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meaner than mean

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700 points from certain death, Jungkook glitches out on him.

“Wh—Jungkook? Guk, no, wait, no!” Taehyung yells uselessly into the mic, his poor DPS character suddenly swarmed from all sides without Jungkook’s tank to stave them off. Their party healer does their best, frantically casting to heal and be healed, but it’s no use before the descending horde at their low levels. Taehyung only lasts a half second longer after the healer quits, and watches helplessly as his level 14 elf is one-shot KO'd and promptly torn apart. R.I.P., quite literally.

“Sorry,” Jungkook huffs into the mic a suspicious minute or so later. “Controller died.”

“Sure it did,” Taehyung bemoans, watching his poor elf respawn with newly damaged gear and a dwindled health bar. “Your ‘dead’ controller selected the quit button all on its own. You just wanna watch the world burn.”

“Look, it was your idea to start over with new builds, but I can’t carry you while you spend twenty minutes on each enemy,” Jungkook grumbles, probably already switched back over to his main account. “I’m telling you, you’re a healer through and through.”

“We would’ve been okay leveling them if someone hadn’t tried to lead us through a group instance area,” Taehyung mutters, but quits and reloads with his main character anyway. Sure enough, his sinewy healer pops back up next to Jungkook’s DPS. The conversation goes purely game-centered for a bit, back to their regular efficiency.

“I’m getting tired,” Jungkook says after a bit. Taehyung hums. “We should hang out soon.”

“Aren’t we hanging out right now?”

Jungkook’s sigh induces static in Taehyung’s headset. “You know what I mean. Like, real person hang out.”

“Dude, we literally live together. Just come over.”

There’s a muffled bang against the wall behind Taehyung’s desk. He wonders what Jungkook’s thrown at it this time.

“You’ve got something in mind, don’t you?”

“Maybe… listen, there’s this place I found this summer,” Jungkook begins in a suspiciously dreamy tone. “I’ve been meaning to invite you. It’s perfect for you. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to make time for friends. Even though he and Jungkook already make hours in their schedule for gaming, are rarely actually busy, and Jungkook pretends to hiss at the light when they open the door.

“So where are we going?” Taehyung asks as they hop off the bus, hands hooked in his pockets. He likes to think his style is nice, even if said style mostly consists of soft wide-leg pants and hoodies. Jungkook’s a little, but not a lot, better with tee shirt and jeans every day (though Taehyung would argue that’s because he has a Real Person™ part-time job his last year of college. Thankfully, Taehyung’s current gig requires more of a homebody, and he is more than happy to oblige with that dress code.)

“Okay, so, this might sound kind of weird at first…” Jungkook begins sheepishly. “But you know about, like, themed cafes, right?” Taehyung raises an eyebrow, but nods. “And you know what tsundere means, right?”

Taehyung stops dead in his tracks. “Jungkook.”

“Oh, don’t act so superior, I’ve seen your Steam account,” Jungkook scoffs. Taehyung colors red. “We’re literally friends on myanimelist. Not to mention that wall scroll you had for years of—”

“Okay, yes, yes, I know what tsundere means,” Taehyung groans, bringing a hand to his face.

There’s not really a point to getting embarrassed. Not when he and Jungkook met in their high school anime club. But it’s one thing to geek out when you’re safely secluded away from society, and another entirely to walk down the street jabbering excitedly about character tropes.

“Well, there’s this cafe, a themed cafe, that just opened up last spring,” Jungkook pauses for effect, biting his lip to hold back a smirk before finally bursting out, “It’s a tsundere cafe!”

Taehyung’s jaw slackens. Jungkook watches him impatiently, a little smugly, like he’s waiting for a reaction.

“Am I supposed to know what that means?”

Jungkook explains as they walk. He seems a little bummed his big reveal didn’t get the expected reaction from Taehyung, but goes all-out in response, giving an encyclopedic rundown like it’s for the uninitiated.

Within the -dere character tropes, the pick of tsunderes is to act cold, dismissive, hostile; over time, as their ice is chipped away, they reveal the act was merely a front for their affection, even if it’s hard for them to admit it. Serendipity, then, draws its theme from this concept: the waiters are uncaring, sometimes outright mean, but it’s an act that slips away during rare moments. And one that’s growing in popularity among themed cafes, now come to do business just a twenty minute bus ride away from their apartment.

“The cafe is kinda like… well, it’s pretty much a fetish thing, honestly,” Jungkook admits with a blush, rubbing at the back of his neck. “It’s like… a roleplay. It’s all a fantasy, you just have to go to understand. It’s really wild. And, hey, the prices aren’t bad.”

“So this cafe is where you’ve been disappearing to all summer?” Taehyung squints at him. “You didn’t wanna quit the game because you were bored. You’re just horny!”

Jungkook shrugs. The lack of a real answer all but confirms it. Taehyung would mock gag, if Jungkook didn’t have way worse blackmail on him.

“I don’t even like tsunderes,” Taehyung announces with a dramatic pout. “Everyone knows deredere is where it’s at.”

It’s Jungkook’s turn to squint at him. “Okay, first of all, that’s your opinion. Second, that’s because you basically are one. And third, you love Inuyasha.”

“Um, who doesn’t,” Taehyung flares. “What’s that even supposed to mean?”

“That you’re probably a furry,” Jungkook muses to himself. “But he’s as tsun as it gets!” 

Taehyung opens his mouth to retort, well over a decade of anime forum discourse experience ready to fire, until he remembers where they are: standing on the sidewalk, debating about anime archetypes out loud.

“God, I thought we vowed never to be this nerdy in public after graduation,” Taehyung presses his hands to his face with a groan. Jungkook scoffs.

“Maybe you promised that. I’m gonna enjoy my shame coffee.” He insists, stamping his foot. “C’mon, just get a muffin or something. It’ll be fun, I swear.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serendipity has a quaint exterior, not unlike any other cafe or the buildings around it in the bustling square of independent shops.

The difference, however, is immediately apparent upon closer inspection— “Guk, why does the sign say 18+ only—?” and the glare immediately fixed on them by the employee at the host stand when they stumble through the door.

“By the way, I forgot my wallet,” Jungkook announces in a rehearsed singsong. Taehyung barely has time to scoff, “Sure you did, just like last time, and the time before that—” before he’s confronted by the host, hand held out for cash. Taehyung blinks, confused until he sees the sign— $20 cover fee. He gives a dramatic sigh but fishes out his wallet anyway.

“You’re back again?” The host mocks as he pockets Taehyung’s cash, fixing his glare on Jungkook. He’s small and slight, catlike eyes and a mess of dark hair. The uniform is flattering, black tailored pants and vest over a white dress shirt. Taehyung might admire it if he weren’t frozen in place by the accusation. “And you brought someone else, too. As if you’re not annoying enough on your own.”

It’s jarring, to say the least, considering the norm for restaurant etiquette. Taehyung blinks, “Excuse me?”

“Was I talking to you?” the host fires back without skipping a beat, raising an eyebrow. Taken aback by the challenge, Taehyung stutters.

“That’s what I thought.” The host grumbles as he grabs two menus, shaking his head and muttering something to himself as he departs for a table without any further guidance.

Taehyung glances in shock at Jungkook, who just has a sappy grin and blush on his face as he follows the host. Taehyung huffs in betrayal, but follows after.

The interior cafe is almost as nondescript as outside. It’s even nicer, with a modern, almost classy feel to it, accentuated by the waiters’ well tailored wardrobes and lace doilies on the tables.

“Your server today,” The host begins as they slide into their booth. His tag reads Yoongi, and it flashes as he throws their menus down on the table with more force than necessary. “Will be Jimin. Try not to piss him off. He’s one of our best.”

“And definitely too good to be waiting on someone like you two,” a new voice taunts from behind Yoongi.

It’s the last straw. Scandalized and ready to give the newcomer a piece of his mind, Taehyung jerks his head up with a scowl.

He expects to defend his honor. What he doesn’t expect is to find himself face to face with one of the most beautiful men he’s ever seen.

Jimin is in a similar fit as Yoongi, a black vest cut crisp over a white dress shirt. His black hair is swept back away from his face, and he blinks pretty lashes over painted eyes. There’s a softness to him, in the pout of plush lips and full cheeks, but it’s balanced out by a dangerous edge in his eyes and a wicked smile.

Those eyes meet Taehyung’s. He nearly melts.

“What are you looking at?” Is the first thing Jimin says directly to Taehyung. It’s in a mocking tone, and reminds Taehyung in an instant of the setting of this particular cafe. Taehyung chokes on nothing, his gaze dropping immediately to the table.

“Hi, Jimin,” Jungkook sounds just as affected, voice as dreamlike as before. It leaves Taehyung wondering just how often he comes here.

Suddenly, though, sneaking a glance back up at Jimin—yep, still the most attracted Taehyung’s ever felt to an actual, 3D person, he confirms before swiftly averting his eyes once more—Taehyung thinks he might be starting to understand the appeal. Even Jimin’s voice is perfect, a heaven sent bell ringing out of a devil’s mouth.

“Try and decide what you want quickly so you’re out faster,” is Jimin’s cutting reply. “Don’t waste my time.”

Then he’s gone back toward the kitchen. Taehyung can breathe again.

“Oh my god,” he barely manages, bringing a hand to touch his face numbly. His skin’s burning just as hot as he feels. “Oh, my god.”

Jungkook peers at him and laughs openly. “I told you you’d like it.”

“I shouldn’t,” Taehyung whispers. “But he what the fuck.”

“I told you! It’s kinda hot,” Jungkook looks as embarrassed as he sounds even as he rubs it in Taehyung’s face. “They’re all really gorgeous, and really mean, and it’s just… you know?”

“I get it. I can’t believe I get it,” Taehyung presses his hand down to the table surface then back to his cheek in an effort to cool off. He thinks he’s regained enough confidence to follow Jimin with his gaze across the cafe—and realizes his mistake when their eyes meet, and Jimin rolls his. Taehyung drops his own gaze instantly, panicking. “God, I don’t know what’s got me, but. He’s, like… really hot.”

“Are you already picking a favorite?” Jungkook giggles, nose scrunched up. It’d be so much easier to hate him if he weren’t so cute. “I like Jin, Yoongi, and Jisoo. Jimin is… definitely one of the meanest. You freak.”

“Um, I’m not the one who found this place,” Taehyung accuses. “That automatically makes you freakier than I am. What were you even looking for, huh?”

“Softcore humiliation,” Jungkook replies without hesitation.

Taehyung makes a face. “At least try to sound ashamed.”

“You can’t kinkshame me, I’ve seen your F-List,” Jungkook shakes his head. “And honestly? I really wish I never had.”

“You will never let me live that down,” Taehyung groans, “It was a phase! I don’t even have the login anymore!”

“Some crimes can never be forgiven,” Jungkook intones. “Hey, look on the bright side. Maybe Jimin likes furries.”

“I am not

Their bickering is practiced, and innocent, with how long they’ve known each other. If there’s a new edge this time, it’s because Taehyung is still lowkey panicking over the most beautiful man he’s ever seen overhearing Jungkook’s teasing about his shameful fandom past. 

“Time’s up. Give me something to grab,” that voice comes from behind Taehyung sooner than expected. All the perfect shades of mean and bored, and descending from on high like some sadistic angel. Jimin stops beside their table, arms folded across his chest and looking down the bridge of his nose disdainfully. Taehyung’s mouth dries. “You are ready by now, I hope.”

“Yes,” Taehyung finds his voice, straightening up to reply bravely. He makes every effort to inject confidence into the word and hopefully impress Jimin. And he’s in the middle of congratulating himself for being able to talk when he realizes both Jungkook and Jimin are staring at him expectantly, waiting for an order, which Taehyung didn’t actually have a plan for after his statement. He wilts. “Uh.”

Jimin blinks at him another second. “Oookay,” he draws out finally. Taehyung hates how helplessly his eyes are drawn helplessly to the oh of Jimin’s lips, even as he shrivels in embarrassment at the waiter’s dismissive expression. “Tell me you at least have something?”

“Yes! Uh, my usual, please,” Jungkook begins, and turns pink when Jimin keeps looking at him, gesturing with annoyance to continue as though in disbelief he’d actually be expected to memorize a customer’s order. “Um. A banana shake, with a protein shot.”

“Gross,” Jimin comments offhandedly as he scribbles it down. Jungkook squirms and grins, and Jimin turns back to Taehyung with a raised eyebrow.

Taehyung’s watched the exchange with short breath, but remembers abruptly at Jimin’s gaze back on him that he’s not just watching a scene, but is in fact a part of it, and still hasn’t thought any farther.

“Oh,” he sputters, eyes dropping to scan the menu with desperation. “I will have—uh, the… um, this,” he panics, and points at random.

Jimin glances at the menu. “Apple juice,” he remarks dryly. “Bold of you.”

Taehyung tries to school his expression into something flirty, and hopes it doesn’t look too fallen head-over-heels. Across the table Jungkook cringes, so hopefully he’s doing okay. “Thanks. I like to live life on the edge.”

For a second there’s a shadow at the corner of Jimin’s mouth, a barely-there twitch that just might be the beginnings of a smile. It’s gone before Taehyung can really be sure, but leaves him glowing nonetheless.

“I’ll put those in,” Jimin whisks away. He’s not back for a while, which Taehyung guesses goes along with the cafe’s concept, but thankfully it gives him a while to recover as he and Jungkook chat.

When Jimin does come back, he lets the glasses clatter down with little care before disappearing once more. Jungkook doesn’t say anything about the wait, just begins to dig into his shake happily. He only stops, looking up inquisitively, when Taehyung frowns.

“Didn’t you order banana?” Taehyung asks, head tilting in confusion. Jungkook blinks at him, cheeks puffed around the straw of a clearly pink shake. He swallows.

“Oh, yeah, they do that sometimes,” he shrugs. “You know, fuck up your order for fun.”

“Doesn’t that worry you?” Taehyung asks, scrunching his nose. He’s a bit of a picky eater himself.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says seriously, “I will eat anything. But nah, pretty much everything on the menu is good, and they don’t charge extra for it.”

“I think I’m having an out of body experience,” Taehyung muses aloud. He sips his juice thoughtfully. Thankfully he’s 99.9% sure it’s actually apple. “I mean—I get the mean concept. It’s cool. I’m into it. You’ve seen my deviantArt. But…” he shivers to recall Jimin’s disdainful expression, and mocking voice. “Something about… him in particular is really getting to me.”

“Well,” Jungkook says sagely, “You’ve made a great impression so far.”

Taehyung perks up. “You think?”

“No, dummy, you’ve said like five words to him. And you’re redder than the tablecloth.”

Taehyung groans, slumping, glasses going askew. After a minute he sits back up, squishing his cheeks together into a pout, and demands, “I’m still cute, though, right?”

Jungkook relents with a sigh. “Yes, but that’s not a lasting impression. He’s definitely more than used to people blushing and stuttering, no matter how cute they are.”

“Of course he is,” Taehyung laments. “How am I supposed to make a good impression when I can barely order a beverage from him?”

“I know,” Taehyung assures him instantly. He bites his lip, thinking on it. “I know what you mean. And… I don’t expect anything from him. He’s just… he’s so hot. So I wanna make a good impression.”

Jungkook relaxes, resurrecting his grin. “Well, you’ve done great so far, looking like you’re going to piss yourself every time he breathes. Maybe you’re lucky and he’s into that.”

“That is not a chance I am willing to take,” Taehyung says, groaning at Jungkook’s laugh. “Seriously, help me! How am I supposed to impress him if I can’t even make eye contact with him?”

“Well, the difficulty’s just increased,” Jungkook observes. “We’re just about at the other end of the tsundere spectrum now.”

“The what?”

Just then, there’s a touch to Taehyung’s shoulder. Taehyung stiffens still as a statue when Jimin leans down beside him from behind, laugh breathy in his ear and his smile coy.

“I went ahead and grabbed the bill for you too—feel free to stay as long as you like, I just didn’t want you to have to get up to pay it,” he says sweetly, setting the tray and check down with more care than Taehyung has seen him handle anything the entire afternoon. There’s a half dozen candies balanced on it, and Jimin straightens up from Taehyung’s side just to set a hand on Jungkook’s arm with a staged whisper, “I went ahead and gave you a discount on the shake. Don’t tell Taemin, but you come so often…”

Unfreezing now that Jimin’s not directly touching him, Taehyung shakes himself out of a daze. Wanting that attention back on him, he leans forward desperately and says the first thing that comes to his mind.

“I could too!” he blurts.

Jungkook gives Taehyung a tiny, supportive gesture to continue, even alongside his cringe. Jimin, however, looks unfazed. He straightens from Jungkook’s side and folds his arms across his chest with a tilt of his head. A bit patronizing, but at least his attention is back on Taehyung. “Hm?”

“Come here more,” Taehyung finishes the thought, words a little rushed as they spill out. “To… here. Come more often. I could. Too. Yeah.”

Jungkook looks pained at the proud finish, and three seconds from facepalming, but Jimin smiles humoredly.

“Well, it’s not like I’d want to see you again, or anything…” Jimin begins slyly, a bit of a pout curving his lips. Taehyung makes an active mental note not to drool at the expression, or squirm when Jimin reaches out to him, fixing Taehyung’s collar before patting his shoulders. “But we do serve a mean apple juice, don’t we?”

“Absolutely,” Taehyung agrees breathlessly. Thinking fast, he reaches for the check, “Here, I’ve got the—” and mustering every bit of mental math he’s garnered over the years, he scribbles down the lines and fishes out his card. 

Jimin watches with a raised eyebrow, at least until his eyes drop to the check. They widen, then, raising back up to Taehyung’s with a moment of genuine surprise. Then a smirk slips back into place, and he gives Taehyung an obvious once-over with his eyes before nodding and heading back toward the register.

Only when he’s gone can Taehyung relax, slumping back into his seat and letting out a heady breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Jungkook doesn’t let him live the moment, reaching out instead to smack at his forehead.

“Was that—” he hisses in disbelief, “A seventy percent tip?!”

“Seventy five,” Taehyung sighs, rubbing at his forehead. “He’s the man of my dreams.”

“Not that I was actually going to offer to pay,” Jungkook asserts, hands out in front of him, “but jesus, Tae.”

“I think I’m getting better at this,” Taehyung muses aloud. He drums his fingers against the table excitedly. “I’ve got the exp boost. Now I’m leveling up.”

“How’s that?” Jungkook asks doubtfully, “You think you just paid for his DLC?”

“I can now look him in the eye and talk,” Taehyung boasts confidently. “Granted, it’s not always the most eloquent stuff being said, but I can do it. I just gotta finish today’s quest and then level grind before the next raid.”

“Do you even hear how we talk?” Jungkook mourns as they gather their stuff and head for the front. “You are so hopeless.”

At the front, Jimin’s waiting. Taehyung does his best to summon himself up, utilizing his full height and pleased to realize, once standing, he’s got an inch or two on Jimin. Not that it matters any, because his look has Taehyung feeling pleasantly small.

He hands Taehyung back his card with a knowing glance. For a second, that seems to be all, but as Taehyung turns, a little disappointed, to leave, he shivers when Jimin drawls, “Hey, glasses.”

Before Taehyung’s completely faced around, Jimin’s already stepped to him. Flustered, Taehyung tries a half-step back, and finds his back just bumping into the wall, trapped. Jimin is deadly at this proximity, all beauty and ice a thousand times up close.

“You can’t buy me with money,” Jimin says. It’s so unexpected Taehyung balks, jaw opening and closing uselessly. He starts to stutter out an apology, but Jimin shakes his head, hand coming up to hold a finger close to his lips. “Uh-uh, I wasn’t finished.” 

Dazed and hot, Taehyung swallows. Jimin raises an eyebrow, and he nods fiercely, feeling himself flush when Jimin reaches to straighten Taehyung’s glasses on his face.

“You can’t buy me with money,” Jimin begins again. Then he adds, murmur hypnotic, “But you’re more than welcome to keep trying.”

It’s unbearable whispered to him. Taehyung’s jaw goes slack just as Jimin steps back, looking for all the world normal and unphased, leaving Taehyung a dizzy mess and wringing his hands. By the door, Jungkook looks fucked up by extension, cheeks pink.

“Come back and visit me soon, mkay?” Jimin calls sweetly. Taehyung turns to him with an over enthusiastic wave, and doesn’t stop waving goodbye until he’s long out of sight of the shop and Jungkook is dragging him down the street.

“I did it, I did it, I did it!” he crows, practically skipping down the sidewalk.

“What exactly is it do you think you managed to do?” Jungkook bemoans.

“I talked to him,” Taehyung brags, “About something other than the menu.”

Jungkook squints, “You didn’t say anything though?”

Taehyung ignores the negativity. “He told me to come back,” he brags, setting his chin. 

“He wants you for your wallet!”

Taehyung goes stock-still, close enough Jungkook nearly runs into him. “So you admit he wants me, then?” he teases, booping a finger to Jungkook’s nose. Jungkook bats him away, flushed.

“Just… be careful, okay?” he pries, “It’s a job, you know. And they probably get bugged a lot...”

Taehyung coos, throwing his arm over Jungkook’s shoulder. “You’re so responsible, looking out for me…” he pretends to swoon, clinging tighter when Jungkook half-heartedly plays at shoving him off. “I promise I will be the absolute most responsible, respectful, trustworthy, polite, well-mannered—”

“Taehyung.”

“—fetish cafe customer that ever did dine in,” Taehyung declares. “Now c’mon. I’ve got a video to make, and an outfit to pick out for lunch tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disappointingly, it’s almost a week before Taehyung finds time to stop by again. He’s not usually so busy, but unluckily his next video takes up a few days with both its filming and editing.

He’s got a Youtube channel. It’s still a little weird to talk about, something he started as a hobby a few years back. Sick of the dozens of poorly made tutorials and clickbait for his favorite games, and certain he could make better content. (Which he does.)

But it’s grown steadily, and more than usual as of late, becoming just a little longer more than part-time and a little more than pocket money. He’s even been recognized in public, once or twice—well, okay, at conventions, but still and sometimes he dreams about competitive gaming when job applications utilizing his computer science major go unanswered.

Jungkook often helps him edit, a film major himself, but this week he’s gotten swept up in some big production commitment. So it’s almost a week later that Taehyung finally hits upload and puts his head down on his desk that he finally pays attention to the growl in his stomach and recalls a certain cafe.

It’s stupid, really—he has no way of knowing when Jimin works, and the waiter has probably forgotten him anyway. After all, no matter how exciting the experience was on Taehyung’s end, it’s all an act for the server. Still, he takes some time to freshen up, hovering in front of the closet for longer than necessary for something acceptable and heading out the door. He thinks he deserves the break the fantasy will give, whether or not Jimin is there.

The cafe is bustling for a weekday, business picking up for lunchtime with a wide range of clientele. There’s the expected spillover from the PC cafe, which Taehyung guesses he falls into, though he’s actually showered within the last twenty-four hours. There’s a group of girls giggling in the corner, and even a couple older customers in business wear. Taehyung reflects the cafe’s definitely increasing in popularity with its unique concept, but is drawn from his thoughts by a stunningly familiar voice.

“You just gonna stand there, or will you be wanting a table sometime today?”

His hair’s got a mid-part today, and his uniform is fitted with a flattering black waist apron cinched to accentuate his stomach. A smile spreads across Taehyung’s face before he can help it. Jimin raises his brow.

“One table, please?” Taehyung musters himself up to say it, proud to say he delivers it well. If Jimin notices he doesn’t appear to care, just gives a sigh before grabbing a menu and whisking away to find a table. He doesn’t look back to check if Taehyung follows, but Taehyung absolutely does, struggling to keep his eyes fixed at Jimin’s eye level.

Once he’s seated, Taehyung just barely glances over the menu before looking back up to catch his eye. “I will have,” he begins in as flirtatious a tone he can muster, even pausing dramatically. Jimin’s eyebrow cocks. “Whatever you recommend.”

Jimin isn’t phased one bit. “You haven’t even opened the menu, big boy. Sure you wanna trust me like that?”

Taehyung shrinks pleasantly. “Well... what do you recommend?”

“Hmm, there’s always your brave apple juice.” 

At that, Taehyung brightens, and manages, slyly, “So you remember me?”

Jimin almost, almost smiles. It’s not a reassuring expression, even if it does things to Taehyung. He leans in, eyes narrowing, “You think that’s a good thing?”

Taehyung’s breath catches. Before he can think of answering, Jimin straightens back up, sweeping himself away. And Taehyung thinks, at least Jimin didn’t deny it.

He’s back quickly, settling the glass down on the table.

“Will that be all,” Jimin asks, “Or have you managed to think of something else to keep me around?”

The noise Taehyung makes is quiet, but he’s certain Jimin hears it.  “Well—” he swallows, blushing hard. And he swears he’d practiced for this, but with the weight of Jimin’s eyes on him, what jumbles out of his mouth instead is a panicked, “You hear about video games?”

Taehyung is horrified as soon as the meme comes out of his mouth. In his defense, he hadn’t expected having an opportunity to speak to Jimin again so soon, and doesn’t do well once he starts panicking. Video games are still on the mind, from just hitting upload on his new video. But Jimin seems to take it in stride.

“Oh, sure,” he says, leaning a hand on the table and jutting a hip. It puts him that much closer to Taehyung, who dutifully keeps his eyes fixed on Jimin’s face, and not the curve of his shoulder, or the way the apron cinches his waist, definitely not. “I am the Cooking Mama aficionado.”

“Ah, really?” Taehyung perks up, “I had that on the classic DS! Which version do you—”

His voice twists off into a gasp before it’s fully processed. Jimin grinds his heel down where he’s stepped harshly onto Taehyung’s foot, eyes narrowed. Taehyung looks up at him with wide eyes, voice still dying in his throat, blood surging suddenly through him at the cruel amusement on Jimin’s face. So, so slowly the waiter leans down and close, shoe still digging to the point of stinging.

“You gonna order some food, or what?” Jimin practically demands, his murmur low, almost sultry. Taehyung stares, jaw slack, and Jimin reachesTaehyung’s inhale is sharp to feel nails press down into his thigh. His brain short-circuits to realize Jimin’s hand is on his thigh, Jimin’s hand is on his thigh “Or are you just gonna keep gawking at me? Close your mouth. You look dumb.”

Taehyung’s jaw snaps shut instantly. It’s a good thing, too, or he might have let slip an embarrassing noise. It’s then he realizes, and when he glances down, betraying himself, Jimin does, too. 

When he realizes why Taehyung has glanced down so frantically, Jimin’s eyes widen. Taehyung flushes hot, stomach bubbling in humiliation, because he’s going to get hard, and it’s obvious, and Jimin is looking right at the slowly but steadily rising tent in his pants.

For a second, he can almost imagine appreciation flashing through Jimin’s eyes before the mask slips back. Jimin snorts, straightening and stepping back. Taehyung fidgets, looking up at Jimin guiltily, mind going fuzzy around the edges at the way he knowingly looks down at Taehyung.

“That’s kinda gross, you know?” Jimin murmurs just low enough for Taehyung to hear, voice taunting. “Real fucking nasty.”

Taehyung can’t help the noise that slips out his lips at that. Jimin looks satisfied.

“My recommendation,” he says sweetly, “is the peaches and cream cake. And being very, very nice to me.”

“I—” Taehyung practically exhales it, sucking in a shuddery breath and licking his lips. “I’ll have—a slice, p-please.”

Jimin tilts his head, considering, before issuing a “Good boy.”

Taehyung shudders as he walks away. But Jimin is back too quick for him to recover, setting down a slice of cake on the table. He doesn’t leave immediately, though. Rather he watches Taehyung pick up a fork and knife with unsteady hands. Dazedly Taehyung lifts the bite to his lips, trying to survive Jimin’s gaze boring into his. It’s overwhelming, heady, but Taehyung can’t look away, chewing slowly and swallowing.

He isn’t sure if he’s meant to speak, but Jimin hasn’t said anything. He swallows thickly, and manages, “It’s good. Thank you.”

“I’m glad,” Jimin says. His eyes are far too calculating for the soft tone. “I want to make sure you enjoy your time here. Make sure you keep coming back.”

“Of course,” Taehyung nearly blurts, and, god, he’s embarrassingly hard now — it’s pathetic, really, to be so turned on by a bit of meanness, but the mix of cruelty balmed by the sweetness that follows is intoxicating. Jimin is intoxicating.

Taehyung is really beginning to reconsider his stance on the tsundere archetype.

“Good,” Jimin says smugly. Unconsciously Taehyung licks at his lips, and Jimin’s eyes drop to his mouth, a pleased smile curling his expression. “Oh, you’ve got something—here.” And Taehyung’s heart stops as Jimin leans down and in once more, reaching and swiping at the corner of Taehyung’s mouth with his thumb. 

The touch is light, but Taehyung’s certain Jimin can feel his the heat of his flush even an inch out. Then Jimin lifts his thumb back to his own mouth, and Taehyung’s mind goes blank as Jimin swipes his tongue out across it and smirks, a second that lasts a lifetime. 

“There,” he says, all-too-close, somehow even more radiant up close. He straightens, but the illusion is far from shattered, leaving Taehyung sitting stunned, a shell of his former self. “All better. I’ll grab your check.”

This time Jimin’s kind enough to give him a few minutes to recuperate, but realistically, no amount of time would ever be enough. Taehyung feels shameful for it, a typical, horny patron getting caught up in the cafe’s concept, but the humiliation just fuels the fire in his gut. He might even be drooling a little.

With the combined entry fee and his plate, Taehyung’s bill today adds up a total of twenty six dollars. So of course he tips Jimin another twenty, mouth still dry, shuddering when their hands brush. He does catch Jimin blinking at the amount this time, but he hides it quickly, giving Taehyung a knowing smirk.

“Come back, won’t you?” he implores, reaching to straighten Taehyung’s shirt collar. His lips are pouted attractively. Taehyung really, really hopes he isn’t actually drooling. “Coming around so soon, you’re trying to make me miss you, hm? And it’s not like I will, but—come back, anyway!”

“That’s—of course.” Taehyung barely manages. Distantly he reflects that later, he might regret falling apart so easily, for failing to distinguish himself from any other starstruck customer, stuttering in Jimin’s face at the slightest attention. 

But isn’t that the point of this? Doesn’t he deserve a bit of an escape, even if it is in the form of soft humiliation and overpriced bakery goods? Isn’t he going to be too busy desperately fantasizing to think about this once he gets home and develops carpal tunnel in his wrist from—

“Hey,” Jimin calls as he turns to leave, the most casual he’s ever sounded to him. Taehyung starts, meeting his eyes. “Think about me, okay?”

“I—what?” Taehyung manages intelligently, mouth dry. Jimin is the picture of composure, leaned onto the host’s lecturn, chin in his hands, eyes glittering.

“You know,” Jimin all but drawls, eyes flicking down, and his next words send Taehyung six feet under. “When you take care of that.”

That’s what finally gets him moving. Instinctively Taehyung drops his bag to his front, all but fleeing the cafe with the sound of a soft giggle behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What begins as an outlet quickly becomes an addiction. While he’s not back the next day, courtesy of a throbbing wrist and deep mix of mortification and disbelief, it doesn’t take long before Taehyung returns for more.

It never exactly gets easier, per se. To even look at Jimin, let alone flirt with him (that is, if you can count a healthy love for soft degradation ‘flirting.’) But it does get more familiar. And the more he goes, he’d like to think he’s affecting Jimin, too; at least in some way, because he’s certain Jimin never pays this much attention to his other customers. Taehyung is well aware that the cafe’s concept is a fantasy, he is, and he’s dead set on being respectful of that, but he still can’t help but notice things.

Like the increasing fondness Jimin seems to treat Taehyung with, or the personally-tailored, whispered just-for-him abuses. He’s hyper-attuned, at this point, and anything he gets just leads to a deeper craving. Once Jimin’s hand brushes his, and he gasps. Softly, but audible, and just as quietly, Jimin murmurs, “Cute.”

It floats around Taehyung’s head for the rest of the day.

“So,” Jimin says one day, clearing his plates. Taehyung’s gotten better at sticking around, has started bringing his laptop in favor of dining and dashing. He’s gotten better at keeping up a conversation with Jimin, too, though it’s still easy for any surprising comment to shut his mind down instantly. Like, “Are you gonna keep busting a hole in your pants every time I talk to you?”

Taehyung chokes into his tea. Jimin doesn’t seem perturbed, picking up a napkin and dabbing it helpfully at Taehyung’s chin. “Uh—”

“I mean, not that I mind,” Jimin shrugs. “I’m just curious if it stops at any point.”

“Uh—” he repeats, not quite sure himself. Thinks it’s kind of an unfair representation for Jimin to put the blame on Taehyung for stiffing up every time they talk, as though it’s a quality of Jimin’s voice and not the content of what it is he’s saying. (Though his voice is sweet too, a part of him unhelpfully supplies, even better when he’s telling you what he’d do if )

Focus.

“I’m not usually this, um, excitable,” Taehyung manages, averting his eyes. “I’m working on it! It’s… this place.”

Jimin snorts. They both know what this place translates to, but Jimin is merciful enough not to say it. At least not right now.

“You really like this, don’t you?” is what he asks instead. As usual, his voice is perfect—it’s faintly curious this time, not quite that wicked tone Taehyung’s grown to love, in the volume that’s just loud enough to make Taehyung squirm. “You know. This tsundere concept. When I’m mean.”

Taehyung bites down on his lip hard enough to sting. Because it’s obvious, but Jimin is going to make him say it aloud anyway. Shifting in his seat, almost a squirm, he wants to look away, but maintains eye contact, and slowly nods.

“Yeah,” he says, guiltily. “I do.”

Jimin looks considering. Tilts his head, runs his eyes up and down Taehyung once, twice, a few times. Makes him feel scrutinized, makes him feel small.

“I don’t mind,” he says, and Taehyung’s jaw slackens. Jimin’s voice is private, hums at the base of Taehyung’s spine. “I like being mean to pretty boys just as much as you like hearing it.”

Taehyung shivers. “I—” in an unexpected second of clarity, “You think I’m pretty?”

Jimin giggles. It’s a sound that can be either mean or light, but right now is certainly the latter. Until he winks, and says,

“Just try not to sprain your wrist when you get home, yeah? I’m starting to worry your right bicep is getting bigger.”

Taehyung feels his ears redden. The implication is clear, and it’s even worse, because Jimin’s absolutely right: he gets off a shameful amount these days, always now to the thought of Jimin’s soft voice, of Jimin’s mocking tone, of Jimin’s pretty smile, of Jimin, Jimin, Jimin. He must be intentionally trying to give Taehyung fantasies at this point. The other day he’d stepped on Taehyung again, this time directly onto his thigh, and Taehyung had practically had to flee home to his hand.

There’s really no denying it, but Taehyung defends his honor anyway. The best way he can. “Actually,” he huffs, “I’m ambidextrous.”

Jimin stares at him for a long, long minute. So long Taehyung starts to wonder if maybe Jimin doesn’t know what he means, or if his joke really has fallen that flat, or Jimin’s suddenly reconsidering why he’s even been giving Taehyung the time of day. 

But then Jimin is doubling over laughing, breaking down into real, wholesome laughter, more than his mocking giggle, nearly tripping over his own feet as he does.

“Are you—” he gasps when he recovers, “Trying to defend that you can get off with either hand? Are you really?”

“I’m just saying, you don’t need to worry about my bicep size! It’s the truth!” Taehyung defends, but then he’s laughing, too. Jimin runs a hand back over his hair, fanning himself, clearly trying to work the mask back into place.

“Well,” he manages, “I appreciate the intel.” And Taehyung’s head spins when Jimin reaches and gives his arm a playful squeeze. “And I’ll try not to worry.”

“That’s good,” Taehyung gulps, and tries to flex his bicep unnoticeably. Jimin definitely registers it, but doesn’t let go, and—he’s pretty, too, cheeks a little pink from the first genuine laughter Taehyung has ever seen, that’s still got him dizzy. So it falls out of his mouth without any prior thought, without warning, but Taehyung can’t bring himself to regret it when he blurts out,

“You’re beautiful.”

For a second, Jimin blinks. If Taehyung looks closely, his cheeks might even pinken just the slightest bit more. Taehyung looks at him earnestly, willing him to realize it, that it’s not just flattery, because Jimin is, beautiful and mean and unfairly hot. And he deserves to hear it, even if it’s said to him often here.

“Hm,” he hums finally, head tilting. “I know.”

A pleasant warmth surges through Taehyung. Sure he’s got the dopiest smile on his face, he turns back to his food, reflecting. Something Jimin probably hears all the time, but if Taehyung looks closely, he seems a little lifted, perked up, blush unfading. He might even play it up when he comes to bring the bill, hand dropping back to rest on Taehyung’s arm casually.

“You know,” Jimin says, hand rubbing his bicep distractingly, “If you come by a little earlier tomorrow, you might catch me before my shift.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Taehyung wakes up so early the next morning, the sun’s not even up yet. Which is usually a horrifying prospect, around the time he’s going to bed really, but he can’t sleep any longer, jumping out of bed and nearly bouncing with anticipation. 

He spends forty minutes sorting through his closet before he bursts through Jungkook’s door, jumping on top of him without ceremony.

Jungkook yelps, twisting frantically as he’s woken. Taehyung hangs on, well used to this, poking at him— “It’s just me, wake up, it’s me until Jungkook blinks blearily up at him, rubbing his eyes.

“Tae?” he asks, eyes shifting to the sealed-tight blinds suspiciously. “What time is it?”

“Maybe six?” Taehyung guesses. “I need your help.”

Jungkook sits straight up, sleep vanishing from frantic eyes. “Did we leave the stove on again?”

“No, no!” Taehyung assures, then hesitates. “Well, I don’t think so. But that’s not important. I need—”

The conversation comes to a halt as Jungkook insists on shoving them out of bed and checking the kitchen appliances. They’re on their third microwave, so it’s a touchy subject. Ten minutes or so later, Jungkook collapses onto the sofa, rubbing at his eyes.

“We’re clear,” he announces sleepily, and promptly starts to fall over.

“Nuh-uh,” Taehyung huffs, shoving at him to sit back up. “I still need your help. I have a date.”

That gets Jungkook’s attention. He peers at Taehyung suspiciously, then recognition flashes at Taehyung’s smug expression.

“No way,” he gasps, “You and—?”

“Well, kind of,” Taehyung shuts down quickly, on the off chance he dies today. Jimin is pretty hard to read, after all. “He told me to come by before his shift.”

Jungkook reflects. “Wow,” he says. “That’s—I mean, that’s probably good, right? Unless—do you think he found your Twitter?”

Taehyung pales, mind flickering to the by-now hundreds of tweets he’s sent livetweeting his cafe expeditions. Of course, his video game reference username shouldn’t be too easy to link back to him, and his icon is Shouto Todoroki, not his own face. But he doesn’t actually know much about Jimin outside his job and uncanny ability to get Taehyung’s dick standing at attention. Maybe he’s a hacker in his spare time. God knows Taehyung’s distracted enough when he’s at the cafe to leave his phone unattended.

“No, I…. no,” Taehyung shakes his head, making a mental note to set his account to private for a bit later. “But I need help picking what to wear!”

“That’s what you woke me up for?” Jungkook groans, “Taehyung, I just went to bed two hours ago!”

“And did that all-nighter help you any with clearing the Scalecaller dungeon on veteran mode? Doubt it,” Taehyung fires back. Jungkook looks stung, so it’s definitely the truth. “Neither was it my fault. I went to bed at the sweet, early, normie hour of two a.m., well-rested and ready for my date.”

“You literally go to the cafe every other day,” Jungkook deadpans, “Shouldn’t you have started worrying about your appearance a long time ago?”

“Just give me some advice,” Taehyung pleads, “You know I just want you to hype me.”

Jungkook mutters grudgingly, but he’s a good friend, rubbing at the circles under his eyes and following Taehyung to his bedroom. He proceeds to pick out almost every black article of clothing Taehyung owns, which is typical, but it does help, being able to speculate and get feedback for each style he models.

The end result is better than Taehyung had imagined. He’s shrugged himself into jeans, for once, a light-washed and straight-legged pair that he doesn’t even remember buying. The lost space feels weird around his ankles, at first, but he makes back up for it with an oversized sweater that sports lantern sleeves and a chic turtleneck. He parts his hair out of his eyes, wears his contacts for once, and admires himself in the mirror.

And crashes back down onto the bed.

“What am I doing?” he whispers to the ceiling. Jungkook stirs beside him, half-gone but waking back up when his friendship senses are tingling. “I don’t even know his last name.”

“Lotsa people go out with people they don’t know,” Jungkook contributes sleepily. “That’s how you…” he yawns, “Get to know ‘em.”

“It’s just—kind of weird, isn’t it?” Taehyung bites his lip. “That I’m pursuing him—like this. It’s not even a date, it’s just—I don’t know. What if this isn’t what I think? What if—”

He kind of thinks he’s lost Jungkook. But then the younger rolls over, taking half the blankets with him, a solemn looking cocoon with sleepy eyes and squished, pouting cheeks. He throws his arm haphazardly, landing it atop Taehyung’s chest in what’s probably intended to be comfort.

“Taehyung,” he mumbles, “Just talk to him.”

He really is gone then, dozing off easily. Taehyung smiles affectionately, fighting back anxieties as he ruffles Jungkook’s hair and tucks him into bed properly, giving himself a final look-over in the mirror before heading out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taehyung practically skips coming off the bus stop, in the beginning, but his pace slows as he approaches the cafe. The butterflies seem to have turned into lead weights, his palms clammy no matter how often he wipes them on his pants in panic. 

He pays the cover fee with shaking hands, giving a small, apologetic smile for the nervous state. It’s just—it’s the first time Jimin has reached out to him, really, more than the back-and-forth he couldn’t be sure wasn’t reserved for every customer. And in the back of his mind, that’s his biggest fear: that not only is he making a fool of himself, but that he’s making Jimin uncomfortable, too. Just because a bunch of drooling geeks call this place a haven doesn’t mean he has to be one of them, and the more he thinks about it, the more he begins to fear Jimin’s going to tell him off, like he’d been unable to during a shift.

But he calls up Jungkook’s sleepy face and voice to calm himself, because there’s no use getting so worked up before he knows for sure, and recalls his voice: just talk to him.

Jisoo leads him to his usual table, a sweet corner booth that seems to have been silently reserved for him the last month or so. Taehyung looks at the menu to pass the time, of all things, because he’s surprisingly barely looked over it. It’s kind of an inside joke that Jimin ‘recommends’ his meals for him when he stops by.

To speak of the devil. Taehyung spots him before Jimin notices him, and takes the rare opportunity to sneak a wistful glance. Today he’s stopped by around nine am rather than his usual late afternoon, and Jimin looks focused even as he accepts a coffee and works at tying on his waist apron. Once it’s on he glances around, casually, but a little too intently to be entirely purposeless. It thrills Taehyung to be something Jimin might be looking for.

Sure enough, when he sees Taehyung, his eyes light up with recognition. A small smile brushes his lips, and as he walks closer Taehyung panics anew. Especially because Jimin has grabbed an extra cup, he’s bringing two drinks, and Taehyung still can’t get his hands to stop shaking.

“Hey,” is Jimin’s completely normal greeting, so calm Taehyung feels out of place for panicking. Still, he takes a moment to appreciate: something about Jimin is a bit softer in the morning. Or maybe Taehyung’s just exhausted, or died and gone to the afterlife. None of this could really be happening, because Jimin slides into the cozy booth across from him. Jimin is sitting with him. Taehyung’s mind blanks.

“Taehyung, right?” Jimin asks. He leans his chin in his palm, smile open. “It’s on your generous checks.”

“Right,” Taehyung chuckles nervously. “That’s—me. Taehyung.”

“Taehyung,” Jimin says again, musing the sound. Taehyung’s heart nearly leaps through his chest, because he’s just barely developed a tolerance for mean, on-shift Jimin; he hasn’t at all worked up a defense against cute Jimin. He’s just as beautiful now, but his posture is relaxed, sleeves uncuffed and hanging past his hands curled around a coffee. “I’m Jimin, but, ah, you know that, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Taehyung answers way too quickly. Jimin’s eyes crinkle up in amusement. It’s a look Taehyung decides he’d like to see more of. “I—oh, god. I’ve been wanting to talk to you…”

“Yeah?” and there it is again, that confusing mix of soft and hard. The cocky smile Taehyung’s used to, but paired with a new sweetness in his eyes. 

“And now that I am I don’t know what to say,” Taehyung admits in a rush, hands curled into anxious fists. “I—wow, you probably get this all the time, too, huh? It probably gets annoying, I mean, you’re at work—and it’s just work, you know, the cafe’s concept, nothing real, and—I’ve probably been too—have I been too—?”

“Taehyung,” Jimin interrupts him, eyebrow quirked. “Slow down. You’re okay.”

Taehyung looks at him uncertainly, but takes a deep breath. Looking satisfied, Jimin pushes the extra cup toward him. “Here.”

Taehyung takes a grateful sip—and tries not to grimace. He hates coffee. But it’s coffee gracing his presence by an angel’s hands, so he can manage. He twists the flinch into a smile.

“I’ve wanted to talk to you, too,” Jimin says, when Taehyung seems to have calmed. Taehyung almost sputters at that, but hears him out. Because Jimin looks uncharacteristically anxious, looking down and messing with his sleeves— “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being, you know. Too much.”

“Too much…?” Taehyung echoes, and realizes. “You mean your, uh… attitude?”

Jimin snorts softly at the phrasing, but bites his lip. “Yeah. I know I’ve been a bit… much.”

“This is your job,” Taehyung assures hurriedly. “You’re supposed to be mean!”

Jimin chuckles. “Well, yeah,” he says, still looking down, “But I started to worry if I’ve gone a bit far with you.”

Taehyung can’t believe it. His stomach has been sick hours this morning worrying Jimin was going to tell him off, only to hear Jimin is harboring the same anxieties he does. He leans forward, hasty to assure Jimin.

“You’re fine,” he promises, heart swooping at Jimin’s eyes back on him. “This whole time—I was going to ask, I worried I was bothering you. This is your job, but I’m the one who’s been… too much, ‘cos, well, you know how I respond to this stuff...”

“You get hard every time I talk to you,” Jimin observes kindly.

“Um, yeah,” Taehyung chokes, collar feeling suddenly too tight at Jimin’s ease with the topic. He goes for a choked-back sip of the coffee to stall. “I—ha. Uh. Yeah.”

“It’s fine,” Jimin snickers. “I, um. I meant it. When I said I like it,” he’s back to biting his lip, but it’s different this time. Less shy, head angled to stare up at Taehyung from under pretty lashes. “I like it. The attention. That you’re kind of a hot mess. I mean, s’why I work here—I like having that effect on people, I just… wanted to make sure you were okay with it. When I called it out.”

“I like it, too,” Taehyung says quietly when Jimin trails off. “I… like it. The whole, you know, concept, and… I like when you do it, especially,” he closes his eyes, face flushing but continuing for Jimin’s sake. “That’s why I’m so affected. That’s why I keep coming back. But I started to worry, too! That… I was being too much?” Taehyung finally cracks open his eyes. Jimin looks like he wants to disagree, but nods for Taehyung to continue. “Because this is your job, so maybe you had to tolerate me! So I wanna make it clear that there is, like, never any need to serve me. If you don’t wanna, if I’m making you uncomfortable. You can tell me off or kick me out any time, and I won’t make a scene, just—you know, if you’re fine with it too…?”

“Taehyung,” Jimin interrupts. His tone’s firm, but he looks like a weight’s been lifted. “This is probably the one service industry location in the city where company policy doesn’t require me to be nice to a customer. If I wanted you gone, you’d know it.”

“Oh. Okay,” Taehyung agrees, relief settling through him. Then— “Wait, so does that mean, you know, inferring, that—you want me around?”

Jimin reaches across the table, and flicks Taehyung’s forehead. Taehyung shrinks in his seat, grabbing at his face in betrayal.

“Don’t get cocky on me,” Jimin taunts, for a second his glorious work persona flashing back. But then he says, “Really. Don’t worry about me. We can ban any customer we like—believe me, I’ve done it, I’d do it if I wanted to—you’re far from making the naughty list. The most offensive thing you’ve ever done is drool when you stare at me, but hey, that’s to be expected.”

Taehyung flushes harder, mumbling something insubstantial under his breath because there really is no defense. Jungkook had pointed it out to him on one of their visits together, horrified by how unsurprised Taehyung had been by it.

“I mean, there are a lot of creeps who come here…” he muses, “But you’re not one of them,” Jimin says genuinely. Taehyung’s confidence soars. Or at least it does until Jimin continues, “You’re just one of the horny nerds. Harmless.”

“Okay, ouch.”

“You know it’s true,” Jimin says, and seeing Taehyung slump he adds, “Don’t worry. It’s cute.”

Taehyung perks up. “Yeah?”

“Mm,” Jimin hums in lieu of response. “Didn’t I just tell you we wouldn’t be talking? I could kick you to the curb any time I wanted.”

“So does that mean you like me?” Taehyung asks slyly. Jimin reaches to flick him again, but Taehyung’s ready this time, ducking to safety.

“I’m glad we cleared things up, but let’s not move too fast, sweetheart,” Jimin pats Taehyung’s hand. Taehyung tries to pretend his skin doesn’t tingle at the touch. Jimin’s hands are soft, and small. Holding them might actually end his life.  “But I do enjoy you. My favorite customer. Tips like a champ. Always has his bag in his lap.”

“That’s your fault,” Taehyung grumbles.

Jimin sets his chin confidently. “Is that so?” he asks, and Taehyung stiffens as he feels a foot knock into his ankle, sliding up—

“Not at all!” Taehyung babbles, drawing his legs back fast enough that his ankle knocks into the back of the booth with a cringe. Jimin snickers.

“Well, I should get to work,” Jimin sighs, rolling his neck. “You know how it is. Another day, another few dozen hearts to break…” he winks, and Taehyung looks down. “You’re more than welcome to hang around. This is practically your table at this point.”

“I think I will,” Taehyung smiles. “I’m… glad I got to talk to you. Like, really talk to you, outside a shift. I love the concept here, but I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“I’m glad I got to talk to you, too,” Jimin says sincerely as he stands. “Don’t worry, by the way. Nothing’s changed. In fact…” he trails off until Taehyung looks at him wide eyed just to wink again. “I’m meaner to the boys I like.”

Then he’s gone, whisking back toward the kitchen. Taehyung stares wistfully after his ass as he goes.

When he comes back after clocking in to take Taehyung’s order, nothing’s changed. He’s still mean, still makes Taehyung squirm in his seat and looks like a god while he does it. But it’s more comfortable now, Taehyung no longer worried he makes Jimin uncomfortable, throwing himself into the fantasy with no shame. 

There’s only one deviation, when Jimin comes by to point to the coffee. Taehyung looks up from his laptop, startled, and readies an excuse for not drinking it, but Jimin beats him to it.

“You didn’t drink this,” he says calmly, picking up the cup and taking a swig himself. “Not good enough for you?”

“No! No, that’s just, I—” it’s kind of embarrassing, but Taehyung doesn’t look away, apologetic for it. “I don’t really like coffee…”

“Oh,” Jimin blinks, act dropped momentarily. “What would you like?” Shyly, Taehyung tells him hot cocoa, and Jimin hums. “That’s sweet,” he decides, and Taehyung’s stomach gives a flip when he adds, “Sweet tooth for a sweet boy.”

The clingy act at the end is played up even more, Jimin pouting and Taehyung so red he’s sure he might die. Jimin tells him to come back soon, and Taehyung’s heart swells knowing with certainty that he means it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s that. Business returns to its usual course; Ubisoft announces yet another Assassin’s Creed game, Jungkook announces let’s get it an alarming amount of times per hour, and in his free time, Taehyung visits Serendipity.

Nothing changes, except that Taehyung has fixed his sleep schedule—as close to a normal functioning human’s as possible—in order to come in early enough to see Jimin before his shift. It’s always sweet, talking that bit outside his work, but Taehyung’s glad too that nothing has changed on-shift, because Jimin certainly does not skimp on the personalized treatment.

It escalates, sometimes. Taehyung still isn’t sure how he survived the day Jimin came to sit in his lap, complaining of sore feet and suggesting Taehyung give him a massage. Taehyung had choked on his spit, knowing Jimin could feel Taehyung’s dick beginning to press up against him, could see in Jimin’s eyes how obvious he was being. Of course said massage hadn’t really happened, but it had gone right into the ever-growing mental compartment of Jimin-centric material he uses to reacquaint himself with his hand.

Another time, he tells Taehyung he looks stiff, insists on ‘looking’ for the problem. Which ends up surprisingly PG as he massaged Taehyung’s shoulders and scolded him for his posture, booping his nose and walking away tsking. No matter what it is, Jimin’s always got a gleam in his eyes, one Taehyung likes to think matches the dazedness of his own ever since the admission that they’re both into this and welcome it.

Every time, he brings Taehyung his favorite hot chocolate. It becomes routine; Taehyung shows up early, Jimin sits with him on his breaks. Always with Jimin’s coffee, and Taehyung’s hot chocolate, and talking more and more, a lovely glimpse of Jimin beyond his work persona. The topics don’t stray too far outside of work, though, until one day,

“I was wondering,” Jimin begins coyly. He doesn’t know it, but the interruption was well-timed, because once Taehyung gets going on the history of Elder Scrolls lore, he’s heated and there’s no stopping him. “What are you doing later today?”

Taehyung freezes. The answer, of course, is that he’s got a new playthrough to film, some indie game off Steam subscribers have been recommending, but he can practically hear Jungkook yelling in his ear not to answer that.

“Uh, nothing important,” Taehyung answers, mentally rescheduling everything he was planning to do the next twenty four hours, and asks in as casual a tone as he can muster, “Why?”

“Well, I… like hanging out with you,” Jimin admits. And Taehyung’s known it must be the truth, otherwise why would he spend his breaks with him?, but it’s still different coming from Jimin himself. “I’m sure you’re sick of the cafe scene, but maybe we could hang out after my shift, or something?”

Taehyung is quiet so long Jimin’s expression falls, and he continues, “Or… not, if you don’t want to, if I’ve been misreading things. There’s no pressure—”

That’s when Taehyung unfreezes, panic flooding the deer-in-headlights daze he’d worked down into. “Yes!” he all but shouts into Jimin’s face, dialing it back when Jimin blinks, startled. “Yes,” he adds at a friendlier volume, “Oh my god? Yes. Um, sorry, I just—I kinda zoned out. Your eyes are super easy to get lost in.”

Jimin blinks at him again, then he breaks into a smile, ducking to giggle into his hands. “Wow,” he says. “Okay. Cool. Thank you? Okay.”

“So… are we...?” Taehyung asks, fidgeting in his seat. He can’t quite get the word date past his lips, but maybe it’s okay, because Jimin understands.

“Gonna have a great time at the diner ‘cross the way?” Jimin suggests, bangs slipping cutely with a tilt of his head. Not for the first time, Taehyung marvels at Jimin’s ability to charm both his libido and his heart.

Taehyung smiles back at him, said heart fluttering. “Absolutely.”

The rest of Jimin’s shift passes quickly. For once he seems to spare his punches, mean enough but not to their usual excess, maybe feeling something about their planned—excursion? date? 

He comes to fetch Taehyung after it’s done, dressed down with the removal of his waist apron and untucking of his dress shirt. It looks great, and Taehyung tells him so, glowing at the smile he receives from Jimin for it. He waits at Taehyung’s side while he pays, too, and they step out of the cafe to cross the street and enter the diner there together. 

Jimin’s arm hooks in his, closer than they’ve ever been, and Taehyung’s heart pounds enough to give out on the walk over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a kitschy place that Jimin’s chosen, neon lights and a jukebox in the corner. Jimin seems well-acquainted, cheerily requesting a table for two and popping a quarter in the table slot.

“Any requests?” Jimin asks. Taehyung glances at the spin, biting his lip.

“I’m fine with classics.” It’s the first name to pop out to him of the blur of the old-fashioned turning cards, and anyway, it’s not a lie.

“Classy,” Jimin comments, and punches in the keys. A few seconds later the subdued notes of some last-century trot start up dreamily from the jukebox. “Some of us all come here after shifts, sometimes. It’s relaxing.”

“It’s nice,” Taehyung says, and means it honestly. The old-fashioned sounding song sets the scene perfectly. Which reminds him of the boy across from him: He can almost hear Jungkook’s voice urging him to say something and not just sit here awkwardly. Taehyung settles on the quite normal, “How was your shift?”

“My feet hurt,” Jimin complains immediately, “but overall, fine. It’s always nicer when I get to see you,” he teases, nudging his ankle against Taehyung’s under the table.

“Tease me, you mean,” Taehyung huffs. Jimin giggles.

“Don’t tell me you don’t love it, though,” Jimin has the audacity to wink. Taehyung groans, slumping back against the seat with a hand raised to his chest.

“Maybe,” he says. “If I don’t end up dying first.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Jimin declares, reaching across the table to flick at his forehead, a move that has kind of become their thing. Taehyung pouts at him. “It’s so easy to talk to you. Like, easy to fluster you too, obviously—” he laughs at Taehyung’s betrayed expression, “But I really look forward to talking to you.”

“You too,” Taehyung affirms. Jimin probably knows that, though, considering Taehyung practically has his work schedule memorized and budgets around tipping Jimin what he absolutely deserves. “Even if you do prefer One Piece to Naruto.”

He can’t help the jab, because hearing Jimin confess that today had been horrifying. Jimin gasps in mock offense.

“Pirates over ninjas, any day,” he declares. Taehyung clutches a hand to his heart.

Under the banter, it’s relieving that it’s just as easy to talk to Jimin outside of the cafe as it is inside. A part of Taehyung had been apprehensive that the change in scenery, or a proper sit-down versus the few minutes Jimin catches on his breaks, might change something. But he’s pleased to find they get along just as well. The only effort involved is in the moments that Taehyung has to make conscious efforts to keep breathing (which happens nearly any time Jimin does remotely anything) but that’s nothing new.

Jimin is sweet. He’s gorgeous, obviously, but has a wonderful personality to back it. It’s night and day to his work persona, and Taehyung appreciates both. 

And both of them affect Taehyung’s ability to filter his thoughts, so when he dreamily marvels, “You’re so nice,” he doesn’t realize he’s spoken aloud until Jimin reacts.

It’s with a giggle, “Well, yeah. Being mean is just part of my job description,” he starts to dismiss, but then something seems to occur to him. The shift in his face is so obvious it has Taehyung sitting up concernedly, an apprehensive look as he says, “You know that whole persona is… just a job, right? I mean, I like playing it, but that’s not just me.”

It hits Taehyung like lightning. “No, no,” he insists with a quick shake of his head. Later he might note just how strong his desire to comfort Jimin from feeling any type of bad is. “I know. I promise, I know. This is great. A surprise, but I like it.” Taehyung smiles at him earnestly, and Jimin seems to get it, returning the expression shyly.

“Good,” Jimin nods, and then leans forward to murmur, “Besides, only the boys I like get to see just how mean I can really get.”

His sweet smile turns into a wicked grin when Taehyung’s eyes widen, breath hitching audibly. He laughs, head tossing back adorably. “Sorry,” Jimin says. “You’re cute when you blush.”

“Stooop,” Taehyung whines, unfreezing to hide his face in his hands. “I can’t handle flirting—wait,” he parts his hands, panicked he’s misread, “Are we flirting?”

“I believe we’re flirting, yes,” Jimin says kindly. “Proper flirting, too. Not whatever it was you were trying to do your first few dine-ins with the over-tipping and stammering.”

"Can you blame me?" Taehyung complains, pressing the back of his hand to his forehead in an effort to cool his hot face. "You're one of the prettiest people I've ever seen."

Now it's Jimin's turn to whine "Stop," and Taehyung could make the argument Jimin pulls off the petulance a hundred times better than he does (though admittedly, he may be a little biased.) 

Fries come as an appetizer, and ordering takes another few minutes. Once they’re alone again, Jimin puffs his cheeks out at Taehyung, dropping his chin in his hand in an exaggerated pout before sobering. "Really, though, I... can I be honest with you?"

Concerned, Taehyung nods in earnest. Jimin looks considering of how to continue, pursing his lips a few seconds and tapping the table with a finger. He takes a breath.

"I don't usually try... anything with people from the shop," he says, slowly but certainly. "I know when people are attracted to me, but I also know that a lot of times, it's just part of the fantasy of my job. And I told you, I like it! I like my job, I like playing the role. But..." his eyes look down, and Taehyung feels the loss instantly, wanting them back on him. "Being with someone, I want them to like me for me. It doesn't matter what it is, friendship, hookups, dating — I don't want it to just be based on fantasy. Does that make sense?"

Taehyung takes a second to breathe in before nodding. Slowly, empathetically, driven to make eye contact with Jimin. He reaffirms with a nod when Jimin finally lifts his eyes back to him.

"I know what you mean," Taehyung says softly. "And—I mean, I can't lie. I did keep coming back to the shop for the… experience with you. But I promise, really, that's not all I'm into? I'd like to get to know you better. Just from what I've learned already, you're hardworking, you're funny, you're sweet—I'm serious!" he has to insist with a grin as Jimin groans and waves a hand.

He continues, "But... I understand why you have that hesitance. I can't even imagine some of the creeps you might have to deal with—" Jimin makes a sound of agreement, and Taehyung nods sympathetically at it. He finishes firmly, "And I'd understand if you didn't feel comfortable for any reason! With something I did or said. Since I was one of your, uh, horny customers. I get why you have to worry, and it's totally valid to tell me off any time! But I'd like to try and be better than that, if you'll let me..."

Taehyung trails off, unsure what else to say and suddenly a little embarrassed by his passionate tirade. It's hard to know what exactly to say. He wants to reassure Jimin, but truly does understand why he might be wary.

But Jimin actually smiles, dropping his chin back in his hands, though this time with a fondness that makes Taehyung's heart skip a beat.

"I really appreciate you saying that," he says sweetly, "I'm glad you understand. I hoped you did. I mean, I asked you to go out with me 'cause I kind of already weighed out the pros and cons. You always seemed like a very respectful boy. It's sexy."

Taehyung chokes, hands flying to his face. "You can't just say things," he complains in a staged whisper, but his dopey grin is already starting to hurt his cheeks with the force of the smile. "I promise I am the most respectful boy. An upstanding fetish cafe customer. I will defend the hot server I'm crushing on against any unnecessary sexualization with my life."

"Crushing on, huh?" Jimin pops a fry in his mouth with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

"Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain's filter when I'm in the presence of attractive people," Taehyung says mildly. "Please focus instead on literally anything else in that sentence."

Jimin laughs, eyes crinkling. "This is why I like you," he declares, pointing and shaking his finger at Taehyung. "I love a man who knows how to praise me like I deserve. Don't worry, big boy, I said all that to reassure you. We wouldn't be going out together if you'd done anything to bother me. I just needed to make sure all the cards were on the table."

"I understand," Taehyung reassures. 

A pause, then, as he mentally struggles to beat himself back, but finally his infatuation wins over. He tries for his most relaxed, nonchalant voice. 

"Sooo," and it's already coming out with his words stumbling over each other, but too late to stop, "Going out, huh? As in... you know, maybe, an excursion two people go on when they're mutually interested in each other?"

Jimin blinks at him. "Are you asking me if we're on a date?"

"Hhyes," Taehyung forces out, quickly asserting, "But I'm happy for anything else! I'm happy just to spend time with you and get to know you. I swear I'm an actual nice guy, not a Nice Guy™, like, that whole friendzone thing? Purely a misogynist invention by men who think they're entitled to romantic interest just by being a decent human being. Me, I just get off on being acquaintances, so no need to worry on that count. I'm just asking for, you know, the sake of clarification. And also because I might otherwise lie awake every night this entire next month agonizing what are we?"

"So… you are asking me if we're on a date," Jimin confirms. Taehyung almost swoons at Jimin's ability to pick through nervous rambling bullshit. (He'd like to hope that with more exposure, he'd get used to Jimin, but on the very high chance that he'll forever be in stunned awe around him, it's nice that Jimin can interpret the lovestruck babbling.)

He nods instead. Jimin cocks an eyebrow, considering it. His eye contact never slips as he lifts his drink, wraps his lips around the straw and gives a slow, suggestive suck.

"I mean," he drawls when he puts it down, seemingly smug to see Taehyung's gaze still fixed on his lips. "We are getting lunch together, outside of a workplace where I'm paid to interact with you. We've talked about our tastes in anime, which is the conversational equivalent of second base. And I've opened up to you about one of my biggest vulnerabilities when it comes to dating."

Taehyung swallows, "Oh."

"But," Jimin shrugs, running a hand back over his hair. "I'll let you draw your own conclusions."

Taehyung gets a burst of courage from the curve of Jimin's smirk. With it he ventures, shy but firm, "I'd like this to be a date."

Jimin's smile spreads. "Then it's a date."

In that moment, Taehyung hopes Jimin knows CPR. Because his head spins enough with giddiness that he's in real danger of passing out— Cons: he looks like an idiot in front of Jimin, Pros: Jimin might give him mouth to mouth. He makes a mental note to sneak that question into conversation at some point so he can plan to fake a faint if Jimin does.

“A date,” Taehyung repeats, feeling his own grin spread across his face. “Perfect.”

That danger of passing out only increases when Jimin slides a napkin with his phone number across the table like a perfect cliche, and Taehyung’s breathing just about stops.

“For whenever you want to plan our second,” Jimin says innocently, and his fingers find Taehyung’s to lock together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texting Jimin isn’t as scary as Taehyung thought it might be. It’s actually kind of easier than talking to him in person, in some ways. He doesn’t have to try not to stammer, or try to maintain eye contact with Jimin while holding a conversation.

Not that Jimin himself is any easier to handle electronically, though. Almost immediately after Taehyung asks is this jimin? he gets back a suave, depends, is this my favorite customer? and almost throws his phone across the room with a giddy scream. 

But aside from the few struggles, it’s nice to have the extra contact between them, like real friends. They text every hour, every day. Jimin complains about customers, shares stories about his roommate, even supports Taehyung talking about the interview he’s hoping to get with a gaming company.

It’s also a useful channel of communication in the case of upcoming events. One such example: a seemingly innocent invite from Jimin, on a benign Tuesday afternoon.



loml of my life
hey so
i know this is redundant since you come in almost every single day
but on the off chance something might keep you away from the cafe this week

 

you
impossible but continue

 

loml of my life
you should definitely stop by friday

 

you
absolutely
do i know why

 

loml of my life
oh no reason

 

you

 

loml of my life
you know what
i don’t actually think i’ve ever seen you without a boner

 

you
that sure is an observation
let’s change the topic

 

loml of my life
lmaooooo

 

you
i wont lie im a little scared
like dont get me wrong. im still going to come in
literally nothing could keep me away actually
but is this a trap?


loml of my life
absolutely it is


you
that’s hot
and good enough for me
what hours should i be in

 

loml of my life
oh, my usual shift
basically once a month we have themed days
it’s actually for charity so your libido will pay off
and let’s just say i’m confident this theme will really cater to you
trust me?

 

you
you honestly could have said i was going to be sniped on arrival
and i would show up just to see you holding the gun.

 

loml of my life
question
are you always this horny?

 

you
only with boys i want to kill me

 

loml of my life
i’m flattered
… i think
i’ll see you friday then ~~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Come Friday, Taehyung is feeling brave… but not quite brave enough yet to go it alone—whatever it is going to be. Out of principle, he hadn’t looked at the cafe’s website to spoil whatever it is Jimin’s shift holds for him today.

But before he can knock on Jungkook’s door for support, it swings open. A fully dressed Jungkook greets Taehyung. The two of them freeze, staring at each other as though caught, Taehyung’s hand still raised poised in the air.

“And you really don’t even know what you’re going for?” Jungkook asks for what must be the hundredth time, incredulity plain in his voice and a skip in his step as they walk.

Of course he’d been on his way out to Serendipity, too. A quest to the exact event Taehyung is headed to, whatever it is. And he’d planned to ask Taehyung along just the same, because great minds think alike.

“Look, Jungkook,” Taehyung gives the most dramatic sigh he can muster. “I’m a man of simple tastes. I eat. I sleep. I play video games. And I do whatever the most beautiful man I’ve ever met asks of me. That’s valid.”

“Being horny has literally not ever, and never will be, valid,” Jungkook says pensively.

“Okay, well, then I don’t need to be valid,” Taehyung argues back. “I just need to impress Jimin. And I think it’s going well so far. I have his number and everything.”

“Is that so?” Jungkook asks, clearly doubtful. “Do you still tip him like his sugar daddy?”

“Please,” Taehyung replies dismissively, waving a hand. “I tip him what he deserves. Have you ever had him pout at you? He can have my PIN number any time he asks.”

Jungkook’s sigh marks their come upon the cafe. Taehyung perks up seeing the storefront, and Jungkook adjusts his shirt with a hum of excitement.

Taehyung gets the cover fee. Not really out of any desire to pay for Jungkook, but rather because his freeloader of a roommate slips under his arm and past the host’s lecturn before he can protest.

Taehyung stares after him, open mouthed in disbelief. The girl working the front looks like she suppresses a smile but isn’t sympathetic enough to let him pass, keeping a beckoning hand held out when Taehyung only pays for himself.

Taehyung tries one helpless look over at a purposely oblivious Jungkook before giving up. He sighs and reopens his wallet. The drama distracts him enough that he doesn’t realize he’s walked into a very different scene than usual—not until he’s right in the thick of it.

The cafe itself is mostly unchanged, explaining why Taehyung hadn’t noticed immediately. Its same decor as usual, pleasant pastel and the smell of coffee. Today, however, there’s more customers. Far more than usual, in fact, almost every table filled, and more staff to accomodate the rush.

Which is what stops Taehyung dead in his tracks. Right alongside Jungkook, who’s looking around in appreciation.

“It’s a themed day,” is all he says in way of explanation for why every host and server is wearing a stereotypical skimpy French maid costume.

Before Taehyung can even begin to think about responding, let alone how to close his mouth hanging open, he hears a familiar drawl behind him. Even before he turns his heart skips several beats. How could he have forgotten what this theme day might look on—

“Hey, glasses,” Jimin croons affectionately, coming up between the two of them. He slings his arms over their shoulders affectionately, and Taehyung blisters at the touch. “Table for two?”

“My God,” is all Taehyung manages aloud.

“Yes please,” Jungkook covers for the both of them, hearts in his eyes.

Jimin looks gorgeous. Always does, of course, every time Taehyung’s seen him, but today is a whole new territory of danger with the way fishnet tights shape his thighs and a maid dress cinches at his waist. It should look like a costume, it’s so damn cliche, but Taehyung is very human and very horny and very weak to one Park Jimin. As he follows to the table numbly, he fumbles to find a pulse at his wrist, just to check if he’s still breathing.

“We decided on maid outfits for this month’s theme,” Jimin throws casually over his shoulder as he leads them through the crowded cafe. Distantly, Taehyung realizes with a thrum of affection that they’re going to his table, the one Jimin always serves him at, kept cleared. For him? No, he can’t assume. But Lord, does he want to. “It’s a little overused, yeah, but we figured you horny nerds eat that shit up.”

He’s right. It’s taking all of Taehyung’s willpower not to stare at Jimin’s ass in the maid skirt as he trails behind him, if only because Jimin has proven himself to have an uncanny ability to catch Taehyung being horny in public. As though on cue, Jimin glances over his shoulder with a dazzling, too-innocent smile.

Taehyung slides into his booth, and Jungkook into the one across from him. Today all the tables have new lace tablecloths across them, and pretty folded napkins. In the center is a large paper doily, the purpose of which Taehyung realizes when Jimin pulls a crayon out of his small frilly apron with a flourish.

“Here we are, gentlemen, and I’ll be your lovely server for today,” he says pleasantly, and signs his name as a flourish in the center of the paper. For a brief second, the worst parts of Taehyung yell at him to save it as an autograph. “Taehyung, it’s your first time with one of our themes, right? Here, let me write your names.”

With another spin of the crayon in his fingers, Jimin makes a show of writing their names in cursive on the doily—and abysmally misspelling them on purpose. Both Taehyung and Jungkook blink at the result, a boldly written JUNGCOOK and TAEHUNG in the middle.

“Aren’t you… missing something?” Jungkook ventures, blinking at the doily and back up to Jimin.

Jimin squints at him. His voice is mildly threatening. “Excuse me?”

Jungkook shrinks slightly, but tries, “Well, for starters, there’s another letter in Taehyung’s name…”

Jimin raises his brow. Primly he leans back over, and adds to the front so the name now reads as YTAEHUNG. Then he breaks the crayon and drops the two halves before Jungkook.

“Any other complaints I can take care of for you?” Jimin asks pleasantly.

“You did it perfectly, thanks, Jimin,” Taehyung breaks in eagerly. Jimin huffs, giving a haughty look to Jungkook, who just looks vaguely turned on by the cold treatment.

“Thank you, darling, considering I didn’t care in the first place,” Jimin says, flashing a wink to Taehyung. Taehyung preens under it. “Now, theme day. Basically, once a month, we all decide on a theme and a special menu to bring some extra coin in from our beloved clientele. That’s you! Rest assured, the proceeds go to an excellent cause.”

“Where?” Taehyung asks curiously, sidetracked enough for a second that he dares to interrupt Jimin at work.

But despite the character he plays at the cafe, Jimin doesn’t seem to mind. “The local LGBT friendly shelter, actually,” he says with pride. “We all agreed on it about a year ago, since some of our staff have used their resources in the past. It also pisses off the very few conservative customers we have, so it’s overall something we’re quite proud to do.”

Touched, Taehyung sits up straighter. “Oh, wow,” he says with a sappy smile, “You’re saying I get to see you in a maid uniform, and it’s for a good cause?”

Jimin snorts. Taehyung can only feel mildly embarrassed at the way his filter slips around Jimin, considering he meant it. “You should have been around last month. It was ‘Las Vegas Leather.’ Real big hit with the businessmen on their lunch breaks.”

“I stopped by. It was a dream,” Jungkook sighs.

Taehyung coughs, and gets a swift kick under the table for it.

“Anyway, feel free to look over the menu and see what we’re offering today for proceeds,” Jimin says cheerily, and casts a meaningful smirk to Taehyung. “I may or may not have suggested a few of the services myself with… certain customers in mind.”

Taehyung isn’t sure what to expect from that statement, but by god is he excited to find out. Happily obedient, he flips open the menu left behind as soon as Jimin turns back to his work.

It’s pastel and laminated, for all the world a specials menu at any restaurant. At the top there’s a lovely introductory paragraph about where the proceeds go, a snippet of some new baked goods sold at the front on behalf of local organizations.

It’s extremely wholesome, considering that, for all intents and purposes, Serendipity is a fetish cafe. But Taehyung is quickly reminded of this fact as his eyes drift lower, beyond the edible offerings and down to the main money-makers.

“Oh,” he breathes out, barely believing his eyes. “My God.”

There’s different tiers of support, starting low and raising in price as well as… complexity of service. The first is simple enough, about five dollars for one of the servers to shake up a can of whipped cream and pour it into the donor’s mouth. From there they range: Jungkook seems especially fixated on one of the middle tiers, a personal minute of humiliation from a server in front of the cafe for fifty.

But Taehyung’s always been one to go big or go home. His eyes are drawn to the highest tier: one hundred dollars to get a paddling (over clothes, of course) from a server of choice, and mocked throughout it. He even gets to keep the paddle after, signed by the server. 

He’s embarrassingly excited just thinking about it. He imagines Jimin instructing him to bend over, in that glorious little maid dress and his curelest voice. Calling him all the nasty things he’s learned Taehyung loves, even as the entire cafe looks on.

Hey, it’s for charity, right?

“Look, someone just ordered,” Jungkook whispers urgently. Taehyung turns in time to see one of the managers—Hyolyn, he thinks, from Jimin mentioning her before—counting through a stack of bills purposefully slowly, as a man in a suit sweaters at the table before her. Then she nods, pocketing the cash before throwing the menu back down on the table with such a loud smack that even the goers of the cafe who weren’t already watching turn around to witness the special.

“Looks like someone’s got a taste for some good old fashioned humiliation,” she drawls, hands on her hips. She tosses her hair back from her face, and then kicks at a chair leg with a scowl. “What are you still doing sitting there? Get down where you belong.”

The man scrambles from the chair, almost tripped over himself in his haste to get to the floor. He drops to his hands and knees and looks up with a dopey grin on his face.

“Everyone’s watching you, you know,” Hyolyn continues loudly, lacing her hands behind her back and starting to walk a slow circle around him. “Just like they did last month. You really get off on this, don’t you? Answer me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the businessman chimes, face red. 

“Of course you do,” she clicks her tongue. “Gross. You know what I think you are?”

“Wh-What?”

She stops behind him, head tilted consideringly, and leans down to speak beside his ear. It’s audible enough, enunciated in a stage whisper for every other patron: “I think it makes you a pervert.”

The man shivers. Hyolyn giggles and straightens back up. She toes at his side, arms coming back front to fold over her chest.

“I think it makes you a good for nothing dog. A pig, even. You agree?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the businessman mumbles.

“Yeah? Let’s let everyone hear you squeal. Sing for me, stupid pig.”

Taehyung doesn’t realize his jaw is hanging open until he actually hears a muffled, embarrassedly muttered “oink” from the man’s lips. “Louder,” Hyolyn taunts, shaking her head. “So everyone can hear you and know what you are!”

“Holy shit,” Taehyung whispers to himself, and can’t deny—man, it may not exactly be his thing, but he feels a familiar beginning tightness in his pants imagining himself instead before Jimin. He’d definitely bark for Jimin. Aaand has to immediately cut that thought short, lest he gives Jimin another reason to tease him today. His eyes drop knowingly to Taehyung’s crotch nearly every time he’s in the cafe at this point.

The special is over fast. Hyolyn helps the man up with a hand, and gives an elegant curtsy to the restaurant at large as the cafe applauds. The man’s face is beet red, and he straightens his suit jacket out with a grin splitting his cheeks. His friends at the table clap his back as he sits down, and Hyolyn thanks him for his donation helping the community.

“Why is the most wholesomely horny thing I’ve ever seen in my life?” Taehyung wonders aloud in a whisper. Jungkook catches it with a snort, though his own dreamy expression isn’t much more composed than Taehyung’s.

“It’s really too bad you didn’t make it last month,” Jungkook shakes his head with a sigh. “I’m pretty sure Jimin wore leather shorts.”

“Please do not give me this visual right now,” Taehyung groans. Jungkook snickers. “Holy fuck. Are you gonna order?”

“Maybe,” Jungkook shrugs. “I did the humiliation special last month. Jin called me useless. It was hot. But I’m kinda low on money right now. I’ll probably go for some whipped cream shots, though. For, uh, charity and all.”

“Right. Charity.”

“What about you?” Jungkook leans back into the booth, crossing his arms challengingly over his chest. “This is the perfect chance to act out some of the fantasies we both know you’ve had about Jimin. And it’s for a good cause.”

“I don’t know…” Taehyung admits, squirming. Of course he wants to, but isn’t quite sure if it’d be welcome.

“Oh, come on,” Jungkook rolls his eyes. “You’re not hesitating, are you? Jimin literally wants you to.”

“You think so?” Taehyung sits up straighter.

“You are so oblivious,” Jungkook mourns, “You really think he told you to come today and gave you the specials menu with heart eyes for nothing? ‘Oh, darling,’” Jungkook flutters his eyes in a high-pitched voice, clasping his hands together. “‘Please check out our menu, I suggested some of the specials just for today with a certain customer in mind, definitely not you or anything though! Teehee!’”

“You know, if you’re going to try and imitate this,” Taehyung hears a familiar chiding voice, and bites down on his lip to hide a grin at the way Jungkook’s eyes widen into scared saucers. “At least try to flirt better, babe.”

“Jimin,” Jungkook chokes, frozen. “Good to see you!”

Jimin rolls his eyes good-naturedly. He doesn’t seem to be keeping up too-mean of a persona today, maybe to help boost the specials sales, because Taehyung is surprised Jungkook gets off so easily.

“So, did I hear talk of an order?” Jimin turns to Taehyung, drawing him out of the observation. His eyebrow is lifted questioningly, and a knowing smirk plays on his lips.

Taehyung swallows, mouth dry. Both Jimin and Jungkook look at him expectantly. “I think,” he manages, and his eyes drift toward the menu. “I’ll try this.”

He lets his hand guide him into the split-second decision, as his reach stutters down to the bottom of the list, to the grand tier. This times Jimin’s eyes are the ones to widen, for just a second. Taehyung only catches it because he’s watching his reaction intently. Then it’s gone, replaced by a grin.

“Interesting,” Jimin draws out the word, picking up the menu. “You’ve got your donation ready?”

Okay, he’s really doing this. Taehyung fumbles for his wallet with numb fingers, and thinks he understands now how visibly the businessman had trembled. Realizes, too, it’s more excitement than any type of fear. Jimin takes his card with ease, spinning it delicately in his fingers and giving Taehyung a pat to his head.

“I’ll go ahead and run this to your bill,” he says, hand falling to Taehyung’s shoulder with a squeeze. “And get the complimentary paddle.”

It’s really happening. Taehyung stares at his hands as Jimin turns back to the kitchen, and Jungkook reaches across the table to slap athis arm with a grin.

“You fucking animal,” he swears under his breath, “Oh, this is gonna be good.”

Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever truly understood just how slowly time can move until this moment, waiting for Jimin to return. Some part of him is freaking out, distantly quelled hysterics, like the swirl in a stomach when the bar of a roller coaster comes down with a creak, as it inches up an incline to the inevitable coming drop. No way out, and the urge to scream.

And then Jimin is back. Taehyung’s heart skips a beat when he sees the paddle in Jimin’s hand, completely ignoring his card slid back across the table with a receipt.

It’s nothing too intense, almost comical, actually. A neat looking pleather, black with red stitching, its handle curved into a heart. Across the flat of it SERENDIPITY is scrawled in souvenir cursive. Jimin spins it in his hand with an ease that betrays he’s used it before.

Its design must be a restaurant classic, because as soon as Jimin had appeared with it, people have turned to watch, conversations lulling into an excited rumble. Taehyung swallows looking up at Jimin.

There’s a hint of his usual mocking persona coming back, but his eyes are warm. He doesn’t gesture for Taehyung to get up, not yet, but he tilts his head.

“What’s your poison, darling?” he asks, thumbing at the handle of the paddle. “Nice fat sum like that, you tell me what you wanna hear.”

Taehyung bites down on his lip, sucking in a breath. “Um—” his throat closes as heat floods his face, suddenly uncertain, with eyes on him in the moment. “I— I don’t…”

“...Know?” Jimin guesses when he trails off. “Hey, you’re fine. Don’t worry, I know what you like. Just wanted to see if you had a special request today, pretty thing.”

Taehyung feels his face flush again, albeit for an entirely different reason this time. “Whatever you want. Maybe… how you always do, about how I get, um, eager.”

He shrinks a bit admitting it, but Jimin seems to understand, and blinks reassuringly at him. “Okay, okay,” he soothes, free hand coming up to rub at Taehyung’s shoulder again. “Come on up, big boy. Stand for me.”

Taehyung wipes his clammy palms off on his pants under the table before scurrying out of the booth to stand. Though it’s really not the time, he once again feels a distant glimmer to be reminded of the inch of height he holds over Jimin.

“You ever been spanked or anything like that before?” Jimin asks as casually as if they were talking about the weather.

Taehyung shakes his head. “Is it… gonna hurt?”

Jimin almost coos. “This play thing, through your pants? Not at all, sweetheart.”

“Okay,” Taehyung nods. “Then I’m ready. Excited. For, uh, charity.”

Jimin’s mouth twitches in a smile. “For charity, of course,” he agrees. Then he smooths his features, and despite the inch of height, Taehyung’s reminded of how easy it is to feel small beside him.

“You again!” Jimin starts by saying loudly, clear displeasure in his voice. He crosses his arms over his chest. “Blowing money to be put in your place again, huh? You’ll never learn your lesson.”

“N-No,” Taehyung manages, tongue tripping in its haste. Something warm floods his chest. “No, I won’t.”

“Oh, you admit it? I didn’t take you to be such a brat, Master,” Jimin drawls, and a shiver runs like a finger down Taehyung’s spine. The audience whistles. “Can’t stop staring up my skirt, maybe it’s you who needs a little domestic discipline today. Turn around!”

Taehyung’s body obeys before his spinning mind can hope to catch up. He swallows thick, heart roaring in his ears. Jimin’s hand presses into the small of his back, guiding him down, down, and Taehyung understands before Jimin even has to say it.

“Bend over,” he instructs anyway, and Taehyung does, until his head rests in his arms on the table. “Arch your back. I know you can posture better than that. Maybe you’re the one who needs to go through some training, Master.”

He’s absolutely playing into the maid theme, and loving it. Taehyung yelps as he feels Jimin knee at his ass, pressing him down farther. His voice is gorgeous as always with its sharp curve, soothing ASMR gone dungeon master.

“You piss me off on purpose, don’t you?” Jimin demands. “Coming in here with your tongue wagging out, you think I don’t see how much you love it? Keep your head down,” he places his hand over the back of Taehyung’s neck. It’s gentle, but to anyone else it must look like it’s keeping Taehyung held down, and it’s easy to play into that fantasy even from the light grip. “Take your punishment. Count for me.”

And Jimin had been right about the pain, or rather the lack of it. The impact is more embarrassing than anything, when he brings the pleather party-favor paddle down on the seat of Taehyung’s pants. A dull, distant sensation, but loud enough for all to hear, and compromising enough that the humiliation of the position itself makes up for the absence of any sting.

“I said count, Master,” Jimin’s voice is a terrifying cross between a purr and a threat. Stunned, Taehyung yelps out, “O-One?”

He must have done well enough, because Jimin gives him another hard thwack with the paddle across his ass. “Two,” Taehyung manages, cheek pressed to the table and head spinning. “Three, four!”

“Oh, good boy. Keep counting, try not to get too worked up,” Jimin mocks loudly, and the shudder that goes through Taehyung must be obvious to anyone watching. Which, he remembers with a twinge that goes straight to his dick, is likely everyone in the cafe. Fuck. “Remember, I’ll see if you get too excited, and so will everyone else.”

Taehyung almost drools onto the lace tablecloth. He counts, “Five,” out loud in what’s almost an embarrassing whimper, shifting his weight back and forth between the balls of his feet like an anxious dance.

“You’re doing well, Master,” Jimin sings, patting the paddle against Taehyung’s back in what might almost pass for a comforting motion. “At least, for a pervert.”

“M’not— ah, six!” Taehyung shrieks in surprise as Jimin brings the paddle down harder than before. It’s still not really painful, but it makes itself known. On instinct he reaches a hand back to rub at his ass, and almost comes right then from the way Jimin grabs his wrist and shoves it back to the table.

“Don’t lie, Master. Everyone knows,” Jimin chides, sounding cross with him, and Taehyung can almost perfectly envision him wagging a finger in that delightful little French maid ensemble. “Now keep counting, and maybe I’ll let you look up my skirt later, hm?”

Taehyung almost chokes on his spit vocalizing the next three hits. At ten Jimin steps back and starts a cheer, and the cafe bursts into applause and a few whistles as Taehyung stands up. He hadn’t noticed while bent over, but vertical he feels his face burning hot, and something warm curling in his stomach and then maybe chest to see Jimin’s dazzling smile focused on him.

“What a trooper. Here you are,” Jimin coos as he produces a metallic silver sharpie from the pocket his notepad peeks out of amongst the lace. He pops the cap off with teeth, and makes a show of signing his name on the paddle before presenting it to Taehyung with his hands extended respectfully in a small bow. Then he winks, and offers a, “Good boy.”

Taehyung feels his face kick it up further temperature wise, and takes a hasty seat amidst the attention. He accepts the paddle embarrassedly, but with a grin splitting his cheeks so wide it almost hurts. Jimin seems to match the expression at him, and with a shove at his shoulder that might be fond, he murmurs, “You did good.”

Taehyung can barely take it in before Jimin's turning back to the cafe at large. Ever the showman, he calls, "Now, who's next up to order? For charity, of course!" and laughs at the hands that go up, at the servers that move to tables ready to play into fantasies for the establishment.

That's distracting enough for most of the patrons to turn their attention away from their table and onto the next scene to take place. Taehyung, however, has the familiar skip in his heart when he's around Jimin, because he doesn't leave immediately.

Instead, Jimin glances slyly back at Taehyung. "I’ll go get you your favorite order started," he says. Before Taehyung can think of a response, Jimin dramatically lifts his hand and lets the sharpie slip from between his fingers and to the floor.

"Whoops," he says dryly, and Taehyung's brain is still scrambling to catch up—half a second from diving forward for the chance to pick the marker up for Jimin as a gentleman—when Jimin himself leans over purposefully for it.

Taehyung's eyes go wide and his jaw slack, freezing as Jimin bends over in front of him, incredibly slowly, so that the skirt hikes up and Taehyung can see a sinful amount of his fishnet-encased thighs and just where they tuck into black undergarment.

That pretty much does it for Taehyung's dick. Jimin straightens even slower than he'd bent over, twirling the retrieved sharpie in his hand with a cheerful whistle. Calculated, he turns to look at Taehyung, and they lock eyes before Jimin trails his gaze deliberately down to Taehyung's lap.

He'd smirked when he met Taehyung's shocked gaze, but seeing the latest of Taehyung's many erections around him elicits an actual snort and shake of his head.

"You know, I don't think I'll ever get tired of that. Shit’s like clockwork," Jimin muses aloud before he strolls off to the kitchen with leisurely confidence.

Only when he's gone is Taehyung released from his spell and able to slump back in his seat, meeting Jungkook's gaze across the table. He's equally as stunned, eyes wide and a little bit of drool in the corner of his mouth. They share a moment of astonished silence like that, in horny solidarity, before Jungkook breaks it.

"So that was like... a fucking lot," he says eloquently. His voice is breathy. "Like, a lot."

"You can say that again," Taehyung whispers.

"...So that was like, a fucking—"

"Not literally, dumbass. Please, I can't do this right now," Taehyung almost moans, bringing his hands up to cover his eyes. His face is scorching, and distantly hopes Jimin likes the color red, since he doubts his face is any other shade around the server. "I need support."

"How am I supposed to support you?" Jungkook demands, "I'm just as compromised. Maybe even more! I’ve never seen any of the servers do anything like that, let alone him. God, what the fuck, what did you two even talk about on that one date? I have never seen bedroom eyes that intense outside of an otome."

"Nothing, I swear!" Taehyung insists, and shrinks under Jungkook's accusing glare. "I mean, we talked about his work. And life and stuff. And like... that we're both really into the, um, dynamic that his job lends itself to. I think I'm kind of in love with him. Did any of that even just happen? In reality?" he pinches his arm, just to be sure.

"This is incredible. I cannot believe such a 10 is flirting back with your otaku ass like this. He must be into furries, there's no other explanation."

"Would you please—I am not a furry, first off," Taehyung hisses, "Please keep your accusations based off 2011 Khajit fanart to yourself, the love of my life is somewhere around here and he's terrifyingly skilled at sneaking up on me and overhearing compromising bits of conversation."

"Okay, well,” Jungkook says, looking extremely unconvinced. "2011 fursona askblog and self insert Sonic OCs aside, you didn't answer my question. How in the hell have you managed to get that to look at you with heart eyes? You're wearing a Love Live shirt in public!"

"I'm not—he doesn't—I had nothing else clean—" Taehyung stammers out, and shakes his head fiercely. "This is so not the point. Don't—don't say these things so boldly. He doesn't... I don't know. I'm weak. We're kind of friends. Not... he's not...there's no way. He… Me?"

"Please tell me you're joking," Jungkook groans. "He looks at you like he wants to break you. Oh, sorry, I forgot to speak your language: he totally wants to yiff you."

Taehyung balls up a napkin and throws it at him viciously. It unwraps mid-trajectory and flutters down between them onto the table like a pathetic, papery parachute. "I will literally smother you in your sleep."

"Kinky," Jungkook wags his eyebrows. "But really, you two are disgusting. Get a room. He wants you to be mpreg with his children so bad."

"I take it back, smothering is too painless," Taehyung declares. "I will impale you on your own stupid Warcraft sword replica."

"Also kind of kinky," Jungkook shrugs. "And its name is Frostmourne, show some fucking respect to the Lich King's blade."

"I hate you so much."

"By the way, your alpha is on his way back over," Jungkook snickers. "And it looks like he brought your favorite. That’s too cute."

As Taehyung weighs the benefits of lunging across the table to strangle Jungkook, Jimin does indeed stop by their table. And as both promised and predicted, he's carrying a mug of hot cocoa and Taehyung's favorite pastry, the blueberry one he's been obsessed with the last few weeks.

"Here you go," Jimin hums, "With a special thanks from all of us for donating. I know you personally got a bit more out of it than the glow of charity, but we still really appreciate it."

"Of course," Taehyung nods furiously, hoping he doesn't look too enamored sliding the mug and plate closer toward him. Even the temperature of the hot cocoa is tailored to his preference, something he can never let one Jeon Jungkook find out if he values his life without merciless teasing.

"And what about you?" For all of Jungkook's tough talk, he still blanches when Jimin turns his gaze to him and asks a question requiring a response. Taehyung can empathize. "What can I get for you today? To drink, or to get off to?"

"Um, haha, uh, um, yes?" Jungkook swallows, nervous laughter stuck in his throat and stutters seemingly all he’s capable of producing. "Uh, I think I will have, um, a macchiato. Wow, how is it harder to talk to you when you're being nice instead of condescending? Oh, God. Did I say that out loud?"

Jimin looks amused, and well used to such a reaction. He doesn't even blink. "Probably because I'm beautiful," he speculates with a sigh. "At least, that's what some customers have told me."

Okay, that part is definitely directed back at Taehyung with a smirk. Jungkook squints across the table at Taehyung with a bitten lip that almost screams how he'd be cracking a joke right now if there weren't a devil standing by their table. Sure, Taehyung huffs internally, of course Jungkook can be brave when Jimin isn't looking at him. It’s not so easy on the other end of the spectrum, is it? That’s the brand of willpower that really deserves some respect.

"Well, I think I will also do the, um, whipped cream shot. For charity," Jungkook echoes Taehyung's earlier assertion with a rushed claim.

"Right, for charity," Jimin drawls, attention drawn back to Jungkook when he straightens up. "You got a preference? I mean, of who's gonna fulfill your philanthropic fantasy."

Jungkook's eyes glaze over with an existential crisis. "Well, Taehyung would probably enjoy watching you do it," he puzzles aloud, and draws his legs up to his chest just in time to avoid Taehyung's swift kick under the table. "I'm feeling very generously pansexual today though, so whoever's available is fine by me."

"If only more customers were so casual about their custom tailored fetish cafe fantasies," Jimin sighs wistfully. "If you’re cool with being the target of insurmountable rage, I think Yoongi is still hiding in the back, and I would love an excuse to drag him out into the public eye today. The dress looks great on him."

"Oh, please," Jungkook says, clasping his hands together and grinning. "I am more than willing to endure that, for you and my dick. I might even pull a Taehyung and get hard in public."

This time there's no dodging the kick Taehyung aims high. Jimin laughs outright watching Jungkook grab for his shin, and harder when he deadpans, "Okay, I deserved that."

“Then I’ll be right back,” Jimin flutters his fingers in a wave at the two of them, slipping around the tables to disappear into the back.

Taehyung very much appreciates the sight of Jimin walking away, only refocusing back when he's out of sight.

"So, I'm the horny one?" he mocks dubiously. "I can't believe I even let you shame me at all. You can’t even talk to him either. And you're the one who found this place!"

"And you'll be thanking me for that when you and Jimin get married," Jungkook retorts. "Besides, you're heart horny, which is a whole different level of inexcusable. I'm just here for the good old fashioned humiliation kink."

"Do not ever use the M-word and Jimin in the same sentence again if you don't want me to die on the spot, thank you," Taehyung says kindly, all things considered. "Speaking of being horny though, how desperate is it if I drop some more coins for the whipped-cream special too? I mean, it is for a good cause."

"I think you could look at Jimin with wide enough eyes and he'd whip out that paddle again, for charity or for free," Jungkook snorts. "What are you going to do with that, by the way? He signed it. You could frame it, but that might be a little inaccessible for when he wants to use it for nostalgia on your honeymoon."

Taehyung most certainly does have a comeback prepared for that, definitely does if he just had a few more seconds to think about it. An excellent comeback, too, thank you very much. But he's distracted by the buzz of his phone in his pocket. He tugs it out to glance at the notification, and it takes a second before what he's reading truly registers, his eyes widening.

Jungkook catches it. "What's up? Is it—oh, fuck."

The utterance is spawned by one Min Yoongi storming across the cafe in their direction, glaring daggers in Jungkook's direction. Like all the servers he's got on a little maid costume—likely the reason he’s been hiding in the back—and it does nothing to soften the murderous intent in his eyes. Jimin traipses behind, looking delighted.

"You," Yoongi hisses when he reaches their table. "You horny fuck."

"Th-That's me?" Jungkook kind of manages, the confidence of his usual quips dissolved into a squeak. Yoongi points an accusing finger.

"I do nothing to you. I live my life, I work my assigned shifts, I'm the best host in this den-of-sin nerd-trap establishment. I gave you a discount on the cover fee for your birthday. And you repay me like this!"

The outcry is comically accented by Yoongi furiously lifting and shaking a can of whipped cream. The sound of a camera shutter clicking is loud, and to the side Taehyung sees Jimin grimace as he flicks the sound off on his phone a second too late. "Oops."

"You're next, Park Jimin," Yoongi swears. "If that picture you just took ever makes it outside the workplace group chat, I'll make what I'm about to do to this twunk look merciful."

"Now don't be so dramatic, Yoongi, the skirt looks great on you," Jimin chides, as Jungkook whispers, "I'm a what?"

"Open up, buttercup," Yoongi mutters, and when Jungkook fearfully opens his mouth, the nozzle of the can almost disappears into it. The resulting stream of whipped cream ejects furiously onto his tongue and deeper, and shows no sign of stopping even past Jungkook's mouth filling completely with it. Even when he closes his mouth on reflex Yoongi doesn't let up on the Reddi-Wip assault, making sure it sprays across Jungkook's face until he's satisfied.

"Niiiiice," Jimin comments as Jungkook blinks through the whipped cream facial, in an is-it-over glance around. "Very sexy. I could feel the passion behind it."

"Worth it," Jungkook announces after a swallow, licking out at his lips as whipped cream drips from his face and Yoongi practically flees back to the break room, hands holding the skirt down. "Guess you could say revenge... is sweet."

"I'll kick you again," Taehyung warns as he fishes a five dollar bill out of his wallet. "Also, if you’re not too busy, Jimin, I would also like to be drowned in cream and degradation."

Jimin actually cackles as he picks up the bill and slips it away. "I’m never too busy for you, sweetheart. This is why you're my favorite customer."

He makes a show of shaking up the can despite the vicious use it just got from his coworker, catching Taehyung's eye and winking at him during it. Then he leans over the table, so close to Taehyung's face he almost shrinks back on intimidated reflex. "Say ahhh, Master," he whispers.

Taehyung's jaw practically hits the floor. Jimin kisses the can before up-ending it and pressing the nozzle to deposit the cream onto Taehyung's tongue in a slow, perfect swirl. He tops it off neatly and straightens, making a show of popping his finger into his mouth to clean it at the same time Taehyung closes his mouth and swallows the cream. There's nothing innocent about the eye contact between them.

"You two are disgusting," Jungkook moans, swiping whipped cream off his face and licking it off his own finger like he's any better.

"Shut up, it's for charity," Taehyung says, still unable to break eye contact with Jimin. He's only drawn away when his phone buzzes again, this time loudly against where he'd placed it onto the table. Three sets of eyes fall to it, and remembering the contents of his most recent text message is the only thing that distracts Taehyung away from the million and one fantasies he just developed regarding Jimin and that whipped cream can.

"Is that what I think it is?" Jungkook asks excitedly, picking up quickly on the excitement on Taehyung's face.

"Yes," Taehyung almost bounces in his seat now that he's remembering what Yoongi's wrath had distracted him from. "They want me to call in for talks. I don't even really know what that means but I might cry."

"Woah, wait, what's up?" Jimin tilts his head adorably. "Good news?"

"The best! I contacted one of my favorite developers a while back about maybe doing a sponsored video of their new game's alpha testing, and they wanna go forward with that!"

Taehyung babbles, enthusiasm overtaking any trepidation he might otherwise feel. Later he'll analyze and overanalyze how comfortable he feels spilling to Jimin, even though he's always tried to tone down any, well, nerdiness when dealing with crushes in the past.

Any of that trepidation would have been misplaced, because Jimin is the first crush to instead look excited for him. He claps his hands together. "Wait, is that the interview you mentioned? And you got it? Taehyung, that's such good news!"

Taehyung almost glows under Jimin's praise, fidgeting his seat with a grin that hurts his cheeks. "Thank you," he says bashfully, kind of concerned about melting under the way Jimin's looking at him. "I'm really excited. God. What do I say? What am I even gonna wear? Am I gonna cry?”

"Definitely do not wear today’s shirt," Jungkook disguises the mutter with a cough. Taehyung cuts him a glare.

"You're just bitter because you still can't see that Maki is best girl," he shoots back.

"And yet you somehow thought you weren't into tsunderes again, because..." Jungkook raises an eyebrow.

"Um," Jimin says, and Taehyung kicks himself internally remembering Jimin is there, wearing the polite, vaguely nonplussed smile people get when they have remotely no idea what conversation is occurring in front of them. "That's kind of a good point, actually. Not that there's anything wrong with your, uh, unique anime merchandise, Taehyung, but an interview is something you dress up for, right?"

"I guess," Taehyung admits. "What was your interview for here like?"

Jimin blinks. "Hm, I actually didn't wear anything special. But I told Taemin he was going to hire me because I thrive off attention and his profits would regret it if he didn't."

"Jesus Christ."

"Well, that's what the recruiting process said! To come in like you owned the place and prove you could do the job," Jimin defends himself.

As if written on cue by some all-powerful romcom author, a belligerent looking customer comes up with a tap of his foot. "Do you mind if I place an order with you? Our hostess is taking too long."

Without skipping a beat, Jimin tosses a withering glare over his shoulder, one colder than any of the work-persona ones Taehyung has been privy to. "Yes, I do mind," he says, "As I'm obviously in the middle of a conversation. Do the world a favor and don't go to customer service establishments if you're going to have complaints for employees doing their job. Now go sit down and wait like everyone else, and give whoever it is you're bothering with your presence at least a twenty five percent tip."

The man pales over the course of Jimin's coolly delivered callout, and stumbles back to his table with a faint mumble that could be an apology. Appropriately subdued, and probably a little turned on, considering every customer is briefed on what kind of service they'll be receiving in the cafe when they pay the cover fee.

"That... was a work of art," Jungkook breathes.

"Yeah, I basically have the best job ever," Jimin preens. "And that’s why I told Taemin I could be mean enough for hiring. But hey, don't distract me! Clothes. Interview. I was going somewhere important with that."

"Yes! And that was..." Taehyung prompts supportively, hoping it's not too obvious on his face just how whipped he is for Park Jimin.

"Well, I've actually been meaning to ask," Jimin bites his lip to hide a growing smile, head tilting as he runs his eyes over Taehyung's face. "Are you..."

When he pauses, Taehyung's heart leaps into his throat. "Devilishly handsome? Ranked Death Merchant in TF2's Competitive Mode? An angel fallen from heaven above?"

Jungkook mutters, "Spoiler alert, it's gonna be a solid no on all three counts there."

"...free this Sunday?" Jimin finishes the thought with a raised eyebrow. "Though I might have to get back to you on the angel question."

The question blanks Taehyung’s mind so thoroughly he almost forgets Jungkook exposing his TF2 ranking. (Almost. Not quite. He’ll get payback later.) Because all that matters in that second is that Jimin, the sole occupant of all of Taehyung’s fantasies the last few months and the person that makes his heart race fast enough for him to worry about ventricular tachycardia, just said what suspiciously sounded like… he’s asking Taehyung for his availability. On Sunday. If he’s free, on a Sunday. This Sunday, specifically. A Sunday that he actually happens to be free, though he’d clear his schedule for Jimin any time. He should also probably answer sometime soon, since Jimin looks a little worried the longer he goes without answering and just staring at Jimin’s beautiful, beautiful face.

“I am most definitely free this Sunday,” he manages to blurt out when Jungkook gives him a kick under the table. They’re practically playing Footsie by this point with how frequently they’ve bruised each others’ shins today, but this time, Taehyung is grateful for the prompting reminder that he still hasn’t answered aloud. “I am absolutely free this Sunday. Also any and every Sunday that you might need me. If you did need me? Are we doing something Sunday? Please say yes. But also I respect your decision if not. I am free on Sunday to be rejected if that’s what makes you happy.”

Across the table, Jungkook has his head hung in his hands, shaking it slowly. But Taehyung can barely even take that in, because the entire scope of his attention is focused on Jimin's smile, Jimin's lips—okay, don’t go any farther on that particular train of thought, but Jimin. He's looking almost fond.

"You are so weird," is what he muses aloud, and with anyone else, it would hit through Taehyung with an unpleasant jolt. But there's nothing cruel in the way Jimin says it, not in the crescents of his eyes when he smiles or his voice that speaks it like a treasure, and especially not when he follows, "That's why I like you."

Someday, as he so frequently groans, Park Jimin will be the death of him. Taehyung is certain of it, as he stares up at him, slow smile spreading over his face.

"Sunday, then?" he tries, and manages to sound infinitely more casual than the rapid pace of his heart would betray.

"It's a date," Jimin agrees easily. With the authority Taehyung loves, "I'll text you where we're meeting."

Taehyung nods dazedly. The rest of the lunch flies by, a blur of Jeongguk fake-gagging over how he and Jimin need a room, of watching other patrons paying for special menu services, of a glow of warmth when Taehyung sees Jimin marked the receipt of his hot cocoa as on the house with a little congratulations :) scribbled below.

So maybe they do need a room. Taehyung certainly wouldn't be opposed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that's how, on Sunday, Taehyung finds himself in the food court of the local mall, nervously going to town on a plastic tray of Panda Express and large Coke. He nearly chokes on the straw when a hand reaches around him, snatching up an egg roll from his tray and pulling out the chair beside him. Taehyung’s actually buffing himself up to fight to the death over his takeout when he registers Jimin is the one who’d stolen a bite and dropped into the seat beside him, grinning at Taehyung’s defensive reaction.

And egg roll thievery aside, by God does Park Jimin look stunning. If he’s a demon inside the walls of Serendipity, he’s an angel outside it, because nothing could have prepared Taehyung for this: the contrasting soft-and-sharp of Jimin’s thighs wickedly curved into black jeggings vs. the sweater paws of his oversized pullover.

“Oh, wow,” Taehyung doesn’t mean to say out loud, but it slips out anyway. “Which country did I save in a past life to get to see you in casual wear?”

Jimin snorts, and picks up Taehyung’s drink to have a sip of his Coke himself. Taehyung has no protest, and hopes there aren’t literal hearts in his eyes at this point. Jimin sets the drink back down, and actually sighs, “Here’s your drink back. Since you’re so damn thirsty.”

They stare at each other for a second. Then Taehyung’s shoulders are struggling not to shake, and Jimin’s lips are twitching upwards, and just one more shared look has the two of them breaking into giggles.

“Okay, I kind of deserved that,” Taehyung says, and makes a show of picking up the drink to take a lengthy sip from the straw. “So what are we doing today? I’m pretty excited. I haven’t gone on a mall date since the seventh grade.”

“I’m glad you asked,” Jimin takes it in stride and wags a finger at him. “Today, we are going to be finding you an outfit for your interview. And by that, I mean I’m going to pick out things I want to see you try on, because you’ve spent hours ogling me but I still don’t know the shape of your legs under those baggy pants you always wear. Exciting, huh?”

“We’re playing dressup?” Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “Wow, this actually fits the setup for at least three different fantasies of mine.”

“Keep talking so smoothly then, and we’ll see what happens in the dressing rooms,” Jimin replies easily. He stands and gestures for Taehyung to follow him, like Taehyung isn’t weak in the knees from hearing something like that. He somehow manages it without knocking over his chair, and even remembers to wipe his hands on the provided napkins and not on his parachute pants. Love, he reflects, can really change a man’s habits.

“So where are we off to first?” Taehyung asks.

Jimin considers. “Depends,” he muses. “Where do you usually go to shop?”

“If I make it to the mall?” Taehyung squints, rummaging a few years back in his memory. He hadn’t been exaggerating when he mentioned mall excursions in tandem with preteen angst, quite a few years ago for him now. “Uh, there’s a pretty neat manga cafe upstairs. The food court’s not so bad. The game shop on the third floor used to hold Yugioh tournaments on Sundays. That’s about it… oh, man, I used to wish they had this one store so bad…”

Jimin looks intrigued, as Taehyung’s eyes glaze over with memory.

Years ago, still deep in the clutches of subculture, a teenage Taehyung had craved nothing more than to stumble into the subversive safe haven. Twisted metal archways, metal screams blared over speakers, fishnet dresses and knee-high Converse lining the wall. A place where he—and all his kind, self-appointed saviors of the broken, the beaten and the damned—could walk through mall doors and feel like home. It wasn’t a phase. It was a lifestyle.

He’s thinking, of course, about Hot Topic.

“Interesting,” is all Jimin says, looking amused by Taehyung’s (possibly over)reaction explaining it. “I’ve never been in.”

“Well, yeah,” Taehyung shrugs. “There aren’t any in Korea. But I’ve seen enough memes about it to know what we missed out on, you know?”

“No? I mean, I’ve never heard of it at all,” Jimin laughs.

Taehyung gasps. “I knew you didn’t share the humbling experience of late 2000s subcultures. You’re too well adjusted to have been anything but a prep.”

Jimin’s expression is politely blank. “A what?”

“Like, your label. In high school,” Taehyung prods. “I mean, unless you didn’t want one, that’s cool too. ‘Don’t label me, I’m not a can of soup’ and all.”

Jimin shakes his head. “I really don’t understand half your references, and I love it,” he says with a startling amount of affection. It’s definitely more encouragement than any other crush he’s had has shown, Taehyung realizes with a burst of happiness. “And I really try not to think about high school. Dark times.”

The two of them nod somberly, sharing a shudder in mutual agreement. Then Jimin’s gaze switches. It’s softer than his devilish expressions in the cafe, but definitely still has a trickster’s flirt. “Who would you think I was in high school? Based on today’s Jimin?”

Taehyung takes a step back, crossing his arms and lifting a hand to his chin consideringly. Jimin giggles at his furrowed brows, and poses with a thrown up peace sign for Taehyung’s pretend look-over him. After a second, Taehyung snaps his fingers and guesses.

“Beauty kid,” he declares. “Never repeats an outfit. The person to ask for skincare advice. Must be shoplifting from Sephora to afford all the different palettes he owns.”

Jimin laughs at him, and Taehyung drops his hands sheepishly. “Wearing eyeshadow at my job and knit outside of it doesn’t mean I always looked like an Instagram model, Taehyung.”

“True,” Taehyung deflates. “I mean, you probably couldn’t even guess Jungkook and I used to wear double plaid and eyeliner.”

Jimin shrugs, and murmurs something that suspiciously sounds like, “I definitely guessed.” Before Taehyung can squint and call him out, he smirks. “I think I was what you’d call a jock.”

“No,” Taehyung gasps, clutching at his heart. “The ultimate betrayal. Really?”

“Oh, yeah,” Jimin winks. “Basketball shorts, muscle tanks. Gym membership and kendo classes. The whole 120 yards, baby.”

“I am,” Taehyung considers. “Disgusted. However, also undeniably aroused. Even if you never experienced the rite of passage of trying to convince your family why you absolutely needed to own fingerless gloves.”

“Clothes, Taehyung, we’re getting off track,” Jimin says, smile tugging solidly at the corner of his mouth. “Where do you go for clothing?”

"Uh," Taehyung blinks, still lost in the sauce of remembering the height of pop punk, one of the greatest trends to have ever swept popular culture. Clothing suddenly seems quite inconsequential. "You know, here and there."

Jimin looks at him expectantly. Probably waiting for more. There is nothing more.

"I mean, I did a lot of shopping at the mall back in the day, as you’ve heard..." he shrugs sheepishly, nothing more to offer despite Jimin's waiting expression. "But you can get so much more online. You think it'd be easy to find a shirt like this IRL?"

Taehyung gestures down proudly at his sweater, macaroni yellow and a little bit fuzzy, with an owl cross-stitched into the front. Jimin doesn't seem to share his indignation. At least, he opens his mouth to reply, but then pauses, tilting his head.

“Did you just say IRL out loud?” Jimin queries, squinting at him. The expression is so cute, Taehyung almost doesn’t even notice Jimin picking at a stray bit of the sweater’s fuzz. Almost.

"Maybe I did," Taehyung pouts, snatching his arm back close possessively. He knows from experience how easily one idly tugged thread can unravel half a cheap cardigan. “Look, we’ve established I used to dress—and still do, but with less eyeliner—in a way that’s not going to hold over in an interview. So stop edging me, you promised dressup!”

“Interesting choice of words, there,” Jimin raises an eyebrow, and Taehyung, depraved enough to understand him, groans. “Alright, alright,” Jimin laughs. He loops his arm in Taehyung’s, who can’t help the flutter of butterflies in his chest at the motion, and the ease of it. “C’mon. Let’s go play dressup.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin, as it turns out, shops with an eagle eye and at a pace Taehyung can barely keep up with. He’s swift, in all the most distinguished, posh stores Taehyung has barely even glanced in, practically flying down racks before Taehyung has even inspected the first bit of fabric on each one. He throws items over his arm with a critical eye, which he deposits into Taehyung’s arms and shoos him into the dressing room before Taehyung has even processed what’s happening.

“So I suggested,” Taehyung is calling a few minutes later over the dressing room door, and Jimin hums. “That we try to create new characters, switch roles for a bit. I’m always a healer—honestly I just liked shooting out the golden lights when I started playing games, I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing—but I’m good at it, you know? But I wanted to try breaking out of the support side of things, live a little dangerously in dungeons.”

“And that’s why you tried DSPing?” Jimin inquires back, voice a little muffled through the door.

“DPSing,” Taehyung corrects, hopping a little in place as he tugs the pants Jimin picked out up over his ass, and hitting the wall in the process. Jimin doesn’t comment. “Damage Per Second. The damage dealers of the dungeon, while the tanks keep the enemy off them and the healers make sure they’re, you know, healed. Jungkook’s really good at that role, but I suggested switching up, so he made a tank while I made my DPS to run together.”

“And the tanks are the strong ones you need to guard you, right, makes sense,” Jimin repeats. Taehyung can’t help but glow a little at the apparent effort Jimin is putting in to follow along with him.

Taehyung’s heart had sank a few times since they met up, anxiety catching up to him enough where he’d apologized for rambling about things Jimin didn’t care about. Jimin had nearly cuffed him (something Taehyung was actually not opposed to, given the strength he’d felt in those beautiful, tiny hands on the Maid-themed day) and scolded that he wanted to listen to what Taehyung was interested in. It feels good to have that kind of reassurance and interest from someone. 

“Hey, if you try the button-up first, make sure you tuck it into the pants. Adds a nice layer to the whole thing.”

Taehyung pauses, and looks down at where his hands were mid-fastening said pants, without the shirt tucked in. Sighs, unfastens the button, and begins his battle over again with shoving the shirt down into the waistband of the pants.

“Of course,” he boasts. “Was definitely already working on doing that.”

“Right,” Jimin replies dryly. “So what happened next?”

Taehyung feels righteous indignation to remember. Jimin had asked about the events leading up to his first visit to Serendipity. “Here’s the thing, he gets bored I’m not killing enemies fast enough! I mean, yeah I’m only managing like 3k damage per second, on a 500k health boss, but hey, it will die eventually! So get this,” his indignant huff whooshes out as he manages the pants buckle again. “He quit the game mid-dungeon and left me to die!”

“He did not,” Jimin gasps appropriately. “I knew that little twunk had an evil streak. I could see it in his stupidly adorable eyes.”

“I knew I could trust you! He fools everyone else so well,” Taehyung complains, and pauses. “Okay, I’m coming out now. You have to promise not to laugh.”

“I would never,” Jimin swears. “Quite the opposite, in fact. You should probably have someone hold me back.”

Taehyung resolves to ignore the tingle that the implication of that statement sends through him. Instead, he unlatches the dressing room door, and steps out, squeezing his eyes shut.

He's not sure what to expect. In his worst anxieties, it's Jimin laughing, all of this somehow being an elaborate joke. Only his deepest, most secret hopes predicted what actually happens:

Jimin whistles, a clearly approving sound. When Taehyung dares to open his eyes, a thrill like an electric shock runs through him to see Jimin's expression, eagle-eyed and appreciative. He stands, beginning a slow clap, and it unfreezes Taehyung enough to flush his face and pretend to shoo Jimin away.

"I knew you had legs somewhere under all those layers," Jimin says almost fondly, easily ducking Taehyung's half-hearted attempt to shove him away. "God, you look good. Not that you don't always, but, damn. You sure you want to game, not model? I know some people who know some people..."

"I will fight your ass in the desert," Taehyung groans, by now flustered enough that he's had to bring his hands up to cover his face. He turns to hide his face against the dressing room wall properly, but realizes the mistake as soon as Jimin begins clapping again in earnest when his back is turned.

"Would you look at that," Jimin teases, and the only way Taehyung knows how to describe the jolt that goes through him is (somehow pleasant) mortification. "I can't believe you were hiding an ass like that under those grandpa pants of yours. That should be a crime, baby."

Hitting his head against the dressing room wall is suddenly a very attractive option. Weakly, Taehyung manages, "Tell me when it's over."

Jimin laughs. "Okay, okay, I'll stop." When Taehyung turns enough to peer at him suspiciously under his bangs, Jimin makes a show of pretending to lock his lips shut and throw away the key.

Taehyung straightens with a sigh as he turns. He juts out his lip in a pout, and braces his hands on his hips, but thinks secretly how nice the confidence and attention is. Seeking a bit more of it, he ventures, “So you think this is good for the interview?”

"It's perfect," Jimin swears. "You'll be fighting off sponsors from all sides."

Taehyung smiles despite himself, smoothing a hand down the front of the dress shirt before taking a glance at the dressing room mirror. He does look good, so professional he could almost fool himself into thinking he's headed off for the office—or the runway, Jimin had teased—instead of a Skype interview for playing a game on a Youtube channel.

Well, he thinks proudly as he undresses, professional can come in many shapes in the 21st century.

On the way up to the cashier, Taehyung is surprised by Jimin pulling out his wallet. He makes to protest, that he can get it—after all, it's for his interview, and part of the way he'd first channeled his shameless attraction to Jimin was into ravaging through his disposable income.

But Jimin seems to have predicted the objection, half-turning and shhhh' ing Taehyung over his shoulder with a playful finger pressed to his lips.

"I wanna buy this for you. I'm the one who dragged you here, after all."

"I wanted to come, though!" Taehyung tries, feeling very much like he's stumbling behind Jimin's determined power walk up to the register. It's why he almost trips right over (okay, into) Jimin when he abruptly stops and turns to face Taehyung, eyebrow arched.

"Taehyung, you tip me like I'm your sugar baby," Jimin says, humorously, and at way too-average a volume considering they're in the middle of a decently upscale store. Speechless at the accusation, Taehyung gapes, turning red. Even if he could think of a reply, he doesn't have to: Jimin takes his silence as an opportunity, and full on winks at Taehyung, voice silken smooth when he says: "So let Daddy shop for you today."

That time, Taehyung nearly does fall over. When it becomes clear the only sound Taehyung is managing in response is wordless stuttering, Jimin promptly snorts to himself, scoops the clothes out of Taehyung's arms, and makes his way up to the register to pay.

When they reunite, it's outside the storefront. Jimin, self-satisfied as he swings the bag at his side. Taehyung, somewhat recovered after going outside the store during the transaction to resist the urge to scream.

“You’re going to look amazing for that meeting,” Jimin almost sings, like he isn’t the reason Taehyung has been fending off a heart attack for four minutes. 

“And you’re going to be the death of me,” Taehyung groans before he realizes he’s saying it aloud. Jimin doesn’t miss it, his eyes lighting up.

“In a good way, right?” he says smoothly, keeping hold of the bag when Taehyung tries to grab for it. 

“I think so,” Taehyung says, and pauses. “I think.”

“You think?” Jimin teases, again keeping the bag out of Taehyung’s reach. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

So Taehyung gives up on trying to snatch the shopping bag. INstead he takes a step back to look at Jimin, to try and put into words the swirl of emotions inside him today. What does he think?

Not very coherently when he’s looking at Jimin, that’s for sure. If he tries to focus, there’s the expected attraction, a starry-eyed stare for Jimin, whether he’s soft in his sweater or sharp in his waiter’s fit. And there’s giddiness, the pleasant rush to his head and red in his cheeks of talking to a schoolyard crush.

But below it all, a little bit of anxiety: surely Jimin can’t really be satisfied with the mediocre experience Taehyung has provided him with? Can’t really be satisfied with Taehyung himself? There’s no way he’s managing to look like a keeper when he’s following Jimin around drooling, whether in the mall or the cafe.

What are we, Taehyung wants to ask, like some dramatic cliche. Do you like me? he wants to ask, too, like a shy teenager all over again. It doesn’t help that Jimin is making a perfect, pouty face at him, jutting out his lip and batting his eyelashes teasingly like Taehyung isn’t having a crisis over him right now.

“I think I’m nervous,” Taehyung admits. He half expects it to be brushed off. But something in his voice must betray him, because what he doesn’t expect is for Jimin to look concerned, and step closer to him.

“Whaaaat, why,” Jimin furrows his brow. “Hey, wait, seriously. What’s up?”

“No, don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, really,” Taehyung says, feeling embarrassed now to have interrupted their banter. And a little overwhelmed, at how quickly Jimin stopped to focus on him… and lean closer to him… looking adorably dwarfed in that damnable sweater and his small hands clenched…

He must have gotten too distracted by how nice Jimin’s eyebrows look when they’re knitted in concern, because he barely notices when Jimin guides him over to sit down at one of the mall benches.

“Was it the Daddy thing?” Jimin is saying when Taehyung refocuses. “I was kidding. You don’t have to call me Daddy, even when I’m buying clothes. Jimin and Sir are just fine. Master on days that end with a -y.”

“No, no, you’re doing it again,” Taehyung presses his hands to his burning-hot cheeks. Adds, “Nothing bad!” When he sees Jimin’s confused expression. “You’re just so… wow! Funny and sweet and gorgeous, and none of those things are bad, it’s just… so much, I don’t know if I’m handling it well. And then I wonder why I’m handling it? Like…”

He trails off, suddenly discomfited by the idea that expressing an insecurity instead of their usual back-and-forth might chase Jimin away. The fear is unfounded; Jimin reaches out to pat Taehyung’s knee comfortingly, and nods at him to continue.

“I think I’m just a little intimidated,” Taehyung explains shyly. “Not in a bad way, I love how awesomely terrifying you are, I just… don’t know, sometimes, what I can possibly be offering you back, especially on a date! You’re so…” he makes a dramatic swooping gesture with his arms, like angel wings from above. “And I’m so…” then a crumpled twist of his hands, and a sad “whoosh.” from his lips.

Jimin is properly frowning now. “Taehyung,” he says slowly, “Are you asking me… why we’re on a date?”

“Kind of… well, no,” Taehyung deflates. “I know why we’re on a date. I needed interview clothes. I’m more worried if you’re enjoying it… what you can enjoy spending time with me for. Outside of, you know…”

Jimin nods. The gesture is thoughtful, and when he speaks again, his voice is gentle.

“Well,” he says, “First of all, I will reassure you that yes, I am very much enjoying our date. And all the time I spend with you, choose to spend with you, outside of the cafe, too. And that second, I also think you’re so…” Jimin gives his best attempt at the reverent hand motion Taehyung had made to describe Jimin’s radiance. “Whatever that was. You’re so that.”

Taehyung perks up a little. “You’re lying…”

“Never!” Jimin insists with a smile and a shake of his head. “You do get some points knocked off, though, for actually thinking we’re only here for interview clothing. I was already going to ask you out again, dummy, that was just a brilliantly timed excuse.”

“Now I know you’re lying,” Taehyung accuses, but feels a smile start to spread on his face despite his best efforts. “How can you possibly be enjoying this? I mean, here I am, on a date with the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, and all I’m able to do is share my hypothesis on why I think healers are tops and tanks are bottoms. It’s embarrassing.”

“Well, to be fair, you made some compelling points on that argument. But yes, Taehyung,” Jimin says empathetically, “If you’re trying to make me have some epiphany over the fact you’re a nerd, I’d already noticed. Did it not ever occur to you that I found it endearing?”

Taehyung gapes at him. “What in society would have ever led me to think that? Is this some kind of secret ex-jock thing? Are you subconsciously making up for the years of bad taste by cozying up to the former President of the Anime club?”

“The former—? Oh lord,” Jimin makes a face. “Your questionable tastes aside, please don’t be nervous around me. I want to be around you. And I’m just me, at work or otherwise. You know that, right? Hot, yes, but still me. Ex-jock with a weakness for cute nerds.”

“A weakness, huh,” Taehyung can’t believe it. He blinks slyly. “And you think I’m cute?”

He might see a bit of pink in Jimin’s cheeks. Jimin doesn’t lose his cool, though, just challenges right back, “And you think I’m the most beautiful person you’ve ever met?”

“I don’t think so,” Taehyung announces to see Jimin blink, and follows with, “I know so.”

The blush is definitely there, now. Taehyung makes a mental note, one he’s suspected for a while: Jimin likes to be praised.

“Well, I think… I do think you’re cute. And smart, and funny, and beautiful, too,” Jimin says. Taehyung’s breath stills in his chest. “I asked you out again because I like spending time with you. Yeah, you’re my favorite customer to target when I’m on my humiliatrix bullshit, but it’s more than that. I told you, I wanted to get to know you,” Jimin finishes, voice and gaze softening. “And I don’t want you to feel nervous that somehow, whatever you feel isn’t being reciprocated, Taehyung. Because I like everything I’ve gotten to know. I like you.

It hangs between them, and Taehyung’s certain there’s a flush in his cheeks to match Jimin’s. His confession had flowed over Taehyung in a singsong tone river the highest-paid ASMRtist would envy. It’s dazzling, and Taehyung doesn’t know how to respond, when a song straining to match Jimin’s is swelling in his chest with each beat of his heart and behind his eyes. As they lean in, drawn subconsciously closer, and Jimin’s eyes slip closed, and Taehyung’s mind goes white.

Jimin’s lips are softer than he’d ever imagined. And imagined them Taehyung has, plenty of times, in the dozens of fantasies he’d envisioned this moment, none of which could match up to the real thing. To the force of the dam that wells up and bursts in his chest and floods happiness through his body as they kiss, to every nerve ending of every fingertip. 

Jimin’s lips are even softer than they look, and Jimin himself is softer than he looks, impossibly sweet past the point of satisfaction. A flavor he’s beyond blessed to experience, when so many passerby might only know his sharper side from the shop.

And that’s what reminds him. Of the conversation they’d hate their first date, of the hints Jimin has given both knowingly and not of his insecurity. That he worries any partner is more drawn to the fantasy of his job than Jimin himself, and the worry of remembering breaks the moment for him. 

Taehyung pulls back from the kiss, sucking in a breath. Still so close to him, Jimin blinks his eyes open, wide and a little glassy, but the clarity surprise breaking through the haze of the kiss.

“You know I like you, right?” Taehyung blurts.

Jimin blinks again, expression bemused. “I mean… I’d hope so? You just kissed me.”

“No, I know, I mean, you know... I like you. Like, you you,” Taehyung struggles to put it into words, “Not just because you’re super good at the whole humiliation thing, and crazy hot. I mean, that’s a perk, but I like you, Jimin. I know that’s important to you, and I want you to know it.”

A flush creeps steadily up Jimin’s neck. He drops his face to giggle an “Oh?” into his hand. “Oh,” he says more clearly, straightening back up. 

Taehyung bites his lip. “Oh?"

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, I also like teasing you, I’ve made that clear,” Jimin says. “But… yeah, it is important to me. That I want you to like me, too. Not just for what I can give you.”

Taehyung’s heart melts. “I do,” he promises, putting as much meaning into it as he can. “I really do.”

Jimin’s smile turns as shy as Taehyung has ever seen him. “I thought so, too,” he admits fondly. “And you just proved me right.”

Fingers entwine in his. Taehyung looks down to see Jimin’s taken his hand, and fuck, does Jimin’s look dwarfed in Taehyung’s. He doesn’t know what to say; just basks in the glow, in his heart and hand and still lingering on his lips.

Until Jimin tilts his head.

“Also, since we cleared up the source of your anxiety, does this mean the Daddy thing is back on the table? Because I was joking, but I guess I’m pretty much down to try everything once. I don’t know what I could really do for—”

At least this time, when Taehyung’s overwhelmed by the content of Jimin’s words, he doesn’t have to just fall apart. He kisses him instead. 

Jimin doesn’t seem to mind the interruption.