Jeongguk walks into his apartment, he smiles, remembering the kind greeting from the doorman downstairs. Walking into the warmth of his home with the smell of food being extracted from the oven lulls Jeongguk into a happy daze, love making itself apparent in the warmth in his chest.
“I’m home, baby!” Jeongguk nuzzles into the shoulder of his love, looking at the beautifully cooked food being split between two plates. “Oh, my favourite.”
Jeongguk sits on the counter by his love, tired from a long day filming famous bands in their complex music videos. He instantly feels comfortable when he breathes in the food’s smell deeply, feeling the love poured into his midweek dinner date.
“Yeah, you’re right! We haven’t seen the guys in a while, let’s plan a nice games night with everyone.” Jeongguk smiles at the thought of his large open plan apartment filled with their best friends. Laughter and chatter filling every crevice of his luxurious space, a perfect host with perfect friends. A fulfilled life Jeongguk can measure through the love he receives from his baby and his best friends. People really consider him generous, and kind. He feels wanted and loved because he’s constantly crowded with people who have his best interests at heart. He laughs with them and keeps lengthy conversations with people as socialising comes so easily to him.
It’s a lie.
Every single thing a figment of Jeongguk’s imagination. A daydream he indulges in to distract himself from his depressing, lonely reality.
Jeongguk does walk in and say “I’m home, baby!”, but no one responds. He’s looking inside his run down studio apartment, pretending it’s one spacious room of a luxury apartment. He doesn’t have an oven to look at and pretend a lover is taking out homemade food, instead Jeongguk is taking out a single serving mac and cheese ready meal to commiserate his hard day at work. As the microwave whirls to life, 5 minutes on the timer, he pretends he actually has friends to make plans with. He’s literally talking to himself as if he has people that care.
The reality? Jeongguk doesn’t have anyone. Nobody’s checking up on Jeongguk. Jeongguk doesn’t receive love from anyone. Jeongguk doesn’t have friends to tell him he’s generous and kind. Jeongguk hasn’t felt wanted or loved since he was a child.
Jeongguk has found himself indulging in his daydream quite a lot recently. Jeongguk’s life is progressing rather quickly downhill and if he didn’t have his mind to fall into he would spend the majority of his time panicking and crying. Then again, who wouldn’t spend their time freaking out if they had just started a new job that they were extremely under qualified for. It didn’t help that his coworkers were extremely aware of this fact and often spent their days tormenting Jeongguk, as if he had to atone for being hired despite his lack of experience.
The microwave’s ding pulled Jeongguk out of his reverie and he pulled his pathetic excuse for a meal into his lap on his rundown sofa. He pulled up the latest episode of The Office on his small laptop and tried to forget about his pitiful life.
“So how does it feel?” Byunghoon breathes into Jeongguk’s ear just before he manages to sit down at his desk. Jeongguk suppresses a shudder at the disgusting breach of personal space from his coworker. Byunghoon is a large, fat man in his late 30s who seems to find joy in making Jeongguk’s miserable life… a lot more miserable. “How does it feel to know you’re only here because nobody else showed up to the interview. As soon as someone more qualified comes along you’ll be kicked out of here like the unwanted trash you are.”
If Jeongguk had the energy, he’d remark on how childish a remark that was, but Jeongguk can barely afford to make ends meet as it is and so affording luxuries like breakfast to wake him up in the morning isn’t an option. Sometimes neither is lunch…or dinner.
So, Jeongguk just sighs as he sits on his desk chair and turns on his computer, pointedly ignoring the sneers from the other men around him as he tries to ignore how hungry and tired he is.
It sucks. Honestly sucks that Jeongguk has managed to make hedge way into the career of his dreams, and people are hellbent on making him regret it. He had studied filmmaking at college and eventually he wants to be able to direct complex, narrative heavy music videos. So, when Jeongguk stumbled across an advertisement for a junior production assistant for Bangtan Enterprises, one of the most prestigious entertainment companies in the Eastern hemisphere, Jeongguk jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for the other candidates, there had to be a last minute revision on the interview date and time and Jeongguk, since he was unemployed, was the only one actually able to make it. Their desperation for the position to be filled meant Jeongguk was hired on the spot. That of course didn’t stop his employers from taking advantage by paying him significantly less than his coworkers, barely a liveable wage.
Jeongguk had put his lunch in the fridge that morning. He remembers it. The one protein bar that was supposed to last him until he could indulge in another microwavable meal was put into one of the door compartments with a sticky note that read ‘Jeongguk’. So, when it came to lunch time, Jeongguk was supposed to open the door, take out his protein bar and eat it.
Except Jeongguk’s opening the fridge and noticing an empty wrapper with a different sticky note on it that reads, ‘You shouldn’t be here’, and he hears small snickers coming from the desks in their open plan area of the office. He lets out a sigh and walks through the office and out the front door to spend his lunch hour on the picnic benches in the grassy area. Alone. Jeongguk just wishes he could fight back, and he would if it was one person. It’s his entire department. There are eleven other production assistants, Jeongguk’s supervisor and five production managers that torment Jeongguk in some way. Whether it’s from ruining his desk, giving him the hardest tasks or just pushing him in the halls like school bullies, the entire office hates Jeongguk’s presence, and he’s still yet to figure out why.
Jeongguk saunters over to the only free picnic table and when he realises no one around him works in the same department as him, he lets out a deep breath. They’re not likely to bother him. If Jeongguk wasn’t tired and hungry maybe he’d notice the most beautiful man walking over to him. Maybe he’d notice him sitting opposite with his eyebrows furrowed, expensive coat falling from his defined biceps to pool around his feet on the floor. Jeongguk probably would have lifted his head from where it lay on his arms on the table to give a polite smile before letting the man use the table for himself; but Jeongguk can’t get the snickers of his peers from his head, he can’t escape the way nobody around him ever wants him there, the way he hasn’t held a conversation with someone friendly in so, so, so long. He’s too far in his mind.
“Hey.” A voice invades Jeongguk’s thoughts and a hand taps his arm. Jeongguk jolts so suddenly at the touch that the man in front of him is taken aback and has to hold onto the edge of the wooden table to keep his balance. Jeongguk isn’t able to recollect the last time someone touched him. “Are you okay?”
Jeongguk swallows and furrows his brows because he’s not sure why the man’s asking. Sure, he had his head on his arms, but they work in a fast paced entertainment company, of course everyone’s going to look a little tired. It’s not until the man’s pulling a tissue from his pocket that Jeongguk realises his thoughts from earlier manifested into tear tracks down his cheeks.
Jeongguk takes the tissue and coughs awkwardly. “I’m okay. Thank you.” His tired voice lets out barely above a whisper. “Sorry, did you want something?”
The man smiles lightly at Jeongguk but the gentle concern doesn’t leave his eyes. Jeongguk feels something in his chest then, an unfamiliar warmth that courses through him as someone actually directs some kindness towards him.
“Would you mind if my friend and I use this table? The other’s are completely full and we hoped to get some fresh air this lunch time.” The man asks nicely and Jeongguk nods, he knows his place.
“Of course.” Jeongguk takes in a deep breath, admittedly the mac and cheese the night before being the only thing he’s consumed in the last three days isn’t the healthiest of decisions, but it’s also the only decision he could actually afford before pay day the next day. Therefore, Jeongguk knows he’s about to be unsteady on his feet if the pounding in his head is anything to go by. Before Jeongguk is able to properly make it only his wobbly legs, the man’s hand is back on his wrist, pulling him back into sitting down.
“I didn’t mean you had to move! Have lunch with us, you’re alone during your break, which isn’t fun, and we’re good company, I promise.” The man smiles, his hand still on Jeongguk’s wrist. Except Jeongguk thinks the man smiles because his eyes are still on his wrist because someone’s holding him holy shit, someone’s not immediately repulsed by his existence like he’s come to expect. However the man must read Jeongguk’s reaction incorrectly because he’s immediately retracting his hand with a small apology on his lips and No, don’t be sorry this is exactly what I’ve been craving for no matter how pathetic it makes me seem.
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” The man apologises.
“You didn’t.” Jeongguk replies, a small smile forming. “I’ll stay. Uh, I’m Jeongguk.”
“Jimin.” The man, no Jimin, smiles. “Nice to meet you.”
If Jeongguk wasn’t so enamoured by the friendliness pouring from the man sitting across from him perhaps he could figure out why the name Jimin seems so familiar. As soon as he realises he should probably try and work that out, another person comes running down the small path from the building and waves enthusiastically at Jimin, perching next to him and diagonal to Jeongguk.
“Hey” The newcomer says, kissing Jimin on the cheek and ruffling his hair. “Made a friend?”
Jimin nods, his smile wide as his friend takes two plastic containers of food from his bag and places it on the table. “This is Jeongguk, Jeongguk this is Hoseok!”
“Hi.” Hoseok giggles at Jimin’s happy nod, “Jiminie here loves making friends, he’s made three new ones already today.”
“You’re making me sound like a puppy in a dog park.” Jimin playfully hits his shoulder into Hoseok’s and Jeongguk’s smiles, but man is it forced.
Jeongguk thought someone had finally come to sit and talk with him because they wanted to be his friend, not because they seemed to be on a mission to befriend anyone in the near vicinity. He supposes it shouldn’t hurt him, but when you spend your days with only people who want you gone, you tend to daydream about people actually giving a fuck and noticing you.
A daydream, Jeongguk reminds himself, just a daydream.
“You’ve already eaten your lunch?” Hoseok asks, completely unaware of Jeongguk’s inner turmoil.
Jeongguk just nods, but Jimin frowns and shakes his head. “I saw you walk out here at the start of lunch, you didn’t have anything with you.”
“Oh. I’m fine, don’t worry.” Jeongguk says, not wanting his ridiculous eating habits and lack of money known to these strangers who seem to be scrutinising him intensely.
“Well now I’ll worry. Here.” Jimin takes the lid of his container and fills it with some of his pasta whilst Hoseok also adds some of his to it, making it almost enough for a meal. Hoseok brings out another fork form his bag and they place it in front of Jeongguk.
“Y-you don’t have to.” Jeongguk stutters, not used to this show of kindness from these strangers who, Jeongguk keeps realising, are incredibly pretty. Hoseok shrugs and Jimin smiles, wow Jeongguk loves that smile already. They go back to eating their lunch. Jeongguk whispers a “thank you” before digging into his.
The rest of Jeongguk’s day goes by the same as usual. His coworkers give him the worst jobs. He’s cleaned about seven studio spaces in time for music video shoots. He’s sent to do the coffee runs for idol groups under the company consisting of about 18 people and he’s expected to remember every order and gets yelled at when he doesn’t. He’s pushed way past his limit when he’s ordered to clean toilets in the dressing rooms of artists and he doesn’t know how any of this falls under his job description, but he’s in no position to question it.
When Jeongguk gets home, he walks into the small studio apartment and goes straight to the little closet by the kitchen area, takes out some pyjamas, gets dressed and falls straight into the bed in the corner. Since he was given that meal from Jimin and Hoseok at lunch, he doesn’t need to dig into his last pot of ramen, saving that for the next night.
Pay Fridays are great, it gives him something to do on the Saturday when he does his shopping for the month. It’s always exciting to actually have plans, even if they are lonely plans to the supermarket. At least it’s something.
Jeongguk falls asleep thinking of the kindness he was actually given. Hoseok and Jimin, two of the prettiest and happiest people he’s ever seen had actually treated Jeongguk like he was someone worth talking to. Even if Jimin did go around making friends with everyone, at least he felt that warmth for the short period of time they spent together, even if he found himself swallowing and looking away as they kissed each other good bye.
Saturday comes around and Jeongguk walks the 35 minute trek to the supermarket. He walks in and sees it absolutely heaving with customers like it usually is on weekends. It doesn’t mean he hates it any less. He has his list. Jeongguk had cultivated meal plans for a month that were in his budget but also enough so that he wouldn’t completely keel over from starvation. It was a delicate line to walk across but he was coping. It also had to coincide with the fact he did not own an oven. His apartment hadn’t come with one and he couldn’t afford such a luxury. As Jungkook finishes loading the microwavable meals into his shopping cart and begins to look for the instant ramen, his head begins pounding in earnest. He supposes he should find something cheap and in his budget to have for breakfast, especially with these headaches becoming quite regular. His head keeps protesting and he quickly steers his cart around the corner to shut his eyes to combat such pain. The second he rounds the corner and slips his eyes shut, he feels his cart hit another cart, quickly opening his eyes to blurt an apology only to find familiar eyes looking up at him.
“Jeongguk?” Jimin asks, the smile Jeongguk likes so much filling his face.
“Oh, sorry for hitting your cart.” Jeongguk replies, forcing a smile despite the absolute car crash happening inside his head.
“It’s fine! Getting your weekly groceries, too?” Jimin brightly asks. Jeongguk nods, except well no, who has the money to do this shop weekly? Jeongguk also notices the difference between the two carts, Jimin’s positively overflowing with different vegetables and a wide variety of different meats, not to mention the amount of snacks and alcohol overflowing. He notices ingredients for dishes he only ever experiences in his daydreams with his imaginary lover. He suddenly feels extremely embarrassed by the state of his barren cart but Jimin doesn’t seem to notice. Much. Because he definitely notices. He definitely scowls a little, but he doesn’t actually say anything and Jeongguk’s grateful.
“Okay so that’s Tae’s snacks and Jin’s alcohol crossed off the list, now to get the ingredients for that sauce Yoongi loves so mu- oh hey.” A tall figure finally looks up from his shopping list after walking over. He notices Jeongguk standing in front of Jimin and lets out a dimpled smile. Is everyone in Jimin’s life a pretty man with a pretty smile?
“Joon, this is Jeongguk. The one Hoseok and I met a few days ago during lunch at the company.” Jimin says easily and Joon nods in understanding, like he was already familiar with the story.
“I’m Namjoon.” The taller reaches his hand out and Jeongguk quickly extends his for the handshake.
“Joon’s old fashioned in his greetings.” Jimin laughs but Jeongguk had been so eager for contact with someone that he truly didn’t want to let go. Namjoon just swats Jimin over the back of the head with the notebook in his hand, both of them laughing together.
Jeongguk doesn’t miss the way Namjoon settles his hand over Jimin’s hips and presses close to his back before hooking his head on Jimin’s shoulder. Intimate in a way Jeongguk had seen Hoseok and Jimin acting a few days prior and Jeongguk seems to understand that Jimin has a lot of people in his life that love him, and Jeongguk couldn’t simmer the jealousy down if he tried. Not only because he longed to be loved like that, but he had already daydreamed about being close with Jimin, the first person to show him kindness in so long, that he had latched onto the idea. Seeing him in the supermarket only brought that feeling back up, only to be squashed all of sudden by the realisation that Jimin’s really not available.
“Maybe we’ll see you at the company sometime!” Namjoon says as he steers the cart, and Jimin, towards the aisle they need. Jeongguk smiles politely before remembering to find the ramen for his cart.
Jeongguk’s pathetic excuse for a grocery run is complete and everything barely fills up two shopping bags. They’re definitely heavy and the second Jeongguk steps out into the parking lot in front of the supermarket, the heavens decide to open up.
For fucks sake, Jeongguk thinks. He’s not dressed appropriately for rain at all. No jacket, no hood, no umbrella. He’s definitely going to get a head cold at this rate, but he honestly has no choice. He walks across through the parking lot, trying to dodge the cars leaving their spaces, to get onto the street to start his long walk home before he hears a familiar voice calling his name.
“Jeongguk!” Namjoon yells, waving his hand over to Jeongguk who’s looking over dumbly. He’s never known anyone that would ever call out to him in public like that so he’s a little confused. Namjoon stops waving his hand and looks confused, murmuring something to a small figure in the car, presumably Jimin, before Jeongguk runs over to their car quickly, as if he wasn’t obviously dumbfounded.
“Need a ride?” Namjoon says beneath the hood covering him. Jeongguk looks to see Jimin curled up in the passenger seat, heater on full blast.
“Oh, n-no. You really don’t h-have to.” Jeongguk stutters, really wishing this anxious habit would fuck off.
“You have no jacket or hood or umbrella. Get in. Your shopping will fit in the backseat, ours is filling the boot.” Jimin says from the car and Jeongguk nods as Namjoon opens the doors in the back.
Jeongguk sits in this very obviously expensive car and suddenly feels very poor and rundown, not fitting in at all. He gives Namjoon directions and if he sees their shoulders tense as they get closer to the poorer and rougher part of town, he decides to ignore it. He couldn’t change his address in the next 15 minutes.
“Just here’s good.” Jeongguk says and Namjoon pulls over next to his apartment building. Jeongguk begins hauling his two bags from the car and sees Jimin tense and looking around, Namjoon settling a hand on Jimin’s arm. He’s not surprised. Their nice car in an area like this would definitely be at risk of burglars and just generally bad people. He understands, and he carries that shame of not being able to live anywhere else with him as he gets out of the car.
“Thank you.” Jeongguk says through the rain into the car. “sorry about you having to drive to this neighbourhood, but thanks.”
Apologising felt like the best thing to say and Jimin immediately looks horrified that Jeongguk had realised his apprehension. “No, I’m sure it’s a lovely area.”
Jeongguk laughs at that and nods to Namjoon before walking into his building and into his pathetic little space. It’s not that the neighbourhood is awful because it’s poor. The neighbourhoods nearby are actually known for housing some lovely old people and couples. It’s just Jeongguk’s particular one is known for the bad people roaming the streets. He’s met a few of the ones with the bad reputations, but as long as you keep out of their business, they’re generally fine with anyone passing through/living there. Weirdly enough, since Jeongguk’s been living there a while and hasn’t caused any harm, the gang are probably the nicest anyone’s been to him since before Jimin sat across from him at lunch in the week.