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the more you hate

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"Well, that was quick."

Hoseok grips his phone tightly and squeezes his eyes shut. On most Thursdays, he's the luckiest man in the world, save for, possibly, Jeongguk who almost always scores good tips and commendations with customers who are too damn hard to deal with, but today he's about 60% sure he's lagging far behind. Sucked into a different timezone, stuck in Tuesday, of all days. Stuck, meaning he still has at least six more hours of flashing smiles at crazy impatient customers as he hands them their orders before he can tap out and head to his radio gig in Yeouido. Stuck, meaning his boss will, most likely, ask him to stay for another hour to do inventory or maybe help the new recruit with a couple of orders, because Jeongguk isn't exactly the best at teaching people how to make coffee without getting too technical and Jimin is way too impatient for things that involve math. Stuck in Tuesday, the longest day of the week, meaning he still has three more days to try to defend his gym post in the Pokestop just three feet away from the coffee shop he works in, meaning he still has seventy-two excruciating hours to try to keep some dude named 'j00nius912' from kicking him out of his gym and claiming his points in the Pokeshop. Asshole. Cheat. No fun.

He takes a deep, shaky breath, and kicks one leg in Jeongguk's general direction. Stretches out even more when he misses Jeongguk by a few inches, with only the tip of his shoe grazing Jeongguk's pants, but doesn't strain himself even more when Jeongguk dodges even that. He's not letting the brat screw with his momentum, nope, not when he only has seven, eight minutes left in his break time. He's not letting Jeongguk mess with his brain because he has to reclaim this gym from this 'j00nius912' guy who's using an overpowered, 3000 CP Dragonite at a low level of 22. And he's most definitely not succumbing to whatever lowly level the guy has sunk to, because—

"You grind hard for these things. You work for this shit. Won't be fun, otherwise," he mutters, mostly to himself, but he catches the tiny, tiny curl pulling up at the corners of Jeongguk's lips, anyway. It's not hard to miss — Jeongguk has never been the best at controlling his facial muscles, after all. But then it's not as if Hoseok hasn't spent the five years memorizing every twitch of the eyebrow of every person who walks into their coffee shop in Garosu-gil — actual employees and honorary employees, included — what every shift of the muscle or quirk of the lips or every heavy exhalation means, and how that translates into the type of coffee that they need, if they need it at all.

The slow-forming smile on Jeongguk's lips means triumph, satisfaction, celebratory ristretto bianco at four in the afternoon instead of the usual short-pulled americano. And, most days, Hoseok succumbing to the strangest urge to maybe add in a pump or two of mint in Jeongguk's drink if only to annoy him, but nah. Too much work. He only has five minutes of free time left, and if he wants any shot at getting good catches during his second break then he should go around the area really quickly to collect Pokeballs. So instead, he turns to Jeongguk again, offers a wry smile, and straightens up as he argues, "Shut up. I was totally talking about beans."

"Yeah, because you throw beans at Pokemon now so you can catch 'em. Wait. Won't that be steroids for Pokemon—" Jeongguk cackles at the same time that Hoseok lets out a stifled groan. His phone is at the edge of the stone slab they're sitting on, so dangerously close to falling into the fountain right behind them if Hoseok just swings his arm back a bit too hard, lets the tips of his fingers graze Jeongguk's phone, gives it a gentle push. He can totally pass off it off as an accident, but Focus, focus, he tells himself. If he runs around the block now one last time, he should be back in the shop in a minute or two, and he will still have a couple more minutes to catch his breath, chug down a glass of water, wipe sweat off of his brows and then slip back into his apron, in time for the end of his shift.

Or he can just train with his team and bump up the gym's prestige, make it impossible for other people to out him from being the leader, rule part of Gangnam by holding up his team's flag, waving it with pride—

"Oh, look. The gym turned red," Jeongguk hums, then cranes his neck as he offers Jimin a salute. He turns to Hoseok with a menacing grin. "Yay, Team Valor?"

Hoseok nose twitches. He hates red. He's seeing red. And he swears to Arceus he's going to take Jeongguk down, wipe out his entire account, corrupt his game, tell Seokjin to give the kid longer hours because the kid is 'painfully good at what he does', he has a bright future ahead of him, hyung, and what better way to learn than to give him more opportunities to hone his talent, right? so Jeongguk could actually stop being a fucking pain in the thumbs, what with all the battling Hoseok has to do—

"That's 'yay, Team Instinct' for you, kid," Hoseok singsongs when he catches the marker switch to a different color out of the corner of his eye. He sticks out his tongue, reaches out to give the tuft of Jeongguk's hair a light fluff, and peeks at his phone for a quick second to check who'd saved him from having to endure Jeongguk gloating about his win so he can thank the guy or something. Okay, never mind, it's the asshole. One of these days, I'm gonna track down this kid and put him in place—

Hoseok's gaze flickers. He can tell just by the flash of black and the occasional glimmer of gold that walks into the coffee shop that it's already four in the afternoon. He's witnessed this scene at least a hundred times already, has seen the same blob of black walk into and out of the shop almost every day of his life for the two years or so to be mistaken. M-W-F, on the dot, a guy dressed in black from head to toe will walk in at 16:00, wide-brimmed hat slanted so as to reveal just a fraction of his features, the thin press of his lips, the faint scars on his cheeks. Sometimes, he'll have his laptop case tucked under one arm and a thick brown envelope stuffed with whatever under the other, and the caps of two pens peeking from the pockets of his long, long coat (even at the height of summer; Hoseok still doesn't get it). Other times, he'll walk in with nothing but a hugeass notebook, the charger for his phone, and round-rimmed glasses he could be wearing if his eyes weren't shielded by shades. And then even rarer, he'll burst through the doors with nothing but his phone, headphones slung around his neck, and sort-of-blood-shot eyes that make him look like he'd just tumbled out of bed and the only thing that could save him was a double long black, extra hot.

Then — and this part always makes Hoseok laugh a little, or at least tickle his throat enough to coax the corners of his mouth to pull up into the smallest of smiles — the guy will make a beeline for the counter as soon as his eyes find Hoseok's own. He'll widen his eyes for a quick second but be on his heels the very next, then lean against the counter until Hoseok is positive the man can be breaching his personal space already if he just leaned in a bit more. Then the man will squint at the menu like he'll ever change his order, but Hoseok never calls him out on that; instead, Hoseok just stares, studies the fresh lines and wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and counts down the seconds until the guy finally speaks up.

Piccolo latte with half a pack of brown sugar — the man will say without fail. When the dark circles under his eyes look like the next apocalypse waiting to happen, he'll switch it up a bit, muttering, Actually, can you take out the brown sugar? Just a plain piccolo. Extra hot. The hottest you can go. And oh, I'll have a biscotti, too. Thanks. The only time he's ever changed his order was that time he got a tooth extraction — information Jimin had gathered, because the guy's crazy amazing at somehow making customers share unsolicited stories about themselves — and even then he'd just asked Jimin to add ice to his usual piccolo. "You... know how to do it, right? I mean— Of course you'd know how to make it. I'm staying at the far back. As usual. You already knew that, yeah. Right."

"He's like one of those guys you usually see in romcoms. Or... y'know those... afternoon dramas, there you go," Taehyung had commented after Jimin's narration. Jimin laughed; Jeongguk just snorted and waved a hand in the air, then grumbled something that sounded a lot like 'nothing about the guy screams handsome romcom lead to me'. Still woozy from cough medicine and antibiotics, Hoseok probably would have missed it, the little scrunch of Jeongguk's nose or Jimin's smug smile or the way Taehyung kept shaking his head and saying they were missing the point, but Hoseok was about 70% sure he got it, whatever it was Taehyung was trying to say. The guy was probably wearing his douche glasses again that time and leaning way too close for comfort in Jimin's direction as he said— "And I mean high school drama with your classic student council president or ace student stereotype stuttering for the very first time as he says—"

Stuttering? "Stuttering?" Hoseok had never heard the guy stutter before. "Are you sure? I mean, the guy takes a hella long time, thinking if he'll change his order, but... Stuttering? I dunno, man, it's just—" And besides, the guy didn't have a reason to stutter at all. There was only one drink in the menu in his mind and his options were limited to temperature alterations and sweetness levels. He didn't like the seasonal sandwiches that the cafe offered. The one time he strayed from his usual order, he got peppermint tea with a shot of espresso and a biscotti, still. So it didn't make sense, the guy stumbling over his words, losing his sense of logic, and every ounce of composure that he had even after breaking one coffee cup after another. He'd known the guy for more than a year already, and even if Hoseok were to rearrange all the little puzzle pieces, he was dead sure this whole 'stuttering shazzam' wouldn't make sense. "That's... weird."

"I didn't give him my number, if that's what you're wondering. He didn't ask for it, either," Jimin announced. To Jeongguk who wouldn't stop making weird faces at his own reflection on the espresso machine, he added, "And nope, he didn't give me his number or email address or whatever. There. Happy now?"

"I'd totally be happy if he asked for mine," Sunyoung quipped from a few feet away. She had her head hung low, but the violent upward pull at the corners of her mouth were visible through the strain on her cheeks, in the peculiar glint in her eyes, in the gentle lift of Sunyoung's shoulders and the curve of her body that gave her away. "D'you think I should actually write my number on his receipt one of these days?"

"D'you think you can wipe the tables faster because we're opening in fifteen minutes?" came Seokjin's voice, booming throughout the place and making Sunyoung snap up straight. Seokjin thinned his lips into a small smile. "Awesome. We're out of biscotti, by the way. Hey, Hobi, if your boy asks for one, tell him we're restocking tomorrow so he can use cookies as a sub, instead. If he wants— Ah wait, is he the one who hates macadamia?"

"He hates nuts," Hoseok answered. He craned his neck, squinting to check the display on the shelf. The dude hated Oatmeal cookies, as well. There was no winning with this one. "All kinds of nuts, except almonds. So he's gonna starve today. Are you sure we're out of biscotti? Maybe we have a couple more at the back—"

"Or he can just move to another coffee shop," Jeongguk offered.

Hoseok snorted. "Don't be silly. He would never," he retorted, then waved Jeongguk off. Maybe the regular would be good with a stroopwaffel, instead. One topped with espresso drizzle. Hoseok was pretty sure they still had those in stock. "Does he even know any other coffee shop? I mean, he's here nearly the whole day every damned day, so I don't think—"

"Didn't think you hated Valor that much, hyung. You're siding with Instinct now? The losers? Really?" Jeongguk says now, voice cracking a little as it peaks. There's a silly grin on his lips now, one that makes him look like one of those characters Hoseok has once seen doodled on the regular's customers, but Hoseok can easily be just imagining things. His vision always gets a bit hazy when he doesn't have his glasses on. He hasn't seen this figure in a while, not in the past few weeks. And his phone is buzzing in his hand, probably telling him to get his ass back in the shop so he can check if one of their shop's patrons has, indeed, come back to life, and it's messing with his focus, so— "Hold up. Isn't that— Socket Sucker's back?"

Hoseok laughs to himself, rough and bitter if not for the tension coiled around his throat easing. You mean socket and energy sucker, right? he wants to say, but instead he shrugs off the thought and loads an egg into one of his incubators. Slips his phone back in his pocket and doesn't let go just yet, or at least until he's certain his phone won't buzz anymore, taunting him to pull up the app and catch another Pokemon, just one more. Seokjin will be after his ass if he doesn't get behind the counters and the machines in the next ten seconds, he just knows it, and if Jimin's having a bad enough day then he might even earn a glare from him because Jimin thinks macchiato is far more superior than the regular's piccolo. That, and it has been a while since he's whipped up a piccolo for anyone. Twenty-one days, to be exact. Seriously, who the hell even orders a piccolo these days?

People who aren't afraid to be judged for their coffee order just because it sounds pretentious, whispers a voice at the back of his mind. He files that for later, along with the desire to win back the gym he's managed to guard for the past few weeks, and swings the door open, ready to conquer this gym. Or people who plan to stay in a coffee shop 'til closing time or at least they get kicked out by their regular baristas.

Socket Sucker looks over his shoulder with wide, wide eyes, and breathes out. Hoseok smiles at him in thoughtless response.