkook’s attention.

 

“Hey, asshat!”

 

Jungkook looked up in surprise, blinking at the pair. “Yes, seonbae?”

 

“Table fourteen sends their compliments to the chef,” Yoongi repeated the good news.

 

Jungkook nodded. It was not unheard of to receive these messages periodically. “That’s great, chef.”

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “They ordered the pizza, idiot. They were talking to you.”

 

Jungkook stopped in the middle of stretching his pizza dough for the next order and pointed at himself, leaving behind a small, white fingerprint on his chef’s uniform from the flour. “Me?” he verified, confused by Yoongi’s words. “I’m… the chef?”

 

Taehyung laughed while Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he slowly spelled it out. “You’re the chef.”

 

Jungkook stared at both of them in awe as a smile gradually appeared on his lips. “I’m the chef.”

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake – I think you broke him, Taehyung,” Yoongi snapped irritably. “Do me a favor – don’t give him anymore compliments until the end of the dinner service, got it?”

 

*

 

“Your pizza was a huge success!” Jimin exclaimed once the restaurant had closed and he finally managed to have a chance to slip into the kitchen. “I saw tons of people eating it!”

 

“Thanks,” he graciously accepted the praise. He felt much better about the entire thing now that the dinner rush was over and he was able to actually sit and process just what had happened.

 

“Actually,” Jimin admitted in a timid voice as he circled the work station in the middle of the kitchen, “I think… I should be the one thanking you.”

 

It didn’t take much for Jungkook to piece two and two together. “Oh, you mean the thing about you and Taehyung?” He quickly waved his hand. “Don’t thank me,” he told him. “I was kind-of a jerk to you when I look back on it, and – ”

 

“No, you weren’t,” Jimin insisted. “You said exactly what I needed to hear and – you were completely right.”

 

“I got upset,” Jungkook argued back. “I was angry that you hurt Taehyung and mad at myself for creating this mess in the first place, and I shouldn’t have said – ”

 

“Both of you were wrong,” Yoongi cut in as he sidled up next to Jungkook. “Happy?”

 

Jimin actually smiled at Yoongi’s interruption. “I’m sorry,” he concluded anyway. “And… thank you for helping me see what I should have done in the first place.”

 

Jungkook nodded. “I’m sorry, too.”

 

“Can we just… pretend that horrible conversation never even happened?” Jimin requested. “I want us to go back to how we were. In fact,” he added, glancing towards the doors to the kitchen that had just been flung open by Hoseok, “Taehyung and I were talking, and we wanted to take you out to celebrate your big night,” he suddenly announced. “Drinks downtown?”

 

Before Jungkook could even begin to make an excuse to beg off of a rowdy night out on the town, Hoseok walked past with his tray full of dirty dishes and pointed at Jungkook – clearly having heard the end of Jimin’s words – and announced, “You’re coming whether you like it or not! I’m getting you drunk!

 

Jungkook laughed nervously at the sentiment. “Yeah, ok,” he caved fairly quickly. “But you’re not getting me drunk.”

 

“That’s what you think,” Taehyung countered as he followed behind Hoseok. He quickly strode across the room, placed an arm around Jimin’s waist in a casual manner, and tried to ignore the smile that bloomed across Jimin’s face at the affectionate gesture. “Come on – you deserve to let off some steam. Celebrate your victory!”

 

Jungkook glanced helplessly over at Yoongi, practically begging for him to give him an excuse not to go. To his dismay, Yoongi just smirked and shrugged. “Go have fun.”

 

“Chef,” Jimin continued, looking at Yoongi with a hopeful expression, “why don’t you come, too?”

 

Yoongi’s eyes widened at the offer before he rapidly waved his hands in front of himself. “No,” he firmly turned them down. “I have way too many things to do here, so I should really stay and – ”

 

But Jungkook saw straight through the excuse.

 

“He’s lying,” he swiftly announced in a loud voice to the entire room. Jungkook pointed at Yoongi with an arched eyebrow. “You’re coming with us because I said so.”

 

For a moment, Yoongi was shocked that Jungkook would talk to him in this manner. “I’m your boss,” he tried to reprimand him. “I don’t think I have to do anything because you said so.”

 

“Uh – no,” Jungkook easily corrected him. He hurriedly discarded his chef’s uniform and pulled off the yellow bandana from his head. “My shift’s over, and so is yours. You’re my hyung, now.”

 

Yoongi frowned. “I’m still older than you,” he argued weakly. “That still means – ”

 

“Nope,” Hoseok cut in. “He’s totally right. You have to come with us, now.”

 

Yoongi stared wordlessly, dazed and still trying to comprehend exactly how this had happened to him so suddenly.

 

“Hurry up and get changed,” Jungkook commanded, “or I’ll just drag you out of here in your chef’s uniform.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“I fucking hate karaoke.”

 

Jungkook sent Yoongi a sidelong glance, watching him tip back his beer while he slumped in his chair and cringed at the noise filling the room.

 

“Ok,” Jungkook acknowledged. “But… occasionally, you do things you’re not a fan of just so you get to spend time with your friends, right?”

 

Yoongi frowned at the ragtag bunch in front of him. “I’m not sure they’re my friends,” he murmured, nodding at the trio huddled around a single microphone and belting their lungs out.

 

“I’m your friend,” Jungkook quietly reminded him. “Right?”

 

Yoongi studied Jungkook’s gaze, and then he smiled.

 

“Fine,” he conceded his point. “But next time, could we go somewhere maybe a bit quieter?”

 

Jungkook arched an eyebrow at him. “You want quiet?”

 

Yoongi scoffed as Hoseok ripped the microphone from Taehyung’s hands and decided it was time for his incredibly loud – and incredibly drunk – solo. “Of course.”

 

Without a beat of hesitation, Jungkook passed off his own drink to Yoongi and stepped up to the karaoke machine. He keyed in a familiar song – one which he would never admit to practicing in the karaoke room on his own – and reached for the microphone.

 

“Hey – we were singing!” Hoseok complained when the music shifted to a slow ballad. “Not cool, man!”

 

“You weren’t singing, you were screeching,” Jungkook corrected him as he snatched the microphone out of his grasp. “Besides – it’s supposed to be my night, right?”

 

Jimin had already long since forgotten how Jungkook had swept in to steal their microphone and began cooing in delight. “Oh my God, I love this song!” he exclaimed as the familiar strains of the opening melody began to play.

 

Taehyung sat in the booth along the wall, waving his hands back and forth in the air in a gentle sway while he caught his breath from his previous song. “Sing it, Kook!”

 

Jungkook smirked at his friends and slowly began to sing. It was your traditional ballad – the kind you heard during the ending credits of a drama. He started out in a low register, practically whispering the notes in a breathy tone, before slowly building to the chorus. And, sure, the chorus was still a little loud, as was expected with this musical style, but Jungkook was confident in his singing abilities.

 

He didn’t like to boast about it… but he knew he was good.

 

As the music came to a gentle close, Jungkook smiled.

 

“Brilliant, as always,” Taehyung applauded him.

 

“So pretty,” Jimin agreed with an approving nod. With cheeks rosy from the alcohol, Jimin sat down and leaned into Taehyung’s side, slipping his hand into his and resting his head on his bicep. He’d become far more affectionate with Taehyung the longer that the alcohol had flowed. “I wish I could sing like that.”

 

“Shut up,” Taehyung immediately reprimanded him. He lifted a hand to Jimin’s face, stroking his cheek with his thumb. “You’re perfect.”

 

At the end of his song, Jungkook quickly sat down next to Yoongi again before he had to listen to anymore of their nauseating lover’s quarrel. He swiftly grabbed his drink from Yoongi and threw it back, finishing it off. When he looked over at Yoongi, he half-expected something along the lines of a compliment on his song as the rest of his friends had done.

 

Instead, he got something he appreciated far more.

 

Yoongi smiled kindly. “Thanks.”

 

Jungkook shrugged, suddenly feeling bashful. “If you have to be somewhere you don’t necessarily enjoy, I can at least try to make it more bearable.” Then he tilted his head to the side in explanation. “That’s what friends do.”

 

Yoongi opened his mouth to respond, but was immediately cut off by a loud raucous – a song from the late nineties – and Taehyung shouting full voice into the microphone.

 

Jungkook grinned apologetically. “Sorry the peace and quiet only lasted for a few minutes.”

 

But to his surprise, Yoongi laughed in response.

 

“Come on,” Jungkook encouraged, lifting the heavy binder full of songs into Yoongi’s lap. “You should pick one.”

 

“Um – absolutely not,” Yoongi firmly refused. He tried to close the book, but Jungkook forced it open. “Seriously – you don’t want to hear me sing.”

 

“Oh, but I do,” Jungkook retorted with a playful smile. “It’ll be fun! I’ll even sing with you, if you want.”

 

“I’m not letting myself be compared to you,” Yoongi grumbled, reluctantly flipping through the binder. “If I’m doing anything, I’m going to be rapping.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes lit up in excitement at this news. “Hoseok Hyung!” he abruptly called across the room. “Yoongi wants to perform a rap song! You should join him!”

 

“Really?” Hoseok plopped down next to Yoongi on the couch, pointing out several of his favorite artists in the binder before finally asking, “Who’s your favorite?”

 

Jungkook half expected Yoongi to send him a glare for forcing him to interact with another human being, but was surprised when Yoongi seemed to shrink in on himself as he looked down at the book timidly. “Um… Do you know Epik High?”

 

Hoseok stared at Yoongi for several seconds before an amused grin spread across his face and he pointed at himself. “Do I know Epik High?”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi mumbled. “I thought if – ”

 

“I basically grew up on Epik High!” Hoseok continued speaking in a voice that was much louder and far more excited than his usual voice. Jungkook wondered, after seeing his rosy complexion, if the alcohol was getting to the waiter’s head. “I love Epik High!”

 

Yoongi laughed quietly. “Yeah?”

 

“Tae-Tae!” Hoseok suddenly bellowed across the room. He stumbled towards the microphone, wrenching it from Taehyung’s grip. “Get off. We’re doing a duet!”

 

Taehyung, though he had no more than one celebratory drink, turned to Hoseok in a daze and asked, “We are?”

 

“No – we are,” Hoseok corrected, pointing at Yoongi. “Get up here, hyung.”

 

Jungkook watched as Yoongi’s eyes opened wide in surprise at the familiar term of address before he quietly stepped towards the microphone and cleared his throat.

 

And then he rapped.

 

Like… really well.

 

When Hoseok began to break out with his overly exaggerated dance moves – the ones he did even when he was sober – Yoongi gradually started to relax. Before long, the chef finally began to laugh and mimic his ridiculous movements.

 

Jimin took a spot next to Jungkook, leaning over to whisper to him. “I had no idea he could rap,” he said in surprise. “I was not expecting that.”

 

Jungkook eyed the man with budding curiosity.

 

He most certainly had not been expecting it either.

 

*

 

“You know I’m not drunk, right?”

 

Yoongi smiled patiently as he and Jungkook lazily sauntered through the empty streets at three o’clock in the morning. “So you’ve said.”

 

“And I’m not a damsel in distress that needs to be protected late at night, either.”

 

“You’re basically twice my size,” Yoongi commented wryly as he nodded towards Jungkook’s tall physique. “If anyone’s pretending to be the damsel, here, it should be me.”

 

At that, Jungkook laughed. “Then why are you walking me home?”

 

Yoongi shrugged. “I’m giving you the company,” he replied without hesitation. “That’s all.”

 

“And then how do you plan on getting home?” Jungkook challenged.

 

Yoongi sighed at the extensive list of questions. “Bus,” he answered. “Like always.”

 

Jungkook frowned at this idea. “The nearest bus stop is at least a fifteen minute walk from my house. You should call for a cab.”

 

“Ok.”

 

The swift answer caught Jungkook by surprise. He turned to glance at the chef, eyeing him suspiciously. “You’re not going to call a cab, are you?”

 

Yoongi smirked, not caring that he’d been caught in his lie. “Nope.”

 

“Whatever.” Jungkook exhaled. It wasn’t worth fighting over anything at this hour. “Don’t blame me when you get home after the sun rises.”

 

“I can and I will blame you,” Yoongi countered dryly. “You’re the one that forced me to go out after work.”

 

Jungkook acknowledged his comment with a slow nod. “Right,” he agreed. “But you’re glad I did, aren’t you?”

 

Yoongi remained silent as a small smile formed on his lips.

 

“I mean – who knew you were basically a rap god?” Jungkook continued, trying to keep their conversation lighthearted. “Once I forced you up there, we could barely pull you away from the microphone!”

 

“Yeah, ok, ok,” Yoongi grumbled as Jungkook began to wax poetic about his skills in the karaoke room. “We really don’t need to discuss the embarrassment of this night ever again.”

 

“I’m pretty sure Jimin took at least a thousand pictures,” Jungkook reminded him, “and you were in more than half of them.” He lightly slapped Yoongi on the back. “I doubt this is the last you’ll hear about it.”

 

Yoongi stuffed his hands into his pockets and rolled his eyes. “Great.”

 

But Jungkook had a sneaking suspicion that Yoongi’s eye roll was a front to hide just how much he’d actually enjoyed himself.

 

“Maybe next time I can convince them to do something a little less rambunctious,” Jungkook commented. “What about… bowling?”

 

“I highly doubt anyone wants to see me bowl,” Yoongi replied with an arched eyebrow. “I still throw the ball between my legs like a three-year-old.”

 

Despite Yoongi’s reluctance, Jungkook decided that he very much needed to see that for himself.

 

“Or,” Jungkook swiftly threw out another idea when the first didn’t draw Yoongi’s attention, “we could do something outdoors? Maybe go on a hike?”

 

Yoongi’s lip snarled impulsively at the horrific idea. “If you think that’s my idea of fun, you are severely mistaken.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Yeah, well – whatever you want to do, I’ll make sure they join us.”

 

They slowed their pace as they reached a large gate.

 

“Is this your place?” Yoongi asked, nodding towards the fence surrounding the house.

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook murmured. “I mean – it’s not mine per se. I’m still living at home with my parents since I’m trying to save for school, you know, so…” He scratched the back of his head nervously. “Yeah, it’s my house.”

 

Quietly, Yoongi nodded as he surveyed the exterior of his home. “It’s cool.”

 

With just the barest amount of hesitation, Jungkook decided to look away from the gate and turn back to the chef. “You know – you could just stay here for the night,” he timidly volunteered his home up to Yoongi. “I’m pretty sure the city buses don’t even starting running again for another hour, anyway.”

 

Yoongi eyed the door, seeming to actually contemplate the idea. “Wouldn’t that be…?” It took a moment for him to find the right words, so he shrugged in an effort to stall just a bit longer. “I don’t know – would that be strange?”

 

Jungkook bit his lip as he considered the question. “No…?” he ventured. “My parents wouldn’t care, and you can just sleep in my room, and…” He smiled tentatively. “I mean – I don’t mind, if you don’t.”

 

“Right,” Yoongi finally agreed. “Yeah – ok,” he murmured. Then, as Jungkook pushed the gate open, he added, “That’s what friends are for, right?”

 

“Right,” Jungkook softly answered as he trudged up to his front door. “That’s what friends are for.”

 

*

 

While deep in his heart, Jungkook knew it was the right thing to offer Yoongi a bed for the night when he had no easy mode of transportation to get home to his apartment halfway across the city, he couldn’t help but feel as if their whole situation was just… weird.

 

Very weird.

 

Jungkook had a full sized mattress and it was certainly capable of sleeping two, but he immediately volunteered to take the floor mat so that Yoongi could sleep comfortably. Yoongi, of course, insisted that he take the floor since it wasn’t his home or his bed.

 

Somewhere between all of the yawning and the countless chivalrous gestures, the pair had finally ended up in the same bed with their backs to one another.

 

It took Jungkook another half an hour, lying as close to the edge of the bed as he possibly could, to finally fall asleep. He found himself wishing he had drunk more, just to take the edge off before he – quite literally – slept with his boss.

 

Not that Yoongi was his boss, technically, except that… it kind-of felt like he was.

 

In the late morning, Jungkook woke feeling more alert than he ever had when he’d shared his bed in the past. He didn’t remember fighting for the covers or getting kicked in his sleep; he’d gotten a full night’s rest. He quickly scrambled out from beneath the bed sheets and hurried around the room to gather up his clothes and jump into the shower – when he finally stopped to realize that Yoongi wasn’t even there.

 

Forgetting about his change of clothes, Jungkook shuffled wearily outside of his bedroom and followed the sound of voices down the hallway and into the kitchen.

 

“Hyung?” Jungkook murmured in surprise as he spotted Yoongi stirring a pot over the stove and his mother’s pink, frilly apron on around his waist. He scanned the room, even more surprised to notice his father seated at the kitchen table. “Dad?”

 

“We were wondering when you would wake up!” his father boomed as Jungkook appeared hesitantly around the corner. “Come – have a seat. Yoongi, here, was just making me lunch.”

 

Jungkook looked up at his hyung in surprise. “You are?”

 

“It’s the least I can do for crashing at your place with such short notice,” he politely replied, sending a smile to Jungkook’s father.

 

“I thought you were supposed to be at work?” Jungkook asked quietly, confused to see anyone in his house after dawn. His older brother had moved out several years ago, but his parents had yet to take a single day off of work in a year. It wasn’t all too common for Jungkook to even see either one of them with his relatively, nocturnal schedule.

 

“I was,” his father insisted, as if he were insulted that Jungkook were checking up on him. “I decided to stop home for lunch.”

 

“He was going to reheat some takeout that he got for dinner last night,” Yoongi explained, as if the thought of reheating food was a sin, “so I offered to make something fresh instead.”

 

Jungkook felt like he was having an out-of-body experience. All he could do was laugh at the bizarre scenario.

 

“What?” his father asked inquisitively. “What’s so funny?”

 

Jungkook shook his head in amusement. “I don’t think you realize who’s cooking for you, right now.”

 

“He’s your friend,” his father stated simply.

 

Jungkook chuckled. “This is Min Yoongi,” he introduced his father to his friend. “He’s the executive chef at Seokjin’s restaurant.”

 

“Oh.” Jungkook’s father slowly turned his gaze back to Yoongi, seeming to appraise him in a different light, now. Then, abruptly shattering the atmosphere, his father announced, “Well, then it had better be pretty damn good, right?”

 

Yoongi laughed openly, giving Jungkook’s father a brief salute before answering, “It will be, sir. Don’t worry.”

 

*

 

“Hoseok wants to know if we’re interested in going out tonight,” Yoongi asked Jungkook after their work shift ended. “You in?”

 

Jungkook turned around at the kitchen sink, eyeing Yoongi in surprise. “Really?”

 

Yoongi quickly tied off the garbage in the trash can and hefted it out of the bin. “Yeah,” he answered, seeming to be unaware of the amusement Jungkook was having at the role reversals in their situation. “What do you think?”

 

Jungkook, however, dried his hands off on the towel he had flung over his shoulder earlier, and answered his question with another. “I didn’t realize that you and Hoseok had become friends?”

 

This time, Yoongi feigned ignorance to the question. “We’ve talked,” he muttered in embarrassment. “You know… before work and stuff.”

 

Jungkook practically giggled at Yoongi’s bashful expression. “You made a new friend!” he suddenly exclaimed. “See – I told you I could help!”

 

Yoongi’s eyes widened at his volume level, head whipping over his shoulder anxiously, as if fearful that one of his new friends would enter the kitchen and overhear their conversation. “Yeah – just – fucking – just shut up,” he hissed irritably. He quickly dragged the large trash bag out the back door of the kitchen, grumbling the entire way. “Jesus Christ, I just asked a question…”

 

*

 

“Jungkook – could we talk in my office?”

 

After having been employed as the resident sous chef at Seokjin’s restaurant for well over a month, it was immediately concerning when Jungkook was called into Seokjin’s office. So far, things had been going great. Better than great. With Jungkook’s first successful evening serving his original dish on the restaurant’s menu, Yoongi had offered him the same opportunity on two additional occasions. Seokjin had given him nothing but compliments.

 

But a private discussion in his office? The idea just didn’t sit very well with Jungkook.

 

Jungkook followed after Seokjin, feeling as if he were walking into his office with his tail tucked nervously between his legs.

 

“Um… yes?” Jungkook asked timidly as he quietly closed the door behind them. Seokjin pointed at the seat across from his desk, silently asking Jungkook to sit. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

 

“Ah.” Seokjin nodded, smiling. “I just, um… I had something unexpected come up this weekend and realized that I would be out of town for the next two days.”

 

Jungkook blinked in surprise. He was talking about his work schedule? This was why Jungkook had panicked?

 

“Yoongi is supposed to be running his cooking class tomorrow morning,” Seokjin continued, getting to the root of the matter. “Since I won’t be able to be there to help prepare the food for the customers, I just wanted to check and see if you would be comfortable handling it on your own, or if you needed any assistance.”

 

“Oh.” Jungkook blinked in surprise at the show of trust that Seokjin was giving him. He sat up, suddenly feeling much better about their conversation. “I, uh – yes. Of course, yeah, I can handle it. No problem.”

 

Seokjin seemed mildly amused by his eagerness. “I’ll arrange to have one of our servers there to assist with delivery to the tables and any other sort of small tasks you might need to have done in the kitchen, of course.”

 

“Sure.” Jungkook’s head bobbed up and down excitedly. “That’s – thank you, sajangnim.”

 

Seokjin smiled at the appropriate form of address for their situation. “I know that we got off to a bit of a rough start when you first joined the staff in the kitchen,” Seokjin admitted, “but I want you to know that I do trust you, Jungkook.” He nodded towards the door as a means of pointing towards the kitchen. “I see how much faith Yoongi puts in your abilities, and he’s absolutely right to do so. You’ve been nothing but an asset to my restaurant, and I appreciate everything you’ve done to help me.”

 

Jungkook was moved by his words.

 

To be honest, he probably would have been happy with a simple “thank you,” but this also worked.

 

“Wow,” he murmured, in awe of the great compliments he’d just received. “Um… thanks. Really.” Then he reached for the arms of his four-legged chair and slid it closer to the front of Seokjin’s desk to close the distance between them. “Actually – could I talk to you as my hyung for just a minute?”

 

Seokjin seemed mildly surprised by this request. “Of course, Kookie,” he answered with his familiar nickname for him. “What is it?”

 

“Oh, um…” Jungkook smiled nervously as his hands fidgeted anxiously in his lap. “I just – well, since I knew it would affect my hours here, I wanted to tell you that… I was accepted into culinary school.”

 

Seokjin’s eyes widened almost comically. “Are you serious?” He leapt up from his seat and rounded the desk, sweeping Jungkook up into a bear hug. “That’s fantastic – congratulations!”

 

Jungkook laughed as his body was hoisted up from his chair and he felt himself being thrown around in Seokjin’s enthusiasm. “Thanks, hyung.”

 

“Oh my – did you tell Taehyung?” he asked, firing off one question after another. “Did you tell Yoongi? When do you start classes?”

 

“Uh – no,” Jungkook quickly stopped Seokjin in his tracks. “I just got the letter this morning so… I haven’t told anyone else yet.” He scratched the back of his head and stuffed one hand into his pocket. “We’re all planning to go out for drinks after work tomorrow night,” Jungkook said. “I wanted to tell everyone the good news at the same time, so – keep it a secret until then, ok?”

 

Seokjin mimed zipping his lips. “My lips are sealed.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Thanks, hyung.”

 

“As your hyung, I’m very proud of you,” Seokjin said. “But as your sajangnim, I’m very excited that I’ll be able to give you a raise.” He patted Jungkook proudly on the shoulder as he sat down on the front corner of his desk. “I can give you a moderate pay increase while you’re taking culinary classes,” he said. “If you choose to stay on after you graduate from culinary school, I’ll be able to give you a substantial increase from an hourly to a salaried position.”

 

Jungkook grinned. “Thank you, sajangnim.”

 

“Ok, Jinnie!” a voice called from outside the office door. “The car is packed – that ski lodge isn’t going to wait for us forever!”

 

Seokjin turned to the door in horror as Namjoon opened the handle and popped his head inside – only to freeze in terror when he noticed Jungkook’s presence.

 

“I mean – ” Namjoon hurried to improvise “ – the ski lodge… that’s hosting that business conference we’re going to attend.”

 

Seokjin sighed wearily, knowing that the cat was already out of the bag. “Smooth recovery, Joonie,” he mumbled as Namjoon fumbled for a cover in front of Jungkook. “Very smooth.”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Jungkook hurried to assure the pair. After all, Jungkook had known about their secret love affair for a while, now. “As my hyung, I’m glad the two of you found one another,” he said with a smile. “And as my sajangnim – I’ll just pretend I didn’t see a thing.”

 

Seokjin turned back to Jungkook with red ears before smiling in embarrassment. “Thanks, Kookie.”

 

*

 

“I’m exhausted,” Hoseok complained as he returned to the kitchen for his last order of the night. “I don’t know how the two of you do it.”

 

Jungkook smiled at his friend. Hoseok had stepped in to help Jungkook prep and serve food at Yoongi’s cooking lesson earlier that day. While he may have been used to a full dinner shift each day, he wasn’t prepared for a double shift.

 

“I don’t know,” Jungkook confessed. He’d never once felt drained after his shift in the kitchen. Often times, it had the opposite effect, leaving Jungkook energized and eager to do more. “I kind-of enjoy the work.”

 

Yoongi hummed in agreement as he turned around to place a fresh plate of food on the counter for Hoseok to take to his last table. “I’ve never had a problem with the long day,” he agreed, nodding at Jungkook.

 

Hoseok stared at both of them in horror. “Has anyone ever told the two of you that you’re freaks?”

 

Yoongi snorted. “Of course.”

 

Jungkook happily played along with Yoongi’s self-deprecating humor. “All the time.”

 

Hoseok simply rolled his eyes and took his plates out to the serving room. “Whatever, freaks.”

 

Jungkook laughed as the door swung closed. “It’s almost too easy with him.”

 

Yoongi tugged the light blue bandana off his head as he turned back to Jungkook and grinned. “Right?”

 

“I’ll buy him a drink to make up for our teasing tonight,” Jungkook confessed with a lazy smile.

 

“You might need to get a rain check on that one,” Yoongi told him. He dropped the rag that he was about to use to clean up his work station and stepped towards Jungkook with a pleased grin. “Remember that movie you kept telling me about – the one that’s been advertised as the scariest film of the year?”

 

Jungkook held his breath as he anticipated what Yoongi was about to say. “Yeah?”

 

“There’s a showing at midnight,” he said, “and I convinced everyone to see it with us tonight.”

 

“Shut up.” Jungkook’s eyes widened. “But they hate scary movies!”

 

“All I had to do was convince Taehyung that a scary movie would send Jimin into his arms,” Yoongi explained simply. “After that, Hoseok just got outvoted by the rest of us, so – ” Yoongi dramatically twirled his hand about in the air as he gave Jungkook a mock bow “ – you’re welcome.”

 

“Shut up,” Jungkook repeated, this time laughing in delight. Impulsively, he threw his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders, hugging him. “You’re the best, hyung.”

 

For a moment, Jungkook wondered if this rare skinship between the two of them would freak Yoongi out. It wasn’t often that either one of them demonstrated their close friendship through physical touch; the few times that they had hugged one another were often limited to extreme circumstances. But in this moment, Jungkook was ecstatic. His new and dear friend had gone out of his way to plan an evening out that avoided the overly social scene that both of them often despised to begin with, and had even convinced the rest of their friends to watch a scary movie – an activity that Jungkook never would have been able to convince them of before.

 

The mere thought of how much effort Yoongi likely had to put into this event made Jungkook feel elated.

 

And then, to his surprise, he felt Yoongi’s hands tentatively wrapping around Jungkook’s waist, returning the fond gesture. It was like a light tickle at first as his thin fingers barely skimmed the hem of his shirt. Then he gently pressed his hands against Jungkook’s hips, tugging him even closer to his body.

 

But as Jungkook felt the distance close between their bodies – and he recognized the steady increase of his heart rate – he suddenly panicked and quickly released Yoongi.

 

Jungkook coughed uncomfortably, putting three steps between them as he backed away. “Um – sorry,” he mumbled, turning back to his work space in the kitchen. “That was… a bit of an overreaction.”

 

“No – no, no, it’s fine,” Yoongi assured Jungkook with a wave of his hand. Then he gave a short laugh – a strained laugh – and said, “I get it. You must be really excited for this movie.”

 

“Yeah.” Jungkook nodded. He turned around, searching for his dishrag to keep his hands busy. “I mean – scariest film of the year, right?”

 

“Right,” Yoongi quickly agreed. “It’s supposed to be incredible.”

 

Jungkook swallowed. He pointed at the stove over his shoulder once he’d found the rag he was looking for. “I should, um… I should clean my area before we go.”

 

“Oh!” Yoongi ducked his head in embarrassment as he hurried back to his own workspace. “Yeah. Me, too.”

 

Jungkook stubbornly kept his head down as he willed his heart to return to its original pace.

 

This was not how his body was supposed to react to his mentor.

 

This was not how his body was supposed to react to a friend. Period.

 

And it was certainly not how his body was supposed to react to Yoongi.

 

Once Jungkook finished cleaning his area, he changed back into his regular clothes and dug around in his pants pockets for his cell phone. He turned it back on to send a message to his parents – a common courtesy he gave them before he crept back into his home in the early morning – and was surprised to notice that he already had a voicemail that had been left on his phone.

 

All of his friends worked with him on the same shift – so who would have called him to leave a voicemail?

 

“Jungkook,” his mother’s shaky voice came through his phone’s earpiece as Jungkook pressed the play button. “I know you’re at work, but I don’t want you to panic.”

 

It was already too late for that.

 

“Your father…” Jungkook registered a brief pause as his mother inhaled sharply, as if she were trying not to cry. “He… he was having some health issues this morning, Jungkook, and…”

 

Jungkook silently cursed his mother for attempting to be vague in order to protect her youngest son, when all Jungkook wanted to hear from her was the truth.

 

“We’re at the hospital, Jungkook,” her words finally came through. “He’s fine right now, but…”

 

Jungkook’s heart seized up at her final words.

 

“Please come as soon you get this message,” she pleaded through choked tears. “Please.”

 

Jungkook shoved his phone into his pocket and immediately turned for the back exit.

 

“Jungkook?” Yoongi called out surprise as he glanced up from his work station. “Where are you going?”

 

Jungkook picked up his jacket from the coat hook hanging by the back door. “I’m sorry. I have to go.”

 

“Wait!” Yoongi dropped everything he was doing and rushed to his side, puzzled by his sudden departure. “If I did anything to – ”

 

But Jungkook was already gone, leaving the back door to swing closed in his wake.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Mom!”

 

Jungkook sprinted around the corner of the intensive care unit, rushing towards his mother the moment he spotted her seated in a cheap, brown chair at the opposite end of a long hallway. Her hands were clasped together in front of her with her head bowed, but she looked up with wild eyes the moment she heard her son’s voice.

 

And then she collapsed into sobs.

 

“Mom,” Jungkook said again, hurrying to reach his mother before she could completely fall apart. “Mom, I’m here,” he rushed to assure her. She tried to stand up from her chair to greet her son properly, but her legs shook at her feeble attempt to stand. Clearly, her nerves had been shot after her exhausting day without any familial support.

 

Jungkook wanted to yell at his mother for not finding a way to get a hold of him sooner.

 

My Jungkookie!” she wailed into his arms as her small hands clutched at his shoulders. “I tried to be so brave for your father, but – ”

 

“I know,” Jungkook assured her, feeling his own tears well up. Witnessing his mother in this fragile state was traumatizing. She was always so strong in every other facet of her life that it made Jungkook feel completely and utterly useless, watching the strongest woman he knew fall apart in his arms. “It’s ok,” he assured her as he gently rocked her from side to side in her chair. His right foot was twisted at a weird angle and his back was awkwardly curved as he hunched over at her side, but he ignored his discomfort entirely for his mother’s benefit. “I’m here, now,” he told her with a gentle pat on her back. “It’s ok. I’m here.”

 

It took another few minutes to calm his mother down enough to slowly unravel himself from her death grip. “Mom,” he spoke in a quivering voice. He still had no idea what was going on, but seeing his mother’s reaction to the situation already had him on edge. “Tell me what happened.” She hiccupped as she tried to get her sobs under control. “What happened to dad?”

 

“Your father,” she began slowly, “he – he had this terrible chest pain this morning – he was – ”

 

A doctor quickly stepped in as Jungkook’s mother struggled to make it through a complete sentence without bursting into tears. “You must be her son that she mentioned – Jungkook?”

 

Jungkook looked up at the woman. He kept a comforting hand on his mother’s shoulder but stood at his full height. “One of them,” he tried to answer in a confident voice as he suddenly felt the need to act as his mother’s caretaker. “Are you my father’s doctor?”

 

“I am,” the woman replied with a nod. She glanced at his mother’s defeated posture and quickly jumped in to assist. “I’ve already spoken with your mother… but perhaps we could speak somewhere a bit more private to discuss your father’s condition?” The doctor gestured towards a room at the end of the hallway and silently led the pair inside to speak with them.

 

“Is my father ok?” Jungkook asked the moment the door swung closed. He clenched his mother’s hand in his own, even as they moved to sit on the couch together. “What happened to him?”

 

They appeared to be sitting inside of a lounge of some sort. The doctor pulled a chair away from the small table and sat directly across from Jungkook and his mother. “Your father came into the hospital this morning with severe pain in his chest,” she calmly stated. “After an exam, we quickly diagnosed your father with Coronary Artery Disease.”

 

Jungkook’s hand tightened on his mother’s. He had no idea what that was – but it didn’t sound good.

 

“The blood flow to your father’s heart had become restricted,” the woman explained in layman’s terms, “so he wasn’t getting the blood he needed. Fortunately,” she added with a small nod, “we caught it before it could have gotten any worse.”

 

Jungkook was only mildly relieved by these words. “Worse?”

 

“If left untreated, it often leads to heart attacks,” she said. “However, we were able to detect the blocked artery immediately and proceeded with his surgery.”

 

Surgery?” Jungkook’s head whipped towards his mother, staring at her with wide eyes. “He had surgery?

 

“It went very well,” the doctor immediately reassured Jungkook before he could panic anymore than he already was. “We were able to repair the blocked artery and believe he will be back to normal in no time.”

 

“I’m sorry – my father had heart surgery?” Jungkook clarified. He turned from the doctor back to his mother. “Why didn’t you call the restaurant directly to tell me sooner?

 

“You were working,” she murmured, sniffling. “I didn’t want to worry you.”

 

Worry me?” Jungkook snapped at his mother. He couldn’t hold back his anger any longer. “He’s my father! I want you to worry me!” Then remembering his older brother’s absence at the hospital, he asked, “Did you even call Junghyun?”

 

“You know he’s traveling abroad for work,” she explained. “He won’t be back in the country for at least another week.”

 

Jungkook was so on edge that he didn’t even feel guilty for yelling at his mother like he had. He knew he would feel bad about it later, but the panic from their situation had already taken hold of his body. It wasn’t her fault – she had only done what she believed to be right – but Jungkook couldn’t see anything clearly. Not now.

 

Thankfully, the doctor knew exactly what they were going through and stepped in to smooth over their conversation before it could get any worse between them. “He hasn’t woken up yet,” she said, “but all signs point to a full recovery.” Sensing Jungkook’s need to have physical reassurance, she nodded towards the door leading back to the hallway. “Would you like to see him?”

 

Jungkook sprang to his feet and nodded, unable to trust his voice at the moment.

 

“Prepare yourself,” the doctor explained calmly over her shoulder as she led them through the hallway and back to the room where his mother had been sitting before. “He looks worse than he is.”

 

But as the doctor pushed the door open, Jungkook’s chest tightened. He stood in the doorway, staring at his father as he took in all of wires attached to him in various locations. He was virtually unrecognizable in his current state. Large tubes stemmed from the center of his father’s chest while various monitors beeped and recorded his vital signs.

 

This was not the man that had been laughing with him and Yoongi weeks before.

 

Dad,” he breathed.

 

Jungkook stumbled forward in a daze. He immediately recognized the touch of his own mother as he felt a hand lightly press against the space between his shoulder blades. The tables turned as she once again became the backbone of this family and soothed her youngest son’s fears.

 

“He’ll be alright,” she quietly reminded Jungkook in a gentle voice. “I know it’s scary… but everything will be ok.”

 

Jungkook stumbled forward and collapsed into the chair that had been placed at his father’s bedside. Clearly, his mother had been keeping a silent vigil over him before Jungkook had arrived. Nervously, Jungkook reached out a shaking hand and grasped his father’s fingers.

 

“The recovery process will be a long and very difficult road for him,” the doctor murmured, “but with a strong support system, we anticipate a full and complete recovery.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, trying to push his nerves aside before opening his mouth to speak to the doctor. “And – is he – ” Jungkook sniffed, shaking his head to clear his scattered thoughts. “When will he wake up?”

 

“Soon,” the doctor assured him. “If all goes well tonight, we’ll move him to regular care for a few more days before we can discharge him.”

 

Jungkook shook his head in disbelief. “My father had heart surgery, and you’re telling me he can go home in just a few days?

 

The doctor smiled patiently, as if she’d been asked this question before. “I am,” she confirmed. “But his recovery doesn’t end when he goes home. There’s a great deal of care that he will need.” She glanced at his mother. “I strongly encourage his participation in a rehabilitation program to ensure his health for the future.”

 

“Thank you,” his mother spoke up with a small shake of her head, “but I don’t think a rehabilitation program is something we’ll be doing.”

 

The doctor suddenly looked alarmed at this news. “It would be incredibly beneficial for him,” she immediately tried to persuade her. “I know that you expressed your concern with the medical costs, but we can always set up monthly installments for your bills. I can assure you that this program is just as vital as the surgery.”

 

His mother smiled sadly. “I know,” she answered, “but we just can’t afford it.”

 

“What?” Jungkook looked up at his mother in shock. “Mom. Of course we will. We have to.”

 

His mother gazed down at him with a sad smile. She gently brushed his matted hair, fresh from his last dinner shift, off of his forehead before cupping his cheek. “He’ll be ok,” she attempted to calm her son. “Don’t worry.”

 

“The doctor said he needs more help,” Jungkook quietly argued. As he concern continued to rise, he found the strength he needed to stand up from his chair. “Mom – we’re not going to just turn down help that’s just a little out of our price range when it means helping him recover. We’ll find a way to cover the bills.”

 

“Jungkook.” She sighed, looking every part like the patient mother that she was. “I know you want what’s best for your father, but you need to be practical – and we both know that he would say the same thing if he were awake. We’ll make it through,” she reassured him. “We always do.”

 

“No.” Jungkook turned to the doctor without a beat of hesitation as he decided to take charge of the situation. “He’s getting that treatment.”

 

“Jungkook, we can’t possibly afford – ”

 

“You don’t have to pay for it,” he finally snapped.

 

And in a single breath, Jungkook felt his lifelong dream slip right through his fingers.

 

“I’ll pay for it.”

 

*

 

Jungkook went to work the following day in a fog.

 

He’d never once asked for a day off since he’d begun working for Seokjin. For years, he’d worked from dawn until dusk, oftentimes forgoing his own health in order to make his shift. The only time Jungkook had ever missed a day of work had been when Seokjin had caught Jungkook with a terrible cold and sent him home before he could attempt to serve any food to their customers.

 

But today – for the first time – Jungkook had no desire to work in the kitchen.

 

He went about his regular duties – sharpening his knives, preparing the food, readying his station – but he couldn’t feel any of the drive he’d had from the weeks prior. There was no motivation for him to want to excel. His enthusiasm for food had all but vanished. Had Seokjin been available to cover for him instead of gallivanting across the city on his secret rendezvous with Namjoon, Jungkook was fairly confident that he would have taken the day off for once.

 

Because today he just felt… numb.

 

Yoongi was already in the kitchen, busy preparing the special for the evening long before Jungkook had arrived. While Yoongi had greeted his friend with his usual smile, Jungkook simply replied with a grumble and set off to work. At the start of the dinner service, Yoongi attempted to start up a casual conversation, but Jungkook ignored his attempts to reach out. Yoongi only tried once more to speak to Jungkook before finally giving up and allowing him to retreat into his own thoughts for the night.

 

The service went moderately smoothly, despite Jungkook’s lack of conversation. The only spoken words in the kitchen were Yoongi’s as he barked out the dinner orders over the roar of the kitchen equipment. Jungkook spared nothing more than a single grunt in response as he kept his head down and prepared his food in silence.

 

It almost worked for him – right up until Taehyung showed up halfway through the dinner service.

 

“Um – guys?” the waiter walked through the kitchen doors and timidly passed the plate in his hands back to the kitchen staff. “Table eleven sent their food back.” Yoongi immediately stopped what he was doing and accepted the plate, pushing the food around on their dish with his finger to inspect it thoroughly for problems. “He said that the chicken – ”

 

“It’s undercooked,” Yoongi completed his sentence as he saw the issue for himself. He turned to Jungkook with the evidence in hand. “You undercooked their chicken.”

 

Jungkook spared a glance at the plate, noticing the pink color at the center of the meat, and turned back to his grill to toss a fresh piece of chicken into another pan. “I’ll make another.”

 

“It’s fucking raw,” Yoongi snapped, voice rising in intensity as he spoke. He was practically growling at Jungkook as he shoved the offensive plate under his nose. “Are you trying to kill someone?”

 

Jungkook pushed the plate away with a dismissive roll of his eyes. “It was a mistake,” he spit back. “I already told you – I’ll make a new one.”

 

Yoongi stared at him in disbelief.

 

“What is wrong with you?”

 

Jungkook stubbornly ignored the question.

 

“You’ve been completely uncommunicative since the moment you’ve arrived – is this about – ” Yoongi suddenly stopped talking, glancing over his shoulder as Taehyung stood nervously in the doorway. He sighed, turning back to Jungkook. “Just – no more stupid mistakes. Got it?”

 

Jungkook didn’t even bother to respond.

 

As the last ticket came in, Jungkook finally started to feel some semblance of emotion. The exhaustion of not having slept in over twenty-four hours was taking a toll his body and he knew he needed to sleep sometime soon. He even started to feel thankful that his shift was nearly over, which wasn’t an emotion he’d had since he’d started working in the kitchen. Relief coursed though him when he realized he could return home to spend a much needed evening at his parents’ sides.

 

But the moment Jungkook passed over his last plate to Hoseok – believing that he was home free – Yoongi threw his plans for a loop.

 

“Out,” he demanded, turning Jungkook around and shoving him towards the back door of the kitchen. “Let’s go.”

 

“Wait – what are you – get your hands off of me!”

 

Go!” Yoongi barked, pointing angrily at the door leading to the alley until Jungkook grudgingly obeyed. Yoongi followed, slamming the door shut behind them and shrouding them in silence as the constant hum of the equipment in the kitchen was abruptly removed from their surroundings. When Yoongi stepped into the alley, Jungkook stubbornly turned away, refusing to show any weakness in the face of Yoongi’s anger.

 

“I need to clean my station,” Jungkook spoke up in a flat voice before Yoongi could address him. “I have somewhere I need to be.”

 

“Seriously,” Yoongi said, as if he were picking up their conversation from an hour earlier. “What’s wrong with you?”

 

Jungkook shook his head. “There’s nothing wrong. I made one mistake and I’m sorry, but – ”

 

“No – I mean before that,” Yoongi interrupted. He stepped closer, invading Jungkook’s personal space. “It’s like you’re here, but you’re not… here.”

 

Jungkook stubbornly avoided Yoongi’s gaze. He placed both hands firmly on his hips, despite Yoongi’s rather intimidating presence. He may have been shorter than Jungkook, but that didn’t change the fact that everything about his demeanor commanded respect and authority from those around him.

 

“I can understand a mistake,” Yoongi continued, “but – it’s like you don’t even care.”

 

Jungkook clenched his teeth, forcing himself to remain silent instead of admitting just how much he really didn’t care in that very moment.

 

“Look.” Yoongi suddenly took on an entirely different tone. He lowered his voice and spoke in a surprisingly gentle voice. “If this is about what happened last night, then you should know – ”

 

“Last night?” Jungkook finally replied in confusion. He could hardly remember the details of anything that had happened prior to the news of his father’s surgery. “What happened last night?”

 

Yoongi stared at Jungkook, as if attempting to read further into his expression. “I thought – you hugged me, and it seemed like that might have made you… uncomfortable.”

 

“What?” Jungkook ran a shaky hand through his hair, making it stand on end. Combined with his hollow laugh when Yoongi expressed his concern, Jungkook looked completely unhinged.

 

“You couldn’t get away from me fast enough,” Yoongi murmured. If Jungkook didn’t know any better, he would say that Yoongi actually appeared to be hurt by the entire ordeal. “You just… bolted.”

 

“I wasn’t running away from you,” Jungkook finally snapped, arms flung out wide as he expressed his frustration. “Jesus Christ. Contrary to what you believe, the world doesn’t actually revolve around you,” he hissed. “Not everything is about you and your precious kitchen.”

 

Yoongi stared at him.

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he murmured, furrowing his brow.

 

Me?” Jungkook rounded on him, poking a finger into his chest. “What’s wrong with you? I made one small mistake, and you’re acting like I betrayed you.”

 

“You’re being reckless!” Yoongi firmly stood his ground. “Every dish you put out tonight was sloppy and half-assed. Dammit, Jungkook – when Seokjin refused to put an amateur in the kitchen, I put my neck on the line for you!” He shook his head in disappointment. “Maybe I should have listened to him after all. You’re not acting like a man who wants to go to culinary school – I can tell you that much.”

 

His words hit a raw nerve.

 

“I’m not?” Jungkook’s laugh was maniacal. “You think I don’t deserve to go to culinary school?”

 

Yoongi’s tough exterior slipped at Jungkook’s odd question. “I never said you didn’t deserve – ”

 

“Because I do,” Jungkook countered in an escalated voice as he gestured animatedly. “I deserve to go to school – to get my degree – to open my own restaurant someday – I deserve that. I’ve worked my ass off for years – years – working fifteen hour days – every day – and now that I’m actually working in a kitchen for the first time, you think I don’t – ”

 

“Jungkook.”

 

“No!” Jungkook growled. “You don’t get to say I don’t deserve – ”

 

Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook’s gaze flashed angrily. “What?

 

Yoongi’s eyes were glassy as he stared at Jungkook in shock.

 

“You’re… crying.”

 

In a bit of a stunned daze, Jungkook lifted a hand to his cheek, but Yoongi beat him to it. Solemnly, Yoongi swiped the tears away – one on each cheek – and used both hands to cup his face in an affectionate gesture. His touch stopped Jungkook from his rant and forced him to take a deep breath, but only resulted in another wave of tears slipping from the corners of his eyes.

 

“You’re my best friend,” Yoongi admitted in a gentle voice, “and I have no idea what’s going on with you – but I can’t just stand here and just watch you fall apart.” His swallow was audible, even to Jungkook ears, as Yoongi choked back his own tears. “It’s like my own heart is breaking.” He sighed, letting the silence linger in the air for five long seconds before he whispered, “Please – let me help.”

 

His words were enough to make Jungkook attempt to take a frantic breath just before he stepped forward and collapsed into Yoongi’s arms.

 

Hyung,” Jungkook sobbed, fingers clutching desperately to the chef’s uniform Yoongi was still wearing. His whole body shook with raw, excruciating cries of agony, only pausing momentarily when he was forced to gasp for air.

 

“It’s ok.” Yoongi wasted no time in comforting his friend. He had no knowledge of Jungkook’s situation – no idea whatsoever – but it didn’t stop him from reaching his arms out to wrap around Jungkook’s shoulders and squeeze him as tight as he possibly could. “I know it hurts,” he murmured in a low voice, directly into Jungkook’s ear, “but I’m here. I’ll help however I can.”

 

His comforting words only fueled the fire – but for some reason, Jungkook thought that might have actually been a good thing. He was a complete mess, hanging on for dear life, but it felt good to finally let everything go. His father’s sudden health complications in the hospital had completely upended Jungkook’s life and he’d spent the last twenty-four hours feeling like the weight of the world sat upon his shoulders. His mother was just as shattered as Jungkook, but he couldn’t risk showing her how vulnerable he truly was when she was now relying on him to keep herself afloat. He was supposed to be strong for his parents – he was supposed to support them – but he was terrified.

 

But now, when he broke down with his hyung’s arms surrounding him, Jungkook felt like he had finally found someone who was supporting him.

 

For a long while – too long to imagine – Jungkook clung to Yoongi, letting everything flush its way out of his system. He was sure there was an incredibly wet spot from his tears on Yoongi’s shoulder, but he couldn’t even bring himself to feel embarrassed by the damage he’d caused to Yoongi’s usually spotless uniform. All the while, Yoongi maintained a steady flow of soothing words and murmured reassurances in Jungkook’s ear while his hand moved ceaselessly in a circular motion across his lower back.

 

It wasn’t until Jungkook’s choked sobs diminished into quiet rasps for air that he finally spoke up.

 

“My father,” Jungkook whispered into Yoongi’s neck. “He’s in the hospital.”

 

For a split second, Yoongi stopped his ministrations in surprise at Jungkook’s voice. But just as soon as he had stopped, he immediately started again. “I’m so sorry,” he murmured in response. “Is he alright?”

 

“He had emergency open heart surgery,” Jungkook continued in a stronger voice. He slowly straightened his fingers, feeling the blood return to his hands as he released his death grip on Yoongi’s shirt. “He’s… fine now, but…”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi immediately agreed without Jungkook having to finish his sentence. “I get it. It’s still scary.”

 

Jungkook gradually peeled himself away from Yoongi’s comforting embrace, slowly regaining his balance on his own two feet. He winced at the tear-stained mark he’d left on Yoongi’s shoulders. “Shit – sorry.”

 

“Don’t worry about me,” Yoongi brushed off his concerns. He stepped forward, taking both of Jungkook’s hands in an attempt to maintain the physical connection they’d just had. “Are you ok?”

 

And for the first time all evening, Jungkook gave him a shaky smile.

 

“I am, now,” he quietly admitted. “Thanks, hyung. For…” Jungkook let out a laugh of disbelief. “For forcing me to talk.”

 

“That’s what friends are for,” Yoongi replied with a smile of his own.

 

Jungkook quietly squeezed Yoongi’s hands, showing his gratitude. “I needed it,” he confessed. “I… needed your help.” He nodded in understanding. “I see that, now.”

 

Yoongi remained silent for a moment, slowly absorbing Jungkook’s words. Then, acting upon an impulse decision, Yoongi exhaled decisively. “Alright,” he said. “Let’s go.”

 

Yoongi had already dropped one of Jungkook’s hands and was tugging him toward the kitchen with the other. He finally felt like he was able to breathe, and Yoongi was already trying to finish their short-lived conversation. Why wasn’t he pressing Jungkook for more details?

 

“Where are we going?” Jungkook asked.

 

“To clean,” Yoongi answered simply. “And then I’m taking you home.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Jungkook shuffled groggily into his family’s kitchen.

 

This time, he wasn’t surprised to find Yoongi moving about the small space like he owned the place.

 

Yoongi glanced up at the doorway at the sound of Jungkook’s slippers shuffling across the kitchen. “Oh – hey,” he murmured as Jungkook slowly walked towards the cabinet above the counter and pulled out a plastic glass. “You’re up early.”

 

Jungkook filled the glass with water and folded on arm across his chest as he leaned against the sink. “I could say the same for you,” he murmured as he sipped from his glass. Yoongi had taken Jungkook under his wing after his breakdown at the restaurant, showing a surprising side to him that Jungkook would have never expected. Once he’d taken Jungkook home and checked that he was doing better, Yoongi turned around to leave.

 

Or, at least, that’s what Jungkook had assumed he’d done.

 

“Why are you still here?” Jungkook asked. Then realizing how his words may have come off, he rushed to continue. “Not that I’m mad about that, or… you know,” he stammered uncomfortably. “I just… didn’t expect to see you.”

 

“Yeah.” Yoongi came to a standstill as he halted his food preparations and simply took a moment to survey the damage he had done in the kitchen. “I, uh – well, after you fell asleep, I felt like I needed to do something to help, and…” He gestured to the countertops that were covered in various dishes that he had prepared ahead of time. “I thought I could make your family some food while your father recovered, so… you know.” He shrugged bashfully. “It’s one less thing to worry about.”

 

Jungkook smiled appreciatively. “You didn’t have to do that.”

 

“I know,” Yoongi agreed with a nod. “But I wanted to help in the way that I knew how, so…”

 

Jungkook silently set his glass down on one of the few empty countertops and pushed away from the sink. With a watery smile, Jungkook took three steps forward until he had leisurely slipped his hands around Yoongi’s waist and pressed his face into his shoulder. Since the evening before, Yoongi’s warm embrace had become a source of comfort for Jungkook and he didn’t want to shy away from it any longer. Without a single ounce of embarrassment, he tightly gripped Yoongi’s hips, pulling his body firmly against his own.

 

Yoongi reciprocated the gesture, albeit a bit belatedly, patting his hands on Jungkook’s back. “It’s not a big deal,” he tried to downplay the incredibly kind gesture that he’d made for Jungkook and his family. “Seriously.”

 

When Jungkook stepped away, he kept a single hand wrapped around Yoongi’s waist, as if he were reluctant to let him out of his sight. Yoongi began pointing at the various meals he’d prepared. “It’s mostly dishes that you should be able to freeze and then you can thaw them whenever you like. It should get you by for… awhile.”

 

Jungkook laughed quietly, looking at his surroundings. “I hope there’s enough freezer storage for everything.”

 

Yoongi’s expression went blank as he suddenly considered this scenario. “Fuck.”

 

“I’m kidding – I’m kidding,” Jungkook immediately assured the man with a laugh. “This is great. Really.” Yoongi glanced back over at Jungkook and smiled at the compliment. “Now,” he continued, “why don’t you sit down and I will make you breakfast?”

 

“No, no,” Yoongi began to argue. He tried to turn back to the refrigerator to start taking ingredients out once again. “I want to help. Please, let me – ”

 

“No,” Jungkook firmly cut him off. His hand slipped off of Yoongi’s waist at his movement, so he quickly snatched Yoongi’s wrist, lightly tugging him away from the fridge. “You’ve helped plenty,” he murmured with a gentle squeeze of Yoongi’s hand. “In fact…” Jungkook glanced down at Yoongi’s dark pants and t-shirt, eyeing the familiar outfit. “You’re still wearing the same clothes from last night,” he pointed out, just noticing it for the first time since he’d woken up. “You haven’t gotten a wink of sleep, have you?”

 

Yoongi didn’t refute his statement.

 

“Come here,” Jungkook continued, swiftly maneuvering his hand until it slid down Yoongi’s wrist and he had laced his fingers through Yoongi’s. “You need to sleep.”

 

“No,” Yoongi weakly argued as Jungkook led him towards his bedroom. “You wanted to cook breakfast for me, remember?” he tried to fight back. “I want breakfast.”

 

Jungkook smiled privately at the surprisingly whiny – and somehow adorable – voice that Yoongi took on when he was tired. “I’ll make breakfast for you when you wake up,” Jungkook promised him. “But you need to sleep first.”

 

Yoongi followed obediently, allowing Jungkook to lead him through the silent hallways of his home. As he entered his bedroom, Yoongi willingly laid down in the bed Jungkook offered up to him. The chef was hardly resistant as Jungkook tugged the bed sheets over his body and Yoongi groaned quietly at the sheer relief of being off his feet and tucked into a warm bed.

 

“Sleep,” Jungkook commanded while he tugged the comforter up to Yoongi’s chin. His hand lingered, subconsciously reaching out towards Yoongi’s face in a show of affection for his friend. Realizing what he was doing, Jungkook abruptly retracted his fingers and smiled. “I’ll be here when you wake up, ok?”

 

Yoongi’s hand shot out from beneath the covers, grasping Jungkook’s.

 

He slowly brought Jungkook’s hand back to his cheek, pressing his warm palm to his face.

 

“Ok,” he whispered. “Thanks.”

 

Jungkook felt a burning sensation within his chest.

 

*

 

Jungkook saw to it that his mother was fed one of Yoongi’s prepared meals before she left for the hospital to visit his father. Afterwards, he spent the rest of the morning moving lazily around his home, seemingly waiting for Yoongi to wake from his slumber. It wasn’t until the early afternoon that Jungkook finally realized he would have to wake Yoongi himself or they would never make it to the restaurant in time to prepare the food necessary for their dinner shift.

 

Yoongi wasn’t exactly the easiest person to wake, but Jungkook somehow managed. He handed over a change of his own clothes for Yoongi to wear that he hoped would fit him. They were close enough in size, but Jungkook was much taller and far more muscular than his elder. As such, Yoongi looked as if he was swimming in his clothes once he’d come out of Jungkook’s bedroom in his borrowed outfit.

 

It didn’t matter much, of course. Once they reached the restaurant, they would both dawn their regular chef uniforms and hide their hair beneath their colorful bandanas, just as they did every other night. Everything would be as it was before.

 

But Taehyung spotted them first.

 

“Hey, guys…” Taehyung froze in the midst of pulling down a chair that the wait staff had stacked the night before on top of one of the dining tables. He stared as Yoongi and Jungkook walked through the restaurant and towards the kitchen. His eyes scanned the pair carefully before looking up at Jungkook with wide eyes. “Hey, Kookie? You got a minute?”

 

Jungkook glanced first at Yoongi, waiting for his nod of approval, before veering off course to meet up with his friend. “Hey,” he said as Taehyung pulled another chair down from the table. “What’s up?”

 

Taehyung craned his neck to peer around Jungkook to watch Yoongi’s retreating form. He only started talking the moment the kitchen door swung closed behind the chef. “Jesus fucking Christ, Jungkook,” he hissed frantically. “Are you fucking the chef? Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

What?” Jungkook was taken aback by the sudden accusation. “No – I’m not – ” his eyes scanned the room in a panic as he lowered his voice “ – I’m not doing anything with Yoongi! Why – why would you even think that?”

 

“He’s wearing your clothes!” Taehyung swiftly pointed out with his hands gesturing about wildly. He suddenly pointed accusatorily towards the front door. “And the two of you walked in together, so it only makes sense that you spent the night at his place!”

 

“Well – ” Jungkook blinked “ – I mean – yeah, he stayed at my place last night. But we didn’t – ”

 

“Oh, God, in your parents’ home?” Taehyung made a disgusted expression. “We used to have sleepovers in your bed when we were kids!” he cried. “Now you’ve defiled your childhood bed?”

 

“I haven’t defiled anything,” Jungkook spit back, checking nervously over his shoulder for Yoongi, fearful that he might overhear something that Jungkook really didn’t want to have to explain. “He’s – I mean – we’re friends, Taehyung. What do you want me to say? He crashed at my place. Nothing happened.”

 

Taehyung sat down in the chair he’d just placed on the floor with an audible thump. “Did the two of you go out drinking without the rest of us?” he asked in confusion. “Is that why he was at your house?”

 

Jungkook sighed heavily. He’d already had one meltdown in front of Yoongi when he’d recounted the events of his father’s stay in the hospital. He didn’t want to have to do it again. “We’re friends,” he stated once again in the hopes that this would finally end the conversation. “There’s really nothing more to it, Tae.”

 

Taehyung slumped in his chair, crossing both arms over his chest. “I’m not sure I believe you.”

 

“Whatever.” Jungkook quickly brushed off his friend with a dismissive wave of his hand before turning back to the kitchen. “It doesn’t matter. I have to get to work. I’ll talk to you later.”

 

But as Jungkook got back into the kitchen, he almost wished that he hadn’t.

 

Because Taehyung’s voice kept ringing in the back of his mind.

 

Jungkook found himself carefully avoiding Yoongi at every point during their shift. If the chef walked past Jungkook in the midst of chopping vegetables, Jungkook stopped everything he was doing and hugged the counter to let him pass. If Yoongi was digging around in the walk-in refrigerator for food, Jungkook stubbornly remained outside the small unit until he had stepped out. It was an awkward dance, but Jungkook couldn’t help but think about Taehyung’s words now that they had been planted there.

 

They obviously weren’t sleeping with one another. Well – they had slept together, just not in the way that Taehyung believed. Nothing had happened last night that hadn’t been fuelled by the incident with Jungkook’s father. But the part that bothered Jungkook the most wasn’t the fact that Taehyung had accused him of having sex with the head chef.

 

It was the fact that Jungkook actually felt offended by the mere idea that Taehyung thought their relationship meant nothing more than a roll between the sheets.

 

Jungkook’s chopping on the cutting board slowed as his mind wandered. He’d been entirely dependent on Yoongi last night after he’d crumbled in defeat after his shift. At that point, the only thing that even felt real anymore was the gentle tightening of Yoongi’s arms around his waist – his soothing voice in his ear – the warmth of his hands on his back. As they walked to his home, it was Yoongi’s hand that wrapped around his own, safely guiding him down the dimly lit streets when Jungkook felt like he couldn’t walk on his own two feet. And when Jungkook had lay in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling while he waited for exhaustion to overtake him, it was Yoongi’s fingers lightly stroking through Jungkook’s hair as he sat at his bedside that lulled him into a restless sleep.

 

But now, in the cold light of day, Jungkook was having a hard time separating Yoongi’s gentle touches from those of a concerned friend… and those of a lover.

 

Yoongi respected Jungkook’s distance, only asking once during their shift if he was feeling better from the night before. Jungkook readily answered that he was before continuing his work. That seemed to be all the confirmation Yoongi needed for the evening, for which Jungkook was grateful. With the way his brain was now having such difficulties processing the past twenty-four hours, he wasn’t sure what to say to Yoongi anymore.

 

Fortunately, the dinner service went off without a hitch. More than once, Jungkook caught Yoongi glancing in his direction, checking that he was back to his regular standard of food preparation. Jungkook didn’t blame him. The food he’d sent out the evening before had been unacceptable, even to his own standards, and he’d been so careless that he’d sent it out anyway. Jungkook never wanted a repeat of that night ever again.

 

Midway through their service, Seokjin slipped into the kitchen with a wide smile. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he greeted them cheerily.

 

Jungkook glanced up, somewhat relieved for the distraction from his thoughts. “Hey, you’re back,” he commented with a smile. “How was your, um… business thing?”

 

Yoongi was sufficiently distracted with checking something in the oven that Seokjin was able to widen his eyes meaningfully at Jungkook before saying, “It went very well. I… learned a lot.”

 

Jungkook refrained from chuckling at Seokjin’s careful phrasing as he tried to keep his tryst with Namjoon a secret. “Glad you enjoyed yourself,” he said. Then, attempting to fluster his long time friend, Jungkook added in a nonchalant voice, “It’s a shame you don’t appear to be well rested, hyung. I didn’t realize your business conference went so late into the evening.”

 

Seokjin quickly caught on to what Jungkook was trying to do and glared at him behind Yoongi’s back. “I slept just fine, Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook smirked and turned back to his dish. “I bet you did.”

 

To his surprise, Seokjin only rolled his eyes at Jungkook’s antics rather than trying to play his I’m-the-boss card. “Regardless,” he suddenly announced in a loud voice to get their conversation back on the right track, “how did the two of you handle this weekend while I was gone? Any problems?”

 

“It went just fine,” Yoongi finally chimed in as he picked up a skillet and shook the contents to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. His eyes darted once towards Jungkook before looking back to the owner. “No major issues.”

 

Seokjin beamed. “Excellent,” he enthused. “The two of you have really turned this place around. At the rate the customers are coming in, we might have to start looking for a third chef to help us out around here.” He slapped Jungkook on the back. “Perhaps I should start looking before your first semester even starts, hmm?”

 

Jungkook froze.

 

“What?” Yoongi noisily set down the skillet he’d been holding onto the nearest burner. “Wait – Jungkook, you were accepted into culinary school?”

 

Jungkook swallowed.

 

“Oh, no,” Seokjin murmured, holding a hand to his mouth in surprise. “I – I thought you said you were going to tell everyone this weekend when I was gone?”

 

Yoongi, to his credit, quickly put two and two together and recognized the real reason why Jungkook hadn’t announced his plans over the weekend like he’d originally intended. Fortunately, Yoongi didn’t bat an eye and immediately dropped everything he was doing to close the gap between them.

 

“I’m so proud of you,” he murmured as he pulled Jungkook away from his work station and threw his arms around him in his excitement. He was quick to pull away in order to return to his dishes, but the smile on his face remained. “When do you start?”

 

“Um.” Jungkook swallowed as he turned back to his own food as he shrugged. “A month or two. I don’t remember.”

 

Yoongi laughed. “Well, you should probably figure that out so we can hire and train a new chef in time for you to start school.”

 

Jungkook nodded quietly. “Yeah.”

 

The kitchen went silent. Yoongi and Seokjin exchanged puzzled looks with one another as they tried to decipher why Jungkook wasn’t as excited as he was supposed to be.

 

“So,” Seokjin lightly interjected, “I guess I’ll, um… I’ll let you two finish up here and I’ll… see you after your shift?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Yoongi mumbled when Jungkook didn’t respond. He waited for Seokjin to leave the kitchen before he glanced back over at Jungkook and spoke again.

 

“Culinary school is a good thing, right?” he softly verified with Jungkook. “We’re… excited that you got in, aren’t we?”

 

Jungkook nodded. “Yes,” he confirmed dryly. “We’re very excited.”

 

Yoongi carefully plated another dish, setting it under the warmer until a server was ready to take it to the table. “So, if we’re supposed to be excited that you got into culinary school…” He frowned and shook his head. “Why aren’t you?

 

Jungkook sighed heavily. He pulled the towel off of his shoulder and threw it onto the counter before turning to face Yoongi head on to admit the truth he’d hoped to hide.

 

“I may have gotten in to culinary school,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean I’m going.”

 

Yoongi stared at him in disbelief. “What? But – I thought this was what you wanted? It’s all you’ve been talking about ever since I’ve met you, and now…?” His brow knit together in confusion. “I just don’t understand why.”

 

Jungkook sent him a lazy glare. “You know why.”

 

Yoongi frowned, searching his thoughts. “Because of your father?” he asked, still a bit puzzled at how his father’s health had affected Jungkook’s decision to go to school. “Why? I mean – are you not going because you want to stay home to take care of him?” Jungkook started to shake his head, but Yoongi pressed on anyway. “Because if that’s the case, then we can figure it out. You can commute, right? It’s not that far. Besides, anyone here at the restaurant would be more than eager to help out if your parents – ”

 

“No,” Jungkook finally spoke up. “That’s not the reason – I’m not – ”

 

Jungkook stopped speaking to collect his thoughts. With a hard swallow, Jungkook brushed a hand across his sweaty forehead and finally told Yoongi the full truth of why he’d been so devastated the night before.

 

“I used all of my savings to help my parents with their medical bills.”

 

Yoongi stared at him, frozen in place while Jungkook attempted to shrug nonchalantly.

 

“I can’t afford to go to school,” he murmured. “I guess it just… wasn’t meant to be.”

 

*

 

“Student loans,” Yoongi suggested. “They’re incredibly common.”

 

Jungkook shoved his hands deeper into his pants pockets to guard himself against the chill of the biting wind. “That was my original plan,” Jungkook explained. “The money I had saved up was what I would have had to pay in addition to student loans.”

 

“Ok,” Yoongi conceded. They paused at an intersection to let a car drive past before continuing on towards Jungkook’s house. After work, Yoongi had followed Jungkook without question as he walked home, as if it was entirely normal at this point for them to be spending so much time together. “What about… borrowing money from a friend?” He pointed to himself. “I’ve been working for a few years – and I’m basically a recluse, so it’s not like I spend much of my money in the first place.”

 

Jungkook scoffed at the idea. “I’m not borrowing money from a friend,” he quickly dismissed the idea. “That’s stupid.”

 

“Hold on – think about it,” Yoongi insisted. “I could loan you money without an interest rate – that would be to your benefit, right? And then we could agree to terms of the loan, like… you have to keep working with me at Gusto d’Italia until you pay it off?”

 

While Jungkook was incredibly flattered by the offer, he knew – and Yoongi knew – that he could never accept his money for something like this, so he tried to play it off with a laugh instead. “That’s stupid, hyung.”

 

“Alright, alright,” Yoongi admitted with little persuasion. Instead of pressing the argument, he suggested, “You could… get a scholarship?”

 

Jungkook frowned at the idea, but didn’t ignore it outright. “Do they even do that at culinary school?”

 

“Absolutely,” Yoongi enthusiastically prattled on. “I got a scholarship when I went to school. Granted,” he continued, “I also had to apply for it eight months in advance, but…” Jungkook’s face fell as the small bit of hope he’d had for just a moment was yanked away from him. “I’m sure they have something you could look into, though?”

 

Then, just so Yoongi wouldn’t feel so downtrodden after pitching quite literally every idea that he could think of to his dongsaeng, Jungkook replied, “Yeah, maybe.”

 

Jungkook kicked at a random pebble on the sidewalk, staring abjectly at the ground. “You know – if you really think about it, it’s not all that bad,” he mused aloud. “I mean… I’m technically a sous chef anyway, right?”

 

Yoongi quietly answered. “Right.”

 

“And I’m doing what I love, so… I don’t really need a degree to prove anything.”

 

But neither one of them mentioned the dozens of missed opportunities he would have in culinary school, like learning from the best instructors in the country – gaining knowledge about all sorts of ingredients to experiment with creations of his own – being able to become a head chef one day – having the opportunity to build his own restaurant from scratch.

 

Neither one of them uttered a word, even if they both already knew the truth.

 

Jungkook opened the door to his house with Yoongi close behind, surprised to notice that the lights were still on through the window. Typically, he returned home from his dinner shift far too late in the evening for anyone else to still be awake, but today was apparently an exception.

 

And as soon as Jungkook entered his house, he quickly understood why.

 

“Hyung!”

 

Jungkook just barely managed to kick his shoes off at the door before launching himself across the living room and into his older brother’s arms.

 

“Hey, buddy,” his brother responded, tightly hugging Jungkook. When he released his brother, he reached up to playfully ruffle his hair. “It’s good to see you.”

 

Jungkook quickly turned around and pointed to Yoongi, who was timidly entering the room with a nervous smile on his face. “Hyung, this is Min Yoongi – he’s the head chef at Seokjin’s restaurant.” Then he turned back to his brother with a wide smile. “This is my brother – Junghyun.”

 

Yoongi stepped forward, nodding his head. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Likewise,” Junghyun agreed with a small bow. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

 

Jungkook immediately flushed, turning to his brother. “Hyung.”

 

“Good things, I hope,” Yoongi chuckled nervously as his eyes flashed to Jungkook in surprise.

 

“Ah – yes, very good,” Junghyun agreed. “Every time I ask about his day, it’s always ‘Yoongi said this’ and ‘Yoongi did that.’ I feel like I already know you, to be honest.”

 

Yoongi blinked at Junghyun’s words. He slowly turned towards Jungkook. “Just ‘Yoongi’?” he asked quietly as a teasing smile played on his lips. “Not ‘Yoongi hyung’?” He arched a questioning eyebrow. “Why drop the honorifics, Jungkook?”

 

Junghyun seemed surprised as well. His eyes flitted back and forth between his brother and the chef. “He never mentioned that you were older than him.”

 

Jungkook seemed incredibly flustered as he got caught in the middle. “We work together every day,” Jungkook rationalized only some of what his brother had revealed, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable under Yoongi’s steady gaze. “Obviously it makes sense that he heard all about you.”

 

Yoongi smirked, recognizing evasion tactics when he saw them. “Sure,” he agreed.

 

“Anyway,” Jungkook tried to swiftly change topics. “I didn’t realize you were coming home?”

 

“Of course I decided to come home.” Junghyun slipped an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders and shook him lightly. “Did you expect me to stay in Japan after Mom called and gave me the news about Dad’s surgery?” He smiled fondly at his younger brother. “I caught the first flight out of Osaka that I could find.”

 

Jungkook gave his older brother another tight hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“I wanted to stay up until you got home,” Junghyun said. Then he glanced at Yoongi. “I just didn’t realize you were bringing your… friend home.”

 

“Oh.” Jungkook followed his brother’s gaze, watching as the chef carefully avoided their eyes as the conversation began to revolve around him. “Yeah. He’s been helping us while Dad was in the hospital.” He pointed at the kitchen over his shoulder. “All of that food in the fridge was made by him.”

 

Junghyun eyes widened momentarily in surprise before he nodded gratefully in Yoongi’s direction. “We owe you our thanks.”

 

“It’s nothing, really,” Yoongi admitted, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Jungkook would have done the same for me.”

 

Junghyun seemed to come to the same conclusion as he thumped his younger brother on the back. With a tired sigh, he pulled away. “I should get to bed,” he finally announced. “I told Mom I would go with her to move Dad back home tomorrow, so I need to be at the hospital bright and early to help out.”

 

“Dad’s coming home tomorrow?” Jungkook glanced back and forth between Yoongi and Junghyun. “I want to help, too.”

 

“You should stay,” Junghyun insisted. “You just got home from work, and it’s past midnight,” he reminded his little brother. “I know what your sleep schedule is like, so you don’t need to worry about waking up at the crack of dawn.”

 

“But I could,” Jungkook insisted. “I don’t need – ”

 

“We need someone to stay here,” Junghyun switched tactics to keep Jungkook at home. “It’ll take hours to get him discharged from the hospital anyway. By the time we get home around noon, we’re going to need someone that can have lunch ready for the family and will help clean up the place so Mom and Dad don’t have to worry about it this week.” He raised both eyebrows at Jungkook. “Think you can handle that?”

 

His diversion worked, even though Jungkook could see straight through it. “Of course,” Jungkook instantly agreed. “I can do that.”

 

“Um,” Yoongi quietly interjected, “I can help, too.” As the Jeon brothers both turned to look at him in surprise, Yoongi shrugged. “I don’t mind. Besides, it’s not like I have anything better to do…”

 

Jungkook resisted the temptation to laugh at Yoongi’s attempt to appear nonchalant. Instead, he simply smiled at his friend. “Thanks, hyung,” he graciously accepted his help.

 

Yoongi stared at the floor with an indifferent expression.

 

“Thanks,” Junghyun echoed. He clapped Jungkook on the shoulder one last time before turning towards his bedroom. “I’ll see you when we get back in the morning.”

 

“Goodnight, hyung.”

 

As the door slowly clicked closed, Yoongi cleared his voice in an attempt to get Jungkook to redirect his attention towards him once again.

 

“So… just ‘Yoongi’, then?” he casually asked. A light, pink blush tickled Jungkook’s high cheekbones. “You didn’t happen to mention to your brother than I’m your hyung?

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes to the ceiling before trudging off to his bedroom with Yoongi in close pursuit. “This is the thing you find most important to talk about right now?”

 

Yoongi closed Jungkook’s bedroom door behind them with a soft chuckle. “Well, when you just casually leave out the honorifics for my name, I find it somewhat… intriguing.”

 

“Oh, yeah?” Jungkook quickly tossed his jacket into the corner and reached for a pair of pajama pants to change into. “Why’s that?”

 

“Any number of reasons,” Yoongi mused aloud. “Perhaps you just wanted to be a brat?”

 

Jungkook snorted. He dug around in the chest of drawers across from his bed and found a second pair of pajamas for Yoongi to use. “I wasn’t.”

 

“Ok,” Yoongi accepted his answer. He smiled, enjoying the teasing as Jungkook tried to look busy in the hopes that Yoongi would stop pushing the subject. “There’s always the chance that you just forgot that I was older than you.”

 

Jungkook stepped into the bathroom attached to his bedroom, closing the door halfway to give the illusion of privacy while simultaneously stepping into his pajamas. Yoongi did the same thing on the opposite side of the door. “I didn’t forget,” Jungkook called back through the partially opened door.

 

“Ah – so, you admit you intentionally left off the term ‘hyung’ for a reason?” Yoongi countered playfully as he folded up his pants and laid them over Jungkook’s desk chair.

 

Jungkook peered around the bathroom door with a smile. “I didn’t say that.”

 

“You might as well have,” Yoongi protested. He sat on the edge of Jungkook’s mattress, watching as his friend milled about the room, getting ready for bed. “Maybe you dropped the honorifics because you didn’t want your brother to know I’m older than you.”

 

Jungkook was busy putting moisturizer on his face in the mirror when he suddenly frowned, glancing at Yoongi’s reflection. “Why would I care that he knew you were older than me?”

 

Yoongi lay down onto Jungkook’s bed with a sigh, stretching his body across the mattress. “I don’t know,” he admitted, sliding his feet beneath the bed sheets. “You’re the one that left off the honorifics – you tell me.”

 

Jungkook walked toward his bed, glancing down and taking in Yoongi’s entirely too relaxed state. He was sprawled across Jungkook’s bed with one hand tucked behind his head and the other stretched across Jungkook’s pillow. His eyes were closed, even as he carried on their conversation. He looked entirely too relaxed for a man lying in someone else’s bed, but Jungkook didn’t mind it one bit. “I didn’t call you hyung because I wanted us to be friends.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes opened and looked up at Jungkook in surprise. “I thought we already were friends.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes flicked over to the arm Yoongi had left laying on his pillow before bravely climbing into his own bed and resting his head on the proffered arm. “We are friends,” Jungkook agreed. He was surprised to find that Yoongi’s arm not only remained beneath Jungkook head, but that his hand had also come up to run his fingers through Jungkook’s hair in a gentle, soothing motion. “I wanted to be better friends.”

 

Yoongi’s fingers stilled for only a moment as he realized what Jungkook was saying. “The kind of friends that don’t need honorifics.”

 

Jungkook nodded nervously. He remained on his back, staring at the ceiling so he didn’t have to make eye contact with Yoongi while he spoke. “Exactly.”

 

Jungkook could feel through the mattress the exact moment when Yoongi’s body slowly filled with air before letting it out in a slow, controlled exhale. “Ok.”

 

“Ok?” Jungkook confirmed with a growing smile. He looked over at the chef. “Then I’m just calling you ‘Yoongi’, now.”

 

Yoongi snorted as his name came from Jungkook’s mouth without the familiar “hyung” directly behind it. “That will take some getting used to.”

 

“Yoongi.”

 

“Still weird.”

 

Jungkook chuckled at their new game. “Yoongi.”

 

“Ok, stop. Seriously.”

 

Now, Jungkook was outright laughing. “Thanks,” he belatedly added. Shyly, Jungkook brought his fingers up to his head where Yoongi was still lightly running his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. He lightly grasped his hand in the dark and turned to his side, rolling away from Yoongi as he stared at their joined hands. Carefully, Jungkook slotted their fingers together with a smile. “I’m glad we can speak casually to each other.”

 

The room was silent, but Jungkook was sure he heard Yoongi’s head turn on his pillow to look at Jungkook in the darkness.

 

“Hey, Jungkook?”

 

He hummed in response.

 

“I’m going to make sure you get into that culinary school – no matter what. Ok?”

 

Jungkook was glad his back was to Yoongi so he couldn’t see the single tear that fell to his pillow.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Easy there – don’t overdo it, Dad.”

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Jungkook’s father grumbled irritably as Junghyun and his mother fluttered around him nervously. He was walking just fine as he made his way into the house, but it didn’t stop either of them from fretting worriedly over him. “Give me some space, would you?”

 

“Dad,” Jungkook softly greeted his father. He smiled in relief, reaching his arm out to silently guide his father towards the large armchair in the living room while his mother ran back out to the car for the rest of their belongings. “How are you feeling?”

 

His father had never been one to sugar-coat things. “Like shit,” he spit back, making Jungkook’s older brother snort in amusement. “I had my chest cut open – how do you think I feel?”

 

Jungkook was surprisingly relieved to hear his father’s blunt response. At least nothing else had changed. “That’s pretty much how I thought you would feel.”

 

His father suddenly spotted Yoongi hovering awkwardly near the entrance to the kitchen, recognizing him from the last time they had met. He leaned closer to Jungkook. “Your mother has given me nothing to eat but that crappy hospital food and goddamn ice chips. Please tell me your friend, here, is going to make me something better.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Uh – yeah, he already did.” He helped his father slowly lower himself into his armchair before turning to gesture for Yoongi to come over. “My dad was just asking if you made any food for him.”

 

“Don’t be rude,” Jungkook’s mother hissed as she hurried back through the open front door behind Junghyun with an armful of pill bottles for his father. “Yoongi is our guest. Not your personal chef.”

 

“But he likes cooking,” Jungkook’s father swiftly retorted. His mother perched on the couch opposite of her husband. “Right?” his father confirmed with a glance in Yoongi’s direction. “You like cooking, don’t you?”

 

“Uh – yes, very much,” Yoongi agreed with a laugh and a nod of his head.

 

“See?” Jungkook’s father reclined in his chair, making a small grimace as he moved before eventually relaxing. “So – what did you make me?”

 

Jungkook bit his lip to refrain from laughing at the entire situation.

 

“Well,” Yoongi began without delay, “I actually made several things. Most of them are in the freezer, but I threw together about a dozen different meals that I thought you and your family might enjoy.”

 

His parents’ eyes doubled in size at his words.

 

“I’m not entirely sure of your diet,” Yoongi continued, “but just to be safe, everything I prepared is low in sodium and fat.”

 

Jungkook’s father suddenly made a face. “Dammit.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Jungkook assured his father. “It’s still really good. I promise.”

 

His father suddenly seemed distrusting of Yoongi’s skills after he’d announced that the food he’d made for him was intended to be healthy. He sent him a calculating gaze before quietly mumbling, “If you say so.”

 

“Come on,” Jungkook encouraged his father. “We heated some of it up for lunch – why don’t you try some? You can see for yourself.”

 

So, with the group huddled around the living room and his father stationary in his armchair, they all enjoyed the food that Yoongi had cooked for them.

 

“I like you,” Jungkook’s father suddenly announced as he cleaned off the last of his plate. “You can cook for me any day.”

 

Yoongi laughed at the kind compliment. “Thank you, sir.”

 

“No, I’m serious,” his father said. Then he turned to Jungkook. “You need to bring him over more often.”

 

“Got it,” Jungkook agreed with a red tint on the tips of his ears. He glanced up at Yoongi from across the room, smiling at him between bites.

 

“You got a family, kid?” Jungkook’s father abruptly asked.

 

Yoongi seemed surprised by this question. “Yes, sir,” he answered. “Mom, Dad, and an older brother – just like Jungkook.”

 

His father continued. “Do they live in the area?”

 

Yoongi shook his head. “No, sir. They live in Daegu.”

 

Jungkook’s father nodded his head in understanding. “Then you’ve got a family here, son. Anything you need, you just ask.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes darted to Jungkook’s, opening wide in astonishment at such a declaration.

 

But he quickly averted his gaze and stared at the floor before his emotions could become too obvious. “Thank you, sir.”

 

*

 

Sometime before their shift was scheduled to start, Yoongi made the excuse that he needed to stop back at his apartment for a shower and a fresh change of clothes. Jungkook more than understood – he had stayed over at Jungkook’s house two nights in a row, now. It would be completely normal for him to want to have a break from Jungkook.

 

But it didn’t stop Jungkook from feeling slightly disappointed that he had to leave.

 

Soon after Yoongi left, Jungkook’s father – with a lot of help from his family – made his way back to his bedroom and decided to lie down to take a nap. He complained the entire way about all of the “poking and prodding” that the nurses did to him when he’d tried to sleep at the hospital, but before he could say more than two sentences about it, he fell straight to sleep the moment his head touched his pillow.

 

As the rest of the family set about cleaning the kitchen after their casual meal, Junghyun sidled up next to his little brother.

 

“So,” he began quietly as he stretched around Jungkook to pick up a plate from the drying rack and wiped it clean with his towel. “Yoongi seems nice.”

 

Jungkook smiled, glancing up from the dishes in the sink. “He is,” he agreed. “He’s the best.”

 

“Dad seems to really like him, too.”

 

Jungkook laughed at this one. “Yeah, apparently. The last time they met, Yoongi cooked for him then, too. I guess his cooking has really won him over.”

 

“Well…” Junghyun shrugged, considering his words. “Telling Yoongi that we could be his surrogate family isn’t exactly something that Dad would say just because he ate a good meal.”

 

The washcloth Jungkook was using on a dirty glass slowed as he let his brother’s words sink in.

 

Junghyun carefully placed the dry plate into the cupboard before reaching for another one. “So, how long have the two of you been dating?”

 

Jungkook unintentionally dropped the glass he’d been cleaning back into the soapy water. “What?”

 

“Oh, come on – you don’t need to hide it,” Junghyun insisted with a kind smile. “You talk to me about him all the time, you never use honorifics when you mention his name, and now he’s staying the night?” Junghyun cocked his head at his brother. “Don’t pretend to hide your relationship, Kookie. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

 

“Holy shit.” Jungkook was appalled by his brother’s assumption. “Do you really think so low of me that you think I would take advantage of my father’s open heart surgery to sneak a boyfriend into the house and ask him to spend the night?”

 

“I didn’t say you two did anything, I’m just saying – alright, look.” He quickly tried to alter his plan of attack with both hands waving about in front of them as he spoke animatedly. “It’s not a problem with anyone in the family, you know? Mom and Dad seem to really like him, and I’m pretty sure they know the two of you are dating, too, so – ”

 

“I’m not dating Yoongi,” Jungkook hastily corrected his older brother. “We’re – we’re just friends. Seriously.”

 

Junghyun cocked his head to the side and shot his little brother a knowing smirk. “Jungkook.”

 

Really,” Jungkook insisted adamantly. “We’re not dating.”

 

“Ok, ok,” Junghyun lightly conceded, though he hardly seemed convinced. “But there’s definitely something there, right?”

 

“There’s not,” Jungkook argued stubbornly as he pounded his fist on the edge of the sink. “He’s – I mean, I really look up to him,” he tried to explain to his brother. “Yoongi’s my mentor. He’s taught me so many things about how to prepare and cook food at work that… I don’t know,” Jungkook concluded weakly. “I just… really admire him.”

 

Junghyun’s face suddenly fell at the new piece of information. “Oh, God. He’s your boss?

 

“Not in so many words,” Jungkook murmured. “I mean – Seokjin is my boss, but Yoongi is… well, he’s my superior, I suppose.”

 

Junghyun nodded sagely. “So that’s the reason why you’re not dating.” He abruptly turned away from the kitchen sink to call into the living room where his mother was picking up leftover dishes from lunch. “Mom – Yoongi is Jungkook’s boss!”

 

His mother entered the room, sighing in disappointment. “Oh – is that the reason why the two of you haven’t told anyone that you’re dating?”

 

Jungkook stared at his family in disbelief. “What the hell is wrong with you people? Did the two of you plan this?” Then, deciding that the truth alone was far more important than understanding his family’s motivation to pester him relentlessly, Jungkook insisted once again, “We’re not dating!

 

“Well, it’s clearly not one-sided,” his mother continued. “I know at least that much.” With a coy smile, she tapped her nose knowingly. “I saw the way you looked at him when you thought no one was watching.”

 

“Ok – both of you just – just stop,” Jungkook finally put his foot down. “Yoongi and I – we’re good friends. He’s only here because he wants to help Dad – ”

 

“He’s only here because he wants to help you,” Junghyun promptly corrected him. “He doesn’t know Dad at all. He’s looking out for you.”

 

“Ok, sure – fine,” Jungkook agreed with his logic. “But that’s what friends do, right? They help out when you’re having a problem.”

 

Junghyun glanced around the room a bit sarcastically. He held his hands out as he gestured to the empty space. “But I don’t see Taehyung around here,” he pointed out. “He’s been your friend since primary school. By your reasoning, Taehyung should be here to help just as much as Yoongi has been, right?”

 

At the sudden reminder of Taehyung, Jungkook carefully averted his eyes and tried to turn back to finish the dishes in the sink. “I, um… didn’t tell Taehyung about Dad’s surgery yet.”

 

But, to his surprise, his mother laughed. “But you told Yoongi?

 

Junghyun balled up his towel and tossed it back onto the counter victoriously. “I think you’ve just proved our point for us, Jungkook.”

 

*

 

“Taehyung.”

 

That evening after his shift, Jungkook had immediately sought out his friend. Taehyung had been in the midst of washing down one of his tables after the last of the customers had left. He looked up at Jungkook in surprise. “Hey,” he said, standing upright as Jungkook approached. “What’s up?”

 

Jungkook clenched his fists at his sides, ripped off the metaphorical band-aid, and simply blurted it out.

 

“My dad had a blocked artery and had to go to the hospital for open heart surgery.”

 

Startled by the terrible news, Taehyung dropped his wet washcloth to the table with an audible slap. “What?

 

“He’s ok,” Jungkook hurried to reassure him. “Just – I mean – I wanted to let you know. He’s back home, now. The doctors think he’ll be just fine, but – yeah.” Jungkook nodded. “I thought I should tell you since you’re, obviously – ” Jungkook swallowed at the reminder of his conversation with his family “ – my friend.”

 

“Oh, my God,” Taehyung murmured. He managed to move past his shocked state and stepped forward to wrap his arms around Jungkook. “Shit – why didn’t you tell me sooner? Dammit, Jungkook.” Taehyung dropped their hug, instead putting both hands on Jungkook’s shoulders and holding him an arm’s length away. “Why do you always feel the need to keep everything bottled up?”

 

Jungkook chose not to respond, instead staring at his shoes.

 

“Are you ok?” Taehyung pressed on. “Do you need anything? I’m more than happy to help your family however I can. Wait, does Seokjin know?” he continued to ramble. “I bet he could give you a few days off if you need time with your family.”

 

Jungkook quickly interrupted his friend. “No – I’m fine,” he assured Taehyung. “I just… wanted you to know.”

 

Jimin appeared from behind the bar, walking towards them with a towel slung over his shoulder. “Know what?”

 

Impulsively – like it was second nature, now – Taehyung’s placed a hand on Jimin’s lower back in an affectionate manner. “Jungkook’s dad was in the hospital getting open heart surgery,” Taehyung immediately explained without allowing Jungkook to say it himself.

 

“Oh, no – Kookie,” Jimin cooed sympathetically. He followed in Taehyung’s footsteps and practically leapt into Jungkook’s arms to give him a tight hug. He thumped him on the back with the palm of his hand. “Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Jungkook answered for the second time. “I just wanted to tell people so… they were aware.”

 

Jimin patted him on the shoulder like a proud parent. “I’m so glad you did,” he said. Then he released Jungkook and turned to Taehyung, twining their fingers together. “We should make a care basket for his father, don’t you think? We could send him some fruits and a card. Oh, and those blankets that your mom likes to make? We should send one of those, too.”

 

“His dad loves to play games,” Taehyung continued brightly. “We could buy him a deck of cards for Go-Stop.”

 

“You really don’t have to,” Jungkook insisted, though he was flattered by their concern. “Just a get-well-soon card is probably enough. I’m sure he would appreciate the thought.”

 

“Absolutely not,” Taehyung argued with a shake of his head. “Your father deserves the best.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the kind gesture from his friends. “Ok,” he reluctantly agreed. “Thanks.”

 

And then the door to the kitchen opened and Yoongi walked out, pulling his bandana off of his head and ruffling his hair underneath until it stood at odd angles.

 

“Hyung!” Taehyung called across the room. Yoongi looked as if he had been originally headed towards Seokjin’s office, but he veered off his path and walked towards the small group gathering near the bar in the dining room. “Jungkook’s father was in the hospital for surgery last week,” Taehyung told the chef as he got closer. “Jimin and I were going to make a gift basket to show that we’re thinking of him – do you want to include something in there? Maybe you could make one of those cheesecakes that you served for dessert last week?”

 

Yoongi stepped up to the group with both hands on his waist. “Oh – I already made his family several meals last weekend,” he explained simply. Then he shrugged. “But I suppose I could find some sort of heart-healthy dessert to include.”

 

Taehyung’s and Jimin’s eyes darted towards Jungkook in tandem, watching Jungkook’s expression tighten nervously.

 

“You… already made them meals last weekend?” Taehyung asked nonchalantly. He turned back to Yoongi, putting on a grin and acting as if he hadn’t just been scrutinizing Jungkook. “I had no idea that you had the time.”

 

“Yeah, well.” Yoongi shrugged, unaware of the microscope Jungkook was under with every one of his answers. “I made time.”

 

“You made time,” Jimin echoed quietly. His eyes turned back to Jungkook with a mischievous sparkle. “For Jungkook.”

 

“Of course,” Yoongi agreed, wrapping an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders. He smiled kindly, even when Jungkook started to turn red in front of his friends. “He was a mess when he told me, so… I wanted to do anything I could to help.”

 

Jungkook stubbornly avoided everyone’s eyes as his ears burned in embarrassment.

 

“He was a mess,” Taehyung softly repeated with the tiniest quirk of his lip curling up at the corner of his mouth. He nodded at this news. “Right. Well, I’m glad you’re watching out for our Jungkookie,” he murmured with an arched eyebrow in Jungkook’s direction. “It’s great that he has such a good… friend.”

 

“Right,” Jimin agreed with the faintest of giggles. “You’re a great friend, hyung.”

 

“Ok, seriously, just – you two can fuck off,” Jungkook grumpily pushed past both of them before marching petulantly back into the kitchen. “I need to finish cleaning the kitchen.”

 

Yoongi silently watched Jungkook stomp away. He turned back, eyeing the waiter and the bartender in confusion. “Wait – what just happened?” he asked obliviously. “Is he upset that I helped him?”

 

“No,” Taehyung assured him, putting on a cheeky grin. “We were just teasing him.”

 

Yoongi arched an eyebrow. He couldn’t quite figure out what they had been teasing him over. “You were?”

 

Jimin calmly patted Yoongi’s shoulder as he walked past with a laugh. “Never mind, hyung.”

 

*

 

“Duck has far more fat, see?” Yoongi used his knife and fork to tilt the raw duck meat he planned to cook, rotating it this way and that for Jungkook to see. “You’re going to want to score the skin to allow the fat to escape. Like this.” With swift movements, Yoongi easily sliced diagonally across the surface of the meat. Jungkook followed his ministrations with his gaze before copying his actions with his own cut of duck in front of him.

 

“Good,” Yoongi softly encouraged him. “Now, we’ll sear the meat first in a skillet.” Jungkook silently mirrored him. “You’re waiting for it to turn a nice, golden brown before flipping.” As they waited for the dish to continue cooking, Yoongi directed Jungkook towards the plums they were planning to add to the mixture. They pitted the fruit before flipping the meat and adding it to the skillet along with a number of other seasonings. “Once it’s cooked evenly, we let it roast in the oven for just a bit longer.”

 

They moved in unison, placing their dishes in the oven next to the potatoes that were already cooking.

 

“Ten minutes?” Jungkook verified.

 

“Give or take – depending on how the customer wants their meat cooked,” Yoongi explained as he rested one hand on the countertop while the other wiped the sheen of sweat from his brow. “Then at this point, it’s just a matter of plating everything and spooning the sauce over the meat when it’s done.”

 

“Easy,” Jungkook commented with a smirk. He glanced up at Yoongi just in time to catch his eye roll and laughed. “I mean – what an incredibly complicated meal, seonbae,” he said somewhat sarcastically. “No wonder it’s our number one seller.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi grumbled with a smile of his own. “So I take it you can handle making this dish tomorrow night?”

 

“Not a problem,” Jungkook agreed. He stooped down to peer inside the oven to see how the duck meat was cooking before looking back up at Yoongi with a grin. “See? I can learn plenty of new tricks just by working with you. Who needs culinary school anyway?”

 

But Yoongi didn’t respond in quite the way that Jungkook had hoped.

 

“You haven’t turned them down, yet, have you?”

 

Jungkook’s eyes returned to the food in the oven. It felt easier to talk about this subject when he wasn’t looking directly into Yoongi’s disappointed gaze the entire time. “Not yet,” he murmured. Then, with a remorseful sigh, he said, “I suppose I should.”

 

“Give it some more time,” Yoongi quietly begged him. At this request, Jungkook silently glanced up at him. “Give me some more time. I’ll think of something.”

 

Slowly, Jungkook stood back up to his full height, but let his eyes linger on the plates set out on the counter that they were about to use to assemble their dish. “I appreciate your help,” he admitted, “but it’s probably time I just give up, don’t you think?”

 

Yoongi sighed. “Why?” he suddenly began arguing with Jungkook, as if he were annoyed that he could give up so easily. “Why do you have to give up? That’s not fair.”

 

Jungkook laughed, finally meeting Yoongi’s gaze. “I know it’s not,” he agreed. “But sometimes having false hope is worse than giving up.”

 

Yoongi clenched his jaw in frustration.

 

“Three weeks,” he suddenly demanded. “Give me three weeks to find a way to help.”

 

Jungkook had to refrain from shaking his head in defeat. What difference would three weeks make? It was only delaying the inevitable.

 

But if it made Yoongi happy…

 

“Fine,” Jungkook murmured. “Three weeks.”

 

*

 

“Mmm!” Hoseok entered the kitchen prior to their Friday evening dinner rush. “Whatever that is, it smells fucking fantastic.”

 

Jungkook grinned. “Yoongi – I mean seonbae – told me I should experiment with another pizza to serve as a special this weekend. He taught me how to cook duck last week, so I thought – ”

 

Jungkook shrugged, gesturing to the oven in explanation.

 

“Wait – you put duck on a pizza?” Hoseok asked in disbelief. He got closer to the oven where it was baking, squinting inside. “And it tastes good?”

 

“I guess we’ll see,” Jungkook murmured, sounding truly curious himself. He opened the oven and took out the pizza in question. He smiled, satisfied at the golden brown crust around the edges.

 

“Well it looks amazing.” Hoseok practically drooled across the dish while Jungkook began cutting it into smaller slices. He started pointing to various ingredients on top of the pizza. “What’s on there?”

 

“Duck, caramelized onions, this balsamic vinegar and barbeque glaze I tried out, a few different herbs, some cheese, um… some bacon?” Jungkook added as he spotted another ingredient he’d almost forgotten that he had added to the mix.

 

“Bacon?” Hoseok echoed in disbelief. Jungkook lifted the plate of sliced pizza into the air, attempting to circumvent the waiter in his path. Hoseok inhaled as the glorious scent pass his nose. He groaned. “Fuck me. Can I have a piece?”

 

“It’s not for you,” Jungkook gently reprimanded his friend as he carried the dish into the dining room where Yoongi and Seokjin were seated at a table in the corner, talking in hushed tones.

 

“Sajangnim,” Jungkook greeted his boss. Then he turned to Yoongi with a nervous smile. “Seonbae.” He carefully set down the pizza, ignoring Hoseok’s presence close on his heels as he hovered hungrily over Jungkook’s shoulder. “I decided to try and create a duck pizza with a balsamic reduction over the top.” He reached forward to separate the slices and placed them onto each of their individual plates. “Bon appétit.”

 

Neither Yoongi nor Seokjin took their time admiring the texture or observing the ingredients on the pizza. Instead, both of them dug right in, taking large bites of the meal.

 

Jungkook hoped that was a good sign.

 

“So… how is it?”

 

Seokjin hummed, going back for a second bite immediately after swallowing the first. He nodded exuberantly as he chewed. Forcing himself to set his food back down on the plate, Seokjin looked over at Jungkook and said, “This is really good.”

 

Yoongi agreed. “The caramelized onions are a great consistency,” he commented. “And you clearly know more about cooking with duck than either one of us thought you did.”

 

Jungkook smiled proudly at his mentor. “I learn quickly.”

 

Yoongi tried to hide his smirk of approval behind another bite of pizza.

 

“Maybe… less cheese?” Seokjin suggested, glancing across the table at Yoongi for his second opinion.

 

“Honestly, you could probably do without the cheese entirely,” Yoongi agreed with an indifferent shrug. “If you don’t use cheese, your pizza will be less oily when it cooks.”

 

Jungkook thought about it for a moment. “Parmesan?” he suggested as an alternative. “I could put some on as a garnish after it finishes cooking.”

 

Yoongi snapped his fingers and pointed at Jungkook, acknowledging his clever idea. “That sounds good. Do that.”

 

“Yeah, right, definitely sounds good,” Hoseok hurriedly agreed with a bob of his head. “So – for real, guys – can I have some?”

 

Seokjin stuffed another slice into his mouth while Yoongi lazily glared at Hoseok before handing over one of his pieces.

 

“Oh, man.” Hoseok moaned around the bite. “I wish I didn’t have to work here just so I could eat here. Fuck.

 

“Speaking of not working,” Seokjin loftily chimed in as he finished his bite. “Yoongi told me he’s taking a personal day next week.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes swung to Yoongi’s in panic. “What?”

 

Yoongi’s gaze remained steady on Jungkook’s, seeming to silently communicate something to him while Seokjin continued speaking – though Jungkook had no idea what that something was supposed to be. “Obviously, we’re going to need a head chef to run the kitchen while Yoongi is gone,” Seokjin said.

 

But when Seokjin turned to pointedly stare at Jungkook, he finally realized what Yoongi had been trying to tell him with his silent gaze.

 

Jungkook felt as if the floor had dropped out from beneath him. “What?

 

“Hey,” Hoseok spoke around a bite of his pizza. He slapped Jungkook’s back as bits of food fell from his mouth. “Congrats, man.”

 

Jungkook’s body jerked listlessly with the thump on his back, unable to fully comprehend exactly what Seokjin was trying to tell him.

 

“It would also be helpful for you to start teaching some of our cooking classes. Yoongi thinks it could be beneficial if you get your feet under yourself and taught one of your dishes this Saturday – you know, make yourself feel more comfortable in the kitchen.” Seokjin gestured towards the duck pizza in front of them. “This would be an excellent dish to teach.”

 

Jungkook shook his head. “But I don’t – ”

 

“It will help you feel more confident in the kitchen,” Yoongi assured him. “That way, next week when you practice running the kitchen as head chef, you’ll feel more comfortable calling out orders.” He smiled. “I can be your sous chef.”

 

“I’m not a head chef,” Jungkook felt the need to point out. “And you’re not a sous chef. I – I can’t – ”

 

“Yes, you can,” Seokjin countered with a level stare. “Plus – I’m your boss, so you have to do what I say.”

 

Yoongi snorted in amusement. “I knew I liked working for you.”

 

Seokjin winked playfully across the table at Yoongi, grinning smugly.

 

“You two can hear yourselves talking, right?” Jungkook asked them. “I mean – Seokjin, you used to be a chef. You can be the head chef when Yoongi’s gone, right?”

 

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Seokjin refused outright. “I’ll be your sous chef, like Yoongi – but you’ve already shown me how capable you are in the kitchen, so it’s time to take things up a notch – right, Kookie?”

 

Jungkook felt his hands start to shake as his nerves swelled inside of him. “Ok,” he finally choked out. Then, with a determined nod of his head, he repeated it, sounding far more confident than he actually felt. “Ok. I’ll do it. I can be a head chef.”

 

“Good!” Seokjin exclaimed. Then he picked up the plate with the remainder of the pizza to take with him. “Yoongi, you can start training him in the morning, can’t you?”

 

“Sure thing,” Yoongi immediately agreed, eyes following the owner as he stood up from the chair and walked towards his office. Hoseok, however, was close behind.


“Wait – hyung – sajangnim – whatever – where are you taking those?” He stayed on Seokjin’s tail, watching the pizza slices carefully. “Are you going to eat all of that by yourself?”

 

“Don’t be absurd,” Seokjin chastised him. “Namjoon hasn’t eaten, yet – it’s for him.”

 

“Oh – come on,” Hoseok whined as Seokjin rounded the corner. “I won’t tell anyone the two of you are secretly dating if you just give me one more slice!”

 

Yoongi snorted as Seokjin’s office door loudly slammed closed on the opposite end of the restaurant. “Namjoon and Seokjin,” he murmured, shaking his head. “Worst kept secret in this restaurant. Honestly.”

 

Jungkook was completely unaware that Seokjin’s relationship with Namjoon – the very one that Jungkook had vowed to keep a secret for his hyung – was apparently anything but a secret to the other staffers in the restaurant. At the moment, he was too preoccupied by everything that had just been thrown at him in the last three minutes to even acknowledge that fact. He slumped dazedly into Seokjin’s vacant seat. “Yoongi,” he choked out. “How the fuck am I supposed to run a kitchen by myself?”

 

Yoongi finally took pity on the poor boy, reaching across the table to take Jungkook’s hand and hold it securely within his own. “Stop worrying,” he commanded him. “I’ll be there every step of the way. You’ll do great.”

 

“Yeah, but you won’t be there when I’m supposed to do this on my own next week,” Jungkook threw back. “I can’t do this without you.”

 

Sensing his internal meltdown, Yoongi quickly stood up from his spot and circled the table until he was standing directly behind Jungkook’s chair. Without warning, he wrapped both arms around his shoulders and pressed his cheek to Jungkook’s. It was unusual for him to show this level of affection in the restaurant, but it wasn’t anything that Jungkook was surprised by – especially not after the week they spent together when his father had been in the hospital. “You need to start believing in yourself,” Yoongi murmured reassuringly. “You’ve got this.”

 

“I can’t,” Jungkook refuted automatically. He felt fearful tears welling in his eyes at the overwhelming burden that had been placed on his shoulders. “I – I can’t believe in myself. This is too much to handle, Yoongi, I – ”

 

“Don’t panic,” Yoongi interrupted before he could go too far down the rabbit hole without any hope of returning.

 

There was a brief pause. Jungkook was preparing to open his mouth to respond, but then Yoongi tilted his head forward just enough to lightly press his lips to the side of Jungkook’s neck, just beneath his jaw.

 

Jungkook froze when Yoongi whispered in his ear.

 

“If you can’t believe in yourself, then I’ll just have to believe for you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Yoongi walked away rather quickly after their talk, leaving Jungkook frozen in the empty dining room.

 

Yoongi had… kissed him.

 

Jungkook pressed a trembling hand to his neck, covering the place where Yoongi’s lips had been just moments before. It was one thing to kiss a friend on their cheek. Friends did that without things getting weird. That was a platonic gesture between buddies. But kissing someone on the neck…

 

It felt incredibly intimate.

 

Jungkook wasn’t quite sure how he was supposed to interpret the action.

 

But he had to give Yoongi credit – if he was trying to distract Jungkook from worrying about taking over for a night as head chef the following weekend, he had certainly done his job.

 

Jungkook remained motionless at the table, waiting until the room was bustling with the other members of Seokjin’s staff before returning to his post in the kitchen. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to respond to Yoongi’s spontaneous kiss. Was he supposed to brush it off as a friendly gesture? It was a sign of encouragement, of course. Yoongi was obviously trying to raise his spirits.

 

But it didn’t really feel like it was supposed to be… friendly.

 

Jungkook tried to take his cue from Yoongi. When the dinner service started, Yoongi went back to calling out orders while Jungkook obediently followed his instructions. For a brief half hour, things felt somewhat strained between them – but then Jungkook realized that he was the only one imagining that things were awkward in the first place. As soon as he relaxed and went back to bantering quietly with Yoongi and the wait staff while they picked up their food, he suddenly wondered why he’d been so nervous to return to the kitchen at all.

 

Obviously Yoongi didn’t have any feelings for Jungkook.

 

Which was just fine, of course.

 

Because Jungkook didn’t have any feelings for him, either.

 

He put his concerns to the back of his mind and focused on his job. The rest of the service went off without a hitch. When the last plate of food went out and the pair cleaned off their surfaces, Jungkook slumped against the kitchen counter in relief as Yoongi slung his towel over his shoulder.

 

“Busy night for a Tuesday,” Yoongi commented. “Pretty soon, I imagine we’ll start having a fully booked restaurant seven nights a week.” He smirked confidently at Jungkook. “Reservations only.”

 

Jungkook agreed with a laugh. “That would be pretty impressive.” He reached for the glass of water he kept behind him and took a large gulp. With his hand still on the glass, he stretched out his index finger to point accusatorily at Yoongi. “This just goes to show that I shouldn’t be running the kitchen without your help.”

 

“Oh, calm down,” Yoongi retorted with a hint of annoyance. He stepped away from his stove and moved closer, standing toe to toe with Jungkook. “You’ll be just fine.”

 

“I won’t,” Jungkook stubbornly protested with a small laugh. He thumped his water down on the freshly cleaned countertop behind him and turned to give Yoongi his full attention. “You’ll see – all it’s going to take is one night with you gone and I’ll probably burn this entire place down to the ground.”

 

Yoongi’s lips curled into a teasing smile. “Oh, really?” He stepped forward and rested both hands on the counter on either side of Jungkook’s hips and leaned in. His face came closer as he smirked in amusement. “I would love to see you try.”

 

At the close proximity, Jungkook’s hands impulsively sought out Yoongi’s waist. For an instant, they moved of their own volition and pulled Yoongi towards his body. It was entirely instinctual, playfully trapping the chef within his grasp. And yet, it shocked him that he felt so comfortable with the action when he’d truly put no thought into it whatsoever.

 

He abruptly let go.

 

Jungkook cleared his throat, staring down at their touching feet. He blinked, surprised when he noticed that one of Yoongi’s black and white converse shoes had slipped between Jungkook’s tan timberland’s.

 

“Um.” Yoongi slowly took a step back, putting distance between them. He removed his hands from the countertop and brought them back to his sides, balling them up into fists. “I should head home,” he announced in a quiet murmur. “You’ve been busy helping out with your dad at home and… you could probably use a night off from me getting in the way at your parents’ place, don’t you?” Before Jungkook could protest that Yoongi’s presence was hardly something to need a break from, Yoongi continued. “We could hang out after work later this week?”

 

Jungkook nervously looked up, meeting Yoongi’s gaze. “With everyone?” he quietly responded. Then, swallowing, he asked, “Or do you mean… just us?”

 

Yoongi’s eyes trailed slowly down Jungkook’s body, only pausing when one of his hands reached out for Jungkook’s. Silently, he locked their pinkies together, swinging their hands languidly between them. “Whichever you like,” he answered simply, as if he truly didn’t care one way or the other about Jungkook’s answer.

 

Jungkook, however, was completely unprepared to give a response.

 

“Ok,” he agreed lightly, making no firm commitment one way or another in regards to whether he wanted to spend time with Yoongi alone, or if he wanted to have his friends present to act as a buffer between them. “Sure.”

 

Yoongi smiled and stepped away. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Jungkook gave him a tiny nod. “See you.”

 

Yoongi kept their pinkies locked until the last possible moment, gradually letting their hands drop as the distance grew too far between them.

 

But even as Yoongi turned and left the restaurant out of the alley exit in the back, Jungkook was sure he still felt the phantom pressure of their fingers laced together.

 

*

 

“Um… hyung?”

 

Namjoon blinked a few times in an attempt to refocus his eyes as he looked up from the laptop he had set out on a corner table in the dining room. He smiled at his surprise visitor. “Hey, Jungkook – how can I help you?”

 

Jungkook wrung his fingers together nervously, starting to doubt even approaching Namjoon in the first place. “If you’re busy, I can come back later.”

 

Namjoon frowned at Jungkook’s nervous demeanor. That was enough of a warning sign for him to immediately slap the lid to the laptop closed and give Jungkook his undivided attention. “Nonsense,” he insisted. “I was just helping Seokjin with the payroll. What’s up?”

 

Jungkook timidly sat in the chair opposite of Namjoon. “Well, um… I kind-of… have a question for you.”

 

Namjoon pushed the laptop to the side and nodded slowly. “Ok.”

 

“And it might seem weird, but… I feel like you’re the only person I can talk to about this.” He glanced nervously at the kitchen over his shoulder before running a hand through his hair. Most people had already gone home after their evening shift, but Jungkook had intentionally lingered just a bit longer for this very purpose; as far as he knew, all of the wait staff and kitchen staff were gone. Namjoon, however, was always one of the last to leave since he often closed up the restaurant with Seokjin before they left together.

 

“What is it?” Namjoon asked with a worry line puckering between his eyebrows. “You’re starting to make me nervous, Jungkook.”

 

“No, it’s – it’s just…” Jungkook rigid posture abruptly crumbled as he sighed in frustration. “If I told Taehyung and Jimin, they would read too much into it because they’re hopelessly in love with each other and it would cloud their judgment. But if I told Hoseok hyung, now he’s close friends with Yoongi, so he would tell him for sure. And Seokjin hyung – well, he’s my boss.”

 

Namjoon arched an eyebrow at this last piece of information. “I’m also your boss.”

 

“Yeah, but not really,” Jungkook brushed this concern to the side. “I mean – you used to be my boss when I was a server, but now… well, you’re not really my boss. You’re more like… a co-worker, you know?”

 

Namjoon narrowed his gaze, mildly irritated at Jungkook’s refusal to acknowledge Namjoon as an authority figure in the restaurant, but swiftly dismissed the issue as he tried to piece Jungkook’s words together. “So… I take it this is about Yoongi, then?”

 

Jungkook silently steeled his nerves before nodding in confirmation. “He… kissed me.”

 

Namjoon sat bolt upright in his chair. “He what?

 

“I mean – it was just here,” Jungkook explained, pointing at the side of his neck, “so it’s not like it was on the lips or anything, but I just – ”

 

“Jungkook,” Namjoon hastily cut him off, “I think we need to have Seokjin here for this conversation.” He looked panicked, and Jungkook struggled to understand why. “If Yoongi did anything that constitutes as sexual harassment in the work place, then – ”

 

What?” Jungkook quickly shook his head, suddenly fearful of what he’d said. “God, no – I was just – I wanted to talk to someone about my feelings for him!

 

Namjoon’s serious expression vanished in a loud, relieved exhale.

 

“You know what? This was a mistake,” Jungkook suddenly backtracked. He slid his chair back from the table. “I probably shouldn’t be talking to you about this. I should just – ”

 

“No – wait.” Namjoon darted out and caught Jungkook’s wrist, urging him to sit back down. “Sorry – I was just… flustered when you said that Yoongi kissed you. I – I assumed the worst.” Namjoon shook his head, as if trying to reset their entire conversation. “Ok, let’s just start over.” He exhaled slowly, wiping the small trace of nervous sweat from his brow. “So you, uh… you have feelings for the chef?”

 

Jungkook’s hands went back to his lap and he clutched them anxiously between his knees. “I – maybe?” He shrugged, feeling unsure of his emotions. “I just thought – I mean, I know you and Seokjin have been dating for a while, so I thought… I don’t know – you might have some advice?”

 

Namjoon seemed almost as uncomfortable as Jungkook. They stared awkwardly at one another, waiting for someone to speak. Namjoon finally broke the silence. “Well… what sort of advice are you looking for?”

 

Jungkook shook his head. “I have no idea,” he confessed. His entire rationale behind speaking to Namjoon in the first place had been to try and determined if he even liked Yoongi as more than a friend. “Maybe you could tell me… when you figured out that you liked Seokjin hyung?”

 

Namjoon snorted. “That’s not exactly an easy question to answer.”

 

Jungkook didn’t like the sound of that. “Why?”

 

“Because… I’ve always liked him.” Namjoon shrugged with an apologetic expression, sorry that he couldn’t do more to help Jungkook with his dilemma. “It was never a matter of knowing whether I did or not. I just… always did. He, on the other hand,” Namjoon continued with a small smile, “took some convincing.”

 

Jungkook leaned forward with interest. “He didn’t like you?”

 

“Well,” Namjoon amended, “he might have liked me, but his concern about the owner dating the manager wasn’t a line he wanted to cross. It…” Namjoon paused to carefully consider his words before speaking. “It took some convincing on my part.”

 

“That’s why you two keep things a secret,” Jungkook filled in the blanks aloud. He nodded in understanding. “But you convinced him, right? How did he change his mind?”

 

Namjoon laughed, shaking his head. “I still have no idea. At first it was just small things, you know? If he was having a bad day, I would bring him an Iced Americano from across the street. That turned into me asking if he wanted to have lunch together before our shifts started – of course he agreed. And then, one day I just… I told him that I was tired of beating around the bush and wanted to date him – you know,” Namjoon’s hands waved about in silent explanation as he spoke, “honest-to-goodness dating without pretending to be ‘just friends’. And… he said yes.”

 

Despite Namjoon’s sweet smile as he reminisced on the early days of his and Seokjin’s relationship, Jungkook dismissed all of it outright.

 

“But that doesn’t really help me at all,” Jungkook responded sourly.

 

Fortunately, Namjoon laughed at Jungkook’s irritation instead of taking offense to his words. “Well, I’m so sorry that the greatest thing that ever happened to me is such a disappointment to you.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes, seeming to have no tolerance for Namjoon’s lighthearted retort. “You know what I mean,” he argued. “You see – Yoongi and I have been really close friends for a few months, now, but recently it seems like everyone I know keeps saying that we look like we’re more than friends. And maybe we are, but right now I’m just… so freaked out that everyone else keeps mentioning it that I’m starting to think that maybe I only have feelings for him just because everyone else thinks I do!” He looked to Namjoon for help. “Is that weird?”

 

Namjoon briefly considered the idea before shaking his head. “Not at all.”

 

Jungkook sighed in relief at the slight comfort Namjoon’s words offered him. “Then how am I supposed to know?” he asked with a tiny frown. “How do I know if I actually have feelings for Yoongi – or if I just think I do because my friends keep telling me that I do?”

 

“Well…” Namjoon rubbed his thumb over lower lip as he contemplated his question. “How do you feel when you’re with him?”


“Happy…?” Jungkook answered, though his words sounded a lot like he was asking a question. How else was he supposed to feel around Yoongi? “But I feel happy around you, too, hyung – and we’re not dating.”

 

“Right…” Namjoon nodded at the obvious logic. Then his eyes widened as he thought of another question to ask. “Ok!” Namjoon clapped his hands together enthusiastically. “Have you ever felt nervous or flustered when you’re around him?”

 

Jungkook was starting to get annoyed by Namjoon’s lack of guidance.

 

Clearly he’d asked the wrong person for help.

 

“Plenty of times!” he huffed. “I work next to him in the kitchen – of course I get nervous if I don’t meet his expectations!” Feeling frustrated, Jungkook dropped both of his arms onto the table and laid his chin on top of them. “This is stupid,” he grumbled. “You’re not helping me at all.”

 

“It’s not like I’m a certified therapist!” Namjoon countered with an eye roll. “My job is to manage a restaurant – not your love life!”

 

Jungkook whimpered pathetically, burying his face in his arms.

 

“Ok – look – instead of trying to guess what feelings you have towards Yoongi, why don’t you tell me why you think you might be attracted to him?” Namjoon tried to approach their conversation from a different perspective. “I mean – you’re questioning your feelings for him, right? There has to be something there for you to question, otherwise you never would have let your friends’ words get to you in the first place, would you?”

 

The thought stuck with Jungkook.

 

“You’re right,” he realized, gradually sitting back up in his chair. “I mean – when I was upset last week, Yoongi was the only person I wanted to talk to. And then, after he walked me home, he took such good care of me and my family. I thought that was just what friends did, but then he kept finding these moments to put his arm around my shoulders or hold my hand, and…”

 

Jungkook’s voice trailed off as the memory of their shared intimate moment in the kitchen when Yoongi had innocently reached out to lock their fingers together suddenly surfaced in his mind.

 

“And?” Namjoon gently prodded. “How did it feel when he held your hand?”

 

“It felt nice,” Jungkook answered without hesitation. “Safe. And warm. And comfortable.” His eyes darted up to Namjoon’s in concern, worried that they were going around in circles. “But I could still think the same thing about a friend, couldn’t I?”

 

“I guess you could,” Namjoon admitted with a shrug. “I think it’s obvious you’ve developed a strong emotional bond with the chef,” he explained, “but it sounds like you haven’t even stopped to think twice about your physical bond.” He held his hands out in question. “What would you do if he actually did kiss you? On the lips, I mean,” he quietly amended. “Would you push him away? Or would you…?”

 

Namjoon let his words linger in the air for Jungkook to complete the thought on his own. Did Jungkook want to kiss Yoongi? He’d had no qualms about hugging Yoongi or holding his hand – but the mere idea of kissing Yoongi felt so foreign to him that he had no idea whether it was something he even wanted. “I… don’t know,” he answered honestly.

 

Namjoon shrugged unhelpfully.


“Well, if your emotional relationship is already as strong as you say it is, then I think this is the only question you really need to solve,” he stated confidently. “And once you get your answer – the rest should fall in place.”

 

*

 

As it turned out, trying to think about whether or not he was physically attracted to Yoongi while he was also attempting to train to become a head chef was a very bad idea, indeed.

 

The greatest difference between their roles oftentimes came down to the fact that the head chef set the tone in the kitchen. If Jungkook was supposed to be in charge of the kitchen, he needed to be able to call out orders and ensure that everything was prepared on time so that the entire meal was able to exit the kitchen simultaneously. In essence, Jungkook not only had to concentrate on cooking, but also had to be able to control the entire flow of the dinner service.

 

Unfortunately, he was also subconsciously daydreaming about what it might feel like to have Yoongi press him up against the door to the refrigerator and kiss him – for real, this time.

 

More than once, Yoongi was forced to save his ass to keep the kitchen afloat. He often had to redirect Jungkook’s attention or move at an incredible speed to complete meals that Jungkook had forgotten to call for in the first place. It only made Jungkook feel even worse when he heard the words that Yoongi said to him at the end of the night.

 

“Alright,” Yoongi murmured, tugging off his cookie bandana as their kitchen closed for the evening. He let out a slow exhale, surveying their messier-than-usual kitchen. “Well, that was… a start.”

 

His words made Jungkook laugh feebly.

 

“A start?” he echoed in disbelief. Jungkook was embarrassed by his first night attempt to take on the role of head chef – but instead of chastising Jungkook for his lack of focus, Yoongi was trying to bolster his spirits! He didn’t deserve sympathy or encouragement – he deserved to get his ass kicked for his terrible performance in the kitchen!

 

“That was shit,” Jungkook spit back, seemingly more annoyed with himself than Yoongi. Unable to keep his frustration pent up any longer, he chose to walk away instead and headed towards the back exit to get a bit of air. But before he could reach the door, Yoongi reached out to grab his wrist and spun him around.

 

“It wasn’t shit,” he swiftly corrected Jungkook with a sincere expression. “It wasn’t great, but… I mean, it wasn’t bad.”

 

Jungkook couldn’t take it anymore. They were stuck in the narrow hallway that led from the kitchen to the exit, but Jungkook felt so entirely overwhelmed by his obvious failure in the kitchen that he simply plopped angrily to the ground, burying his head in his hands.

 

Jungkook.” Yoongi was clearly choosing his words carefully, attempting not to anger him. Although Jungkook couldn’t see a thing with his eyes covered, he heard Yoongi’s back slide down the wall until he was seated on the floor next to him. “Look – everyone has a learning curve, right? It might take you a few more tries, but… you’ll get it soon enough.”

 

“Stop, just – stop!” Jungkook burst out. He pulled his head from his hands, whipping it to the side to glare at his friend. “Do you even hear yourself right now?” Yoongi frowned at him, but Jungkook plowed on. “You’re being nice to me!” he argued with the chef. “You’re supposed to be my mentor – and you’re trying to tell me that everything is just… fine and dandy!”

 

Yoongi immediately refuted the statement. “I’m not,” he insisted. “I’m saying there’s… room for improvement.”

 

Jungkook huffed. He pulled his legs to his chest, wrapping both arms around them. “The chef I met several months ago would have never let me run such a terrible kitchen,” Jungkook told him. “The chef I met told me that if I didn’t meet his expectations, he would kick me out of his kitchen. Where’s that chef?”

 

And then, like a light bulb turning on over his head, Jungkook suddenly realized that his suspicions about Yoongi had been right all along.

 

Yoongi really did have feelings for him.

 

Jungkook had completely butchered his first attempt at training to be a head chef, and Yoongi had been nothing but supportive and complimentary, picking up the slack and saving his mistakes at every turn. It was kind of him to react in this manner, but… this was a changed Yoongi. This was not the blunt perfectionist he’d met all those months ago.

 

This was a man… with a crush.

 

“Look,” Jungkook suddenly tried to approach the subject from a different angle. “I know we’re… friends,” he began tentatively. “And you’ve been such a great help with me and my family, but…” Jungkook paused, swallowing. “In the kitchen, I need you to be my teacher. When we hang out after work, we can still be friends or… whatever,” Jungkook murmured somewhat bashfully. He still wasn’t quite sure what the “whatever” entailed anymore. “But in here… I need you to be my boss.” He took a breath before intentionally addressing Yoongi in a formal manner. “Seonbae.”

 

For a moment, Jungkook worried that he’d said something wrong. At first, he thought he’d made Yoongi angry with the way he’d told him how to do his job. Then, he thought that he might have hurt his feelings, despite his usually tough exterior.

 

But to his surprise, neither of those things happened.

 

Yoongi actually sighed in relief.

 

“Thank fuck,” he muttered, “because that dinner shift was a fucking disaster.” He turned to Jungkook with an earnest expression. “You have no idea how many times I had to restrain myself from just taking over your stove for the night.”

 

And then Jungkook threw back his head and laughed at how bizarrely satisfying it was to hear Yoongi critique his performance.

 

“I’m not joking,” Yoongi immediately fired back when he heard Jungkook laugh. “I mean – who forgets to send the appetizer before they actually make the meal? Seriously – do you even know how to read?

 

Jungkook couldn’t shake the smile from his lips. As Yoongi continued to rant, he slowly got to his feet and pulled Yoongi up alongside him.

 

“And you’re lucky I ignored you when you called out the same ticket three times! Seokjin would have been livid if he knew you were wasting ingredients like that!”

 

Silently, Jungkook pushed open the back door that led to the alleyway and stepped out into the chilly night, dragging Yoongi behind him.

 

“And then you skipped the order for table thirteen entirely! You’re fucking lucky Taehyung came back to make a correction on the ticket, or you never would have even noticed it was – ”

 

Jungkook abruptly turned around and faced Yoongi, stepping forward to press his palm over Yoongi’s mouth.

 

The man’s eyes widened in surprise at the gesture, but it did the job and kept him quiet.

 

“I’m glad you’re upset with me,” Jungkook told him honestly. “I want to be your friend, but I don’t ever want you to feel like you can’t teach me how to become a better chef.”

 

Yoongi stared at him, motionless. Jungkook thought it was strange that he couldn’t feel Yoongi’s warm breath on his hand. He wondered if the chef had simply stopped breathing entirely when Jungkook had surprised him.

 

“I want you to promise me that you won’t be nice just to try and make me feel better in the kitchen, ok? That’s not you. There won’t be any hard feelings, no matter what you say,” Jungkook assured him. “Just… say whatever you need to say so you can run a successful kitchen, alright? Don’t let your standards fall just because I’m your friend.” He raised his eyebrows to get his point across. “Got it?”

 

With Jungkook’s hand still on his lips, Yoongi nodded wordlessly.

 

“Inside, you’re my seonbae,” Jungkook murmured. “But out here – once we leave that kitchen – out here, you’re my hyung.” He smiled as he remembered that he had been granted permission to drop honorifics. “My Yoongi,” he quietly corrected himself. “Ok?”

 

Yoongi lifted both hands to his mouth, placing one on Jungkook’s fingers and the other on his wrist before gently pulling Jungkook’s hand down from his lips. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “For not yelling at you like I should have and for… well, yelling at you anyway.” He shook his head as he confused himself with his words. “I just kept thinking about that argument we got into after you sent out that undercooked chicken that one night and how you just started crying and I couldn’t stand the thought of – ”

 

Jungkook smiled at the absolutely backwards apology. “Don’t,” he commanded him. “First of all, that was an entirely unique situation,” Jungkook pointed out. “And second, you were totally right to yell at me tonight. I wasn’t on my game. I was unfocused and… I should have done better.” He swallowed and nodded confidently. “I will do better.”

 

Yoongi seemed almost uplifted by these words. “Really?” he asked hopefully. Apparently Jungkook had looked like more of a lost cause in the kitchen than he’d realized. “You mean it?”

 

Jungkook turned his hand around in Yoongi’s grip, tightening his hold on his fingers. “I promise I’ll do better tomorrow,” Jungkook assured him.

 

“Good,” Yoongi nodded emphatically. Then he used his hold on Jungkook’s hands to drag him back into the restaurant. “Now, get in here, because I have more things to yell about.”

 

With their swift resolution to such a terrible evening, Jungkook nearly forgot about everything he’d even been worried about in the first place. He forgot about the nerves he had about stepping up in the kitchen and his fear of teaching a meal at their next cooking class. He forgot that he was supposed to be busy figuring out whether or not he was attracted to Yoongi. He even forgot about the chef’s wide, pretty eyes when Jungkook had startled him with a hand over his mouth, or the way his thin lips had felt surprisingly plump against his palm.

 

But when Jungkook followed Yoongi willingly back into the kitchen and he listened to every one of his critiques, he knew there was no way he could forget the way he so very badly wanted Yoongi to kiss him that night, even when he’d shouted until he was red in the face.

 

 

Chapter Text

Seokjin popped his head into the kitchen with a nervous smile. “So… how’s it going?”

 

At Seokjin’s words, Jungkook was initially inclined to simply answer that he was feeling just fine – before he realized that his mood wasn’t what his boss was inquiring about.

 

“He’s getting much better,” Yoongi replied instead, referring to Jungkook’s training as head chef. He circled the tiered serving counter where he and Jungkook placed their completed orders each evening for the waiters to pick up. Yoongi casually leaned his hip against the counter as he stood in front of Seokjin and said, “He only screwed up one ticket tonight.”

 

Ok.” Jungkook threw his washcloth down on his recently cleaned work surface as he felt the sudden need to defend himself. He spun around and pulled off his yellow bandana, running a hand through his hair. “I just… lost the ticket,” he mumbled. He placed both hands on the surface of the serving counter and stooped over to look through the open shelf and make eye contact with the two men. “But only for, like… a minute.”

 

Seokjin stared blankly at Jungkook, seeming alarmed. “You lost an entire ticket?”

 

“It just – it fell off the ticket rack!” Jungkook argued, despite the flush of embarrassment creeping up the back of his neck. “But I found it right away, hyung. It was no big deal.”

 

Yoongi snorted at his discomfort before smirking in amusement at the owner. “It really wasn’t too bad,” he assured Seokjin. “You should have seen him the other night. It was a total shit show.”

 

“I thought we were past that night,” Jungkook hissed, eyes widening as the chef told Seokjin about his disastrous first attempt at running the kitchen as a head chef. “I told you I would get better – and I did, didn’t I?”

 

“He’s right,” Yoongi agreed with a shrug and a smile. “I’m just giving him a hard time.”

 

“So… we’re good?” Seokjin clarified when the banter between Yoongi and Jungkook became too hard for him to differentiate between teasing and the truth. “You’ll be able to step in for Yoongi later this week?”

 

“Yes,” Jungkook assured him with a smile and nervous butterflies in his stomach. “I can do it.”

 

He had to bite his tongue to refrain from tacking on the word “probably” to the end of his statement.

 

Seokjin finally grinned, relieved. “Great – I can’t wait to see how you do.”

 

As the door swung closed, Yoongi walked back to his station, thumping Jungkook on the shoulder as he passed. “See?” he said. “There’s hope for you yet.”

 

Jungkook smiled. He stared down at the bandana he was fiddling with between his fingers. “You know,” he spoke tentatively, “I never really… thanked you for any of this,” he murmured. “Well… not really.”

 

Yoongi quickly sanitized the surface of his counter. “For what?” he asked with a faint smile of amusement. “Testing you out as head chef?”

 

Jungkook continued to stare at the pink bunnies covering his bandana, shrugging. “I guess… all of it,” he answered softly. “You were the one that gave me the chance to work in the kitchen in the first place, right? And then you let me serve the special and now I’m teaching that cooking class and running the kitchen for a night…” Jungkook finally glanced up at Yoongi with a watery smile. “It’s just… it’s been really nice.”

 

Yoongi paused mid-cleaning. He straightened back up at Jungkook’s surprisingly serious tone, cocking his head to the side in interest. “You say that like you’re not planning to do any of those things ever again.”

 

“No, that’s not it,” Jungkook assured him. “I mean – you know about… the school thing,” he mumbled in embarrassment. He had never been afraid to let people know that he was working insane hours to earn his way into culinary school, but having to spend all of the money that he had earned and starting once again from scratch – even when it was spent for a noble purpose – made him feel incredibly self-conscious about his family’s lack of income; as if he would never be able to break free from their financial situation. “I doubt Seokjin will give me this much control over the kitchen in the future once he knows I’m not going to school.”

 

Yoongi seemed upset at this depressing turn of conversation. He put both hands on his hips in irritation. “I thought I told you to give me some time to work everything out.”

 

“No, I know – it’s just…”

 

Jungkook’s eyes abruptly filled with unshed tears, biting his cheek angrily as he fought to rein them back in.

 

“Stop it,” Yoongi quickly commanded, immediately noticing the tears in his eyes. “Seokjin wouldn’t do that. You know that.” He stepped forward and placed both hands on Jungkook’s shoulders, practically shaking him to make him see reason. “You’ve earned your place in this kitchen. You don’t need the degree to prove to Seokjin that you know what you’re doing.”

 

Jungkook blinked rapidly, attempting to clear his vision so he could see properly again. “You’re being nice again,” he accused the chef with a quiet sniffle. “I thought we agreed that you would be Yoongi outside and my seonbae inside.”

 

“I am being your fucking seonbae!” Yoongi abruptly snapped in order to get his point across. “I’m telling you that you’re an incredible chef – even if you don’t get the culinary degree that you deserve.” Yoongi poked Jungkook firmly in the chest. “And I would say the same thing regardless of whether we were inside or outside of this restaurant.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the bizarrely aggressive compliment. It certainly sounded like something his seonbae would say. But instead of responding with gratitude, Jungkook turned back to his countertop to pack away what was left of the utensils he had yet to clean and spoke to Yoongi in a lighthearted tone of voice. “You’re such a sap, seonbae.”

 

Yoongi snorted. “Look who’s calling me a sap.” He reached out, playfully slugging Jungkook’s arm before returning to his station.

 

They chatted idly with one another as they worked. Taehyung and Hoseok wandered in and out of the kitchen, delivering the last of their customer’s dirty dishes to the sink in the back. Just as they were closing everything down in the kitchen and walking around to flip off the florescent lights, Yoongi asked, “Are you still nervous about your cooking class?”

 

Jungkook had woken up in a sweat on three separate occasions, now, but he still somehow managed to find the confidence buried deep down inside to reassure himself that he knew what he was doing. “Just a little,” he admitted. “I had a thought for your next class, though.”

 

“Oh, yeah?” Yoongi pulled on his jacket, tugging on the lapels until it slipped comfortably into place on his shoulders. “What’s that?”

 

“You’ve had several repeat customers in your classes,” Jungkook pointed out. “I know they enjoy watching you make the food and explain how to work with different ingredients, but… don’t you think they might also enjoy making their own food?” He shrugged. “I know we wouldn’t exactly be able to do much that requires heat, since we wouldn’t have nearly enough stoves to cover everyone in a class, but… maybe the customers could make something cold?” Jungkook tried to think through potential ideas that the class participants could create that would be an easy dish to replicate. “A dessert, maybe?”

 

Yoongi considered the idea carefully. “It would probably extend the class time if they’re the ones preparing things instead of us, right?” He nodded slowly, deep in thought. “I’m sure we could charge nearly double, considering the practical, hands-on experience they would receive… and we would probably still get a lot of public interest.”

 

Jungkook nodded eagerly, excited that Yoongi was interested in his idea. “Right? That’s what I thought!” He followed Yoongi’s example and slipped on his coat as they spoke. “I think it would be really fun. Don’t you think they would get so much more enjoyment out of having been able to accomplish your dishes on their own?” Jungkook smiled fondly at the idea. “Plus, we could choose recipes that are deceptively easy and virtually fool proof.”

 

Just before they reached the kitchen exit, Yoongi stopped and turned round, eyeing Jungkook. He stuffed his hands into his coat pocket, thought for just a moment, and then nodded confidently. “So do it.”

 

Jungkook’s smile faded. “Do what?”

 

You have a class that you’re teaching,” Yoongi reminded him. “You get to teach whatever you want.” He shrugged. “You were going to teach people how to make a pizza – it doesn’t get much easier for a hands-on class than making a pizza.”

 

“Um – no.” Jungkook laughed, rapidly shaking his head back and forth while laughing at the lunacy of Yoongi’s statement. “It’s two days away. There’s no way we would be ready in time.”

 

“That’s bullshit,” Yoongi effortlessly called him out. “We can prep the dough tomorrow morning. That won’t take much time. I can help prepare a few of the ingredients that need to be cooked beforehand so they don’t have to use a stove.” He shrugged, as if it were a simple matter to resolve. “Give them a knife to work with and set them up with a few ingredients beforehand – it should be pretty easy for everyone to create their own individual pizzas. Then, all we have to do to prepare their meal is cook them in the ovens in the back.” He laughed softly at the simplicity of his plan. “It’s fun for them – and easy for us.”

 

Jungkook had only just become comfortable with the idea of teaching a cooking class in the first place. The thought of teaching a class that also included audience participation suddenly made him feel as if his nerves were skyrocketing through the roof.

 

“This is insane,” he timidly tried to explain. “I’ve never ever taught a class before, and you want my first one to be a participatory class?”

 

Yoongi stepped forward, minimizing the distance between them as if to challenge him. “Well – don’t you want to do that?”

 

“Of course!” Jungkook argued. “They would love it – I would love it – but this is a little too much for someone like me, don’t you think?”

 

“I don’t think you get it,” Yoongi calmly replied. “You’re a chef, now.” He narrowed his eyes at Jungkook in a calculated stare. “You know that, right?”

 

But when Jungkook remained quiet, Yoongi laughed in disbelief.

 

“I’m training you to act as head chef while I’m gone!” Yoongi pointed out. “There are people in the world that never rise past their position as a sous chef.” He gestured towards the door behind him. “You know that Seokjin began working as a chef before he eventually decided to become an owner. If it was anyone else, he would have filled in for me in my absence – but he thinks you would be just as capable running the kitchen as he would have been. And that should tell you something.”

 

Jungkook opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out.

 

“You’re incredibly talented,” Yoongi continued without pause as his voice escalated. “And whether or not you have that stupid fucking degree, you are a goddamn chef in this restaurant, so you need to start believing that you are one. So,” he swiftly concluded his spontaneous rant, “do you want to run a participatory class or not?

 

Jungkook swallowed.

 

And nodded.

 

Yoongi exhaled, smiling gently at him. “Then do it.”

 

Feeling his nerves get the better of him, Jungkook attempted to refute Yoongi’s suggestion one last time. “Even if I wanted to – Seokjin would never let me.”

 

But Yoongi, it appeared, was even prepared for that response.

 

He turned back around and silently pushed open the kitchen door that led towards the dining area. Smugly, he gestured for Jungkook to lead the way through the restaurant towards Seokjin’s office.

 

Jungkook sighed, feeling as if he were walking to his death. He took one last deep breath before stopping in front of the closed door.

 

“Sajangnim,” Jungkook quietly called out after rapping three times on Seokjin’s door. “Hyung – are you still here?”

 

A short moment later, Seokjin opened the door to his office. Namjoon was behind him, perched on the corner of Seokjin’s desk. “Oh,” Seokjin murmured in surprise. “I didn’t realize the two of you were still here.”

 

Namjoon quietly rose from his chair, eyeing the pair suspiciously. Jungkook quickly recalled their last conversation and immediately flushed.

 

“This is a bad time,” Jungkook blurted out nervously. He spun around, bumping into Yoongi as he tried to make a swift exit. “We should come back later.”

 

“No,” Yoongi sharply redirected him. He gripped Jungkook’s shoulders, turning him back around to face Seokjin head on. “Tell him your idea.”

 

Seokjin blinked at him. “What idea?”

 

Jungkook sighed miserably. “I told seonbae that we should try having a cooking class where the customers also get to participate in creating their own food,” he rushed to spit his words out. “He wanted me to tell you about it.”

 

Yoongi waited for three seconds before gently leading Jungkook into his next sentence. “And…?”

 

Jungkook swallowed, carefully wording his next statement. “And he says he liked the idea and that we should try it sometime.”

 

Jungkook jumped as Yoongi reached out and pinched the back of his arm. “Jesus Christ, Jungkook. Don’t be such a pain in the ass,” he hissed. “Just tell him.”

 

Jungkook scratched the back of his head. “He thinks, um…” Jungkook took a deep breath. Yoongi’s words of encouragement began ringing in the back of his head. He straightened his posture until he was standing at his full height and started his sentence over with far more confidence than he’d had before. “I think that I should try a class like that with my pizza.” He fidgeted uncomfortably from side to side as Seokjin stared back at him. “This Saturday.”

 

Namjoon stepped closer to the door, hovering behind Seokjin’s shoulder when Jungkook finished talking. “That… sounds kind-of fun.”

 

“I know I can do it,” Jungkook quickly tried to reassure Seokjin, now that he’d finally gotten his idea out into the open. “I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to try it once, right? And if we start their class with the pizzas, then we can bake those in the back while we show them a second recipe out front, right?”

 

“We could increase the cost since there’s more individual instruction,” Yoongi helpfully pointed out, “and decrease the amount of prep time it would normally take for us in the kitchen on those days – since our customers are the ones actually doing the prepping.” He shrugged. “What do you think?”

 

But to Jungkook’s surprise, it didn’t take Seokjin more than a few seconds to decide.

 

“Let’s give it a shot,” he agreed instantaneously.

 

Jungkook stared at his boss in wonder. It wasn’t all that long ago that he felt as if he was fighting for the chance to prove to his hyung that he was no longer the little boy that lived next door and could do far more than smile politely and serve food. But now…

 

Seokjin was letting him completely alter the framework of their cooking classes.

 

“You mean it?” Jungkook whispered in disbelief.

 

“Of course,” Seokjin responded. He reached out to pat Jungkook on the shoulder. “I trust you.”

 

I trust you.

 

The words made Jungkook swell with pride.

 

“Ok,” Jungkook agreed with a growing smile. “Ok – let’s do it.”

 

Yoongi smirked at Jungkook’s sudden boost of confidence.

 

“Come on,” Yoongi interrupted the moment Seokjin’s decision was made. They stepped away from his office and moved towards the exit. “Time to go home. We need to get here early if we want to have enough time to make pizza dough for everyone.”

 

Jungkook nodded obediently before turning back to Seokjin. “Thanks, hyung,” he said, using a more familiar form of address to show his gratitude. Then, glancing at Namjoon, Jungkook smiled. “I’ll see both of you tomorrow.”

Seokjin smiled back. “Goodnight, Jungkookie.”

 

Jungkook hastily followed in Yoongi’s footsteps as they walked back through the restaurant and towards the exit.

 

“I told you so,” Yoongi pointed out with a smug smile on his face. “You’re a damn good chef, Jungkook – you should really stop doubting yourself.”

 

Jungkook reached the exit first, pushing the door open. “Was that Yoongi talking, or was that my seonbae talking?”

 

“That was your seonbae,” Yoongi answered without hesitation. Then he followed Jungkook through the exit and said, “This is Yoongi.”

 

As the door to the restaurant quietly closed behind them, Yoongi lightly grabbed Jungkook’s hips, turning him around until they were facing one another. Silently, Yoongi stepped forward, sliding his hands along Jungkook’s waist until he’d encircled his warm body and held him close, ignoring the icy breeze streaking through the evening sky.

 

“I’m so proud of you, Jeon Jungkook,” Yoongi whispered into his ear as his arms tightened around his waist. “Don’t ever forget that.”

 

Jungkook didn’t even think twice before returning the hug and burying his nose into the warm skin at the base of Yoongi’s neck.

 

*

 

“Oh, it looks so yummy!

 

The pizzas that had been assembled by the customers and subsequently cooked in the back were now being brought back out to their tables. Jungkook grinned as each patron murmured excitedly to their neighbor as their pizza was placed before them.

 

“Shall we add the final touch?” Jungkook asked the room as Seokjin and Yoongi brought out the last of the pizzas to each individual in the room. He picked up his block of parmesan cheese and balsamic reduction. “First, slice the cheese so you get small curls – good, just like that,” Jungkook encouraged the group to his right. “You can choose how much or how little you want to include on your pizza. Once you’ve sliced as much as you want, go ahead and pick up the balsamic reduction you made earlier.” He watched as each group, one by one, picked up the small bowl that they had prepared previously. “And just drizzle a little bit over the top.” Jungkook demonstrated, allowing the liquid to trickle to his own pizza in thin rivulets. As he finished, he set down his bowl and looked back up at the tables. “Once you’ve done that – it’s time to grab that pizza cutter that I know each one of you has been dying to use since you saw those pizza come back out of the kitchen.” The room chuckled at his words. “And enjoy!”

 

There was a light smattering of applause from the patrons that hadn’t already begun to cut into their pizza, along with a few people calling out a quick “Thank you!” before digging into their food.

 

But even with the excited expressions and appreciative comments scattered throughout the room, it was Yoongi’s feedback that Jungkook craved the most.

 

Yoongi grinned as Jungkook finally managed to slip away from his customers and entered the kitchen in the back. “Nice job, kid,” he lightly congratulated Jungkook. Yoongi sidled up next to him, standing shoulder to shoulder with him to watch the patrons enjoying their food through the small, circular window in the kitchen door. “This was a great idea.”

 

Jungkook positively beamed. “Really?”

 

Yoongi scoffed and arched an eyebrow at him, though it held no mockery. “Why would I lie?”

 

Jungkook just smiled. “Thanks, seonbae.”

 

“In fact,” Yoongi continued as he leaned in close enough for his breath to ghost along Jungkook’s cheek while he spoke. “That group over there in the corner?” He pointed through the window towards a group of four women sharing a table and chatting animatedly. “They’ve already spoken to Seokjin about how much they would appreciate more hands-on classes like this one.” He smirked. “It looks like we might be changing the format of these classes in the future.”

 

“Really?” Jungkook asked excitedly.

 

Yoongi shot him another look, as if to ask why Jungkook continued to question the validity of his statements.

 

“Ok, ok,” Jungkook finally relented with a short laugh. “I get it.”

 

“Hey, um – ” Yoongi abruptly turned so he was facing Jungkook directly. Jungkook blinked at the incredibly short distance between them, surprised by just how close Yoongi had gotten without either of them even noticing. “How’s your dad?” he asked in a concerned voice. “Is he feeling better?”

 

“Yeah, a bit,” Jungkook answered, staring uncomfortably down at his feet as he tried to ignore his close proximity. “I mean – he’s still in pain, but I think it’s getting better.”

 

“And the food I made?” Yoongi checked. “Is your family enjoying it?”

 

“It’s great,” Jungkook assured him with a genuine smile. “My dad loves your cooking.”

 

“Do you need more meals in the coming weeks?” he continued insistently, seeming overly concerned for Jungkook’s family’s wellbeing. “I could come over in the morning to make more meals for him, if you like.” Then he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as he said, “Or… I could come over tonight. And, you know – spend the night like before?”

 

And then Yoongi blushed.

 

Yoongi fucking blushed.

 

Jungkook swallowed. He averted his gaze, suddenly feeling secondhand embarrassment wash over him. “If you want,” he tried to answer in a casual voice. “You don’t have to, but… I mean – I wouldn’t mind if you came over tonight after work.”

 

Yoongi nodded. “Ok,” he confirmed softly. Then he gave Jungkook a hopeful look. “Maybe you could help me cook some of the meals this time?” Then, suddenly feeling the need to clarify what he meant, Yoongi hastily added, “You know – the ones for your dad.”

 

Jungkook grinned at the thought of cooking with Yoongi outside of the restaurant. “I would really like that.”

 

“Great,” Yoongi replied timidly. He swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet as he continued in a soft voice. “Then… I guess it’s a date.”

 

Jungkook smiled and nodded. “Yeah.”

 

But even as Jungkook confirmed their evening plans, he froze at Yoongi’s choice of words.

 

Was it really a date?

 

 

Chapter Text

“I have to be honest,” Jungkook confessed as he covered a nine by thirteen pan with its lid and slipped it inside of his family’s refrigerator. “It’s way more relaxing to cook with Yoongi than it is to cook with seonbae.”

 

Yoongi laughed, sipping from the glass of wine that Jungkook had poured for each of them to enjoy throughout their evening. They hadn’t gotten off of work until late in the evening, as was usual in their professions, so the rest of his family was already sound asleep as they worked on preparing multiple dishes for his father to enjoy while he recovered from his surgery. “Obviously,” Yoongi agreed with Jungkook’s statement. “I’m way more creative outside of the restaurant when I have the chance to actually experiment with my food.”

 

Jungkook snorted. He quietly closed the refrigerator door, picked up his own wine glass, and casually leaned against the kitchen counter as he responded, “I was going to say that you’re not as much of a hard ass as you usually are in the restaurant.”

 

“Hey,” Yoongi playfully argued, albeit in a soft voice to prevent Jungkook’s parents from waking up now that it was two in the morning. “I’m strict about quality control,” he explained. “Everything that goes out of my kitchen is damn near perfect, so I’m not going to apologize for that.”

 

“I didn’t say you should,” Jungkook agreed. He folded one arm over his chest while the other lightly swirled his drink around his glass before taking a small sip. “I just said I feel more relaxed cooking with Yoongi.”

 

Yoongi narrowed his eyes at the man across the kitchen before silently pushing away from the small island at the center of the room. He’d been hunched over the flat surface with his arms supporting his weary body after they’d finished preparing several meals, but now he slowly walked towards Jungkook. He carefully set his wine glass down on the counter behind Jungkook and made direct eye contact with him. “You know, ever since I met you, I’ve been having a hard time keeping my multiple identities straight.”

 

“Oh, really?” Jungkook replied in a teasing voice. He smirked back at the chef. “Shall I tell you about them?”

 

Yoongi arched an eyebrow, intrigued.

 

“Because they’re very different,” Jungkook continued without hesitation, sounding like an animated storyteller when he spoke. His free hand waved about in the air to help him communicate his message. “Seonbae – he’s very tough and critical – but in a fair way,” Jungkook assured Yoongi, talking as if he wasn’t speaking to the man in question. “But sometimes he gets so absorbed in what he’s doing that he just… forgets to breathe. Sometimes it’s funny when he gets this little crinkle – right here – when he’s super focused,” Jungkook murmured, lightly tapping the bridge of Yoongi’s nose.

 

“Oh, he does?” Yoongi asked with a light chuckle. He shuffled closer and leaned one hand against the counter, just a fraction of an inch away from touching Jungkook’s waist. “And what about this Yoongi character? Is he tough, too?”

 

“Oh – not at all.”

 

Yoongi blinked, somewhat taken aback by his assertive response. “He’s not?”

 

Using the counter behind him to balance himself, Jungkook crossed one foot over the other at the ankle and smiled at the man. “He’s a big softie.”

 

Yoongi scoffed, rolling his eyes. “No, I’m not.”

 

Jungkook acted appalled at his dismissive statement. He set down his wine glass with a gentle clink on the counter top and turned back to Yoongi with a determined look. “Excuse me,” he stated confidently, “but I don’t believe you have any idea what you’re talking about.”

 

I don’t?” Yoongi countered.

 

“You don’t,” Jungkook agreed. “You don’t know Yoongi like I do.”

 

For an instant, Yoongi’s eyes trailed down the front of Jungkook’s body. But just as fast as his gaze had shifted, it quickly traveled back up to meet Jungkook’s eyes. He smiled lightly. “Ok, then,” Yoongi agreed to play along. “Tell me about Yoongi.”

 

So, without a beat of hesitation, Jungkook honestly replied, “He has the gentlest soul of anyone I’ve ever met.”

 

Yoongi’s lips parted in surprise at these words. He stared back at Jungkook, seeming to process this surprising statement for a moment. With a nearly imperceptible tremor in his voice, Yoongi finally murmured, “Really?”

 

Jungkook didn’t respond to his question. Instead, he lowered his voice and continued on with his description. “And as soon as you break down that wall that he always tries to hide behind, he’s kind and he’s funny and he’s… passionate.”

 

Yoongi lifted his remaining free hand to rest it on the handle protruding from the refrigerator, sufficiently trapping Jungkook against the counter in his own family’s kitchen. “This Yoongi sounds… kind-of incredible.”

 

“But he’s shit at singing karaoke.”

 

Yoongi huffed out a laugh of surprise, dropping his forehead onto Jungkook’s shoulder in amusement at the humorous end to their conversation. Jungkook automatically extended his arms to reach around Yoongi’s waist, pulling him close to his body in a light hug as Yoongi laughed at Jungkook’s final statement.

 

“There, there,” Jungkook mock-comforted Yoongi with a light pat on the back. “Not all of us have mad karaoke skills.”

 

Ok,” Yoongi stubbornly refuted as he pulled his head back up from Jungkook’s shoulder, standing a short distance away from each another. “Hoseok and I killed that Epik High duet.”

 

Jungkook’s hands linked together behind Yoongi’s back in a relaxed pose, resting casually on his hips as if this was something they did every day. “Rapping doesn’t count at karaoke,” Jungkook argued with a playful smirk. “If you didn’t sing a ballad, it’s like it didn’t happen.”

 

“You’re just trying to make yourself look good,” Yoongi pointed out with a challenging tilt of his head.

 

Jungkook’s eyes widened innocently. “I am not.”

 

“Don’t give me that Bambi look.” Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “You know what you did.”

 

Jungkook tried to mirror Yoongi’s expression, leveling a mock-serious stare at him. “You’re just jealous of my skills, hyung.”

 

“Yoongi.”

 

Jungkook froze at the unexpected correction.

 

Yoongi, it seemed, was perhaps just as surprised as Jungkook, since he swallowed audibly and abruptly ducked his head in embarrassment.

 

“Don’t call me hyung,” Yoongi finally murmured, slowly lifting his gaze back up to meet Jungkook’s. His hand pulled away from the counter, sliding into place just above Jungkook’s hip bone. Jungkook froze as his thumb lightly traced circles along the sliver of bare skin showing just beneath the hem of his t-shirt. “I… like when you call me by my name.”

 

Jungkook’s heart skipped a beat.

 

“Yoongi,” he breathed, transfixed by the unbridled sincerity in Yoongi’s eyes.

 

As the pounding in Jungkook’s heart raced, growing steadily louder, Jungkook couldn’t help but add his own, silent plea to the ragged rhythm.

 

Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me.

 

This was it. Now that he was here – in this moment – there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted their relationship to move forward into something new and exciting. He desperately wanted something more than a coworker – something more than a friend. His eyelids fluttered, closing of their own volition as the distance between them decreased. He held his breath, waiting for Yoongi to move that last centimeter forward and touch their lips together.

 

But he never did.

 

“It’s… getting late,” Yoongi seemed to reluctantly point out, as if he’d only just noticed the time. Jungkook quickly pulled his head back from Yoongi’s and dropped his gaze to the floor, feeling suddenly awkward to be standing at such a close proximity. “We should probably get some sleep.”

 

“Um.” Jungkook loudly cleared his throat, wishing he could clear his head from the fog that it was in. “Right,” he agreed, releasing his hold on Yoongi’s waist despite his unwillingness to do so. “It’s late.”

 

“I’ll just, uh…” Yoongi reached up to run a hand nervously through his hair. “I, um – ”

 

“I’m going to run to the bathroom before we go to bed,” Jungkook quickly cut him off before he could say anything more. He gave Yoongi a wide berth as he walked around him to get to his destination. “I’ll be right back.”

 

“Yeah, right – sure,” Yoongi readily agreed with a rapid nod of his head. “I’ll just… be… here.”

 

So, with as much composure as Jungkook could muster, he walked quickly and calmly to the nearest restroom in their house. Gently, so as not to wake his parents from their sleep in the early morning hours, Jungkook let the door close behind him with a quiet click. With a low exhale, Jungkook leaned back against the bathroom door.

 

And then he covered his face with both hands in embarrassment and slowly sank to the floor into a crumpled ball of mixed emotions.

 

*

 

Jungkook looked up from his cutting board, startled when Yoongi walked into the restaurant kitchen.

 

“Hey,” Yoongi murmured softly as he moved past Jungkook to get to his station.

 

Jungkook smiled timidly. “Hey.”

 

After spending the night at Jungkook’s house – in an incredibly platonic manner, much to Jungkook’s disappointment – Yoongi had stuck around just long enough to visit with Jungkook’s father in the morning and tell him about the new dishes they had prepared for him the evening before. Jungkook remained fairly quiet after they had woken, hovering silently in the background while Yoongi and his father spoke to one another. Even when Yoongi made his goodbyes and walked swiftly out the front door to return to his apartment, Jungkook cowered in the corner of his own living room, nervous to approach the chef after their odd interaction the night before.

 

Jungkook had gotten a firm tongue-lashing from his father when he hadn’t walked Yoongi to the door like a proper host should have.

 

After the way they had left things the evening before, the rest of the day was bound to be awkward for both of them. At this point, meeting one another in a closed off kitchen when they were the only two people in the room were less than ideal circumstances.

 

Jungkook attempted to regain his manhood as he cleared his throat and broke the tension in the kitchen.

 

“Um,” he bravely spoke up, “my Dad told me he was really appreciative of all the food you’ve been making for our family.”

 

Yoongi pulled out his light blue, cookie bandana and tied it around his head before washing his hands in the nearby sink. “You helped make it, too.”

 

“Yeah, he knows,” Jungkook replied with a tiny smile. “But that doesn’t count. I think you’re his new favorite.”

 

Yoongi snorted, shaking the excess water off of his hands and into the sink. After drying them, he stepped into the walk-in refrigerator to dig around for various ingredients and began prepping his meals for that evening. “I’ve already told him it’s not a problem,” Yoongi said. “I truly don’t mind.”

 

“Yeah, he knows that, too.” Jungkook held his knife above the fish he was deboning and paused to glance at Yoongi while he set up his station. “He keeps asking me what sort of gift he should give to thank you.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes flicked up to Jungkook in surprise at this news. “I don’t need a gift.”

 

Jungkook shrugged, returning to his fish. “That’s not going to stop him from trying to get something for you anyway.”

 

“Then tell him to get well soon,” Yoongi answered. “That’s what I want.”

 

Jungkook smiled at the sentiment. “Ok. I will.”

 

The kitchen fell into silence, an unusual event for the two of them while they prepped their meals for the evening service. Typically, the kitchen was filled with raucous laughter and nonstop conversation between the pair. Tonight, both of them were fairly subdued. The hush in the room wasn’t broken until Jungkook decided to take a short break from their prep and was headed to the bathroom at the same time that Yoongi simultaneously moved towards the refrigerator.

 

“Oh.” Jungkook froze in his spot as they came face to face with one another. “I was just – ”

 

Yoongi stepped to the side, accidentally moving in the same direction as Jungkook. “I needed the – ”

 

Jungkook tried to sidestep Yoongi again, only to be met with the chef blocking his path for the third time. “Sorry, I was – ”

 

Yoongi abruptly stopped moving and reached out to put both hands firmly on Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook stopped in the middle of his sentence, staring wide-eyed at Yoongi. He allowed the chef to steer him to the right, while Yoongi took the opposite path and quietly walked past him to get to the walk-in refrigerator.

 

Jungkook let out a shaky breath when Yoongi left the room.

 

Across the kitchen, Namjoon was carrying a large crate of clean glasses out to the bar prior to the dinner service. He arched a knowing eyebrow in Jungkook’s direction before quietly slipping out of the door.

 

Jungkook followed close behind.

 

Coincidentally, Namjoon happened to be eyeing the kitchen doors from across the dining area as he waited for Jungkook at the bar, almost as if he had known that Jungkook would follow him.

 

“So,” Namjoon began in a low voice as some of the other waiters milled about the room, getting their tables ready for service. “I see that’s still going on.”

 

Jungkook crossed his arms on the bar top and sent Namjoon a glare. “It’s not funny.”

 

Namjoon snorted, turning back to the bar with a smirk as he continued working. “I think it is.”

 

“Stop it,” Jungkook hissed, embarrassed that this conversation was even happening in the first place – especially in a location where anyone could walk past and overhear them. He sat on one of the barstools, dropping his head into both of his hands. “Yoongi is actually making me lose my mind, and you think this is all a joke?

 

Namjoon unloaded the clean glasses from the plastic crate, placing them one by one on the shelves beneath the bar. All that Jungkook heard in response was a disembodied voice from behind the bar where Namjoon was crouching down. “Have you thought about what I said?”

 

“About trying to figure out whether or not I like Yoongi as more than a friend?” Jungkook snorted, as if the mere thought of answering his question at this point in time was hilarious. “Yeah – I definitely did that.”

 

Namjoon paused in the middle of his work, standing back up and giving his full attention to Jungkook. “And?”

 

And,” Jungkook echoed in a relatively snarky tone, “the moment I realized how strong my feelings were for him – and they’re strong, hyung – I suddenly felt like I was back in school, crushing on the popular school president who doesn’t even know that I exist.”

 

Namjoon laughed, returning to stacking the glasses beneath the counter. “Ok, that’s funny.”

 

Jungkook petulantly slapped a hand on the bar, glaring at the back of Namjoon’s head. “Hyung.”

 

“Jungkook – what’s the big deal?” Namjoon attempted to stifle his laughter. “You said he likes you, right? I thought the feeling was mutual?”

 

“I thought it was,” Jungkook grumbled. He covertly eyed his surroundings, checking the vicinity for anyone that could have been eavesdropping, before self-consciously admitting, “I feel like he’s been giving me all of these… signals.” Jungkook turned his gaze back towards Namjoon. “I mean… it really seemed like he was flirting with me, hyung.”

 

“But?”

 

“But he’s not making a move,” Jungkook spit out in frustration. “Last night, we had this… I don’t know. A date? Maybe?” Jungkook shook his head, unsure of what he should think about their evening before. It felt a lot like a date. It was an unconventional date, but there had been food, wine, and effortless conversation shared between the two of them – didn’t that count? “We were just hanging out after work, but then we started talking and I decided to get out a bottle of wine and we were, like… inches away from kissing, hyung. Like… right there.” Jungkook held up his thumb and forefinger to show just how close the distance had been between them. And then he just… decides that it was too late and time for bed!”

 

Namjoon thought about this for a moment before coming to the same conclusion as Jungkook. “Strange.”

 

Right?” Jungkook agreed wholeheartedly. He sighed, contemplating his predicament. “Now all of our conversations are just… insanely awkward. Every time I so much as look at him, I get embarrassed even thinking about how badly I just want him to pin me against the wall and – ”

 

Jungkook cut himself off, cheeks turning red as he mentally completed his own thought.

 

Namjoon shook his head in amusement at Jungkook’s words as he finally stood back up, leaning forward on the counter while they spoke. “Is there something that’s stopping him?” Namjoon asked. “Does he know how you feel?”

 

“He has to know,” Jungkook confidently disregarded his words. But then, just as soon as he said them, he frowned as he suddenly wondered. “I mean – he does, right?”

 

Namjoon shrugged.

 

“It’s not like I’m refusing his advances, right?” Jungkook’s eyes darted about the room as he thought back to their latest interactions. “He… he has to know.”

 

The more he mulled over the idea aloud, the more Jungkook began to convince himself that he didn’t know much of anything anymore.

 

“Maybe,” Namjoon gently hinted, “you should take the bull by the horns and just… do something about it?”

 

The mere idea made Jungkook nauseous.

 

*

 

“That was a good service, gentlemen,” Seokjin called into the kitchen as their last dish was sent out to the dining area. He glanced over at Jungkook. “Are you all set for tomorrow night?”

 

It still felt like this day had come much too soon. Yoongi was taking the evening off the following night, leaving Jungkook to run the kitchen as acting head chef with Seokjin at his side – and he didn’t feel prepared at all. Nonetheless, when Jungkook glanced nervously at Yoongi, he felt immediately reassured by his gentle smile. He spun back to confidently answer Seokjin. “Yeah,” he stated firmly. “I’m ready.”

 

Seokjin nodded proudly. “Fantastic,” he replied. “I can’t wait to work with you, Kookie.” Then he held up a finger and corrected himself with a smirk. “I mean – I can’t wait to work with you… chef.”

 

Jungkook grinned, feeling emboldened by the simple change to Seokjin’s language. “Thanks.”

 

Yoongi even chimed in with a small chuckle on the other side of the room.

 

“You two get cleaned up,” Seokjin told them. “Jungkook, I’ll meet you back here tomorrow before your shift.” He pointed at the young chef. “Make sure you get a full night of sleep, ok?”

 

Jungkook nodded obediently. “I will.”

 

Seokjin left the kitchen and returned to the dining area, only for the door to swing back open seconds later with Taehyung carrying a pile of dirty dishes to the large sink. Just as Taehyung turned to leave, Hoseok entered the room to deliver another set of dishes to the sink. Jungkook cleaned up side-by-side with Yoongi, fully aware of the fact that the waiters were working diligently behind them – but wishing they were anywhere else but here.

 

He just wanted to be able to talk to Yoongi for a few minutes without any sort of an interruption. Was that too much to ask? But tonight – of all nights – it seemed as if any moment they had alone was immediately cut off by a different restaurant employee wandering unaware into the kitchen.

 

So, Jungkook just waited.

 

Quietly.

 

Awkwardly.

 

After far too long, the kitchen finally cleared out – with the exception of the chefs – and Jungkook was finally able to finish acting as if he were still busy scrubbing at a non-existent spot on the surface of his station. He immediately turned to Yoongi as the kitchen door closed for the last time, surprised to find Yoongi staring right back at him.

 

“Hyung, I – ”

 

“Jungkook – ”

 

Both of them stopped speaking simultaneously. Fortunately, Yoongi broke the silence for them.

 

He seemed to nervously glance down at his hands. “Should we… talk outside?”

 

Jungkook didn’t have to think twice about the question. He knew exactly what Yoongi was trying to ask. Discussions inside the kitchen were reserved for work-related topics. Outside of the kitchen… that was another story.

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed readily. “I think we should.”

 

The pair walked in silence until they stepped out of the back exit and into the cool night. Jungkook didn’t go far, choosing to take only three steps forward before turning to look back at Yoongi the moment he exited the door.

 

He swallowed his nerves and crossed his arms to ward off the chill of the wind as Yoongi silently stood in front of him. “Did you want to go first?”

 

Yoongi hurriedly shook his head. “No, uh… you go.”

 

Jungkook inhaled deeply, nodding. “Yeah, ok, um…” He stared at the ground. “Hyung,” Jungkook began hesitantly, noticing that Yoongi wasn’t correcting the honorific form of address like he had the night before. It made him nervous all over again. “I, uh… I think… we should talk.”

 

Yoongi didn’t move. Jungkook chanced a glance up at the chef, surprised to see his emotionless face staring back at him. He didn’t seem to be even remotely fazed by Jungkook’s words. Perhaps he’d been intending to say the same thing.

 

“Alright,” Yoongi agreed.

 

“But… I know you have tomorrow off, so I thought… we should talk afterwards? You know,” Jungkook continued abruptly, “when I don’t have to worry about the head chef thing and you’re back to work and everything is… normal again.”

 

Yoongi’s eyebrows twitched, as if confused by this decision to put their conversation off until tomorrow. But, just as soon as the puzzled look had appeared, it vanished immediately, returning Yoongi to his passive expression. “Of course,” Yoongi agreed. “We can talk then.”

 

Jungkook nodded rapidly, feeling the adrenaline coursing through his body as his jittery nerves finally took hold now that he’d said the hardest part. “Right – ok – good,” he agreed, hands dropping back down to his sides. He anxiously fidgeted with the hem of his chef’s uniform. “Then, um… what did you want to say?”

 

Yoongi seemed somewhat surprised by this question – as if he’d forgotten that he’d also wanted to talk to Jungkook. “Huh? Oh – that,” he suddenly remembered. “Um – it can wait, too,” he mumbled with a casual shrug. “It’s not a big deal.”

 

Jungkook studied his forced-neutral expression. It was all too easy to notice that Yoongi wasn’t telling the truth. Clearly, it was a big deal. “Tell me,” Jungkook softly demanded. “It’s ok.”

 

“I said it’s fine,” Yoongi quietly snapped. He looked over his shoulder, eyeing the kitchen door behind him before turning back to Jungkook with a tense smile. “Actually, I’m a little tired. I think I’m just going to finish up here and get going.”

 

“Oh – yeah, ok.”

 

But Jungkook’s eyes widened in surprise when Yoongi spun on his heel without another word, threw open the back door, and hurried into the kitchen.

 

And Jungkook could only stare after him in confusion.

 

Obviously, Jungkook had said something to upset Yoongi. He wasn’t blind.

 

But no matter how much he thought about it – he had no idea what he’d said.

 

 

Chapter Text

“What’s next, chef?”

 

Jungkook still felt a little strange hearing Seokjin – his boss – calling him chef and asking him for direction. Over the years, hearing others call him “chef” whenever he cooked in his home kitchen had always felt like it had been said with a hint of sarcasm – as if none of them had ever believed that it could actually happen. But the way Seokjin said the word while he hurried around the kitchen to do Jungkook’s bidding felt like a badge of honor.

 

“Did you get table twenty-one’s appetizers out?” Jungkook asked as he tilted his skillet to the side and spooned melted butter over the top of his dish.

 

“Yes, chef,” Seokjin replied. “Anything else I can get started?”

 

“Um…” Jungkook glanced over his shoulder at the tickets. They had already gone through the dinner rush and the orders were just now beginning to taper off. “We have a few more specials heading our way,” he said, referring to the balsamic duck pizzas he’d created for his cooking class. He turned back to Seokjin. “Could you get some more pizza dough out of the refrigerator?”

 

Seokjin tightened the knot at the back of his red alpaca bandana that Jungkook had gifted him prior to starting their dinner service and nodded obediently. “On it.”

 

By the time Jungkook had turned around to place two more plates of food on the serving counter for Taehyung to take to his table, Hoseok sauntered into the kitchen with a wide grin. “Table nine,” he announced, holding his ticket up to wave it back and forth.

 

Jungkook took it without hesitation, quickly studying the order. It was fairly straight forward. One appetizer, two specials, and two desserts. Easy enough.

 

“Hyung!” Jungkook called loud enough so Seokjin could hear him from the back of the refrigeration unit. “You’ve got another appetizer to fire up!”

 

Seokjin emerged, carrying a large container filled with fresh dough. “Got it!”

 

“Actually,” Hoseok jumped into their conversation with a wide smile and a twinkle in his eye, “you’ll never guess whose table that is.”

 

Jungkook didn’t even spare him a glance as he quickly threw oil into a pan and carefully lay a piece of salmon in the dish without splattering himself with the hot liquid. “Who?” he asked in a distracted voice.

 

“Yeah,” Seokjin chimed in with a much louder voice than Jungkook – loud enough that it even drew Jungkook’s attention away from his dish. “Who, Hoseok?”

 

When Hoseok didn’t reply immediately, Jungkook glanced up from his fish, surprised to find Seokjin and Hoseok having a silent conversation of sorts with their eyes. Seokjin had widened his gaze while Hoseok was frowning at his boss in confusion.

 

“It’s… my mom,” Hoseok finally announced.

 

Seokjin’s intense expression settled into a warm smile. “How lovely,” he replied. “I hope she enjoys the food.”

 

Jungkook studied the pair once again, clearly smelling something fishy in the air – and it wasn’t the salmon he was cooking.

 

Hoseok was obviously serving someone in their dining room that was notable – certainly important enough for Seokjin to already be aware of their presence and for him to feel the need to keep it a secret from Jungkook.

 

Was there a food critic at table nine?

 

Jungkook felt a brief flash of panic at the thought. It made sense. Seokjin would want him to keep his cool in the kitchen rather than panic at the knowledge that a food critic was waiting for his food. But Jungkook could handle this. He was calm. He was doing just fine. Everything had gone out of the kitchen under his scrutinizing gaze and in a timely manner – just like Yoongi would have done. Jungkook had nothing to worry about.

 

Jungkook kept quiet about the secret he’d easily deciphered, and continued to focus on his work. He would just continue to send out flawless dishes and help Seokjin receive rave reviews to put his restaurant on the map. It was as simple as that.

 

Jungkook continued serving dish after dish, carefully plating each one with the utmost precision. Lest he work himself into a nervous mess, Jungkook continued to talk to Seokjin, constantly throwing orders out to him, or checking on the timing of his meals to ensure that everything made it out on time. Once he’d sent out the appetizer and, subsequently, plated the two specials to table nine, Jungkook saw Seokjin visibly sigh in relief.

 

In a strange twist of fate, Jungkook found himself reassuring his boss. “It’s ok,” he said with a smile and a gentle pat on the shoulder. “They’ll love your food.”

 

Seokjin turned to Jungkook with a confident nod. “You’re right,” he agreed. “They’ll love your food.”

 

Jungkook didn’t have time to dwell on Seokjin’s comment before he quickly picked up another ticket that Taehyung had delivered to the kitchen and began working once again.

 

For another half hour, Jungkook maintained his focus on the meals in front of him, sending one dish right after the other into the dining room. And then – finally – as the last order was sent out, Jungkook leaned backwards against the countertop and exhaled in relief.

 

“I did it,” he proudly murmured to himself.

 

Seokjin, having overheard his comment, stepped forward with a hand raised. “You did it.”

 

Jungkook grinned, giving the owner a high five.

 

“That was fun,” Seokjin commented. “I think I really missed the frenzy of working in the kitchen,” he admitted with a fond smile. “We should do this again.”

 

Jungkook glanced over at Seokjin’s work space, arching an eyebrow at the mess he’d left behind. “It’s probably best that you aren’t working with Yoongi,” Jungkook informed him. “He would have yelled at you throughout the entire dinner service about not keeping a clean surface.”

 

Seokjin rolled his eyes at Jungkook. “It’s not that bad.”

 

Jungkook snorted. “So it’s cool with you if I take a picture and send it to Yoongi?”

 

Seokjin eyed his surface once again before huffing in annoyance and quickly cleaning the area. “Whatever.”

 

Jungkook turned to his own space to do the same. He hadn’t even started to wipe down the counter when Hoseok entered the kitchen behind them, loudly clearing his throat.

 

“Um – guys?”

 

Jungkook turned around, throwing his towel over his shoulder.

 

Hoseok’s eyes turned to Seokjin, seeming to silently seek out his permission. “Table nine sends their compliments to the chef.”

 

Seokjin beamed, turning to Jungkook excitedly. “That’s amazing.”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed with a small nod. If the table with the food critic was pleased with their meal, it certainly meant high praise for Seokjin’s restaurant. “It is.”

 

“They, um…” Hoseok bounced on the balls of his feet nervously. “Well – now that the dinner service is over, they wanted to thank you personally.” Again, Hoseok’s eyes slid to Seokjin warily, silently checking that the owner was ok with this idea, especially when he’d been so vehemently against discussing the patrons at table nine before. “If… that’s ok?”

 

“Sure,” Jungkook answered without hesitation. He glanced over at Seokjin. “Hyung?”

 

Seokin grinned, patting Jungkook on the back. “Absolutely.”

 

Hoseok bowed his head once before leaving the kitchen, only to return just seconds later with two guests in tow.

 

And one of them was Min Yoongi.

 

Jungkook’s jaw dropped open in surprise.

 

This was the table that Jungkook had assumed contained a food critic that Seokjin was so worried about? Except –

 

Seokjin didn’t even seem fazed by Yoongi’s presence.

 

Jungkook turned to Seokjin, taking in his proud appearance while still feeling mildly betrayed by his boss. Yoongi had taken the evening off, just to eat in the very restaurant that he worked – and Seokjin had known about it?

 

The second, unknown man stepped into the kitchen beside Yoongi, drawing Jungkook’s attention back to the pair.

 

“Hey, guys,” Yoongi greeted them in a relatively subdued tone. He glanced at the tall man beside him and then turned back to Jungkook. “Jungkook, I wanted to introduce someone to you.”

 

Jungkook took a nervous step forward, slowly circling the serving counter at the center of the kitchen until he was face to face with the man.

 

“This is my good friend – and my old instructor – from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute.” Yoongi gestured towards the man with a small wave of his hand. “Dr. Choi Seungho is the Associate Dean for the School of Culinary Arts.”

 

Jungkook stared in awe at the man before him, barely registering the hand that he was extending to him to shake. “It’s, uh – nice to meet you, sir.”

 

“The pleasure is mine,” the man replied with a nod of his head. Jungkook immediately responded with a ninety degree bow, even as the instructor chuckled at his nervous action. “Your food was simply delightful – Jungkook, is it?”

 

“Yes – yes, sir,” Jungkook babbled nervously, throwing in a few more bows to show his immense respect for the man. “It’s um – it’s mostly Yoongi’s menu, but I executed it tonight.”

 

Jungkook didn’t miss the amused eye roll that Yoongi gave him from behind the dean’s back.

 

“Yes, of course,” the man agreed with a laugh. “But I understand that the special was your creation.”

 

“It – yes.” Jungkook nodded rapidly. “Yes, it is.”

 

“And Yoongi tells me that this is your first night acting as a head chef without any assistance?”

 

Jungkook’s eyes darted to Yoongi, spying the small smile playing on his lips. What was he up to?

 

“It was,” Jungkook answered quietly.

 

“That’s quite the achievement,” Choi Seungho acknowledged with a raise of his eyebrows. “And you haven’t had any formal culinary training?”

 

“No,” Jungkook murmured, feeling his heart pound nervously. “I’ve only learned from my experience in this kitchen.”

 

The dean nodded. “And how many years have you worked here?”

 

Jungkook watched from the corner of his eye as Seokjin covered his mouth to refrain from laughing openly at the questions the instructor was asking. “Um… just a few months in the kitchen, sir.”

 

The man’s eyes widened in shock. Clearly Yoongi hadn’t told him this piece of information. “Months?

 

Jungkook swallowed. “Yes, sir.”

 

Yoongi turned towards his old teacher, hands in pockets as he raised an eyebrow at him, as if to say, I told you so.

 

“That’s… incredible,” Seungho replied. “To command a kitchen at this level without the aid of your executive chef – and to do so in such a short period of time – ” the dean shook his head in disbelief “ – I’m in shock.”

 

Jungkook bowed again. “Thank you, sir.”

 

Choi Seungho took a small step forward, as if to speak to Jungkook privately – though Yoongi and Seokjin could still hear every word he said. “Yoongi tells me that you’ve been accepted to our culinary institute, but that you’ve recently run into some financial problems.”

 

Jungkook felt his ears turn red at the question. He hadn’t told anyone other than Yoongi about his problem – and he wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of it getting around. “My dad was in the hospital,” he found himself explaining. “My parents didn’t have medical insurance, so I – ”

 

“No need to explain,” the man replied with a gentle smile. “I only mention it because I would like to offer you a scholarship to attend our school in the coming semester.”

 

Jungkook froze.

 

This… couldn’t be happening.

 

Jungkook was receiving a scholarship to do the very thing that he loved most? Not a loan – not an IOU – a monetary gift from a man that wanted him to attend his school so bad that he was willing to simply provide Jungkook with the funds without asking for return payment to make it happen.

 

Was this a dream?

 

Jungkook turned to Yoongi, staring at him in disbelief.

 

Yoongi just shrugged and smiled.

 

In his head, Jungkook could already hear the words that he knew Yoongi would have said if they were alone.

 

I told you I would get you into that culinary school – no matter what.

 

“Now, I can’t give you a full scholarship,” the dean continued in an apologetic tone. “Unfortunately, it’s too late to provide something of that caliber, but I believe we can still give you just enough to help that your financial aid will cover the rest of the tuition.”

 

A lump formed in Jungkook’s throat at the news, so he could only nod in agreement.

 

The man smiled at Jungkook’s shocked expression. “Does that work for you, young man?”

 

Again, Jungkook nodded, this time batting his eyes furiously to keep his tears at bay. He certainly didn’t need to be breaking down in front of one of his potential professors when he’d only just met the man.

 

“Great,” Choi Seungho replied. He extended his hand to Jungkook once more, shaking it firmly. “Welcome to the culinary arts program, Jungkook. I look forward to seeing you in class next semester.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, just managing to choke out a strained, “Thank you, sir,” before quickly ducking his head to hide the tear that managed to escape through the corner of his eye.

 

Yoongi quickly mumbled something about showing the dean to the exit and ushered him out the door – just in time for Seokjin to suddenly swoop in and wrap both arms enthusiastically around Jungkook’s shoulders.

 

“Were you surprised?” Seokjin asked.

 

“You were acting strange earlier – I thought he was a food critic!” Jungkook answered instead, returning his hug. Seokjin eagerly rocked him back and forth in his excitement before releasing him.

 

“Yoongi told me about how you used your savings to help your father,” Seokjin confessed. “That’s why he asked for the evening off – so you could personally be in charge of the food leaving the kitchen tonight.” Seokjin shrugged playfully. “It was an audition of sorts, I suppose.”

 

Jungkook covered his eyes, wiping away the relieved tears that continued to slip free. “I can’t believe Yoongi did that for me.”

 

I can’t believe Hoseok nearly spilled the beans!” Seokjin retorted. “I didn’t even think about the wait staff saying anything to you when Yoongi showed up – I probably should have warned them that he was coming.”

 

At the reminder of the rest of his staff, Seokjin gripped Jungkook’s wrist and dragged him out into the empty dining area. He pointed towards Jimin, busy cleaning off the surface of his bar. “Jimin, open a bottle of champagne!”

 

Although Jimin appeared to be puzzled for the reason behind Seokjin’s desire to celebrate something on a weekday, he agreed nonetheless. “Ok,” he said. “Why – what happened?”

 

Yoongi returned from the front of the restaurant after having walked the dean of the culinary arts department to his car and answered for him. “Jungkook just received a pretty hefty scholarship to Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute.”

 

Taehyung gasped dramatically.

 

“You were accepted?

 

Jimin chimed in with an equal amount of surprise. “I didn’t even know you applied!”

 

Hoseok was the only one that didn’t act surprised. Instead he simply appeared relieved to finally be able to piece together the mystery of why Yoongi had been dining at the restaurant that evening. “Oh, now I get it…”

 

Namjoon was the first to approach him with a broad grin. “Well done,” he congratulated Jungkook, patting him on the back. “Seokjin has been trying to keep this thing a secret from you for weeks.”

 

Jimin shoved a champagne flute into his hand as Jungkook turned to look at Namjoon accusatorily. “You knew?”

 

“Of course!” Namjoon laughed. “Who do you think Seokjin told first?”

 

Jungkook smiled at the hand Namjoon subtly slipped around Seokjin’s waist.

 

“Oh my God!” Taehyung exclaimed once again, jumping on Jungkook’s back in his sudden burst of enthusiasm for his good news. The champagne splashed around in his glass at Taehyung’s sudden impact, but he managed to keep most of it contained and off the floor. “I’m so happy for you, Kookie!”

 

“Drinks for everyone!” Seokjin declared, moving to the bar to help Jimin break open a second bottle to pour for his staff.

 

Taehyung hopped off of Jungkook’s back to follow his older brother. “Hyung, I hate champagne. How about one of those rose wines you keep in the back?”

 

Seokjin smacked Taehyung upside the head. “Does this look like your celebration?”

 

Taehyung grumbled, rubbing the back of his head, but accepted a glass of champagne from his brother anyway.

 

Jungkook used the distraction to slip across the room and speak softly to Yoongi, hovering near the front entrance.

 

He smiled at the chef. “Thank you,” Jungkook spoke first.

 

“I told you, didn’t I?” Yoongi said with a bashful expression. “I told you it would happen.”

 

“Yeah, but – it never would have happened without you,” Jungkook told him honestly. “Really, I mean it – thank you.”

 

Yoongi nodded as Jungkook nervously drummed his fingers on the outside of his glass. Summoning his courage, Jungkook made eye contact with Yoongi and spoke in as confident of a voice as he could muster.

 

“So – I think we should have that talk, now.” Before Yoongi could say much of anything, Jungkook’s nerves got the best of him and he began to ramble. “I know I said we would talk when you got back to work tomorrow, but – well, you’re here now, so it just makes sense, right?”

 

Yoongi glanced out of the front window, gazing at the pitch black night before cocking his head to the side in thought. “Yeah, uh… maybe we shouldn’t.”

 

“Oh. Right – ok.” Jungkook looked down at his champagne flute, swirling the liquid around in the hopes of appearing indifferent instead of surprised by Yoongi’s words. “Well, if you’re busy, I understand. I just thought – ”

 

Yoongi’s gaze fell to the floor as he spoke in a soft voice.

 

“I’m not busy.”

 

Those words were enough to make Jungkook’s heart come to a crashing halt.

 

“Oh.”

 

Yoongi shifted his weight from one foot to the other and sighed loudly, as if simply standing before Jungkook was a burden for him. “Look, I know what you’re going to say,” he confessed in a lazy drawl. “And… you really shouldn’t.”

 

Jungkook froze, wishing that he had simply heard Yoongi incorrectly. Had he missed something? He was confused. He loved Yoongi and – for an instant – he’d even thought that Yoongi had loved him back. But as he replayed his words – over and over – Jungkook couldn’t help but feel the stinging pain of rejection in every word.

 

Suddenly, Jungkook felt humiliated. Yoongi had known what Jungkook wanted to say – and he didn’t want to hear it? How dare Yoongi make him feel like his feelings weren’t even worth his time? For an instant, Jungkook began to second guess what had ever made him fall for Yoongi in the first place.

 

“Yoongi,” Jungkook murmured in a low voice to try and prevent anyone else in the room from overhearing their conversation. He took a small step forward towards the chef. “I thought you – ”

 

“Seonbae,” Yoongi sharply corrected him.

 

Jungkook’s breath caught in his throat, stopping himself midsentence. “What?”

 

Yoongi leveled him with a cold stare.

 

“Please don’t call me by my name.”

 

And then Yoongi silently turned and left the restaurant, leaving Jungkook motionless in the doorway and staring at the empty space before him like a fool. It took another moment – well after Yoongi had disappeared – before he finally registered the fact that the rest of the room had also fallen quiet.

 

Everyone had witnessed Yoongi’s dramatic exit.

 

And Jungkook was mortified.

 

“Um.” Jungkook quickly swiped at his cheeks to brush away the tear that had slipped free before turning around to smile at the rest of the room. “Thank you for the champagne, hyung, but I’m… I just feel really tired.” He set the flute down on the nearest table and walked back towards the kitchen. “I think… I should go home.”

 

“Ok,” Seokjin answered quietly. He set down his own glass, glancing nervously at his younger brother as if trying to send him a silent message.

 

But Taehyung didn’t need to receive Seokjin’s signal to leap into action. “Hey, Kookie, do you want me to walk home with you?” he volunteered, stepping forward into Jungkook’s path. “We could… I don’t know – want to buy some ice cream on the way back to your house?”

 

Jungkook sidestepped Taehyung before he could stop him from leaving. “No, thank you,” he swiftly declined Taehyung’s offer as he crossed the dining area and headed towards the kitchen in large strides. “Maybe another time.”

 

“Jungkookie,” Jimin murmured sadly. He followed in Taehyung’s footsteps, making one last attempt to comfort him. “Wait – don’t go.”

 

Jungkook ignored him, instead putting a decisive end to their conversation that left no room for argument. “Goodnight,” he told the room in a firm voice. “See you tomorrow.”

 

He was just grateful that the door to the kitchen managed to close behind him before anyone could hear the gut wrenching sobs take over his body.

 

 

Chapter Text

“I hate him!”

 

Jungkook’s brother, half-awake and sitting up in his own bed beneath his blankets, gently rocked Jungkook back and forth as he sobbed noisily into his shoulder. “No, you don’t,” Junghyun murmured soothingly into his hair. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so upset right now.”

 

This brought on a fresh round of sobs as Jungkook wailed even louder.

 

“Come on,” Junghyun whispered, lightly patting his brother’s back. “You’re going to wake Mom and Dad up,” he told him. “Do you really want Mom coming into my room at one in the morning to try and figure out why you’re so upset?”

 

Jungkook inhaled shakily, forcing himself to get his emotions under control. “No,” he petulantly responded as he rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes in an attempt to remove any trace of tears.

 

“Then take another deep breath,” Junghyun instructed him. As Jungkook did just that, Junghyun breathed along with him to mirror the gesture. “There,” he said. He pulled his head away, trying to look over at his younger brother. “Do you feel a little bit better, now?”

 

Jungkook struggled to fight off the tears he knew were bound to break through. “No.”

 

“Ok.” Junghyun sighed as he lifted the blankets on the opposite corner of the bed. “Come on – climb in.”

 

It had been years since Jungkook had run to his older brother’s bed, sobbing after waking from a terrible nightmare he’d had in the middle of the night. For the last several years, he had grown out of such a routine since Junghyun had been living in an apartment of his own, three hours away from the rest of his family. But despite all of that, it was far too easy for Jungkook to fall back into old, familiar habits and scramble eagerly underneath the covers to cling to his brother in a death grip, much like he had when he was only eight years old.

 

“Alright, now – ” Junghyun slumped against the headboard of his bed as he hugged Jungkook’s shoulders to his body and let his free hand stroke lightly through his hair in a comforting gesture “ – tell me what Yoongi did to make my brother so sad.”

 

Jungkook felt several tears escape, soaking into his brother’s shirt, but he managed to contain his sobbing just enough for him to speak. “Namjoon said that I should be honest with Yoongi and tell him how I felt,” he said, glossing over the fact that the last time he’d spoken with his brother, he’d denied any semblance of feelings towards the chef. “So, when I told him we should talk, he just… he said that we shouldn’t because he already knew what I was going to say. And then when I said his name – he was so mean – he cut me off and told me I was supposed to call him seonbae, and – and he just left.”

 

Jungkook felt Junghyun’s chest expand as he took in a deep breath. “Wow. Ok.”

 

“I hate him,” Jungkook repeated his words from earlier.

 

“Right, but… I thought he liked you?” Junghyun asked. “At least – it looked like he did when I met him. Did you do something to him?”

 

“No!” Jungkook insisted. “I haven’t done anything to him!”

 

As Jungkook’s voice escalated in desperation, Junghyun’s hand, which had previously grown still as he thought aloud, immediately returned to stroking Jungkook’s hair. “It’s alright,” he softly cooed, much like Jungkook’s own mother would have done had she been awake. “I know, Jungkookie. It’s ok.”

 

“You know what the worst part is?” Jungkook suddenly spoke up. “Just tonight – even though he completely brushed me off – he brought in one of his old professors from the culinary institute downtown and convinced him to give me a scholarship so I could afford tuition next semester.”

 

Junghyun’s hand froze.

 

He abruptly turned to look at Jungkook in amazement. “You got a scholarship?” he asked in an astonished voice.

 

Slowly, Jungkook nodded.

 

“Oh my God,” Junghyun murmured. He wrapped both arms around Jungkook, squeezing him tight. “That’s fantastic, Jungkook. I’m so proud of you.”

 

“That’s not the point,” Jungkook growled irritably. His grief was slowly giving way to his anger. How dare Yoongi pull out the rug underneath him like he had? “I’m saying – Yoongi went out of his way to help me get this scholarship – and then turned around and acted like he didn’t even care about me anymore. I mean – who does that?”

 

Junghyun hummed in agreement. “Yeah,” he said. “That is… kind-of strange.”

 

“It’s just – so infuriating,” Jungkook spit out. “I thought he had feelings for me, but – it’s just so annoying that he can’t even give me the time of day to confess to him – right?” Jungkook huffed in frustration, burying his red face in his brother’s shoulder. “I at least deserve the chance to tell him how I feel,” he said in a determined voice. “He doesn’t have to agree, but I’m worth more than a brush off from that asshole.”

 

Junghyun chuckled lightly at Jungkook choice of words. “You’re right.”

 

Jungkook’s anger tapered away when his brother agreed with him. “Really?”

 

“Absolutely,” Junghyun reiterated. “You should march right up to him tomorrow and tell him exactly how you feel.”

 

Jungkook nodded. “Yeah,” he softly decided. “I should.”

 

“And then you should demand an excuse from him,” Junghyun continued. “Make him tell you why he thought he could play with your feelings.”

 

Jungkook swallowed at this suggestion. He wasn’t quite sure he could manage something like that – mostly because he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer – but he tried to agree with his brother nonetheless. “Ok, I will.”

 

“Good.” Junghyun returned to threading his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. “And if he’s still mean to you, then you just come and tell me, ok? No one’s allowed to pick on my baby brother except for me.”

 

Jungkook actually laughed – a surprising feat after the night he’d just experienced. “What are you going to do, go and beat up the playground bully?”

 

“If I have to,” Junghyun replied confidently. “He’s certainly not as tall as he pretends to be.”

 

Jungkook snorted in amusement.

 

Once the smile slowly vanished from his lips, Jungkook hugged his brother tighter and sighed. “When do you have to go back?”

 

Junghyun patted his shoulder comfortingly. “Two days,” he said. “I won’t be able to get anymore paid leave after that.”

 

Jungkook sighed. “I don’t want you to leave.”

 

“I don’t want to leave, either,” Junghyun agreed. “But Dad’s doing much better, right? Even Mom’s been able to go back to work now that he’s back on his feet.”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook reluctantly conceded the point. “I just… I wish you lived closer to home, hyung.”

 

“It’s ok,” Junghyun automatically reassured him. It was a regular complaint from Jungkook that his brother lived too far from them, so Junghyun was able to easily fend him off. “Soon enough, you’ll be going off to your fancy culinary arts school and you’ll forget all about us.”

 

Jungkook laughed openly at him. “Hardly. I’ll still have to commute from home.”

 

“For now,” Junghyun corrected. “But soon enough, you’ll manage to open your own restaurant, won’t you?” He lifted his hand from Jungkook’s hair and held it up in the air over their heads, as if creating an image out of the darkness. “I can see it now – Jeon Jungkook’s Jjigae.”

 

“Stew?” Jungkook echoed. “You think I’m going to a professional culinary institute just to open my own restaurant where I serve stew?

 

“Have you got a better idea?” Junghyun asked. “What else can you cook that makes an alliteration with your name?”

 

Jungkook laughed, hugging his brother. “I really am going to miss you, hyung.”

 

*

 

When Jungkook got ready for work the following day, he had half a mind to just call in sick. He’d never done so in the past, so it would certainly raise a few questions, but Jungkook wasn’t sure how he was supposed to handle working with Yoongi during their dinner shift when their communication was absolute shit right now. He could only pray that Yoongi’s professionalism would rise to the surface when they saw one another.

 

Jungkook arrived at the last possible moment to prep food for the dinner service. To his disappointment, Yoongi had the same plan and walked into the kitchen at the same time.

 

After breaking down in front of his brother the evening before, Jungkook had gone from feeling distraught to feeling downright angry at Yoongi for treating him the way that he had. He held on to that anger and focused all morning on giving Yoongi a piece of his mind, but the first moment he laid eyes on the chef, it vanished without a trace. Jungkook couldn’t help but relive those hateful words that Yoongi had said to him the night before, and suddenly felt like he was small and insignificant once again.

 

About an hour before their shift started, Jungkook tried to shove aside his feelings of vulnerability and attempted to approach Yoongi with as much strength and confidence as he could muster. But, as soon as Jungkook so much as addressed him, Yoongi made a quick excuse about needing to check on some ingredients he’d left in the refrigerator. Twenty minutes after that, Jungkook tried again, but Yoongi turned to walk out of the kitchen with the feeble explanation that he needed to urgently speak with Seokjin.

 

If it hadn’t been obvious before, it was now.

 

Yoongi wanted nothing to do with Jungkook.

 

Jungkook fought back the heartbreaking knowledge that Yoongi was doing everything in his power to distance himself from Jungkook so they couldn’t even have the conversation Jungkook so desperately desired.

 

With ten minutes to go before their dinner service, Jungkook tried one last time to search for Yoongi in the dining area, only to realize that he was nowhere to be seen. This seemed to be the last straw that sent Jungkook careening into a pit of despair. Yoongi hated him. He couldn’t stand being around Jungkook, so much so that he was hiding from him.

 

Jungkook stared around at the empty dining area with a hand pressed to his forehead, blinking furiously as he tried to get his emotions under control. He couldn’t start crying, now. He was about to start cooking – and he had to be able to see to do his job. It would have to wait – his tears had to wait until after his shift. He couldn’t afford to –

 

Jungkook could feel himself falling to pieces, lost without a compass. He had no idea what to do – where to go – how to act. Without even speaking a single word, Yoongi had fully destroyed every bit of Jungkook’s confidence and left him to deal with the fallout on his own.

 

Then, without so much as a greeting, Taehyung swept in out of nowhere, immediately recognizing Jungkook’s state of mind, and quickly ushered him into a back hallway.

 

Protecting him in a way that only a best friend could.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook found himself stumbling all over his words. He had just enough time to recognize that they were standing in the hallway next to the restrooms just before he lifted the heel of his hand to his eyes to try and keep them from tearing up any further. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

 

“Why on earth are you apologizing to me?” Taehyung asked in complete confusion. Even though Jungkook couldn’t see him, Taehyung was quick to move forward and wrap both arms around his shoulders to try and comfort him. “Seriously – just breathe for a minute, would you?”

 

“I – I am,” Jungkook choked out between rapid gasps of air. “I’m – I’ve been trying to find Yoongi, but he keeps hiding from me and – I just don’t understand why he hates me.”

 

“I know,” Taehyung murmured affectionately, though Jungkook truly wondered whether Taehyung actually knew, or if he was just saying that he did to make Jungkook feel better. Either way, Jungkook appreciated the sentiment. “I know, Kookie – it sucks, doesn’t it?”

 

“It really does,” Jungkook answered in a thin, choked voice. “He’s avoiding me, and he won’t even tell me what I did wrong. I just – I just want to talk to him,” he confessed to Taehyung, feeling the tears well up once again. “I just want to talk to my friend, and he keeps trying to run away from me every chance he gets! How are we supposed to work together if he can’t – ”

 

Jungkook stopped midsentence as the door to the men’s bathrooms opened and Yoongi stepped out.

 

For a terrified moment, their eyes met, sending a shockwave through Jungkook’s body.

 

Then, just as soon as it had happened, Yoongi averted his gaze, acting as if he hadn’t even seen him in the first place.

 

Jungkook spun around to face the wall behind him, mortified that he had allowed Yoongi to see him so broken up over him like this. Taehyung was quick to catch on, hurrying to shield Jungkook’s body with his own while Yoongi quietly walked past and returned to the kitchen.

 

But Jungkook was too afraid to move, even when his footsteps had disappeared. “Is he gone?”

 

Taehyung’s hand continued to rub soothing circles around Jungkook’s back. “Yes.”

 

Every tense muscle in his body relaxed. “He saw me crying over him.” Jungkook crumpled to the floor into a squatting position, head between his knees and hands over his face while moaning in agony. “God, I look pathetic.”

 

“Come on,” Taehyung quietly supported him as he knelt down at his side. “Don’t let one moron take you down like this. You’re a thousand times better than him.” Jungkook focused on evening out his breathing as Taehyung continued to pour reassuring praises into his ear. “You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met, Kookie,” Taehyung told him, “and he’s got another thing coming if he thinks you’re not going to walk back into that kitchen, stronger than ever.” Jungkook swallowed and took one more shaky breath. “So, get on your feet and cook your ass off!” Taehyung firmly instructed him. “And then after work – ” Taehyung paused, thinking for only a second about how he should proceed, before announcing “ – we’ll, um… get you shitfaced, ok?”

 

Jungkook nodded warily. He managed to stand back up to his full height, only pausing for a second to regain his balance. “Yeah, alright,” he agreed softly.

 

“You can do this,” Taehyung encouraged him. “It’s just a few hours, right? You can tolerate being in the same room for just a few hours.”

 

Jungkook pressed the pads of his fingers to his cheeks once more, trying to erase any evidence of tears that might have been there. “Yes,” he confidently answered, finally rolling back his shoulders and bringing down both hands to place them at his sides in a show of strength. “Yeah I can.”

 

“Good man.” Taehyung thumped him on the back, walking side by side with him as they approached the kitchen. “You’ve got this.”

 

Jungkook nodded determinedly. “I’ve got this.”

 

But then he opened the door and caught sight of Yoongi’s thin frame and the familiar hunch of his back as he moved about the room, turning on all of the appliances in the kitchen so they were ready for their first orders. The familiar, determined set of Yoongi’s jaw sent Jungkook back to the first time he’d seen the man cook, so focused and elegant in every movement that he made.

 

He… wasn’t so sure he had this after all.

 

Jungkook forced himself to walk forward to his usual work station to do one final check before starting his service. He stubbornly ignored the presence of the old, black bandana with the skull-and-crossbones that Yoongi wore over his head. Tonight, he had chosen to replace the blue, cookie bandana that Jungkook had purchased for him long ago, and the thought of him doing such a thing – just to distance himself from Jungkook – made a knot tighten in the pit of his stomach.

 

Jungkook couldn’t afford to dwell on its absence when he was already far too busy trying to keep himself pulled together.

 

For a solid hour, Yoongi and Jungkook worked in near silence, only conversing when it was absolutely important. Yoongi’s directions were short and clipped, simply saying the name of the dish for Jungkook to cook without even bothering to add so much as a “please” or “thank you.”

 

Taehyung visited the kitchen as often as he was able, continuing to check in on Jungkook’s mental state without trying to make it appear as if that was what he was doing. He would make light remarks about the occasional customer that was at his table that wore too much perfume or had on a suit from the eighties in an effort to get Jungkook to crack a smile in his direction. Whenever Jungkook plated a dish to hand to him, Taehyung always beamed and complimented his food before whisking it away to the table. It didn’t always work, but Jungkook appreciated what he was trying to do to cheer him up.

 

But somewhere between Taehyung’s sixth and seventh table of the night, the waiter leaned over towards Jungkook and whispered, “I know it’s really hard working with Yoongi when you can’t go anywhere to take a break for a few minutes – but just hang in there, ok? You’re doing great.”

 

And that was when Jungkook realized it.

 

Yoongi couldn’t go anywhere.

 

Yoongi couldn’t go anywhere.

 

Perhaps it wasn’t ideal, but Jungkook could get everything off of his chest and say exactly what he needed to say to Yoongi – and Yoongi had no choice but to listen to him. They were both cornered in the kitchen and forced to continue cooking – no matter what.

 

Suddenly, Jungkook felt far stronger than he had all day, now that he finally realized he was in control of the situation.

 

“Chef,” he blurted out before he could lose his nerve.

 

Yoongi grunted.

 

“I think we need to talk.”

 

The oil in Yoongi’s skillet splashed onto the floor as his hand slipped at these words, nearly dropping the entire dish in the process.

 

Jungkook felt victorious.

 

“We’re busy, Jungkook,” Yoongi gruffly responded, but there was clearly a hint of panic in his tone. “Now isn’t the time.”

 

“So, when is the right time?” Jungkook countered. His hands seemed to fly around his station much faster than they had before with the confidence boost. Within minutes, he had already plated three appetizers for the upcoming tables. “Because I keep trying to find time to talk to you, and you keep trying to hide from me.”

 

“I told you,” Yoongi argued back in a surprisingly level tone of voice, thumping the pan down onto the burner angrily. A small burst of flame shot up around the edges upon impact. “We’re not having this conversation.”

 

“I think we are,” Jungkook contradicted him with a self-satisfied smirk. “And I’m fairly certain there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.”

 

“I can kick you out of my kitchen,” Yoongi growled.

 

“You might be my seonbae,” Jungkook reminded him, “but you can’t actually fire me. That’s Seokjin’s job.”

 

Yoongi’s face turned red as his frustration rose. He placed another two plates on the serving table. While his food certainly held the same quality as it did any other night, Yoongi clearly hadn’t taken the time to prepare the dish to meet his usual visual standard.

 

“Fine!” Yoongi shouted as he set the two dishes down and turned to Jungkook with his hands spread out to his sides. “You want to tell me that you just want to be friends? Go ahead – say it,” he spit back at Jungkook. “You want to tell me how you used me so you could earn a position in this kitchen? Then do it.”

 

Jungkook stared at him, hands frozen above the two salads he had been about to prepare. “What?

 

“For the first time in years, I actually opened myself up to someone,” Yoongi hissed. He pounded a closed fist on his station, making the pans around him clatter on the surface. “I told you weeks ago about how difficult it was for me to trust anyone after culinary school, and you took advantage of me, Jungkook. You made me believe you were my friend.” His eyes took on a watery sheen as his voice quaked with raw emotion. “I tried – time and again – to show you how much I cared for you, because I thought – ” he let a hollow laugh slip through “ – like a fool – that you actually felt the same about me. But you never once reciprocated my feelings, did you?”

 

Jungkook couldn’t move.

 

Yoongi thought… that he was using him?

 

When Jungkook had first met Yoongi, he knew that he built up a defensive wall to keep everyone else at a safe distance. Once Jungkook had managed to knock the wall down – brick by brick – Yoongi had even confessed to Jungkook how much he struggled to find a friend that he could actually trust in culinary school, but there seemed to be more to this story than Yoongi had originally told him. But to think that Yoongi believed Jungkook had used his vulnerability to his own advantage – where was all of this coming from?

 

“I waited and I waited, and I thought maybe you just didn’t feel the same way I did. And then – then you said you wanted to talk after your night acting as head chef. You wanted to wait until you had your chance to prove your worth to Seokjin before you told me that you didn’t feel the same.” Despite the single, angry tear that slipped from the corner of his eye, Yoongi made a disgusted face. “And I realized that all of it was just for show, wasn’t it?” He scoffed. “Well, congratulations. You got free cooking lessons from me, a stamp of approval from the owner of this restaurant, and a fucking scholarship to the top culinary school in the country – and all you had to do was lead me on until you got exactly what you wanted.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’re an asshole,” he whispered, too afraid to speak any louder for fear that he would choke on the tears threatening to appear at any moment.

 

“You don’t need to hide it anymore,” Yoongi sharply countered. “I know what people are really like. I know the things they’re willing to do to get ahead in this business.” His tough exterior faltered, and for a moment Jungkook caught the vulnerable gaze of a terrified boy who’d been hurt one too many times hiding just behind his eyes. “In fact – I can’t even blame you for trying. Some prodigy chef walks into the restaurant – and you see an opportunity to get ahead.” He shrugged, feigning indifference, but it appeared as if it was anything but. “I get it. I’ve been through this one too many times – I shouldn’t even be surprised by it anymore.”

 

“Stop,” Jungkook tried to cut him off before he could say anything more that could hurt either one of them. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Don’t I?” Yoongi laughed a bit maniacally. “I’ve been here before!” he shouted. “I know what it feels like when someone takes advantage of you.” His defensive demeanor finally vanished, leaving behind the heartbroken betrayal etched into every inch of his body. “Don’t pretend like you’re any different than the rest of them.”

 

“But I am different,” Jungkook rushed to explain. Yoongi began to shake his head, preparing to refute Jungkook’s statement, but Jungkook hurried forward before Yoongi could misconstrue his words any further. “I am your friend,” he insisted. “And I have feelings for you, too, you fucking moron.”

 

Yoongi stilled, staring up at Jungkook in disbelief.

 

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Jungkook said, words spewing forth now that the dam had broken. “I wanted to talk to you because I wanted to tell you how I felt about you.” Yoongi remained speechless, watching Jungkook wordlessly. “And – Jesus Christ, if I had thought for even a second that waiting to tell you after things died down at the restaurant was going mess with your mind, I never would have waited. I just thought – ” Jungkook shrugged helplessly and let his hands fall limply to his sides “ – all this time, I thought you felt the same way, but I kept hoping you would just do something about it, but you never did, so I figured I should just bite the bullet and tell you myself since you wouldn’t – ”

 

“I’m your seonbae,” Yoongi quietly interjected in an effort to explain his side of the story. “I was waiting for you.” He took a small step forward towards Jungkook, as if seeing a beacon of light shining down upon him. “I didn’t want to blur the line between a professional and a romantic relationship and risk making you feel uncomfortable or obligated to – ”

 

Jungkook mirrored Yoongi’s step forward. “I thought I was being obvious!” Jungkook threw his words back at him, mildly annoyed that it had been Yoongi’s chivalry that led them to this point of confusion. “That night at my house – I thought we were on a date, so I got out that bottle of wine and you – ”

 

“ – I thought my feelings for you were so obvious,” Yoongi confessed, now standing close enough to Jungkook that their toes were nearly touching. “I got as close to you as I could, but you never met me halfway, so I just assumed – ”

 

Jungkook delivered the final blow.

 

“I wanted you to kiss me!”

 

The words felt like a punch to Yoongi’s stomach as he forcefully expelled all of his air.

 

Jungkook inhaled sharply at his own words, feeling slightly out of breath after his final revelation. His nerves started to take hold, prompting him to avert his gaze as he finally laid himself bare before Yoongi. But with every ounce of his being, he fought against his instincts and forced himself to maintain steady eye contact.

 

“I… wanted you to kiss me,” Jungkook repeated in a timid whisper, “so – so bad.”

 

Slowly, as if in a dream, Jungkook watched as Yoongi’s eyes darted around the kitchen, eyeing the state of the food left out on the counter or the sizzling dishes on the burner. Once he’d found everything that he was looking for, Yoongi quickly turned back to Jungkook and rushed forward to take his hand.

 

“Come on,” Yoongi commanded, dragging him through the maze of the kitchen by his wrist.

 

Jungkook looked frantically over his shoulder at the food they were leaving behind. “Seonbae,” he called out. “We still have tables to serve!”

 

Yoongi put out a hand to forcefully shove open the door to the back alley, dragging Jungkook out behind him.

 

They were outside of the restaurant.

 

Yoongi was no longer his seonbae.

 

He was no longer his hyung.

 

It was like nothing – and everything – had changed between them.

 

“Yoongi,” Jungkook murmured fondly. He stepped forward to press a hand to Yoongi’s cheek without hesitation.

 

Yoongi wasted no time closing the distance, leaning in towards Jungkook’s body as he whispered, “We’ve only got three minutes until the chicken is burnt.”

 

And just as Jungkook started to laugh, Yoongi surged forward to kiss him.

 

It was very sloppy. There was no denying that fact. Jungkook could hardly contain his giggles at Yoongi’s incredibly chef-oriented comment, but he very quickly turned serious when Yoongi put a firm hand on Jungkook’s waist, drawing him close to his body with a vice-like grip. All too soon, his laughter vanished as Yoongi took charge of the situation, molding his mouth against Jungkook’s. He assertively pressed himself forward into Jungkook’s body, longing for direct contact, until Jungkook stumbled backwards and felt his back thump against the large, blue dumpster behind their restaurant.

 

It wasn’t romantic at all.

 

But Jungkook loved every second of it.

 

“I’ve wanted to do that,” Yoongi confessed, “for a very long time.”

 

“Two more minutes,” Jungkook reminded him breathlessly. He put slipped both arms around Yoongi’s neck, hurrying to pull him back for more. “Come on, Yoongi, two more minutes…”

 

At Jungkook’s command, Yoongi dove back in, teeth clashing with Jungkook’s at the sheer force of their kiss. But Jungkook held his ground, refusing to allow Yoongi to take the dominant hand when he already had Jungkook’s back to the wall. Nonetheless, Jungkook found himself enjoying the pressure – loving Yoongi’s possessive nature – and started to rock his pelvis forward, wishing they could do more. They had waited so long for this moment, and Jungkook couldn’t stand the thought of having to stop –

 

So Yoongi, once again, had to take charge of the situation.

 

“Wait, wait, wait,” he hissed, placing both hands on Jungkook’s hips to keep him at bay. Jungkook stopped his thrusting, panting open-mouthed as Yoongi forced himself to put distance between their bodies. Slowly, Yoongi exhaled, dropping his head to Jungkook’s shoulders in a look of defeat as he focused on his breathing. “Fuck.”

 

Jungkook couldn’t help but smile deliriously at the effect he’d obviously had on Yoongi.

 

“I really can’t go back in there with a hard on,” Yoongi murmured in a strained voice.

 

Jungkook wanted very badly to help him with his problem, but he could already hear Yoongi’s voice in the back of his mind lecturing him on keeping a clean and sanitary environment in the kitchen.

 

“We can wait,” Jungkook conceded reluctantly. Jungkook carefully lifted his arms from around Yoongi’s neck, choosing instead to run his fingers along the back of his neck in a small, circular motion while his other hand played with the hair peeking out from underneath his bandana. He mentally calculated the amount of time they had left on their shift and decided that he could probably wait that long without needing to pin Yoongi to a wall. “Our three minutes is probably up anyway.”

 

But Yoongi tilted his head from Jungkook’s shoulder to press his lips to the base of his neck, leaving a lingering kiss on the sensitive skin. “Just one more minute.”

 

Oh, God.

 

Jungkook was almost positive he wouldn’t be able to resist Yoongi’s begging.

 

“No,” Jungkook firmly held his ground, despite Yoongi’s pleas otherwise. He put both hands on Yoongi’s biceps, though he couldn’t figure out whether he’d put them there to push Yoongi away – or pull him closer. “You’re going to burn your chicken – remember?”

 

Yoongi’s lips worked their way higher up his neck, tongue flicking out to lick the lobe of Jungkook’s ear before whispering seductively, “Let it burn.

 

“Yoongi!” Jungkook panicked, forcing Yoongi to stand an arm’s length away from him. He was a dangerous man – and Jungkook couldn’t stomach any more of his temptations, knowing full well that he would cave sooner or later. Somehow, Jungkook finally found the willpower to hold his ground and said, “We need to go back inside, Yoongi.”

 

With a disappointed look, Yoongi finally removed his hands from Jungkook’s body.

 

“We’ll talk after work, alright?” Jungkook cocked his head to the side. “And I mean really talk this time.”

 

Yoongi smiled and nodded. “That sounds good.”

 

“Good.” Jungkook took Yoongi’s hands, lacing their fingers together as he led him back into the kitchen. All too soon, however, Yoongi began cursing under his breath as he dropped Jungkook’s hand and hurried to his stove.

 

Jungkook couldn’t help but snicker. “It’s burnt, isn’t it?”

 

Fuck,” Yoongi swore, dumping the chicken into the garbage and quickly grabbing a second piece to throw into a clean pan. “Yeah, I ruined it.”

 

Jungkook swiftly washed his hands and went back to working on his own food – all of which was cold and didn’t have the risk of burning like Yoongi’s had – with a smug grin. “I can’t figure out if I should apologize for burning your chicken or not,” he commented cheekily.

 

Yoongi sent him a glance from the corner of his eye, lips quirking up into a confident smirk. “You can apologize later.”

 

Jungkook tried to convince himself that his face was only red because of the heat in the kitchen.

 

“Is everything ready for table four?”

 

Jungkook glanced over his shoulder in surprise as Hoseok suddenly entered the room. “Uh… yeah, I think,” he mumbled, nodding towards some of the food that he already had waiting for Hoseok in the window. He glanced at Yoongi. “Seonbae, is table four ready?”

 

Yoongi glanced at the ticket before shaking his head. “No, uh… I accidentally burnt the chicken on one of those meals,” he murmured in embarrassment. “I’m making a new one, now, so it should be up in a few minutes.”

 

“You burnt their food?” Hoseok snorted in amusement at the sheer lunacy of the thought that Yoongi had his imperfections in the kitchen. “I didn’t think that could even happen to you.”

 

“I guess,” Jungkook teased in an airy voice, “he just got a little… distracted.”

 

Yoongi looked up at Jungkook, eyes widening in betrayal at the pointed comment.

 

Jungkook winked back.

 

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung hurried over to Jungkook the moment their shifts ended. His friend looked around the kitchen, spotting Yoongi on the opposite side of the room where he was changing out of his chef uniform and back into his regular street clothes.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung whispered to Jungkook so that Yoongi couldn’t overhear, “how did it go?”

 

“It, uh – it was fine,” Jungkook told him honestly.

 

Taehyung breathed a sigh of relief. “Good,” he murmured. Then he squeezed Jungkook’s shoulder and nodded towards the exit. “Then let’s get out of here. Ready to get hammered?”

 

“Um.” Jungkook glanced over his shoulder. Yoongi smiled at him. Jungkook bit his lip, trying to refrain from grinning like an idiot. “I… think I’m actually going to go with Yoongi instead.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes drifted towards Yoongi, suddenly noticing his lovesick expression. His jaw dropped open in disbelief. “What the fuck happened during dinner?”

 

Yoongi started to walk towards them. Jungkook panicked, turning back to Taehyung with wide eyes. “Look – I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he hissed. “Just – go away. Quick.”

 

Taehyung looked scandalized. “Some friend you are!”

 

Jungkook glared at him. “Go away!

 

Taehyung scoffed. “Fine,” he grumbled. “But I’m getting a full report tomorrow!”

 

Now that Yoongi was standing close enough to him to overhear their conversation, Jungkook chose to ignore his friend in favor of turning towards Yoongi. “Hey.”

 

Yoongi smiled, seemingly unaware of the whispered argument the two had been having earlier. “Hey.”

 

“So,” Jungkook murmured bashfully, “we should… probably have that talk, now, shouldn’t we?”

 

Yoongi said nothing, simply holding out his hand, palm up. Jungkook happily took it.

 

“Should we head to your house?” Yoongi asked. “Or did you want to go out somewhere?”

 

“Oh, um…” Jungkook scratched the back of his head, trying to figure out how to best answer Yoongi’s question. “I was actually thinking it might be better to go to your place.” He refused to acknowledge the tinge of red on his cheeks. “I don’t want to wake my parents up with our… talking.”

 

Fortunately, Yoongi’s cheeks matched his.

 

“Yeah,” he agreed hurriedly. “Right. Of course. We should definitely go back to my place.”

 

*

 

“Can I tell you a secret?”

 

Jungkook pulled both of his feet onto the couch, crossing them in front of himself as he faced Yoongi, sprawled out across the opposite end of the sofa. “Sure,” Yoongi said, bringing his glass of wine to his lips. “What’s your secret?”

 

Jungkook smiled mischievously. “It might get me fired.”

 

“Fired?” Yoongi seemed intrigued by Jungkook’s secret. He carefully set down his glass on the coffee table in front of them, rotating his body so his elbow rested against the back of the couch with his head cradled in his hand in a rather relaxed pose. “What did you do?”

 

Jungkook tried to look offended, but instead smiled through the accusation nonetheless. “I didn’t do anything.”

 

Yoongi smirked lazily, enjoying the playful banter between them. “Then what’s your secret?”

 

“Don’t tell Seokjin,” Jungkook began timidly, “but… I don’t actually like Italian food.”

 

Yoongi threw back his head and laughed loudly. Jungkook followed suit, laughing right along with him as the wine sent a nice, gentle buzz tingling through his body. “You’ve learned to master several dozen Italian dishes, and yet you don’t even like them?”

 

“I mean – it’s fine,” Jungkook insisted. “Just – not my favorite!”

 

“Ok, then,” Yoongi said, returning to his relaxed position. He curled one leg in front of his body on the couch and let the other dangle off the front. “Then what’s your favorite kind-of food to make?”

 

Jungkook smiled, as if he felt guilty for saying it out loud. “I really like spicy food.”

 

Yoongi looked offended by this revelation. “Then how come we didn’t make anything spicy that night that we cooked for your family?” Yoongi asked. “You were the one that picked all of the meals we were going to make!”

 

Jungkook shrugged. “My family doesn’t like spicy food, so… I never make it.”

 

Yoongi tilted his head to the side, studying Jungkook carefully. He extended the arm he had resting on the back of the couch, reaching just far enough to affectionately run his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. Yoongi smiled. “Well, you’ll just have to make some with me sometime.”

 

Jungkook leaned subconsciously into Yoongi’s hands, enjoying his warm touch even though it was fleeting. “You like spicy foods?” Jungkook asked hopefully.

 

“Not really,” Yoongi confessed, drawing his hand back. “But I’ll eat it.”

 

Jungkook smiled. “You’re the best boyfriend ever.”

 

He froze.

 

“Or – I mean – I don’t know.” Jungkook sheepishly looked down at the wine glass he held between both of his hands. He fidgeted nervously and began drumming his fingers on the glass, suddenly flustered as he tried to back track his words. “Whatever you are. Friend. You’re the best friend ever.”

 

Fortunately, Yoongi saw straight through his act and took pity on the boy. “That’s a shame,” he answered confidently as he reached out, pulled one of Jungkook’s hands from his glass, and locked their fingers together. “Personally, I liked it when you called me ‘the best boyfriend’.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes returned to Yoongi’s. His insides turned to mush when Yoongi smirked back at him. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Me, too.”

 

Yoongi swallowed, then, smile fading slowly. “So, um…” he pulled his hands back into his lap, twiddling his thumbs nervously. “I guess… I owe you a bit of an apology for… the other day.” Jungkook watched Yoongi fret nervously before continuing. “I kind-of… jumped to conclusions when you told me you wanted to talk.”

 

Jungkook snorted at his description. His impulsive behavior had led to a great deal of shared pain between the two of them – more than either truly cared to admit. “Yeah, just a bit.”

 

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Yoongi confessed. “Especially not to you. I trust you more than you know,” he continued honestly. “And… I want you to know where I’m coming from.”

 

Jungkook was already mildly aware of Yoongi’s history in culinary school and how difficult it had been for him to trust his peers in a dog-eat-dog environment. He just hadn’t realized how bad it must have truly affected Yoongi. He must have left out a few crucial details when he’d first told Jungkook about his terrible experience in school.

 

“Tell me,” Jungkook requested of him. He patiently waited for a minute for Yoongi to open up, watching him without saying a word. When Yoongi still seemed nervous to say anything, Jungkook took matters into his own hands. He took one last sip of his wine before returning it to the coffee table next to Yoongi’s glass. Then, he silently padded his way across the couch until he was sitting side by side with Yoongi, thighs pressed against one another. Without a sound, Jungkook lowered his head to rest on Yoongi’s shoulder while his hand slid forward to grip Yoongi’s.

 

This seemed to do the trick. “I was really good at cooking,” Yoongi began in a soft voice. “I always have been. It didn’t take long for everyone to notice my abilities in the introductory classes. Initially, I was a marvel – everyone thought it was impressive to watch me elevate new dishes. And then I started having other students – people that I didn’t even recognize – ask me for advice.” Yoongi suddenly looked anxious, as if he was worried that Jungkook would misinterpret the situation. “I wasn’t mean to them or anything. I just… I didn’t always have time to teach everyone else and still keep up with my own studies, you know? So… I turned them all down.”

 

His words were spoken as if he was trying to defend his actions, even after all of these years. Jungkook nodded against his shoulder. “I understand,” he said. Then, to help him feel more at ease, Jungkook turned his head and pressed a reassuring kiss to his shoulder, adding, “I would have done the same thing in your position. It makes sense.”

 

The words helped marginally, putting Yoongi at ease as he continued. “I never really tutored anyone,” he said. “But… then I met someone.”

 

Jungkook chewed nervously on his lower lip as he began to recognize where this story was going.

 

“We went on a few dates – nothing extravagant, you know? Dinner and a movie – that sort of a thing. And… I really liked him,” Yoongi confessed. “So, when he asked me about class, it was a no-brainer to help him out. At first it was small things. Like – questions on an essay he was writing or advice on mixing spices – that sort of a thing.” Jungkook silently slipped his hand up Yoongi’s arm, lightly squeezing his bicep in a show of solidarity the longer Yoongi spoke. “I was just being helpful. And then… I don’t know,” he murmured. “One day, I suddenly realized that all of the time we spent together was me teaching him everything I knew, and… we never really did anything else.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, hating the parallels that could so easily be drawn between Yoongi’s story and their own story.

 

“I would ask if he wanted to hang out, and he would tell me he was too busy. I would ask if he wanted to go out for dinner, and he would already have plans.” Jungkook felt a light thump on the crown of his head where Yoongi had dropped his own, weary head, seeking out comfort from Jungkook. “He must have led me on for months before I realized anything was even wrong,” Yoongi admitted. “I don’t think I ever would have recognized he was using me if I hadn’t accidentally overheard him telling his friends how exhausting it was for him to keep up friendly appearances around me.”

 

Exhausting?” Jungkook echoed in disbelief. “That man was a fool,” he told him emphatically, feeling fiercely protective over Yoongi now that he’d heard his retelling of what had truly happened all those years ago. Jungkook had the sudden desire to track down the man in question, just to give him a piece of his mind. “I’ve never once had to pretend to be your friend – so I don’t know what his problem was.” Jungkook shook his head angrily. “Asshole.”

 

Yoongi licked his lips as he stared blankly down at his lap. “I don’t know,” he grumbled dismissively. “Looking back, it’s easy to assume that he was the one in the wrong, but for the longest time, I just assumed that I was the one that…”

 

As Yoongi let his words trail off, Jungkook realized that he never wanted him to finish his sentence.

 

Whatever Yoongi had believed at that time had been wrong. Jungkook had seen firsthand just how many walls Yoongi had built up around himself – all of the walls that Jungkook had worked on relentlessly tearing down, brick by brick. By trying to take advantage of his culinary skills, this innocuous university student had completely destroyed Yoongi in ways that neither of them could have ever predicted. Yoongi’s self worth had plummeted to rock bottom, causing him to believe that he was of no value other than in the kitchen. He’d turned to sarcasm, defending himself from growing too close to others with his cold exterior and sharp wit.

 

And there was no way Jungkook was ever going to let Yoongi believe he was worthless.

 

Never again.

 

“Fuck, Yoongi,” he breathed. Jungkook lifted Yoongi’s arm – the very one that he’d been leaning against – until he’d managed to wrap it around his shoulders. Then, he turned his body inward and burrowed himself even closer into Yoongi’s chest, wrapping him up in a tight hug. “I’m so sorry that ever happened to you.”

 

Yoongi sniffed, shaking his head. “It’s in the past,” he tried to brush it off. “After that, I just kept my nose down and became determined to become the best at everything I cooked, and… I did.” He maintained a tight grip around Jungkook’s shoulders as he shrugged. “Maybe I should thank him for what he did, since it turned me into the chef I am today.”

 

“That doesn’t make what he did right,” Jungkook urgently pointed out. He pulled his head up from Yoongi’s shoulder, suddenly feeling as if he owed Yoongi an apology as well, now that he saw how his actions had been misinterpreted. “And I’m sorry I ever made you question our relationship. I never tried to use you to get ahead. That was never my intention,” Jungkook adamantly insisted. “I love learning from you – but that’s not why I became your friend.”

 

Yoongi nodded sagely. “I know,” he responded. He cocked his head to the side to meet Jungkook’s eyes. “It was my mad rapping skills on karaoke night, wasn’t it?”

 

Jungkook lightly punched him in the side, immediately following up the gesture with a tiny pinch near his abdomen. “Stop it!” he demanded with a small laugh as Yoongi tried to wriggle out of reach with a smile of his own. “I’m trying to be serious!”

 

“Ok, ok,” Yoongi conceded with a grin. “Go ahead.”

 

“I was trying to say,” Jungkook continued with a small, teasing glare directed towards Yoongi, “that even though you might be my cooking idol – that has nothing to do with my feelings for you.” His gaze softened. “There’s a reason I insisted that I call you seonbae in the kitchen and Yoongi outside.”

 

Yoongi twisted his torso, wrapping both arms around Jungkook again. He let his hands run up and down Jungkook’s back in a reassuring motion. “I know,” he murmured. He pressed his lips to the top of Jungkook’s head. “I should have told you sooner.”

 

“You really should have,” Jungkook agreed with a tiny smile. Then he tried to lighten the mood with a teasing accusation. “Everything would have been a lot simpler if you had just made the first move.”

 

“I’m basically your boss,” Yoongi argued, leaning away from Jungkook to make eye contact. “I was worried you would think that you had to be in a relationship with me in order to keep your job!”

 

“Oh, please,” Jungkook scoffed. “You’re hardly that intimidating.”

 

“You don’t think I’m intimidating?” Yoongi questioned with raised eyebrows, as if he didn’t believe Jungkook for a second.

 

But Jungkook shook his head. “You’re basically a giant fluff ball once you dig down deep enough.”

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “I can be very intimidating.”

 

Jungkook studied the tilt of Yoongi’s head as his eyes raked over Jungkook’s body in an appraising gaze – as if he were developing a plan of attack.

 

Seonbae is intimidating,” Jungkook informed him with a teasing smirk. “Yoongi is a pushover.”

 

Yoongi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

 

“That’s it,” he grumbled, putting a hand to Jungkook’s chest and pushing until Jungkook easily fell onto his back along the cushions of the couch. Jungkook let out a delighted laugh as Yoongi crawled over his body, slowly lowering himself on top of him. “I’ll show you who is a pushover.”

 

Without hesitation, Jungkook tipped his head to the side, willingly baring his neck to Yoongi as he decorated his neck with kisses. “I’d like to see you try,” Jungkook continued to taunt, hoping to entice Yoongi to continue his ministrations.

 

As predicted, Yoongi didn’t speak. He was too busy kneeling between Jungkook’s legs with both of his hands supporting his body weight as his lips sucked on Jungkook’s skin until it turned red. “Don’t challenge me,” Yoongi murmured when he finally let up and dragged his lips towards Jungkook’s ear. “I don’t back down from a challenge.”

 

Jungkook bit his lip, holding back his gasp when Yoongi’s hand slipped effortlessly beneath his shirt, exploring the warmth of his skin. It was like they were in the restaurant alleyway all over again, making out like hormonal teenagers. Jungkook had been hardly able to control himself in front of Yoongi when he knew that they only had three minutes.

 

What would they be capable of when they had the entire night?

 

“Bedroom,” Jungkook choked out just before Yoongi’s hands could explore below the belt. He didn’t wait for Yoongi to respond to his request and instead used both hands to forcefully shove Yoongi off of him so he could sit up. “Bedroom,” he repeated, but this time with more force as he scrambled to stand upright and drag Yoongi along behind him.

 

“Hang on,” Yoongi murmured, even though he allowed himself to be pulled along after Jungkook in a daze. “I’m supposed to be in charge.”

 

Jungkook had only been to Yoongi’s apartment a handful of times, but he was fully aware of the location of Yoongi’s bedroom. He swiftly turned down the back hallway and threw open the door. “Well, you’re taking too long,” he gently chastised Yoongi before rounding on him in the middle of the bedroom to kiss him.

 

Yoongi hummed into the kiss, torn between replying to Jungkook’s comment and continuing to kiss him. When Jungkook stopped kissing him – only to reach down to pull his t-shirt over his head just before he did the same to Yoongi – Yoongi tried to correct him. “I’m not a pushover,” he quietly reminded Jungkook of his earlier assertion before allowing himself to be silenced with another kiss.

 

Jungkook’s hands skated across Yoongi’s chest, looking as if he wanted to touch everything all at once and couldn’t figure out where to begin. “Ok – you’re not a pushover,” Jungkook agreed breathlessly, staring down at his hands as they ran across Yoongi’s pectorals. However, Yoongi was starting to wonder if Jungkook was only agreeing with him to get him to shut up and move faster. “Now, take your pants off.”

 

Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite so important to prove Jungkook wrong anymore.

 

They tumbled into bed, clothing littering the floor surrounding them as their limbs entangled with one another. Jungkook rolled onto his back, eagerly pulling Yoongi to lay on top of him in much the same way that they had been positioned on the couch moments before. Jungkook smiled at the warm sensation of Yoongi’s body flush against his without any sort of barrier left between them.

 

Yoongi was quick to follow Jungkook’s lead. He slid his hands up Jungkook’s side, delighting in the warmth of his skin beneath his fingertips. He placed lavish kisses along his collarbone, stopping only briefly to nip lightly at his skin, just to watch Jungkook squirm with pleasure.

 

But when Jungkook’s fingernails raked down Yoongi’s back – running down the ridges of his spine, cupping his bare ass, slipping around to the front where their bodies were pressed together –

 

“This – this is too fast,” Yoongi suddenly blurted out. Jungkook froze with his hand sandwiched between their abdomens. “This is – we’re going too fast – don’t you think this is too fast?”

 

Jungkook glanced down between them. His hand was hovering just above Yoongi’s erection, anxious to do more than just look, but he stopped immediately at Yoongi’s behest. “I – I mean – I want this,” Jungkook confessed, refusing to speak anything but the truth. “Do… do you think we’re going too fast?”

 

Yoongi stared down upon Jungkook’s face in wonder, breathing heavily as his heart continued to thud erratically. He blinked rapidly, taking in the genuine look of honesty reflected back in Jungkook’s eyes. “No,” he finally whispered. “I… I don’t.”

 

Jungkook lifted a hand to Yoongi’s brow, stroking the loose strands of hair away from his forehead in a tender gesture. “Then… why are you concerned?”

 

Jungkook lifted his head to place a light kiss on Yoongi’s lips before he could respond. “Most couples don’t hop straight into bed before their first date,” Yoongi said.

 

Jungkook stared back, processing his words. “No, they don’t,” he agreed. “But… those couples also aren’t us. We get to choose what we want to do.” Slowly, Jungkook slid his fingers through Yoongi’s hair and placed both hands on his shoulders, thumbs lightly stroking the side of his neck. As he moved, he felt his hips shift just enough to unintentionally rub their lengths against one another. Jungkook swallowed his groan and tightened his grip on Yoongi’s shoulders in response, forcing himself to focus on the conversation at hand. “Should we stop?”

 

Yoongi closed his eyes momentarily, attempting to control himself much like Jungkook had done. When he opened them again, he shook his head. “I just – I want to make sure that you’re sure.” Yoongi’s eyes fell to Jungkook’s chest, avoiding his gaze. “You know… about me.”

 

Yoongi wanted him to be sure… that Jungkook wanted him?

 

Jungkook had never been more sure of anything in his life.

 

Jungkook lifted both of his hands to Yoongi’s face, carefully tilting his chin up so that he could confidently meet his gaze.

 

“Listen to me,” Jungkook demanded. When he had Yoongi’s full attention, he confidently confessed, “I wouldn’t trade you for the world – and I never want you to forget that. Ever.”

 

Yoongi smiled. He brushed the back of his finger along Jungkook’s cheekbones, lightly caressing his skin. “Really?”

 

“Really,” Jungkook answered assertively. “But right now, please – ” Jungkook leaned his head forward, turning his lips towards Yoongi’s ear “ – fuck me.”

 

Jungkook could hear Yoongi’s audible gulp.

 

Fuck,” he rasped. Yoongi’s hand slipped down to Jungkook’s chest, holding him flat to the bed before voraciously attacking his lips. Jungkook’s hands returned to their earlier exploration, reaching down to grip Yoongi’s length without an ounce of hesitation and running his hand – achingly slowly – up and down until it was covered with slick.

 

Jungkook placed his feet flat on the bed as he pulled his knees up, rotating his pelvis just enough to provide an easy point of access for Yoongi. When Yoongi swiftly dug around in his bedside drawer for his bottle of lube, Jungkook could barely think straight with how overcome he was with thoughts of Yoongi filling his head.

 

He was craving his touch – craving the intimate connection between them. He knew he would never admit to it after the fact, but he couldn’t help but whimper desperately at each and every sensation as Yoongi’s fingers carefully explored his entrance, touching him in ways he’d never felt before. And then Yoongi took matters into his own hands – literally – as he knocked Jungkook’s hand out of the way and carefully thrust forward.

 

Jungkook’s jaw dropped open in a silent scream of pleasure.

 

“Oh – fuck,” Jungkook finally exhaled, gasping sharply once he remembered how to breathe properly. “That – fuck – you feel so good, Yoongi – Yoongi – you feel – you feel – Yoongi – ”

 

Yoongi cut him off, kissing him firmly – deeply – until Jungkook was moaning into his mouth with each pump of his hips. Yoongi picked up the pace, seeming to be just as frantic to reach a release as Jungkook. They continued to kiss, tongues gliding languidly over one another, until Jungkook had to finally give up all pretenses of kissing when all of his concentration became focused elsewhere. His thighs clamped down on Yoongi’s hips as his fingers clung to Yoongi’s back, digging into his shoulders. Once the familiar, white hot heat began to rise in the pit of his stomach, Jungkook could only let his mouth hang open against Yoongi’s, capable of doing nothing more than just breathing the other in.

 

In an embarrassingly short amount of time, both of them managed to ride out their high. Yoongi’s forehead fell to Jungkook’s groaning as he reached his climax. Just as he felt the warm, tingling spasms take over his body, Yoongi reached forward to grip Jungkook’s length, tugging rapidly until Jungkook threw back his head and cried out as he came.

 

Jungkook gasped throughout his release, feeling unlike he ever had before. Any other time, he would have felt a surge of exhaustion or a niggling sense of guilt or disgust in the back of his mind at the overly sexual creature he’d just become – but this felt nothing like that. He felt weightless, mouth curving upwards into a grin as he leaned forward a fraction of an inch to pepper light, butterfly kisses along the corner of Yoongi’s mouth. Slowly – lazily – Yoongi smiled and tilted his head just enough to return Jungkook’s languid kisses.

 

They easily ignored the mess between them. Both of them knew that it would have to be cleaned up sooner rather than later, but they remained in a state of bliss for as long as humanly possible.

 

“Hey,” Jungkook whispered. He uncurled his hand from behind Yoongi’s back and brought his finger up to touch Yoongi’s face. Delicately, he dragged his index finger across Yoongi’s lower lip, mesmerized by the sensation. He smiled when Yoongi’s lips puckered up and he placed a fleeting kiss on the pad of his fingertip. “That was amazing.”

 

Yoongi lifted his hand to catch Jungkook’s. He pressed another kiss to his open palm before dipping his head further to kiss the inside of his wrist as well. “Yeah, it was,” he agreed with a smile of his own. He brought Jungkook’s palm to his face, holding his warm fingers in place against his cheek.

 

For a moment, Yoongi simply stared down at Jungkook with a happy expression, appearing as if he was still in awe by his mere presence in his life. Then, with an unapologetic look, Yoongi softly murmured, “I guess I’m a little bit of a pushover.”

 

Jungkook turned red and giggled as he had sudden flashbacks of his rather assertive actions earlier, beginning from the moment he’d dragged Yoongi to the bedroom and lasting right up until he’d unabashedly begged the man to fuck him. He wasn’t quite sure exactly where that confidence had come from – but he also wasn’t sorry that it had happened, either.

 

“You’re embarrassed,” Yoongi pointed out in amusement, smirking at the red tinge on Jungkook’s cheeks. “That’s adorable.”

 

Jungkook turned his head, trying to hide his face from Yoongi – but he knew it wouldn’t wipe the smile off of his face. “I was excited,” Jungkook tried to explain away his enthusiasm. But even when he finally turned back to look at Yoongi, neither one of them could stop grinning gleefully at each other. “Shut up!” Jungkook protested, even when Yoongi hadn’t said a word. He threw his head back onto his pillow and laughed, feeling nothing but joy in that moment. “I just really like you, ok?”

 

“Yeah, ok,” Yoongi conceded. He leaned forward, rubbing his nose lightly against Jungkook’s before giving him another short kiss on the lips. “I guess I really like you, too.”

 

Jungkook blushed again, flattered by Yoongi’s words of reassurance.

 

“Ok – time to shower,” Yoongi abruptly decided, carefully rolling off of Jungkook before turning back around to help the man in question get to his feet. “We really need to get cleaned up.”

 

Jungkook took Yoongi’s hand, following him into the master bathroom without complaint. He watched Yoongi lean over to fill the bathtub with warm water, testing the heat with the inside of his wrist. Disregarding their sticky bodies, Jungkook stepped directly behind him, close enough that he could wrap his arms around the man’s waist when he stood back up to his full height. “Sorry I was so pushy,” he murmured into Yoongi’s ears. He nosed along the length of his neck as he continued to speak. “I’ll try not to be quite so… dominant next time.”

 

Yoongi turned around in his arms, sliding his hands up and around Jungkook’s neck. He smirked coyly up at him.

 

“Did I ever say it was a problem?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Epilogue: Six Months Later

 

“No, don’t…”

 

Jungkook laughed in delight as Yoongi clung desperately to his arm in his feeble attempt to keep him in bed past his alarm clock.

 

“Yoongi, you have to let me go,” Jungkook told him through a smile, though he didn’t seem to want to fight his boyfriend off very hard. On the contrary; he lay back down on his pillow, eyeing Yoongi’s messy hair with a pleased look. “I have a test this morning.”

 

Yoongi swore quietly under his breath as he secured his arm around Jungkook’s waist and burrowed his face into the crook of his neck. “I hate that stupid school of yours.”

 

Jungkook nodded sagely, as if he’d already heard this argument from Yoongi at the crack of dawn several times before. He allowed his boyfriend to burrow closer into his side, lifting his hand to run his fingers lovingly through Yoongi’s hair. “I know you do.”

 

“And those stupid morning classes,” Yoongi added, finally starting to become more alert now that his energy was funneling itself into his hatred for Jungkook’s absence. “When am I supposed to see you if you’re always busy?

 

“You’ll see me at work tonight,” Jungkook told him, “and then we’re going out for drinks with the rest of the guys, remember?”

 

“I have to share you,” Yoongi petulantly responded, sounding a lot like a child instead of the adult he was supposed to be.

 

However, knowing that this argument had been about to come from Yoongi, Jungkook swiftly continued. “Tomorrow’s a Saturday,” he softly reminded him. He tilted his head down to rub his nose affectionately against Yoongi’s. “Then I’m all yours.”

 

A slow grin spread across Yoongi’s lips. “I like the sound of that.”

 

Jungkook giggled joyously as Yoongi swiftly sprang into action and slid across the mattress to trap Jungkook, flat on his back, between both of Yoongi’s arms. He silently showed his enthusiasm for Jungkook’s idea as he placed light, fluttering kisses across the column of Jungkook’s neck.

 

“I really need to go,” Jungkook tried to explain once again, despite Yoongi placing both palms flat on his bare chest and positioning himself above Jungkook in a somewhat predatory stance. Jungkook laughed again and slid his hands up to rest on Yoongi’s hips, enjoying the lazy, ticklish kisses creeping up his jaw. He was sure that he would be late for class – again – if Yoongi continued in this manner. However, the moment Yoongi’s hand wandered down to his boxers, toying with the elastic band, Jungkook quickly snapped back to attention and forced himself to push Yoongi back to his side of the mattress and roll out of bed.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook hastily apologized as Yoongi stared up at him in betrayal. Jungkook swooped back in for a small peck on the lips before moving an arm’s length away so Yoongi couldn’t reach for him again. He wasn’t sure he could resist his touch for a second time if he was tempted. “I love you,” he gently reminded his boyfriend, “but I really need to be on time today.”

 

Yoongi gaped at him, watching as Jungkook hurried off to the shower to get ready. With a huff of disappointment, Yoongi fell back onto the bed, trying to ignore the throbbing beneath his boxers.

 

*

 

“No – just stop. Fucking hell – don’t use tongs to flip fish in a skillet!” Jungkook ranted as he ripped the tongs away from their new hire. “Do you want the dish to fall apart? Get a spatula!” The poor boy skittered across the kitchen in a hurry to find the right utensil. “But don’t run!” Jungkook quickly tacked on. “Are you trying to get yourself killed? You never run in a kitchen!”

 

Jungkook turned to look back at Yoongi when the boy was out of sight, huffing in annoyance.

 

“The new guy Seokjin hired is awful,” Jungkook grumbled, leaning wearily on the countertop beside Yoongi. “You should fire him.”

 

Yoongi just snorted and returned to his prep work with a shake of his head.

 

Jungkook narrowed his eyes.

 

“What?” He pushed himself away from the counter and stepped closer to Yoongi, eyeing him suspiciously. “What’s so funny?”

 

“Nothing,” Yoongi loftily replied before turning around to grab the large tub of pre-sliced vegetables. He had originally intended to take them to the walk-in refrigerator to keep them cool before the dinner service began, but Jungkook interrupted his task.

 

“Stop,” Jungkook demanded, reaching a hand out to grab Yoongi’s arm and halt him in his tracks – a surprising order from his sous chef, but hardly a surprising one from his boyfriend. “Tell me.”

 

Yoongi couldn’t hide his smirk of amusement as he turned to look up at his boyfriend. “Come on, Jungkook,” he murmured. “I mean – you do remember what you were like when you started working here, right?”

 

Jungkook’s jaw dropped open in disbelief.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook began slowly as the insult slowly sank in. “You think I was as bad as him?

 

Yoongi simply shrugged and walked past Jungkook without saying another word.

 

“No – you can’t just shrug and walk away from me after an insult like that – you wait right there!” Jungkook chased after his boyfriend, cornering him inside the walk-in refrigerator. Despite the cold, Jungkook blocked the entryway, refusing to let Yoongi leave the enclosed space until he got a straight answer from him. “I never tried to flip fish with tongs!”

 

“No,” Yoongi agreed calmly as he placed the tray of vegetables on the top shelf. He turned around with a smile. “But I did have to teach you how to cut vegetables without chopping your fingers off. He,” Yoongi pointed towards the kitchen over Jungkook’s shoulder, “at least came with those basic skills already learned.”

 

Jungkook put both hands on his hips as he cocked his head to the side in annoyance. “You seriously think I was just as inept as him?”

 

Yoongi maintained his pleasant expression. “Yeah, well – you had an amazing teacher.” He smirked and stepped forward until he could place a light, teasing kiss on Jungkook’s lips. “How did your test go this morning?”

 

Jungkook stayed still, trying to decide if he was upset with Yoongi. In actuality, he looked more like a pouting teenager, incapable of staying mad. “It was fine.”

 

“Good.” Yoongi grinned, patting Jungkook’s chest in a placating gesture. “Now – get back out there and teach your replacement how to cook, or you’re going to be in trouble.”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes dramatically, letting Yoongi push past him. “But he’s terrible!” Jungkook followed at Yoongi’s heels as he left the walk-in refrigerator. “Why don’t I just come back to the restaurant full time?”

 

Yoongi spun around at this comment, deciding he needed to nip that idea in the bud before Jungkook could let it evolve any further. “Absolutely not,” he stated firmly. “We talked about this – you can’t work full time, and still expect to learn everything you need to at school. You need to train your replacement for the nights that you need to be gone, Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook sighed loudly before marching back across the kitchen and taking his own frustrations out on the poor boy. “Finally found a spatula, did you? Great – now your fish is burnt. Throw it out and start over!”

 

*

 

“I’m so jealous.”

 

Seokjin couldn’t keep from grinning as Jimin continued to twist his hand back and forth, watching the light bounce off of the solitary diamond at the center of his silver wedding band.

 

“You should be jealous,” Seokjin told him confidently. He turned to look at Namjoon over his shoulder and smiled at the man. “I took one of the best bachelors off the market.”

 

“Oh – gag,” Taehyung feigned disgust when Namjoon leaned forward to press a kiss to his brother’s cheek. He turned to Jimin, putting an arm around the back of his chair in the process. “God, I hope we never sound that sappy.”

 

“You do,” Hoseok informed him bluntly as he lifted his glass to his lips. Then he twisted to his other side and pointed at Yoongi with one of the fingers wrapped around his glass. “And before you say anything – you do, too.”

 

Yoongi made an appalled face at his friend. “I do not,” he argued. “If anything, Jungkook is the sappy one between us.”

 

The rest of the table started to shake their heads in disagreement, sending Jungkook into peals of laughter.

 

“You’re so much worse,” Namjoon quickly sided with Hoseok. “Remember that time when you had that small grease fire in the kitchen?”

 

Seokjin put his head in his hands, hating the reminder of the story that could have potentially destroyed his entire business. Taehyung, however, eagerly jumped in to help retell it. “Right – Jungkook tried to put it out and he accidentally caught his bandana caught on fire!”

 

Yoongi started to feel his face heat up in embarrassment. He stared down at his beer in front of him, silently sliding it through the condensation that had pooled beneath it as he listened.

 

“I’ve never seen Yoongi move so fast in my life,” Hoseok commented with a snort of amusement. “He ripped that thing off of Jungkook’s head and stomped it out on the ground – ”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Namjoon interjected with a laugh. “And then Jungkook started complaining about how he ruined his bunny bandana, and Yoongi was like – ”

 

Hoseok wrapped up their story with a poor imitation of the chef. “‘I can buy you a new bandana – but I could never live without you’.”

 

The table burst into raucous laughter as Hoseok delivered the final line. Humiliated, Yoongi felt his ears start to burn as they continued to tease him. The way they described the event was nothing like how Yoongi remembered it. The grease fire itself had already been a source of panic for the two chefs as they tried to contain it. But the minute Yoongi had noticed the small flame slowly burning its way through a tiny, pink bunny on Jungkook’s bandana, he’d moved without a second thought. His entire world had been shaken to its core, worried for an instant that there would come a day when Jungkook wasn’t always by his side.

 

That night after work, he’d immediately swept the man up in his arms and professed his love for Jungkook and his desire for them to spend the rest of their lives together.

 

As their friends continued to laugh and poke fun at his expense, Jungkook pulled Yoongi out of his thoughts by simply placing his hand on his thigh.

 

“I thought it was sweet,” he murmured with a kind expression. His words were unable to be heard by the rest of the boisterous table as Yoongi turned to look at him. “I didn’t think it was cheesy at all.”

 

Yoongi placed his hand over Jungkook’s, threading their fingers together. He smiled gratefully as his boyfriend attempted to back him up. “It’s a little embarrassing, thinking about it now.”

 

“I guess,” Jungkook agreed with a tiny smirk. Then he paused, sharing a look with Yoongi that told him he was remembering the same events that had happened after the grease fire that Yoongi had recalled earlier. “All I really remember is what you told me afterwards – and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

 

Yoongi squeezed Jungkook’s hand affectionately.

 

“Ok,” Yoongi finally addressed the group in a louder, more confident voice. “Yeah, I guess you’re right – sometimes I can get a bit sappy.”

 

But instead of the laughter dying down and naturally shifting into a new conversation, Taehyung managed to keep the topic alive. “Oh, God – do you guys remember that night Jungkook had to call in sick and Yoongi couldn’t focus on anything?

 

Yoongi sighed heavily, already knowing what was coming.

 

“Yes!” Jimin clapped his hands together excitedly as he recalled the events. “I thought Seokjin was going to kick him out of the kitchen and just send him home to take care of Jungkook!”

 

Jungkook silently glanced over at Yoongi as he listened with amusement to the story that was new to him.

 

“Remember when he ordered all of those flowers to be delivered to Jungkook at work every day for a week leading up to their one-hundred day anniversary?” Jimin chimed in with a gleeful expression as he continued to tease his hyung.

 

Ugh – don’t remind me,” Taehyung grumbled. “I feel like I’m going to sneeze just remembering that week.”

 

Jungkook quickly chimed in when he caught Yoongi’s head dip in embarrassment. “I loved them,” he assured Yoongi. “They were beautiful.”

 

“Or how about that time last week,” Seokjin continued, “when I caught him practicing in the bathroom mirror what he was going to say to Jungkook when he asked him – ”

 

Seokjin’s entire body jolted in his spot before he leaned down to touch his leg as if he’d been suddenly injured. “Ow – shit!” He glared across the table at Yoongi. “What the hell?”

 

Jungkook’s eyes widened, following the gaze of the rest of the group to look at Yoongi in surprise. The chef simply sipped his beer and set it back down on the table with an innocent expression.

 

“Anyone want a second round?”

 

*

 

Yoongi hummed contentedly as he nursed his second drink of the night. Seokjin and Namjoon had long since decided it was time to retire for the evening while Hoseok finally swallowed his nerves and confidently strode towards the bar to chat up the bartender. It wasn’t until Jimin had dragged Taehyung towards the small space that barely passed as a dance floor to hug his boyfriend and gently rock their bodies from side to side – even as the music played through a number of upbeat songs – that Jungkook drew Yoongi’s attention back to him.

 

“So… that was weird.”

 

Yoongi feigned confusion. “What was weird?”

 

Jungkook smiled, as if he already knew that Yoongi would try to play dumb, but Jungkook still intended to pursue the topic anyway. “Seokjin was making fun of you and you kicked him under the table.”

 

Yoongi shrugged, choosing not to refute Jungkook’s observation. Instead, he took another sip of his drink. “Serves him right.”

 

Jungkook huffed out a quiet laugh. “You and I both know you didn’t kick him because he was making fun of you.” He wrapped his hands around Yoongi’s bicep and rested his head on his shoulder. “What are you hiding, Yoongi?”

 

“Nothing,” he murmured in a less-than-innocent voice. He quickly continued speaking, however, attempting to change the topic of conversation before Jungkook could counter with another question. “Hey – I was thinking that you should stay over at my place tonight.”

 

Jungkook lifted his head in surprise to look over at Yoongi. “Again?”

 

“You said that I get to spend Saturday with you,” Yoongi explained with a casual shrug. “And it’s… almost Saturday anyway,” he murmured, holding up his watch to show Jungkook late hour.

 

“I… don’t know,” Jungkook hedged carefully. “I stayed at your apartment two nights in a row already. My parents are going to wonder where I am.”

 

Yoongi arched an eyebrow in Jungkook’s direction. “Your parents know exactly where you are,” he told him in a level voice. “And they seem to be completely fine with it.”

 

Jungkook smiled at his words. “Tomorrow night,” he suggested instead. “Why don’t we go back to your apartment and watch a movie tonight, and then I’ll go home and get a change of clothes so I can spend the night tomorrow?”

 

Yoongi sighed, acting inconvenienced by the entire thing, but his smirk gave him away. “If you have to,” he teased. He kissed Jungkook’s cheek and stood up, pulling his boyfriend to his feet as well. “Why don’t you bring more than one change of clothes tomorrow while you’re at it?”

 

Jungkook laced his fingers through Yoongi’s, swinging their hands together happily as they walked towards the door. “Ok.”

 

*

 

“Jungkook, it’s late. You should stop working.”

 

Jungkook’s knee bounced anxiously as he chewed on his lower lip until it had bruised. His fingers drummed rapidly on the small desk that Yoongi had purchased and moved into his bedroom shortly after Jungkook had started going to culinary school.

 

Jungkook hadn’t intended to become sidetracked after getting back to Yoongi’s apartment. He happened to mention the topic for his latest paper to Yoongi and been thrilled to hear that Yoongi had an old textbook sitting in his bedroom with information on the subject. After renting a movie on their way back, Jungkook had sought out Yoongi’s textbook and flipped through the pages to find the information he needed. He’d become so engrossed in the wealth of new knowledge that he’d instantly dug his laptop out of his backpack that he’d been carrying around since he’d left for school that morning and began typing, begging Yoongi for just ten minutes before starting their movie.

 

It wasn’t until Yoongi had come in to interrupt his studies and loosely wrap both arms around his neck that Jungkook broke out of his dazed stupor.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook murmured wearily. He glanced over at the textbook he’d left lying open beside his laptop with a sigh. “It’s just… this book has tons of quotes I can use for my paper.”

 

“You mean the paper that’s not due until next week?”

 

Jungkook shook his head, seemingly incapable of listening to logic as the night grew longer. “I know… but it’s an important paper,” Jungkook reminded him. “Just… another ten minutes and then we can watch that movie you rented for us, ok?”

 

Yoongi snorted. “You really want to start a movie at one in the morning?”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes and rotated in his chair to glare playfully over his shoulder at his boyfriend. “It’s not one in the morning.” But even as he spoke, his eyes drifted towards the clock over Yoongi’s shoulder in disbelief. “Fuck, it’s one in the morning.”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi confirmed with an amused smirk. He stood up at his full height, leaving only his hand behind to linger on Jungkook’s shoulder. “You’ve been working in here for nearly two hours.”

 

Jungkook slammed the lid of his laptop closed, frowning up at Yoongi. “Why haven’t you kicked me out of your place yet?”

 

Yoongi stepped away and sat on the corner of his bed across from Jungkook. “You were focused,” he explained. Then he cocked his head and smiled gently at him. “But you don’t have to leave. You know you’re welcome here anytime, right?”

 

“It’s your apartment,” Jungkook reminded him, turning back to the debris he’d left strewn across the desk. He started shoving his laptop and textbooks back into his backpack. “You should have told me I was keeping you up, Yoongi.”

 

The room fell silent with the exception of Jungkook’s frantic rush to pack up all of his belongings. However, once he noticed Yoongi’s lack of response, he paused with his body hunched over his backpack.

 

Yoongi cleared his throat.

 

“What if… it wasn’t my apartment?”

 

Jungkook frowned in confusion. “Not… yours?”

 

“Right,” Yoongi swiftly confirmed. “I mean… what if it was also yours?”

 

Slowly, Jungkook leaned back in his chair. He stared at his boyfriend, slowly realizing what he was trying to tell him. “Yoongi… are you asking me to move in with you?”

 

Yoongi abruptly sat up and began speaking animatedly with both hands. “I mean – it makes sense, right?” He began ticking a list off on his fingers. “First thing in the morning, you have class. Then I see you during the dinner service, but that’s still work, isn’t it? Plus,” he continued with a sweeping gesture towards the desk, “I get that you have work to do for school in the off hours, which doesn’t exactly make it easy for us to spend quality time together – not if you have to keep making trips between my apartment and your house – so I figured it would… just be easier to have you stay here in the meantime. It would be… convenient.”

 

Jungkook’s lips quirked, trying not to smile in amusement at his boyfriend’s nervous energy. “Convenient,” he echoed Yoongi’s words.

 

“Yes,” Yoongi confirmed with a nod. Then, realizing that this wasn’t at all what he wanted Jungkook to think, he hurriedly shook his head. “I mean – no. Well, yes, it would be convenient, but… that’s not the only reason, right?” He rubbed the back of his flushed neck with his hand and fought to control the creeping blush that covered his cheeks. “It’s a shorter commute from my apartment to your school, isn’t it? And the restaurant, too. Less time spent traveling,” he explained, voice fading out in a mumble when his nerves took hold. “More time… together.”

 

Jungkook sat back in his chair, finding it oddly satisfying to tease his boyfriend. “So – we would live together, but just until I’m done with school?” He couldn’t hold back his tiny smile any longer. “Is that what you’re saying?”

 

Yoongi sucked in a noisy breath and acted as if he were considering this point, even though it was plain as day to Jungkook that he was trying to find a way to walk back his words. “Well – sure,” he agreed lightly. “But – I mean, if you liked staying here after you’re done with school, I wouldn’t exactly kick you out, would I? That would be rude.”

 

Jungkook nodded. “Rude,” he murmured. “Right, of course.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes, which had previously been flitting about the room anxiously, finally landed on Jungkook’s steady gaze. He sighed, slouching and dropping his hands into his lap in defeat. “I’m not doing this right, am I?”

 

Finally, Jungkook let out the grin he’d been holding back. “Not really, no.”

 

Taking pity on the man, Jungkook left his backpack behind and walked towards Yoongi. He placed both hands on Yoongi’s shoulders to help himself keep balanced as he perched one knee on the bed and swung the other around until he was straddling Yoongi’s lap. Instinctively, Yoongi wrapped his arms around Jungkook’s waist to pull their bodies together.

 

“Are you scared I’ll say ‘no’?” Jungkook asked. He slid his left arm around Yoongi’s neck, leaving his right hand free to brush the thin strands of hair out of Yoongi’s eyes.

 

Yoongi shrugged uncomfortably, staring stubbornly at Jungkook’s chest to avoid direct eye contact. “You might.”

 

“But you know I won’t,” Jungkook quickly reminded him with a gentle smile. He slipped his hand beneath Yoongi’s chin, gently tilting his head up until he was forced to meet Jungkook’s gaze. “Come on,” Jungkook prompted him. “Ask me again – but do it right this time.”

 

Yoongi sighed, closing his eyes briefly to stem his embarrassment before bravely looking back up into Jungkook’s eyes.

 

“Jungkook,” he began in a far more confident tone than he’d used previously, “I love you and I want you to move in with me because… I can’t stand the thought of having to tell you goodbye every night.” Without looking away, he jerked his head towards the nightstand beside his bed. “I had a second key made a month ago and… I want you to have it.” He swallowed, forcing himself to maintain direct eye contact now that he’d made it to the scariest part. “And this would be a really good time for you to tell me ‘yes’ like you said you would so I don’t have to worry anymore about whether or not you – ”

 

“Yes,” Jungkook swiftly cut him off with a firm nod. He could practically feel the relief wash through Yoongi’s muscles as every inch of his body became pliant beneath his fingers at his answer. “Of course I want to move in with you, Yoongi,” Jungkook answered without hesitation. He released Yoongi’s shoulders entirely and placed both hands on his cheeks, cradling his face with the utmost of care.

 

Yoongi positively beamed.

 

“I love you,” he murmured, repeating his words from before.

 

Jungkook pressed their lips together, lingering for a moment before echoing, “I love you, too.”

 

Yoongi maintained their close proximity, sliding his hands across Jungkook’s back in a slow, soothing motion. “So… does that mean you’ll stay here for the night, now?”

 

Jungkook grinned, leaning in to press his forehead to Yoongi’s. “Yeah, alright. I guess I have to, now, don’t I?”

 

Yoongi laughed quietly. “Yeah, I guess you do.”

 

In a sudden movement, Yoongi threw his body backwards onto the bed, forcing Jungkook to follow him given their current seating arrangement. But whatever Jungkook thought would happen after being pulled towards the bed and watching Yoongi reach inside his nightstand was not at all what he’d been expecting.

 

“Your key,” Yoongi announced as he pulled out a silver, jingling keychain.

 

Jungkook took the object, looking down at Yoongi with an arched eyebrow. “I thought you were going to pull something very different out of that drawer, Yoongi.”

 

Yoongi made a face, looking up at his boyfriend from his spot on the mattress. He pulled one of his hands off of Jungkook’s hips to mockingly shake his finger at him. “You have a dirty mind, Jungkook.” Then he glanced down at the keychain in Jungkook’s grasp. “You should, um… look at what I put on it.”

 

Jungkook reclined, situating himself on top of Yoongi’s pelvis as he took a closer look at the object in his hands before throwing his head back and laughing.

 

Yoongi smiled proudly.

 

“It’s a Lego chef!” he told him happily, as if Yoongi hadn’t seen it already. “Oh my God, that’s amazing.”

 

Yoongi folded his free hand beneath his head, giving himself a mock-pillow so he had some additional elevation to watch Jungkook admire the keychain. “I thought about getting something sappy engraved on the key, but I figured you would enjoy a Lego man even more.”

 

Jungkook slid the ring of the keychain onto his finger to keep it safe before leaning forward to trap Yoongi’s shoulders between his hands. “Oh, God, they were right – you really are a sappy guy at heart, you know that? If you’re not careful, you’re going to ruin your tough-guy reputation in the kitchen.”

 

“Eh – it’s fine,” Yoongi willingly accepted his fate. He lightly squeezed Jungkook’s hips. “I mean – the sappy thing seems to be working for us so far, hasn’t it?”

 

Jungkook bit his lip to hide his smile. “Yeah, I don’t mind sappy,” he murmured, leaning just close enough that Yoongi could feel every movement of Jungkook forming his words against his lips. Yoongi’s eyes fluttered shut at his close proximity, silently breathing in Jungkook’s presence. “I actually… kind-of like sappy.” Jungkook lifted a hand to Yoongi’s cheek, affectionately running his fingers across his flawless skin. He could feel Yoongi purse his lips beneath his, so he instinctively returned the gesture, placing a light, barely there kiss on Yoongi’s lips. If he hadn’t been so close, Jungkook was sure he would have missed the soft moan of frustration at the back of Yoongi’s throat after such a fleeting kiss. “In fact, I’m really in love with sappy.”

 

“Fuck,” Yoongi breathed, eyes opening at Jungkook’s last statement. “Now that was sappy.”

 

Jungkook giggled, pressing his nose against Yoongi’s. “I don’t care.”

 

“Good,” Yoongi murmured. He swiftly flipped Jungkook over on the mattress and crawled on top of him with a determined gaze. “Because it’s officially Saturday, and you promised me that you were all mine on Saturday.” He leaned in closer with a devious grin. “And I’m going to hold you to that promise.”

 

Jungkook gave in without a moment of hesitation.

 

“I’m all yours.”