Taehyung blames his sour mood entirely on his editor.
Between losing his wallet, Yeontan getting sick, and dealing with writers’ block, he’s had a terrible week. His editor hounding his ass about deadlines has only pushed him closer to the edge. He attempted to have a relaxing morning at his favorite café, but he was hardly there for an hour before his editor demanded that they meet and talk in person. He gathered his things with a huff, threw away his unfinished tea and stormed out the door. He’s still fuming as he power walks down the sidewalk, reading the rest of the email on his phone. It’s not usually so easy to get him worked up, but he’s running on two hours of sleep on top of a stressful week and he feels like he’s on the brink of insanity.
He’s so wrapped up in his scrambled thoughts that it takes his brain a few seconds to catch up with what’s happening when he knocks into a wooden bracket and his foot meets air instead of solid pavement. He gasps, stomach swooping as he feels himself going down and then-
There’s a rough hand around his waist and he’s being jerked back up. “Whoa!”
He grips the arm of the person holding him, breathless, glasses sliding down his nose and heart hammering in his chest as he recovers from the shock of almost falling. When he looks up he sees a cute guy in a construction hat, his face scrunched in concern but amusement slowly showing in his eyes as he realizes that Taehyung is fine. His strong, toned shoulders are on full display in his dirty sleeveless shirt and Taehyung feels himself flush slightly. “Watch where you’re walking, gorgeous,” he says as he pulls Taehyung up and straightens them both.
Taehyung feels a flutter in his stomach that has nothing to do with his almost-fall.
“I- I-“ Taehyung sputters, his brain still trying to catch up with what’s happening. The man in front of him is a vision of beauty and Taehyung is very gay, so it’s not exactly helping him gather his thoughts.
His muscular shoulders and arms are a sharp contrast to his pretty face – big sparkly eyes and soft looking lips. He’s got a sharp jawline, but a bit of baby fat still endearingly clinging to his cheeks.
“You okay?” The man asks, amusement dancing in his eyes, hands still hovering close to him as though he’s ready to catch him if he faints.
“Oh-“ Taehyung manages to break himself out of the trance, “Okay? Y- Yeah. Yes. I’m alright.” He laughs awkwardly, glances behind him to see the manhole he almost fell in. He flushes in embarrassment and groans. “God, I’m such an idiot, I’m sorry.”
The man laughs softly, “No, it’s okay, it happens.” He reaches around Taehyung to pick up the wooden bracket that got knocked over.
“Does it actually, or are you just saying that make me feel better?”
He purses his lips to try to hide his guilty smile. “The brackets usually stop people from getting that close.”
“It’s just me, then,” Taehyung laughs, still slightly embarrassed but not exactly upset about talking to this guy. “Well, lucky you were there to save my clumsy ass. Thank you.”
“It’s no problem,” he shrugs. “But maybe try to pay more attention to where you’re walking, in case I’m not there to rescue you next time,” he teases, smirking slightly.
Fuck, he’s cute. “Got it,” Taehyung promises.
The guy whips around to see another man in a construction hat yelling for him and motioning for him to come over.
“I should get back to work,” the man – Jeongguk – says, and maybe Taehyung is being hopeful, but he thinks he sees a hint of disappointment in Jeongguk’s eyes.
“Of course,” Taehyung waves it off. “Thank you, again. I promise to be more careful” He feels himself smiling as Jeongguk nods and turns to jog off in the other direction.
Taehyung stands there for a few more moments, smiling to himself like a dope, before realizing how silly he must look. He shakes himself out of it and turns to continue his walk.
He doesn’t care to rush now, just takes his time making his way to his editor’s office with the image of Jeongguk’s playful smile in his mind. It feels like he might be able to enjoy the walk now.
He’s still exhausted, and stressful thoughts linger in the back of his mind, but the weight of this week doesn’t feel as heavy on his shoulders.
Taehyung finds himself sitting at the same café for the next few days, right near the window, where he can watch Jeongguk work on the building right across the street.
To be fair, he is writing. Inspiration finally hit him, and his editor has backed off now that he’s making progress. He just happens to enjoy taking small breaks to watch Jeongguk’s muscles flex as he lifts heavy objects.
It isn’t until Jeongguk catches him staring that he realizes maybe he’s spending a little too long staring out the window, daydreaming about Jeongguk’s strong hand around his waist. The sheer level of attraction he feels toward Jeongguk after just one meeting is something he’s never experienced.
The second he sees Jeongguk looking right back at him, he averts his eyes, cheeks burning as he curses silently to himself. He feels a little better when he glances back up to see Jeongguk waving at him, lips pulled into a kind smile. He waves back meekly, still slightly embarrassed, and returns the smile with one of his own.
As the hour passes, he still can’t completely take his eyes off the gorgeous man across the street, and he eventually decides that he isn’t going to sit there and do nothing any longer.
When he sees a few of the construction workers taking a break, Jeongguk being one of them, he shoves his laptop in his bag and makes his way over to the counter to order another drink. There’s no way to know what Jeongguk’s drink of choice is, but juice has to be a safe option, especially on a hot day like this.
Jeongguk eyes find him as he walks out of the café and across the street, juice in hand, and he gives a shy smile. He’s leaning back against a wall, phone in hand, but he pockets it as soon as he realizes Taehyung is coming over.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“It’s a ‘thank you’ drink, for the other day. I hope you like mango juice.” He offers up the bottle and leans against the wall next to Jeongguk.
“You’re in luck, it’s one of my favorites,” Jeongguk takes a generous swig of the juice, and Taehyung watches a drip of sweat run down his neck as he does so. “Thanks.”
“Anything for my savior,” Taehyung says in a singsong voice, batting his eyelashes, and Jeongguk laughs softly.
“You’re that author, aren’t you?” He asks suddenly, “Kim Taehyung?”
“O- Oh,” Taehyung stammers. “Yeah, that’s me.”
He gets recognized occasionally, but not often enough to not be caught off guard when it happens, especially when it’s a cute construction worker who recognizes him.
“You’ve read my stuff?”
“Mmhmm, they’re some of my favorites.”
Taehyung blinks, genuinely surprised, “Wow, I didn’t take you for the type to enjoy romantic fantasy.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for romance. I think I’ve cried at least three times reading your work,” he admits, seeming only slightly embarrassed. “I also love your world building.”
Taehyung lowers his gaze, too bashful all of a sudden to look Jeongguk in the eye. He’s never been good at taking compliments, especially from handsome, sweet men. “Thank you,” he murmurs, fiddling with his fingers.
“The LGBTQ+ representation is pretty amazing, too.”
Taehyung looks back up, sees the telling expression on Jeongguk’s face, and immediately feels more confident in how he’s interpreted their interactions. He had guessed – hoped – when they first met that Jeongguk might be interested in men but couldn’t be sure.
Taehyung is aware that his novels stand out for their representation, and Jeongguk’s acknowledgment of such tells him all he needs to know.
“Thanks,” he says again, shifting a little closer. “I can tell you little bit about my next book, if you’re good at keeping secrets.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen with honest excitement, “Really?”
“No big spoilers, just some general stuff.” His editor might kill him if he ever found out he was spilling any details, but screw it, it’s his writing.
“I’d love to hear as much as you can tell me! Can I meet you in the café on my lunch at 11?”
“I’ll be there,” Taehyung promises.
Taehyung feels a little insecure talking about his own writing. No matter his level of success, he’ll always feel like he isn’t good enough, that he sounds silly when he goes on about his ideas. But talking to Jeongguk feels different. It feels nice.
Jeongguk listens attentively and asks all the right questions as Taehyung describes the general plot of his next novel, lets him ramble and shows nothing but patience when Taehyung stumbles over his words. Even if Jeongguk may not always understand his scattered thoughts and ideas, he doesn’t make fun of Taehyung, he accepts his eccentricity with an open heart and open mind.
Jeongguk’s kind, caring nature only serves to intensify Taehyung’s already fierce attraction to him. He finds himself nearly drooling over the way Jeongguk’s arms flex, or how his back muscles look like they’re sculpted by the gods. He thinks Jeongguk might be catching on to his attraction, and purposely moving in ways just to rile him up.
He finds that Jeongguk is surprisingly shy, takes a little pushing to open up, but once he does, he’s the most charming person Taehyung has ever met. Taehyung could listen to him talk about his hobbies for days. He’s so passionate about so many things, so good at everything he does, it seems as though he could do just about anything he put his mind to.
They continue to have lunch together through the rest of the week, and Taehyung is gathering the courage to ask Jeongguk on a real date since the building across the street is almost finished and their convenient lunches together will come to an end.
He’s going to do it today, he decides, at the end of their lunch. He finds that it’s difficult to concentrate all morning as his stomach flutters with excited anticipation.
He’s so deep in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice when someone approaches his table until there’s a steaming cup placed right in front of him and the sound of someone clearing their throat.
The man standing beside his table is tall, with dark hair and dark eyes. Seemingly a little older than Taehyung, with a conventionally handsome face. “You’re Kim Taehyung, aren’t you?”
“I- Um, yes. Can I help you?”
The man slides into the seat across from him without asking, and pushes the steaming cup closer to Taehyung, as though urging him to drink it. Just the smell of the beverage tells him it’s coffee, but he gives a forced smile regardless and wraps his hand around the cup to convince the stranger that he’ll eventually drink it.
He just had a conversation with Jeongguk about how much he hated coffee. Too bitter.
“Ah, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Park Bogum,” he announces. “I love your work, so when I noticed you sitting here, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with you.”
Taehyung shifts uncomfortably in his seat, tries to smile politely. “Oh, thank you, I appreciate it,” he says anyway, gesturing to the coffee he doesn’t plan to drink. He doesn’t necessarily mind when people approach him, but Bogum’s forwardness doesn’t sit right with him.
“You’re even more beautiful in person, I was almost too nervous to approach you,” Bogum places a hand on his arm and gives what he probably hopes is a charming half-smile, but to Taehyung, it feels empty, almost creepy. His arm tingles unpleasantly where Bogum’s hand lingers.
He laughs awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
But Bogum quickly fills the silence, dives into talking about himself, his own writing, and his own attempts to get published. Taehyung couldn’t get a word in edgewise even if he wanted to actually speak to this man. The more he talks, the more obvious it is that he’s probably only read one of Taehyung’s books, and doesn’t actually remember much about it (or care as much as he let on, for that matter).
Taehyung lets him talk, figures it won’t do much harm, but continues to grow more uncomfortable the longer Bogum sits at his table. He’s too touchy, too flirty, despite Taehyung’s blatant attempts to brush him off. He either can’t take a hint or he’s ignoring the hints – probably the latter.
He starts to feel backed into a corner, increasingly uneasy as Bogum gets bolder with the flirty comments, so he makes an excuse to leave.
“Sorry I have to cut this short.” He gathers his things and gives a forced smile that probably ends up looking more like a grimace. There’s no point in putting much effort into being polite when all he wants is for this man to go away.
“I’ll walk you out,” Bogum says, and it takes everything in Taehyung not to audibly sigh.
There’s a sinking disappointment in his stomach as he realizes he won’t be able to follow through with his plan to ask Jeongguk on a date if he leaves now, but he can’t take much more of this guy. He’ll have another chance to talk to Jeongguk.
As promised, Bogum follows him out of the café, walking strangely close to him. He tries to shuffle away without giving an awkward goodbye, but he barely makes it two feet before Bogum boldly grabs him by the arm. His grip is tight and constricting, a sharp contrast to the secure feeling of Jeongguk’s arm around his waist.
“Wait, let me get your number,” Bogum insists with that same creepy, cocky smile that says he genuinely believes he’s charmed the pants off Taehyung.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
Taehyung tries to pull his arm out of Bogum’s hold, but Bogum tightens his grip, and Taehyung raises an eyebrow, shoots a glare at him. He’s trying to put up a tough front even though his blood runs cold and his heart is thumping fast in chest.
“Oh, come on, sweetheart. You at least owe me that.”
Taehyung rips his arm out of Bogum’s grip, anger flaring in his chest. “I don’t owe you sh-“
Suddenly there’s a familiar arm looping around his waist and he feels his cheeks flushing pink. He blinks. Jeongguk is beside him, staring daggers at Bogum, with a smile that looks anything but friendly.
“Sorry I kept you waiting,” he says to Taehyung, then his voice turns ice cold when he addresses Bogum. “Can I help you?”
“Whoa man,” Bogum backs off, arms raised. “I didn’t realize.”
“Well, now you do. Maybe take the hint next time.” In the short time Taehyung has known Jeongguk, he’s never heard him sound so threatening, didn’t think it was possible. It sends a chill down Taehyung’s spine.
Bogum stuffs his hands in his pocket as he scoffs. “Maybe keep him on a tighter leash.”
Taehyung practically sees Jeongguk go red with anger, feels him step forward, so he puts his arm up before Jeongguk can get any further. Not worth it, he tries to convey.
“Fuck off,” Taehyung spits, malice coating his voice.
Thankfully, Bogum doesn’t seem to think he’s worth the fight so he turns with a muttered “whatever” and walks off.
There’s a short silence after he leaves, before Jeongguk turns to him, brow knitted in concern. “You good?” He asks, voice soft, completely void of the harshness from seconds ago. His hand slides down from Taehyung’s waist to take hold of his hand instead.
“I’m fine,” Taehyung promises, taking a deep breathe and squeezing his hand. “He was just a persistent asshole.”
Jeongguk sighs, and his tense shoulders relax a little. “I saw him sitting with you even before you walked out. I could tell he was being pushy so I figured you could use a little help. Sorry if I overstepped.”
“No, not at all” Taehyung says immediately. He feels at ease now that the threat is gone, now that Jeongguk is here and he knows he’s safe. “I appreciate it, really. I can handle myself, but I didn’t mind having my designated savior step in.”
The tension that Bogum left behind finally melts away as they both laugh.
“Is that my official title?” Jeongguk asks teasingly, and there’s that amused and fond expression that Jeongguk seems to save just for him.
“Of course,” he confirms. And then, Taehyung figures, fuck it, he might as well say what he wants to say. “Although, I wouldn’t mind that title changing, if that boyfriend act ever becomes real.”
Jeongguk raises his eyebrows at his boldness. “Is that your roundabout way of asking me on a date?”
“Maybe,” he replies with a coy smile. “Depends on your answer, I guess.”
“Well, considering I assumed our lunches were dates, I think the answer is yes.”
Taehyung laughs, feeling light and giddy, and shakes his head fondly. “They can be dates if we want them to be.”
“Okay then, technically you’re asking me on our – what? Fourth? Fifth date?”
Taehyung punches his shoulder playfully, “Sure, you dork.”
Jeongguk grunts melodramatically, jerks his shoulder back in mock hurt, “Ruthless.”
“Come on,” he pulls Jeongguk back towards the café. “We can have another date right now. That idiot got me a coffee that I refused to drink so I’m still thirsty.”
“Getting you coffee? Now that’s just an insult,” Jeongguk tuts as the bell chimes on the door. “Don’t worry, I can defend you against bitter things too.”
“Okay, Hercules,” Taehyung rolls his eyes but can’t hold in his laughter. “Don’t keep rolling with that joke. Let it die.”
Jeongguk smiles and stares at him with that fond twinkle in his eye. “Never.”