Taehyung hears the heart monitors beeping first. The sound is slow, constant, grating, the only noise in the otherwise silent space. He groans, shifting in the bed, and the beeping becomes more rapid.
His eyelids feel like lead as he tries to pry them open, but his brain seems disconnected with the rest of his body, and it takes a while for him to take control and force them open.
He’s in a hospital room-- one of the luxurious ones, no doubt, and his bed is large and comfortable, the space is clean, but the smell… he can’t stand the smell.
It’s too clean, too sterile, devoid of life and any hint of what the hell happened, but Taehyung figures he’ll find out soon enough.
It must have been his heart.
The door opens, and two figures step through. When they notice Taehyung awake and shifting, they run to his side.
“Taehyung!” Hoseok yelps, eyes wide and frantic, tangling his fingers through the bed-ridden man’s own.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Yoongi drawls, hands stuffed in his suit pants pockets, smiling casually, but Taehyung doesn’t miss the relief in his eyes. “How’re you feelin’, champ?”
“Like shit. What happened?” Taehyung asks, voice hoarse from disuse, and he wonders how long he’s been in the hospital. His mind is foggy, and his limbs feel like jelly.
“See for yourself,” Yoongi says, finding the remote to the massive flatscreen television on the wall facing the bed, and flips to one of the major news channels.
“Media outlets have been packed outside Seoul General Hospital for the past five days, waiting for information after hotel mogul Kim Taehyung of Rise Enterprises reportedly fainted after a press conference for their luxury suites chain opening in Thailand next month. The Rise Enterprise group has not yet issued an official statement on the well being of Mr. Kim, but reports speculate that he has undergone major heart surgery a few days ago, under renowned cardiac surgeon, Dr.- ”
The screen goes black when Yoongi switches the television off, and Taehyung turns to the man, mouth dry.
“I fainted?” Taehyung asks after a moment.
“Went splat, right on the ground.” Yoongi grins, and Hoseok gives him a dirty look.
“Backstage, after you gave your speech. Luckily no reporters saw it, but they definitely noticed the emergency helicopter outside the venue,” Hoseok elaborates, frowning. “A doctor should come in and explain everything to you, now that you’re awake.”
“Was it…?” Taehyung doesn’t need to finish.
“Yeah, it was.” Yoongi nods.
“God I hope this doesn’t affect the stocks,” Taehyung groans, digging his head back into the pillows.
“If anything, it’s going to make the prices go up. Rise is up 5% since last week,” Yoongi smiles. “Everyone thinks you’ve been overworking yourself, and the public loves to hear about the dedicated, hardworking CEO.”
Taehyung sighs, letting his eyes wander over the patterns on the ceiling. He’s just relieved this happened after the conference.
“No one hears about this, got it?” Taehyung orders, looking at Hoseok, who nods and notes it on the tablet that has been a constant fixture to the man.
“Then what should we say to the public?” Hoseok asks, stylus poised to receive instruction.
“Feed them the ‘hardworking CEO’ story. Make sure to clarify that I didn’t faint. I was having chest pain and so I went to the hospital. They don’t need to know anything more about my personal life, and I don’t need to look weak either.”
Hoseok writes rapidly, nodding as he takes in his boss’s words. “And I’ll make sure to compensate the backstage workers, making sure none of this gets out.”
“Thanks, hyung,” Taehyung says, feeling mildly better after one issue had been taken care of. “Who did the surgery? Dr. Lee retired last year.” He wasn’t sure who would be competent enough to handle a complicated case like his, since Dr. Lee had been treating him since he was a baby.
Yoongi looks wary, and Hoseok opens his mouth to speak, but at that moment, a small woman in a short doctor’s coat comes in, a clipboard and patient file clutched tight to her chest. She looks at Taehyung nervously, blushing at the man’s direct stare, before looking down.
“Good afternoon, Kim ssi. I’m Yura, one of the interns who assisted during your surgery,” she says quietly. “I’m here to give you an update on your condition.”
“Get on with it, we don’t have all day,” Yoongi prompts after a moment of silence.
Yura apologizes, bowing her head a few times before clearing her throat and looking at the patient file with shaking hands.
“Kim Taehyung ssi, your rheumatic cardiac disease escalated into cardiac fibrosis. Five days ago, your mitral valve became dysfunctional, cutting off blood supply to your lower limbs, and you were brought in for an emergency procedure.”
The girl pauses, looking up to see the three men staring at her expectantly, and her eyes snap back to the paper. She clears her throat and continues in a monotonous voice, reading off the words on the page.
“We did a new procedure and replaced the damaged tissue with synthetic valves. You can be discharged in a week, once we’re sure the implants are working. Since it is a relatively new procedure, we are asking that you come in once a month for check ups.”
Taehyung sighs. He thought his constant hospital visits would have ended since he had gone on his medication after high school, but this puts a wrench in a lot of his plans.
“I’ll take of scheduling issues,” Hoseok murmurs, as though reading the man’s mind, and Taehyung nods. He lays back on the bed and lets himself zone out as the girl continues talking, still foggy from the painkillers, knowing that Hoseok will relay any important information, but most of it will be old news.
Once the intern leaves, Yoongi goes shortly after, needing to get back to work at his law firm, but not before ruffling Taehyung’s hair playfully and warning him not to cause too much trouble.
“How are you feeling, Taehyung?” Hoseok asks quietly, once everything has settled down, sitting in the chair next to the bed.
Taehyung sighs. “I don’t know, hyung. I’m kind of sick of this.” His whole life had revolved around trips to the hospital. He had thought he was done with them. Apparently not.
“I have some news that might make you feel better,” Hoseok says. Taehyung raises an eyebrow.
“I think I’ve found a good consultant for the heart center.”
“Really?” Taehyung’s lip tugs into a small smile. Hoseok, besides being his assistant, had been helping him coordinate the charity project Taehyung had been developing for the past few years, focusing on providing medical care to underprivileged children with cardiac diseases. They had met with countless cardiac surgeons and specialists, but none of them felt competent enough to Taehyung.
“The man who did your surgery, he’s been lauded as one of the most revolutionary cardiac surgeons of our time. He even developed the procedure you just had.” Hoseok says, eyes alight.
Taehyung is intrigued. “Who?”
And suddenly, the heart monitor begins beeping radically, numbers flashing red as Taehyung registers the name and memories come flooding into his mind.
“ Jeon Jeongguk? ”
“Best in the nation, Jeon Jeongguk!” Taehyung calls out. The bell had rung a few moments ago, and students were fleeing out of the classroom, a flurry of chatter and rustling papers. Taehyung sticks back, leaning back in his chair, watching as the small boy stops in his tracks, turning around slowly. He points to himself, mouthing me? and Taehyung nods, swirling the lollipop around in his mouth.
“Come here.” And Taehyung bites back a smile as the boy visibly gulps, shuffling nervously towards the back of the class where Taehyung usually sits.
“What the hell are you doing, Taehyung?” Yoongi hisses under his breath, packing up his books as Jeongguk approaches.
“Trying to make this hell hole more interesting,” Taehyung smirks, taking the lollipop out of his mouth and motioning for the boy to come closer.
“You’re good at chemistry, right?” Taehyung asks, voice honeyed, once the boy is standing a foot away from his desk, looking at him apprehensively. Jeongguk flushes, nodding once quickly before ducking his head.
Cute , Taehyung thinks. Jeongguk’s black hair flops over his forehead, some strands sticking up at odd angles. His cheeks are chubby and his front teeth stick out slightly past his lips, making him look a bit like a bunny. And he’s quite tiny, being two years younger than the rest of his class.
He’ll do great things some day.
Taehyung points to the paper on his desk- the newly assigned homework for the class. “Explain this to me,” he orders, and Jeongguk looks at him reproachfully.
“Uhm…” Jeongguk scoots closer to take a look at the problem, clutching his books tightly to his chest. He cranes his neck to read the paper, trying to stay as far away from Taehyung as possible, and it’s not an easy task. Yoongi shoots Taehyung a warning look, and Taehyung just winks, putting the lollipop back in his mouth.
“This is a basic light particle duality problem. You just need to plug in Planck's constant and the speed of light, divide it by lamba, which is the wavelength, and make sure you convert it to meters from nanometers. You can find the energy like that,” Jeongguk rambles shakily, and Taehyung just nods, not absorbing any of the information, but smiling pleasantly.
“D-does that make sense?” Jeongguk asks shakily, voice cracking at the end, which makes his cheeks color in embarrassment.
“Oh, totally. You’re really good at explaining. You should tutor me some time,” Taehyung says casually, watching with pleasure as Jeongguk’s expression flashes from bashful to shocked.
“M-me?” he squeaks. Taehyung laughs. Adorable.
“There’s no one else around, is there?” Taehyung motions at the empty classroom. Jeongguk’s eyes dart around, looking at Yoongi for a moment before his eyes widen and drop to the floor.
“I--I don’t know if I’m the right person to tutor you… There are a lot of really good--”
“But you’re the best in the nation, Jeongguk. You’re the most qualified person to tutor me,” Taehyung insists. He rolls the lollipop around on his tongue, dragging his eyes down Jeongguk’s small frame appraisingly. “I only want the best,” he adds for good measure, and Jeongguk’s face turns a deep red.
“Uhmm…” He fidgets.
“Give me your phone number, I’ll text you sometime, and we can get together when you’re free.”
Jeongguk keeps his head down, and mumbles unintelligibly.
“What?” Taehyung asks. Jeongguk takes a deep breath.
“I don’t… have a phone…” he mutters, voice almost pained, and terribly embarrassed.
Taehyung aah ’s in understanding. Jeongguk is on scholarship, so he’s poor. He wouldn’t have a phone.
“That’s fine. You just let me know when you have some time, and I’ll clear my schedule for you,” Taehyung says.
Jeongguk peeks up at Taehyung as if this is all some bizarre dream. He lets out a shaky breath, and nods slightly. “Okay.”
Taehyung’s face feels like it’s going to split from how much he’s grinning. “Fantastic! I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Jeongguk just nods again. He shoots Yoongi a wary glance before whipping around and almost tripping out of the classroom. Taehyung keeps the bright smile on his face until the door slams shut, and then it drops into a smirk.
“Taehyung, I hope you’re not pulling the shit you did with Minah last year,” Yoongi warns. Taehyung waves his hand dismissively in the air.
“Relax, hyung. It’s all just a game.”
It feels like every bad thing Taehyung has ever done comes crashing down on him this exact moment, anxiety threatening to silently drown him as he stares at the door, engraved with the name Jeon Jeongguk, M.D., Ph.D. in bold, gold letters.
His hands are shaking, nerves on fire, and he can’t hear anything that Hoseok is saying to him. He just nods meekly, hoping his face doesn’t look too pale.
“Dr. Jeon will see you now,” the receptionist calls out, and Hoseok stands. Taehyung looks up at him nervously.
“Well, come on,” Hoseok prompts, and Taehyung gulps, getting up with wobbling feet, and makes his way to the door. The receptionist holds it open for them, smiling pleasantly as they pass, and Taehyung keeps his eyes down until he hears the door close behind them.
You’re Kim fucking Taehyung , he reminds himself.
You have hotels in almost every country in Asia. You’re one of the richest men in the world. People kiss the ground you walk on. You can handle one person.
You’re in a million dollar suit. You’re an icon. Act like one.
So he straightens his back, slipping his hands into his pockets, and looks up, fixing a stoic expression on his face, and readies himself to face what is sure to be disaster head on.
Nothing prepares him for what comes next.
“Hoseok ssi, I’m glad you could come,” a deep voice calls out, and Taehyung follows the sound to the man sitting behind a massive oak desk.
“I’m so glad you had the time,” Hoseok gushes, stepping closer to the desk. The man stands up, smiling pleasantly, shaking Hoseok’s hand. He looks expectantly at Taehyung, who stands frozen in his spot.
“Kim Taehyung ssi..." the man says, and it snaps Taehyung out of his daze. Wrong Jeon Jeongguk, Taehyung thinks, relieved, because this man, standing before him, tall and broad and incredibly handsome, is not his Jeon Jeongguk.
Taehyung clears his throat and steps forward to shake the man's hand. He smiles, relaxing once the realization dawns on him.
"It's a pleasure, Jeon ssi. I want to personally extend my thanks for quite literally saving my life," Taehyung says, laying on as much of his winning charisma as he possibly can, smiling his trademark smile, because this Jeon Jeongguk really is quite handsome, all sharp jawline, smouldering eyes, immaculate form, and Taehyung would be a fool not to see a potential conquest. His previous anxiety has melted away, and he feels more in control of himself now.
"I was just doing my job," the man says simply, unphased by Taehyung's charms, and focuses back on Hoseok. "Please do take a seat." It takes everything Taehyung has to not pout in disappointment.
Hoseok jumps straight to business, delving into the details of the project and the nature of the leading cardiac consultant at the heart center.
Taehyung takes the time to fully appraise this Jeon Jeongguk, noting the perfectly coifed black hair, broad shoulders, and full, pliant lips, and god, Taehyung's never seen someone look so sexy in a doctor's coat.
His eyes wander down to the man's neck, appraising the smooth, tanned skin, before drifting to the base of his left earlobe, as if by instinct, where he makes out faint scars. Color drains from his face.
Taehyung straightens with a jolt, eyes fixating on the three marks on the man's skin, hardly noticeable, but now that he has seen them, he can't stop looking at them.
It's just a coincidence, Taehyung tells himself, as memories flash through his mind.
He could have gotten those scars from anywhere.
But the marks are unmistakable. Taehyung would never forget that day.
And his body flushes with terror, and his stomach turns with nausea, as it dawns on him, the horrific realization that this couldn't be anyone but his Jeon Jeongguk.
"Isn't that funny, Taehyung?" Hoseok asks, wrenching Taehyung out of his thoughts.
Taehyung stares blankly at Hoseok, who gives him an exasperated look.
"I was saying, it's funny how you and Jeongguk-ssi went to the same high school."
Taehyung's mouth runs dry, and any thought he could have had just evaporates.
"You guys even graduated in the same year, even though he’s a couple years younger than you."
Taehyung feels like he's been dunked in ice water. Like he’s being suffocated by the heated look Jeongguk gives him for a brief moment, and he can’t move, can’t speak. He can’t do anything.
"I tutored him once or twice our senior year, I think," Jeongguk responds, voice light, dismissive.
"Taehyung ssi was quite popular at the time. I was at the bottom of that food chain. He couldn't possibly remember a nobody like me." Jeongguk laughs airily, and Hoseok joins him, but Taehyung presses his mouth into a thin line, fists clenched in his lap.
"And now you've saved his life!" Hoseok adds, good-naturedly, but it makes Taehyung's heart drop.
"It is funny though, isn't it? Life works in strange ways," Jeongguk drawls, face relaxed, detached, but the look he gives Taehyung when Hoseok isn't paying attention is heavy.
Taehyung feels like he's going to explode from the tension, the realization, the guilt, and he wishes he could run out of the room, out of the building and into the busy Seoul afternoon that goes on, continues to move forward despite all the sins he's committed.
The sharp ring of Hoseok's telephone makes Taehyung want to jump out of his skin, already tense and wired.
"I apologize. I'll just step out for a moment to answer this," Hoseok says, getting up and slipping out of the room. Taehyung bites his tongue when the door slams closed.
"Well well well," Taehyung's eyes snap up to meet Jeongguk's and he's taken aback by the cold look on the man's face.
"W-what are you doing, Jeongguk?" Taehyung winces when he stammers, but sets his face as passively as he can. He can't look weak.
"It's Dr. Jeon, actually. Please do refrain from being too informal. It's not professional," Jeongguk says curtly.
Taehyung leans forward, throat tight. “Professional? This is personal, and you know it.”
Jeongguk scoffs, eyes dark and cold. Taehyung’s throat tightens, and he wonders whether this detached man could be his same, shy little Jeongguk. “I have nothing personal with you, Taehyung ssi. You mean absolutely nothing to me.”
Something at the back of Taehyung’s eye begins to sting at the words. They hurt more than he expected.
“I’m your ex,” Taehyung hisses. Jeongguk lets out a bark of laughter. Taehyung’s skin tightens at the sound.
“Ex? Is that what I am to you? As far as I was told, I was just a little game. Something to help you relieve the boredom of your oh-so-privileged life. I could hardly be considered an ex. You give me too much credit, really.”
Taehyung had thought he had escaped those words, made them disappear after ten years, but they just come back to hit him, square on the chest, and he loses his breath.
“Oh but don’t worry, Taehyung ssi. It was high school. We all make bad decisions. I’ve all but forgotten that little episode.” Nausea churns in Taehyung’s stomach.
“W-we can’t do business like this. There’s too much conflict of interest.”
“Taehyung ssi, this relationship is purely platonic. I am intrigued by this project of yours, and I want to do my best, on a professional level. You need me. And as for remaining professional, the only one incapable of remaining so seems to be you. ”
Taehyung opens his mouth to respond, but Hoseok comes in right then. Jeongguk’s dark gaze shifts immediately to a more pleasant one.
“I apologize for the interruption, Jeongguk ssi. But Taehyung has a board meeting to get to in a bit.”
Taehyung has never felt so conflicted than in this moment- on one hand he wants to get as far away from Jeon Jeongguk as he possibly can, try to forget everything that happened, lock up the past into a tiny little box the way he had been doing for the past ten years.
And on the other, he wants to stay and drag out an explanation from the man, lay everything out and figure out exactly what happened between them, what happened ten years ago.
“Of course, I’m sure Taehyung ssi is an incredibly busy man,” Jeongguk says, standing. Taehyung mirrors the action, and robotically offers his hand for the man to shake.
“Perhaps we can get together some time next week and discuss this in further detail,” Hoseok says. Jeongguk smiles graciously.
“I’ll have my assistant check my schedule.”
“Is there a preferred method to contact you, Jeongguk ssi?”
Jeongguk takes out a business card from his desk. “My private consultation line and my hospital line are on there, but any scheduling should be done through my assistant,” Jeongguk explains.
“What about your personal line, some way to contact you directly?” Taehyung says before he can think. Jeongguk’s eyes snap to his, narrowing for a ghost of a moment, before smiling.
“Well, this is purely professional, Taehyung ssi. The only people who have my personal number are those who are very close to me.”
“Of course, this is a business matter,” Hoseok laughs nervously, eyes shifting to Taehyung, wondering what has gotten into the normally sharp businessman. “We wouldn’t need your personal line, Jeongguk ssi.”
Taehyung continues to stare at Jeongguk. He can’t seem to bring himself to move, but Hoseok puts a hand on his shoulder, reminding him that he has other obligations.
“Alright Jeongguk ssi. We’ll get going. I will email your assistant the schedule, hopefully we’ll see you soon,” Hoseok says, bowing.
“Fantastic. I’ll look forward to it,” Jeongguk responds, bowing his head slightly in response to Hoseok. He turns to Taehyung and does the same. Taehyung returns it mechanically.
“It was good to see you again, Taehyung ssi. ”