It took a few tries to get the key in the lock to rotate all the way but, once it had, the door swung open easily. Lee Hoseok (whose friends referred to him strictly as “Wonho”) stepped through the door of the tattoo parlor, flicking the lights on as he crossed the threshold.
He immediately jumped back, cursing colorfully.
“Jesus, Kihyun, why are you already here?!”
Yoo Kihyun, the sharp-tongued receptionist at the tattoo parlor, leveled a stare at him with a dead look in his eyes. “How would you respond if I told you I never left?”
Wonho just shook his head and shouldered past his companion, dropping his bag at his station.
“I’d tell you not to work too hard because you know it’s free reign if you fall asleep.”
Kihyun grinned. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Hey, canvases are canvases,” Wonho laughed, brandishing his tattoo gun at the receptionist. “We both know we’ll take what we can get, especially my apprentice.”
Kihyun crinkled his nose. “Ew. Don’t let him anywhere near my body.”
“Then don’t fall asleep.” Wonho began organizing his tools for the day - squinting at blackboard, he had four appointments for the day, which was more than manageable. His first appointment wouldn’t be in for an hour, so Wonho settled down at his desk, pulling his lightbox out from the cabinet under the desk and preparing to ink a few sketches for the tattoos he would do today.
A few minutes later, the door opened, and a young man with jet-black hair and an eyebrow piercing sauntered in, hands occupied with a drink carrier.
Kihyun hummed in contentment as Im Changkyun, the shop’s apprentice and designated gremlin, set one of the cups in front of him. He then proceeded to tip the contents of the cup straight into his mouth, barely even swallowing, and downed the whole thing before setting the cup back down as Wonho and Changkyun watched in horror.
Wonho’s regular hazelnut mocha was set on his desk next, and he smiled up at his apprentice, who then crossed the store and began setting up his own station. Wonho and Changkyun, although technically teacher and student, had quickly become a fantastic duo. Wonho specialized in blackwork, drawing bold lines and sharp edges down his clients’ bodies, while Changkyun was a master of delicate colors. The two had collaborated on many a piece, and they worked well together, so Wonho always enjoyed it when Changkyun was in the office with him. Changkyun was still a student at the local university, but he had made a name of himself in the tattoo industry at a young age under the pen name I.M. - Wonho had actually found the kid at an underground tattoo convention and had hired him on the spot after seeing Changkyun paint a beautiful watercolor fish on a woman’s ankle. The tattoo shop had only been open about a month, but clients had been steady, and with the three working together, they’d made a good name for themselves early on. Kihyun was always on top of things, and Changkyun was an incredibly hard worker. Together with Wonho’s talents, the shop had become quite successful.
Wonho hummed a bit as he flipped through the request book, pulling out the day’s appointment sheets and reading them through. When he got to the third one, he sighed heavily.
Changkyun looked over from his desk. “You good?”
“Yeah,” Wonho replied, squinting at the paper. “Just another flower piece.”
Changkyun laughed. “Oh, your favorite. What’s it this time?”
“Forsythia. I’ve never heard of it before; it’s in the olive family, apparently. I have no idea how I’m going to do this one.”
Kinyun appeared at his side, thumbing through the application with a straight-lipped expression.
After a few minutes, he turned to Wonho. “You know there’s a flower shop across the street, right?”
Wonho blinked. “Yeah?”
Kihyun groaned, flicking the artist on the head. “So go over there and study, dumbass.”
“Wait, that’s actually a really good idea.” Wonho was already out of his seat, grabbing his sketchbook off the table and shoving his wallet in the back pocket of his jeans. “The Internet says it should have bloomed sometime last month; hopefully they’ll have some I can sketch.”
And then he was gone, out the front door of the tattoo parlor and jogging across the street to the little flower shop across the street. It was fairly unassuming - the front window was full of brightly colored blooms in various pots, and there were hanging baskets outside the shop, beckoning passerbys to come and visit just a bit. Wonho steeled himself, then pushed the door open, hearing the bell jingle as he crossed the threshold.
A broad-shouldered man standing near the window, arms crossed and a dirt-speckled apron tied around his waist, smiled and welcomed him as he entered the shop. At the counter, a tall, lanky man with black hair set down a bag of soil and greeted him. Wonho took that moment to survey the shop - despite the sheer number of plants in the tiny storefront, the place seemed to be fairly well taken care of, and the variety of colors were almost unbelievable. Wonho itched to whip out his sketchbook immediately, trying his best to take in the organized chaos of the flower shop, but movement caught his eye before he could speak.
From behind the broad-shouldered man, a person with platinum blonde hair and dark eyes blown wide sped at a frightening speed from a place near the window to the back of the store, presumably into the storeroom. The dark-haired man at the counter watched them go with confused eyes, but quickly regained his composure and walked over to the newcomer.
“Sorry about that,” the man chuckled, though the laugh seemed a bit forced. “It’s been an interesting day. My name is Hyungwon. How can I help you?”
Wonho shook his head to clear his thoughts - maybe it was normal to sprint around this shop? - and instead sent a smile in the direction of the worker. “I’m actually from across the street; I work at the tattoo parlor. I was looking to see if you might have any forsythia?”
The broad-shouldered man, who had been listening in, walked to a corner of the store and came back with the familiar yellow blossoms. “Will these do?”
Wonho brightened. “Those are perfect! I’ll take them.”
The man smiled as Wonho took the flowers from him, and Wonho was suddenly struck with just how beautiful everyone in this shop was. The broad-shouldered man had flawless tanned skin and perfect teeth; the dark-haired man, Hyungwon, had milky skin and piercing dark eyes; and the unknown worker, the one who had fled from the scene, had been startlingly pretty.
Wonho made a mental note to come visit the shop more often.
He went to the counter and paid for the forsythia blooms; Hyungwon tied a yellow ribbon around the pot and handed it back, wishing him good luck as he left the shop. He was lost in thought as he walked back to the parlor, hands securely on the pot. Kihyun sent him a thumbs-up when he saw the flowers, asking him how it went, and Wonho answered truthfully - nice shop, nice people - and set the flowers on his desk.
He turned around once more, looking out the front window of the parlor, to see the young man with platinum blonde hair in the window, eyes staring holes into the glass.
Wonho shook the strange feeling off and went back to work.