Back when Jeno was initially given the tour around the floor his soon-to-be office is located, it seemed a bit odd that a kitchen as tiny as this one was supposed to serve the entire floor and all three departments that share it. Now, seven months into working there, he has long since realized the kitchen is just right. Quite big, even. There are rarely more than two people at a time, even though the number of people on shift can be anywhere between twenty and fifty.
In terms of hideout potential, the kitchen is not the first place that comes to mind but it’s definitely up there. (First place, without a doubt, belongs to the bathroom. Mainly because of the lock, but also because Jeno has heard people cry in the next cubicle. He has been those people too, on some particularly bad days. The biggest reason, really, is that there’s some sort of an unwritten rule that whatever’s heard in the bathroom stays in the bathroom - be it an embarrassingly loud dump or someone sniffling just a thin door away.)
But then again, having lunch in the bathroom would be… an experience, so Jeno appreciates the relative calm that the kitchen offers. That and - well. It has a coffee machine.
You see, Jeno wasn’t the biggest coffee person, still isn’t (by choice), but one too many night shifts quickly cured whatever aversion to coffee he had in the beginning. The early morning shifts didn’t help either.
Which is just great, because he would’ve ended up in a rather awkward situation otherwise.
A month ago, his sister decided to take a month long vacation to South America as a late graduation gift. Naturally, the whole family, Jeno included, sent her off with mile-long requests for souvenirs so the gifts she brought back are far from unexpected.
Apparently she decided to go the extra mile for Jeno, though, because as he rummages through the little gift bags strewn across his bed, he finds a bag of what looks like a particularly expensive brand of coffee. Jeno has a vague memory of being told coffee shouldn’t be exposed to air unless necessary but, frankly, impulse control has never been one of his strong points.
It smells like coffee. Which is not exactly a surprise, obviously, but you’d think fancy coffee will have some sort of unique aroma or whatever. At least that’s all the blogs say when Jeno googles the brand - caramel and chocolate are all things people mention in the reviews but, well, to Jeno it just smells like… coffee.
But it’s a gift, so he steals his sister’s coffee grinder like the good little brother he is and decides to test his new coffee beans against the force of an 8am shift.
As it turns out, there's a bit more to coffee brewing than Jeno initially thought. The vending machine on the ground floor never taught him that and in the kitchen, well. He tends to just steal already-made coffee from whoever poor Payroll soul had the break before him.
It's not that brewing coffee is difficult, per se. It's just takes a moment to realize that he can't, in fact, drink a whole pot of coffee all by himself. And as cute as the office kitchen is, a coffee machine that makes coffee on demand, cup-sized, is just not something it has.
Jeno isn’t sure there’s a force in this world that can make him tired enough to consider drinking the rest of that coffee. To be honest, he’s not too keen on finding that out for sure either which makes letting go of the two thirds of coffee left in the pot surprisingly easy.
So he just steals one of the stacks of sticky notes that seem to magically appear everywhere around the office, scribbles Help yourself! and sticks it on the pot. He really hopes whoever gets to the coffee first will appreciate the sacrifice.
And this is how the most disgustingly Hollywood experience in Jeno's otherwise uneventful life begins.
The next day Jeno brings quite a smaller bag of his fancy coffee at work - he can’t go around wasting his sister’s gift like that.
There’s a pink sticky note on the coffee maker.
Jeno initially ignores it, because it’s not the first time he’s seen someone leaving notes around the kitchen, even before his coffee incident. It’s usually things like Wash your stupid mug you pig!! or Buy some coffee once in a while if you’re planning to drink it all. That last one is the precise reason Jeno only brews coffee he brought himself.
But no. When he gets to load the filter, the actual text on the sticky note catches his eye.
That was the best coffee I’ve had in all my twenty years of existence, thank you!!
It’s followed by hearts. Seven of them. Jeno counted.
(The fluttery feeling inside his ribcage is totally uncalled for.)
Technically, there’s no solid proof that the note is even meant for Jeno - it could be someone else, right? It could be. But the reality that Jeno, as well as the entire floor is aware of, is that there’s a single brand of coffee that usually can be found around the kitchen, free to use: the cheapest one. Hardly anything to brag, let alone leave heart filled notes about. People do bring fancy coffee, like Jeno did, but no one really shares. Except for Jeno, apparently.
He laughs to himself, the image of some poor, exhausted coworker just standing there, sighing over a cup of coffee. Jeno may not be much of a coffee person himself, but actual coffee people in their natural habitat are always a sight to behold.
He tugs the note free from the coffee maker and pulls out his wallet. It ends up into the transparent compartment where palm sized calendars (or creepy passport pictures of relatives) usually go. The note made him happy, after all. It would be nice to have the memory of that feeling each time he has to say goodbye to his paycheck.
This time Jeno knows just how much coffee to use so he won't have to waste it all. Still, he leaves the pot half full. He doesn't know if the person from yesterday is even working but his heart is beating a little faster with the excitement and the thought of the note in his wallet still makes him giddy. He sticks another note on it, too, this time with just a smiley face.
Let it never be said that Lee Jeno is not a generous man.
His next shift is an 8 a.m. one so Jeno is questionably alive as he gets on the elevator at 7:47. Just as the doors slide shut, a hand gets in between them. The whole ordeal is quite dramatic on top of uncomfortable because the elevator is already full. The newcomer manages to squeeze himself in somehow, though, and Jeno vaguely recognizes him as someone from his floor. Jeno's pretty sure he’s seen the guy walking people around the floor, which probably means Human Resources - but then again, his complete lack of expression right at this very moment makes him seem almost dead enough to be in Payroll.
(Definitely not in IT, though. Jeno may be a bit of an airhead but he likes to think he’d at least recognize his own department after four months of working there.)
The guy has to get off and back on the elevator at every other floor because it really is full, mostly with people from the floors below their own. He doesn’t look much more alive by the time they reach the seventh floor and Jeno quietly pings his badge to unlock the door for him.
He gets a nod in thanks, and the guy shuffles into the Human Resources office, giving Donghyuck at the reception a half-hearted wave.
“Hey!” Donghyuck exclaims when Jeno follows through the glass doors. “I heard you’re dating someone from the office.”
Jeno stares at him, brain a little slow to process information this early. “I- what? I’m not dating anyone.”
Donghyuck clasps his hands, resting his chin on them. Jeno is reminded of the cheetah attack he’d seen in a documentary once. Who knew watching National Geographic at 2 a.m. would prove useful at his actual job.
“All those stickies in the kitchen,” Donghyuck says, voice full of glee. “It’s adorable, we’re all waiting with bated breath for your next interaction.”
Now, Jeno has seen Renjun from Payroll eat instant coffee with a spoon. Everyone knows the tale of Lee Taeyong, Human Resources’ general manager, screaming into the couch cushions in front of reception for a solid minute. Right at this moment, though, Jeno wonders if administration even have any actual goddamn work to do.
“I’m not dating anyone,” Jeno says slowly. “Someone just seemed to like my coffee.”
“Wait,” Donghyuck breathes, eyes wide. “You don’t know who it is?”
Jeno rolls his eyes. “Of course I don’t, I’ve never met them. Wait- do you?”
Donghyuck’s grin is slow, purposeful and downright evil. “Nope. I’m not ruining this precious gift fate has bestowed upon me. This is grade A drama and I’m going to enjoy every last second.”
“Fuck you,” Jeno mutters. It’s too late for this anyway. The digital clock behind Donghyuck blinks 7:56 and Jeno has exactly four minutes to dump his stuff, boot up his computer and clock in. Not impossible but definitely not ideal for his early morning speed.
He doesn’t flip Donghyuck off because that would be unprofessional (and they have cameras) but he does roll his eyes one last time.
“Enjoy your coffee date today!” Donghyuck yells after him and, fuck it. Jeno turns around to flip him out after all.
It only serves to make Donghyuck laugh harder, unfortunately.
And because Donghyuck is the devil, really, Jeno only gets to go make himself a cup of coffee on his break. The hour and a half of work before that is… an experience.
It’s the thought of his special coffee hidden in a nice, fancy paper bag in his coat pocket that keeps him alive through it. (Possibly the note in his wallet, too. The possibility of another one. But no one has to know about that last one.)
When Jeno finally shuffles into the kitchen at 9:32, the first thing that sticks out is this: there’s no note. The coffee maker is a bit dusty, boring as ever - but most importantly, note-free. Jeno decides he’s definitely not disappointed.
He does an actual double take when he looks up and, hey. Is that a note stuck to the cupboard? It’s the one where they keep sugar, right above the coffee maker and Jeno wants to bang his head against that same cupboard. He blames the hour.
The note reads: Here because I don’t want someone to accidentally take it off the coffee maker ^o^ Thanks (again!) you truly are a gift to mankind!!!
And the hearts again. There’s only three this time and Jeno tries not to be disappointed about it. Of course, the note isn’t all that big and there is a lot of text.
He still tries extra hard with the coffee, though. When he takes out the pen he stashed in his pocket for this exact reason, Jeno considers how to reply. Each idea seems to be more ridiculous than the last one and by the time his coffee is done and he has a minute and a half to return to his desk, all Jeno has accomplished is a little mountain of crumpled papers.
In the end, he scribbles a quick Glad you’re enjoying it ^^ and sticks it straight on the pot. He grabs his own coffee and runs for his life (and paycheck).
By the time he realizes that hey, coffee is hot and the note probably has unstuck within seconds, Jeno’s computer is already on, logged in and all he has left is hope that whenever his mystery coffee-fan finds the coffee, he’d be more awake than Jeno was.
The new note, of course, finds its way into Jeno’s wallet as well. He puts it under the first one, though. He’s not over the reduced number of hearts quite yet.
When his lunch break rolls around, the logical course of action is for Jeno to go eat his takeout in the kitchen. Because he’s a responsible adult and does not eat at his workstation. Of course.
He ignores Yuta’s obnoxious eyebrow game the second Jeno picks up his box of chicken and heads for the door.
Yuta, never one to give up, yells a, “Say hi to your mystery date for me!” after him.
Jeno has never walked out faster in his life.
What he didn’t consider, though, is that reception is placed directly at the end of the hallway he has to cross to get from IT’s office to the kitchen. There must be a god somewhere, at least, because it seems Donghyuck is not at the desk right now. Jungwoo is in his place instead, and he waves at Jeno, giggling when Jeno’s leisurely stroll to the kitchen turns into a power walk. Donghyuck will definitely hear about this but Jeno is okay with that. Mostly because he won’t have to face the consequences for at least two more hours. Hopefully.
The kitchen is mostly empty despite the hour, save for Doyoung from Payroll scrolling through his phone in the corner. Jeno nods hi, then shuffles over to the counters, trying to look more curious than excited about the two post-its stuck on the cupboard right above the coffee machine.
“You’re the one that leaves coffee?” Doyoung asks and, well. So much for being inconspicuous.
Jeno turns around, trying not to feel guilty about being caught. There’s nothing to be guilty about, goddamn it. “Uh, yeah. Why?”
“Oh, nothing,” Doyoung shrugs except there’s this glint in his eyes that Jeno is not sure he appreciates. “I was just wondering who’s gotten- uh, a friend’s panties in a twist.”
“Wait,” Jeno says, his full attention now trained on Doyoung. “You know who it is too?”
“Who is what?” Doyoung asks, eyes wide and innocent. Jeno doesn’t believe him one bit. Kim Doyoung haunts the nightmares of each and every Payroll intern - Jeno’s heard them talk. There’s nothing innocent about him.
But the one thing Jeno has learned working in this office is to pick his battles - and this is definitely a lost one.
So he ignores Doyoung and the notes in favor of what’s left of his dignity and chooses the farthest possible corner to sit in.
It’s not a big kitchen - the farthest corner is not very far at all. Jeno can totally hear Doyoung trying and failing to contain a laugh. Jeno just hopes Doyoung’s lunch break will end before his own does.
Doyoung’s lunch does not, in fact, end before Jeno’s does.
It could be because higher ups can be a bit more flexible with their time but Jeno has a sneaking suspicion that Doyoung is prolonging his time in the kitchen just to fuck with him. He regrets ever making sort-of-friends with Renjun and, by extension, his supervisors.
In the end, Jeno just walks over to the cupboard, eyes glued to the floor, snatches the stickies without even looking at them and walks out as fast as the remnants of his pride will let him.
Doyoung’s laughter follows him out the door.
Jeno’s brain momentarily halts in its frantic wails of despair, fingers still clutching at the notes, when a group of three people pass him by in the hallway. Only one of them has a badge, coupled with the brightest smile Jeno has seen in all his twenty years of existence.
He does a double take when he realizes that - well. That’s the same half-dead guy from the elevator this morning. His eyes meet Jeno’s for a brief moment and he nods a greeting before he looks down, then back at the two girls with him. It’s almost surreal how different he is now, all sunshine and smiles, considering the girls with him are probably the next set of poor souls to be thrown at the collective customer-monster in one of the many projects they support.
Definitely Human Resources.
The poor kids will probably hand in their resignation letters before their trial period even ends but looking at the way HR guy is smiling at them, Jeno has zero doubt they’ll be convinced to start anyway.
Jeno shakes his head, smiling to himself. His own HR guy was a man named Moon Taeil who’s since become one of Human Resources’ managers. Jeno doesn’t see him a lot these days but there’s still this inexplicable warmth in his gut when he thinks of the first day he walked through the glass doors of floor seven.
HR guy laughs somewhere down the hall and Jeno is absolutely sure of one thing. If all else fails, the potential new hires will at least remember their HR guy.
Once in the safety of his workstation, Jeno finally lets go of the notes and gently straightens them out on his desk. Safety is a very relative term considering he’s working in an open office but hey, at least most of his coworkers are having their lunch? Or are somewhere on the floors - the number of tickets raised with random issues keep piling up in all their inboxes. There’s only Hyunjin typing away on her keyboard two desks over and she’s hopefully far enough not to notice the idiotic smile that probably graces Jeno’s features. It’s never fun to have just two people working but Jeno is happy to not be on floor duty, at least.
It definitely has nothing to do with the notes staring at him from his desk at the moment. Really.
The first note reads: Godsent!!! TT I can’t believe I exist in a world where someone would just leave coffee this good for others, out of the goodness of their heart.
Seriously, though! the next note continues as pointed out by the squiggly arrow in the corner of the note. I had a really shitty morning and you just made it all better!!! It’s a miracle what a good cup of coffee can do to a person, you’re my hero TT
And boy, are there hearts this time. All the space not occupied by words on the both note is filled with hearts. There are so many - Jeno loses count after ten or so.
It’s physically impossible to contain the smile on his face.
Chances are his opinion has been affected by the fact that he no longer has to experience it, but the twenty minutes spent under Doyoung’s mildly judgemental stare are totally worth it.
Jeno decides something is off when Moon Taeil, of all people, walks into IT’s office, gives Jeno a knowing grin and slaps a banknote on Yuta’s desk.
He’s not the first one today, far from it, but it’s not exactly unusual for people to just visit IT’s office instead of raising a ticket as per procedure. Yuta is also among the ones who usually cave in and try to help instead of redirecting them to said procedure’s guidelines so that doesn't ring any alarms either. Sure, Mark from Human Resources had seemed a bit shifty about it, but making Mark uncomfortable is sort of the whole floor’s favorite sport (and one Donghyuck in particular excels at).
Judging by the amount of Human Resources people in and out of the IT office today, either the entirety of Human Resources’ systems suddenly gave up on life or there’s something fishy about the whole situation. With Taeil’s visit, Jeno’s inclined to believe it might be the second option.
“Okay,” Jeno says, slamming his hands on Yuta’s desk (it hurts). “What’s going on?”
Yuta looks up from the wad of cash he’s counting. “What do you mean?”
“The...” Jeno flails, pointing at the money. “This?”
“Oh,” Yuta grins, slow and purposeful. “I’m running one of the betting pools on when you’re gonna realize who you’re writing love notes to.”
Jeno has a suspicious feeling his face is on fire. “One of the betting pools?”
“Yeah,” Yuta shrugs, finally putting the money away in his desk drawer. “Jungwoo from reception runs the pool on when you’re gonna start dating. I just don’t have that much faith in you.”
Honestly. People like sweet, kind Jungwoo and his betting pool are why Jeno has trust issues. For his own sake, he’s blaming Donghyuck for this. It’s probably Donghyuck’s fault somehow anyway.
“I’m choosing to ignore that last bit,” Jeno decides aloud. “Is this why Human Resources have been in and out all day?”
Yuta shrugs again, even though he seems to avoid eye contact. “They… don’t have a lot of faith either. Although,” he adds, grin back in place. “If it makes you feel better, I heard Doyoung from Payroll bet quite a bit with Jungwoo. So there’s that.”
Jeno’s potentially nightmare-inducing lunch flashes through his mind.
He fails to find a response that doesn’t involve screaming in Yuta’s face, more out of embarrassment than anything. In the end, he just gets back to his desk, puts his headphones on and prays time will somehow fold in on itself and make his shift end, like, right away.
(Needless to say, it doesn’t happen.)
Not only it doesn’t happen, but Jeno ends up on floor duty for the last two hours of his shift. It’s Dejun’s turn today but Yuta managed to spin a tale about how he really needs him in the office, really, and can Jeno take floor duty for a bit?ng
And what do you know, seems like the entirety of Human Resources’ systems did, in fact, give up on life. There are a grand total of thirteen tickets from them only.
They’re on the same floor so it would make sense for Jeno to go to them first but a lot of the tickets are things like “the program runs really slow” and “I need a screenshotting extension installed and it won’t allow me to do it”. Jeno marks them all low priority in his mind, then presses the button for the elevator because the poor souls working the floors below have actual issues that need to be fixed.
The doors ding, open, and Jeno almost runs into Mr Smiley from earlier. He apologizes profusely and rushes past him, walking with the pace of a man late for something. Jeno knows that pace very well.
He stares after the man, apparently a second too long. When his eyes travel back to the reception desk, both Jungwoo and Donghyuck have these matching, insufferable looks on their faces. Jeno, in turn, hurries into the elevator, smashing the close button as fast as he can. Because he’s running late, of course.
It takes a moment to realize the reason the elevator is not moving is because he never pressed the button for the floor he needs.
At least it wasn’t long enough for the doors to open back up. That would’ve been fun.
The ticket for one of the live chat projects turns out a rather messed up one. Jeno spends twenty minutes tinkering with the console under the horrified gaze of the girl who was just using it before he decides it’s best to just take it upstairs.
He explains the situation to their team leader - her name is apparently Jiwon but it’s Dejun who usually takes tickets to this particular project so a name is pretty much the only thing Jeno knows about her. She seems nice enough, though, waves the girl off to another workstation and sends Jeno on his way.
He texted Yuta earlier, giving him a quick summary of the issue. As it is, it’s very likely that he’d run late for the HR tickets or not make it there at all.
Jeno spends about a minute trying to reach the button for the elevator before a kid he’s not familiar with pushes it for him. There’s no visible badge on him and there’s this strain around his smile, too - Jeno remembers it very well.
“Is this going to be your first job?” he asks, watching as the kid presses the seventh floor button.
He startles, then looks up sheepishly. “Does it show that much? Oh sorry, which floor did you need?”
For a moment, Jeno contemplates trying to balance the console on one hand to wave him off. It’s a terrible idea, so he just tries to smile reassuringly instead. “It’s the same, don't worry. Also, not that much?”
“You're not a very good liar, you know.” the kid laughs. “But I appreciate it. Oh, my name is Jisung by the way.” Trying to bow in a rather small elevator, half-occupied by a computer console is not an easy task but Jisung sure tries his best. “I hope we get to work together.”
“Jeno,” Jeno replies but before he can say something along the lines of I’d love to but IT doesn't really get that much exposure to other departments- the doors ding. Jeno loses his train of thought because that one Human Resources guy is leaning against the reception desk, giving Donghyuck an annoyed look.
They both look up at Jeno and Jisung. The annoyed expression HR guy is sporting disappears so fast it’s like it was never there in the first place.
“Park Jisung, right?” He says, hurrying towards them. “You’re a bit late.”
“Ah, yeah, that’s why I called.‘ Jisung replies sheepishly. Is Jeno imagining things or is Jisung really trying to hide behind him and the console? “I kinda got lost on the train here. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay, we are kinda hard to reach. Shall we start the interview then?” HR guy beams at him and now it’s Jeno hiding behind the console. What?
They disappear down the hall to where the tiny conference rooms reserved for interviews and small-scale trainings are and Jeno turns to meet Donghyuck’s eyes.
Donghyuck aims the most shit eating grin at Jeno, and just as he opens his mouth to say something (undoubtedly something stupid)-
“Lee Jeno!” Yuta exclaims, flying out of the IT office. “Why are you not picking up your phone?”
“I was a little busy, as you see.” Jeno pointedly looks down at the console in his hands. He’s starting to feel the weight of it, so he tries to balance it on Donghyuck’s desk. The fact that it blocks Donghyuck from his field of vision is just… a bonus.
Yuta rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, give that to me. I’ll deal with it. You go fix stuff in HR’s office.”
“But-” Jeno tries, quickly shut up by Yuta picking up the console and heading off with a glare.
Without the console in the way, Jeno has full view of the smug look on Donghyuck’s face. He rolls his eyes, then heads for Human Resources, doing his best to ignore Donghyuck as a whole. As all things Donghyuck, it’s far from an easy task.
“Nooo, no, no, no, no,” Johnny says, as soon as Jeno opens the door to the HR office. “Don’t come now, you’re supposed to be here in, like, an hour. Or maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow would be even better.”
Jeno manages to grab onto someone’s desk before Johnny, quite literally, attempts to push him back out the door. “What the hell, Yuta just told me to come here,” he manages to wheeze out before pushing against Johnny’s frame with all the strength he can muster. He’s almost successful, too.
“Johnny Seo,” someone says and Johnny freezes, hands still on Jeno’s shoulders. Jeno turns to meet the eyes of his savior and, to his disdain, finds Moon Taeil smiling at them. “You’re not supposed to force the hand of fate. Or I might fire you.”
Johnny huffs. “Just because-”
But Jeno never gets to hear the end of that sentence, because Jung Jaehyun shoots up from his desk to slap a hand over Johnny’s mouth.
“Shut up, you dumbass,” he says, glancing in Jeno’s direction. “You’ll ruin everything.”
Jeno stares between the two of them for a few long, long seconds. “Do I even want to know?”
“What you want to do,” Taeil says conversationally, throwing a hand over Jeno’s shoulders, now Johnny-free, “is start working on those tickets. Right Jeno?”
“Sure, Mr Moon,” Jeno agrees. It’s a bit unnerving, this whole thing. But in the end, Taeil is right. He’s not getting paid to chit-chat.
“Oh please,” Taeil grins, the hand around Jeno’s shoulders squeezing a touch tighter. “Call me Taeil.”
As it quickly turns out, the Human Resources team is apparently quite… awkward with computers. Everyone seems to have some sort of an issue with their monitor, freezing systems or a spontaneously restarting computer.
Jeno marks one station as due for re-installing one of the systems but other than that everything seems to work just fine. He still has Taeil’s computer and another where the issue sounds like it could be an actual, existing one but so far - it feels an awful lot like a set-up.
Contrary to popular (Donghyuck’s) opinion, Jeno is not actually that dense. First the Johnny situation earlier, then Yuta’s determination to send Jeno off to requests he’d normally do himself, whether remotely or in person, because it’s literally two doors down the hall. The sheer amount of issues prone to the disappearance act on half the Human Resources team’s stations.
The betting pools seem to be a driving force on this floor and Jeno might have just stumbled upon the department his coffee friend works at. He throws a quick glance around the office, wondering if the person is there. It can’t be Johnny, unless he’s betting on himself. Which is entirely possible, but Jeno has to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Yukhei? Except he’s more likely to barge into the IT office and suffocate Jeno in person, rather than leave mysterious notes. It probably can’t be Mark either.
(Cute HR guy’s face flashes through his mind. Jeno wonders what he’s like.)
It takes Jeno approximately thirty seconds to realize a good part of Taeil’s woes can be resolved with things as simple as a cache clean up. The rest… simply don’t exist. Taeil swears up and down that his computer does this thing where it restarts the whole browser when he attempts to log into a certain system, which is the reason he escalated it as high importance in the first place. When Jeno gets him to do it, though, the system loads perfectly.
“Sorry about that,” Taeil says sheepishly, even though his expression is anything but apologetic. “I’m not great with the tech stuff, I could have done something wrong.”
“Of course,” Jeno replies, more exasperated than annoyed. Getting high importance tickets for the stupidest things is not all that rare even though most managers tend to weed out the ones which can be fixed remotely. Jeno hadn’t pegged Taeil for a tech illiterate manager but hey, you never know.
The next issue Jeno has to investigate is apparently a screen that goes black for extended periods of time. There are three tickets in total, the first two being marked as resolved before anyone from IT can get to them and the third simply stating “from time to time”.
Jeno is clicking around on the supposedly disaster station - so far nothing seems to be out of order. Especially nothing that would warrant three separate tickets. He’s contemplating just leaving it as it is, when someone clears their throat behind him.
“Hey,” the person says and Jeno almost does a double take when he looks up. It’s pretty HR guy. “This is my station?”
Jeno spends a few long, awkward seconds just staring. It’s a bit embarrassing. “Oh, hi! We’ve had a few tickets for this computer so I came to check it out. Don't worry, Taeil knows about you being logged off.” Pretty HR guy’s face lights up and Jeno feels like he should maybe shield his eyes. (Though going blind in the face of… that. It seems a worthy way to go.)
“Oh. Hi,” he replies, verbally this time. His voice sounds just as bright as his face looks. “My baby,” he pats the monitor gently, smiling to himself, and then to Jeno. “She seemed fine this morning and then started going off and on again. Sometimes she wouldn’t turn on at all, my coworkers had to write the tickets for me. We thought she’s gone for good but then the screen would light up like it was never off in the first place. But she hasn’t acted up for a few hours now?”
“Yeah, I can’t seem to find the issue either.” Jeno mumbles, biting back a smile. Cute HR guy is... Well, adorable.
The boy in question just blinks at him for a few moments. “I mean, the only thing I can think of is spilling a bit of coffee near the keyboard the other day but that can’t possibly be the cause.”
The entire office has gone strangely quiet and when Jeno looks away from the troublesome monitor, everyone is suddenly very busy.
When Jeno turns back to HR guy he finds him staring at his coworkers as well. He sighs, looking more apologetic by the second. “I’m sorry, my team has had this weird obsession with IT these past few days. They keep trying to get someone to ask you guys to come and I’m the youngest so I’m always a candidate. And there are a bunch of babies that have to be shown around!”
“Aw,” Jeno laughs. At least until Yuta’s shit eating grin crashes through his memories and ruins the atmosphere. “Yeah,” he says in the end. “My team has been a bit weird lately, too. More than usual, I mean.”
“Tell me about it.” HR guy laments. Then his expression clears once again, and suddenly that bright smile Jeno saw earlier is directed at him. “Oh, I’m Jaemin by the way, nice to meet you!”
Jeno briefly wonders just what Jaemin is doing in Human Resources. He could totally be in someone’s Sales department. Jeno, for one, would definitely buy anything Jaemin tried to sell him.
“Jeno,” he replies a beat too late. There’s an audible gasp somewhere to his right. Both he and Jaemin turn towards the sound, just to find all five people present in the office glued to their screens, unmoving. Belatedly, Mark unlocks his computer and starts typing. Jeno has heard enough typing in his lifetime to recognize the sound of a keysmash.
Jaemin is the first one to look away, somewhat exasperated. “Anyway, do you have a lot to do with my computer still? I need to print out some stuff before our newest hire completes his language test.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jeno scrambles to pick his stuff up and log off. “Wait, if he’s still doing the test how do you know he’s going to be our newest hire?”
Jaemin leans closer, expression hilariously serious. “HR superpowers.”
Whether it’s from surprise or the sheer personal attack that is Jaemin’s face up close, Jeno jumps back, dissolving into laughter. Jaemin joins him soon enough, and just like that, Jeno feels the long workday drain away from him. Behind him, the keysmashing is getting so loud that Jeno has to wonder if he’ll need to take a keyboard or two back to the office for repairs.
“Anyway,” Jeno says when the laughter dies down. “I’ll be going now, do your… whatever it is you people do.”
Jaemin rolls his eyes but the effect is lost because he’s still smiling. “Important stuff is what we do. Nice meeting you, Jeno.”
“Same,” Jeno replies with more bravado than he feels.
He glances one last time at Jaemin, who’s already in the far corner of the office, feeding blank paper to the printer.
Jaemin may or may not haunt all three minutes of Jeno’s walk back to IT. (The somewhat knowing looks from every single person he passes by go mostly unnoticed, even if unnerving.)
The remainder of his shift is rather uneventful and Jeno packs his things, waiting for his computer to turn off completely like the responsible employee that he is.
His plans to peek in the kitchen in case there are any new notes are completely ruined when he bumps into half of Payroll on his way out of the office. Doyoung raises an eyebrow at him as soon as Jeno lays eyes on the kitchen door. It’s hard to look away, which is probably why Jeno misses Renjun falling into step, then looping an arm around his. (He does not squeak.)
“I’ll have you know,” Renjun says without preamble, “that I’ve placed bets in both pools, so you better not waste my money Lee Jeno.”
Jeno is torn between being embarrassed and, well. “I really thought you were better than this.”
“Than money?” Renjun laughs, pointing at the badge around his neck. “Would I work where I work if I thought I’m better than money?”
Jeno rolls his eyes. There’s a more pressing matter than Renjun’s questionable life choices, though. They’ve almost reached the kitchen at this point, and by Renjun’s self-satisfied grin they both know what Jeno really wants to do.
Actually checking for notes would be admitting defeat, very publicly.
But Jeno is off for the next two days and what if his coffee friend decides he’s ignoring them-
Five steps past the door Jeno extracts himself from Renjun’s loose grip, backtracks and slips into the kitchen before he has the chance to meet any pair of judging eyes, whoever they may belong to.
There are no new notes anywhere - on the cupboards, on the coffee maker. Jeno does his best to check the floor as well, without looking like he’s actually checking the floor. Stickies are nowhere to be found, though. Logically, it makes sense. Fancy coffee results in notes and Jeno hasn’t made it after this morning, so it wouldn’t make sense for the mystery coffee lover to lay their love on him.
It’s about the coffee, but the notes have made Jeno’s days brighter, sweeter, and the pang of disappointment is not something he can fight. He decides to at least wait out the stream of people going home while he’s here. The bus he has to take home goes every fifteen minutes and there’s a good chance he’ll miss it. Then again, it’s the height of summer and the day is still warm and bright, even at 5 p.m. Walking a bit further doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
Jeno stares at the cupboard, void of any notes for once, when it hits him.
He never replied to the lunch notes. What if his coffee fan decides he’s rude? Or too arrogant to respond. What if the hearts stop?
Jeno frantically pats his pockets, but just as expected, the stack of sticky notes must still be on his desk, unaware of just how much Jeno needs it at this very moment.
Definitely not enough to walk all the way back to the office, though. There are still people outside. Yuta still has an hour of his shift left. They’ll know.
So Jeno does the next best thing - he pulls out a napkin from the generic white ones they keep around the kitchen. There’s a pen lying around, at least. Small mercies.
It takes a few napkins bunched up on their way to the thrash can before Jeno ends up with something eligible.
It says: You’re so sweet ;; I’ll gladly share my coffee if it makes you happy :)
Jeno considers it for a few seconds, then tacks a heart at the end for good measure. He traps the napkin between the cupboard’s doors so it hangs over the coffee maker like a tiny flags.
The note gets cringier each time Jeno looks at it, so he decides not to look at it altogether. It’s embarrassing, absolutely, but if he’s being honest, so are the stickies from his coffee fan. And they make Jeno so happy - it’s only fair he tries to return the favor.
Not having to come back to work for the next two days definitely helps too.
It doesn’t take long after that for the sound of footsteps to die down. Everyone is eager to go home or just be done for the day and Jeno can’t say he blames them. No one comes in the kitchen either, not when the idea of actual food and decent coffee is a real possibility, not just a mid-shift fever dream.
Jeno sighs and gets ready to finally follow up on the idea himself. Reception is already empty, Donghyuck usually among the first ones to leave. Jungwoo should be somewhere around but what’s important is that, right now, he’s not there to embarrass Jeno further.
Someone else is, though.
“Hey Jeno,” Jaemin rushes out of the Human Resources office, a stack of papers in hand. He dumps them on the inside of the reception desk and pings the door open before Jeno has the chance to. “Going home?”
“Yeah. I had some things to finish up,” Jeno lies. He’s not thrilled about it but admitting the truth - I hung around the kitchen sulking and also panicking - is a lot harder to admit.
“Same here,” Jaemin sighs. When the elevator doors ding open, he motions for Jeno to go in first. “I would've probably finished early, actually, if my stupid team didn't do their best to bother me every two seconds.”
Jeno laughs. “Tell me about it. One of my team leaders is currently running a betting pool about my personal life.”
It’s embarrassing to admit out loud but at the same time, it seems like the whole floor is in on it. At the very least, Jeno has the right to complain about it.
If Jaemin was a cartoon character, his eyebrows would probably be up in his hairline.“That’s kinda harsh. Would it be okay to ask what it’s about?”
“Sure,” Jeno shrugs. The whole office can see the notes anyway. The betting pools are dumb, both of them, and so far Jaemin doesn't seem like someone who’s part of them. “See, I got some sort of fancy coffee as a gift a few days back and I’ve been… kind of sharing with someone from the office? The betting pool is about when I’ll actually find out who it is.”
There’s no force in hell that would make Jeno admit to the existence of Jungwoo’s betting pool.
The doors open to the ground floor and Jeno steps out but when he turns to Jaemin, he’s gone pale as a ghost.
There must be something in Jeno’s eyes, because Jaemin snaps out of it and hurries to follow Jeno out. “What… what do you mean sharing?”
“Oh.” Jeno should’ve expected that. Admitting to the notes is almost as hard as admitting to the second betting pool but, then again, he has nothing to be embarrassed about. They’re just notes. (Hopefully his face doesn’t look as on fire as he feels.) “I made too much the first time I used the fancy coffee? So I just left it there, and apparently someone really enjoyed it.”
“I… see,” Jaemin trails off. “Didn’t you figure out the dosage after that though?”
This admission thing is getting a bit out of hand. Part of Jeno wishes they’d part already. Jaemin is really nice, sure, but facing the more questionable decisions of his life is not Jeno’s favorite pastime.
“I mean, yeah,” he says eventually, avoiding Jaemin’s eyes. “But they seemed very excited about it, so I just kept brewing more on purpose.”
“That’s pretty sweet of you,” Jaemin replies, and Jeno may not be looking at him but the smile in his voice is almost audible. “Don’t you want to find out who it is, though?”
It’s something Jeno has asked himself a few times already, especially after the whole betting pool thing happened. And the answer he comes to each time is-
“I don’t know?” He shrugs. “I’d love to meet them, obviously. But the mystery is fun and all the notes make me happy. I guess I’m worried they’d end up someone not that nice in real life?”
“And what if they’re super nice,” Jaemin says, and the amount of eagerness in his voice is somewhat startling.
Jeno shrugs again. “Then I’d love to meet them, probably. It’s not my decision alone, you know?”
Jaemin stays quiet for beat too long. “I guess you’re right.”
They’re almost at the bus stop already and Jeno can see a bus taking off just as they reach it. Thankfully it’s not Jeno’s, and even better, his is just turning the corner. He hopes the one that left wasn’t Jaemin’s either.
“Anyway,” Jeno says, when they finally reach the bus stop. “This is me. It was really nice meeting you, again.”
“Same,” Jaemin echoes Jeno’s words from earlier. He looks conflicted and Jeno waits for him to continue.
Except he doesn’t, and the bus arrives way too fast. Jeno halts at the bus steps, earning himself a glare from the driver, but Jaemin just waves goodbye, says a See you tomorrow! and the doors are closed.
Jeno misses the chance to tell him he’s not working tomorrow. Or the day after.
(He also misses Jaemin walking all the way back to their building, then to the parking lot. Jeno’s seat on the bus blocks the path to their office building but it does show the second bus halting to a stop right after they take off. He hopes it’s Jaemin’s - the sliver of guilt for just leaving him there or worse, wasting his time, still haunts Jeno’s consciousness.)
Jeno’s first day off is rather uneventful.
He greets the day at noon, because no work means there’s no common sense stopping him from gaming until the wee hours of the morning. (Not that common sense is all that successful when there is work, but that’s another thing entirely.)
He contemplates attempting to cook for approximately three seconds before he ends up picking his phone up to order something instead. There’s a reason his homepage is full of shortcuts to take out places.
Waiting for food to arrive is never a fun experience, so Jeno tries to drown out the impatience by raiding the #cats tag on Instagram.
He has the notifications off for most of his social media and really, the fact that he’s already on Instagram is the only reason he sees Donghyuck’s message as fast as he does.
It contains a single picture.
Of a note.
Jeno’s heart skips a beat as he zooms the picture, trying to figure out if it's really… one of his notes, instead of something potentially rigged by Donghyuck. But that’s definitely their kitchen’s boring brown cabinets, grainy from the zooming but still very recognizable. There’s the edge of the worn out handle peeking from one corner of the shot, too.
When Jeno finally brings himself to look at the actual text, skipping a beat is a thing of the past. In fact, it seems his heart is trying to beat its way out if his chest instead.
The note says:
Aww you're so sweet! ^o^
There are hearts too, a lot of them, but that’s not why Jeno is currently experiencing the beginnings of an existential crisis.
It’s because unlike all the notes so far, this one is signed.
Jeno wastes no time texting Donghyuck back.
is this real?????? you didn't make this up did you?????
Donghyuck’s reply is almost instantaneous.
Bold of you to assume I have the time or energy to spend on sth this elaborate
Besides, if I wanted to make fun of you I cld just show you a mirror or sth
Jeno chooses to ignore the second message for the sake of his own sanity. He’s too preoccupied trying to calm the whirlwind of emotions taking residence in his gut. It feels a little like butterflies, except maybe the butterflies are rabid. Or mutants. Rabid, mutant butterflies sounds about right.
In a fit of something that feels suspiciously a lot like hysteria, Jeno remembers telling Jaemin he doesn’t know if he wants to learn who’s behind the notes. It was true then, too. Except now that the metaphorical carrot is being dangled in front of Jeno’s face - everything is different. The realization hits him like a freight train. It’s a real person, someone has written all those notes in Jeno’s wallet with their own two hands. Jeno’s source of happiness for the past few days exists in real life, has a real name and Jeno is a goddamn liar for ever claiming he doesn’t want to know what that name is.
It takes a moment for Jeno’s mess of emotions to settle. Once he’s no longer ready to fling himself out the window out of sheer excess energy, Jeno is left with a weird sense of calm. And a decision.
He’s going to find out who Nana is.
There’s only one issue: while he’d never admit it out loud, Jeno is a big, fat coward. A part of him bursts in fireworks each time he thinks about his newfound goal in life, except actually meeting this Nana person? Talking?
Jeno tries to imagine how that first conversation is going to go. “Hi, I’m the one who’s been leaving coffee for you?” A violent cringe attack eats him from the inside just at the thought of it.
In the end, the plan is this: Jeno is going to find out who Nana is. For his own sake, Nana will not find out who Jeno is.
Figuring out a plan proves to be a lot easier than putting it into action, however. Jeno is aware he can’t reach the goal alone. He doesn’t know this person. Obviously.
So in comes option one: he could use his IT access to gain information. It would be the faster way, definitely, but it would also be against so many company policies that Yuta wouldn’t hesitate to throw him out on his ass if he so much as opened his mouth about it. Even if it meant Yuta winning the entire betting pool. And Jeno likes his job. So option one is off the table.
Option two is, well. People. Jeno is not exactly ecstatic about using a lot of people for this (read: anyone other than himself) but unless he does his own sleuthing, Jeno is lost.
And his own sleuthing would withoug a doubt alert the entire office building, not merely his floor, that Lee Jeno from IT has gone stupid for a few sticky notes. Jeno isn’t too keen on being the star of gossip on a company-wide level.
Option two is definitely the lesser evil and Jeno has the perfect person for the job.
The obvious choice for this would be Donghyuck or even Jungwoo. Reception people always know everything about everyone and Jeno doesn't have a single doubt that both of them are perfectly aware who he’s been exchanging notes with. Reception is also peak gossip spot, though, and with the betting pools and everything... information will come at a cost. Jeno is not willing to pay that cost.
So he goes for the next best thing: Wong Yukhei.
While crazy smart, Yukhei tends to be a bit of an airhead in that endearing way that makes you wanna, like, cuddle him. Like a puppy. The point is, Yukhei is pretty much everyone’s friend, going as far as befriending the cleaning ladies and the nightshift guard. Who he shouldn't even have contact with because Payroll have no night shifts. Not even semi-nights. But this is the power of Wong Yukhei: he knows everyone.
“Nana? Who’s Nana?” Yukhei says in the receiver and just like that, Jeno’s grand plan crumbles into a pile of pathetic pile of dust.
“Nevermind,” Jeno sighs, “I’ll-”
“Oh, you’re Nana?” Yukhei interrupts. “I didn't know!”
Jeno’s heartbeat suddenly feels strangely close to his throat. He’s about to beg for Yukhei to continue - or maybe just ask politely, because he’s not desperate (really) but there’s some rustle and a new voice fills Jeno’s ears.
It takes a moment for him to place it but once he does, the excitement drains out of him within seconds.
“Did you really think it’ll be this easy, Jeno?” Renjun says evenly. There's the sound of steps, then a door being closed. “The stakes are getting high and I’ll be damned if I let you ruin my bets with something as dumb as socialization.”
“This… Is not fair,” Jeno ends up saying, because what’s he supposed to say, really? Fuck you, Huang Renjun? They’d probably never find his body.
“Life is not fair.” is Renjun’s condescending reply before the line cuts off.
Jeno sighs. It was worth a try, at least.
Thankfully, the feeling of hopelessness lasts about as long as it takes the delivery guy to ring Jeno’s doorbell. Soon enough he’s fed, fully awake and determined. He’s going to find out who Nana is if it’s the last thing he does on this Earth.
(He really hopes it’s not actually the last thing he does on Earth, though. Living can be a lot of fun, sometimes.)
It really can’t be that hard to find out who Nana is, Jeno decides on his way to work two days later. His coworkers found out soon enough. Jeno is not less capable. He can totally find Nana’s identity himself.
What he is, though, is distracted. A glaring proof: he just walked into someone’s (rather broad, wow) back while walking inside the building, subsequently crashing them into one of the glass doors while the second one slams into Jeno’s shoulder.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” Jeno starts before he even looks up. He doesn’t want to because at least a dozen people have their eyes trained on him at this very moment. Except-
“That’s one way to wake myself up, I guess,” a voice says and Jeno’s world crumbles down.
Of course, of course one of Jeno’s most mortifying experiences in public, at work has to involve his newest, devastatingly hot friend.
Jeno takes a few steps back, not quite meeting Jaemin’s eyes, and holds the glass door open for him. “I’m really sorry,” he repeats, brain short circuiting for a hot second. Then there’s a hand looped around his and Jeno finds himself being led up the stairs, instead of the stuffy elevator.
And then, like the bright, 8 a.m. sun wasn’t enough, Jaemin’s bright smile fills up his vision.
“Stop saying you’re sorry,” Jaemin tuts, reaching around to rub at Jeno’s shoulder. “Are you okay? That slam sounded pretty bad.”
It didn’t. The door has a mechanism that prevents it from slamming shut. Really, the only reason it slammed into Jeno was because he was too busy thinking about the Nana person to watch where he’s going, consequently trying to squeeze himself through a door that was definitely not open wide enough for two people.
“I’m fine,” Jeno says in the end. It doesn’t seem like Jaemin is mad at him. He’s not making fun of him either, which, frankly, throws Jeno for a loop. He would’ve definitely made fun at someone who slammed into someone else, then got themselves hit by a door.
The frown is audible in Jaemin’s voice. “It’s really okay. I don’t even think anyone noticed.”
“You don’t think anyone noticed,” Jeno repeats, mortification momentarily forgotten in favor of staring at him. It’s sweet that Jaemin wants to make him feel better but it’s also kind of hilarious. Everyone saw.
Jaemin seems a bit sheepish, now that Jeno is finally looking at him. “I mean, it wasn’t... that bad?”
“Literally every single person in that parking lot was looking at us,” Jeno points out, laughter bubbling out of him amongst the embarrassment. “You’re very sweet, though. Thanks.”
“Always,” Jaemin beams, turning the corner to yet another flight of stairs. Three floors down, the metallic number on the wall tells them. Four more to go.
Jeno may be a bit dramatic but it feels a little like he’s climbing a mountain. An endless, deadly mountain, filled with Jaemin-shaped obstacles. “Remind me again why are we taking the stairs?” he asks, desperately trying to cover up the fact he’s out of breath already.
Jaemin blinks at him, the picture of innocence. Somehow Jeno doesn’t buy it for a second. “Because the elevators had an actual queue? And I guess I felt like starting my day with something nice to look at, for a change.”
Something… nice? The sun is bright and the stairwell is lined with huge glass windows which is nice. Except, a part of Jeno won’t stop screaming You’re being flirted with, dumbass.
Which- Jeno is not sure how to feel about that, honestly.
(He knows what he wants to do about it, though: scream. Maybe flail a bit for good measure. On the inside, like the sensible adult he so rarely is.)
“Valid point, I guess,” Jeno mumbles, a beat too late.
Jaemin doesn’t respond, instead pushes close to him out of the blue. Jeno has about half a second to freak out about it before the person Jaemin was making space for passes them by. When her footsteps fade down the stairs Jaemin puts some distance between them again. Is it Jeno’s imagination or is that distance smaller than it was before?
“Of course it’s a valid point,” Jaemin laughs. “I get great company and breathing space all at the cost of a little exercise.”
Jeno laughs in return, refusing to acknowledge the breathlessness in his own voice. “I don’t know if I'd be willing to pay that cost, honestly.”
“But you are?” Jaemin points out, nudging his side. They’re almost at their floor already and Jeno reaches for his badge to ping them in, except Jaemin already has his in his hand.
Inside, Donghyuck, who’s unfortunately on shift again, zeroes in on their linked hands like a hawk. Jeno startles, rushing to disentangle himself from Jaemin. He takes a few steps back too, just in case.
Donghyuck’s eyes just narrow further.
“So,” he greets them. “You two know each other, huh?”
“Yeah,” Jaemin says carefully. Jeno wonders what’s with the wariness all of a sudden. “We met because my station kept randomly turning on and off last week. Imagine that.”
Donghyuck’s eyes widen for a fraction of a second, before his expression is neutral again. “Maybe it was a temporary bug or something?”
Jaemin nods. “Maybe. It happens.”
Jeno has the distinct feeling he’s missing something, except neither of them continue the conversation.
“Anyway,” he says in the silence that follows, two pairs of eyes suddenly trained on him. He resists the urge to shudder. “I have to go log in now. See you later!”
He doesn’t wait for any of them to reply. He’s not sure who the words were addressed to, anyway.
Once within the relative safety of his own desk, Jeno decides it’s time to figure out his plan of action.
He’d done some of that at home, of course, but things don’t always work out like you want them to when your free time depends on the free time of five to ten different people at any given moment.
Case in point: he was actually supposed to make coffee before work. Then The Door Incident happened, subsequently followed by The Staircase Incident and, frankly, Jeno completely forgot about his plan under the onslaught of hot coworker attention. Even if he didn’t, though, with all the delays he’d barely gotten to his computer on time, let alone getting the spare few minutes needed to utilize the shared coffee maker.
So now Jeno is slouched in his chair, clicking through the tickets piled up overnight and considering his options.
It’ll have to be during his break. It worked the last few times, even though Jeno didn’t plan it then and Human Resources only have day shifts anyway. Thinking about it now, even without the ticket fiasco, Jeno would’ve still figured out the right department eventually. The only team on the floor that really does late or night shifts is Jeno’s and none of his direct coworkers are capable of being this sweet (to him, at least). That leaves Payroll people as potential suspects as well but… Jeno likes to think fate doesn’t take him for that much of a masochist.
Shift times aside, there’s a good chance that mystery coffee person is actually off today. It’s highly improbable that their shifts align this well, this long. But Jeno is nothing if not an optimist.
(There’s another option, too: one that Jeno doesn’t like to consider because brings out emotions he’d rather not think about. It’s entirely possible that Nana seeks out Jeno’s coffee regardless of break time.)
Regardless of all the variables, he’s convinced of one thing: contact will happen today. And Jeno will be prepared.
Contact does not, in fact, happen.
Jeno spends his entire break loitering around the kitchen, making sure to leave the coffee brewing for last to maximize Nana’s chances for at least somewhat fresh coffee. He has prepared a thermos, too, which… doesn't benefit his plan, not really. Nana has been fine with potentially cold coffee so far and there isn't any logical reason for this to change now.
So Jeno can't explain the existence of the thermos or the fact that he’s pouring the entire pot of coffee in it, not just the leftovers.
He doesn’t exactly get to think about it, though, because the harder part is next: the note. You see, Jeno’s spent quite some time trying to come up with a note that will result in maximum cooing from mystery coffee person but also minimum teasing from whoever else sees it. When he sticks the, Aw, we’re on a name basis now. Cute! on the cupboard above the coffee maker, it feels like victory. As an afterthought, he sticks a I hope the coffee hasn’t gotten cold already :< right under it.
Except… his break passes. He’s made sure to be on floor duty today and checks the kitchen on the way out and back to the office every single time, except each of them so far has ended in disappointment. His note is still right where he left it and a reply is nowhere to be seen. The coffee is still there, too.
With each peak into the kitchen Jeno’s excitement about The Nana Plan (as he’s dubbed it in his head) dwindles more and more. Donghyuck’s knowing glances and not-very-well-concealed snorts of laughter each time don’t help at all.
On his last trip back to the office before he goes on lunch, Jeno decides he’ll allow himself one last peak. Which proves to be a great idea because there’s finally, finally some development: the coffee is gone.
The note is gone, too, and Jeno makes sure to throw a quick glance at the floor, the counters around the coffee maker, even the surrounding cupboards. There’s no note. There’s no answer either.
Jeno can feel the last shreds of excitement about The Nana Plan fading into oblivion and tries to tell himself he’s not, in fact disappointed. It almost works.
He decides to take his lunch outside, for a change. With the notes situation he’s been spending a lot of time in the kitchen but even before that, eating outside was rarely ever something Jeno felt compelled to do. Then again today has been… a rollercoaster, of sorts. Fresh air sounds like a great idea right now.
There’s a queue at the cafeteria and it takes approximately ten seconds for Jeno to decide he’s not up for that. Not at all. So he hops over to the gas station across the road, picks up an sandwich and passes by the tables outside in favor of the gazebo on the other side of the building. It’s a pretty popular place usually, except it’s prime lunch hour right now - most people are in the cafeteria, having real lunch.
So Jeno sits down with his sandwich and tries to ignore the overwhelming smell of cigarettes wafting out of the trash bin in the middle of the gazebo. He has a cup of tasteless, overpriced coffee from the gas station too - partly because he used up all the fancy coffee he brought today already but also because… well. A cup of shitty coffee seems like a fitting addition to his failure of a day.
Unfortunately for Jeno, the relative relative privacy of the gazebo is broken approximately five minutes later, when Donghyuck crushes it under his designer boots. He’s dragging a reluctant Mark behind him as well and for a second, Jeno almost feels bad.
But the second fades pretty fast, because in the hand that isn’t squeezed in Donghyuck’s death grip, Mark has a thermos.
One Jeno recognizes very well.
“Hey Jeno, having lunch?” Donghyuck greets, louder than usual. It barely registers in Jeno’s brain though.
Mark’s eyes follow Jeno’s, trained on the thermos in his hand. He rushes to hide it behind his back, which finally brings Jeno back to the present. “Hey.” Mark mumbles, sheepish.
“Hi, yeah, lunch.” Jeno says, fighting against the sudden sense of doom settling in his gut.
He doesn’t know Mark all that well - not more than the average person working on the seventh floor for more than a few months, anyway.
You see, Mark seems like a good guy. He’s always ready to help and can even be funny sometimes. Not to mention that teasing him is half of the floor’s favorite pastime.
So really, Jeno has no business feeling as disappointed as he does. Except he does.
“Great!” Donghyuck exclaims, tugging at Mark’s wrist again. “We have to get going now, I just wanted to say hi.”
In an attempt to avoid Mark’s eyes, Jeno shifts around, finally focusing on a confused Jaemin looking around at their building’s entrance. Jeno can’t see far enough to make out his features but there’s no doubt in his mind that this is, in fact, Jaemin. He spots them soon enough, stops in his tracks, then waves. Jeno thinks Jaemin would be smiling, if he could actually see his expression. He waves back and finally turns to Donghyuck again, except both him and Mark are gone already. Jeno turns back to Jaemin just in time to see him turn the corner towards the tables outside the cafeteria.
Without the distraction, Jeno has nothing to stop him from thinking about… everything. He got his wish - the Nana project was successful.
Then why does he feel even worse than before?
Yuta is a later shift today, already at his desk when Jeno returns from lunch. He seems strangely gloomy, considering the last time Jeno saw him he was literally counting money whilst whistling to himself.
Jeno doesn’t exactly feel ready to admit he knows (and he’s not sure Mark does, anyway) but watching Yuta like that is just sad.
“Stop looking like that, your pool thing might work out sooner than you thought,” he comments, making sure to keep his tone as light as possible.
Still, Yuta’s eyes snap up at him. If looks could kill, Jeno is positive he would’ve been dead on the ground already. “My bet passed two days ago,” Yuta says evenly. “Seems like I had too much faith in you after all.”
It’s an insult. Jeno knows it is, but the hint of guilt in his gut doesn’t seem to get the memo. “Maybe you could bet on the other pool too?”
That will fail too, but Jeno doesn’t feel the need to mention that fact. Mark is cool but not like that. Hopefully Jeno will be off the day Yuta learns this.
“Zero faith, remember?” Yuta rolls his eyes. “Like hell I’m signing up for losing more money than I already did.”
Now Jeno feels offended. Yuta is right - he would lose the money because Jeno has zero desire to date Mark. But knowing this doesn’t help the sting to Jeno’s pride one bit.
“It’s your own fault for betting on someone’s private life,” Jeno bites out. He’s not sure where the malice in his voice comes from and Yuta seems just as startled by it.
He seems like he wants to apologize, too, but Jeno waves him off before he even opens his mouth. Instead, Jeno gets back to his desk, headphones on as soon as his ass touches the chair.
(He wishes Nana would’ve been someone else. Someone that makes Jeno feel comfortable around them. Someone easy to talk to. Flirty, even. Someone more… like Jaemin. But the memory of stupid thermos in Mark’s hand is vivid and unforgettable and there’s nothing Jeno can do about it.)
Jeno’s shifts end up switched to semi-nights for the rest of the week because Dejun is apparently sick, Hyunjin does night school and can only have full nights or no nights at all. And the rest of the team… Jeno is not entirely sure what their excuse is. He has a sneaking suspicion the switch is at least partly payback for snapping at Yuta earlier. He has no proof, though. Or the desire to find it, for that matter.
They do ask, of course. The email is worded rather nice, highlighting how Jeno’s sacrifice now will be greatly appreciated, even if not rewarded in any other way.
Frankly, Jeno doesn’t care enough to say no.
He ends up spending his second break on his desk, ignoring the curious glances in his direction. There are quite a few of them, too.
Five can’t come soon enough. The moment the clock on his computer turns 17:00 Jeno logs off, shuts down his computer and bolts out the door. He’s more than ready for this day to be over.
But because this is his life - he bumps into Jaemin on the way to the elevator, again.
“Hey,” Jaemin greets carefully, pinging the door open for both of them. Jeno grins in reply, fighting the weird sense of deja vu that wasn’t there two seconds ago.
There’s also the fact that his mood is suddenly way better. He decides not to look into it too much. “How was your shift?” He asks instead because work, at least, is safe.
“I hate everything,” Jaemin sighs, glancing back to the waiting area in front of reception, down to where Jeno knows his own office is located. But the IT office is apparently not what Jaemin is sighing about. “I’m training an intern,” he clarifies. The elevators pings and he waits for Jeno go in before he does. “I think you saw him? Jisung. He’s crazy smart and adorable, but apparently he bonded with Payroll’s new intern during induction and now I have to drag him away from this Chenle kid each time they’re unsupervised for more than ten minutes at a time.”
“You could always fire him,” Jeno suggests, biting back a twinge of regret. Jisung had seemed nice the other day. Being nice doesn’t earn your paycheck, though.
Jaemin waves him off. “Nah, it’s not actually that bad, I’m just being dramatic. I’m pretty sure Renjun from Payroll is trying to ruin my life on purpose, anyway.”
Yuta’s face flashes through Jeno’s mind. “If it makes you feel better,” he says aloud, “my shifts got switched to semi-nights for the foreseeable future, possibly for the same reason.”
Jaemin gives him a questioning look, and Jeno shrugs in turn. “Remember the betting pools? I guess my manager lost and is now salty about it. I may or may not have snapped at him.”
“The betting pools!” Jaemin exclaims, almost bumping into the elevator door on his way out. “How’s your note thing going? Sucks about the nights, though,” he adds as an afterthought.
Jeno has a sharp retort ready, except what comes out of his mouth is, “I kinda found out who the other person is?”
Jaemin stops in his tracks, almost running into the sliding doors of their way out of the building. The look he gives Jeno is full of barely concealed terror. “You did?”
“Yeah,” he admits, holding the side door open for Jaemin. The door brings memories, but it seems like the safer bet right now. “He’s from your team, you probably know him.”
“I do?” Jaemin parrots. He seems torn between terrified and confused but is looks like the terror is winning again.
Jeno decides to just get it over with. “Mark. Although I’m really not sure where that Nana thing comes from.”
“Mark.” Jaemin repeats. The terror is gone now, entirely replaced by confusion and Jeno’s about to comment on it, except Jaemin continues with, “and what makes you think it’s Mark?”
Jeno really should’ve thought this through before opening his mouth. “I, uh. Remember how I said I leave coffee for this person? I kinda saw it in Mark’s hands afterwards?”
Jaemin nods, expression clearing a bit. “Okay but, how do you know it was your coffee?”
“I put it in a thermos for them, okay!” Jeno exclaims. It feels like his face is on fire. “I didn’t want it to go cold or something, and I wasn’t sure what shift they have. Even if they’re working, actually.”
“Maybe they would’ve come in just for the coffee, even if they were off.” Jaemin suggests. He’s gone strangely quiet all of a sudden and that Jeno chooses not to comment on.
“I don’t think Mark would do that, honestly,” he laughs.
Jaemin frowns in turn. “You sound happy about this. About it being Mark?”
“I’m… I wouldn’t say happy,” Jeno admits. “I mean, Mark’s great? But at the same time, I kinda expected someone different?”
Jeno really hopes he won’t come to an office wide IT - Human Resources feud tomorrow. In-office relationships can be a tricky thing to navigate and you never know when your words will be twisted in front of someone else. Ever since he met Jaemin, however, he’s been pretty calm about the whole notes thing, about… everything. For some inexplicable reason, Jeno trusts him.
Jaemin stays quiet for a few long, long moments. They’re almost at Jeno’s stop now. “Who did you expect then?”
You, Jeno’s brain screams. Probably his face too. He resists the urge to cover it with his hands. Out loud, Jeno says. “I don’t know?”
Thankfully, his bus’ arrival saves him from the rest of the conversation. Jeno yelps out a goodbye then rushes to get on, trying his best not to look like he’s running away. Which he’s not.
Jaemin waves him off as the bus takes off, a smile on his face that wasn’t there a few minutes ago. None of the confusion and horror are there either, and Jeno feels strangely relieved about it. He tries not to dwell on it too much, though.
It has been a while since Jeno has had a late shift and most of the people with badges riding the bus on the way to work are unfamiliar. He’s not exactly looking forward to spending the better part of his night stuck at work but hey, at least he had the day? Even if he slept through most of it.
He decidedly ignores the kitchen on his way to the office, ignoring Donghyuck’s teasing looks. It’s probably shitty of him to leave Mark hanging like that. But Mark did get the coffee yesterday and left him on read, in a way. Jeno doesn’t exactly feel like checking for notes anyway.
“Have you been to the kitchen today?” Yuta asks instead of a hello, the second Jeno steps through the door.
Jeno dumps his bag next to his desk. “Nope.”
He can hear Yuta’s raised eyebrow. “And are you planning to?”
“Nope,” Jeno repeats, not even looking back. His do-not-dwell policy applies especially hard on this particular decision.
Yuta huffs. “You’re impossible.”
Jeno wants to reply, except - Yuta is his team leader. Whatever he replies with will most likely not be something you should be saying to your team leader.
What’s important is that Yuta, along with Jeno’s whole team for that matter, leaves him alone for the time being.
Jeno is perfectly content with that.
He manages to get through the entire shift without once entering the kitchen. It’s not that hard - he didn’t spend all that long in there pre-coffee and eating on his desk is easier, anyway.
Jeno watches his coworkers trickle away, one by one. First the early shifts, then the later ones. And then he’s alone with Hyunjin who has a full night and frankly, Jeno has no idea how she survives, given that she apparently has classes the next day, too.
The numbers of his digital clock finally hit 02:00 and Jeno stretches in his chair, so ready to go home and spend the rest of the night buried in games.
The shift may end at two but the best thing about nights is that going home does not rely on scheduled transport. Once Jeno gets to the first floor, the receptionist will call him a cab which the company will then pay for. So Jeno doesn’t worry about getting down on time, doesn’t rush out like he normally does after his day shifts. The seventh floor is empty at this time and Hyunjin looks up from her game to wave goodbye. Jeno feels a bit bad for her - it’s never fun to have the full night shift. The novelty of being the only person on the floor wears off quite fast.
There’s no one around, there are no distractions. Even if there were, though, Jeno feels like he would’ve still done a double take at the sight of the glass door leading out to the elevator.
Because there is a note.
It’s pink and the handwriting is so familiar Jeno feels a rush of excitement before his stupid, irrational feelings kick in.
It reads: Follow me. -Nana <3
Jeno’s heart skips a beat before his brain helpfully supplies him with the image of Mark Lee, slouched over his desk and writing the note. The excitement dims a little but what the hell. Mark is great and Jeno is a dumbass. At the very least, Mark deserves a chance with whatever he has planned.
(At two in the morning. Jeno’s pretty sure Mark is off for the next few days, at least. He’d feel terrible if Mark stayed up on a work night for him while Jeno has the audacity to be an asshole about it.)
Jeno pings the door open, eyes trained on another note, stuck right above the button for the elevator.
He has the inexplicable desire to take a picture of it - because holy shit, that’s adorable. (He does take the picture.) This note instructs him to take the elevator down to the underground parking and Jeno barely has time to think about how creepy it all is, before a new note catches his eyes.
It’s inside the elevator, next to the -1 button. It says: I realize how weird this sounds but I’m not a serial killer, I promise! You feed me coffee, after all. ^o^
This one doesn’t have a heart at all and Jeno sulkily pushes it behind all the others in his wallet. Would you look at that, seems like the whole Nana revelation has done nothing against his heart-doodle issues.
It feels like forever before the elevator doors open to the underground floor. At this level, the elevator leads you to a tiny hallway with two exits, each to a different side of the same parking lot. It is the middle of the night, however, and Jeno is extra wary as he walks out. Which is great, because he would’ve probably missed the note stuck right across the elevator otherwise.
It’s a single arrow this time, pointing to the left exit. This one is also closer to the parking lot’s general exit and it brings a small sense of comfort to know that Jeno could probably make a run for it, if he really needed to.
Except he doesn’t, because the car he apparently needs to get to is parked right across the door. It’s really hard to miss it. There’s a Jaemin leaning on the hood, featuring a bouquet of roses.
“You’re not Mark,” Jeno points out, brain still struggling to process the scene.
“Very observant of you,” Jaemin laughs. He straightens up, clears his throat. “You see,” he starts, eyes boring into Jeno’s. Jeno has to fight the urge to look away. “I was planning to do this a bit later, after I’ve had more time to woo you with no coffee supplements. But it has come to my attention that a mutual friend of ours has tried to sabotage this for his own gain. And as much as I love Mark, I can’t let him have this.”
“Oh my god,” Jeno breathes. “I told you everything.”
Right about now would be a great time for the ground to swallow him whole.
Jaemin grins. “You did. It has also come to my attention that you rather enjoy hearts. So I’ve prepared a few for you.”
For a second, Jeno gets lost in preparing elaborate murder plans for his entire team, along with Donghyuck for good measure. Which is why the slap on the chest catches him off guard.
It’s wasn’t hard but it was startling, and when Jeno looks down to see Jaemin’s palm retreating, there is a heart shaped sticky note in its place.
It’s doodled full of hearts. It also has the word WILL in thick, black sharpie.
“Please tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing,” Jeno begs, heat unfurling in his gut and towards… his face, probably. Of course.
“Oh, but I am,” Jaemin says, eyes sparkling. He slaps another note on Jeno’s chest and he doesn’t have to look down to know it says YOU. Probably with more hearts.
The third note stays on his jacket for about two seconds before it flutters to the ground. Jeno glances at it, the GO glaring back at him from an electric pink heart.
The OUT and the WITH end up on the tops of Jeno’s cheeks, right under his eyes. He imagines he looks like a cartoon character crying heart shaped tears which - is ridiculous, honestly. The thought makes him scrunch up his nose, dislodging the notes once again while Jaemin dissolves into laughter in front of him.
It takes a hot minute before he calms down. Jeno has plenty of time to convince himself this is all some sort of a fever dream and he’ll wake up any second now, hot and in pain and most importantly, note-less.
But as the laughter fades, Jaemin’s eyes get softer and softer. Jeno knows what the last note will say, it’s the cherry on top of this cake of ridiculousness, except Jaemin picks it up like it’s something precious. He sticks the ME? on his own chest, and he can’t seem to stop glancing between Jeno’s eyes and his lips.
It’s stupid. It’s hilarious and so fucking cheesy Jeno wants to shrivel up on the concrete and cease to exist, except-
Except right now, maybe always, Jaemin is beautiful in ways Jeno never thought existed. And even though what’s left of his dignity is screaming on the inside, he finds it impossible to look away.
“So?” Jaemin asks, eyes scrunched up in a smile as he taps on the heart-shaped note on his chest. “Will you?”
And because a brain-to-mouth filter is obviously something Jeno does not possess, he says. “It would be really awkward if I said no.”
Jaemin blinks at him, startled more than anything. His fingers are frozen mid-tap, and he ends up dropping both his hands down entirely. “I guess. It would also ruin my grand plan to take you out on a date not paid by me.”
Just like that, the moment is broken. Jaemin grins up at him, though and Jeno finds he doesn’t mind all that much. “What do you mean?”
“The betting pools,” Jaemin shrugs. “Apparently Taeil placed big bets in both and his day of choice is tomorrow. Well,” he glances around the empty parking lot. “I guess today. He found out that I knew and made me a deal - we find each other today and he sponsors our first date.”
It takes a moment for Jeno to process the words. “I feel like I should… I don’t know, feel used?”
Jaemin shrugs again. “I mean, I was going to ask you out eventually anyway. Especially after you decided it’s Mark of all people who’d do something as public as leaving notes in the kitchen. Taeil just gave me incentive.”
“Mark had the thermos!” Jeno exclaims. In hindsight, Jaemin is right. It’s highly unlikely that Mark would do something so cheesy, nevermind so public. But he had the thermos. It was a perfectly logical conclusion.
“Yeah, because I asked him to hold it for me while I was in the bathroom. Because I didn't trust Donghyuck with it.” Jaemin sighs, although there’s still a hint of a smile lurking in the corners of his lips. “And for a good reason, too. He still managed to trick you. It’s his own fault for placing a bet that far in the future.”
Jeno rolls his eyes. “I suddenly don’t feel as bad for cheating the betting pools.”
Jaemin leans closer. “I have two words for you,” he whispers conspiratorially, “free food. Of course, there’s also the added benefit of my company.”
It’s the promise of food that makes Jeno’s heart skip a beat, he’s sure. Definitely.
“I’ll think about it,” Jeno blurts out. It takes approximately two seconds for the regret to kick in at the way Jaemin’s face falls. Jeno hurries to change the subject. “Why Nana, though?”
“It’s a nickname,” Jaemin shrugs. “My surname is actually Na, so.”
It would’ve been so easy to find out. If only the entire seventh floor wasn’t dead set on making them meet when it’s convenient for them.
A moment later, Jaemin is smiling again.“I brought flowers and everything,” he sighs. Jeno suddenly finds himself with an armful of roses and Jaemin’s determined eyes trained on his face. “But it’s okay. I have plenty of time to convince you.”
Jeno blinks at him. “Doesn’t Taeil’s bet end tomorrow?” He glances at the moon, high and bright and peeking through the parking lot’s entrance a few feet away. “Today?”
“Sure!” Jaemin shrugs. He looks perfectly unbothered by the fact, even if five minutes ago this was the driving point of his argument. “If you don’t say yes by tomorrow, I’ll just have to take you out on my own terms. Maybe I could cook for you, who knows?”
“That would be nice,” Jeno admits before he can stop himself. On second thought - why should he? “I like food.”
“I can take you to a million cute cafés, too,” Jaemin continues, counting off his fingers. “All the possibilities! All you have to do is say yes.”
“Maybe,” Jeno deadpans, just to be contrary. It’s hard not to laugh at Jaemin’s exaggerated pout.
“Someday,” Jaemin promises, “Someday I’ll convince you.”
Jeno has no doubt he will. Hell, he’s convinced already. But it’s late and Jeno is tired. And this feels like something he should have more presence of mind for.
That, and the fierce determination in Jaemin’s eyes seems too fun to miss out on.
“For the love of god, please go check the kitchen,” Donghyuck all but yells as soon as Jeno pings the door open. “I’m begging you. I don’t even care about the bets anymore, I just want this to end.”
Jungwoo is giggling behind him but Donghyuck looks so genuinely frazzled, Jeno doesn’t dare teasing him about it.
When he opens the door of the kitchen, Donghyuck’s outburst suddenly makes a lot more sense.
The strips of bare wall around the coffee maker, the coffee maker itself, every single cupboard - they’re all covered in sticky notes. There are three that are a bit to the side, stuck to one another, like a single, long note. The rest of the notes frame them, like they’re the centerpiece of this giant mess of stickies. They’re in the places Jaemin usually put the thank you notes and when Jeno gets closer, he bursts out laughing, even though it feels like his face is on fire.
The first note reads: Oh my god, you’re so cute. -Nana
And the second: I mean kind.
And the third: Yeah, cute. I definitely meant cute.
The note closest to them is a bit longer. This is what you would’ve seen if you’d been nice enough to show up here yesterday. You’re lucky you’re cute.
Jeno’s eyes move to the next one, which is just DATE??? and then another, IT’S A LOVE STORY BABY JUST SAY YES~ and look it’s 4am and I’m running out of ideas but you’re adorable???
The rest seem to be along the same lines and Jeno is just as fascinated as he is mortified.
He almost misses the sound of the door.
“A little birdie told me you’re here,” Jaemin says and Jeno has never found it so difficult to look someone in the eye before.
“Don’t let Donghyuck hear you’ve called him little,” he says instead, eyes still glued to the wall of notes. “When the hell did you make all these?”
Jaemin sounds a lot closer now. “Last night. I live quite far from here, there wasn’t really any point in going home, so I stayed here and made these. Hyunjin kept me company. She thinks you don’t deserve me, by the way,” he adds.
Jeno is about to complain about shitty friends when the rest of that statement reaches his brain. He whips around to face Jaemin. “Wait, you’re working today? And you waited for me last night? And then stayed up to make...” He wonders what he should call the wall of notes. A confession? “All these?”
“I mean,” Jaemin laughs. “Between coming in on my day off just for your coffee and this,” he gestures towards the notes, “I guess this is the less pathetic option?”
Jeno stares at him for a few solid seconds. “You what?”
“You didn’t know when I’m off!” Jaemin defends, eyes narrowed. “I couldn’t leave the lovely coffee in the hands of some sleep deprived heathen that wouldn’t even recognize its beauty.”
“Ah,” Jeno nods. “So you wanna date me for the coffee. I’ll have you know I’m almost out and I got it as a gift. From South America.”
Jaemin shrugs, eyes twinkling. “I’m sure you have other redeeming qualities.” He gestures at the wall of stickies. “So what do you say?”
Jeno rolls his eyes. Like it was ever a question.
It’s not exactly an event when Jeno and Jaemin finally emerge from the kitchen, hand in hand. Still, Jeno’s sure the rumor will have reached every single department throughout the floors within the next ten minutes.
They part at HR’s office and it takes Jeno approximately five minutes to go, fuck it. Might as well confirm the rumor early.
He wasn’t lying when he told Jaemin the coffee is almost gone. There’s enough to fill up the better part of a pot - and then it would be gone. Forever.
Jeno plugs the coffeemaker in.
He chooses his favorite mug, the one he keeps hidden in his desk. The second one he steals from the kitchen but it doesn’t bother him all that much. No one leaves mugs in the kitchen expecting them to not be stolen at some point.
Predictably, when Jeno opens Human Resources’ door every single head present in the office turns to him. Yet again, he’s reminded of the vicious attacks Animal Planet likes to show him at the worst possible times. He leaves the mug (his own, not the stolen one) on Jaemin’s desk wordlessly and when Jaemin looks up at him, confused, Jeno leans in before he can talk himself out of it.
It’s just a kiss on the cheek because they’re still at work and even then, they just sort of started dating? Except the rush of excitement in Jeno’s gut doesn’t seem to care.
He power-walks out of the office, leaving a frozen Jaemin behind. Jeno really, really doesn’t want to see the looks on his coworkers’ faces.
The closed door does nothing to muffle Taeil’s shout of I won!!!, though.
A free date seems like quite the fitting end to Jeno’s newfound, disgustingly Hollywood relationship.