I love people, Seokjin reminds himself for the nth time that day and coaxes the corners of his mouth to pull up into a bigger smile. To anyone who doesn't know him, he probably looks like some overeager kid wanting to be friends with everyone and every single organism that breathes in this agency, but to people who can read him faster than they can say I'm gonna kick these fucking clients in the balls, he's pretty sure that it's obvious the last thing he wants right now is to have to present himself to another group of people, much more the creatives. After all, the lot's notorious for making the lives of people in accounts a living hell. He's had his fair share of bad experiences with the artists and designers back in his old company and even those he has worked with as a third-party supplier, has had to put up with the sickening attitude for nearly a decade; he can only imagine how the 'traditional creatives' – as Yoochun, his former boss, had lovingly put it – act around accounts people like him.
And it's almost one in the afternoon. The last meal he had was at seven in the morning because someone decided to get extra paranoid with arriving at work late on his first day (and he's always paranoid that he'll punch in late at work by just a few minutes even if he leaves his house at least an hour and a half before starting time). He had been trapped in a meeting room for close to two hours, strapped to his seat as he listened to the Human Resource Manager ramble about company policies that were supposed to be a no-brainer already. Then he was summoned to the Finance Director's office for another orientation on finance policies, on how to properly file his timesheet and the repercussions of failing to submit it on time. He felt a lot like a kid being lectured by grown-ups on 'adult things'. It felt a lot like being strangled into submission. And now, he's being 'routed' in the office like an envelope being passed from one person to another to collect money for a big celebration. So it's warranted, right, his burning desire to just hide someplace else and curl up in a corner? It's normal to want to raise his arms in the air and cry out in a loud, deafening voice, Make them stop, right? Doesn't he have every right to want to throw in the towel and give up this early? He isn't the type of person who will just sink to his knees in defeat on a normal day, but he's cold and hungry and tired of grinning ear-to-ear. He's just about done with introducing himself to every single person in this agency.
He just wants to breathe.
His stomach grumbles. It feels like taking a hundred punches to the gut. And he's always been told to trust what his gut tells him.
"Hey–hey. Back off. All of you. Especially you," Joonmyun says, cocking an eyebrow in the direction of the guy to his right. The one with bright pink hair. One of them, anyway; there's at least three of them in the creative department. Seokjin's afraid he'll have to stop calling them 'Pink Guy #1 to 3' at the back of his mind sometime soon, or at least until he starts working with one of them. "Why do you guys–" Joonmyun heaves a sigh, loud and resounding. He isn't much older than Seokjin, but the dark circles under his eyes and the way his eyebrows automatically meet at the middle in a sad little crease make him look at least a decade older. That's agency life for you, Seokjin tells himself. That's the life you've chosen to live for the next few years. "You have to stop scaring the fresh blood. At this rate, I'll be losing people every month."
"Not before we drive them insane, hyung," Seokjin mutters, then offers Joonmyun a tight-lipped smile. Joonmyun widens his eyes, a peculiar glimmer lighting up at the corners, then he's laughing in soft, hiccuped giggles. Letting some of the fatigue that had pulled at his features earlier lift to tease the corners of his eyes into a soft crinkle. To the rest of the pool of creatives who wear their hair in all shades of colors in Revlon's color palette – Seokjin would like to think they're all using Revlon to boost their client's sales – Seokjin says, "Kim Seokjin, accounts supervisor. Nice to meet you." He gives them all a careful, scrutinizing gaze, but remembers to keep his eyes bright, shining, more accepting than discerning. Good cop, bad cop. It's an age-old technique that hasn't failed him yet. "And I'm excited to work with all of you, as well."
Pink Guy #1 snorts and laughs a little. He looks like he's seconds away from saying something, lips parted and poised to speak, but he doesn't. Instead, he shakes his head and slumps back in his seat, puts on his earphones, and begins to type on his computer.
"You're gonna be their favorite, I just know it," Joonmyun whispers in his ear later, chuckling. Seokjin tilts his head, ready to question, but soon Joonmyun's whisking him away to the production area, then the broadcast department, then to another area Seokjin can't even remember anymore, making him introduce himself even to the cups neatly arranged on the dish rack and the coffee maker in the hidden nook on the first floor. "Now this will be your best friend. Protip: always use the standard extract– Oh hey, Sunyoung! My new kid here wants to meet you! Jin, introduce yourself–"
Seokjin's supply of enthusiasm runs dry about half an hour after, closer to two in the afternoon now than 'lunch time'. There are still a lot of people in the pantry, though, all bundled in little clusters depending on their department. The ones who keep shuffling in and out of the smoking area with tens and thousands of scratch papers are probably the copywriters, one half of the creatives. The ones trading magic cards over rolls of kimbap and too much kimchi are from production, people in charge of making sure that users of applications and websites have the best possible experience ever. The ones staring at nothing in particular and spilling coffee all over their jjigae once they come back to life should be the art directors, if he remembers correctly – he distinctly recalls hearing Joonmyun and Jimin talk about a 'Kim Taehyung' submitting a rough sketch of a banner design on table napkin freckled with red and brown dots. Taehyung called it 'art', then turned it into real design hours after he'd given Jimin a preview of it. Then the tragic ones still talking about work during lunch are from accounts. Seokjin should know. He was one of those unfortunate souls back in his old job.
He snorts to himself. And he's going to be one of those people again. There's no escaping the curse; there's only finding a workaround for it.
"Well, I guess we can eat in our station. Everywhere else is packed," Jimin mumbles. He tugs at Seokjin's sleeve and pulls him away from the growing noise, from the mix of discussions fast turning into a blur of sounds filling Seokjin's ears. They bump into a few people along the way, most of them looking like they need more sleep than food, and quickly make their descent back to the second floor. Only then does Seokjin realize the stark difference between the chaos in the pantry, the brewing war in the creatives area, and the sweet, sweet silence in the accounts area when everyone else is having lunch. And only then, at that exact moment, does Seokjin feel the need to say, shit, he's actually thankful he's in accounts and not elsewhere. He's glad he's not part of the mess that is the creative team. "I don't get it. You have a company with close to two hundred people and you still don't want to expand your pantry? You have people... having lunch in their work area, and you still still think it's okay to just pack everyone in a tiny, tiny room during eating time? It doesn't make sense!"
"Maybe the bosses just want people to eat faster?" Seokjin sets his lunch box down on his table, then reaches over to arrange Jimin's things that have spilled onto his part of the long table in neat piles. He stuffs the pens in a paper cup – in hindsight, maybe he should've asked Jimin first if the cup was his – and throws the hump of crumpled paper on Jimin's desk into the waste basket. Even wipes a small portion of Jimin's desk because how can Jimin even work with the chaos all around him? Seokjin would pass out just trying to concentrate in such an untidy fraction of space. "Make them return to work sooner and have them get more things done? I don't know. That's the only reason I can come up with."
Jimin blinks twice – at Seokjin's reasoning or at the sudden clearing in his work station, Seokjin can't tell yet. All he knows is that Jimin's calmed down considerably, eyebrows no longer furrowed but one of them cocked at him. And if all his years of honing his skill at reading people are anything to go by then he's pretty sure this means, I hate to say this, but you're right. Alternatively, how the hell did you even come up with that conclusion just hours into being in this company?
"Well, that makes a lot of sense." Jimin's shoulders fall forward at the same time that he peels the lid of his lunch box off of the snug fit. It comes off with a light pop, just enough to make Seokjin shiver, but he doesn't miss Jimin's loud and heavy sigh. "My point is, shouldn't they be promoting work-life balance or something? That during lunch time, you should just... I dunno, be enjoying the company of your officemates instead of actually working? That you shouldn't even be thinking of work at all? Why isn't that a thing?"
Seokjin snorts. There are a number of ways that he can answer that: the advertising industry is inherently filled with crazy people who work hard and party even harder. Koreans are workaholics by nature. Business owners simply don't care about the mental and physical health of their workers because, at the end of the day, they're still operating a business. It's all about money, not the workers. It's about the won that comes flooding in year on year, with every new business win that they get. And what better way to keep money coming in than by rewarding people who stay in the office long after they've completed the required eight hours of daily work, right? What better way than to keep the cash flow healthy than by recruiting people who won't stop honing their craft until they deem it perfect? What better way to keep the business alive than by keeping their pantry small and subtly planting seeds of listlessness in people's brains and whispering in their ear, if you spend more than thirty minutes trying to relax, then shame on you, human. Shame on you for knowing that 'rest' is a necessity. Shame on you for wanting something that should be more of a right and not a privilege.
"Because we're in the advertising industry?"
"Thanks, hyung. Very helpful," Jimin groans. He pops a slice of yellow radish in his mouth, then breathes out a heavy sigh. "I'm glad you're here now, though. I can never talk to the oldies about this. They all give me weird looks whenever I start talking about insane work hours and–"
Seokjin stops halfway through setting his cupcake down on the lid of his lunch box. He hasn't started eating yet, hasn't even pulled his chopsticks out of their container or touched any of his food, and yet Jimin's looking at him like he needs to be saved. Like he's digging his own grave for the millionth time that day just by making sure his lunch area is neat and all set before actually digging into his food. I'm sorry I have strange eating habits? he's tempted to argue, but soon Jimin's setting his own chopsticks down on his lunch box and looking around, eyes narrowed and lips pursed.
"What are you doing?"
"Making sure nobody steals your cupcake," Jimin mutters. That's stupid; nobody would steal my cupcake, Seokjin mumbles at the back of his mind, but Jimin looks pretty serious about this whole cupcake theft thing, it's almost hilarious. He looks like some secret agent on a covert mission, Seokjin muses, even more when Jimin puts up a shield around the cupcake Seokjin had just set down on the table. Half of Seokjin wants to join in on the fun and play cupcake cop just for kicks; half of him feels weird having to watch Jimin get protective over a little treat that's hardly the most harmful thing in the world. "Rule number one: never bring cupcakes to work. Everybody here loves cupcakes and I'm pretty sure someone will want to ask for a bite if and when you do start eating that out in the open. Rule number two: if you absolutely have to bring cupcakes to work because, I dunno, you just love 'em that much, make sure you bring enough to fill the tummies of all the creatives. Yes, all of them."
Seokjin snorts. "No big deal. I can bake a lot of cupcakes. It's not the first time I'll be baking for a lot of people, anyway." He shrugs, snatches the cupcake from Jimin, and gently peels the table napkin that had stuck to the base. Maybe he should have packed the cupcake in a little box. He still has some leftover from when he had to make cookies for Christmas. For a team of twenty people. And for those who ordered cookies from him. Baking took over his life then and, at that moment, he wanted nothing but to bake forever. Screw working in an established digital publishing agency. Cookies made him happy. Eat slugs. "Seriously, that's better than having to cook kimbap and jjajangmyun for the entire office. I had to do that a couple of times before, in my old job–"
"You don't understand, hyung: they're suckers for sweets. They're... cookie monsters."
Seokjin feels his chest tighten a little, but he shrugs that off with a chuckle. It's all in the past now, he tells himself, again and again until the quickening pulse at the base of his throat relaxes. It's all in the past. "Relax. It's just a cupcake. If they ask, I can make–"
"Oh, fresh blood makes cupcakes?"
"Fuck." Jimin widens his eyes and gives Seokjin a stern look. Seriously, all for a cupcake? Seokjin almost blurts out, almost laughs, bright and raucous, but soon he's hearing a chorus of 'ooh, cupcakes' in the distance, like the mere mention of the treat is an invitation to hell. And it might as well be because the next thing he knows, he's seeing the creatives pop in one by one, eyes wide and glimmering even with the dim lighting in the area. There's got to be at least five of them now gathering just a few feet away from the foot of the staircase, at least five of them eyeing his little cupcake with so much interest that he almost feels his dessert's in danger. So maybe he should have had the foresight to bring to work the entire tray of cupcakes he'd baked for himself the night before. Handing out cupcakes is a good way to make friends. Maybe he should have taken Jimin's warning a bit more seriously. Maybe he should be hiding the cupcake from everyone else now or trying to find a way to divide the poor little cupcake among all the creatives passing by their area, closing in on them, caging them in. Maybe–
Maybe it isn't so bad, stuffing the whole thing in my mouth? he muses as he sucks in a deep, violent breath, and picks up the treat from where it's resting peacefully on the lid. He shoves the cupcake in his mouth all in one go, lips stretching to their fullest and wrapping around the base of the cupcake, teeth raking against it before leaving marks on the surface. The stretch feels a bit weird, hurts a little when he tries to chomp down on the dessert and push it further inside his mouth, but it isn't anything he can't manage. For the most part, he's more concerned he'll get icing on the tip of his nose and, if he's that unlucky, on the crisp white polo he'd prepared especially for his first day at work. Never mind that he probably looks silly bordering on crazy in front of people he'll be working with for the next few years; at least he has saved his poor little cupcake's life. At least he did something instead of just sitting there and watching other people devour the treat he'd prepared for himself the night before.
Someone laughs. It isn't too shrill or bright, not even enough to break thick walls of silence, but it's loud enough to cut through the collective whoa's of the pool of creatives that have gathered at the foot of the stairs. Seokjin lets his eyes wander, then, looking around in search for the source of the voice, and spots a figure in the distance, just a few steps away from where the creatives are. The stranger's features are blurred by the harsh shadow slanted across his face, drawn by the hat he's wearing, the same hat trapping bright blond hair beneath the brim but peeking from behind the man's ears, and yet Seokjin can very well see the gentle upward curl at the corners of the man's mouth, the faint glimmer in the man's eyes, the way the man's shoulders shake a little when Seokjin almost chokes on the cupcake but manages to bite down on a portion of it and swallow it down.
The first thought that occurs to Seokjin is, how the hell did you even get past these people?. The second, what's so funny about a guy almost choking on a cupcake, huh?
The man widens his eyes then sucks in his bottom lip. It looks a lot like a response, a soft 'a lot of things' between bouts of laughter spilling from the man's lips, but Seokjin takes that as a twisted invitation to keep munching on his dessert. He takes big bites of the treat until he's broken it down into little portions, swallows the chunks when he feels the tight knots in his throat ease a little. You can stop laughing now, Seokjin wants to say, wants to scream out loud, but he can't feel his throat around the thick lump of cupcake lodged in the middle. He can't even feel his mouth anymore; all his mind can register is the dull burn at the corners of his mouth and a simmering pain in his jaw, spilling onto the base of his throat where the damned cupcake still is.
And then there's the way the man presses the back of his hand to his mouth, the way the man tilts his head just a little, revealing the crinkles at the corners of his eyes and the laughter still dancing in them. The way Seokjin's insides lurch and the way his chest grows tighter when their gazes meet. Seokjin swallows hard, pushing the rest of the dessert and all the what's and why's swimming at the back of his teeth down his throat. Then the man's shaking his head and turning on his heel, making his ascent to the third floor, disappearing from Seokjin's line of sight.
"Well, that was scary," Jimin comments, then sinks back in his seat. Only then does Seokjin realize that the rest of the creatives have gone on their merry way, that he has icing on the corners of his mouth. That Jimin's looking at him with the most curious gaze like he's just witnessed the strangest thing ever – the impossible. "He never giggles."
In Seokjin's honest opinion, transitioning from publishing to advertising isn't so much of a challenge. In essence, he's still doing the same thing – managing client expectations and the temperament of the art director and copywriter for his assigned brand, wrangling extensions from clients so he can somehow make sense of his creatives' tasks for the day, and attempting to keep himself sane but failing miserably in the very end. Workload is still unpredictable because clients will never wean themselves off of the habit of demanding designs and materials at five in the afternoon and expecting to see them in their inboxes by six. Miracles are so last millennium, and advertising is all about leveraging on what's new and what's in. Seokjin has long given up on hoping clients will understand the simple concept of 'timelines' and 'being good and understanding humans'. Heck, he's probably already given up on believing clients are actually humans like them and not evil creatures sent to make a living hell out of their lives.
And, well, work hours are still insane. Not that he's actually surprised, but part of him sort of… held onto this tiny vessel of hope that life would cut him some slack. Granted, he was able to clock out before seven in the evening the first two days, but everything has gone downhill since his third day at work. Ten in the morning on Wednesday that week, Joonmyun briefed him on a brand he was set to handle for the next few months, maybe even the entire year. Right after that, Joonmyun had dropped the big bomb and told Seokjin he had to come up with a rebranding strategy for a presentation that was fast approaching. "Nothing too intricate. Just give me top line ideas, then we can flesh things out for your deck creation later." Then Seokjin and Joonmyun had to present the polished ideas to the Chief Creative Officer the following day, three in the afternoon. Or at least that was the plan. The guy didn't turn up even if Joonmyun made sure to set an appointment with him through email and text. He didn't even acknowledge Joonmyun's messages at all.
"Oh well. He's a busy guy. Always hopping from one client to another just to get more businesses, but eh." Joonmyun had shrugged, leaned against the glass door, then scribbled a quick note, saying, You owe me coffee and three hours of your time for my preso, loser, on one of the sticky notes lying around. "We'll catch him within the week, I'm pretty sure. If not this week, then early next week. Definitely before Wednesday, otherwise I'll strap him to his seat– But anyway, this buys us more time to flesh out ideas, right?" Then Joonmyun gave Seokjin a pat on the back, gave his arm a gentle squeeze, made the corners of his eyes crinkle in a way that told Seokjin he was probably in trouble on his third day at work. "So, can I expect something in my inbox by... five? Then we can try to shoot them down again just to see if they're the best possible ideas we can come up with, finalize stuff for deck creation, then... can I see deck by the end of the day?"
Seokjin glanced at his watch. Joonmyun was asking him to come up with fresh ideas in an hour. If anything was ever going to end today, Seokjin was pretty sure it was going to be his life. "You mean 6 p.m.?"
Joonmyun snorted. "The party starts at 6 in these parts, kid. End of day means 11 p.m.." A bright smile, then, "And then tomorrow, we can do a test run before presenting to Yoongi. Make sure we have all the kinks ironed out before we get the ideas butchered. How does that sound?"
"Ridiculous," Seokjin confessed. A heartbeat, then, "You're not serious, right? I mean– Hyung, back when we were in publishing, you weren't–"
"Time changes people," Joonmyun murmured, then took a deep breath. His eyes looked like barricaded doors, hooded, dark, but soon he was shaking it off and looking up at Seokjin again. The corners of his mouth pulled up at the corners in a tight, tight smile. "So yeah, how does that sound? Good?"
Well, for starters, you sound like a complete asshole, Seokjin had been tempted to say, but he knew better than to push Joonmyun's buttons at a time like this. So instead, he replied with nervous laughter, a small smile. Went straight to work and cocooned himself in music and the sheer determination to finish 'early', letting those fuel him until he was done with his tasks. He managed to get the ideas cleared by Joonmyun by eight in the evening, sent the deck by ten, received applause and a tight hug from Joonmyun by half past eleven. Got kicked out from the office by twelve because you still have to get up early tomorrow, fresh blood! Take care on your way home! The following day, he found canned coffee on his table and weird scribbles scrawled all over the body of the can. He couldn't make out the words that much, but he could see the cute little smiley and the ellipsis resting just beside it.
"Looks ominous," Jimin had said, then raised his hands in front of him when Seokjin shot him a stern look. "I'm just saying, the only time Joonmyun-hyung does that is when–"
"He's plotting my death, I just know it," Seokjin mutters under his breath when Joonmyun's emails come rushing in at six in the evening. On a normal day, Joonmyun would approach him first, talk to him about the task at hand before finalizing everything through email, but the poor guy's been trapped in too many meetings the whole day. And Seokjin, for all of his hatred for staying in the office late and having to sacrifice eating time for more time to work on his projects, doesn't have the heart to just shrug off Joonmyun's requests. They're not even little favors – Joonmyun's asking him to take a crack at working on a credentials deck, something they have to present the following week. Joonmyun's telling him to make sure Jimin doesn't combust while working on his own deck that he has to present through a video conference in less than twenty-four hours, on a Saturday. And Joonmyun's asking him to keep it together, to not lose his cool, to just take deep, shaky breaths as he powers through the long to-do list Joonmyun had attached to his email. So maybe Joonmyun isn't planning how to kill him; Joonmyun is just thinking of ways to con Seokjin into submission and sell his soul to the overtime work gods. "And Jimin, why do you have a video conference on a weekend?"
Jimin snorts. "Client has no concept of a 'weekend'."
"Well, educate him on it."
"Wish I could, hyung, but you know we operate around these parts." Jimin lets his face fall forward, forehead landing just a few centimeters shy of his keyboard. His hair falls on the keys, though, slipping between the gaps and making a home for themselves there. Just surrendering without putting up a fight, unlike how Jimin would normally push back his bangs in an effort to keep them from sticking to his skin, from getting in the way. Seokjin gets it, though, Jimin not bothering with appearances at such an hour even if training has taught them to always look good and presentable. Jimin hasn’t had time to breathe since that well-deserved lunch break at their work stations Monday of that week. He hasn't had time to actually make sure it isn't Wednesday anymore since Joonmyun has bombarded him with tasks two days ago. Both of them are tired, restless, listless. It's a Friday night. Even account executives like them deserve to rest and breathe. And yet here they are, tucked in their work stations at six in the evening the day just before the weekend, tasks piling up on them like the day isn't about to come to a close yet. "Client is king, not content. Whoever wrote the bullshit code on employee's rights totally forgot to say that clients must never act like assholes. There's no convincing them to understand us, hyung. There's no winning against those assholes."
True, Seokjin muses. In the eight years he's spent in publishing, there was no day that he didn't spend wishing clients would treat them differently. "It's not the actual workload that makes life hell," he calls one of his creatives saying then. "It's the clients. So even if you promote me or whatever, as long as we're still servicing the same bunch of assholes–"
"I get it, they're asses," Seokjin had said in response, then massaged his creative's shoulders. The man leaned into his touch, breath spilling from his lips in a fluttery sigh, and all of a sudden Seokjin felt as if he shouldn't be there. That he should be dropping his hands to his sides in an instant, pulling away, not giving in. Yet the man groaned when Seokjin eased the pressure on his muscles, kept him right in place even if Seokjin was ten seconds away from stuffing his hands in his pockets and erasing what he had just done from his memory. So in an effort to rid himself of his awkwardness, he said, "But that doesn't mean we can't try to save them or something. Someone has to stand up against them. Someone has to try."
"Sometimes, these people have be reminded that we're actually people, as well." Seokjin offers Jimin a small smile when the latter risks a glance at him, eyebrows meeting in the middle in a nasty little furrow. There's none of the Jimin who greeted him with a bright, bright grin at the start of the week, none of the man who had welcomed him to the department with open arms and free chocolate nuggets. All he can see now is a boy who wants to go home, get some rest, regain a sense of living. All he can see is a Jimin who needs someone and is just about done getting through life alone. Still, he looks around for an audience before inching closer, as if asking Jimin, Do you let people baby you often? Are you comfortable not looking strong all the time? Am I even allowed to let you know that I've figured you out, or would you rather I shut up now and not do a thing? "I mean, yeah, thanks for thinking we're capable of doing all these things, client, but no thanks for turning us into machines? You'll be surprised how many of these clients forget we have limits. So someone really has to tell them. And tell them off."
Jimin snorts. He blinks a few times as if in an effort to push the fatigue to the back of his eyes again. "And it has to be me."
"Stop that. You don't have to do everything on your own." Seokjin reaches out, threading his fingers through Jimin's hair, and gives it a light ruffle. "It has to start with someone, that's for sure, but it doesn't have to be always you."
They end up getting the presentation decks done, anyway, along with a few more things on Joonmyun's list of favors. Jimin finishes just before eleven in the evening but doesn't leave until another half hour after, once Joonmyun has given him two thumbs up for the deck that he and Seokjin had put together. He even insists to stay, saying he'll wait for Seokjin to finish, "I can't just leave you here when you actually made time for me, hyung," but Seokjin only waves Jimin off and tells him he has to sleep or else he won't get any taller anytime soon. Teases Jimin by humming, "Then I won't be able to fight the urge to call you tiny forever and–" Then Jimin's storming out of the accounts area, groaning his goodbye but shooting Seokjin a bright smile just before disappearing around the corner.
"Don't strain yourself!" Jimin calls out as a goodbye, then waves over his shoulder.
"I'll try?" Seokjin says in response, laughing. Doesn't confess, too late; I'm already strained as hell.
It takes him another hour to wrap up everything he needs to accomplish before the start of his 'real' weekend. "At least you won't have to worry about anything for the next few days anymore," he whispers to himself as he looks around, surveying the area for any sign of life beyond the low humming of the air conditioning, and heaves a sigh when he finds nobody else on the floor. It's already a Saturday and most people have lives outside of work on the last day of the work week so really, what is he expecting? For someone to join him in his suffering and sympathize with him? For Jimin to return from his peaceful slumber upon realizing that bullshit, Seokjin was lying earlier when he said he was okay and didn't need any help with his tasks anymore, that Seokjin was a fucking hypocrite for giving him a lecture on knowing when to say 'no' and when to stop when he was obviously practicing the exact opposite? Seokjin scoffs. "Being amazing sucks sometimes."
Someone laughs. Seokjin's pretty sure he isn't imagining things – there's nothing in the silence of the entire area to mess with his hearing or his ability to discern what's real from what isn't. There's only the faint crackling of the lights, the machine sounds of his laptop fast fading into white noise as it shuts down once and for all, the rustling of his clothes chopping up the laughter still hanging awkwardly in the air. He shifts his gaze, then, looking up from where he'd been watching the display of his laptop dissolve into a thick black, and finds the same guy who'd giggled at him at the start of the week looking at him with furrowed eyebrows, a squinted gaze, head gently tilted to the side as his lips curled up into a smile just small enough to peel a few layers of fatigue off his features. "Yeah, it does. It sucks all the time."
"I was trying to be a bit... conservative," Seokjin reasons, then slips his laptop into its case. For a second, he considers bringing his laptop home and introducing it to the rest of his family of gadgets, but then the man's cocking an eyebrow at him like it's unusual for 'fresh blood' like him to be tucking work in his office bag and taking it with him on the first ride home. "Is it... against company policy to bring home our office laptop? Because the last time I checked–"
Giggling Guy chuckles. Introduce yourself, stranger, a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind says. Maybe, on another day, he'll entertain the small voice, but right now he's much too tired to even consider enunciating his words properly. So he waits with bated breath as the man twists his lips, gives him a once over, and adjusts the strap of his bag on his shoulder. "No, not really. Why would you bring home work, though? It's Saturday. We don't get paid on Saturdays."
"Because nobody likes filing for reimbursements." Still, Seokjin unlocks his drawer and stores his laptop there, then shoves the rest of the papers still scattered on his desk inside the caddy. "Or for overtime work, at least. Paperwork's the toughest work to accomplish, really. I'd pick filling out my timesheet over that every single day."
Giggling Guy doesn't say a word, doesn't even make a sound, but he does stay dangerously still. He has one foot resting firmly on the steps of the stairs and the other just barely touching the ground, as if Seokjin had somehow suspended him midway through his descent from the third floor. And maybe Seokjin has. The guy's tapping one foot on the ground, as if counting down to the seconds Seokjin finally meets him at the foot of the stairs to the second floor so they can make their journey to the lobby together, the soft shuffling of their feet falling into step, into a familiar enough rhythm Giggling Guy can hum to. Part of Seokjin wants to say, Look, I didn't force you to wait for me, but at the same time he doesn't mind the company. He doesn't mind the little crackles of music spilling from the man's lips. He doesn't mind the thick blanket of silence that had been draped on his shoulder slipping and falling to the ground at all.
"Nobody should ever work on a Saturday," the man says when they reach the ground floor, his voice warm and velvety despite the impending cold outside, despite the whipping winds knocking on the glass doors of the company from the other side. He wraps his fingers around the handle of the door and steals one last glance at Seokjin, meeting Seokjin's eyes in a careful, scrutinizing gaze, smiling at him. Soon, Giggling Guy is swinging the door forward, letting air in, setting Seokjin free. Disappearing into the night like one of those caped crusaders Seokjin used to read about back in college, when he still had time to read manhwa and other comics. It feels a lot like a scene in one of Seokjin's favorite anime, but–nah. He's probably just tired and drained and sleepy. He's just imagining things. It's closer to one in the morning now than twelve and Seokjin gets nothing but bad ideas past twelve midnight. So he shakes his head, slips on his beanie, then shuts the door behind him closed, wrapping up his first week in a soft click of the lock.
And he pushes the memory of the man's soft humming as they made their descent to the lobby, the small, peculiar smile on the man's lips when they locked gazes for a few seconds before pulling away and giving way to each other at the door, the way the cool evening air tousled the man's pale gold hair, softened the hard angles of his cheeks as he walked away from the office building, and made Seokjin's insides turn, to the very back of his head, far away from the thundering pulse at the base of his throat, the heavy thumping in his chest.
It's not that Seokjin ever believed his schedule would ease up in the weeks to come. If anything, he'd been expecting it to get more loaded with tasks, meetings, brainstormings, and the reality was that he didn't mind. He liked being busy. He liked seeing every single item in his to-do list crossed off (then getting an email with new tasks for him broken down in nice little bullets). He liked not having enough quiet time to think about a lot of things he would otherwise have time to contemplate on had he not been caught between Joonmyun to his right and an enraged client to his left. So he's fine. He's breathing. He's alive, for the most part, and running from across the street straight to the entrance of the office building, trying to catch an internal meeting he should have been in ten minutes ago. He's alright.
"Fuck alignments. Stars never fucking align," he grumbles under his breath at the same time that he shoots the security a curt smile. The security gives him a wary look at first but greets him 'good afternoon', just the same, tells him that a 'Baekhyun' had been scouring the accounts area for him for the past few minutes and asking if anyone's hiding him, "Give me fresh blood and we'll get your materials done way before deadline. I said, give–me–fresh blood–" "Hello. Who is– Ah, Baekhyun, yes. Sorry, I just came from a client meet– Yeah, the guards actually told me you've been looking–"
'For me', Seokjin means to say, but the rest of his words fade into thin air when he catches sight of a familiar face. A familiar smile, even, one so vivid that it makes him shiver all over and makes his voice crack when he says into the receiver, "I'll be right there. Gotta pee first." It's been years since he has last seen her, though. She's wearing her hair short now, no longer past her shoulders. The strands scream at him in a bright golden yellow, but it sort of lightens her features, lifts the fatigue and the years written in the little wrinkles on her face. And the smile that once simply gave the corners of her lips a gentle upward curl has now bloomed into a grin that reaches the corners of her eyes and makes them crinkle. She's beautiful, in every sense, but Seokjin can't say the memories he's had with her are pretty. Heck, he can't even bring himself to talk about those years at all.
"Jin?" she whispers. She furrows her eyebrows, squints, and ah, there it is, the habit she has of sucking in her bottom lip when she's more sure than uncertain of what she's seeing, what she's realizing. It has been at least a decade since Seokjin has last seen her in the flesh, the first time in years that he's had to develop a knee-jerk reaction to her that isn't sinking to the depths of the ocean or swimming so far away from coast, deeper into the sea, yet damn, do the memories come flooding in like angry waves rushing to shore. All of a sudden, he's seeing flashes of that night, their thighs pressed so close to each other, fingers laced but not tied in a tight knot.
A blink, then he's seeing the shy look on her features when she broaches the topic of 'forever', of taking their relationship a step further, of marriage and building a family and building their lives around each other.
Another blink, then he's seeing the panicked expression on his face, the way his lips tremble, the stutter in his speech when he says, "I don't now. Isn't it– Isn't it a bit too early to think of that? To imagine that right now? I just– I want to focus on the present, Ahreum. Get through college, land a good job, save up, then–"
"Then build a future with me?"
Seokjin takes a deep, shaky breath now as he watches Ahreum inch closer, one for every step back that he takes until he feels the back of his legs bumping into something solid – a chair, a table, a box, he can't tell at the moment. He can't even be bothered to look so he can find out. Every fiber in his body can recognize the slightest shift in her muscles, in her expression, in the way she slows in her steps when people pass between them and the way she speeds up her pace when they're well out of sight.
"We shouldn't rush things, Ahreum-ah," he recalls saying that time, reasoning with her in the best way he knew how. Ahreum had leaned back slowly, tentatively, the cold pads of her fingers leaving goosepimples on Seokjin's skin when she dropped her hands to her sides. And Seokjin had felt so bad for having to shove reality in her face back then, but at the same time he didn't want to make her believe that the end of their short-lived 'forever' wasn't going to end anytime soon. They weren't kids anymore. They shouldn't be playing games. They were approaching senior year already and the last thing Seokjin wanted was to make bad decisions on his final year in college. So he whispered into the growing space between them, "We're young and maybe we'll end up liking different things in a year or two and it's just–"
He had heaved a sigh, then hung his head low. Bit down hard on his lower lip for fear of blurting out a confession: I can imagine it, just not with you. When he had felt the tightness in his throat ease, he met her in the eye again, cleared his throat of any chains wrapped around it then added, "It's just... too soon. I don't want to screw things up."
Too late, kid. You already did, he tells himself now, as Ahreum's shoulders lift before she breathes out a shaky sigh. "Kim Seokjin. It's... been a while," she says, pausing only to give him a once over. It feels like being put to the test again, being given another chance. It feels like reliving his college days in the worst way possible. "I didn't expect to see you here."
And I certainly didn't expect you to stay because the last time this happened, you ran away and erased 'us' from your life, Seokjin almost cries out, but he manages to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from saying something stupid. He's good with words and dealing with people on most days, but he's just come from a three-hour meeting that seemed more like trying to wrestle with the client and convince him that it wasn't possible to pool the creatives in one place on such short notice and make them create a content plan in less than a day. Only halfway through the day and he already feels drained; seeing Ahreum in the flesh, rising from the ashes of his past... feels a lot like being run over by a truck. Twice. Then being tossed into a dump site and set aflame. "I work here."
Ahreum laughs a little. She still carries that weird, hiccuped giggle of hers even after all these years. It makes Seokjin's insides turn a little. "Yeah, I figured. I mean, they didn't ask for your I.D.–"
"Why are you here?"
"And they didn't stop you and you just marched all the way to–" She widens her eyes, grits her teeth, but picks up from where she'd left off, anyway. "–to where we are right now, where you keep moving away from me. Can you just stand still for a second?"
Seokjin snorts. It isn't easy telling his body to not follow the flight plan he's developed for every sticky situation he's been in and he's bound to find himself tangled in, but it shouldn't be too difficult to tell his system to calm down, either. He can stay rooted in a spot for hours if he wanted to, so what's a few more seconds, minutes? What's another wasted breath? But that's the thing – he doesn't want this confrontation. If he did then he would have looked for her years ago, when the wounds of the break up were still fresh and he still felt every fiber of his being scream her name, asking her why? If he did, then he would have spent every free second, every packet of time he could spare trying to figure the whole 'break up' out instead of dining with Hoseok, making up to his best friend all the lost time that Ahreum had snatched away from them, welcoming new people into his life and trying to know more about this junior who shared his passion and enthusiasm for Japanese animation. If he did, then the first thing he would have asked her a few minutes ago wasn't 'why are you here' but, instead, 'what took you so long to get here?'
So he doesn't stay still. He moves, shakes a little, steps to his side and makes his way to the service elevator just a few feet away. He'd take the stairs but it's easier to shut literal doors on people than to drop figurative walls between them. And right now, juggling the weight of his tasks and the heavy feeling in his chest, he'll go with the easiest way out, the quickest escape route. "I'm sorry, I'm late for a meeting," he manages to mutter as he walks away. "Maybe we can catch up some other time? Coffee, maybe? A quick snack? I don't know. Sorry, Ahreum, I'm just really–"
The lift gives off a soft 'ding', and Seokjin slips between the doors faster than he can exclaim 'yes!' at the back of his mind. Ahreum is quick, though, fast catching up and stopping the doors from sliding closed right in front of her. There's a blur of movement behind her, a twisted mix of black, white, and yellow, and for a second Seokjin's worried that shit, what if the elevator moved all of a sudden and dragged Ahreum along the narrow tunnel going up? What if they just got 'Final Destination-ed' or something? What if he's fucking things up again–
"Excuse me– Thank you," mutters a rough voice just behind Ahreum. Seokjin allows himself to tear his gaze from Ahreum's strained expression and widens his eyes when he finds Giggling Guy strutting right into the elevator. The brim of Giggling Guy's hat is the size of Asia on the world map on Joonmyun's desk. Or maybe even bigger, wider, but Seokjin doesn't care much about exact figures anymore. And part of him is thankful for the hat shielding more than half of the man's features from his view because who knows what kind of look the man's giving him right now? The first time their gazes met, the man giggled at him while watching him shove an entire cupcake in his mouth. The second time, the man laughed at him for even considering bringing home his work laptop and accomplishing pending tasks over the weekend. Not that he can't hear the soft lilts in the man's voice, though; Seokjin can practically hear the man laughing, making fun of him when he says, "Third, please. Unless you two are going to the second floor but are just too lazy to take the stairs–"
Seokjin punches the damned button. He means to just give it a gentle push, but eh. Control isn't one of his strongest suits when he's fresh from a draining meeting and is suddenly faced with an ex-girlfriend from too many summers ago. In fact, control's that crazy friend of his who keeps breathing down his neck and yelling in his ear, don't do anything you'll regret, Seokjin. You're thirty-three, for fuck's sake! If you ever try to do something stupid again, I swear to God–
He might break a thing or two. Worse, he might break Ahreum's heart again, and this time he won't feel blisters on his fingers from crushing her heart in his hands anymore. He won't feel a thing.
"You still haven't moved on, have you?" Ahreum whispers. It starts out as a faint crackling noise, her syllables muffled in the hesitation in her voice, so she clears her throat and repeats, "You've never seen anyone else after that thing and now that we're bumping into each other after, what, decades? Eons? Now that we're running into each other again in your office, you're suddenly forced to face that reality again, aren't you?" Ahreum's laughing now, low and rough like sandpaper against every part of Seokjin that is still too sensitive from too many days of rendering overtime work. This sounds foreign. It's almost as if Ahreum has honed it in all the years that they had been apart. Seokjin can't blame her, though – the reflex of pushing people away the second they get too close and too soon, he developed on his first week of 'being alone'. He got better at the whole maintaining safe distances from people thing as time passed by, and he'd perfected the art and science of knowing who to let into his life somewhere along the way. "And now you're thinking of running away and–"
"This is not the time to be having this conversation."
"This is not the time for you to run away again, Jin."
Seokjin scoffs. I'm the one who's been running away? he's tempted to say, to lash out, but he should know better than to add fuel to the simmering flames of their argument already flaring up. He's an accounts supervisor – surely, the last thing on his to-do list should be to lose his composure and explode in the face of people other than himself, right? But he's done keeping mum about every single thing thrown haphazardly at him. He's done playing victim, playing the part of the misunderstood villain who gains sympathy from people only after they're read the entire book at least three times. The first few weeks after the break-up, he had to live with Ahreum's friends shooting him weird, piercing glances. Only months after was he able to find the courage to look at them in the eye and tell them straight up, Look: if there's anyone you want to pin to the ground with those rude stares of yours, it should be your friend. She was the one who left without another word. She was the one who ran away.
So Seokjin takes a deep, shaky breath, gulps down hard before saying, "I'm not. I never did. And I never will." He curls his hands into tight fists in an effort to keep himself in check, to puncture the shell where he keeps all of his safest words, the ones he uses only when he absolutely needs to. When he's desperate and control would become all but a foreign concept had it not been for his bank of well-crafted, double-edged words. "Now, if you really want to talk about this then wait for me after my meeting and we'll get things sorted out–"
"I don't care about your meeting, okay? You always put everything else before me, always. You put your bloody academics before me. You put your stupid anime whatever club before me and spend so much time with that junior of yours. You even put Hoseok before me sometimes and–" Ahreum scoffs. "You always put me last, even when we were still–" She lets out a loud, shrill scream, frustration spilling from the corners of her mouth only to grip tight around her neck, choking her words. Her eyebrows meet in the middle in a deep, deep groove, and the rest of her features scrunch up. She shivers all over, body shaking as she takes deep, shaky breaths. Seokjin kind of wants to reach out and smooth the wrinkles on her face, wants to hold her close and to still her trembling body. He kind of wants to tell her, Hey, no need to get mad. We can talk. Talking is good. Getting mad is draining. And you know what happens to people who are drained, right? "I left my team down there, put you before anything and everything else thinking you'd at least spare me a couple of minutes so we could talk, but–"
"Do I drain you?" Seokjin recalls Ahreum asking him just a few weeks before the break-up. He'd laughed at her, smiled, then shook his head before burying his nose in the crown of Ahreum's hair. "No, seriously, Jin. Do I drain you? Because if I do then tell me so we can try to work things out–"
Seokjin gulps hard. "Excuse me?" he catches Ahreum say, catches the little cracks in Ahreum's voice as she chuckles, snorts, scoffs at Giggling Guy. And Seokjin would, too, had he been the one rudely interrupted in his speech, but wow, he muses. The man's lips are pursed, tight at the corners, and his eyebrows are furrowed. His eyes are sharp, piercing, yet not too cold that Seokjin feels the need to shiver. And the man inches closer to where they are, stopping just a few inches away Seokjin, until the tips of his shoes brush against the sides of Seokjin's own. "Did you say–"
"I said stop," Giggling Guy repeats, this time louder, clearer. Part of Seokjin wants to laugh out loud just so he can break the thickening walls of tension all around them, break the ice, but he can't even feel his tongue anymore. His throat is too tight and dry and his chest is heavy and his stomach is lurching in several different directions. And the pads of his fingers are cold. He isn't scared; he's uneasy. He's never had any experience with making a scene and having someone blow up the entire thing his whole life. This–this isn't something he's prepared for. And he hates being unprepared. "You're screaming. In an elevator. That's never any good. And geez, can you calm down for a second? You keep–"
Ahreum seethes. "You don't know anything about us."
"And I don't need to know shit to figure out that you're forcing yourself on him and shoving your precious beliefs down his throat," Giggling Guy answers, lips curling up into a tight smile as he finishes. He moves even closer, just another step forward to the tentative step back that Seokjin takes, then another when Seokjin inches further away. Seokjin has no qualms with cramped spaces but at least give me room for breathing, he wants to scream out loud. At least let me collect myself and try to fix things again. Then let me fight my own battle. Let me take care of this like any good accounts person or any person who can handle his shit, for that matter, would. "He said he'll talk to you after his meeting, so wait. Wait 'til it's done. If you can't, well–" Giggling Guy shrugs, scoffs. Blows air into his bangs just before his lips tug up in a small, lazy smile. Seokjin's seconds away from waving his hands in front of the man, between the man and Ahreum in an effort to make them stop arguing, but soon Giggling Guy is saying, "Sorry, ma'am, but in case you're forgetting, you're in his workplace. And when he's here, work is his top priority, not non-work relationships or... or whatever. Personal life takes the backseat in the workplace so please–just please–"
Seokjin looks to his side and meets the man's eyes with a careful, careful gaze. Please stop talking. Please let me take care of my own shit. Please just leave and pretend you never saw this are the words ringing in his ears right now, threatening to spill from his lips, but he manages to push them further down until he feels his insides turn. "I'll take it from here," he whispers in Giggling Guy's direction, voice so soft he could have just been breathing. When he sees them man cock an eyebrow at him, nothing but a gentle lift of his eyebrow instead of a pronounced tilt of the head, he gives the man's arm a shy, gentle grip for insurance. To Ahreum, he says, "Ahreum, later. Give me an hour, then we'll talk for as long as you want. I'll listen and let you talk; just let me get to my meeting now and I promise I'll come back for you–"
Ahreum scoffs. "'Later' is a cowardly way of saying 'never'."
From a corner of Seokjn's eye, he sees the look of surprise on Giggling Guy's features ease into something... unreadable. Not that he's spent an ample amount of time studying the man's features, quirks, habits, but he's had enough experience trying to dissect and understand facial expressions and body language that he knows with every fiber of his being that he's supposed to know what this means. Huffing, crossing arms over his chest, a stuttered step forward then leaning back– Trouble, Seokjin registers in his mind. For a split second, he hesitates, thinks of calling it a twisted form of concern, but nah. They don't know each other well. There's no reason for the man to feel the tiniest bit worried about his ears aching from all the screeching that Ahreum has been doing, or how pale his face might be because the man hasn't stopped inching close, close, closer. There's no reason for the man to huff, shake his head, roll his eyes before holding up one hand in front of Ahreum and saying, "Okay, that's it. I've had enough."
Seokjin's grip on the man's arm tightens. His heart feels like it's dropped fifty storeys down, like it's burrowing its way through the ground and digging a hole for itself, but he can't even utter a thing. C'mon, Jin, you can do better, he hears a voice at the back of his mind say, but what can he do at a time like this? His ex-girlfriend is looking at him with wide, wide eyes and trembling eyebrows. The man's eyeing him with a careful, peculiar gaze. He can feel the pulse in his hand quicken against the man skin and the way the man's senses kick in in thoughtless response, goosepimples crawling up his arm and pooling around the expanse of flesh where Seokjn is holding the man tightly. "Screech in the elevator all you want and smash things, I don't give a flying fuck. But say another word against him and I won't hesitate to throw you out.
"Stop harassing my boyfriend," Giggling Guy says, pausing only to take a deep shaky breath. He tilts his head back a little, the dim lights in the elevator setting his features aglow, and shit, that's some solid acting going on, Seokjin muses. The man's lips are pressed into a thin, thin line, and his eyes are are sharp and merciless. Serious. "Back off."
Wow, Seokjin blurts out at the back of his mind faster than he can replay every single word that had spilled from Giggling Guy's lips. There must be a hundred – no, a thousand ways he can be averting the crisis right now and getting himself out of the sticky situation, but instead he mutters, "You're... my boyfriend?" 'Best friend' sounds easier to say. Heck, 'friend' and 'officemate' roll off the tongue just as nicely but are much less complicated, and yet the man is mouthing the same word at him again and again, the movement of his lips just a tad hypnotizing. Giggling Guy could be saying something completely different right now, could be telling him, Keep up, kid. If you want to get out of this mess then you better do your part but– "You're my boyfriend?" Seokjin repeats, voice cracking just before the last syllable, then his shoulders are trembling, shaking, moving to the beat of the soft laughter that spills from his lips. "Since when–"
Giggling Guy heaves a sigh. His eyes are wide open, though, focused, the corners crinkling a little as if hoping, hoping, hoping Seokjin would take a hint and understand what he's trying to say. Since the moment my ex looked like she was ready to smash every button in this elevator available when I asked her to wait is the first thought that crosses Seokjin's mind; the second, when the man parts his lips, jaw falling open to reveal a strange little smile lighting the corners of his mouth, almost as if surrendering to the urge to laugh, or since the moment she had started yelling in the elevator and shattered your ear drums, probably. Right. None of these last for more than a few seconds, but Seokjin feels as if he's just spent his next lifetime trying to figure out how to save himself from the shit he'd just gotten himself in.
Luckily, Giggling Guy makes it just a tad easier for him, drops him a hint when the man says, "It sounds weird. Very weird. The weirdest thing ever. And I'd understand if, by now, you don't want–this, don't want us, if you don't want me anymore, because you've been nothing but patient and I've been shit at this whole 'commitment thing' but–"
Giggling Guy chuckles, little bubbles of laughter bursting on his lower lip even before he can say a word. He kicks Seokjin in the foot, and Seokjin tries his hardest to not yelp in response. After a while, the man replies, "Tell me something I don't know."
A name. Right. Seokjin hasn't been in the company for too long; someone bound to not know him or to have forgotten his name. Catching up, then, he answers, "Seokjin. Kim Seokjin." Drops his gaze to his feet before meeting the man's eyes again, this time slipping right into his role, fulfilling his end of the deal. For all he knows, Ahreum might have already caught on, but there's no harm in trying, right? If this is what it will take to convince Ahreum to wait for him, to spare him an hour of her time so he can return it tenfold, then he'll take a leap of faith with Giggling Guy. He'll do the unimaginable and somehow make magic happen. And he'll put on a bloody awesome show and maybe fulfill his childhood dream – one of them, anyway – of becoming the next big movie star. "Come on, call me by my name! You can't keep... dissociating your feelings from me by using silly pet names–"
"I thought 'cupcake' was cute. It suits you."
Seokjin narrows his eyes and presses his lips together thinly, but there's no denying the small smile pulling up at the corners of his lips in soft, gentle tugs. I thought you were on my side, he's tempted to say, but must keep up the act. They've worked hard to get to this point where Ahreum isn't glaring at either of them anymore. They can't throw their effort to waste. "In the same way that 'sunshine' suits you. Or 'giggles'. You giggle a lot," he tries to grumble, tries to sound the least bit amused, but if anything he sounds like a llama drowning in laughter. Or Hoseok trying his hardest to keep himself from laughing. Then again, both sound exactly the same. "So, we'll just stick with the pet names forever? Sunshine and Cupcake or Pancake and Cupcake–"
"Or Yoongi and Seokin," Giggling Guy – Yoongi. Yoongi? Where has he heard that name before? – suggests, then nibbles on his lower lip a little. Seokjin resists the urge to drop his gaze to where Yoongi has been worrying his lips for a while now, focusing on nothing else but the way Yoongi's eyes crinkle at the corners. Pushes the snarl that has been threatening to slip from the corners of his mouth to the back of his teeth again so he can chomp down on it, break it down, forget it even exists. But Yoongi hasn't stopped smiling and thinning his lips into a rather wobbly line in intervals. It's almost as if Yoongi's enjoying the whole act even if, just seconds ago, he looked like he was just a hitch of the breath away from actually throwing Ahreum out and banning her from even coming within a five-meter diameter of the office building for shattering his eardrums with her screams about a failed relationship. "That sounds better, doesn't it? Yoongi and Jin?"
Jin. Seokjin sucks in a violent breath. He hasn't heard anyone call him that in a while. Granted, Ahreum had used it just a while ago, Hoseok uses an array of nicknames whose etymology he can't keep track of anymore, and maybe Hoseok had accidentally-on-purpose dropped many different ways of saying 'Jin' a few times in the past week, but still – Seokjin can detach himself from a lot of things, memories, people, but 'Jin' and college romance suffering an eventual death are two things he simply cannot unwrap his trembling fingers from.
"Stay with me," Yoongi whispers, then curls his fingers around Seokjin's wrists as he does so. Seokjin's body gives a powerful jerk, just enough to jolt him back to reality, to this moment, to where he's standing so dangerously close to Yoongi but still seeing a fraction of Ahreum's strained, pained features. He'd reach out for her and try to wipe that look off her face more out of habit than anything else, but Yoongi makes it so easy to forget there's someone else in the room, what with his intense gaze pinning Seokjin in place. And they're close, enough that Seokjin can make out the little freckles of red on Yoongi's cheeks, the length of Yoongi's eyelashes, the almost indiscernible mole on the bridge of Yoongi's nose, on his cheek, the area just before his jaw dips into the slope of his neck. The bright red skin of Yoongi's lips glaring at him, taunting him, reeling him in. The way Yoongi drags his tongue along the stretch of his lower lip while keeping his eyes locked onto Seokjin's own, and the way the corners of his eyes crinkle when Seokjin lets out a faint hiccup. Don't you dare call me 'cupcake' this time, Seokjin nearly blurts out, but Yoongi keeps him focused with a deep breath, shoulders lifting, the grip Seokjin doesn't realize is keeping him afloat tightening on his hips even more. Yoongi flushes a violent breath of life into his lungs with blunt words and nails digging into his skin, sharp, almost needy.
"I'm not about to– I can't lose you again. I've been afraid of a shitton of things for the longest time but I'm... I'm not scared anymore. I don't care about what other people can and will say. They can think whatever the fuck they want about Min Yoongi; I don't care. I want this, Jin. I want you."
Yoongi looks around for an audience. It's a bit silly, Seokjin muses, to feel the need to make sure no one else is watching when Yoongi knows there's only the three of them here, but Seokjin sort of gets it, the weird feeling of something foreign draping over their shoulders, breathing down their necks. He sort of gets the same lurching sensation mirrored in the little scrunch of Yoongi's features when Yoongi confesses, "And I sure hope you still want me."
Seokjin takes a deep, shaky breath. He curls his fingers into loose fists – or he would have, if only he could feel them. His limbs feel strangely like jelly and heavy metal at the same time. His chest is too tight. And the thrumming pulse at the base of his throat only grows stronger, louder, faster with each passing second, with every ounce of space Yoongi crosses until the tips of their noses touch. Half of him is concerned that they're taking too much time in the elevator, that someone might need to use it, that he's late for his meeting, but the other half of him that simply can't peel itself off of Yoongi's focused gaze keeps whispering in his ear, If you want to save yourself then go, Jin. Move, and move closer–
Yoongi chuckles. Slowly, he slides one hand up Seokjin's back, all the way to Seokjin's nape, cold fingers leaving tiny bubbles of shivers on Seokjin's skin. What the hell are you doing, Seokjin would say, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to think of anything with the way Yoongi hasn't stopped looking, staring at him like he's the most interesting person in the world. It almost feels like he's being unraveled, all of his layers falling to the ground one by one. He feels too exposed and vulnerable, and he doesn't like it.
What he does like is the way Yoongi's voice drops to a whisper as he asks, "Can I kiss you?"
"I said," Yoongi begins, pausing to curl his shaking fingers on the base of Seokjin's nape. Seokjin shudders at first, shivers when Yoongi starts caressing the soft skin there, then Yoongi's leaning even closer, enough that Seokjin can hear the sound of Yoongi's heavy breathing and feel the heavy thumping in chest, as well. "Can I kiss you?" he asks again, this time in a fainter, smaller voice, like he'd just realized what he'd just suggested, that he's breathing in too much air and too little of Seokjin, that Ahreum is merely less than a foot away and if she hears them, well, game over. "Your ex doesn't seem to be convinced and I think she needs proof," Yoongi adds, lips pressing together into a thin, thin line, and Seokjin finds himself dropping his gaze to where Yoongi has just stopped nibbling on his lower lip, wondering if it would taste like blood and regrets and a thousand other things he isn't even aware of at the moment. "Solid proof. The type you shove in someone's face–"
The first thought that occurs to Seokjin is this is crazy; the second, but then, why the hell not? "Do it."
Yoongi widens his eyes and breathes out a small, small smile. "Okay."
Yoongi... doesn't kiss Seokjin yet. Instead, he rubs his thumb just behind Seokjin's ear until Seokjin's leaning into the touch, shivering a little, giving in. Just do it already, Seokjin wants to say, but part of him wants this, likes how Yoongi's shifting gears, slowing down, and gently stepping on the brakes. Only a few weeks into being in BBDO and Seokjin already feels as if he's been with the company for years, trying to appease problematic clients for decades, centuries, eons. He's tired and he's drained and Yoongi's touch feels a lot like snuggling in his comforters, turning in early, dreaming of the sweetest dreams. Yoongi's fingers are warm against his skin, the sharp angles of his jaw, his cheeks, the jut of his lower lip just before Yoongi rests his thumb and index finger on Seokjin's chin, guiding him forward, leaning in.
Seokjin closes his eyes. The image of Yoongi's gaze fixed on the gentle swell his mouth burns at the back of his eyelids. "Okay."
Yoongi kisses him. It isn't wet or sloppy or wild; it's soft, tentative, a simple brush of the lips, puffs of hot breath spilling from the little gaps at the seams. Yoongi drops his hand to Seokjin's chest, and Seokjin laughs a little when he feels the pattering pulse on Yoongi's palm, when he feels the prickling cold that has gathered at the pads of Yoongi's fingers seep into his skin, when Yoongi curls his fingers into a tight fist in Seokjin's shirt and mumbles something that sounds a lot like, This is a fucking awkward angle, dammit. C'mere, come closer– They're not aiming for perfection, not even gunning for the best possible take, but Ahreum hasn't moved yet, hasn't stopped watching them, hasn't looked away. And the slow, simmering heat at the pit of Seokjin's stomach doesn't seem like it would come to a gradual standstill anytime soon. So he tilts his head a little, bends his knees, leans in even more and rests his hands on Yoongi's hips. Digs his nails into them when Yoongi bites on his lower lip a bit too hard and apologizes with a gentle swipe of his tongue where the sting hurts the most. Seokjin lets out a breathy sigh, shoulders shaking, thighs trembling, and all of a sudden he's parting his lips, tilting his head back a little, letting Yoongi in. Wrapping his arms around Yoongi's slim waist and letting Yoongi press tiny kisses on the corners of his mouth, suck on his bottom lip, lick the back of his teeth with warm swipes of his tongue. He can taste hints of coffee and something sweet on Yoongi's tongue when he sucks hard on it, again and again until he's hearing Yoongi let out a soft gasp, a faint moan. He can feel the loud thumping in Yoongi's chest mirror his own, maybe even louder – or is that the chorus of their heartbeats? It's hard to tell with the way every part of Seokjin's body shakes and shivers at the prompt of Yoongi's slightest touch. And Seokjin can hear the elevator give off a soft 'ding' already, can hear Ahreum taking slow steps out of the lift until the doors shut closed at her departure, but he can't bring himself to pull away. Yoongi keeps reeling him in with soft, chaste kisses, like Seokjin's stolen all the breath in his lungs and Yoongi's doing this to avenge his sad fate, to make things right, to take back what's his.
The elevator gives a violent shake. Somewhere between Seokjin sinking his teeth a bit too hard in Yoongi's lower lip and Yoongi letting out a low scowl that he flushes back down Seokjin's throat with another kiss, Yoongi has managed to punch the button for the third floor again, lifting them up, buying them more time – Seokjin doesn't have much time to spare. It would be easier if they pulled away now. It would be better if they put some distance between each other and let each other breathe instead of getting their limbs tangled even more. And Seokjin isn't sure how appropriate it is to be kissing a relative stranger again and again long after the person he's been trying to push away has stepped out of the elevator, especially since the closest he and Yoongi have had to an interaction was Yoongi whispering to him at one in the morning, "Nobody should ever work on a Saturday," but it's been so long since he's had this. It's been close to a decade since he's last been held like a piece of treasure, the ultimate prize. It's been forever since he's last been kissed. And Yoongi's mouth is warm and sweet and feels good against his. Yoongi is warm. Yoongi chases after his lips one last time when the elevator gives off a final 'ding' – the doors not closing on them this time, now exposing them to the world – Seokjin's entire body giving a jerk violent enough to break the link of their limbs.
Yoongi hums. His cheeks are flushed and his eyelashes are drooped low over little, mischievous eyes. He hasn't stopped worrying his lower lip yet and licking it in intervals. His silly hat is on the ground and his bright blond hair is a mess of curls now and there are creases on what used to be a crisp white shirt – when did Seokjin even grip Yoongi tight enough to leave marks on him like this? Seokjin can't remember a thing. All he knows is that his cheeks are too hot, that his ears are red, that his jaw aches so damn much and, "Red Velvet. You should consider 'Red Velvet' for a pet name."
"Lips." Yoongi purses his own and tilts his head in Seokjin's direction. "Drink cold water before going to your meeting or else you won't hear the end of it. The creatives will give you shit for that for weeks."
Fuck. "Right. Meeting," Seokjin murmurs, then he's gathering the things he'd dropped to the floor somewhere between kissing Yoongi and leaving scars on Yoongi's mouth. Yoongi leans in for a moment, smoothing the creases on Seokjin's shirt, maybe even fussing with the little wrinkles in front, and Seokjin feels warmth bloom on his skin, his insides lurching in accord. Maybe it's fatigue and hunger speaking, or the panic running through his veins because he's no longer just fashionably late to a meeting he, himself, had set the day before; he's hella fucking late. And in his years as an accounts executive, he's never let delays get in the way of his perfect attendance to each every single meeting in his calendar. Not until today. It can't be from Yoongi's soft touch, or the way Yoongi's pulse keeps drumming strong beats on his skin even if they've already stopped kissing.
Still, he says, "And, uh, thanks?" before Yoongi can step well outside of his perimeter. For a second, he thinks he sees Yoongi hesitate in his steps, stuttering a little, but no – Yoongi's just taking little steps back, being extra careful, no longer taking crazy risks. Furrowing his eyebrows a little and squinting his eyes as if studying Seokjin again, this time more closely. Better. "For saving me back there. It means a lot."
Yoongi laughs, low and rough. It sounds like the same lazy drawl of his voice that fine one in the morning a week ago, except it doesn't come with the rush of cold that greeted them when Yoongi swung the door open. Instead, it makes warmth crawl under Seokjin's skin, brings the simmering heat in Seokjin's stomach to a powerful boil when Yoongi nibbles on his lower lip for a while. If this is an invitation to move closer then, damn, Seokjin would hate to decline. There are a hundred reasons for him to shut the door right now, punch the buttons in an effort to push Yoongi farther away, but none of them seem as enticing as the soft curls at the corners of Yoongi's lips.
"Cool," Yoongi says a few seconds after, voice barely above a whisper. Soon, he's turning on his heel, walking away, leaving Seokjin feeling unbearably, strangely cold. "Anytime."
The doors of the elevator creak, then they're closing in on Seokjin and drowning out the brewing noise from the pantry nearby. He catches Yoongi stopping in his tracks after a while, looking over his shoulder as he wraps his fingers around the handle of the door to one of the offices bounded by glass walls. Maybe he's just forgotten something downstairs, in the lobby, says a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind. Maybe he needs a ride. Maybe he wants company. Maybe he wants another kiss– Seokjin shakes his head. Still, he feels around for the buttons, pressing them in endless circles without any semblance of control, meeting Yoongi's gaze through the narrow gap between the doors.
"Make sure nobody finds out," Yoongi mouths, then sucks in his bottom lip. He looks around for an audience then he's chuckling, heaving a sigh, pressing his lips into rather shaky line, his little mouth curling up at the corners as he voices out, "Company policy."
Seokjin gulps hard. He can't feel tongue anymore. He can still taste Yoongi in his mouth, though. "It's not even real!"
Yoongi shrugs, laughs for a last time and winks, then he's swinging the door open in earnest. Seokjin thinks he sees a faint glimmer in Yoongi's eyes for a second, something akin to another sign of trouble, but whatever. He has a meeting to attend. He has work to deal with. There are faint characters etched on the glass doors of Yoongi's office and they read a lot like 'Chief Creative Officer' or something. And he feels his insides lurch in an instant, all the blood in his fingers shooting up to his neck, crawling to his cheeks, scratching figures there that read, you are so totally fucked, Kim Seokjin. You did not just make out with your boss.
Not cool, he thinks, then slumps against the cool walls of the elevator. It's unfair – Yoongi has already stolen all the feeling in his jaw, mouth, tongue, replacing it with traces of his rough lips, his teeth, the sweet swipe of his tongue along the cavern of Seokjin's mouth; Yoongi can't take his job away from him, too. Not cool at all.
"Exactly how much sushi do you need to stuff in your mouth before you tell me why you went all the way to Gangnam and dragged my ass to this... expensive place?"
"'s not expensive," Seokjin grumbles as he breaks down the sushi he'd just popped in between his lips seconds ago into tinier pieces that are easier to swallow down. In all honesty, the Japanese restaurant he found on his way from the train station to his old office isn't at all a posh place, but factor in the reality that they ordered a thirty-course sushi meal and, well– Maybe Hoseok's right. The food is good, though. The side dishes they had been served earlier are already filling enough that he doesn't need a side order of soup or rice anymore. He doesn't even order a fruit shake like he normally would when eating out with friends or just plain treating himself to a nice meal. And the flavors of all the sushi they had been served so far stick to the roof of Seokjin's mouth enough that he's able to get rid of the taste of strawberry and coffee that had plagued him the whole day yesterday and, as much as he'd like to regret it, even until now.
He shivers. Close to twenty-four hours after and he can still feel a dull ache in his jaw from the kiss he'd gotten himself into. Twenty-four hours after and he can still taste a hint of Yoongi on the cracked skin on his lips that Yoongi had bruised even more with all the nibbling and sucking that he'd done. It isn't even magical, that kiss – he hadn't seen fireworks go off at the back of his eyelids or anything – but he can still feel every swipe of Yoongi's wicked tongue at the back of his teeth in contrast with Yoongi's soft, tentative touches on his cheeks, his jaw, his nape. He can still remember wanting to back Yoongi up against a wall so he can taste more of the sweet coffee on Yoongi's tongue, his cute little mouth, his lips. And he can still recall the way Yoongi had looked over his shoulder with a small smile curling up on the corners of his mouth and a promise of 'another time' wrapped around his words as he said, "Make sure they don't find out. Company policy."
"Did you get a promotion?" Hoseok asks, squinting as he purses his lips. His words come out a bit muffled, but Seokjin hasn't been roommates with Hoseok his entire college life for nothing. He's had to decode worse; case in point: Hoseok's muffled cries as they watched Hercules the night of their thesis defense. "I mean, org structure in agencies is normally weird so I won't be surprised, but it's only your third week–"
"It feels like I've been there for years," Seokjin groans, then sinks his lips in his tea that has already gotten cold. The drink washes away the thick flavors of salmon and cheese in his mouth. Then there it is again, strawberry and coffee on his tongue, his teeth, thick in his breath when he exhales. He should pop a mint or two on his way back to work. Or maybe he should brush his teeth twice. That should do the trick. "And no, no promotion. I'm just glad I still have a job, to be honest. I swear to God–"
I thought Yoongi was going to fire me and they'd throw out my things the following day, but Seokjin was more than pleased to see his table untouched from when he'd left it last night. Maybe they'll kick me out in the middle of the day, part of him mused, but nah. Not a chance. Joonmyun sent him out for a three-hour meeting right after lunch and, when he got back, everything was still there (along with job orders for the creatives that had already been signed by a Kim Namjoon and Min Yoongi). Then Seokjin insides lurched at the prompt of Yoongi's name, the lazy squiggle that was his signature, and a familiar voice breaking the thin walls of silence in the accounts area and curling around Seokjin's nape.
Then he looked over his shoulder, curiosity getting the better of him, and met Yoongi in the eye. Yoongi wasn't wearing one of those huge hats of his; instead, his bangs fell over his eyes and his hair was all mussed up. It was almost as if he'd just woken up. It was reminiscent of that time, back in the elevator, when Yoongi thought the best way to convince Ahreum to give Seokjin time to explain was by kissing him senseless, and Seokjin thought the best way to die was to kiss back with just as much intensity. And Yoongi seemed to remember the same because the next thing Seokjin knew, Yoongi was biting a corner of his mouth as the guy beside him – Namjoon, was it? At least that was the name Joonmyun had called out and had attached 'the curious case of missing job orders for the creatives, whoops' to – kept talking about concepts, designs, ideas, a big pitch.
"Did someone catch you–" Hoseok gasps, lips pulled down into one of the ugliest frowns Seokjin has seen. He looks around for an audience and leans in bit by bit, until all that Seokjin can see is a blur of flesh and the weird expression in Hoseok's features. Seokjin can feel the pulse at the base of his throat quicken, can feel his fingers growing cold, and all of a sudden the only thing he wants to do is to stuff his mouth with more sushi so he has an excuse to not answer any of Hoseok's questions. "You killed one of your clients, didn't you? I know they call you 'fresh blood', hyung, but really, must you let them find out?"
Seokjin chokes on his tea. "You're more concerned about people figuring out I'm a murderer?"
"Well." Hoseok twists his mouth and coughs a little. He reaches out, snatching Seokjn's glass of water, and downs the drink in big gulps. It's almost as if he's giving Seokjin time to process things, to string his words together, to find a way out. Like he's testing the waters, as well, and trying to see if Seokjin would ever be receptive to answering the simple question, so why in the world did you bring me here out of the blue? "Not that I think they'll ever catch you, but I'd like to think you do your job... cleanly? Like, if you were one of those murderers on TV–"
Seokjin rolls his eyes but places one sushi on Hoseok's plate, anyway. It isn't out of the ordinary, but there is a wasabi drawing on the slab of tuna wrapped around the rice. Hoseok needs more smiles of all forms to replenish the energy he offers everyone in packets of bright laughter. "You watch too much TV, kid."
"And that's why I think you'll be able to pull off the perfect murder!" Hoseok exclaims, then quickly clasps his hand over his mouth. By now, Seokjin laughing a little, the tight knots in his nape and chest loose, allowing him to breathe. He knows Hoseok is mostly crazy with streaks of seriousness, but everything Hoseok does is to make people smile, feel a bit more comfortable sharing and opening up. Make people like Seokjin feel as if they can trust Hoseok with anything and everything, their darkest secrets included. "Seriously, though, I can't tell if you're troubled or hot and bothered. You've got that weird look on your face. The last time I saw that was–"
Seokjin rests his chopsticks on his plate. The expression on his features is still, almost blank, but he can feel one eyebrow of his slowly lifting in a gentle tug. This is his body getting the better of him, expressing feelings he'd otherwise keep bottled up inside him had the muscles in his body just cooperated with him instead of giving him away. And there are voices at the back of his head arguing, saying I dare you to bring it up and Don't you even dare hint at it in intervals. It makes the tea in his mouth taste even more bitter than before. It makes his lips sting, swell from the wasabi he'd accidentally-on-purpose brushed along his flesh. And it reminds him of the way Yoongi's mouth had felt to hot, warm against his as they kissed each other deep and rough, like they needed it more than they thought they did.
Seokjin snorts. Hoseok trails off, voice dropping to a whisper, then he's looking at Seokjin with a curious gaze, head tilted to the side in an effort to see better, differently. Seokjin's never been the type to rudely cut people off while they're talking, but he's never been a fan of bringing back the past, either. There's a reason why people move on and leave things behind, and that's because some memories are best left sepia than in full color.
"I picked up my last check then thought I'd pay you a visit, okay? That's why I'm in Gangnam," Seokjin finally answers, long after the question has ceased to be relevant. He should stop taking the long and winding road when driving a message across. He should just cut the chase and jump straight into the action even if he sucks at warding off the forces of evil. "And I dragged your precious ass here because–"
"Office crush recommended it?"
Seokjin's nose twitches. "Office crushes are for first jobbers. Oldies like us don't have office crushes anymore."
Hoseok furrows his eyebrows a little and squints. The wicked grin on his lips has thinned into a small, discerning smile, one that Seokjin remembers from... college, the era of what would have been a wonderful love story had destiny not decided that his junior should move to another country to pursue his dreams. The year Ahreum broke up with him and life helped him put himself back together by reminding him he had friends whom he could trust, and that there were other people ready to breathe more life and color into his life; he just needed to let them in. It's the same smile that Hoseok was wearing when he said, "So he's three, four years your junior. Who cares? He's cute and nice and he bites sometimes, but hyung. Hyung. I haven't seen you smile like that since... high school graduation, when you got almost all the awards, except best in physical education. Or when you actually won that... what was that race again? Whatever. I just– I haven't seen you this happy in years. And now you're thinking of pushing Kookie away just because he's too young for your old and wrinkly heart?"
Hoseok had scoffed, rolled his eyes, and thinned his lips into the same smile he's wearing now. Then, with a heavy sigh, he whispered, voice cracking like it was taking every ounce restraint for him to just grab Seokjin by the shoulders and shake him, "That's stupid, hyung. And you're not supposed to be stupid because you have a choice to make the wise decision of listening to your heart. So stop thinking too much and listen to that voice inside you, for once. It's not bad to be happy. It's not bad to finally get what you want."
So Seokjin waits for it – for Hoseok to drop the big bomb, for Hoseok to knock some sense into his brain and tell him, 'look: whatever it is, it can't be worse than actually killing someone, right?' It's just a kiss, an action prompted by the ghost of his past coming back to haunt him just before he had to go to a meeting. It isn't anything big or serious or life-changing. it shouldn't bother him at all.
But Hoseok stays dangerously still and quiet, thawing out only to gulp down the rest of Seokjin's drink, holding back and putting his weapons down instead of prying, coaxing Seokjin to talk. When the standstill becomes too much, Hoseok says, "Yeah, we have office romances now. Or affairs. Apparently, that's an 'adult thing' to do," and orders for two bottles of beer. During lunch time. When Seokjin still has to take a train ride half an hour and two transfers long from Gangnam to the central district. Seokjin's lucky he doesn't have meeting scheduled for the next two days. And he's lucky Hoseok isn't pressing anything, instead dropping his guns to the ground at the first sign of Seokjin's apprehension. "Remember the kid I was talking to you about? Jackson, the weird creative who isn't like the others? And I mean 'weird' in a good way, okay. Weird as in he gets shit done before shit's due."
Seokjin laughs a little. "You know, I used to get really, really lost whenever you say that, but now I get it." He shifts in his seat and leans back, and that earns him a smile from Hoseok. It isn't one of Hoseok's teasing grins, though, or the type of smile he uses to avert serious situations; it's the type that says, So glad you're not being slow and dense right now. So glad I know you like the back of my hand. "I totally get it! I get really, really shocked when I see emails from creatives in my inbox 9 a.m. of d-day!"
"Because you expect them to turn everything in at the very last minute." Hoseok heaves a sigh. "I feel like a meanie for thinking that, to be honest? But what can you do?"
Seokjin chuckles. He knows it's bad to generalize, to assume that all creatives are the same and that they will never be fully conscious of deadlines, but he's seen everything unfold before his eyes. He's seen the stark difference between Taehyung on a good day – he'll send designs the day before they're due – and Taehyung when he looks more like a zombie than a human who's tumbled out of bed – he'll ask for an extension from Jimin and will even tug on Jimin's sleeve, promise to buy him dinner, coffee, chocolates, give him a kiss. He's seen not only one person attempt to wrangle extensions from Joonmyun's stone-cold heart, but instead three, four people working on the same brand approach Joonmyun and convince him to try to talk to the client, make the impossible happen. And he's had first-hand experience with Baekhyun purposely dropping his calls because, "Ah, signal's–so bad–here in the–rooftop– Hyung, you're–choppy–shutupSehunsignal'sreallybadokay– I'll give you the script in an hour! Ciao!"
"Or past the deadline," Seokjin whispers in response, then sits upright again when the waiter arrives with their beer. He clinks his bottle with Hoseok's own, then says, "Fascinating creatures, really. I'll never be able to understand them in full– Sorry, what was it about your Jackson kid again?"
"Well–" Hoseok blinks a few times then he's nodding and pulling his beer closer for a sip. He hums when the liquid bleeds onto his lips, even smiles as he takes another loud gulp. Simple joys, Seokjin tells himself – it's been a while since they've gone out for a drink or even just had time to sit and talk. Sure, they're almost always chatting on Kakao ("HYUNG THEY'RE GONNA PROMOTE ME TO CREATIVE DIRECTOR I'M GONNA SHIT BRICKS" "Please don't. I won't visit you in the hospital if you do." "k fine but hey, coffee sometime? yeeees? :D" "Of course. Anything for my favorite ^^") or email ("Joonmyun-hyung said you'll like this but told me not to open it? Please tell me it's not for blackmail.... T_T" "nah just for email but hey, hyung, nice bunny ears. so does being the accounts sup entail wearing headdresses and tiaras? :3" "Fuck you." "pls send calendar invite tysm"), but sitting opposite each other, hearing each other's voices, knowing that if either of them reached out, there would be someone meeting them halfway and finishing their sentences for them– It's different. It almost makes Seokjin want to move to an advertising agency closer to Hoseok's workplace. Or make Hoseok move to the central district so they can meet more frequently. They used to prefer not meeting every week or more than thrice a month – "Give me a reason to miss you, okay?" – but you realize you need people around you as you get older. Not because you're lonely and you're weak – nobody should ever be made to feel weak – but because there are just some things better enjoyed with another person, and another, and another. Or maybe just one other. "Sometimes I forget we're of the same age, really, because the kid looks so bright all the time but– Anyway, to make the long story short, we caught him making out with someone in the stockroom. Well, mostly just me because the others hid behind me even before they could process a thing, but yeah."
"Isn't it–" Against company policy, echoes a familiar voice in Seokjin's mind, but he pushes that back in favor of his own voice. "–hard? I mean, the place is hella cramped and–"
"Excuse me, not all agencies have tiny as fuck stockrooms," Hoseok says in defense, sticking his tongue out at Seokjin when Seokjin rolls his eyes. "Ours is rather big. And nice. And comfy. You can fit three or four people there, if you want to. Y'know, in hindsight, if those kids were going for stress relief then they could have easily invited others–"
"Buuut they didn't. It was just the two of them and the office supplies. That were mostly unharmed, by the way. They cleaned up really well after the whole thing." Hoseok nods thoughtfully, each bob of the head slow, deliberate. Part of Seokjin feels like he's missing the point, that he's focusing on the whole stockroom thing too much, but what is there for him to read more carefully or to breathe meaning into? He doesn't even know Hoseok's kids. He doesn't know how Hoseok's kids met, flirted with each other, got together, had sex in the stock room or something. And it's not as if he knows anything about Yoongi, either.
This isn't about you, he reminds himself. He should stop relapsing to twenty-four hours ago. There's yummy sushi right and beer right in front of him. Across the table, his best friend is talking about what seems to be the most interesting thing to him right now. He has other matters to busy himself with; he can't going back to what happened in that service elevator the day before. He takes a deep breath, then, and grips his beer tightly as he asks, "Your point is?"
"That office romance is totally a thing of our 'generation' and in our industry." Hoseok draws squiggly air quotes with his fingers, then snorts even before can 'underline' the whole thing. "Geez, I can't believe I'm even saying 'generation'. Are we really that old already?"
Seokjin laughs. Never too old for surprises, he whispers to himself as he thinks back on those two weeks between him sending an application to BBDO and getting hired, to getting the chance to work with his first ever boss again, back when he was still starting out in publishing, to getting welcomed in the strangest way possible and Jimin saving his first day at work by rubbing circles on his back when he choked on his cupcake. "Yeah, I guess," he whispers just the same, and takes a long swig of his beer, feeling the last dregs of his old age get drowned by the cool slide of the drink in his throat, making him feel a bit younger than he should be again.
He thinks of shoving a cupcake in his mouth just so nobody could take it away from him, thinks of all the crazy presentations he'd managed to bullshit his way through these past few weeks. And he thinks of turning a sticky situation with his ex-girlfriend around by letting Yoongi tiptoe past the boundaries of personal space, hold him close, and kiss him square on the lips. He laughs to himself.
Office romance is dead. But surprises definitely aren't. They probably never will be.
Seokjin can't really call Joonmyun a prophet of bad news. Mostly because Joonmyun is his boss and he knows better than to kid around with Joonmyun while they're still trapped in the four corners of their workplace, but still – Seokjin would like to think that every single task Joonmyun asks him to do is for his greater good. So handling three emerging brands all at the same time is alright; it's good practice for when he gets a promotion. Being pulled into all sorts of meetings is good training; he does have to acquaint himself with every single character in the office, after all. Being assigned to lead a pitch, however... he has some reservations but, for the most part, he's positive Joonmyun wants him dead even before he can celebrate his first month in BBDO. Which should also be for his welfare, because Joonmyun might be warning him of the danger that lies ahead. So yeah, it should be good. He's okay. He's dandy.
"Hyung, when you said 'accounts supervisor for new businesses'," Seokjin begins, pausing to save the reports he'd been working on for the past hour twice before Joonmyun whisks him away from his desk. He tries to quicken his steps, to regain his balance and keep up, but Joonmyun walks so fucking fast that Seokjin's under the impression that the presentation is sometime the following week. Worse, Monday morning. And it's already Friday. "I'm pretty sure you meant me handling the newly acquired brands that we win from pitches. I mean, I checked and double-checked the job description, the contract–"
"It's there in tiny text," Joonmyun all but murmurs, but the corners of his lips are still pulled up in a curt and tight smile. Then again, when is Joonmyun not brandishing his presentation-perfect smile? In all the years Seokjin has known Joonmyun, he has never seen the corners of his boss' mouth pull down to a frown. Joonmyun always has a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. If not, he's hiding behind the mask of nervous laughter and gentle slaps on the arm. "Lowercase, the whole thing. But the big bosses signed that so everything's official. And you signed it, too, so thank you so much for offering to lead this pitch! I knew I could count on you!"
Seokjin heaves a sigh. Part of him wants to just slump in the seat Joonmyun had motioned for him to get settled on, throw his hands up in the air and surrender, but part of him... wants to give this whole 'pitch leading thing' a shot. He's good at organizing things and keeping his creatives motivated (with the help of good food and yummy coffee; sometimes he wonders if he's actually an accounts supervisor or a pet shelter owner taking in and feeding hungry puppies). He's had experience trying to con media agencies into booking spots in their online publications, has even seen success in convincing their clients to sign an exclusive contract with them lasting half a decade, sometimes even more, but he was selling products back then. Technology, not ideas. Productivity, not creativity. If, back then, he was trying to reach sales targets by dishing out one gem of an output after another, now he's trying to market ideas that aren't even tangible yet to people know are more focused on the business side of things than fun and discovery.
He bites the inside of his cheek and looks up, reconsidering. Joonmyun looks like he's ready to sell the very idea of taking charge over pitch procedures, but no need for that, whispers a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind. He already took a crazy leap by running to the other side of the spectrum and getting into the crazy world of advertising; might as well go all-out, right? Go hard or go home. And, the thing is, he's already found a home in this agency of his, no matter how weird it seems. He likes the noise that shatters the silence at ten in the morning and rings in his ears up until eleven in the evening, as people shuffle out of the office one by one. He likes the late-night silence in the still populated accounts area, peppered only with the clacking of keys as employees complete one task after another at such a late hour. He likes looking to his side from time to time, checking if Jimin's doing alright with the presentations, if Minseok needs help with his brands even at such a late hour, if Joonmyun has already deemed the decks Seokjin has sent fit for presentation not only to the big bosses but also to clients whose hearts they're hoping to win over.
He likes the little packets of surprise that greet him at the foot of the stairs to the second floor when he runs into Yoongi and Namjoon, or sometimes just Yoongi. And he likes how even if Yoongi looks like he's seconds away from saying something, teasing him, pushing his buttons, Yoongi only ever holds the door open for conversation but doesn't press anything. Only takes the stairs to the lobby without saying a word, doesn't even mutter 'company policy' under his breath even if the small smile pulling up at the corners of his lips screams the exact same thing.
"I'm getting regularized after this. And promoted. And given a raise. As in right after this pitch," Seokjin mutters, then sets the notebook he'd managed to grab before Joonmyun pulled him away from his station on the conference table. It looks like a patch of imperfection on the expanse of wood. It seems... a bit out of place. He looks around, giving the room a quick scan, and all of a sudden it feels too huge for him, for two people who have supposedly been locked up in this conference room countless times before. Maybe it's the looming dread of a pitch or the lack of coffee in his system at three in the afternoon at work. Maybe he has to stop having his lunch at weird hours and that his body is making him pay for the lack of rest. Maybe he just has to breathe and note down everything he has to do so that he can somehow organize his tasks, thoughts, life. "But hyung, why me?"
Joonmyun laughs. "Why not?" he answers in a heartbeat, but soon he's waving his hands a little, shrugging off his knee-jerk response. Taking everything back even before Seokjin can curl his fingers into loose fists and groan in frustration. "But really, seriously, why not? You have an impressive track record in account servicing. You're dependable and capable of a lot of things outside your scope of work. You're not satisfied with just rendering 'okay' output; you keep pushing your creatives to do their best. Not without the promise of food, of course, but Jin." Seokjin gulps hard at the mention of the nickname, leaning back a little and taking a deep breath, slipping into reflex developed years ago, back in college. His memory has always been impeccable to a fault. "Tell me: do you see anyone else fit to lead this pitch?"
Seokjin worries his lower lip a little and lets his gaze wander. "I don't know," he confesses, then breathes out a loud exhale. "You haven't even told me who the client is yet–"
Seokjin leans back a little, eyes widening in accord. "Wow. That's huge."
"Exactly," Joonmyun says, voice lilting just before he drops the last syllable. The corners of his mouth tug up even more, reaching his eyes a little, then the fatigue is gone, replaced instead by a familiar twinkle in his eyes that lights up the rest of his features. "Jimin's good. He's an effective accounts executive. He knows when to go hard on creatives and when to baby them. And the kid's never late for meetings – very few people here are like that. But I need someone with more experience, Jin. I need someone who's been doing the same shit for years that people can't bullshit their way past deadlines when they're faced with that person. I need someone who not only knows to hold the hands of the creative babies but also someone who can teach them how to stand and eventually let them walk on their own. And while Jimin can and will push himself to do better, you and I both know he gets so worked up by the tiniest mistakes."
Seokjin laughs to himself. That was him years ago, when he was still an infant in the industry. He did his job well, brushed off criticism and passed them off as lame insults, but at the back of his mind he knew the critique was fast choking him, holding him down, keeping him from moving to his next task and moving on. Only two, three years after was he able to wean himself off of the negativity he'd been shoving down his own throat. Then, half a decade after that, he'd finally finished building the walls caging in on him, keeping sunlight from passing through and keeping him safe. A few more months after that and he was regretting even putting up those walls because damn, were they beginning to feel a bit too restrictive. He wanted something else, something new, something that wasn't safe. He wanted to take a risk so huge he'll be able to look back on that point in time that he made the decision and say, What the hell were you thinking, Seokjin?
"He should fix that. He's a really great guy," he murmurs after a while. Joonmyun breathes out soft laughter and shakes his head. "Remind me to buy him biscuits later. He's still craving them but kid won't get himself some because he thinks it's 'not yet time to reward himself'."
Joonmyun frowns. It isn't one of the sad, solemn ones, but he does look like a child who's been deprived of cotton candy. It's strange seeing Joonmyun just drop his shields without preamble, Seokjin muses. It's refreshing.
Then, in a smaller voice, he tells himself, You should do that more. You should give the whole breaking down your own walls a shot.
"Kid needs to get laid," Joonmyun grumbles after a while. He leans back in his seat, throws his head back, even stretches out his legs for a few quick seconds before snapping up straight again. Brief respite. He doesn't get that often. Perhaps it's part of agency culture, Seokjin muses, feeling bad for resting for too long. He always gets this weird, clawing sensation at the pit of his stomach whenever he takes more breaths and breaks than necessary. "You know, at this point I'm wondering how a) he and Tae haven't been caught making out yet, or b) how they haven't made a move on each other at all. I mean, dude. The tension between them's so thick, it puts those XL condoms they're making ads of to shame!"
"Please don't give the client ideas. Durex has those two so fucked up, I'm pretty sure they won't want to make XXL ads anymore."
"Or do they?"
"If you're implying you're going to ask them to test the condoms for science, I'm dropping this pitch." Seokjin stands, poised to leave, but Joonmyun anchors him back to his seat with a small frown. "So yeah, the kid doesn't need to get laid; he just needs to appreciate himself more. And we need chips and treats in this room if you want to give the creatives some motivation to at least drag their asses to the conference room." Because meetings in the midcon spell nothing but trouble and death, a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind grumbles, but he pays no attention to that. Instead, he takes a deep breath and cracks his knuckles. He's probably digging his own grave by doing this, but whatever. Participating in pitches is the fastest way to grow and learn. It may be the most painful way to experience getting shot down and having to redo every single thing he'd worked on from the day they got briefed to the night just before the pitch, but no matter – he's here to learn and, most of the time, the best way to learn is by doing things the hard way. The one that gives him the most hardships and scars, and makes victory feel so rewarding. "And maybe coffee, as well, but– Who's involved in the pitch again? To whom will I be sending calendar invites?"
"A shitton of people," Joonmyun begins, voice dipping into light laughter, then he's calling out names like reading items off of a grocery list – Baekhyun and Sehun as leads for creatives, Taehyung and Heechul for a quick and crazy ride. Chanyeol and Kyungsoo from production for feasibility because, "I don't want us coming up with ideas that prod can just... shoot down because they're too ambitious. We need ambitious and actually possible. We need... nice and cut and heart-felt but also functional."
At the back of Seokjin's mind, he adds, we need a miracle. He doesn't utter a word, though, instead only nodding in response as he scribbles notes on his paper, some of the lines cut off by motivational messages, more for himself than anyone else. And he keeps his ears open, ready to pick up other names Joonmyun might drop without preamble.
"Yoongi and Namjoon, too. I'll make sure they make time for this. CC Sihyuk-sajangnim as well. He probably won't be there for the initial brainstorming but just... keep him in the loop."
Seokjin gulps hard. He makes a mental note to accidentally-on-purpose forget Joonmyun's instructions on who to cc and who to mandate to attend, wills himself to try to test rules and his inability to break them for once. Still, his hands betray him when he gets settled in earnest in the conference room, laptop sitting in front of him as he sets a meeting for five in the afternoon, and keys in names one by one, like counting down to his imminent death.
He types 'Min Yoongi' in a rush and lets the cursor hover the 'send' button before clicking it once and for all. His laptop gives of a chorus of shrill rings as pop-ups for the invite he'd just sent out come in one by one – Heechul, declined, 'sorry, really busy, but I'll see what I can do. I'll drop by if I'm bored'. Taehyung and Baekhyun, tentative, but 'likely to attend if there's pizza :D'. Chanyeol and Kyungsoo from production, accepted, 'as long as there's food'. Namjoon, tentative, 'because I have something until 5 so can I just come in at around :15? TY tell Joonmyun I like breadsticks!'
Yoongi's response sneaks up on Seokjin like the thundering pulse at the base of his throat. Seokjin chokes on his own spit for a moment, forgetting to breathe.
Accepted, 'As long as there's coffee. Excited.'
"If I were client, I'd trash that idea in a heartbeat."
Seokjin swallows hard and gently presses down on the backspace key, watching as the cursor swallows the characters on the page one by one. It's the fifth time in the past ten minutes that he's had to erase everything he'd typed down in the Word document projected on the wall, the six in the past five minutes that he's heaved a sigh so loud Joonmyun would probably call him out on being too transparent in front of two of the company's big bosses as soon as they step out of the conference room. And in all honesty, it's the third time in the past hour or so that he's found himself shaking his head internally at the suggestions given by the creatives. The worst part is that they aren't just lacking; they're off-strategy, completely deviating from the brand brief that Hyundai had emailed half an hour before the meeting started. Granted, thirty minutes isn't enough to memorize the brief, to etch every single little detail about it until he can recite product details with his eyes closed, but still – it isn't too difficult to digest that Hyundai's problem isn't taxi franchises 'degrading' the Sonata by using it as a cab instead of a luxury vehicle. It's people actually forgetting that the Sonata has an identity separate from being Korea's most trusted cab car for more than a decade already.
The creative kids are overworked, tired, trying really hard, but one can only do so much with energy fast dripping from the tips of his fingers. Seokjin understands that more than anyone else.
"I mean fine, thanks for bringing up the taxi 'issue' again because people have probably forgotten about that already. Because most of you seem to have just glossed over the brief you're supposed to take to heart. Remember: your brief is everything," Yoongi adds after a while. Seokjin's under the suspicion that Namjoon had somehow conned Yoongi into saying that, at least giving Heechul some credit instead of just a judging look, but that's not to say Yoongi hasn't lost the edge to his voice, the drawl in his tone thinning into something that sounds more frustrated than tired and drained. It makes Seokjin's throat go dry and his chest grow heavy. It makes him feel... weird. "But telling franchises, 'hey, sorry, but we'll have to pull out our Sonatas because we don't want to be called a brand for cabs' isn't the best solution. That's degrading to the franchises. That's asking trouble for the brand. And that's lazy. That's something that comes out of your ass when you're dying to leave the office already because you have a date."
Heechul heaves a sigh. His features are scrunched up, lips pulled down to a frown, but the tone of his voice is steady, unwavering. It's almost as if he's raising the white flag and saying, I know, I screwed up and I'm sorry but it's getting late and the last thing I want to do is to think about cars. Part of Seokjin understands the struggle, the desire to just pack up and leave before it gets too dark on a Friday evening, but what can they do? This is the life they signed up for the moment they walked past the doors of BBDO. They have to send an initial idea deck to the client on Monday to be able to get a chance to pitch for their business in earnest. They have to keep their jobs, and the best Heechul can say in an attempt to express his fatigue without dropping to the floor in a heap of limbs is by saying, "It's seven, 'Gi."
"Exactly: it's already 7 p.m., you guys have already mentioned the meat of your idea at the start of our discussion, and yet we're still here because you're too lazy to string your thoughts together into something that makes more sense."
"It's not a lazy idea. It's just step one."
"Step what?" Yoongi scoffs. "Can you even hear yourself?"
"Can you even hear–" Heechul huffs. Beside him, Namjoon cranes his neck, shifts his gaze between Yoongi and Joonmyun who's at the far end of the table, slowly clasping his hands together but leaning closer as if hoping to offer his two cents, between two forces Seokjin has always know to keep their cool unless provoked or lead to frustration. He hasn't had a chance to work closely with both Yoongi and Heechul before, but he has heard a lot of things about the two, their little similarities and differences and the things that make them ignite the worst flames but put them out in a heartbeat. They're harsh, critical, perfectionists to a fault. They're nice in their own, peculiar way, but it might take light years for people to realize that single act of kindness from either. Heechul speaks his mind all the time but puts down in writing his innermost thoughts, while Yoongi saves all of his words for the right time, looking for the best opportunity to arrange his thoughts into neat sentences that pack a punch.
Seokjin laughs to himself. Yoongi's very stingy when it comes to words, but generous with the scars he leaves on people's mouth when he kisses them. Not that Seokjin's jaw still aches or that he can still feel the sting of Yoongi nibbling on his lower lip hard enough to bruise; it's just that the memory of the kiss, of Yoongi's willingness to help, of Yoongi not even flinching when Seokjin stuck his tongue down Yoongi's throat in a moment of spontaneity – all these still haunt him like a plague. And Seokjin's never been good at forgetting bad dreams. He's never been the best at moving on.
"Okay, Yoongi, look: I know you can be the worst asshole during brainstormings but that doesn't give you the right to slam each and every damn idea to the ground even before people are done talking."
"I'm saving time. Time's precious. We're running late on schedule. Ideas – those are what we need right now, not petty arguments and silly thoughts."
"Stop being an asshole."
Yoongi laughs a little, the corners of his lips pulling up into a tight smile. Any minute now, a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind says – Yoongi's bound to crack any minute and Seokjin's about 90% ready to take cover, but it never comes. Instead, Yoongi bites the inside of his cheek, shakes his head, drops his gaze to his feet before looking up at Heechul to say, "Then stop giving me shit and pull out the same gem you threw at me earlier."
Seokjin blinks a few times. He feels like he's missing something and yet what? The entire team was rattling about the Sonata going through an identity crisis earlier. Yoongi had kept telling them to go back to the brief, remember what client felt the need to reiterate at the end of every section, relax, don't panic, I just need coherent sentences and not something that can win a Cannes. We can figure that out later. Taehyung had mentioned something about making Hyundai tie up with Samsung to develop a new kind of technology exclusive to the Sonata as some form of reminder that the Sonata is more than your ordinary sedan, and Yoongi countered with, "Why do you need new technology for it when you have so much untapped potential in the car already? Dig deeper, everyone. Think–"
Heechul blows at his bangs and leans back in his seat. His shoulders are slumped forward along with his the tight scowl at the corners of his lips, now pulled down to a frown. He hasn't stopped drumming his fingers on the table. He looks like he's seconds away from saying something, lashing out at Yoongi, maybe even storming out of the room and Seokjin won't take it against him at all, but instead Heechul lifts his gaze so he can look straight into Yoongi's eyes.
"I keep telling you guys that you already pinned down the big idea at the start of the discussion. Not just once or twice; I've been saying the same shit again and again. I'm beginning to hate my own voice." Yoongi takes a deep, shaky breath, then clears his throat before continuing. "So it's just a matter of actually stringing your thoughts, ideas, your words together. Taking everything you guys have been yapping about for the past few hours and piecing together puzzle pieces so we can finally form a nice picture. But how will you even remember the good stuff you said earlier when you didn't take notes? And not just you, Heechul – everyone. Production team, why aren't you jotting down insights from the discussion that you can use if and when we decide to develop an app? Creatives, I told you to make it a habit to write down every fucking thought that crosses your mind during brainstormings before you throw them out in the open. Out of, what – ten? – ten people in this room, only Seokjin made an effort to take down notes on paper and not on his clean Word doc. And don't tell me it's his job to note down every single suggestion because he's the accounts lead for this; it's your job to be responsible of your own ideas."
Seokjin gulps hard. Yoongi's words hang in the air, suspended in the low thrumming of the air conditioning and Namjoon tapping a soft beat on the table. They aren't sharp words, though, aren't like swords or daggers that leave Seokjin with a dull ache in his chest or something wedged in his throat. There's a strange sense of stillness in Yoongi's voice, in Yoongi's words that almost make it so easy to believe that Yoongi isn't mad or at least close to tipping point. There's a rhythm to it, so much so that Seokjin finds himself bobbing his head to the faint sound of Yoongi's voice filling his ears, curling at his nape, snaking up the back of his neck until he's shivering all over. It's soothing without being too passive, forceful without being imposing. It's almost like the way Yoongi had kissed him weeks ago, back in that elevator, Yoongi's pulse heavy and quick against his skin but his tongue gently drawing a line along the cavern of Seokjin's mouth–
Seokjin raises his hand in an instant. It happens in a rush, too quickly that he finds himself having to meet too many pairs of alarmed gazes as he drops his hand to his thigh. Yoongi's one of them, but he looks more curious than anything else. Maybe even teasing. It's not as if Seokjin has spent an ample amount of time processing the few expressions he's seen on Yoongi's face all those times that they had either bumped into each other or descended the stairs alongside each other, or even creating a catalogue for them at the back of his mind. His memory's just good, that's all. Impeccable. Perfect to a fault, even if it makes sense only to him. Yoongi's... just another guy.
"Uh, well, for the past decade or so, all the brand's been focusing on when it comes to the Sonata is the form. Just... pure beauty. It's a pretty car that's not as expensive as your European cars that are fast populating the city, nothing more," Seokjin begins, pausing only to lick his lips and try to ease the tightness in his throat. C'mon, Jin, it's just another preso, he tells himself, but it feels a bit different somehow. This the first time he's presenting in front of the big bosses. This is the first time Joonmyun's actually telling him with that small smile on his lips, Impress them. If you do, you might just be in for something really exciting. And this is the first time he's speaking in front of people unrehearsed, the words falling into nice, tight spaces that sound a lot like a snug fit in his mind. "Which is why most people aren't aware of the technology that has gone into the car. And by 'technology', I don't just mean the cool multimedia panel and connectivity features – I mean the very structure of the car, the materials used, how even the trimmings contribute to, say, the best ventilation system and good acoustics because the trimming cushions only the noise but bounces off the rest of the crisp sound coming from the speakers."
"That's not in the brief."
"It's in the website," Seokjin answers, lips pulling up into a smug smile when he looks in Yoongi's direction. "Whose link is in the brief. You should check it out. The way car companies name their 'colors' is just hilarious."
"Yeah. Pacific Sky Blue," Yoongi whispers, then he's sucking in his bottom lip and nodding in thought. "Go on."
'Go on' means Seokjin curling his hands into tight fists on his thighs just before he pushes himself off his seat. 'Go on' means Yoongi following his movements with a careful gaze, nodding his head to Seokjin sounding like a living brochure of the all-new 2016 Hyundai Sonata, voice over not included. "So you don't just get to experience class with the Sonata," Seokjin mentions as he digs his hands into his pockets, when he sees Joonmyun easing the tight press of his lips into a grin. Seokjin hasn't seen that in years, or at least not when they're on opposite sides of the meeting table and Seokjin's presenting his ideas to an esteemed panel of creatives for dissection. This is a lot of firsts for an internal presentation; Seokjin almost feels like a first jobber walking into an interview room for the very first time. "You get a taste of class and comfort, convenience. And that's why the Sonata is the taxi brand of choice – because you want to experience these two things in a car while you're rushing from one meeting to another, or maybe when you've missed the last train and you're drunk as hell and you just want to get home without having to walk the next few blocks. Function and form come together to sweep you off your feet and take you on a smooth ride with the 2016 Hyundai Sonata."
Seokjin takes a deep, shaky breath, then lets out a loud exhale. "It's everything you've ever wanted in a car."
Yoongi laughs. It isn't bright or loud, isn't even raucous, but it does ring in Seokjin's ears long enough that Seokjin feels a familiar shiver crawl down his spine. His first thought is, Why the hell are you laughing? Everything's backed up by facts! His second, Wait, did I actually say something wrong? But I made sure to research–
"You sound like a walking commercial or something, complete with the drop in the tone and the dramatic pause. Geez." Yoongi shakes his head, laughs some more, then the corners of his eyes are softening into smooth little crinkles. "Sounds perfect, though. Love the delivery and the grand reveal," he continues, then shifts his attention to the rest of the team, giving the creatives a discerning look. "And that could have been you talking earlier, had you only taken notes. Everything he said just now? All from our discussions. And whatever catalogue he'd read on the website, yeah, but point is – what are ideas floating in the air if you're not able to string them together? What's a nice idea in your head if you can't enunciate it properly and share it with people so you can bringing it to life? This is where media's been beating us, guys. This is where they shine – the whole processing thing. They take our ideas and make sure they're on-strategy."
"And they're elitist assholes who keep saying that ad people know only how to conceive ideas but not how to execute them," Namjoon offers soon after, heaving a sigh as he leans back in his seat. Soon, he's meeting Seokjin in the eye, gaze focused but not as discerning as the one Yoongi had looked at Seokjin with when they were trapped in the elevator with a shrieking ex-girlfriend and no other choice but to kiss to ward her off–
Let it go, Jin, he tells himself, again and again until he can drown out the low humming of the air conditioning with the sound of his own voice. It's been weeks. It's a functional kiss. It actually worked and he got to talk to Ahreum without creating a scene in the lobby (even if Ahreum kept asking him if he'd had boyfriends back in college, after 'them', even if he kept pushing the thought of cute juniors and warm hands and shy kisses to the very back of his mind). He shouldn't get too attached to things. But Yoongi keeps looking at him like he's this close to broaching the topic, reminding him about it. Like Yoongi's about to tease him in front of this crowd smack in the middle of a brainstorming session that should have been scheduled weeks ago and say, proud of you, boyfriend.
"I really like how you highlighted what's already existing, though– Seokjin, right?" Namjoon says, and that's what snaps Seokjin out of his trance. He surfaces with a violent breath of life, widening his eyes as he nods in confirmation. "Hmm. Not bad. If we had you in every pitch to process and streamline everything, we'll probably get ideation done in... two hours."
"How long do these things even last?" Seokjin murmurs.
"Three hours? Four?" Yoongi leans back in his seat and locks his arms in front of him, grunting low when he feels the stretch along his arms. "But well, we still need to flesh out the executional ideas. At least we have a big idea already backed up by insights. So!" And that's the only time Seokjin hears Yoongi's voice peak, the usual drawl in his voice, low and rough, replaced by something bright and... chirpy. Different, but not completely un-Yoongi. What the hell is 'un-Yoongi' supposed to be? Seokjin files that sound at the back for later, for when he has to work with Yoongi again, for when he has to keep the thundering pulse at the base of his throat in check again for fear that his words will come out shaky. "Quick break, then we regroup in twenty for the execution? How does that sound?"
You sound like you're high, Seokjin whispers at the back of his mind. Then, in a voice much smaller, quieter than before, you sound exactly like your smile.
"It sounds like death," Baekhyun groans.
"Cool. You be back in ten, then. Die then rise from the ashes," Yoongi hums, then presses his lips together in a small smile. The gentle curls at the corners of his lips pull up even more when he pushes himself off his seat and nudges Namjoon in his side before reaching out to give Heechul's arm a light squeeze. "Hyung," he says after a while, voice even softer now, and Seokjin watches with eyes wide open and lips slightly parted when Heechul rolls his eyes and just kind of leans into Yoongi's touch. "One stick?"
Heechul scoffs. He snatches the cigarette between Yoongi's fingers, nonetheless, even grabs the entire case from Yoongi and grumbles, "I thought you've been off of these for months!" It's a stark contrast from the scene earlier, when Heechul dropped his hands to his sides and voiced out his exhaustion through ideas and Yoongi dropped honorifics at the same time that he dropped the big bomb on Heechul. It's as if Yoongi has flicked a switch off all of a sudden, slipping out of the Chief Creative Officer jacket so he can welcome the cool winds fast wrapping around his arms. Tossing it to the side and forgetting it exists for the next twenty minutes, until they have to work again. "Didn't you say–"
"Chill. I haven't smoked in months. I just give 'em to people in need. People like you." Yoongi gives Heechul a shove, more playful than anything else, and soon he's making his way to the exit, fingers dancing along the edge of the table like the rest of the team – all eager to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, walk around the office for a twisted change in scenery before heading back. Recalibrate and put on their best suit before heading into battle. "Except for Namjoon. The asshole just steals my– Seokjin? Hey–"
Seokjin's body gives a powerful jerk at the first beat Yoongi taps on his shoulder. It doesn't hurt, doesn't even leave a warm mark on his skin, but it does reel Seokjin back to this moment, to a little past seven in the evening in the office, right here where Yoongi's fingers ghost over the expanse of his shoulders. "Nah. I have to answer all the emails I've missed," he answers at the second, third beat Yoongi taps. At the next series of beats, he adds, "I might have missed a lot–"
"He means you're an ass for keeping us locked up in the conference room," Heechul singsongs, then gives Namjoon a light nudge. Namjoon only rolls his eyes and shakes his head, but the smile on his lips makes Seokjin feel like he's actually siding with Heechul, nodding in agreement, calling Yoongi out. "And that you should buy us food because we're famished and hungry people won't be able to think properly."
"I can take care of ordering food," Seokjin offers.
"Nah, let him buy food for us. He owes us a feast. C'mon, you guys, back me up! Hungry people can't think properly, right, Seok– Can I just call you Jin? It's easier to say."
Namjoon heaves a sigh. "You can't be too lazy to say someone's name, hyung."
"I can't call him 'fresh blood' anymore. He's already 'coagulated blood'."
Yoongi narrows his eyes at Heechul. "You're gross."
Heechul cocks an eyebrow in response, a corner of his mouth tugging up in accord. "Mini Yoongi not jumping on the first opportunity to tease the new kid?" He hums. "Wow. Never thought you had it in you, little one."
Yoongi presses his lips together into a thin, thin smile. It doesn't last for more than a few seconds, or at least until Heechul's saying, breaking the silence with a response to a remark that has ceased to be relevant, "That's the product of lack of food and your boss who's younger than you ordering you around, calling you lazy and all that shit–"
Putting you on the spotlight and highlighting the glaring faults in your statement so you can come up with better ideas, Seokjin's tempted to say, to voice out, but he doesn't need to anymore. The next thing he knows, Yoongi's shaking his head and shuffling out of the room, pushing Heechul and Namjoon closer to exit and farther away from where Seokjin is. And Seokjin feels the knot in his chest loosen completely when he hears the soft 'click' of the lock, silence falling upon the room in earnest and wrapping itself around him like a warm, warm quilt.
He catches a glimpse of a sticky note just inches away from his laptop and snorts when the characters for Breathe, noob. You're doing great jump out at in him in hastily scrawled writing. Takes a deep breath as he shushes the many voices in his mind etching questions along the column of his throat – where the hell did he get the sticky note, what the hell is this note for, why do I even care? And he bites the inside of his cheek to keep himself from grinning, to shush the same noises murmuring at the back of his mind, to remind himself to focus, focus, focus on the unanswered emails in his inbox and not on the small smiley drawn beside Yoongi's name on the sticky note. Breathe.
Baekhyun doesn't rise from the dead ten minutes after. Not that Seokjin minds – he likes being able to work in peace without having to resort to hiding in a conference room or plugging his earphones. The Manila papers he's taped to the glass walls also provide a nice contrast to the expanse of white all around him. He's awake, but not so much that the slightest movement makes his muscles twitch. He's calm without being too complacent. There's a twisted sense of balance in him that he hasn't felt in a while, from when he made the decision to jump ship and crash into BBDO knowing full well that he'll probably lose more than half of his social life and a quarter of his youth when he signs up for a job in an ad agency.
He laughs to himself. He regrets losing sleep, yes, but it's not as if he hasn't lost so much sleep and rest already in publishing. So he's cool. He's okay with everything else, even having to shell out so much money to feel a huge group of people because apparently, the creatives are always hungry– Oh shit, he still has to order food for the entire team–
"You really didn't take a break," comes Yoongi's voice, just loud enough to ruffle the curtains of silence in the room. It breaks just as Yoongi kicks the door further open and holds it in place with his ass, just before he grunts, and Seokjin takes that as his cue to tear his gaze from the order page he's been staring at for the past three minutes. He stands from his seat to help Yoongi with the food containers he's carrying – more like to help Yoongi grow out the tower of Tupperwares almost half the size of his legs. He looks like some metahuman whose power is... delivering food to ad agencies. That's a cute superpower. Not that Yoongi's actually cute. "If it was really urgent then they'd call you, y'know."
Seokjin snorts but inches closer to where Yoongi is, anyway. "Everything's urgent, though."
"Because that's how you've trained your clients to think. Teach them new tricks. Shush them when they become too demanding."
"Oh trust me," Seokjin begins, pausing only to haul one stack of containers close to his chest for easier carrying. "I've done that time and again but some just... go back to their old ways. Old habits die hard. It's not that–"
"Easy, I know–" Yoongi grunts as he lifts the containers and attempts to set them down on the table, but to no avail – his arms shake for a bit before he's able to steady himself and regain balance. Carrying around containers filled with bibimbap, japchae, and jjajangmyun isn't a joke. Pool together all the food and suddenly the load's too heavy, overwhelming. It's the same for work, Seokjin supposes – add up all the little tasks you do on the side and you'll be surprised you've devoted at least two hours just revising and polishing designs, proposals, ideas. "But nothing good ever comes out of something easy."
Seokjin laughs a little. He can't even argue with Yoongi on that – it's in getting through the toughest times that he finds the most satisfaction. It's in dealing with the worst of clients that he learns how to control his temper. Seven out of ten times, he still thinks of maiming clients as soon as he sees the request 'can you make the logo bigger' or 'can you make the talent in the picture look just a bit younger' in emails, but that's the point – they're all thoughts, nothing he's ever decided on turning into reality just yet. It's all in his head and boy, is he thankful that none of his murder plans have come to fruition yet–
"What the hell?"
Something hits him. It isn't too big, just about the size of his palm and as light as a gentle slap on the cheek, but still – you don't throw things at people just for kicks. He looks up from where he'd been shoved a black pack to his face and finds Yoongi on the other side of the table, settling on his seat and smiling a little. The last time he ever took anything to the face – Hoseok had tossed a sachet of 3-in-1 coffee at Seokjin, sharing his last pack out of the kindness of his heart and because Seokjin looked like a zombie so close to finally dying – he ended up chucking all the throw pillows at Hoseok in wicked fast speed. Hoseok had sworn never to throw anything but hugs his way ever again, and Seokjin offered him a smug, triumphant smile in return. And a tight hug. Hugs almost always solve everything. It's been years since the agreement but neither of them has forgotten about it yet. They're already living in two separate flats on opposite sides of the river, and yet the rule is still there at the back of their minds, more of a looming guide than an afterthought. Not that Seokjin expects Hoseok to forget – Hoseok's just as bad as him when it comes to throwing away memories that leave them with nothing but a gaping cavity in their chests.
And Yoongi's probably just as bad with the whole 'moving on' thing, reeling Seokjin back to three weeks ago when he says, "Take a break, babe. Eat up. Or at least finish the whole thing before everyone gets back, unless you want them to steal gummies from you." Seokjin stares at the pack of gummy bears for a few seconds, deliberately ignoring the way the world 'babe' spills from Yoongi's pink lips, then looks up to meet Yoongi's gaze when Yoongi adds, "Or you can just take that home or something since we'll all be having dinner in a bit, anyway. Just don't let the others see or else."
"Isn't it–" Supposed to be the job of the accounts lead to pay for dinner, isn't it weird that you're giving me gummy bears, aren't you supposed to still be with your friends because it hasn't even been fifteen minutes since the start of the break, Seokjin's tempted to ask, but soon Yoongi's leaning back in his seat, fixing his gaze on whatever's projected on his screen, eyes going up and down, back and forth like he's going through numerous emails that he'd pushed aside earlier in favor of good company and a subtle apology. Stealing glances at Seokjin from time to time, every few seconds, like he doesn't know Seokjin has been watching him out of the corner of his eye since he'd thrown the gummies in Seokjin's direction. It would almost hilarious, but maybe this is how Yoongi really is, Seokjin muses. After all, all he knows about Yoongi is that he's a good kisser and that he has nice, warm hands.
So Seokjin rips the pack open, pops one, two, three gummy bears in his mouth as he picks up where he's left off, and ignores the way Yoongi's lips tug up in the smallest, subtlest smile at the sound of the wrapper crackling. There are emails to reply to before people start pouring in again. There's work to be done. There's no time to think of how delicious the gummy bears are, and how Yoongi's lips are softer than the treats. He has to stay focused.
He plugs on his earphones in an attempt to drown out Yoongi's words ringing in his ears, endless circles of take a break, babe forming a rhythm easy enough to fall into step to. When Yoongi holds out his hand to ask for some of the gummies, Seokjin sticks out his tongue and mouths, nope, mine, and doesn't even bother hiding the grin that stretches across his lips.
Yoongi laughs. It's bright and loud and makes Seokjin shiver. It bleeds onto Seokjin's throat, tickles it, and draws out the most ridiculous-sounding laughter Seokjin has coughed out in years. It makes Seokjin's insides lurch. It's a good lurch, though. It tastes like coffee, kiwi, strawberries, and a thousand unexpected encounters in the elevator, down the stairs, at the lobby just before calling it a day rolled into one.
He licks his lips and bites down on his lower lip hard enough to sting. It tastes a lot like Yoongi.
Seokjin leans back in his seat and closes his eyes. One in the morning at work means the creatives shuffling out of the office in clusters, means finally having the entire office to himself and getting the peace and quiet he's been craving all day long. The accounts area sounds like a war zone at any time of the day, what with all the account executives scrambling to be heard by clients on the other end of the line. Work isn't getting any easier or less; everything just keeps piling up on Seokjin. And he's been spending at least 90% of his time in the office inside the conference room these past few days. He can't say he minds, though. He actually enjoys hearing the creatives volleying ideas at each other, helping each other shoot bad ideas down so they can pick up the broken pieces and turn them into something more solid, something more convincing. Sure, he finds himself wishing he could just focus on his normal accounts job so he can go home a bit earlier than usual (read: in the evening and not too early in the morning), but the truth is that he likes how unpredictable pitches are. One minute, they're confident about their ideas and raring to get to designing print ads, web banners, social assets for the gold concepts; the next minute, they're second-guessing their thoughts, the idea they've been strengthening the past week, themselves. One minute, they're all leaning closer to the center of the table, speaking in hushed voices about the copy to be put in the ads and trying to communicate their ideas in the most dramatic way possible, and the next minute they're cackling at awful designs posted on so and so's brand page on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. One minute, they're neck-deep into crafting the deck for the big presentation, then the next Yoongi's throwing his hands up in the air, calling for a break, screaming at the top of his voice, "Fuck this pitch!" Then they'd all be laughing in accord like that's the only thing keeping them from expressing their fatigue – Yoongi somehow being able to keep everything together until he admits to himself that, yes, he's only human and he needs more sleep.
"Pitch is a bitch," Seokjin hums under his breath now as he slumps in his seat, relishing the way his muscles relax against the cushion on his chair. He'll snap his spine straight again in five minutes, wear the straitjacket called 'client servicing' again once he feels the last dregs of fatigue from the pitch session spill from his fingertips, but for now he'll just pretend he actually has time to laze around a bit and relax–
He opens his eyes as wide as he can when he catches the sound of footsteps. Which shouldn't be foreign to him at all since the creatives always leave the building late, but a voice at the back of his mind keeps telling him that these steps are familiar. Too familiar, in fact, that he feels a shiver crawl down his spine before surging back up and resting on the base of his nape. These are footsteps he's walked alongside of a handful of times already, footsteps that have served as his cue to drop the accounts cape to the floor to put on his pitch cap. Maybe it's Namjoon, he tells himself, but he knows better than to shit his own self when he saw Namjoon leave right after the pitch session earlier. Or Heechul-hyung. Or maybe even Baekhyun. Heck, I might just be imagining things and freaking myself out and focus, Jin! You have stuff to accomplish before sunrise–
Seokjin furrows his eyebrows and looks over his shoulder. He blinks a few times in an effort to get rid of the fatigue, but it hasn't even been two minutes yet. His eyebrows ache and his temples are throbbing and his eyes feel as if they're on fire, set aflame by lack of sleep. He needs no more than a glimpse of the small smile on the man's lips to know that it's Jimin approaching him with slow and steady steps, though. He's spent enough time watching Jimin out of the corner of his eye to know that only Jimin can pull of a smile as warm as the sun even if he's this close to passing out in the middle of a meeting.
"I thought you went home already?"
"Thought so, too," Jimin grumbles, then slumps in his seat before resting his head on the table. In the dim lighting in the accounts area, in this 'light', Jimin looks much, much older, tired, worn out. The glimmer in his eyes is gone, replaced instead with a thicker, deeper gray. It doesn't quite match the gentle quirk of his lips, especially when he says, "Well, I was trying to be optimistic but Innisfree emailed at 7 p.m., asking for a report that – according to them, at least; I'm pretty sure Joonmyun-hyung hadn't said 'yes' to the ridiculous request – was apparently due this morning."
"But it is morning now."
Jimin stomps a little, pouts, groans as he slaps Seokjin on the arm, but at least there's a bit more life in his eyes now. Nothing but a faint spark, really, but Seokjin will take this over empty and coasting Park Jimin. He'd rather have a flicker of light ghosting over Jimin's features than have to see Jimin dragging his zombie ass to work tomorrow and forcibly putting on the mask he always wears in front of clients. And he'd rather have Jimin relaxing right beside him, shoulders falling forward as he heaves a sigh, rather than to watch Jimin do robotic typing no more than two feet away in a few minutes.
"What are you doing here, though? Shouldn't you be heading home already?" Jimin sniffles, sits upright again, then takes one of the bottles in the paper bag he'd set down in front of him. It's not one of those energy drinks he gulps down like water, at least. Jimin isn't as hopeless as the roughness in his voice makes him out to be. "Don't you guys have a 7 a.m. tomorrow – I mean later, dammit – or something?"
"8 a.m.. Yoongi pushed it back by an hour," Seokjin replies, grunting as he mimics Jimin's position and pulls back his shoulders. He rubs at his eyes and cracks his neck, ready to resume working, but the gentle lift of Jimin's eyebrows sort of pulls him back, slows him down a little. Makes him think twice about getting straight to work and wanting to spend more time studying the peculiar look in Jimin's features. "Said something about the whole team working extra hard so we deserve at least an extra hour of rest–"
"Big boss actually telling his people to rest, really?"
"Yeah. He's the one making sure we get breaks every few hours, actually. Or that we get breaks at all. I'm mostly in charge of making sure food gets delivered and that coffee's replenished every hour." Seokjin reaches out, motioning to snatch the drink away from Jimn, but drops his hand to his thigh when Jimin narrows his eyes in response. "Though he did buy everyone dinner on the first day–"
Jimin chuckles. "That's interesting," he whispers, then takes a long swig of his drink. His eyes are still on Seokjin, though, and if it weren't already one in the morning then Seokjin would probably ask him why, what, what the hell? "I mean, I don't doubt the 'buying dinner' bit because the creatives supposedly love him for that, but... You do know that he used to be really ruthless when it came to work, right?"
I won't be surprised, Seokjn's tempted to say. Yoongi does seem like the kind of guy who would push his teammates, his subordinates to think long and hard until they arrive at an idea solid enough that even the clients won't be able to smash them into smithereens, if the way he's been handling the creatives helping out with the pitch is any indicator of that. Yoongi will slave over the smallest of details, get a bit too worked up by people who won't even make an effort to be creative and push their limits. He would be the type to drive others hard, to the point of insanity, but he would drive himself even harder. Four weeks isn't enough to get to know a person in full, but Seokjin trusts observation skills that he has honed through the years to give him an idea of how Yoongi is, how Yoongi should be.
"Well, I've heard of a few things here and there, but publishers work mostly with media. I've never worked closely with ad agencies."
"But you've at least heard about him? Didn't you mention your friend being in advertising for years now?"
Seokjin shrugs. Half the time in his old workplace, he had his earphones plugged on to drown out noise and undesirable things all around him. The other half, he had been constantly moving from one client to another, resolving issues, cleaning things up. So no, he hasn't had time to research on how Kim Namjoon is with his pool of art directors. He hasn't had time to discover things about Bang Sihyuk and how he managed to save BBDO from its supposed downfall around four, five years ago. And he hasn't had time to ask around about Min Yoongi who supposedly deals with his creatives the same way he kisses – hard and rough, demanding for attention when he gets so into it, but ultimately ending up with good results.
Besides, Hoseok knows better than to tell him about things that will stress him out even more. Maybe once or twice Hoseok mentioned those names in passing, said something about having to deal with insufferable people from other agencies, but Seokjin was much too busy with trying to appease clients and salvage whatever was left of his life that time. He was barely even powering through life then; he won't be surprised if he forgot his own birthday at one point.
And now, he's awake. Taking deep, ragged breaths as he shifts from working on one brand to another, but for the most part he's alive. Right now, he'll take that over just 'existing'. He's better than he's ever been in years.
"I was busy then," Seokjin mutters in response, then stretches his legs under the table. His knees feel like rusty hinges; his thighs feel like brittle planks so close to breaking. But he still has at least two tasks to cross off his list and a friend who probably needs to talk to someone to keep him awake. So no, he can't rest just yet. He can't give in. "And I was terribly anti-social that time. I didn't have friends."
"You – kind and caring Kim Seokjin who's loved by everyone – antisocial? Hyung–" Jimin scoffs and shakes his head. "You're kidding, right? I can't imagine– I can't imagine you not having friends at work! How did you survive?"
I have acquaintances, Seokjin whispers at the back of his mind. Friends, though? Questionable. It's the price he has to pay for getting too close and intimate with Joonmyun, he supposes. When you have a boss, a mentor as great and competent as Joonmyun, it's difficult to not compare him with the next boss, and the next, and the next. And in the eight years he had spent in the crazy world of publishing, changing bosses and brands but not work, he can say that Joonmyun isn't like the others. Joonmyun might as well be the best boss he's ever day.
"I did my job, did it well, submitted stuff on time for the next few years–"
"Yeah, yeah, that's a given. Geez–" Jimin huffs. He juts out his bottom lip, sticks out his tongue, then he's wailing in the silence of the area, "Okay, now I can imagine how you never had good friends in your old workplace! You're a sly, unassuming evil guy who knows how to manipulate–"
"Everything but time, apparently," comes another voice, this time softer than that of Jimin's. It sounds a lot like sunshine after the rain, or at least the gentle winds of spring settling in right after a storm. Like stepping into foreign territory but being greeted by something that reminds him a lot of home. Seokjin shifts in his seat, then, addressing Joonmyun with a small smile and a curt nod. "Why the hell are you two still here? Aren't you supposed to be–"
"Working?" Seokjin shifts in his seat, twisting in place until he's facing his laptop again. There are a handful of new unread emails, all of them pertinent to the pitch, and– Who the hell even submits scripts past midnight and expects feedback? he murmurs to himself when he sees Yoongi's email. Granted, Yoongi had promised to send it 'in the next few hours' and it's been 'more than a few', but still. It's one in the morning. Yoongi was complaining about being too sleepy to function earlier. He'd laughed when Seokjin asked when he could send the script and said, I'll do my best, but no guarantees.
Seokjin takes a deep, deep breath, and exhales loudly. He'll have to endure this for the next few weeks. It shouldn't be too hard. Yoongi's a rather okay guy, if one can look past his inability to submit things ahead of time and to arrive at meetings on the dot. All he has to do is to focus on what Yoongi is actually saying, the lilts and rhythm of Yoongi's voice, the wicked contours of his mouth–
"We're working hard. Very hard," Seokjin says in a rush, tapping his fingers on the keys frantically. When he feels the tightness in his throat ease, he adds, "I mean, I was working really, really hard until Jiminnie got back and distracted me because the poor little kitten's tired and hungry and needs to rest–"
Jimin shivers. To Joonmyun, he says, "Why did you hire him again?"
Joonmyun shoots Seokjin a glance, then laughs. In a twist of fate, they choke back their laughter and, instead, turn to Jimin with a small smile and say in chorus, "Meow–"
"F– I hate this place!"
Seokjin presses the back of his hand and catches the last part of Yoongi's email out of the corner his eye. The little frown beside the 'sorry for sending this late' steals his attention for the quickest second, his focus, all the air in his lungs, keeping him from breathing easily.
"The bosses love you," Joonmyun says much later, half an hour into resuming work again and into Jimin slumping in his seat and slipping on his earphones. For a second, Seokjin thinks he's just hearing Jimin's music spill over from his ears and morph into something strange and twisted because it's almost two in the morning now, but he can still hear Joonmyun saying the exact, same statement, only louder this time. He tears his gaze from his screen, then, pressing a finger where he'd left off on the screen before turning to Joonmyun with strained eyes. He'd put a marker on it or something, but Joonmyun looks like he's a bit too excited to deliver the big news. "They like how you've been performing so far and–what the hell are you doing?"
"You distracted me," Seokjin mutters in a heartbeat. He sneaks a glance at the document and marks the last part he'd read in yellow, then looks back at Joonmyun and yawns. His chest feels too tight and heavy, but at least he knows this is from fatigue and not anything else. Or maybe he's sailing the boat of denial again and not acknowledging that he's a bit more invested in this job, in this particular project, than usual. "Didn't want to forget where I left off and wow, really, they said that?"
"They're more generous with praise than they look, you know."
"No, no, it's not that." Seokjin scrunches up his face, more in an effort to keep himself awake than to express what he truly wants to say. He's never had difficulty stringing together the right words in his mind for nothing less than a perfect enunciation, but this is probably the fifth time since the start of the pitch period that he's stayed in the office past midnight. It's the third straight day he's rendered overtime work not even because of his responsibilities as the pitch lead but because of work he'll normally be able to finish in three, four hours. And Yoongi, that asshole, sent the presentation flow that's nothing short of amazing at one in the morning. Sure, Seokjin could have opened the attachment at ten in the morning instead of two, but screw his inability to detach himself from work. Screw his inability to throw his hands up in the air and call it a day without finishing his tasks yet. Screw his inability to let go of things easily. "I mean– I don't know, hyung, I kinda feel like I haven't been... performing at my optimum? I've been missing emails–"
"Because you're involved in a pitch," Joonmyun argues. "That's normal, in case you're wondering. You know humans? Your kind? They can only do so much."
"My processing time's slower."
"Because your attention's divided. But it doesn't show in your output."
Seokjin lets his shoulders slump forward. "I could be doing more with all the time I spend here at work, you know."
Joonmyun rolls his eyes and huffs, the sigh escaping his lips ringing in Seokjin's ears. It makes Seokjin shiver a little. Or maybe it's the air conditioning at work.
"That's because you have such high standards for yourself."
"Which is just right, right? Because if I lower my own standards–"
"Then you won't be able to sleep peacefully at night because you're a fucking perfectionist," Joonmyun finishes. He snorts, reaches out, and threads his fingers through Seokjin's hair in a gentle touch. It almost feels uncertain, tentative, but Seokjin doesn't trust his judgment at such a late hour. Every single one of Joonmyun's touches leaves patches of warmth blooming on his skin. "Give yourself some credit, kid. If the worst workaholics and perfectionists in the company say that they're pleased with your performance and that they're impressed, then that says a lot, right?"
It speaks of how crazy they also are, Seokjin's tempted to argue, but his body gets the better of him and draws light laughter from his gut. He can taste acid at the back of his teeth, raking the column of his throat, opening him up and letting the words crawl from his stomach and up. He can feel his hands shaking, more out of fatigue than sheer excitement. And he can feel the pulse at the base of his throat quicken as he asks, "Did you mean Sihyuk-sajangnim?"
"All three of them. The three musketeers. The tres amigos, whatever you want to call them," Joonmyun replies, lips curling up into a smile. Sihyuk who wouldn't stop cracking the worst jokes while they were presenting the initial idea because, C'mon, you guys are too stiff! And we should never feel too boxed up, right?" Namjoon who couldn't stay still in his seat for more than ten minutes, but could rattle about executional ideas in the most convincing way possible for nearly an hour. Yoongi who had to be tapping quick beats on something all the time, like there was a song playing in his head at any time of the day, but spoke with the calmness and stillness of steady ocean water. The big bosses whom Seokjin probably wouldn't have had the chance to work with on a normal day, he not been the designated lead for pitches. It's a bit hard to imagine, the bosses talking about him that way with Joonmyun, but hey– "I know Sihyuk-sajangnim's pretty unavailable 110% of the time and Namjoon looks like he's joking about every single thing, but they mean everything they say."
"Oh yeah?" Seokjin whispers, doesn't say, Even Yoongi? Even what he does? "I mean, wow, thanks, but it's a bit–"
"Overwhelming, I know," Joonmyun finishes. He heaves a sigh, the tight corners of his eyes easing into something more relaxed. Slowly, Joonmyun drags his hand down Seokjin's nape, then rests his hand on Seokjin's shoulder. Joonmyun lets his touch linger long enough that Seokjin feels his insides turning on reflex, feels his throat go tight and dry and his chest grow heavy. It takes him back to that day, weeks ago, when he had been stuck in a sticky situation in an elevator and Yoongi somehow got him out of the mess with a kiss. And it fastens him to that moment with a thick web, with the way Yoongi chased after his lips with his teeth, craving more. So yeah, maybe Joonmyun's right. It is overwhelming. It's distracting. It's frustrating and it's driving Seokjin insane on those few times he isn't thinking about anything but breathing. "And don't be... misled by Yoongi's frowny, frowny face. The kid's an absolute marshmallow on the inside. He's... a koala pretending to be some wild bear. Boar. Whatever."
Seokjin snorts. You mean 'don't be misled by his empty gaze', right? he muses as he quickly shifts his gaze to his laptop's screen at the prompt of another email coming in. It's from Yoongi again, this time with a 'draft deck' attached and the words 'This reads a lot like a really rough sketch but this is how the lines should be chopped up, more or less. Just so you have an idea of the actual pacing of the preso. Think of it as the bare bones for a song or something. Or just... let me explain tomorrow, yeah. TY.' written on the body of the message in abnormally big characters. Varying sizes. Like Yoongi had somehow fallen asleep while zombie typing the email and accidentally-on-purpose tweaked the font size because he likes screwing with Seokjin's mind all the fucking time–
Cut it, Seokjin tells himself, again and again until he can drown out the other voices in his head. You're tired, drained, radioactive. Don't do or say anything you'll regret.
So instead, he mumbles, "Or his dead expression. He looks a bit dead inside all the time," bites the inside of his cheek when Joonmyun cocks an eyebrow at him, urging him to say more. "Or a rotten marshmallow."
"He's still your–our boss, you know."
Seokjin shrugs and buries himself in work again, clicking the download button before he can even forget what he's supposed to be doing. "A floppy marshmallow, then."
Joonmyun hovers for a few more minutes then he's shaking his head, rolling his eyes, pushing himself off his seat and stretching out his legs. From where Seokjin is, Joonmyun's supposed to look a bit more imposing than he should, especially when he says, "You two better be on your way home before three or else I'm forcing you two to take a leave tomorrow," but there's no edge to his voice. The shadows are soft on his cheeks. It's two in the morning and Joonmyun's smiling and giving both Seokjin's and Jimin's hair a light ruffle before pulling away and picking up his bag from the empty seat beside Seokjin's own. Seokjin can't be assed to retaliate and say, I'm not a kid anymore, hyung. He can only stick out his tongue in response. "And don't you even dare reply to emails if you do go on leave or I'll twist your nipples."
Jimin snorts. "Ooh, kinky."
Joonmyun groans, but for the most part it sounds like laughter – tired and rough, but laughter just the same. "So, can I expect nipple clamps on my desk on my birthday?"
Seokjin buries his face in his hands and doesn't even bother choking back the sound lodged at the back of his throat. "Hyung, please–"
The petition for Joonmyun to leave lasts for about five more minutes, or at least until Joonmyun shuffles out of the office in earnest, leaving behind nothing but a trail of faint laughter mixed with warnings, a parting message, a last reminder – "3 a.m., no later than that!" As if we can afford to take a leave tom–later, Seokjin grumbles under his breath, but he can't say he minds. Taking breaks lasting longer than an hour make him feel antsy, uncomfortable, as if he's missing out on something he absolutely cannot be thrown out of loop of, like he's missing important details of a bigger picture that's being presented to him. Still, he pads to the pantry as quickly as possible, coffee mug, glass, and the sheer desire to rest in tow. What he can afford is to come in at ten in the morning since he's already replied to all his unanswered emails and even given feedback on Yoongi's draft for the deck. Or maybe even twelve – he can drop by his favorite coffee shop first and lounge a bit there, take his time sipping coffee while answering emails on his phone–
He stops abruptly in his tracks when he sees a lump of something on one of tables in the pantry. Bright, blond hair, a familiar deck flashed on his screen and an even more familiar fedora so close to bumping against a cup of coffee, face buried in his folded arms and his body curled up in such a painful position – Seokjin's pretty darn sure he knows this person. There aren't too many people in the office who wear their hair blond – Heechul had just dyed his a nice shade of 'icy blue' two days ago – and no two people have the same shape of the body, so he can't be mistaken – this is Yoongi. Yoongi who was feeling under the weather the whole day but stayed in the conference room with them, anyway, offering ideas and polishing blunt suggestions to turn them into something beautiful, Yoongi who had supposedly gone home already, right after he had emailed Seokjin and said that he'll try his best to have everything delivered to Seokjin's inbox before the end of day, Yoongi who had been working until two in the morning just to get things done, and has now collapsed in a heap of limbs on a table in the pantry.
Yoongi who won't stop shaking and shivering at the cool air all around the room, but won't rouse from his slumber, either.
Seokjin looks around for... something he can use to help Yoongi deal with the cold – the remote for the air conditioning, a switch, a sweater Yoongi could have left lying around? Something more than a Fedora he can cover Yoongi with? But to no avail – there's nothing in the area that can help Yoongi keep warm or even coax him to get up and sleep elsewhere instead of just dozing off. All the voices in Seokjin's head are telling him what to do, come on, Jin, you're not as heartless as some people think you are, right? And every fiber of his being is telling him to go, slip out of his jacket, give it to someone in need. So with a huff, he removes his coat, dusts off the chips that had stuck to the sleeves while he was having his snack earlier, and drapes it on Yoongi's shoulders. Never mind that the jacket is a bit too big on Yoongi, almost swallowing him up, or that the sudden rush of cold leaves him feeling numb all over; all that matters now is that Yoongi has stopped shaking, that Yoongi's breathing has evened out, that the corners of Yoongi's lips are slowly curling up into the faintest smile like the little warmth lent by Seokjin's jacket has thawed him out.
He picks up the fedora and rests it on the tuft of Yoongi's hair, just enough to lend him a bit of warmth. When the prickling cold reaches his stomach and makes his insides turn, he takes a step back, takes the mug he'd set down on the table just a few minutes ago in favor of helping Yoongi out, and drops the things he'd used for the day into the sink.
He gulps down hard when he hears the faint, satisfied sigh coming from Yoongi's direction. With one last deep breath, he digs his hands into his pockets, curls his hands into tight fists, and breathes out, the tight knot in his chest coming off little by little.
It will be a long ride home. Long and drawn out, but strangely not as cold.
In the morning, he finds two pieces of candy on his work desk and a note scribbled in hasty writing, screaming at him in big and bold letters – TY. It shouldn't mean much, shouldn't mean anything at all; still, he feels the pulse in his palms, the back of his knees, the insides of his elbows quicken. Feels his palms grow a bit sweaty, then cold. He looks around – for an audience, for clues, for someone who might see him and think he's crazy, he isn't sure. All he knows right now is that it's almost twelve noon already and most of the accounts people haven't come in yet. And that maybe he'd left the part of his brain that makes better judgments before he's had his second cup of coffee at home, at the bus stop, anywhere but here.
He runs his thumb along the surface for a quick second before rolling his eyes, then, slips the paper in his drawer, and rips one of the wrappers open so he can pop the candy in his mouth. The first lick sets off explosions at the tip of his tongue. It tastes a lot like strawberry and mint and coffee, like weeks ago and a surprise encounter in the elevator with the most unlikely of people.
He shuts his eyes tightly even before the voices in his head can say a thing. And he heads to the pantry for a glass of water, for a drink, for real coffee, eager to wash away the familiar taste in his mouth and the lurching sensation in his stomach when he found his jacket folded neatly on his seat minutes ago, another note safely tucked in the pocket – VM.
It's been a running joke in agencies for years now that pitches can make or break relationships. There's an ounce of truth to it, Seokjin supposes – with all the arguments over ideas that had been suffocating them in the conference room these past few weeks, it would be a miracle if relationships and people walked out of the room unscathed. With all the yelling and screaming they had been doing just trying to drive a point across, it would be almost impossible to not let ill feelings linger in their system long after they'd stepped out of the pitch room. The guys from production can only take so much of Heechul's eye rolling and scoffing and casual murmuring of, "We gave them nice designs and the UX team just murdered everything, everything!" The creatives can only take so much of Yoongi's heavy sighing and shaking of the head, no matter how much Yoongi tries to temper his reactions. And Seokjin can only stay in the office past nine in the evening so many times until his patience breaks and fatigue bleeds onto his sanity. It's not as if he isn't going crazy already; he just wants to convince himself that he can do a few more hours of overtime, just a couple more until the actual presentation tides over.
Still, he heaves a sigh into the receiver and whispers, "I'll make it up to you next time. You know how rough pitches can get," when Hoseok hums on the other end of the line, neither expressing disappointment nor sympathizing with Seokjin. He remembers this from college – or was it high school? – during media pitch week when Seokjin had to market a tool to supposed Human Resource managers who spent more time doing paperwork and filing than actual 'people-work' and talking to employees to make sure they were happy with their jobs. Hoseok managed to finish his plates and presentations early. It was Ice Cream Thursday, yet Seokjin had to bail out that one time, One last preso, Hobi, I promise. Then I'll join you in the land of the living again–
He made it up to Hoseok with a sleepover and a marathon of all Harry Potter movies during the weekend. He hadn't seen Hoseok happier. Heck, it was the first time in weeks that he'd seen Hoseok display any sign of life at all.
Seokjin heaves a sigh, shutting his eyes as he leans back in his seat. Hoseok can be bribed with some quality liquor and the promise of samgyupsal, he's pretty certain, but it's the first time in a while that Hoseok's schedule has freed up. It's the first time in months that Hoseok has had the chance to leave work relatively early, and the first thought that crossed his mind was to spend some quality time with his best friend, ask Seokjin how he's been, if Seokjin's having the time of his life suffering the same fate as Hoseok was. It's the first time that Seokjin absolutely cannot make time for his friend even if his life depended on it, and he just feels like no amount of liquor and meat can ever make things right. "I know, I'm an asshole and I don't deserve to be called your friend and–"
"Hey, don't be too hard on yourself. You're still an okay friend. Just an asshole who keeps leading me on–"
"I'm just saying!" Hoseok laughs, bright and loud despite all the distance between them. Seokjin lets the sound curl at the base of his nape, lifting the tension in his muscles little by little. It pays to have a friend who works in the same industry. It pays to have known Hoseok for nearly his entire life already, pays that Hoseok knows Seokjin wouldn't miss meet ups like this if he weren't duty-bound and held up against the wall by work. "And we're doing a marathon of Toy Story and Lord of the Rings next time. No buts."
"Just those two?" Seokjin asks, the corners of his mouth lifting to a grin when he hears Hoseok snort on the other end of the line. "I thought you were going to make me sit through all one million episodes of Prince of Tennis and–"
"And your jjangmyun's here," Yoongi announces as he walks into the room, balancing food containers in his arms and pushing the door further open with one foot. He grunts, loud yet low, audible enough for Seokjin's muscles to shift completely on reflex. You can ask for help, you know, Seokjin would say but if there's anything he's learned about Yoongi these past few week, it's that soliciting help will be the last thing Yoongi would do even if he was already struggling. Yoongi hadn't ever stated it, probably never will, but Seokjin isn't blind to Yoongi brushing off Baekhyun's attempts at offering assistance and saying that he can work on the flow, "Just give me a few hours and you'll find it in your inbox within the day." He isn't about to play deaf to Namjoon saying he can be the one to look through all the design requirements for the pitch and Yoongi just shrugging in response and insisting they check the visuals alongside each other just to be sure. At first, Seokjin had thought Yoongi just couldn't trust people to do their job and deliver but, after a while, after many sleepless nights and email exchanges at two in the morning – "You shouldn't be awake, babe. Anyway, thanks for the feedback on the script. I'll get back to you in an hour." "Will you stop calling me that? Don't these emails get screened or filtered or something?" "Red velvet, then?" "Urgh, whatever. Just give me the revised script ASAP." "Got it, babe. :3" – he realized that Yoongi just wanted to check and double-check everything, make sure that everything they would eventually be presenting to Sihyuk was the best they could offer, go to bed knowing that they'd put their best work out there for clients to feed on.
Yoongi just wants to protect everyone from harsh critique from the outside. It hurt ten times more than the claws they dug into each other's skin during brainstorming, after all.
So Seokjin doesn't lunge forward. Instead, he stays a safe three feet away, only hovering when Yoongi meets his gaze and cocks his head in the direction of the containers. He tries to gather a few in his arms, but to no avail; the slightest movement makes Yoongi's arms jerk and the tower of containers shake.
"Did you even sleep last night?"
Yoongi peeks from behind the containers, blinking and lifting his eyebrows at the same time. His bangs cover his eyes a little, a light sheet of shadows draping over his eyelashes, but Seokjin can still make out the way Yoongi focuses his gaze on nothing, no one else but him, the way Yoongi sort of squints, but eases the furrow of his eyebrows soon after. He looks like... one of those anime characters in the shows he watches with Hoseok on the off chance they have time to power through an anime series. He looks surprised, but maybe it's just the product of his shaking arms. Seokjin had gripped Yoongi by his elbows without realizing in an effort to help Yoongi save the food just a few seconds ago; maybe if he takes a step back, puts some distance between them, he'll be able to see the look in Yoongi's features better.
"I remembered to ask for extra yellow radish, if that's what you're asking," Yoongi answers after a while. A loud gulp, then, "Two sets, actually. I tried your suggestion the other day, about eating jjajangmyun with the radish, and it actually tastes better."
Seokjin bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to sting. You remembered?, he's tempted to ask. He's tempted to prod. He's tempted to make Yoongi narrate the entire sequence where the yellow radish opened his eyes to an entirely new slew of possibilities with jjangmyun, but no, stop. Don't push too hard. Seokjin curls in his toes, then, the sharp jolt of electricity crawling up his legs a reminder that some people don't like being dissected out in the open. Some people like quietly accomplishing work in the pantry until two, three in the morning, and passing out right after they'd sent out important emails. People like Yoongi like helping people get out of weird situations with a kiss, but refuse any help they're offered. Seokjin has to live with that.
"You can... ask for extra mushroom and bean sprouts from that resto, too," Seokjin murmurs after a while, once he feels the tightness in his throat ease and sees the curious, curious gaze in Yoongi's eyes dissolve into something... safer. Not as intense, but not unfocused either. Yoongi always looks at people like he means to peel off their layers in the slowest, more torturous way possible. And Seokjin feels a bit too exposed right now even with all the stacks of food containers keeping them apart. "That is, if you want your jjajangmyun dryer than usual and you want to... spread out the sauce even more."
"It acts as an extender?"
"I wouldn't call it that? It's more of–" Seokjin twists his mouth to the side, then quickly presses his lips together, instead, when he sees the beginnings of laughter dancing on the jut of Yoongi's lower lip. Yoongi's arms shake again, and Seokjin takes it as his cue to jump, take the leap, guide Yoongi to the closest flat surface so they can get the food out of harm's way once and for all. Never mind that Yoongi might flinch or pull away any second; it's nine in the evening and they need to eat if they have plans of staying in the office for another four, five hours just so they can polish the presentation for tomorrow's pitch. He can live with the patches of warmth that will bloom on his skin if and when Yoongi decides to push him away. "Something you can add to your noodles so that the sauce isn't as thick and concentrated?"
"And the yellow radish is for?"
"To counter the thick and heavy taste. You'll want to even out the flavors on your tongue if you want to eat a lot of jjajangmyun." Seokjin drops his gaze to the bento-sized boxes he's arranging on the table in neat columns. Namjoon and Heechul will probably mix everything up later, but he doesn't care – arranging things and making sense of the chaos in his mind puts his heart at ease. "And this particular resto makes really, really great noddles. Even their classic ramyun's great!"
Yoongi chuckles. Without the tower of containers muffling the sound, filtering the crackles in Yoongi's voice, keeping them apart, it sounds brighter than usual, unlike most of Yoongi's 9 p.m. laughter. Not that Seokjin has been keeping a record at the back of his mind, cataloguing the sounds Yoongi makes when he's mad, frustrated, disappointed, sad, when Yoongi's excited, thrilled, curious, interested. He hasn't. His brain just happens to... be able to retain things he sees and hears in passing in clear and crisp images. And when you spend nearly twenty-four hours with the same person every single day in the same workplace, the same conference room, breathing in the same air, it's difficult not to care. "I should take eating lessons from you."
Seokjin furrows his eyebrows, face scrunching up a little in accord. He doesn't feel it – hasn't been feeling much since the clock struck six in the evening – but the way Yoongi throws away the small smile on his lips in exchange for something bigger, brighter, a grin that reaches the corners of his eyes, is enough to tell him that he probably looks a bit more hilarious than he'd like. "Eating lessons? Do those even exist?"
Yoongi shrugs. "You can be the pioneer or something. You've always had great ideas."
Stop. Don't go there, whispers a voice at the back of Seokjin's mind. It sounds a lot like his thirty-year old self, the same voice that had told him to pack his backs and leave his old company once and for all. It sounds a bit too real. He'd tried not to listen to it for the longest time but it just wouldn't stop until Seokjin said, You know what? You win. You're right. I should leave this toxic place. I should start living again. "Do I look like I have time for something like that?"
"You can make time."
"I'm–" No magician, he's tempted to say, but he manages to bite down on his tongue to recalibrate and mutter, "Whatever. I'm busy. And besides – is eating something you even teach? Doesn't that just... occur to you naturally or something?"
Yoongi stares at him for a while. Just stares, eyebrows lightly furrowed, but lips still quirked into a peculiar smile. He looks like he's seconds away from laughing again,the corners of his mouth pulling up and down in intervals, but he doesn't say a word, doesn't even make a sound for the next few seconds. In the past few weeks leading up to pitch day, Seokjin has seen this look on Yoongi at least ten times already, and every single time there isn't anyone else he can turn to to ask, Is it just me or is he just perpetually amused with my face?
"Stuffing food in your mouth is different from actually eating, though," Yoongi says after a while, voice a bit rough, but so strangely warm. It wraps around Seokjin's neck like... a scarf of sorts, soft and comfortable, nothing too imposing. On a normal winter day, he'd prefer just wearing multiple layers of clothes and praying to whatever god that his nape won't feel like breaking before he gets on a bus (and Hoseok would always berate him for deliberately not wearing enough layers, not taking care of himself enough). He'd do away with the scarf and the gloves, allow some of the cold from the outside seep into his skin, but right now he wants nothing but to wrap the warm lilts of Yoongi's voice around himself like a quilt. Maybe it's the late hour, the fatigue, the drain and drone of the pitch at work, but– "And you always look like you're having the time of your life whenever you eat."
–but Yoongi feels like a touch of home right now, at this very moment, a little past nine in the evening the night before the pitch. It's strange – he's only ever talked to Yoongi about work, deadlines, blasted cars and how to market them, getting enough sleep even if they have been going home at two in the morning these past few days, and about improving the jjajangmyun's overall flavor, but there's something about the way Yoongi studies him and searches for clues without begging for them that makes him feel okay with the whole... curious gaze thing. There's something about the way Yoongi pokes but doesn't push, the way Yoongi hovers but doesn't quite lean in all the way that makes the tight knots in his muscles come off slowly and surely.
There's something about the way Yoongi had enough sense to ask if Seokjin was okay with a kiss before making their mouths meet in an inelegant slide, before leaving scars on Seokjin's skin, bite marks on his lips that stung for days, that makes his insides turn.
"You're right, I guess," Seokjin mutters after a while, voice barely above a whisper. Yoongi shrugs, the same shrug he does when Namjoon commends him for a good idea or Joonmyun applauds him for turning that would otherwise sound like crap into gold. It's as if he's used to it already, turning blood into water and pulling off miracles. It's amusing as much as it is hilarious. It tickles Seokjin's insides hard enough to coax laughter to spill from his lips. "Should I call the others before the food gets cold?"
"Nah, let them come here on their own." Yoongi peels the cover from the container. The scent of the soybean paste wafts across the room, filling Seokjin's nostrils and tugging at the corners of his lips. His stomach lurches again, but this time it's a comfortable, familiar lurch. It doesn't make him want to curl up in a corner and hide. "They should have been here five minutes ago, anyway. You can't keep cleaning after their shit, else they won't learn."
"At the expense of missing deadlines?"
"Do you want them to miss a deadline one, two times, or do you want them to keep messing things up?"
Seokjin snorts. "Point," he whispers, then Yoongi's doing that cute little shrug again, the corners of Yoongi's mouth pulling up into a small smile.
Seokjin laughs a little and leans back in his seat. He watches as Yoongi snatches some of the mushrooms in the other container and adds it to his noodles, as Yoongi mixes all the ingredients together and takes small, tentative bites of the dish. Yoongi looks like a kid tasting something for the first time, or an adult who hasn't had a taste of jjajangmyun in a while because it once screwed with his system. And Seokjin probably looks like the creepy playmate hiding behind a tree trunk, watching Yoongi breathe, but at least he can hide that behind the veil of black noodles. He can stuff his mouth until he can't feel it anymore, until he can smile without Yoongi noticing, too tangled up and tied in his food.
He's okay with this distance between them, with Yoongi nodding in approval and holding two thumbs up as he licks the black sauce off of his mouth, with the way Yoongi's eyes quickly flit south, to the gentle swell of Seokjin's lips, then back up to look at Seokjin straight in the eye.
"You know, it never quite made sense to me how you ended up in accounts instead of creatives."
Seokjin looks up from where he's been adding slide transitions to the presentation and furrows his eyebrows a little, just enough for him to feel the throbbing in his temples all the more. The first thought that occurs to him is, what the hell is that supposed to mean? The second, I have to present this to you in a bit and you're distracting me? And he'd voice those out, let the words spill from his lips without preamble, but he's tired. It's closer to four in the morning now than three and their presentation is in five hours. It takes a little under half an hour to get to the Hyundai Motors office in Seocho-gu, and possibly another half hour to make sure that their brains are awake enough to take any questions thrown at them by their prospective client. He doesn't have time for games like this, but if there's one thing he's learned about Yoongi in all the weeks that they've spent holed up in the same room until the whee hours of the morning, it's that the only games Yoongi's willing to play are those he knows he can win cleanly.
So Seokjin heaves a sigh, lifts his fingers from the trackpad for a while as he mumbles, "I applied for the job. Like most people do." He waits for Yoongi's response, a follow up, and when all he gets is Yoongi narrowing his eyes at him, Seokjin drops his gaze back to his screen. "It was a conscious decision."
"Yeah. You don't look like the type who'd be swayed so easily."
Seokjin scoffs. It's true for the most part, but from time to time he'll recall that the whole 'getting a girlfriend thing because his parents have been asking about it' and realize that he can be swayed by the right people at his weakest moments. He was tired then, sick of his parents breathing down his neck and telling him what to do, that he should take up business in university instead of some 'stupid communications course', that he was getting old, he should start seeing women and saving up for his family in the future, "You don't want a girlfriend? What, are you gay?" It was bearable at first, but after a while the monotonous lectures felt more like taking a punch to the gut instead of just hearing sharp words pass through his ears. They choked him up so badly that he had to hold onto the closest thing for a chance to breathe easily again, to stay alive.
He laughs to himself. In hindsight, maybe he was an asshole for tricking Ahreum into believing that they could ever have a happy ending. Maybe he should buy her coffee or dinner sometime, ask if she wanted him to introduce her to good friends, confess, "Remember that kid from the anime club? Jeongguk? We sort of were a thing back in senior year. We could have been more." Or maybe he should just nod at Yoongi in approval because Yoongi hasn't looked away since he'd dropped his comment.
Stop complicating every single thing, he tells himself. To Yoongi, he says, "I'm a rock."
"You're a colorful rock."
Seokjin squints. He'd dissect that statement on any other day, but right now his brain and limbs feel like jelly. His eyes are sore. His can't even bring himself to thin his lips into something neutral that doesn't resemble a frown at the slightest. If this is Yoongi's attempt at wheedling answers out of him then Yoongi might just be successful. It won't be a clean win, though. It's unfair. "Yeah, I wear all the colors of the rainbow on my skin. In matte and metallic. Yay." He tries his best to smile, but he's already lost the feeling in his cheeks. He can't even feel himself breathing anymore. "That doesn't even make sense."
"It will later, once you're done with that preso and I'm the one going through it already." Yoongi shifts in his seat, pulling away from his laptop, then heaves a sigh. "You think differently." His shoulders fall forward automatically and all of a sudden Seokjin's muscles are twitching, the insane urge to lean forward so he can pull Yoongi's shoulders back, help Yoongi find a better, more comfortable position, press his thumbs down on the tense muscles on Yoongi's back teasing him to move closer, to reach over. It's hilarious – he's probably just as tired, but part of him can't seem to let go of the realization that hit him just hours ago, nine in the evening, when Yoongi sat up straight and slipped on his Chief Creative Director coat again at the first sign of the Baekhyun and Taehyung walking into the room.
Yoongi had looked at him with a stern gaze then. It felt a lot like a warning, but part of Seokjin felt like it was a plea for help, Please cooperate. I have to do this else I won't be able to scare them into meeting deadlines. You know how these kids are. So Seokjin hadn't said a word, simply sank his teeth into his food and tossed paper towels in Yoongi's direction when some of the soy bean paste stuck longer than usual to the corners of Yoongi's lips. He hadn't even uttered anything when he felt Yoongi kick at his foot under the table as a twisted form of gratitude. And Yoongi hadn't made a noise when Seokjin kicked back like they'd just formed some sort of secret footshake, except it was nothing like dancing.
"Is that a creative director's way of saying, 'you're crazy'?"
"Well–" Yoongi laughs. It sounds a lot like a bubble bursting into little giggles faint enough to go unnoticed, but there's no one else in the room but the two of them. Heechul and Taehyung have already gone home. Chanyeol and Kyungsoo from production are busy adding the last few touches to the credentials video in the broadcasting booth. Joonmyun's probably in the accounts area, either making sure Jimin goes home in the next five minutes or making sure that all the equipment they'll be bringing to tomorrow's pitch is already in one place, ready to just be shoved into someone's car trunk or backseat. Namjoon's supposedly taken a dump and hasn't returned since – "Don't believe him," Yoongi had muttered earlier, "He's just sleeping in his room." So there's nobody else for Seokjin to focus on but Yoongi and the way his lips curl up then pull down in an instant like he's fighting this insane urge to just let loose and grin in earnest. Seokjin's trapped, caught in the web of the situation, the moment, and he'd be lying if he said he wanted to be freed from the strings of Yoongi's voice anytime soon. This is the closest to feeling at home right now, and he'll take what he can get. "It is what it is. But if you've interpreted it that way, then–"
Then what, that makes me fit to be part of you cult of creatives worshipping nothing but work? "This is going to go back to the 'why aren't you in creatives' thing, isn't it?"
Yoongi smiles. It reaches the corners of his eyes, across the table, reels Seokjin in and keeps him right in place. "Yes, and no," he answers after a while, pausing as he shifts again in his seat. Uncomfortable, Seokjin notes at the back of his mind – Yoongi moves around and does things with his limbs when he's feeling a bit uneasy. Seokjin has seen Yoongi do this countless times during idea presentations, clasping and unclasping his hands, drumming his fingers on the table, not staying still for fear of his mouth moving against his will, giving him away. It's almost as if Yoongi's distracting himself from his own thoughts. It's peculiar. It tickles Seokjin's fancy more than it should. And it's convincing Seokjin more and more that, yes, he might just be crazy. "I'm just saying, you have a lot of good ideas."
Seokjin's eyebrows lift in thoughtless response. Good ideas can be anything – eating on time and not long after it's ceased to be 'lunch time', leaving as soon as he has already rendered eight hours of work whenever possible, midnight snacks and coffee runs more for his sanity than to stay awake, rest. Not having slide transitions in the chart-heavy parts because we don't need drama in data; we have to keep those secure and straightforward, he reasoned with Yoongi around half an hour ago. But Yoongi doesn't seem to be interested in those, instead dragging his gaze south when Seokjin sucks in his bottom lip and gives it a gentle nibble, just enough to keep him in this moment, awake, alive only five hours before the big pitch. "Good and bad ideas."
"Sounds ominous," Seokjin says, voice dropping beneath the clacking sound of his keys. He shifts his gaze for a moment, hoping to lose Yoongi, but Yoongi's gaze is focused and unrelenting, forever discerning. "Well, I guess I have really good days when I come up with amazing things, but otherwise–"
"You come up with better concepts than some of my art directors, to be honest."
Seokjin scoffs. He stops typing, the joints in his fingers locking as he lets the pads of his fingers hover the keys. He's fast losing time to make the transitions for the slides and the formatting uniform across sections, yet part of him is more interested in knowing what those good concepts are, why Yoongi thinks they're good, why Yoongi believes it isn't strange for someone who has had eight years of training in accounts to shift to creatives but thinks it's just so weird that Seokjin has never thought of dabbling in the arts. Duty, duty, duty, he tells himself, shoves down his throat until he can feel his insides turning, tickling his throat. After this, you can play games again and maybe talk to him if he isn't busy but for now, Seokjin, just please focus on what you're supposed to be doing.
He gulps down hard and curls his hands into loose fists. He trusted you to get things done. Now, don't let him down–
"You're kidding, right?"
Yoongi squints, eyebrows meeting in the middle a light knot. It eases just as soon as it settles in, doesn't even give Seokjin the chance to dissect it further and compare it against the catalogue of Yoongi expressions he's kept at the back of his mind. The one that he keeps shoving to the far back until he's forgotten them (or at least until Yoongi looks up at him with the same softness as he did just before Seokjin closed his eyes and let Yoongi kiss him). Seokjin prefers the indiscernible look over the blank canvas scrawled all over Yoongi's features right now, though; there's nothing to read here, nothing to discover, to understand. There's nothing to work with but the way Yoongi's voice drops low, heavy, dangerously rough. And he knows better than to study lip movement at three in the morning. He always gets the worst ideas past three. "Do I look like the type of person who'd joke around?"
"Well, no," Seokjin answers in a heartbeat, doesn't say, Just the type of person who'd kiss someone for kicks. A deep breath, then, "Sorry, forget I said that. I'm just–"
"Tired, hungry, late," Yoongi mumbles, pursing his lips as he finishes and heaves a sigh. He looks like he wants to say more, wants to tell Seokjin off for slipping back into old habit that he should have outgrown already, but he doesn't. Instead, he lets silence settle all around them for the next few seconds, until Seokjin feels a familiar shiver crawl up his spine – at the prompt of his muscles relaxing or at the sight of Yoongi's focused gaze, he isn't certain. All Seokjin knows right now is that he should probably kick Yoongi in the ass for distracting him, calling him out on being late when Yoongi was the one who'd stolen all of his attention, the air in his lungs, the last few dregs of his sanity. "You promised to let me see the deck in ten minutes and it's already been twelve."
"You promised to not disturb me and just behave."
"You were drifting off. I had to do something to keep you awake." Yoongi heaves a sigh, shoulders lifting a little in accord. A heartbeat then there it is, the corners of his lips curling up into a small smile, widening with every passing second, with every little bubble of laughter that spills from the corners of his lips. Seokjin's chest tightens just enough to make acid crawl up his throat but, for the most part, he can still breathe. If Yoongi doesn't say anything weird and stupid again then he'll be back to tip top shape in no time. The chances of that are zero to none. "What? You're awake now, right? You got shit done. All is good. Stop looking at me like you didn't actually benefit from this."
Seokjin rolls his eyes. "I can't believe you," he mumbles, then submits to the strangest urge to laugh. He can spare a few more ounces of energy for this; he's positive he can count on Yoongi to give him a gentle nudge if he ever passes out again or teeters on that thin line between sleep and consciousness. He can feel his limbs again. He has full control over everything but the thundering pulse at the base of his throat and the thumping in his chest. He's awake. "Okay, your turn. Don't mess with my animations; I made sure they were tastefully done."
"That explains the curtain animation, then," Yoongi comments as he walks over, inching closer to where Seokjin is. "Tastefully done, eh?"
"What? You haven't even seen–" Seokjin shakes his head. He's pretty sure he didn't include any crazy effects that can make the presentation look tacky instead of artsy, but then do I look like the kind of person who'd joke around? He leans closer to his screen, then, squinting as he goes through the slides he worked on earlier. But Yoongi beats him to it, gives his arm a gentle nudge and bumps his seat into Seokjin's own in an attempt to make space for himself. "You better not be shitting me or else–"
"Didn't I tell you I trusted your taste?"
"Yeah, but–" But sometimes I do things without realizing and maybe that has spilled over to my work? "Yoongi–"
Seokjin bites down on his lower lip long enough to sting. Sajangnim. Add an honorific at the end. Go on, save yourself, a voice at the back of his mind tells him, but too late – Yoongi's already contorting his face to this strange... smile. A cross between the shit-eating grin he loves wearing and the lazy smile that surfaces on his lips when he's pleased with the output he's reviewing but is too tired to use elaborate gestures as reactions. The type Seokjin has only ever seen in dramas or on the off-chance Joonmyun manages to convince Yoongi that having his art directors turn in designs two days before deadline is actually a good idea. It makes the slow, simmering heat at the pit of his stomach come to a boil but, at the same time, it makes him feel incredibly warm, enough that he feels the tension in his shoulders lift, the throbbing pain in his temples easing in accord.
"Doubt isn't good. Been there, done that," Yoongi says, voice just above a whisper. Then, reaching over, he lets the pads of his fingers ghost over Seokjin's skin. Seokjin shivers all over, little prickling packets of heat settling on his nape, then his insides are lurching in the way they did when Yoongi stopped right in front of him and asked, May I? May I slowly end your life with a kiss? "Now, move. And when I said I trusted your design sense, I meant it. If you could let some of the confidence you have as an accounts head or something spill over to the artist in you, that would be great."
Well sorry, I haven't had the chance to practice art and design in eons, Seokjin's tempted to say, but enough with that. They're heading into battle in a few hours. He can't keep lugging around old armor even if it's been tainted with nothing with victories. He's being offered new and shiny suits, much tougher than before, and he can't keep turning opportunities down; that's just ridiculous. So instead, he takes a deep breath, moves to his right to give Yoongi some wiggle room, and says, "I'll do that."
"And thanks. For believing," he says much later, when Yoongi's already a fourth into reviewing the presentation. Yoongi lets his fingers hover the track pad and tilts his head, but doesn't meet Seokjin's gaze yet. This is wiggle room, Seokjin muses, when Yoongi nods as if urging him to go on, but doesn't repeat himself when silence hangs in the room longer than usual. It's a comfortable silence that Seokjin doesn't mind listening to, doesn't mind wrapping around himself in a cocoon warm enough to lull him to sleep. It isn't–they aren't awkward. They're alright. And that's all Seokjin needs right now to temper the sinking sensation in his stomach. "That means a lot coming from you."
Yoongi chuckles. "I'm just me," he says, but the lilt in his voice and the slow-forming smile on his lips say otherwise. Still, Seokjin doesn't push, instead leaning away from Yoongi, putting more distance between them, letting both of them breathe. Pays Yoongi back with the same ounce of respect for space and sinks back in his seat, watching Yoongi from a safe distance as Yoongi hums, "Nothing special about that."
'Nothing special' turns out to be the best presentation Seokjin has seen in years – and that says a lot because his life back in publishing has been 50% actual client servicing and 50% trying to outsmart suppliers that have presented to clients before them. It isn't even because Chanyeol and Kyungsoo produced the credentials video in a way that made the people at BBDO look like secret agents who would go to great lengths to – "What," Seokjin recalls Yoongi grumbling after watching the first pass, lips turned down into the nastiest scowl, "Save the Sonata from the end of the world? Or save the world with the Sonata? No? Then redo the whole thing because that's what it looks like right now. We're not selling cars to Hyundai – we're selling ourselves looking good riding their cars to and from their office!" – deliver what Hyundai needed, or because they actually came to Hyundai in undercover clothing at first and ripped their shirts open to reveal their salespeople outfit. It's because of the time, effort, heart they'd poured into the preparation and the ideas coming together in a nice and perfect fit. It's all their plans – silly get ups included – coming to sweet, sweet fruition.
'Non-agency clothes,' Namjoon had called their outfits as he looked at his reflection in the glass walls of their building. Seokjin recalls Namjoon frowning at his dress slacks before they shuffled inside Sonatas they'd rented out just for the presentation, recalls Joonmyun rolling his eyes and shoving Namjoon inside before the latter could even complain another time. And he recalls as well, details clear and crisp in his memory, the way Yoongi had given him a once over when he walked into the conference room after brushing back his hair, the way Yoongi bit the inside of his cheek when their eyes met in the crowded room, the way Yoongi hummed and nodded and laughed a little before saying, "You're gonna upstage Hyundai's CEO," before sucking in his bottom lip and shifting his gaze.
Seokjin took that as his way out, his chance at taking a step back and looking at anything, anyone else who isn't Yoongi. "Maybe I should have gone with a bowtie."
"Maybe you should stop worrying," Joonmyun had commented as he ran his hands down his own polo for the nth time in the past ten minutes, then looked in Yoongi's direction for support. Yoongi's response was a small smile and a thumbs up; Seokjin's reflex was to adjust his tie, pinch his ears, look away. "You're gonna blow them away, knock 'em off their feet, give you the entire Hyundai portfolio without them realizing–"
Yoongi had laughed, low and faint, then heaved a sigh. Seokjin could've sworn his insides lurched, but that could be from not being able to eat anything before the big pitch. It was his body telling him to take deep breaths, take a break. It was his body telling him things he would realize later on, weeks down the line, when it's already too late. "You're perfect."
So Seokjin takes a deep, deep breath and wears his best smile as he goes through BBDO's entire list of accomplishments in front of the panel, talks about case studies in brief, sets up the stage for the next presenters and hopes for the best. Yoongi delivers with his dramatic narration of the idea, sprinkles bits and pieces of science here and there but ultimately highlights the meat of the message, the heart behind the whole execution. Namjoon takes the panel through the commercials they actually produced – "It's alive," someone from the panel exclaims, then laughs just before he covers his mouth with his hands for the briefest of moments. "The idea's– It's actually alive!" – and finished mastering just two hours before they left the office, and Joonmyun slides next to Namjoon, ready to back the material up with support, real research and data put together by a team Hyundai probably won't ever get to interact with closely but should be grateful for. It would be a rigid presentation if they hadn't been staying in the same conference room, breathing down each other's necks and breathing each other in for the past few weeks, Seokjin knows it, but the pitch sounds more like a performance now than a face-to-face with prospective clients and handing out brochures in the form of words. It sounds a lot like people dancing to the same beat, singing the same song. It feels both real and surreal sometimes. It's... magical."If the last part makes me cry, don't laugh. Just cry with me for full effect. Then we can all look weird together." It isn't difficult at all. All Seokjin has to do is to close his eyes, listen for the next few lines, and let the words come to him like one of his favorite songs whose lyrics he's memorized like the back of his hand years ago. All he has to do it to recite them at the back of his head, maybe even under his breath, as if they were his own.
He laughs to himself. About half of those are his; the other half once were, as well, except it was Yoongi who'd rearranged his thoughts to form more cohesive sentences. It was Yoongi who made sense of his mess and turned it into something beautiful. It was Yoongi who stayed up with him until five in the morning, until they were both satisfied with every single detail in the presentation, enough that they could show it to Sihyuk without a hint of hesitation. It was Yoongi who had insisted on staying, saying, "I mean seriously, it's not as if either of us will be able to sleep tight for the next few hours. Might as well be productive, right?"
"Because trust me, there's nothing to change," Sihyuk continues now, inching even closer to the panel until he's only around two, three meters away from them. "There are things to improve, yes – we should all always strive to improve – but to change and take away?" Seokjin shakes his head at the same time that Sihyuk does. "Never. That won't solve things. That isn't the solution. It's all about going back to where you began, that magical moment years ago when you promised riders and car owners that the Sonata would be a legacy brand they could and would be able to depend on no matter what. To that time when people said, 'You know what? Hyundai's right. The Sonata's not just a luxury car. It's comfort and class in one. It's a legacy.' You take that knowledge, that truth, and magnify it tenfold – by using your TV spots, actually highlighting the fact that this is the car you have other people drive you and trust to bring you to wherever it is in Seoul you want to be on a regular basis, by using print to remind another section of the market, the one that focuses more on the function rather than the form of the car, that these are what the Sonata has to offer. Here are the things you keep looking for in other cars, elsewhere, but only the Sonata can give. You use digital to make it easier for them to know about the Sonata better, to make it easier for them to book test drives, to get in touch, to build a certain brand of trust not only with the one repairing their car and making sure it's alright, but with you.
"You use us to bring you one step closer to your goal." Sihyuk thins his lips into a small smile, just enough to make Seokjin mirror the same look on his features. "It's as simple as that."
This is it, he notes when the silence stretches longer than usual, takes it as their cue to join Sihyuk at the center. They always skip this part during rehearsals and quickly go back to the beginning to polish whatever they'd done wrong in the previous run-though. Namjoon often says it's to preserve the magic of the moment, but Yoongi slams him right back to reality and says, "We just don't have much time. And we can't have hyung bawling everytime we do run-throughs. It will take him forever to calm down." Then Joonmyun would laugh and Sihyuk would nod in agreement and they'd all be shaking their heads, and Seokjin would have to push the lingering thought of wow, you talk to your boss like that? at the back of his mind, saving it for when it's just him and Yoongi in the conference room again, with nothing but the glass walls and the cool air all around them to bear witness to their conversation. After all, he talks to Yoongi like his underling sometimes, or someone he'd met for college; he's not about to be a hypocrite and call Yoongi out on an offense he's also guilty of.
But the pitch is about to end. Just a few more lines in the script and Sihyuk will have already wrapped the entire presentation up, all the weeks of preparation dissolving into their last bow, their last chance as standing next to each other and breathing in the same air. There will be more pitches in the months to come, but when? Seokjin hates uncertainty as much as he does late submissions. It makes him sick.
It throws him off-course, ruins his plans, shakes him up harder than it should.
"Smile," he hears someone whisper, a sudden burst of sound sticking to the back of his ears and making his shiver a little. It could have been anyone – people were passing behind him earlier, and he's sandwiched between Joonmyun and Namjoon right now, but neither of them seems to have just been talking seconds ago. They're wearing the same smile, though, the same brand of wonder in their focused, focused gaze that makes their eyes glimmer. And Joonmyun's turning to meet him in the eye, cocking an eyebrow at him as if saying, C'mon, smiling can't be that hard now, can it?
"Allow us to make the unimaginable happen for a second time and revive the legend," Sihyuk declares, firm and resolute, but not without that little curl to his tone, the excitement in his voice crawling up his throat and getting the better of him. "Allow us to pass on the legacy with you."
Seokjin gulps hard. This is the part where they have to hold hands and take a step forward – just one – before bowing. Or at least that's what they'd agreed upon before leaving the office, but everybody seems to be either too stunned or too tired to move. There's no hint of it on the smiles on their faces, though, even if the corners of Namjoon's mouth shaking a little like he isn't accustomed to wearing a small smile instead of a big grin, isn't apparent until Yoongi's shifting in his position two people away and walks over until he's making a space for himself between Seokjin and Namjoon.
Then Yoongi's looking up at him with eyes that would be too tired to focus if not for the adrenaline coursing through his veins, nudging Seokjin in his side with a gentle push of the elbow, dropping his hands to his sides until their brushing against Seokjin's own. Never mind that this might just be rehearsed, as well – Sihyuk's giving them a look that says, Well, what are you waiting for? We can't just stand here forever! So Seokjin splays his fingers out against his thighs, allows Yoongi to slip his fingers between Seokjin's own, the heat of Yoongi's palm and the thundering pulse on his skin bleeding onto Seokjin's unsteady, wavering hand.
Seokjin catches the small smile on Yoongi's lips blooming into a grin as they lift their intertwined hands in the air and bend their backs in a bow, catches the light squeeze Yoongi gives his hand before Seokjin tightens his hold on Yoongi even more. It feels like Yoongi wrapping his fingers around Seokjin's wrists, throat, Seokjin's chest with that bright smile of his.
Yoongi lets out a small laugh when Seokjin jerks in the fit of their bodies and holds onto his hand tighter than he should.
It feels a lot like winning.