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Of All The People ( Why You? )

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“Quick! He’s gonna reach soon and you know how much he hates these messes,” Wonpil rushed his subordinates to clear the long, wooden table they often used to discuss projects when the meeting rooms were occupied. Earlier was no different, resulting in the pale wood being hidden under stacks of paper and empty coffee cups. No one asked who he was talking about, only a look of alarm on their faces as they sprung into action. Whispers and curses were heard as the whole level, or building really, buzzed with the return of the young CEO.

"Shit, shit, shit! Where's my proposal? Wonpil hyung, have you seen it?" Dowoon, one of the youngest editors they had who actually managed to survive to work in this hellhole, asked as he adjusted his glasses. There were dark circles around his eyes and Wonpil knows how many nights he's stayed up working on that proposal to submit later. He takes pity on him and racks his brain, letting out a gasp when he remembers seeing that blue folder Dowoon's been carrying around for weeks somewhere under the pile of papers by the printer. The younger thanks him with a deep bow before he's rushing off. Wonpil sighs as he stands in the midst of the chaos, deciding to look for the only person who would be as calm as he is at this point. He spots the raven head and calls for his attention.

“Youngjae! Over here.” Wonpil beckons, waving a hand to the younger. This was Choi-Im Youngjae, the adopted son of the Chairman himself. Supposedly, he was raised to be level-headed, sly in the right times, business orientated and not one to let sentiment cloud his judgement. But this man, who runs up to Wonpil and loops their arms together, a wide smile on his face as he bounces slightly on the balls of his feet - is nothing like what he was raised to be. That, plus the fact that he was adopted, was probably the reason why he was a Human Resources manager instead of running the company at the top of the building like his older brother. But Youngjae didn’t mind, preferred it actually. It was more peaceful of a job as compared to what his brother did and definitely less demanding and stressful.

“How’re you holding up? I heard you had to break the news to him about his secretary?” Wonpil asks. Poor Hyunjin, the young cheerful boy who was still full of innocence even though he probably had the toughest job in the company, had fallen and broken his leg. He was now hospitalised with a huge cast around it and off work for three good months, which would have left the young CEO to manage his own schedule. Would have, if it wasn’t for his younger brother and trusty Chief Editor, who happened to know someone in need of a job. Speaking of which, Wonpil checked his phone and wondered why Jinyoung hadn’t replied yet. He prayed to God he wasn’t late, or that would be the breaking point to Jaebeom’s temper.

Im Jaebeom, the first and only blood son of the Chairman of Im Tradings Incorporated. Raised by his tutors and maids more than his father, he was taught to succeed in the business world. Countless lessons, attending meetings when he was freshly 20 by his father’s side, Im Jaebeom probably had more dates with his work than with a person. He was surrounded by people who were all older than him but could only dream of achieving what he has.

To many, it might seem like a dream come true to be so successful at the young age of 25. But even though they aren't close enough for Wonpil to call himself part of Jaebeom's friendship circle, Wonpil's observant enough to know that Jaebeom has little to no real friends. There have been many who have tried to gain the young CEO's trust, but very few have. Sometimes, Wonpil finds himself pitying his own boss when it's a Friday night and all Jaebeom has is his laptop and the cold, empty office. He wonders how a person can do it all and still live every day as if it's nothing, going on business trips after business trips and attending meetings after meetings. Speaking of which, it had been a week since the huge twenty story building had been Im Jaebeom free due to his latest business trip to Dubai. Today was the day the man himself returned, and honestly, Wonpil was happy that he might actually have some time to himself to rest this time.

"I'm great hyung, just worried. Your friend is coming, right? He has to, I promised hyung that he'd have a replacement by today and you know what's gonna happen if he doesn't," Youngjae chews on his lower lip nervously, his fidgeting getting worse next to Wonpil.

“Jinyoungie’s gonna come through, I promise. Just that I’m not sure whether we’re gonna be alive by the time your brother walks through those doors,” Wonpil says, trying to keep the tone light but immediately worrying about his job.

“Well, too late. Hey Jaebeom hyung! Welcome back,” Youngjae smiles despite himself and walks forward to hug his brother. Jaebeom is still in his business suit, the velvet soft black material hugging his shoulders nicely and a deep maroon dress shirt that’s neatly tucked into matching velvet black pants.

"Hey, Jae. How's the week been?" Jaebeom gives him a soft, private smile that he reserves for his loved ones only. Despite being step-brothers, they clicked well even though their personalities clash once in a while.

“It’s been okay. Are you still mad about the secretary thing?” Youngjae asks worriedly as they walk to join Wonpil who looks at Jaebeom warily. The two of them see how Jaebeom’s jaw clenches but he lets out a sigh after, knowing that blowing his fuse would do no good.

“It’s fine, as long as Wonpil’s friend can do his job well. Where is he, by the way?” And the silence that surrounds them is pin-drop, everyone waiting for the inevitable. Wonpil gulps and sends a prayer up to the heavens and Jaebeom’s eyes narrow and he steps away from Youngjae’s hold.

"You mean, he isn't here yet?" Jaebeom asks voice low and Wonpil wants to die. He thinks death might be a better option than dealing with an intimidating Im Jaebeom at eight in the morning on a Wednesday.

“Um…” Wonpil shrinks back as Jaebeom corners him, but thank God Youngjae is there. He puts a firm hand on Jaebeom’s arm and tugs him away, muttering a low and warning “Jaebeom hyung,” that has Jaebeom sighing. He presses the bridge of his nose and shuts his eyes, counting down as he tries to keep his temper in check.

This isn’t Wonpil’s fault, this isn’t Wonpil’s fault, this isn’t Wonpil’s fault. No point in yelling at him, Im Jaebeom. Step away, tell him you’ll wait. Be nice for once, he tells himself and when he opens his eyes again, everyone is staring at him with bated breath.

“I’ll be in my office waiting. If he isn’t here in thirty minutes tell him to not bother coming,” Jaebeom says, proud of himself when it comes out surprisingly neutral.

“Yes sir,” Wonpil squeaks out and quickly bows, the other workers doing the same as the two brother’s take the elevator up, up, up to the twentieth floor where Jaebeom can finally breathe and be himself.

“I thought you did pretty well back there, hyung. I’m proud of you,” Youngjae grins as he takes a seat on the plush leather couch in Jaebeom’s office.

“Really? Didn’t notice,” Jaebeom replies sarcastically but a small smile goes to his face. It’s a step up from the last time he got mad - he threw a file at the poor intern who was just passing it to him for his superior and the kid quit the next day.

“You know they like you right? They’re just…afraid of making you mad, is all,” Youngjae assures him.

“Uh huh, sure Jae. If the whole building has to go into a panic attack every time I get back I’m sure it means I’m well liked,” Jaebeom doesn’t really let his feelings get affected by what people think about him, even though being well-liked does come in handy when he needs something. For example - Youngjae. He’s the golden boy of their company and everyone’s always willing to lend him a hand. But when it comes to Jaebeom, people have trouble believing there’s something he even needs help with.

“I’m serious hyung,” Youngjae points out, Jaebeom humming in reply as he checks his phone for messages he’s missed while on the flight back.

From: Mark Hyung
Jaebeommieeeeee

From: Mark Hyung
Don’t forget about tonight

“Tonight? What’s tonight?” Jaebeom asks no one in particular. Youngjae perks up at that.

“Mark hyung’s company is having their annual dinner party and he invited you, don’t you remember?” Jaebeom curses and desperately wants to change his schedule but he’s got a meeting with that new shipment company and currently, still no secretary to do anything.

“Shit, could you make it Youngjae?” his brother shakes his head no. “Then the brat it is,” Jaebeom says, typing off a series of texts to the brat in question before he replies Mark.

To: Gyeom the Brat
Hey you’re replacing me tonight at Mark hyung’s company’s dinner

To: Gyeom the Brat
Don’t argue and I’ll treat you to drinks next time

To: Gyeom the Brat
Wait who am I kidding I treat you all the time you owe me

To: Gyeom the Brat
So go and make sure Mark hyung doesn’t get stupid drunk

To: Gyeom the Brat
You too

From: Gyeom the Brat
WAIT WHAT HYUNG WA I T

To: Mark Hyung
Hey Mark hyung? I'm really sorry but I can't make it today because Hyunjin just got injured and there's this thing with a new secretary and everything and I have a meeting with this new company later on and I'm really really sorry. I checked with Yugyeom and he said he's cool to go if you're okay with that?

From: Mark Hyung
Aww, it's okay Jaebeommie. I know how important work is to you, I'll go with that idiot then. Good luck with your new secretary by the way!

To: Mark Hyung
At this point, I need him to actually be here to make progress

From: Mark Hyung
And I’ll be here praying for his soul :)

Jaebeom locks his screen with a smile, his mood infinitely better from talking to his friends. It's true he might not have many of them that he keeps close, but those that he does make up for all the friendships he's skipped out on throughout his life. Yugyeom has been around with him and Youngjae ever since they were kids, their mothers as close as sisters and Yugyeom would come over almost every day to play. When Jaebeom's mother died when he was five, Yugyeom had cried almost as much as the two brothers had. From that day on, it became more of Jaebeom and Youngjae going over to the Kim's considering how closed off their father became.

Somewhere deep inside him, Jaebeom knew he was as sad as they all were. But different people have different coping mechanisms, and Jaebeom's father's just happened to be working his life away and sacrificing time with his children. It was a rough time growing up without much of a fatherly figure. Jaebeom had grown to become a man on his own, taking responsibility for his brother and younger friend when they all entered high school. Then came in Mark, a shy boy from LA that happened to be the son of the biggest shopping mall tycoon in the country. Their similarities drew them closer, and then it became four instead of three. Two older brothers taking care of two younger ones and really, when days at the company get so bad that Jaebeom feels like giving up, his friends are the ones that get him back up and that's all he needs.

And of course, when Jaebeom’s mood is just getting better, with the best timing in the whole wide world is a knock on the door, followed by the reason why Im Jaebeom’s take on life might just change for once.


Jinyoung swears he might actually storm into the driver’s cabin and take over at the rate the train is going. They’ve made three unnecessary stops between Daegok and Hwajeong and Jinyoung’s still got at least a good thirty minutes of travel time before he reaches. He checks his phone again, the big white numbers feeling like they're mocking him.

Great, yeah let’s just go to work for the scariest and probably most arrogant but also one of the richest guys in all of Seoul. Why not, Park Jinyoung? Since your smart ass got you fired from your last job. Yeah let’s just listen to Wonpil and be the guy’s fucking secretary, now guess who’s late? Jinyoung kicks himself mentally and sincerely hopes this Im Jaebeom guy isn’t really that bad. He remembers how Wonpil described him as - cold but secretly nice and cares from afar. Sounded like a load of bullshit to Jinyoung, that’s for sure. The old tsundere attitude was way too overrated for some multi-millionaire rich guy, who’s Jinyoung’s own age mind you. Sure it’s a stab at his ego but the bills need to be paid and the job’s temporary. Three months and he gets paid better than his previous job could in a year.

He sighs as he counts the stops left, six more and then he's free to sprint the whole way to the building right slap in the middle of Seoul. Jinyoung curses his apartment that's far far away, where the rent is cheap and apartments are comfy enough just to get by. It's ten minutes till eight and Jinyoung thinks he might as well just go home at this point. Knowing Im Jaebeom's character from what Wonpil described him as there probably won't be any second chances given. And Jinyoung knows himself, knows how sassy he can get when someone pushes his buttons and damn does Im Jaebeom already give him a bad impression of a stuck-up rich boy.

He can’t wait for these three months to fly by.

And finally, fucking finally, they reach the Seoul station. Jinyoung pushes through the crowd, praying his shoes haven't turned gray from the number of times people have stepped on them. He's dressed rather nicely today, hair parted and styled to the side, his bangs coming to one side. He's wearing one of his better suits from when Bambam had styled him for fun and honestly Jinyoung is thankful to have a fashion designer for a friend on days like this when he needs fancy clothing he can't afford. It's a cream white one, with a slight baby pink dress shirt on the inside. Jinyoung has to admit he looks good in soft colours and the pants make his ass look great. Wonpil better applaud him for the effort even if he gets fired.

But technically, he does live a good hour away and it’s peak hour with everyone getting to work so Jaebeom should understand, right? Plus he’s only about ten minutes late, plus minus a few. And he hopes this Im Jaebeom isn’t as unreasonable as he seems, but then again he is labelled ‘unnecessarily strict with a bad temper sometimes’ by Wonpil so Jinyoung thinks he might die or flare up as well.

What a great day to be alive.                                 

He jogs the street up to the tallest building in the area and huffs as he steps into the revolving door, tugging on his suit to make sure it still looks presentable. He ruffles the ends of his bangs a little and takes a deep breath before entering the elevator and going to the top level. He checks his phone and there are about fifty missed calls from Wonpil plus hundreds of texts asking where he is. He smiles despite the buzzing feeling of nervousness in his gut and sends a simple text of "I'm going up to meet him right now" and locks his phone, stuffing it deep into his pocket. The weight is comforting and as the elevator door dings open. Jinyoung chews on his bottom lip nervously as he walks to the big doors to the young CEO's office. Standing in front of it, hand hovering over the slim metal handles, Jinyoung can sense the powerful and intimidating aura already. He vaguely registers he's supposed to knock and does it without much of a thought. He hears the conversation inside still to a stop and he pushes the doors open, coming face to face with Im Jaebeom himself.


Now Jaebeom has met plenty of good-looking people in his life, countless actors and actresses and models and idols, but he thinks none can compare to this man's beauty. His skin is milky white, hair a stark contrast of dark hazel brown. His cheekbones are set high and his jawline makes him look like a prince had just walked right into Jaebeom's office. He has the nicest shaped eyebrows Jaebeom has ever seen and a set of full lips that Jaebeom feels the urge to kiss. Those plump, pink lips are set in a thin line and Jaebeom snaps to attention as Youngjae clears his throat. He's thankful for a natural cold-looking face that hardly gives away any clue of his emotions because he feels his cheeks heat up.

“So you finally decided to turn up?” Jaebeom speaks, suddenly remembering the reason why he’s mad. The man, who’s dressed in a cream white suit and a baby pink shirt, gulps as he stands in front of Jaebeom’s desk.

“I’m so sorry Mr.Im but I live quite the distance from here and morning peak hours can get a little crazy. I hope you understand,” And Jaebeom swears he nearly melts at how smooth this guy’s voice is but he focuses on the anger boiling in his stomach.

“If everyone comes in late and uses the same excuse as you do, do you think this company would be where it’s at now? And it’s a little unfair to the other workers and leaves a bad impression on both you and I if I let you off for being late on the very first day of work, isn’t it?” Jaebeom says, immediately feeling the warning glare Youngjae is sending him. The man looks fairly taken aback but the look is replaced by him pursing his lips together and eyes settling into a glare that can rival his own.

"Well I'm sorry, sir, but isn't it also a little unreasonable of you too? I mean, common folk like us have no choice but public transport since we can't afford expensive cars as you can, so I do hope you understand," And even though he was pointing out the truth Jaebeom feels attacked like he's never been before. Who is this man, to just waltz in here almost half an hour late to work and have the guts to talk back to Jaebeom? No one has ever dared to do that and it’s like a match that lights the fuse and Jaebeom’s exploding before he can even think.

"Oh yeah? So is it my problem that you so-called ‘common folk' can't afford things then? I don't understand because it's basic responsibility to be at least on time for your first day and it’s also basic manners to respect your boss when he’s correcting you. I could have you fired in a second, you know that?” Jaebeom’s standing right in front of the man at this point, who stares at him like a defiant teenager. Youngjae stands by his side, helplessly looking on as they stare daggers at each other. Jaebeom thinks he’s pretty intimidating, but the man has the nerve to scoff.

"Do it then, Mr Im. I'd rather go home and be jobless than work under you for three months, besides I'm not the one in need of a secretary. People are right, you really are just an arrogant, stuck-up rich kid who happened to take over his father's company," the man spits in his face and it cuts through Jaebeom's heart like glass. It slices through it easily with so much impact that Jaebeom's breath catches in his throat. It hurts, of course, it does. Being called arrogant is one thing, but the jab at his ability to run the company on his own is on a whole new level. Who was this guy? Before Jaebeom can open his mouth to fire back a hand is firmly gripping his forearm and he stops.

"Jinyoung-ssi, Jaebeom hyung, calm down. Let's all take a deep breath and sort things out nicely okay?" Youngjae's small voice makes their two heads snap to him quickly, Jaebeom softening as he sees how scared his younger brother is. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, glaring at Jinyoung who does the same. Well, one thing Jinyoung said was true, he did need a secretary. And this man who pushes all of Jaebeom’s buttons just by being there happens to be the only person available to fill that role.

“Hyung, come on. Jinyoung-ssi apologised and he’s here, isn’t he?” Youngjae says to him slowly, and Jaebeom reluctantly nods. He hears Youngjae and Jinyoung talk in the background but he blocks it out, focusing on calming himself. Three months. That’s all, you can do this, Jaebeom tells himself and the sound of Jinyoung thanking Youngjae is all he hears before he and Jinyoung are the only ones left in the room. They make eye contact and Jaebeom scowls when he finds a small smirk on Jinyoung’s face.


“Let’s make this work, shall we sir? We both clearly hate this arrangement and I’m pretty sure I’m crossing lots of lines already right now, but three months and I’m out of here and you get back your peace. And I’m sure you’re smart enough to know that a truce is needed for us to get work done, so, ” Jinyoung extends his hand and Jaebeom looks at him like he grew a second head. The CEO considers it a second and shakes his hand, albeit begrudgingly. Jinyoung smiles one of his signature smug smiles before handing Jaebeom a folder of his personal information Wonpil had compiled for him.

“Park Jinyoung, 25. Graduated valedictorian of his class, majored in business and social sciences. A hard worker, diligent and a good judge of character. Who wrote this? Wonpil?” Jaebeom asks, scoffing as he tosses the folder on his desk. Jinyoung barely bats an eye.

“He did, actually. He’d be pretty sad when he hears you threw it,” Jinyoung says as he leans on the desk casually. Jaebeom watches the action and crinkles his nose, but doesn’t say anything. Jinyoung’s sure he’s crossed more lines and pushed more buttons than any other person in this company has and he hasn’t even been here thirty minutes. Way to break records, your stupid mouth is gonna get you in trouble one day you idiot, Jinyoung thinks but is really past the point of caring.

"Screw what he thinks, I should fire Wonpil for sending you here, Park Jinyoung. Let's set some ground rules since we're having a truce, okay?" Jaebeom says and Jinyoung turns to face him. He's seated comfortably in the leather chair and Jinyoung is slightly amused and proud at how they're both seated but he isn't fired yet. He nods in reply as Jaebeom begins listing.

"First, report to work by 7:30 every day, you have to be in here at least half an hour earlier than I am. Tardiness will not be tolerated again. Second, you have to remember my schedule for the week and be ready to cancel or change any appointments or meetings. Third, you’ll accompany me to all my meetings and appointments the whole day and take notes of whatever I tell you to. Last but not least,” Jaebeom pauses and points a stubby finger at Jinyoung, “when I call, you come. Got it, Secretary Park?” Jaebeom is the one smirking now and Jinyoung wants to slap it off his face. He grits his teeth but agrees anyway, remembering the bills left lying on his table at home. Jaebeom lets out a satisfied hum and hands Jinyoung a stack of papers plus a new notebook.

“Great, now get to work, Secretary Park. You haven’t got all day,” Jinyoung flashes him a fake smile and Jaebeom does the same, the two parting ways with Jinyoung huffing and rolling his eyes. The door doesn’t close as hard as he wants to slam it and he thinks the world might be plotting against him at this point.

"Stupid job, stupid CEOs, stupid Wonpil of all things. Secretary Park?" Jinyoung scoffs and plops down into his own chair behind the counter. It's stationed right outside Jaebeom's office and there's an intercom there for Jaebeom to call him in whenever he wants to. He stares down at the stack of papers, full of words that make his head swim. He sighs and looks at the time, 8:57. If he's lucky, he might get at least half of it done by lunchtime.

Three months and you're done. Oh, it's gonna be a long fucking time, Jinyoung thinks as he flips open the notebook a little too roughly and nearly rips the first page out.

Three months, and Jinyoung thinks he won't even last three days in this hellhole.

Chapter Text

Bambam was not having a good day. There was a production issue with his new line and almost half of the clothing had to be sent back to the factory, which costs him a fortune. There was also this fancy dinner to attend today - the Tuan Family's annual dinner where Bambam would sign the contract for his new mesh line to be sold in their stores. He prayed to God his line would sell well because production costs for mesh were not cheap. He had been struggling with piecing together two outfits for the dinner, one for himself and one for Jackson who, by the way, was supposed to be at his house an hour ago. He huffed in annoyance as he picked up his phone and texted Jackson again, asking where the elder was.

 

From: Wang Kong Hyung

I’m reaching I’m reaching!

 

From: Wang Kong Hyung

Open up Bam

 

The doorbell rang and Bambam ran down the stairs and opened up the wide, beige wooden doors to a fresh-out-of-the-shower Jackson Wang. The rapper grinned sheepishly as Bambam crossed his arms, blocking the doorway.

“Any explanation as to why you’re an hour late, hyung?” Bambam asked as he tapped his foot impatiently, Jackson sighing.

"I was at the gym and I kinda sorta lost track of time? And I know you hate me smelling and stepping foot into your house so I went home to shower before coming here. I swear it was on accident," Jackson holds up three fingers and Bambam sighs, stepping aside and letting his friend in.

"Well, at least your body will look good today. Try this on, we don't have much time left before we have to go," Bambam says, passing Jackson his outfit. It consisted of a tight pair of purple leather pants and a full mesh jacket. Jackson stared at the outfit, mouth agape.

“You want me to wear this, to a company dinner? Are you fucking crazy or is this a joke?” Jackson asks, examining the sheer material. It’s so thin and Jackson swears he’s gonna die from the cold if the embarrassment doesn’t kill him first. Bambam only gives him an unimpressed stare, holding up his own outfit. It’s something purple and glittery and screams Bambam the minute he sees it.

"You're there to promote my new line, hyung. Plus, what's the point of working out when you aren't gonna show it off? Go, there's still makeup and hair to do," Bambam replies with a flick of his wrist in the direction of the bathroom. Jackson doesn't see the point in arguing and Bambam is his close friend, after all, so he only sighs and goes to change.

It's a tight fit, his muscular thighs stretching and filling out the leather material. The jacket hugs his arms and even though it does look revealing, it covers most of his skin because of its colour. It also serves to accentuate his broad chest and Jackson has to admit that he looks good.

"Told you you'd look good. Now sit here hyung, I'm gonna make you look even better," Bambam's in his own mesh ensemble, though it's definitely not as revealing as Jackson's. He has on a mesh shirt with that glittery jacket Jackson saw earlier with black pants over fishnet leggings. His legs look even skinnier in the material and Jackson wonders how he can even walk in how tight those leggings look. The things Bambam does for fashion. The younger pats the seat in front of his huge white vanity and Jackson sits, afraid of what Bambam would do to his newly bleached blonde hair. It's a painful half an hour of hair pulling, gelling, hairspray and of course - glitter, that feels like forever to Jackson. Bambam lets out a triumph sound when he finishes and steps away for Jackson to see.

His usually soft locks that cover his forehead are parted at one side, the long fringe wavy with the help of Bambam's curling iron. It's a totally different style from what he'd usually do to his own hair, which would be simply parting it in the middle and leaving it loose for him to run his fingers through.  But it's not necessarily unwelcome because he thinks he looks sexy and it matches the overall look for tonight. He looks at Bambam through the mirror and catches his friend's proud gaze, giving him a thumbs up for his handiwork.

"Now turn around, I'll do your makeup," Bambam says and grabs a bag full of makeup products Jackson can't recognise. Even when he goes to film his music videos or goes for photo shoots he has his team of stylists by his side to help him. It's a little weird to dress up so nicely on a normal day outside of his schedule, but he trusts that Bambam knows what he's doing.

It lasts for about a few minutes, as the silence between the two always does.

"I swear to God if you put that thing anywhere near my eye I'm gonna punch you," Jackson threatens as he sees Bambam hold up a thin, black liner. The younger rolls his eyes and grabs Jackson's arm to push him back in place.

"Come on, hyung. It's just eyeliner, don't be a pussy about it," the Thai native replies. Jackson holds a hand to his chest and gives a fake hurt expression. Truth be told, he's avoided wearing eyeliner ever since he's started his career. The pointy, winged end scares him when it comes too close to his eyes and Jackson kinda likes being able to see.

"A pussy? I'm the wild and sexy Jackson Wang, mind you," Bambam snorts at that, loud and uncivilised, earning him a slap to the thigh.

"Oh yeah? If you're so 'wild and sexy', then sit and let me finish for fucks' sake. I still have my own hair and makeup to do," Bambam reminds him with a scowl, rubbing the spot where Jackson's palm had landed. He hopes it doesn't turn red and visible under his leggings.

"Right, continue," Jackson says with false bravado that Bambam picks up on immediately, a sly smile coming to his face. He quickly reaches for Jackson's face, the older immediately yelping and flinching away. Bambam bursts into a fit of laughter and Jackson pouts, shoving him lightly.

"Okay, okay. Serious now," Bambam says once he's recovered his breath. Jackson pouts but lets Bambam work his magic, finishing up his makeup in a few more minutes. It leaves Jackson time to go text Jinyoung to see how his best friend is fairing on his first day at work.

 

To: Park Gay

So, how’s working under Im Jaebeom been treating ya?

 

To: Park Gay

I’ll be praying for you along with Bam :)

 

From: Park Gay

It’s literally HELL, Jacks. He’s given me so much work and picked on me the whole day.

 

From: Park Gay

I can’t wait till work’s over in two hours so I can go home and sleep or maybe kill myself

 

“Jinyoung hyung?” Bambam asks from his spot in front of the vanity, blusher in his hand.

“Yeah, he’s complaining about his job,” both of them snicker as Jackson types a quick reply.

 

To: Park Gay

Well, don't go dying on us yet, Jinyoungie. Who would take your role as the biggest asshole?

 

From: Park Gay

And here I thought I could count on my best friend to cheer me up.

 

From: Park Gay

If it's gonna be this way, I'd rather go back to work. Enjoy your little dinner party and drink some wine for me.

 

Jackson grins as he locks his phone, jumping onto Bambam's huge king-sized bed. The plush bedding elicits a sigh from him as he lays on his chest, careful not to mess up his hair. Bambam briefs him on the agenda for the night - go there, meet the CEO, sign the contract, get wasted and/or laid in celebration. Jackson grins and suggests a bet - whoever gets laid has to pay the other fifty dollars. Bambam laughs, but takes him up on it anyway. Jackson knows how easily drunk Bambam gets and thinks he's won already.

 

Oh, little does he know how wrong he is.

 


 

Mark adjusts his suit for the fifth time that night, checking himself in the mirror of the hotel room he'd booked. The dinner's at the fanciest five-star hotel in Seoul, it's marble floors and high ceilings proving its exquisiteness. Of course, only the best guests are invited to this exclusive event. Mark wants to look his best - he is the one representing the Tuan Family, after all. A sigh from the bed makes Mark look up from his unnecessary fixing.

"You look great, hyung. Can we go now? I'm hungry and the dinner started five minutes ago," Kim Yugyeom, his young but talented right-hand man and friend says. He's dressed in a black velvet suit and a white dress shirt while Mark is in the complete opposite, the pair choosing to coordinate their outfits on purpose. Mark lets out a small giggle as Yugyeom rubs his stomach and pouts, giving in to his younger friend. He's no Jaebeom, who would calm Mark down with his words and put a reassuring arm around the older. But the tension in his shoulders disappears all the same. Social events are always difficult for the introvert that he is, his shy nature coming off as cold and strict. It earned him the nickname ‘The Ice Prince of the Tuan Family' over the years. His friends, mainly Yugyeom and Youngjae, tease him endlessly while Jaebeom relates to it on a fairly spiritual level. He hopes he can do well later on, so as to not disappoint his father and close all the business deals he needs to smoothly.

Yugyeom probably senses his worrying, because the younger is tugging him towards the door and whining about his growling stomach, making the native American laugh as he lets himself relax. Yugyeom's right about the dinner starting. All the guests save for a few are already seated when they walk down the stairs to the banquet hall. Some stand and greet him and Yugyeom as they walk past while others start whispering and pointing, failing to be discreet. Mark knows how important his role is and how much authority he holds tonight. The fact that a podium is prepared for him on stage with the words ‘CEO's Welcome Speech' in big, bold letters flashing on the screen behind proves it. Yugyeom gives his arm a tight squeeze before he lets Mark walk up the stage, small cue card in hand. His messy writing looks like squiggles on the white paper and he feels dizzy as the spotlight shines directly on him. He takes a deep breath, slow and steady.

Don’t stutter, just like you practiced. Nice and easy, Mark. You got this, he repeats like a mantra and he begins his speech. It goes fairly well and Jaebeom would be proud of him for delivering it smoothly in front of a hundred pair of eyes watching him like hawks. The audience claps as Mark takes a bow and walks off the stage, feeling air fill his lungs again as he can finally breathe. Yugyeom is there immediately to steady him, a large hand encircling his elbow and leading him to their table in the middle. They're the only ones there, a five-seater table reserved for him and Yugyeom only. Yugyeom hands him a glass of wine with a big smile on his lips.

“You did great, hyung. Jaebeom hyung and Youngjae hyung would be proud after all that practice you put in,” the younger congratulates. Mark ruffles his grey hair affectionately and thanks him, taking a long sip from his glass to calm his nerves.

"You hungry? I'm gonna get us some food," Yugyeom says and Mark watches in amusement as he makes a beeline to the meat section of the buffet. He takes the opportunity to scan the crowd and run through his mental list of the contracts to be signed today. There's one with a fashion designer, one with a company that they want to endorse in their malls and some minor ones with old business partners. He spots his secretary, Felix, a few tables away from him and signals to get his attention. The young brunette immediately rushes to his table, handing Mark a folder and a pen for the contract signing. Mark checks them thoroughly, not missing the way his secretary keeps glancing back to his table. Mark remembers that Felix had asked to bring a guest and figures it's his boyfriend the younger is texting all the time. He smiles and looks up once all the contracts are in order and Felix looks like he's about to explode with how jittery he is.

"You brought your boyfriend, right? Go back to him and take the rest of the night off. Enjoy yourself, okay?" Felix looks positively delighted and makes a deep ninety-degree bow before he's practically skipping back to his table. Mark watches with a fond smile as Felix and the raven head next to him link pinkies and talks excitedly, nearly jumping out of his seat when Yugyeom calls him.

"Is that Changbin? Felix actually brought him, huh? Must be nice being in a relationship," Yugyeom says with a little pout as he stuffs a biscuit with salami on it into his mouth. Mark raises his eyebrow in question, but he's interrupted before he can even start. A loud group of laughter to his right makes both Yugyeom and him look over, curious. It belongs to an interesting mix of people, two men dressed in interesting, to say the least, clothing among businessmen and women. The man in a full mesh top is the center of attention, making big gestures as he speaks.

"That's the designer you're meeting later, Kunpimook Bhuwahkul Bambam. I heard he's from Thailand," Yugyeom points at the man in the glittery jacket. "And that's his model for the night, Jackson Wang. You've heard of him, right? The rapper with that super husky and deep voice that makes people swoon," Yugyeom's description makes Mark choke on his dumpling and he shoots the younger a glare. Yugyeom only laughs and pats Mark on the hand.

“Stay professional, Gyeom. They’re coming over,” Mark tells him, spotting the two stand and look in the direction of Mark and Yugyeom. He’s right when he hears footsteps approach their table followed by a thickly accented voice calling his name.

"Mr. Tuan? Hi, I'm Kunpimook Bhuwakul Bambam, the designer. I hope my friend and I aren't disturbing," the skinny blonde says. Mark gulps as he feels their eyes trained on him as they await his response. He nods, signaling for them to take a seat.

"Of course not, Bambam-ssi. Are those clothing from your new line as stated in the contract?" and Mark can feel Yugyeom cringe at how formal he sounds and hopes it doesn't sound too awkward.

"They are. My friend, Jackson Wang here, is my model for the day. What do you think, Mark-ssi?" Bambam asks, an excited buzz to his voice that makes Mark smile. Jackson hesitates to stand up but does so when Bambam kicks his shin under the table if Jackson's ‘Ow!' is anything to go by. Despite the scowl he shoots his friend, Jackson gives Mark a warm smile as he stands and even does a little twirl for Mark to see.

Is that full mesh? How has he not frozen to death yet, it's like sixteen degrees outside. And oh my god is that leather? Mark gulps as he's suddenly aware of how thick Jackson's thighs look under those pants and how his upper half is on full display for everyone to see, including Mark. He feels heat rush to his face and he clears his throat, eyes darting up just in time to make eye contact with Jackson. It feels like a surge of electricity coursing through his veins, those dark brown orbs staring into his soul. He can't bring himself to look away. The goofy smile that takes up half of the man's face only makes Mark's heart pick up the pace, its beat drumming in his ears loudly. And Mark's thankful he's seated because when Jackson opens his mouth to talk - damn does Mark feel like he's already fallen off the edge of a cliff and into a pit of feelings he doesn't recognise.

"What do you think, Mark-ssi? Isn't Bammie talented?" his deep voice snaps Mark back to attention. He realises, with redness that rises and covers his neck to the tip of his ears, that the three have been waiting for a response from him. And he'd been what, ogling a stranger? Way to ‘stay professional’, Mark Tuan. Aren’t you the Ice Prince, he mentally chides himself and clears his throat to reply.

“He is. I think it’s a very unique design and your line would definitely do well in terms of sales, Bambam-ssi. Would you like to sign the contract now?” Mark (thankfully) turns his attention away from Jackson Wang and to the folder in front of him, looking for Bambam’s contract and handing it to the designer along with the pen. Bambam and Jackson huddle close as they read the terms, whispering and nudging each other like kids who got their favourite candy and were discussing how to split the loot. Bambam signs it and slides it to Yugyeom, who smiles and keeps the contract neatly back in the folder. The designer and his friend share a high five before Bambam extends his hand to Mark, a shy smile on his lips.

“To a great partnership, Mark-ssi,” Mark looks at the outstretched arm nervously, feeling Yugyeom tense up at his side - ready to step in if needed. Mark rarely does the whole handshake agreement thing, it’s part of his introverted character. But for some reason, the pair in front of him makes him drop his guard the slightest bit for once. Maybe it’s how they’re so carefree in expressing their happiness over closing a business deal, or how their friendship seems so genuine it reminds Mark of his own friends. Either way, he’s reaching out his own hand and grabbing onto Bambam’s tightly, giving it a short squeeze.

“To a great partnership and success, Bambam-ssi,” he replies with a shy smile of his own. The peaceful mood is (once again) broken by Jackson Wang sighing loudly as he plops himself unceremoniously on the chair next to Mark, taking him by surprise. He sends Yugyeom a look that screams ‘Help me!’ but the younger seems equally shocked to do anything.

“So, Mark-ssi,” Someone save me before I say something stupid, "I heard you run the company on your own in Korea? Must be difficult, being a foreigner and everything," Jackson says without any offence, only his natural charm paired with a bright smile. Mark can see why he was the main source of entertainment at the table earlier. He hesitates to reply then, Jackson's statement hanging awkwardly in the air.  And maybe it's the red wine in his system that gives him liquid courage or the fact that for once, he's actually intrigued by a stranger at one of these business events. But he's thinking ‘ Fuck it, there’s nothing to lose anyway,’ before giving a reply of his own.

"Aren't you a foreigner too though, Jackson-ssi? I'm pretty sure Wang is a Chinese surname," Mark points out and he can feel the shocked gaze Yugyeom is giving him but he ignores it, courtesy of the little flutter he feels in his stomach when Jackson looks genuinely surprised Mark had actually replied.

“How observant, I guess nothing gets past a CEO huh? Smart and good-looking, no wonder so many people want to get to know you,” and Mark swears he hears fake gagging noises behind him but once again, he ignores it in favour of talking to Jackson.

"Well, not really. They usually only talk to me because they want to be part of my father's business," Mark replies with a shrug. Jackson's eyes shine with something Mark can't place, but he forgets it when the other man rests a casual hand on his thigh. His skin feels hot to the touch and makes Mark wants to lean into it but jerk away. It's discreet enough for others not to see and somehow it makes it feel even dirtier than it should.

"Don't worry, Mark-ssi. I promise I'm here to talk because I do genuinely want to get to know you," Mark doesn't know if it's the blood rushing to his head that fuels his imagination but he thinks that he sees Jackson wink.

And maybe for once, Mark wouldn’t be crowned Ice Prince of the night.

 


 

"Hey, try this, Yugyeommie!" Bambam tries to whisper and fails horribly, earning the looks of some people surrounding them. Yugyeom laughs despite the second-hand embarrassment that he feels, wrapping an arm around his new friend. After Mark and Jackson had started chatting (read: flirting), the two twenty-two-year-olds had decided to give them some space and left the table to venture around. Other than sipping wine and stealing cakes, the two had also found the time to talk and they found out more about each other in the past two hours of fooling around. The pair clicked immediately, having tons of common interests from dancing to internet memes. It makes him feel young and his age for once, hanging out with someone who's just a few months older. They attract a lot of attention, no doubt. From Bambam's weird sound effects to Yugyeom's laughter, the two become somewhat of a drunk mess by the time it's eleven o'clock. The dinner doesn't end till midnight and Bambam's red in the face, even though he insists he isn't drunk. He latches on to Yugyeom's waist tightly, breath warm and ticklish where it's against Yugyeom's cheek. The wine glass in his hand, full of some weird concoction Bambam had ordered the bartender to make, nearly slips from his hand and Yugyeom lets out a squawk of alarm. He's way better at holding his alcohol than the Thai boy is, so his fast reflexes save the glass before anything spills out. Bambam only giggles and sighs, breath reeking of alcohol.

 

“Yugyeommmmmmmmmmm,” Bambam slurs, lifting a crooked finger to his face. Yugyeom nearly goes cross-eyed staring at it.

 

"What?" he asks, slowly moving them to the exit where people will finally stop staring at Yugyeom like he's drugged Bambam and is currently taking advantage of him.

 

"You're no fun. I wanna drink more, it's only…" Bambam lifts Yugyeom's wrist and squints at the tiny watch face, "eleven thirty! We could have a whole adventure, Gyeommie! I don't wanna go home," Bambam pouts. Yugyeom hadn't even thought of sending the elder home, only focusing on keeping what was left of their reputation intact. He's glad Mark was distracted by Jackson, or he would have gotten a lecture on how they should be professional and respectable at events like this. He then thinks, a little smugly, that Mark should be on the receiving end of this lecture instead.

 

'Stay professional' my ass. Who's the one who ogles the guy as soon as he appears, huh? Damn, Mark hyung's never gonna live this down if the others hear about it, he thinks and lets out a small evil laugh. Bambam cocks his head to his side, eyes basically closed and resting his whole weight on Yugyeom now.

 

"What're you laughing at, Yugyeom? Me? Am I- am I that funny?" Bambam hiccups and Yugyeom quickly assures him that he isn't. He softens when Bambam sighs and rests his head on his shoulder, finally stopping his attempts to grab at Yugyeom's suit. Yugyeom pats his hair and mumbles a soft "I'm gonna send you home, okay Bam?" which the older hums in reply to. He considers carrying the older bridal style to his car but thinks it'll create scandals the next day that Mark will surely kill him for. Other guests are already shooting him scandalised looks as he walks with Bambam to the open car park where his personal car is parked, little whispers of his name and Mark's. But he chooses to ignore them and instead focuses on getting his car keys out of his back pocket while supporting the dead weight that is his friend. He lets out a sigh of relief as the damned key finally works and he swings the door open, reaching in to start up the engine. His black Audi roars to life and the headlights aid him in helping Bambam settle in the passenger's seat.

The other is completely out of it now, head lolling to the side as Yugyeom buckles him in. He smiles as he takes a second to admire how peaceful he looks asleep, much quieter in comparison to earlier when he was letting out weird noises every few seconds. Yugyeom ruffles his hair again and shuts the door, walking back to the driver's side and buckling his own seat belt. He sends a quick text to Mark to tell him his whereabouts, though he's pretty sure the elder is occupied , remembering he saw Jackson's arm around Mark's waist as the pair were talking to some other guests by the buffet table. He also opts for some relaxing music so as to not wake Bambam up, putting his phone on his dashboard before driving out of the car park. He realises, with a facepalm, that he has zero idea where Bambam lives. He looks over helplessly at his snoring friend, giving up any hope of getting a response out of him and deciding to let Bambam sleep in his guest room. He's thankful he lives alone, or it would be difficult to explain to anyone why he would be dragging a drunk man home without them getting the wrong idea. Because no, Yugyeom is a sensible and decent human being and he is not going to take advantage of Bambam. Besides, they just met and Yugyeom just thinks of the elder as a good friend/his best friend at this point, even though he has to admit Bambam is attractive and his type in some ways.

 

They reach his apartment, a simple one though larger than the average. He doesn't see a point in spending money on a lavish house like the one Mark or Jaebeom has, preferring to splurge on other things like the interior. It's evident in how his furniture is minimalistic and monotone, costing him quite a good sum for the imported goods. He toes off his shoes and walks to the guest room which he keeps clean, gently laying Bambam on the bed and moving to remove his dress shoes and ridiculous glitter socks. He turns on the air conditioning and throws a blanket over Bambam's skinny body, deciding not to remove his suit lest Bambam accuse him of anything in the morning. He turns to leave after he's satisfied, a small on his lips as he watches the older snore softly. He's starting to feel tired himself and trudges back to his own room. He barely remembers to turn on the air conditioning for himself before he collapses on his bed, out cold the second his head hits the pillow.

 

That night, he dreams for the first time in a while. It's the back view of someone he can't make out, standing too far away under a cherry blossom tree. But he gets the feeling it's someone he knows and feels a fluttering, warm sensation in his chest that he welcomes like spring.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Mark wakes up the next day with a splitting headache. He groans and his throat hurts like a bitch. He struggles to get up and when he does, he realises three things. Firstly, he isn’t in his own bed. Secondly, he's stark naked, save for the white blanket covering his lower half. Thirdly, there's a fucking body next to him. Now Mark is no Virgin Mary and has had his fair share of one night stands in his college days but that was way before he had a reputation to uphold. The man’s face is obscured by his arm and Mark squeezes his eyes shut, trying to recall what had happened the night before.

 


 

 

 

"Mark hyung, " Jackson's voice is low and rough from the amount of alcohol he had consumed. It's dark out now and they're standing by the entrance of the dining hall, waiting for all the guests to clear the area. The dinner ended later than planned, the huge clock on the wall with its little hand pointing at 1 and big hand at 6. Mark hums in reply, leaning his weight slightly against Jackson even as he bids goodbye to the last of the guests. Jackson, however, doesn't seem satisfied with the reply and tugs on his sleeve, bringing his pouty lips to Mark's ear. Mark doesn't notice him yet, only giving his movie-star smile and thanking the hotel staff.

"Hyung," and Mark feels a shiver down his spine at Jackson's honey-sweet voice in his ear. "Let's go do something," Mark wonders how the hell things have ended up like this. He was supposed to be focused and just attend this dinner, get it over with and go home. But ever since Jackson had invited himself into Mark's personal bubble earlier it feels as if he had crossed a line and broken down the walls that Mark has so carefully built up over the years with just his smile. And he doesn't know what's about Jackson but there's just something about him that makes Mark smile and laugh the most he has in a long time. So, Mark lets his hand fall around Jackson's wrist and he tugs him into the elevator, pressing the top floor button and just letting himself be free for once. Jackson’s grip on his waist is tight and there’s an intangible heat between them, both not speaking but awaiting what’s to come. And Mark has never walked that fast in his life. He pulls the key card from his back pocket and taps it impatiently, Jackson chuckling by his ear, lips dangerously close to his earlobe and Mark wants to explode . He pushes the door open and immediately Jackson is on him, big hands on either side of his head as his lips find his.

It’s hot and messy and everything Mark loves and needs at the point. He knows, he fucking knows he shouldn’t be doing this with someone he just met. But it’s Jackson, the man who wears his heart on his sleeve and basically told Mark everything about his life in the past few hours. Jackson, who was the first person who ever wanted to genuinely know Mark for who he is, not what he has. And so he tugs the younger closer by his collar, mouths moving in sync and fitting like they were moulded for each other. They part for air and Jackson is panting - loud and hot against Mark’s ear. They’re silent for a second, just catching their breaths and holding each other in the space behind the door.

“Hyung, do you-” Jackson starts but Mark cuts him off with a searing, hot kiss. Jackson lets out a surprised sound that Mark swallows up, hands coming to Jackson’s chest and pushing him backwards. Mark doesn’t know what’s gotten into him but he isn’t stopping now, not when Jackson is letting out sweet sounds every time Mark touches him. They fall back onto the bed, Jackson’s hands now holding his hips so tight that he’s sure they’ll bruise the next day. And Mark is straddling him now, legs squeezing his thighs and crotches dangerously close while Jackson’s hand trails down, down, down...

 


 

 

Mark turns as red as a tomato and subconsciously touches his hips, feeling the little bruises there. It reminds him of everything that happened the minute they had entered the hotel room and everything that happened after - how Jackson had held him close and whispered sweet nothings into his ears as they fell asleep. It brings a smile to his lips and a flutter builds up in his stomach. The flutter explodes and it feels like there are dozens of butterflies in his stomach when a strong pair of arms encircle his waist and a chin rests on his shoulder. The touch is immediately familiar and he melts into Jackson, feeling the other man’s muscular chest against his back.

“Sleep well?” Jackson’s voice is huskier now from sleep and Mark could listen to it all day.

“Yeah, you?” he leans back further into Jackson’s chest, falling back into him just like the night before.

“Of course I did, I had you beside me,” And Mark turns to slap his chest at the cheesiness of it all. It feels oddly domestic and suddenly there’s a creeping sense of anxiety in his chest. What are they supposed to be now? Does Jackson like him? Do I like him? And the thought scares Mark, to the point that his smile disappears and Jackson is frowning too.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong? Tell me, please hyung?” Jackson asks immediately, looking at him with so much love and care in his eyes and it's so genuine it makes Mark cry. Jackson clearly takes it the wrong way and is freaking out, shifting Mark off his lap so he can kneel on the floor and be eye level with Mark, like a parent comforting a child. His hands hover by Mark's cheek, wanting to reach to comfort him but he's afraid the elder would flinch away.

“Mark hyung, did I do something wrong? Do you want me to leave?” Jackson asks, voice cracking on the last syllable. He gets more confused when a smile forms on Mark’s lips and he’s pulled into a fierce, tight hug.

“No, you idiot,” Mark’s laughter is wet from the tears but it’s loud and exactly what Jackson loves hearing. “Stay,” Mark whispers in his ear and Jackson thanks God for that. It’s a sweet moment that’s ruined by two loud ‘Ew!’s coming from the door. They turn in surprise to see Yugyeom and Bambam, matching gagging looks on their faces as they let themselves in. Mark had forgotten Yugyeom had the other key card and then realises that both him and Jackson are still very much naked. Jackson realises it the second he does and yelps, jumping on to the bed to cover him and Mark while the two devils snicker and bump fists.

Now, Mark is sure his friends would never let him live any of this down.

 


 

 

Jinyoung wakes up at the ass crack of dawn the next day, groaning and slamming his alarm clock off. He regrets it immediately, clutching his hand in pain as he gets out of bed. It’s the second day of hell and he hates it already. His usual lazy schedule allowed him to wake up at around nine each day, his old work hours flexible. Waking up at five thirty was definitely not going to be easy on him, especially when he reached home at ten yesterday and only got to sleep at around one since he had to arrange and remember all of Jaebeom’s stupid schedules for the week. He shuffles to the bathroom tiredly, opting for a cold shower which would (hopefully) wake him up. He then brushes his teeth and applies some light foundation on his face - it’s become a habit ever since Bambam had told him it helps cover his eye bags which he most definitely has. The bathroom mirror is all fogged up once he leaves, a towel wrapped around his hips. He chooses a simple outfit for the day, a white dress shirt and black jeans. He dresses quickly and grabs his messenger bag, consisting of the notebook gifted by Jaebeom, his personal one, a few stationary, his earpiece and a little bottle of perfume he carries around all the time. He sprays a little on and stuffs it back in his bag once he’s satisfied. The shoes he wore yesterday are a little dirty but he slips them on anyway, grabbing his phone and wallet before he turns the light off and starts his one-hour journey to hell.

Jaebeom yawns as the alarm wakes him up, reaching to shut it off. Nora is laying on his chest while Odd is buried in his armpit and the sight of his cats never fail to make him smile. He checks his unplugs his phone from its charger and squints as he scrolls through the notifications. There are dozens of messages in the group chat between him and his friends and he opens them, a loud laugh filling the room as he reads.

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Gyeom The Brat

 

GUESS WHAT I SAW TODAY

AND WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Mark Hyung

 

Kim Yugyeom I fucking swear.

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Gyeom The Brat

 

OUR MARK HYUNG, THE DEAR PRECIOUS ICE PRINCE

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Youngjae-ah

 

Please tell me he got laid.

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Mark Hyung

 

YOUNGJAE

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Gyeom The Brat

 

Guess what, Youngjae hyung? You are…

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT

AND GUESS WHAT? IT’S JACKSON WANG AKA THE MODEL FOR THE NEW CLOTHING LINE HE SIGNED A CONTRACT FOR

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Youngjae-ah

 

Wait, what? For real, Mark Hyung?

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Mark Hyung

 

Kim Yugyeom you better come out right now. Bambam is gonna die too.

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Youngjae-ah

 

Who’s Bambam?

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Mark Hyung

 

I’ll explain everything later, I have someone to kill first.

Lunch at your office, Jaebeommie? We can order takeout.

 

From: The Boys Are Back In Town

Gyeom The Brat

 

SOMEONE SAVE ME MARK HYUNG HAS A LAPTOP IN HIS HANDS

 

To: The Boys Are Back In Town

 

Sure

And kill Yugyeom for me too :)

 

Jaebeom chuckles as he shuts his phone. His friends sure know how to make a mess in the span of eight hours. He climbs out of bed and stretches, his back starting to ache these days again due to long hours of sitting in an uncomfortable aeroplane seat. He reminds himself to book an appointment with his usual masseuse but then remembers he doesn't have to. He has a new secretary now and Jaebeom happens to love giving him a hard time. Call him a sadist, but watching Jinyoung suffer under that mountain of work he had given him yesterday gave him a sense of satisfaction that he wanted to achieve again today. Hence, he washes up and dresses quickly, choosing a simple white suit with a marble-designed black shirt that he tucks in. His cats are meowing as he walks to the living room, gathered around their empty food bowls and waiting to be fed. Jaebeom chuckles and opens up cans of tuna and distributes the meat evenly, kissing each of them on the head as they purr happily at having breakfast.

"Be good," he tells them as he slips on his usual pair of work shoes, grabs his necessities and shuts the door behind him, exiting his penthouse for the day. He checks the time on his phone, 7:26. I wonder if Park Jinyoung is showing up today, he thinks with an evil smirk.

He nods to the staff who greet him and makes his to the car park, where his black BMW is parked. The headlights flash and he slides into the plush leather seats, sighing as he starts up the ignition. He decides to drive with music that day, feeling in a good mood thanks to his friends and cats. And maybe, he’s also in a good mood because of a certain new secretary that he’s looking forward to torturing for another day. But Jaebeom knows he’s also curious about the man, even though you’d have to seriously torture him before you could ever hear it come from his mouth. Jinyoung is the only person who’s ever challenged Jaebeom and many would say it’s basically wishing for death. But Jinyoung had done it one his first day of work that he was late for and it intrigues Jaebeom how someone can be so bold . Jaebeom might also find it fun to annoy the other man just because of his childish nature, but again he would rather die than admit it to anyone.

 

 


 

 

Jinyoung arrives at the office at 7:34, panting and sweaty. The stupid train had decided to take a long, unnecessary stop again between stations. His shirt feels a little damp and it sticks to his body in some places, annoying him to no end. He thanks God he had brought his perfume and immediately goes to stand under the air-conditioning. He sprays a little of the expensive water on and fans himself, hoping he doesn’t smell as bad as he thinks he does.

“Woah, did you run here or something?” Wonpil, his dear friend who signed him up for this, says as he catches sight of Jinyoung. Jinyoung rolls his eyes and continues, catching his breath.

“Aw, don’t be mad, Jinyoungie. Besides, I did tell you how difficult the job could be,” Wonpil points out, lifting his coffee cup ass he points a finger at Jinyoung. Jinyoung scowls, grabbing the coffee instead of replying and taking a long sip. It’s just the right amount of sugar and improves his mood instantly, Jinyoung always needing a good daily dose of coffee to start his day. Wonpil looks like he’s about to protest but shrugs a second later, slinging his arm around Jinyoung’s shoulder and walking him to the dreaded seat he has to stay in for the next three months.

“I still haven’t forgiven you, you know,” Jinyoung tells him, setting his bag down on the desk.

“Mhmm, sure Jinyoung. See ya at lunch,” Wonpil bids goodbye and reaches to smack Jinyoung’s ass, a habit from when they were in college together. Jinyoung dodges just in time and smacks Wonpil’s hand in revenge, the other man laughing.

"Yah, hands off my peach. Go to work you, idiot, see you," Jinyoung says, using his leg to push Wonpil away. Wonpil pouts but walks off anyway. A faint "Don't die!" comes from Wonpil and Jinyoung shakes his head fondly at his friend's antics. At least Wonpil is here to make it better.

He lets out a sigh and plops himself down in his chair, running his hands through his hair, already feeling the frustration of the day hit him. Im Jaebeom hasn’t even walked in yet and Jinyoung feels annoyed looking at the stupid notebook he gave already, cursing him in his head. The coffee from Wonpil is almost finished and Jinyoung considers going to get another one but sits back down when he hears the ding of the elevator. Here he comes, Jinyoung rolls his eyes as he double checks Jaebeom’s schedule for the day. It goes silent and Jinyoung thinks Jaebeom has gone in, carefully looking up to check. His heart nearly jumps out of his throat when he makes eye contact with a smirking Jaebeom, arms crossed over his broad chest. His black hair is parted like it was yesterday, the slightly curly strands to one side, covering his eye moles that Jinyoung had noticed. His gaze is piercing while a stupid smirk tugs at his lips and if Jaebeom wasn’t such a huge jerk, Jinyoung would have fallen for him in an instant. He snaps out of it and gives Jaebeom his best innocent look, eyebrows raised in question as neither of them speaks. Jaebeom seems to have given up and sighs, clicking his tongue.

“Aren’t you gonna greet me? Everyone does,” Jaebeom says and Jinyoung barely contains his eye roll. Seriously? How far up his own ass is he? Jinyoung thinks but plasters on a fake smile and stands to bow politely, letting the words ‘Good morning, Mr Im' fall from his lips. It seems to be good enough for Jaebeom even though they both know Jinyoung's only saying it to appease Jaebeom. He gives his own fake smile and walks off to his office, Jinyoung raising his fist and wishing he could punch him after the door closes. He plops back down, only to have the intercom linked to the phone in Jaebeom's office beep a few seconds after.

"Bring me my schedule for the day and those files I asked you to arrange yesterday," Jaebeom says. Jinyoung grabs the files on his table and the notebook, taking a deep breath before he knocks on Jaebeom's door and walks in. It's the same as the day before, marble tiles and black and white furniture. It's unnecessarily big for just one person and Jinyoung thinks of the small cubicles the other workers have compared to Jaebeom's personal room. It's unfair in every way, but then again Jaebeom is the CEO so Jinyoung bites his tongue and passes the files to him. He lets Jaebeom skim through them, not missing the way the other man seems slightly impressed at his organisation. Now Jinyoung might be lazy, but he works hard when he has something to prove and right now, proving he can take anything Jaebeom throws at him is at the top of his list. He had even made the extra effort and read through the documents, his brain naturally thinking of pointers that could be used to make the proposal better. He blames it on his stubborn streak and ego that makes him want to make Jaebeom be thankful Jinyoung is his new secretary.

“Your schedule today is quite empty, only a Shareholder’s meeting at 11 and a presentation to attend regarding the plans for the new hospital branch at 3,” Jinyoung recites from memory and Jaebeom hums in reply, but he frowns as he looks through the file, seemingly unhappy.

“Is something wrong?” Jinyoung asks despite himself.

"The proposal is, not your work. There are some parts that don't add up, but I'll sort it out with Mr Yoon later. Call him in for me when you leave,"  Jinyoung bites his lip, knowing how any meeting with Jaebeom would turn out for anyone in this office. He had heard many stories from Wonpil about Jaebeom's tendency to lose his temper once work was not up to standard. And Jinyoung knows he shouldn't be doing this, but his big mouth opens before he can stop himself.

“Is it the part about the expenses?” Jaebeom’s eyes snap up to his, narrowing.

‘Did you read through it?" Jaebeom asks voice low but not quite like the one he had used before he exploded the day before. There's something different about it that Jinyoung can't place.

“I know it isn’t my place to but I couldn’t help it while I was arranging them. I noticed some parts were off too and I didn’t know if I should tell you or not because it seemed quite important for the company but it wasn’t my place to,” Jinyoung blurts out, embarrassed now. Jaebeom seems to consider his response for a minute, lips pursed tightly and Jinyoung can practically see the cogs turning in his head.

"Okay then, tell me. You did major in Business right? What's wrong with it?" And Jinyoung is shocked to the point that he almost drops his notebook.

“Wait, are you for real?” It’s now Jaebeom’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Yes, hurry up. I don’t have all day,” Jaebeom replies, passing Jinyoung the file. Jinyoung remembers all the pointers and mistakes he’d picked out the day before and immediately jumps into a long explanation. To his surprise, Jaebeom actually seems interested to listen. Jinyoung is half afraid that Jaebeom is playing a horrible prank on him and will say “Surprise! You thought I’d actually care about your opinion?” but he does none of that. Instead, he nods along and even comments on Jinyoung’s pointers, giving his own input. It’s weird to have peace between them instead of glares and fake smiles but it’s a nice change for once. Don’t get him wrong, he doesn’t like Jaebeom. But he does appreciate the fact that someone actually bothers to listen to him and recognises his talent for once.

"Huh, who knew you'd actually have some good ideas. I guess you don't have to call Mr Yoon in now, I'll just edit this on my own. Get a soft copy of this from him and send it to me later. And I'll have some guests over for lunch so I'll need you to order some food over and make sure that no one disturbs us. Youngjae will be coming over later too so just let him in when he does. And book an appointment with my usual masseuse for tonight at 8," Jaebeom rattles off a series of instructions but Jinyoung doesn't miss the little compliment at the start and he smiles a little. He nods and takes note of everything, scribbling it down quickly.

"Is that all?" He asks. But this time the politeness feels less forced and he's sure Jaebeom feels it too because the other man isn't smirking at his tone for once.

“No, you may go,” Jinyoung nods and takes his leave, shutting the door behind him and feeling a weird sense of accomplishment in his chest as he walks back to his seat. It’s just one compliment, don’t get too full of yourself and don’t hope for too much. That’s how you get hurt you idiot, Jinyong tells himself. But that floating feeling stays with him for the rest of the morning anyway, making him sit straighter and work harder, even if it’s just a little more.

 


 

Back in his office, Jaebeom leans back in his chair as he flips through the folder, feeling a weird sensation in his chest. He had asked Park Jinyoung to explain and give his input because he had wanted to embarrass the younger by pointing out his mistakes. Jaebeom definitely didn't expect Jinyoung to actually have good ideas and provide pointers that improved the proposal. And he definitely didn't expect to see the little sparkle in Jinyoung’s eyes as he explained to Jaebeom his pointers. It sparked some sort of interest in Jaebeom and he wondered if Jinyoung was actually capable of doing more than be a secretary. Don’t get him wrong, it didn’t mean Jaebeom liked Jinyoung and thought he deserved better. But it did mean that Jaebeom was more certain he wanted to challenge the younger now more than ever, wanting to push him to his limits and see how much it takes for Jinyoung to break. And so, Jaebeom looks for all the loose paperwork he had left for himself to arrange in his free time and carries the thick stack to Jinyoung’s table. He plops it down with a self-satisfied smirk and the glare that Jinyoung sends his way makes him break into a grin.

It’s gonna be a fun three months.

 

Chapter Text

Remember how Jinyoung was in a better mood after Jaebeom had complimented him? And how he was actually starting to feel motivated at this job? Yeah well, that's over the instant Jaebeom slams a new stack of papers on his table, mouth pulled into one of his signature smirks that Jinyoung has come to hate. Jinyoung raises his eyebrows in mild shock, still only a few pages into the report Jaebeom had given him earlier.

"Give this," Jaebeom points to the report Jinyoung is highlighting, "to me by lunch.  This by the end of today and don't forget to do what I told you in the morning," The stack of papers is at least twice as thick as the one Jinyoung is working on but of course dear Jaebeom, doesn't seem to care. He flashes Jinyoung a wicked smile and walks back into his office, Jinyoung resisting the urge to shred the papers. He pinches the bridge of his nose and takes deep breaths, counting down from ten. Calm down, no point getting mad. Besides, just three months to go. Let's just suck it up, shall we? So much for thinking he actually appreciated your work, Park Jinyoung , he thinks and picks up the phone, dialling the number of one of the usual places Jaebeom orders takeout from.

There's a whole list of numbers, from important business partners to Jaebeom's masseuse written in the notebook. Jaebeom's handwriting is surprisingly messy, little scrawls of black ink covering the first two yellow pages. Jinyoung decides to choose a famous food place, Jihal Bros. There's also a little star next to it, so Jinyoung decides it's the safest bet. Thinking of the food makes his own stomach growl and he pouts to himself, glancing at the papers scattered in front of him and then at the clock. He sighs and runs his hands through his hair again, letting it flop back into its messy centre parting. He decides he should stop procrastinating so can he squeeze in a few minutes for lunch later but his concentration is interrupted by loud laughter as the elevator dings open. Out walk three men, all wearing expensive suits that probably cost more than Jinyoung's whole month of salary. They don't notice Jinyoung staring at them at first, immersed in their conversation until one of them, the tallest but youngest looking, goes ‘Oh!' and all eyes are on him immediately. Jinyoung recognises one of them as Youngjae, Jaebeom's younger brother. The mole under his eye is similar to Jaebeom's and their smiles are surprisingly similar for adopted brothers.

"Ah, good morning Jinyoung-ssi," Youngjae greets him with a bright smile that puts the sun to shame. Jinyoung decides he likes this brother a lot more than the devil sitting in the office. He gives a standard bow and greets him in return, the other two me still staring at him. In fact, they're eyeing him from top to bottom and Jinyoung clears his throat and focuses his attention on Youngjae instead.

"Are they the guests your brother was expecting? I've just ordered food from Jihal Bros since he didn't specify what you guys wanted. I'll change it if you like?" Jinyoung asks, reaching for the phone already. Youngjae opens his mouth to assure him it's fine but the tall man is suddenly bursting into a grin and is all up in Jinyoung's personal space in one long stride.

"Jihal Bros? Yes, thank you. I haven't eaten it in like three days," And Jinyoung takes a step back, partly because the man's voice is really loud and partly because he's shocked. Youngjae pushes him back with an arm when he spots how uncomfortable Jinyoung is and gives him a sheepish smile.

"Sorry, Jinyoung-ssi. Yugyeom is just a big fan of their food, you don't have to change it," Youngjae says with a smile.

"Ah, is that why there's a star next to it in the list of numbers he gave me?" At that, all three of them perk up and crowd around Jinyoung's desk. He lifts the notebook and shows it to them, the little out-of-shape star next to the series of numbers.

"Aw, Jaebeommie is such a softie yet he still acts like he doesn't care," the last man, who looks like a foreigner and vaguely familiar says. Jinyoung feels like he should know him but can't place his finger on who he is or where he's seen him. But judging by how they're close enough to call Jaebeom by his name means they're probably pretty important people too so Jinyoung stays quiet and listens to them talk about Jaebeom's tsundere tendencies.

"Jinyoung-ssi, would you let my brother know we're here?" Youngjae's sudden question startles him slightly.

"He said to just let you in. I'll bring in the food later when it arrives," they give him a nod and he bows, watching them pile into the office. It's followed by shouts and laughter that makes Jinyoung smile, oddly enough. He then wonders how a real smile would look on Jaebeom's face. Would his eyes disappear when he smiles? Would he laugh out openly like Youngjae does or cover his mouth like that foreigner friend of his? Jinyoung finds himself wondering as he starts on his work again. It’s a weird thought and Jinyoung crinkles his nose when he realises that.

Maybe if you work hard enough and surprise him with your work one day, he might smile. Wouldn’t that be a huge achievement? Jinyoung muses to himself. And with that, the focus from earlier returns and he manages to be more productive than he's been all morning. The goal of impressing Jaebeom, whether knowingly or not, fuels him to do better and he finds himself actually enjoying reading through some of the paperwork.

He's three quarters through his work by the time the delivery man arrives with the food and Jinyoung realises he has no way to pay but his own money. Jaebeom hadn't issued him any card he could use or given him any form of cash so Jinyoung grumbles as he pulls out his own wallet and passes some bills to the man. He thanks him and leaves, Jinyoung's wallet empty as his bank account bleeds a little more. He curses Jaebeom and his stupid smirk for what feels like the tenth time that morning, knocking on the door and just walking in without a care. He's sure Jaebeom is familiar with his attitude by now anyway because the other man just raises an eyebrow at the packets of food Jinyoung brings in his hands. The other three make sounds of happiness and clap as Jinyoung brings the food over, setting it down on the coffee table where they're all gathered in front of. His flashes them a smile as they thank him, especially Youngjae who Jinyoung has come to like, but his smile falls and settles into a thin line when he catches Jaebeom's eye. Jaebeom has that stupid smirk on again and Jinyoung narrows his eyes at him, starting a staring contest that catches the attention of the other three. They glance between the two comically and it feels like there are lightning bolts shooting out both of their eyes.

"Jinyoung-ssi," Youngjae's voice snaps him back to attention and he tears his gaze away from Jaebeom, "Would you like to join us for lunch? There's way too much food here anyway," Youngjae says, pointing at the containers of rice, chicken, vegetables and whatever Jinyoung had ordered.

"What?! Youngjae!" Jaebeom's loud voice cuts Jinyoung's reply off. Jinyoung can't contain his eye roll now, crossing his arms and staring as Jaebeom gets up too.

"What? He hasn't eaten and we have so much food here. Besides, he's your secretary, not some total stranger," Youngjae pouts as he tries to reason out with Jaebeom. But Jaebeom and Jinyoung have entered another one of their staring contests and Jaebeom ignores Youngjae in favour of glaring at Jinyoung who glares back. It's awfully childish and Yugyeom and the foreigner watch in amusement as Youngjae sighs.

"Go do your work, Secretary Park ," And Jinyoung absolutely hates that way it rolls off his tongue like he's mocking Jinyoung - because he is.

"I was going to anyway, Mr Im ," and somehow Jinyoung manages to make it sound like he's mocking Jaebeom too.

"I'm sorry, Youngjae-ssi. But clearly someone doesn't want me to join you guys so I think I'll pass," Jaebeom doesn't miss the way Jinyoung avoids eye contact with him but feels the jab anyway. "It's okay, we can always eat together next time if you'd like. I'll go have lunch with Wonpil, enjoy your meal," Jinyoung says with a bow and Youngjae waves goodbye as he leaves anyway. There's a sort of satisfaction and pride as he walks off, not because he turned Youngjae down but because he had managed to get under Jaebeom's skin and make it seem like his fault that he was leaving. He takes it as a victory and hums to himself as he starts back on his work, pleased to find that he'll be done in about half an hour and be free to go for lunch.

 


 



"Jaebeom hyung! Why were you so mean?" Youngjae turns to his older brother immediately after Jinyoung closes the door. Jaebeom huffs in disbelief and sits back down, refusing to look at any of them.

"Yeah, Jaebeom. He seems nice, why are you so hard on him?" Mark asks, an amused smile on his face. Yugyeom laughs at the betrayed expression on Jaebeom's face - his hand is to his chest and mouth open.

"Oh come on, you guys just don't know him. You know what he said on his first day here? Jae, you were here right? Didn't you see how rude he is?" Jaebeom defends, hoping for his brother's help. But Youngjae only shrugs, a smile matching Mark's and Yugyeom's forming on his lips.

"Do you know him then? Because from everything I've seen far, you guys don't seem like you have any other form of communication other than yelling at each other," Mark teases and Jaebeom's scowl turns into a pout. He doesn't mention their interaction that morning, which was weirdly nice and Jaebeom actually enjoyed talking to Jinyoung for once. He doesn't know why but he feels like it's a secret he wants to keep to himself. He tells himself it's because he doesn't want any of them to start teasing him but it doesn't sit well with him. Either way, he ignores it in favour of killing Yugyeom because of what the younger man says next.

"Maybe there's just some sexual tension," And Jaebeom's getting up immediately to grab at Yugyeom's neck, the younger squawking and hiding behind Mark, who laughs his high-pitched laughter that Jaebeom is so familiar with.

"Brat. There's no such thing, I'm not like Mark hyung who gets with the first stranger he sees," Mark blushes various shades of pink and red and with that, the topic changes to the real highlight of their meeting that afternoon.

"So, did you top or what?" Jaebeom asks, pushing around the rice and meat in his container.

"Hyung!" Youngjae exclaims, looking scandalised. Yugyeom lets out a loud guffaw that has Jaebeom covering his ears and shooting him a glare. The younger only smiles back sheepishly.

"Well, depends on which round it was," Mark replies with a little smirk, his previous shyness gone around his loud friends. They let out unbelieving laughs and cheer, Mark going red till the tip of his ears. They spend the rest of lunch like that, endlessly teasing Mark and joking around. It makes Jaebeom feel young and free and himself when he's around his friends. He and his ego would never admit it, but Jaebeom would go to the ends of the earth for them. They mean so much to him and so do their opinions, so when they bid him goodbye and leave him to face the half-full containers of food left alone, he ponders on what Mark and Youngjae said earlier.

Was I too mean? But then again, he does deserve it for all that attitude he's given, doesn't he? But I could've been nicer, couldn't I? Should I check if he's eaten? No, he said he's having lunch with Wonpil so he should be fine. Why do I even care? But there's so much food left, it probably cost a lot. He did pay, didn't he? Argh Im Jaebeom, why are you such a dick sometimes? Come on, suck it up and go apologise, he sighs as the voice in his head tells him. All this thinking is giving him a headache and Jaebeom is not in the mood to throw his pride away for Park Jinyoung of all people.

"No fucking way am I doing that," he says to the empty room. He picks up the containers and throws them into the discarded plastic bag, tying it up and tossing it into his dustbin. He knows Jinyoung is going to be the one to clean it up later and the younger will definitely be annoyed but Jaebeom can't bring himself to care.

At least pay him back, you asshole, the voice tells him again. Jaebeom sighs and wants to yell in frustration. Sometimes, he wishes he didn't have a conscience and could live with being as much of an asshole as he wants to. Even though he is an asshole, he's a righteous man and hates to owe people anything, especially Park Jinyoung of all people. Hence, he sucks up his pride and opens the door of his office, peeking out to check if Jinyoung is at his seat. It's still lunchtime so Jaebeom isn't surprised, happy actually, that Jinyoung isn't around. He quickly moves to slip a hundred dollar bill under the notebook Jinyoung had left open, his neat handwriting filling the page. Jaebeom finds himself staring and admiring the neat characters that Jaebeom could never write. It fits Jinyoung's character, he thinks. He also laughs a little when he sees a little drawing of a stick figure that looks strangely like him lying dead on the floor with another one that looks like Jinyoung holding up a knife.

To think he's so childish, Jaebeom muses. On impulse, Jaebeom reaches for a pen and writes a small little note next to it.

I'm pretty sure secretaries aren't supposed to plot to kill their bosses, Secretary Park.

He lets out a satisfied hum and puts the pen back, stuffing his hand in his pocket and going back to his office before anyone can catch him. Call him childish, but Jaebeom thinks he has found a new hobby of teasing and annoying Park Jinyoung.

 


 



"He's so annoying! And so fucking frustrating and full of himself and he makes me want to either kill him or myself. Either way, I just want the three months to end. You know how much work he's given me? I've organised, highlighted and read through three fucking stacks of paper this morning. I had to stay up to remember his schedule yesterday. Do you see these eye bags?" Jinyoung seethes with rage and points at his eyes, Wonpil listening with an amused smile on his face. He stuffs another slice of beef into his mouth and Jinyoung rolls his eyes. They're at the office cafeteria, Jinyoung finally being able to get a break after finishing his work for the morning. It was halfway through lunchtime when he was done and texted Wonpil to meet him but he's proud of himself for being able to catch a break anyway. Every minute away from Im Jaebeom is precious and cherished. Jinyoung spends most of that precious time going off on long, loud rants about said man which Wonpil so very kindly entertains.

"Stop smiling, is my suffering that enjoyable? This is your fault too, by the way," Jinyoung points an accusing finger at Wonpil who only laughs.

"From what I hear and see it as, both of you are just two assholes who finally met your match. You're just not used to having someone who's as big of a dick as you are and be able to have comebacks to your remarks. So,  you feel frustrated," Wonpil shrugs, continuing to eat. Jinyoung's eyes look like they're about to bulge out of their sockets with how big they've grown.

"Wow, so much for supportive friends. You're becoming as useful as Jackson and Bambam are," Jinyoung grumbles and sticks a lump of rice into his mouth, chewing with more force than necessary. Even though Jinyoung says that, Wonpil does have a point. Ever since high school, Jinyoung’s been liked by literally everyone he’s met. He’s been able to charm them with either his wit or good looks or both, his smart choice of words helping him manipulate all conversations he takes place in and getting him what he wants.

"Aw thank you, Jinyoungie. But for real, isn't that what's happening? It's either that or he just wants to challenge you until you break. He has a habit of doing that," Wonpil says and Jinyoung scowls.

"What kind of CEO is he if all he wants is to break his employees? Is he a sadist or something? Or a sociopath? He makes no sense and it's getting on my nerves, Wonpil," Jinyoung whines a little, stomping his foot and picking at his chicken slices.

"Oh come on, Jinyoungie. You're just as bad as he is," Jinyoung reaches to smack his hand at that but Wonpil swats him off. "And to be fair, he can be nice sometimes. You just need to learn to manage him. He's like a cat, they act cold but are actually really soft on the inside. You just need to learn to get to that softness and you've won," Wonpil shrugs like it's the easiest thing ever.

"Have you reached that softness yet then?" Jinyoung asks. Wonpil shakes his head and Jinyoung lets out an exasperated sound from the back of his throat.

"It's only because he trusts me enough and I'm happy with that. Besides, I'm not you. You treat everything like a competition and you can't deny you enjoy getting under his skin as much as he does under yours. So I know you'll try to break him because that's you, Jinyoung," And Jinyoung goes speechless because Wonpil is so fucking right he doesn't know what to say to defend himself. He does enjoy annoying Jaebeom to no end, likes teasing and frustrating the older man whenever he can. And unknowingly, Jinyoung has made it a challenge to himself to break Jaebeom just like Wonpil said. He's so shocked at how easy he's been to read and wants to slap himself for being careless and easily wound up by Im Jaebeom.

"I'm right, aren't I? So what are you gonna do?" Wonpil asks. To Jinyoung's credit and relief, his friend doesn't tease him. Jinyoung is grateful and considers his question for a second, fingers playing with the little stubble growing on his chin. He hasn't had time to shave due to the short time he has in the mornings to get ready.

"I'll be the one to break him then. You know how much I hate to lose," Jinyoung says. Wonpil grins at him and he returns it, feeling better now that he's reached some sort of solution for this.

"That's the Jinyoung I know. Come on then, lunch is almost over and you ain't gonna break anyone if you're late," Wonpil says. They clear their trays and Wonpil walks him up like they did this morning, arms linked. Jinyoung feels determined to make this work now. It's a challenge and he never backs down, always hungry to prove himself. He bids goodbye to Wonpil who sends him a thumbs-up as good luck before settling back in his chair. He notices there's something different about it and immediately knows who's the culprit.

"I'm pretty sure secretaries aren't supposed to plot to kill their bosses, Secretary Park," he reads under his breath and feels heat flow to his cheeks at being caught. He then catches sight of the hundred dollar bill under the leather cover of the notebook and pulls it out, wondering if it really was from Jaebeom.

Maybe he has some conscience, after all, Jinyoung thinks smugly, taking it as a point to him in their unsaid competition. The intercom beeps as Jinyoung is shoving the note into his wallet, which thankfully looks less sad and miserable now that it's not empty.

"Bring me the reports. It's already lunchtime, Secretary Park," Jaebeom says and Jinyoung rolls his eyes again like it's a natural reply to everything Jaebeom tells him to do. It might as well be, considering how many times Jinyoung has rolled his eyes ever since he started working there. He picks up the stacks of paper and checks their order before going to knock on the huge wooden door, not waiting for a reply before entering. Unlike the first time, he walks in without a care and places the papers on Jaebeom's table. The young CEO just sighs and tells him to at least shut the door as he leafs through the documents Jinyoung has painstakingly arranged.

"This isn't right. It's supposed to be under the sales section, why is it with the spendings?" Jaebeom frowns and Jinyoung does the same. He swears he arranged them all correctly, even double checking to make sure. He moves to look over Jaebeom's shoulder, the document in fact under the wrong section. He mentally kicks himself for the slip-up and an apology is already at the tip of his tongue and spilling out before Jinyoung can think.

"I'll rearrange them and pass it back to you soon, I'm sorry," he says and reaches to take the documents back but Jaebeom stretches his hand out and holds them far from his reach. He looks down in shock and sees that instead of an angry expression on Jaebeom's face, he has a scheming smile on his face. Jinyoung gulps and thinks he might be in trouble this time.

"You have time to draw you killing me but you don't have time to check your work?" Jaebeom clicks his tongue and Jinyoung squeezes his eyes shut, dropping his hand and sighing. He knew Jaebeom would jump at every opportunity to tease him. Patience is key, don't be an ass, don't be an ass, he tells himself and opens his eyes to find Jaebeom's piercing stare on him again.

"I'm sorry, it was a mistake and it won't happen again," Jinyoung bows a little, hoping Jaebeom would just let it go. But of course, Jaebeom proves to be a sadist.

"Oh a mistake? The drawing or this?" Jaebeom waves the documents and Jinyoung grits his teeth. The smug look on Jaebeom's face just makes him want to start a fight even more, but he can't and he will not be the one to break first. None, working here was , he thinks in his head.

"Both. I'll redo it and throw that drawing away okay? Can I please have the papers back now, Mr Im?" he asks with all the politeness he has left in him. Jaebeom seems surprised that Jinyoung didn't retort with one of his usual snarky remarks. There's also an expression that crosses his face but Jinyoung can't recognise it before it's gone. His usual smirk is back as he hands Jinyoung's the papers.

"Thank you. I'll have these and the rest on your table by the end of the day. I've also booked your appointment for tonight at 8," Jinyoung says and gives a quick bow. He doesn't give Jaebeom a chance to say anything before he's out of the door and hurrying back to his seat where he wants to die of shame. Not only was it humiliating and a jab at his pride to have to say ‘Please' to Jaebeom, but it was also humiliating because he had messed up. Maybe the lack of sleep was really catching up to him. He decided to go grab another cup of coffee and prayed the caffeine would help him survive the rest of the day.

Or week.

Or month.

Or maybe three. Depending on how it goes and if he's still alive by then.

Chapter Text

When it hits the start of the second week, Jaebeom has thought of a plan to finally make Jinyoung crack. He came in that Monday and immediately called Jinyoung to his office, the younger following, confused. Jaebeom has never done this before, always choosing to start his torturing in the afternoon or at least until he’s settled down in his office. Jinyoung has to admit, he’s nervous and worried. What if he really fires me? I need this job, goddamnit , he thinks as he watches Jaebeom take a seat. The older’s dark pupils are as piercing as ever as he stares at Jinyoung in silence. Jinyoung starts feeling a little self-conscious - it’s the first time he’s wearing his spectacles to work today and he’s kind of given up on wearing fancy suits to work. He’s clad in a woolly blue and white sweater with black pants - it’s definitely less formal compared to the suit he turned up in a week ago.

He wouldn’t scold me about work attire, would he? Jinyoung thinks. Jaebeom is still just staring at him as if waiting for him to start the conversation. He decides to do so, clearing his throat as feeling the air around them tense up.

”Is there something you need, Mr Im?” he asks. He’s gotten used to the title by now and it rolls off his tongue with ease. Jaebeom seems to have snapped out of some trance but he hides it well, letting an embarrassed expression cross his face only for a second before it’s back to his usual smirk. He bends down to pull out a little black envelope and slides it across to Jinyoung, who picks it up tentatively.

Im Jaebeom

The letters are in a beautiful gold cursive and it feels more expensive than any other card Jinyoung has ever and will ever hold in his life. He looks up with an eyebrow raised, Jaebeom nodding for him to open it. It’s already opened - the gold wax seal separated neatly with a letter opener. He slides the black paper card inside out with careful fingers, the sides embossed with gold furls similar to the ones on the envelope. He reads the fine printing of white wording, his glasses helping him with the small letters. It’s an invitation to some gala on Wednesday night and Jaebeom is supposedly one of the guests of honour that night. Jinyoung is plenty confused now. Is he rubbing this in my face or something? he thinks. Jaebeom must see the perplexed look on his face because he’s pointing at Jinyoung and saying something that shocks him even more.

“You're coming with me so I want you to take my card and go buy whatever outfit you’ll need for the night. It’s an important event and the dress code is already written there, just come to work in whatever you buy and we’ll leave at seven. Got it?” Jaebeom asks once he’s done with his instructions. Jinyoung has his mouth agape, the card almost slipping from his fingers and Jaebeom finds it even more fun to tease him now. He doesn't give Jinyoung a chance to reply and slides his card to Jinyoung, who only stares at it like he’s never seen something like that in his life.

“Wait, are you serious?” Jinyoung asks after a long time.

“Yeah, do I look like I’m joking? Now take this,” Jaebeom pushes the card to him further. “and give that card back and go do your work. There’s still that report you owe me from yesterday,” he reminds and it’s like a switch in Jinyoung is flipped and he’s reminded of how to actually talk now.

”Ah, yes, sir. I’ll bring it in for you later. Is that all?” Jinyoung asks, picking the card up but still looking at it like it’s a foreign object. He carefully meets Jaebeom’s eyes like he’s half expecting the other to shout ’Surprise! You aren’t actually invited, I just wanted someone to buy me a suit!” but Jaebeom does none of that, only shaking his head and flicking his wrist for Jinyoung to leave. Jinyoung gives an awkward bow and takes his leave before he embarrasses himself further, letting out a deep breath once he’s back in his seat. He immediately pulls out his phone and sends a text to Bambam, the only person he’ll ever trust to style him well.

 

From: Dab Idiot

Wait are you for real hyung?

To: Dab Idiot

Yes dumbass. I’ll meet you after work tomorrow somewhere

From: Dab Idiot

YES okay meet me at that huge mall next to Seoul Station at 6:30

From: Dab Idiot

By the way, there’s no budget, right?

To: Dab Idiot

I have a bad feeling about this already.

From: Dab Idiot

Hehehe this is gonna be so fun :)

 

Jinyoung lets out an unbelieving laugh and shakes his head at his younger friend. There’s a weird feeling in his chest - like he himself can’t believe it either. Im Jaebeom, inviting him to follow to an important event like that? Jinyoung knows it’s part of their deal and his job scope to follow the CEO to meetings and appointments but he definitely didn’t expect something as big and as fancy as this. One part of him is secretly excited to be at a big event like this where he would never be able to attend on his own. Another part, the cautious, anxious side of him, doesn’t want to go at all.

There’s gonna be a lot of powerful people there, Park Jinyoung. There’ll be wine and everything too, people are gonna get drunk and touchy and you know what that can lead to. Plus, Jaebeom is gonna attract a lot of attention, what if someone approaches you or something? But then again, I’m not anything special so why would they? Just a secretary accompanying his boss to a social event, no worries. It was years ago, get over it already, Jinyoung tells himself and he sighs, eyes falling shut and head falling into his hands.

The memory of pain - hot and sharp and piercing in his belly, clouds his mind and makes it hard to breathe for a second. It comes before he can stop it and the sound of sirens blaring ring faintly in his ears, forming a cacophony with the shouts. He sticks his fingers in his ear tightly, hoping to block it out but inevitably failing. Flashes of that day appear in front of his eyes like sudden bursts of light behind his eyelids. He squeezes his eyes tighter, clenching his jaw and praying for it to stop. His prayers are answered when someone touches his shoulder and he jolts up, gasping and feeling air re-enter his lungs in bated breaths.

“Yah, were you sleeping or something? It’s barely nine and you’re tired already? What kind of a secretary are you, Park Jinyoung?” Jaebeom’s voice is muffled by the constant ring in his ears and Jinyoung doesn’t reply. He focuses on taking long, deep breaths until the black spots at the side of his vision disappear after a while. He can’t come up with an excuse nor can he tell Jaebeom the truth, so he simply keeps quiet and waits for the scolding to come. It does, Jaebeom lecturing him on workplace attitude and what the secretary of the CEO should be acting like. Jinyoung doesn’t have the energy to argue or even glare, only nodding and apologising. He reads Jaebeom’s schedule in a monotonous voice and Jaebeom shoots him a weird look before he goes back into his office.

For the rest of the morning, Jinyoung goes through the motions and completes his work quicker than usual, simply doing what has to be done and submitting it. His brain doesn’t let him think about anything else, subconsciously afraid and avoiding thinking about that repressed part of his memory. Moments like those happen sometimes and Jinyoung just feels so fucking vulnerable for hours after.

He hates it.

 

 


 

 

Jaebeom goes back to his office after getting his schedule, fingers scratching his chin and thinking. What the hell was that with Park Jinyoung? He definitely wasn’t sleeping. Heck, he was barely breathing properly. And you just stood there like an idiot and even scolded him. You must be the world’s biggest asshole , Jaebeom tells himself as he sits back in his chair. He can’t bring himself to even look at the documents Jinyoung had submitted without thinking and worrying about the younger now. They lie in a pile on his table, organised by coloured tags with Jinyoung’s neat handwriting on them. Jaebeom reads the little Hangul characters over and over again, finding himself smiling at how he quirks the end of his strokes and makes it look cute like a high schooler’s handwriting. He then wanders back to how scared Jinyoung had looked earlier; eyes squeezed tight and upper body curled up into itself.

It’s a stark contrast to the usual Jinyoung - snarky and confident and everything that isn’t what Jaebeom had seen earlier. When Jaebeom had scolded him, he hadn’t even glared or rolled his eyes. And the usual richness and calmness in his voice had been replaced by some robotic tone and Jaebeom found himself hating it. Did something happen to him? He’s been holding back on all his comebacks this week and now this? Ah, he’s really gonna make me lose my mind , Jaebeom huffs. He’d decided to invite Jinyoung along to test how the younger would react in such a public and important event, knowing how many of his previous secretaries had racked under pressure and quit. Jaebeom hates to think that’s the reason why Jinyoung had acted the way he did, but a part of him already thinks so.

He sighs and decides to cast the Jinyoung problem aside for now. No one’s gonna benefit if both of them start acting differently on the same day anyway. But even as Jaebeom starts on his own pile of paperwork - eyes trained intently on his computer screen and fingers darting over the keyboard, a small part of him is still thinks about the younger man sitting outside his office.

I hope he’s okay.

Even if Jaebeom would never admit it to anyone, himself included.

 


 

Jackson tugs Bambam by the arm, the Thai man yelping holding on to the door frame of Jackson’s front door. The Hong Kong man doesn’t seem to bother about closing the damn door because he’s insistently pulling on Bambam’s arm with an excited smile on his face. Bambam feels like his poor left arm is about to be torn from its socket with the amount of strength the muscular man is using on his skinny arm.

“Hyung wait! I haven’t even closed the door yet, calm down. Mark hyung isn’t running anywhere,” Bambam huffs with an annoyed eye roll. His friend seems to finally realise that fact and shoots him a sheepish smile, backtracking and letting Bambam close the door. The electronic lock whirrs and chimes when the door is finally locked. They start off at a more leisurely pace now, Jackson letting his hold on Bambam’s wrist slip to link their pinkies. Bambam lets out a fake disgusted ‘Ew’ but hooks his finger around Jackson’s anyway, even swinging their arms slightly as they walk to the elevator.

Jackson’s penthouse is located in Gangnam-gu, near his workplace so it’s a short commute. Bambam lives about ten minutes away from him and they go on shopping trips often, the place being famous for selling designer brands that they both like. Like today, for example. The pair has arranged to meet up with Mark and Yugyeom; not so much a double date but two wingmen and a couple. It makes it all the more fun since Bambam and Yugyeom have now become best friends after hours of texting and calling, followed by hanging out and just living like two twenty-two-year-olds. They were also the ones who convinced their hyungs to go on a date. But of course, Mark being the usual shy man he is had asked for Yugyeom to tag along, resulting in Jackson bringing Bambam. Jackson had then proceeded to whine to Jinyoung for hours about how he’d have to deal with Bambam more now that Jinyoung was barely free to hang out due to his job. Jinyoung, being the amazing best friend and person he is, had just laughed and wished them a fun time.

Hanging out with Bambam hadn’t been all that bad, except for the times when the younger would ‘forget’ to bring his wallet and Jackson would end up having to pay. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it; being a rapper with another hit song just released gave him quite a good pay. But Bambam loved ; lived for it actually - spending money on clothing and accessories that he had tons of already. He was a fashion designer after all. Speaking of fashion, the pair attracted quite some looks as they walked down the street to the cafe they were meeting the other two at. Bambam was in a salmon pink shirt that revealed his collar bones and pale skin with tight beige pants. He’d worn a beret out today, a beige one to match his pants and even a little makeup, cheeks dusted in orange and eyes lined with black. Jackson had given up his usual cap and tracksuit look that day, hair styled nicely with a little fringe to the side. He’s wearing his gold frame glasses and a white flowy shirt with its front tucked into black jeans that hugged his thighs. With his face shown for everyone to see, some fans soon gather around them and flashes of the camera are heard as they make their way down the street. Some call his name while others stand in awe at how good they both look. Bambam soaks up all the attention and even gives a movie star wave which Jackson mimics, earning a slap to the thigh.

They tease each other as they walk, ignoring the people around them and getting lost in conversation. Jackson lets out a loud laugh and Bambam snickers as they walk into the cafe about ten minutes later, the cool air conditioning feeling warmer than the cold air outside. It’s nearing fall now, the weather getting breezier and leaves turning various shades of yellow and orange. It’s the perfect kind of weather that’s good for dressing in big, oversized sweaters and cuddling. That’s exactly what Jackson wants to do when he catches sight of Mark. He and Yugyeom are seated by the side, each a steaming hot cup in front of them. They don’t notice Jackson and Bambam at first, immersed in their conversation. Mark is moving his arms around as he talks, long sweater sleeves covering his skinny hands and only showing his fingers. Jackson gets lost in the way he smiles and the vampire-like teeth that show when he smiles at something Yugyeom says. Bambam calls his name a few times, having to tap out him to get his attention.

“Wouldn’t it be better to actually talk to him instead of just looking?” Bambam teases and Jackson blushes, choosing to walk towards them instead of replying. Yugyeom catches sight of them first, lighting up and waving frantically when he sees Bambam. Bambam does the same and he crashes into the seat next to Yugyeom, both talking so quickly the older two have no idea what’s going on. Jackson takes a cautious seat next to Mark, smiling in a way he hopes shows how happy he is to be here. Mark gives a shy smile back and Jackson melts. Their little moment is interrupted by Bambam letting out an undignified mix of a yell and squawk followed by Yugyeom’s chicken-like laughter.

“We have to go shopping later. No way are you going to that event in that horrible outfit,” Bambam says, pointing at Yugyeom’s phone. Curious, Mark and Jackson lean over to see what Bambam is talking about. It’s not horrible per se, but Bambam does have exquisite taste and high standards when it comes to fashion choices.

“Ah, is this for that gala on Friday?” Mark asks, remembering the invites that had came in the mail that morning. Yugyeom nods and Bambam lets out another weird sound effect.

“Wait, Jinyoung hyung mentioned about it to me. Will Im Jaebeom be there or something? Jinyoung hyung is his secretary and he said Im Jaebeom invited him and also asked me to help him choose an outfit,” Bambam says.

“Wait. Jinyoung as in, that man who came into Jaebeom hyung’s office that day? And hyung invited him even after he told us he hates this Jinyoung guy? ” Yugyeom asks, Mark shrugging.

“Maybe they do have sexual tension after all. Jaebeommie’s got lots of explaining to do,” Mark wriggles his eyebrows and him and Yugyeom burst into laughter.

“Wait, wait. I’m lost. You guys know Im Jaebeom? Jinyoungie complains about him all the time. He calls Im Jaebeom ‘The Devil’ that gives him loads of work and shortens his lifespan every day,” Jackson quotes from his most recent texts with Jinyoung, which haven’t been a lot considering the man barely has personal time now.

“That sounds about right. They had this stare-off right in front of us and I’m pretty sure Jinyoung  is the first person to ever have the guts to do something like that,” Mark laughs.

“And now they’re gonna be at the gala together? Oh boy, now I’m so looking forward to it,,” Yugyeom snickers.

“Good, because I’m gonna make you the best-looking person there is by the time I’m done. You did bring your wallet right?” Bambam asks, poking Yugyeom’s side. Yugyeom’s about to reply but Jackson’s loud groan cuts him off.

“Not again! Bam, my legs really aren’t made for window shopping, please don’t make me do this,” Jackson positively begs, eyebrows pressed together in an expression that resembles real pain. Bambam shoots him a glare and kicks him under the table, Jackson yelping in real pain this time.

“Why? Is he that bad?” Mark asks, sharing a confused look with Yugyeom. Bambam smirks and cracks his knuckles, Jackson only sighing in defeat.

“Today’s gonna be a good day,” the Thai native decides triumphantly.

Jackson thinks he should just go home at this point.

 


 

Yugyeom stares with his mouth agape as Bambam hands him yet another suit from the rack, the hangers from the previous five already making red marks on his skinny fingers. He desperately wants to dump all of them into a shopping basket or something but knows it would crumple the expensive material and Bambam would kill him for it. The suit this time is a peach colour - just a few shades lighter than Bambam’s shirt. Yugyeom thinks it would go well with his newly dyed black hair and tells Bambam so, hoping the older would be done with it. Jackson and Mark have wandered off to the arcade since Mark’s just letting his usual stylist pick out his suit and doesn’t have to go through what Yugyeom is going through at the moment. Yugyeom wants to go join them but apparently, his dear best friend has other things planned.

“Yeah but that maroon one looks good too, doesn’t it? And there’s also the navy one, y’know the first one we picked,” Bambam asks and Yugyeom hums in reply. It’s not that he hates shopping, just that he doesn’t really care when it comes to formal events. Can’t I just throw on a plain black suit and be done with it? The dress code literally says ‘Suit and dress shoes/loafers/business wear’ , Yugyeom begrudgingly thinks. Bambam seems to have spotted another outfit and has speed-walked to another rack, eyes shining as he holds up another suit.

It’s a bright red one, a stark contrast to the previous more sensible colours they’ve added to the pile. Bambam stares at it like it’s the most precious thing ever and Yugyeom lets out an amused chuckle at his best friend. Bambam pushes the suit into Yugyeom’s chest and he holds it, letting Bambam guide him to the fitting room. The assistant by the door shoots them a judging look and stares at the number of suits they’re trying but doesn’t say anything else. She hands Bambam a number plate with a big black ‘7’ on the front. He thanks her and leads Yugyeom to the nearest changing room, shoving him in and hooking the number plate by the door.

“Try each one and come out when you’re done. I wanna see,” Bambam says, taking a seat on the little stool by the side. Yugyeom sighs and doesn’t argue that it’ll take too much time, choosing to listen and just do whatever Bambam wants. He’d worn a black t-shirt that day which wasn’t really fitting with a suit but he works with it anyway. The first one he tries on is a classic black one. It hugs his skinny shoulders nicely and he opens the door for Bambam to see once he’s done.

“Too normal,” Bambam says, shaking his head in disapproval. Yugyeom sighs and changed again, into a grey one this time. Bambam says the same thing and rejects the next few suits, saying they’re either ‘Too normal’ ‘Not your type’ or whatever fault he finds in them. Yugyeom is now left with the bright red one and he’s pretty sure Bambam would choose this one, considering how the older looked at it earlier. When he slips it on, he surprisingly likes it a lot. It isn’t the best match with his black shirt but he can picture it paired with a white shirt and loafers. Bambam seems to think the same way because he lets out a little gasp when Yugyeom steps out of the room, a little smile on his face.

“You look...good. Like, really good,” Bambam comments, coming up to examine him. His skinny fingers come up to adjust the collar and suddenly Yugyeom is hyper-aware of how close Bambam’s face is to his. The only time they’d been this close had been that night they met - both slumped against each other and too buzzed to care. But Yugyeom is perfectly sober now and he can feel Bambam’s breath near his neck and how his fingers are separated from Yugyeom’s skin only by thin material. The older’s eyes are focused on the said suit and he, thankfully, doesn’t see how Yugyeom’s face flushes almost as red as his suit.

“Buy this one, Gyeommie,” Bambam says, patting his shoulders and letting out a satisfied hum. He steps back and gives another nod, as to confirm his verdict.

“Isn’t it too...bright for a formal event?” Yugyeom asks, stepping back into the changing room.

“It’s a suit, isn’t it? Plus, I don’t think anyone will have any rights to criticise how you look when you probably look better than all of them,” Bambam says with a shrug. Yugyeom barely contains his blush and chooses to shut the door, hands coming up to touch his cheeks once he’s alone. He turns around and catches sight of how pink they’ve gone, only from a few compliments from his best friend.

What the heck is wrong with me?

 


 

Jackson cheers as Mark makes another shot, the basketball going cleanly into the hoop. The American grins and quickly reaches for another one, firing off shot after shot. His score is already higher than the previous one, beating the record with almost ten seconds left. Jackson cheers again as Mark makes the final shot, ball bouncing off the side of the rim and into the hoop. 165 , the red, digital numbers read.

“Hyung! That’s like enough to get a prize, since when were you so good at basketball?” Jackson asks excitedly. He’s bouncing around like a little kid and Mark thinks Jackson is the most adorable at times like these.

“I used to play back at home, with my neighbours. Do you want a prize? I’ll get you the one you like,” Mark says, reaching down and tearing the tickets that were generated off. Jackson lights up and tugs Mark to the counter, immediately pointing at the huge stuffed Squirtle hanging on the rack. Mark grins and hands the cashier his tickets, using up all of them in one go. Jackson lets out a happy sound (He’d never admit it’s a squeal, he’s supposedly too manly for that.) and hugs the toy tightly. Mark is a little sweaty and tired after all that shooting, but seeing Jackson happy like this makes it all worth it.

“I’m glad you could make it today, Jacks,” Mark says once they’ve walked out of the arcade. “I had a lot of fun,” The tone of his voice is so genuine that Jackson lets his grin fade to a smaller, but equally sincere smile. He reaches for Mark’s hand and gives it a tight squeeze.

“I wouldn’t miss our first date for anything,” Mark’s smile falters for a second at that and Jackson rushes to explain.

“I mean, we don’t have to date or anything yet! But I hope you know how much you mean to me, hyung,” and Mark knows how much Jackson means it with all his heart in the way the younger looks into his eyes, just like the first time they met. Those same brown orbs that never tell a lie tell him exactly how Jackson feels and Mark feels the same way.

“You too,” Mark mumbles, cheeks heating up and thumb tentatively coming to rest on Jackson’s own. Jackson grins - boyish and just so real that Mark feels the walls around his heart crumble yet again. He seems to have a way of doing that, doesn’t he? So much for being ‘The Ice Prince’, huh? Mark thinks as he listens to Jackson talk about how cool he thinks Mark looked earlier. And warmth - not the one he felt earlier from sweating but the kind you read about in stories when something new blossoms between two people; the kind that keeps you up at night thinking about it. It spreads throughout him from his fingertips and all the way to his heart where it stays for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Jinyoung yawns for what feels like the hundredth time that day, stretching and feeling a satisfying crack in his back as he finally finishes up his work for the day. He happily closes all the tabs on his laptop and shuts it off, closing it with a smile. He scans his table, ticking off a mental checklist of his workload for the day. Finance proposal - done. Edit Jaebeom’s speech for the meeting - done. Print out new name cards - done. File up paperwork - done. Arrange Jaebeom’s schedule for next week - done. That’s all right? He thinks, flipping open his notebook again just to double confirm. The satisfaction he feels from looking at those ticks next to his writing brings a smile to his face and he resists the urge to give himself a well-deserved pat on the shoulder. He’s finally getting off work at a reasonable timing today, having to go off and get his outfit for tomorrow’s gala. Jaebeom had also given him permission to leave once he was done with his work since Jaebeom’s schedule was also fairly empty for the evening. Jinyoung just had to submit the last few folders to Jaebeom’s office and then he was free for the day. He slings his bag over one shoulder, laptop securely tucked into his bag and files in one hand as he uses the other to knock and push the door open.

Jaebeom is focused on looking at his big computer screen, typing quickly and not bothering to look up at all. Jinyoung carefully slides the files on his desk, not wanting to disturb him. He’s also partially worried Jaebeom would stop him and hand him more work if they have any form of interaction. He turns to leave as quickly as possible, hand almost touching the metal handle; so close to freedom.

“Yah. You’re leaving and you didn’t even bother saying goodbye to your boss?” comes Jaebeom’s deep voice from behind him. Jinyoung lets his hand drop back to his side and he sighs inwardly, eyes squeezing shut and slowly turning back to face Jaebeom.

The older is still looking at his computer screen but there’s an amused smile on his face that makes Jinyoung huff in annoyance. He basically stomps over, arms crossed as he stands in front of Jaebeom’s desk. The other man is still not looking at him and Jinyoung is so fucking close to breaking and just snapping at him.

Calm down, you know breaking is what he wants. Get a grip. Say goodbye and then you’re free, Jinyoung thinks and takes a deep breath, gritting his teeth. He clears his throat and Jaebeom finally looks up, head coming to rest on his hand and an innocent smile on his face that they both know is fake.

“Yes, Secretary Park?” Jaebeom has the cheek to ask and Jinyoung wants to reach over and knock his hand out from under his chin.

“I’ll be leaving now. Have a good night, sir,” Jinyoung grits out, willing himself to give a short bow. Jaebeom seems satisfied enough and he bids Jinyoung goodbye, reminding him to get a good outfit for the gala. Jinyoung quickly rushes off this time, brisk walking all the way to the elevator in case The Devil has any other plans to hinder him again.

He lets out a breath as he finally leaves the office, feeling the cool evening air of Seoul hit him. It's about six-fifteen in the evening, a little time left for him to walk to the mall and meet Bambam. He decides to take his time, normal walking speed slowing to a stroll as he appreciates the personal time he finally has to relax. The streets are getting busier as night time approaches, many people coming to the heart of Seoul for its many restaurants and bars. Jinyoung hums a little tune to himself as his shoe crunches against the pavement, watching the many couples and single people like him bustle their way through the crowd. He keeps to the side, where fewer people are trying to push their way through to get to their destination on time. Jinyoung doesn't mind being a little late, he's sure Bambam wouldn't be on time anyway.

Another gust of cold wind blows by, Jinyoung hugging his brown coat closer to his body. His baggy pants do little to keep the wind from making contact with his bare legs and he shivers a little, hands rubbing up and down his forearms. Maybe I should just hurry up, it’s much better to be early and wait rather than die freezing, Jinyoung thinks. He starts to quicken his pace,  easily weaving his way through the crowd on light footsteps. He makes it to the mall in a record of five minutes, sighing happily as the warm air hits him and engulfs his whole body. He pulls out his phone as he walks, checking the time and texting Bambam to let him know he’s here.

 

To: Dab Idiot

I’m by the front of the entrance, where the heck are you?

From: Dab Idiot

Reschunh sion byt itd haerd to tyoe witg mt fingwrd ibn a gkovw.

 

“What the heck is he doing now? I swear this idiot,” Jinyoung mutters under his breath, shaking his head as he tries to decipher Bambam’s message. He’s midway through giving up when his phone dings with another text from Bambam.

 

From: Dab Idiot

Hey hyung, sorry about that. I was wearing gloves and Jackson hyung insisted on holding my other hand so I had to type with only one.

To: Dab Idiot

Wait, Jackson is coming too? Since when?

 

“Why? Am I not allowed to want to hang out with my best friend? It’s been like two weeks since I’ve seen you, Jinyoungie. I’m hurt,” comes Jackson’s voice from in front of him. Jinyoung looks up and immediately smiles, stuffing his phone in his pocket and walking up to give his friends a tight hug. They return it, Bambam’s skinny arms digging into his back while Jackson’s sturdiness holds them steady. It’s quite the sight - three grown men embracing in the middle of a mall. Jackson’s a celebrity, mind you. But the familiarity of his friends bring warmth to his heart and he laughs, loud and open when they pull apart.

“Of course you’re allowed to, Sseunie. I missed you both too,” Jinyoung admits. It’s been way too long since he’s interacted with anyone outside of the office and it’s nice to be around the people he loves once in a while. His parents live far from him and he doesn’t have the time to visit them regularly anyway. The last time was probably Chuseok and it was only for a few days, which isn’t much in proportion to a whole month of not seeing them. He sets a mental note to video call his mother later to tell her about his new job, once he gets back home. If it isn’t midnight by then and I’m still sober, that is, he thinks. Jackson and Bambam are known to be a little wild when they’re together and Jinyoung lets them get away with dragging him on their little adventures more often than not. They seem to be doing that right now, tugging Jinyoung by each arm to the first store on Bambam’s itinerary for the day.

It’s a normal store that sells tailored suits which probably cost as much as Jinyoung’s monthly salary. He subconsciously pats his pants pocket, his wallet containing Jaebeom’s card stuffed deep inside. I hope Bambam doesn’t go out of control with his spending today, that Devil might cut it from my pay or something. But then again, he did say I could get whatever outfit I needed, right? Besides, what’s a few thousand to him? He’s basically a fucking millionaire, Jinyoung thinks, nodding to himself slowly. Jackson notices the action and links arms with him, face coming close and making Jinyoung flinch away in surprise. Jackson lets out a laugh and Jinyoung rolls his eyes fondly.

“Whatchu thinking about?” Jackson asks, fingers reaching to feel a random suit. It’s pure black and a classic that Jinyoung’s wore before. But judging by the pale blue suits Bambam is looking at, the fashionista won’t be going for anything ‘classic’ any time soon.

“Just work and stuff, nothing much,” Jinyoung replies, shrugging a little. Jackson hums in thought, mouth opening and closing before he settles on something to say.

“Work or that so-called ‘Devil’ boss of yours?” Jackson asks, a smirk coming to his face. Jinyoung immediately groans when he sees it and swats at Jackson to cut it out.

“Don’t smirk, you’ll remind me of him. It’s annoying that even when it isn’t work hours, I’m still doing something somewhat related to him,” Jinyoung replies. Jackson strokes his imaginary beard and Bambam walks towards them, hands stuffed in his pocket and a scowl on his face.

“Well, Mark hyung and Yugyeom say he’s actually quite nice once you get to know him. Plus, the fact that he’s inviting you to this event means he might wanna know you too?” Jackson says, eyebrow raised.

“Im Jaebeom? Oh, he’s definitely into you hyung. It’s either that or he’s at least interested in some way. If he isn’t, I’ll shave my hair off,” Jackson and Jinyoung both snort, knowing Bambam would rather die with his hair intact than shave it off any day. “But before we discuss the sexual tension you have with your boss, let’s go somewhere else. I can’t stand the fake leather in this shop,”

The next place Bambam drags them to is a Gucci store. Jinyoung feels out of place in his sweater and messenger bag but Bambam and Jackson walk in like they own the place. The items in this shop now cost more than Jinyoung will earn in his three months of work and he feels a little bad about spending so much on just one suit. Bambam, on the other hand, clearly doesn’t. He makes a beeline straight for the suits with loads of diamonds stuck to the front; the material various shades and textures Jinyoung didn’t even know could be made into a suit.

“Would he look better in purple or blue?” Bambam asks. For a moment, Jinyoung opens his mouth to ask who but Jackson’s voice cuts him off.

“I think blue. But it’s a little too normal, isn’t it? And if you want everyone at the gala to drop to their knees when they see our Jinyoungie, we need something more... glamorous ,” Jackson replies and Bambam nods after some thought, putting down the two velvet suits he’s holding.

“How is that not glamorous enough? It’s velvet ,” Jinyoung points out. Bambam and Jackson exchange a look before sighing, Jackson clapping him on the back like he’s disappointed.

“Oh, Jinyoung hyung. Let us handle this, you just gotta flash that card once we're done. Besides, I think I've thought of the perfect outfit for you already," Bambam says, tugging him by the arm out of the store. His hip bumps into the corner of a display table harshly and he winces, pinching Bambam to let go. The younger yelps, Jackson laughing and throwing his arms over their shoulders, inserting himself between them.

“Let’s go dress you up, Jinyoungie,” Jackson grins and Jinyoung thinks there’s an underlying tone of mischief in his voice. Bambam’s already leading them to another store in search of his ‘perfect outfit’ and Jinyoung’s pretty sure he’ll have to call his mother tomorrow at this point.

 


 

It turns out Bambam’s ‘perfect outfit’ is only found three stores later. By the time Bambam has finally settled on which goddamn shade of white ( Jinyoung can’t really tell the difference between the four Bambam had picked, all he knows is they’re white and he has to be careful not spill anything tomorrow.) Jinyoung should wear, Jinyoung’s stomach is growling and his brain is barely functioning due to lack of food at this point. The last time he’s had something to eat was lunch and that was at least seven hours ago. He sighed and checked his watch again, 8:47. Bambam was still talking to Jackson about which shirt Jinyoung should wear underneath, a deep blue one in his right hand while a brown one is in his left. Jinyoung personally likes the brown one more but he lets Bambam choose it anyway. He's holding the suit in his hand, an off-white one that is crisp and neatly ironed out. He flips the tag over, eyes going comically wide when he sees the price.

920,000 won? For a single suit? Jinyoung thinks, quickly flipping the tag back so he doesn’t have to stare at it anymore. Jaebeom’s gonna kill me. Even if he said to get whatever I wanted, isn’t this a little too much? I should just put it back before Bambam and Jacks find out, he thinks as he shuffles to the side. He keeps a wary eye on his two friends who are still debating about the shirt as he inches closer to the nearest rack of white suits to his left. He’s so close to hooking the hanger back on the metal bar, face scrunched up in concentration as he tries to make it as soundless as possible.

“Hyung, are you trying to put it back?” comes Bambam’s voice from behind him and he jumps, earning a snicker from Jackson. Jinyoung sighs and retracts his hand, giving up.

“Is this about the price? ‘Cause I’m sure a million won is peanuts to a man like Im Jaebeom. He owns multiple houses and runs a whole company hyung, stop feeling bad,” Bambam waves a hand at him, reaching to take the suit from Jinyoung in case he tries to put it back again.

“Yeah. Besides, doesn’t he overwork you or something? Then just take this chance and treat yourself using his money, Jinyoung-ah. It’s not like he doesn’t know, anyway. So what’s the harm?” Jackson reasons out and Jinyoung can feel his resolve crumbling. Im Jaebeom had given him permission. He had been overworking Jinyoung these past few days, too. Plus, Im Jaebeom had willingly invited Jinyoung, so there’s no harm done. Right?

“Fine. Give me that shirt and suit, I’ll go try it on. And then can we go eat? I’m hungry,” Jinyoung pouts a little as he rubs his stomach. The grumbling has gotten worse and he thinks he might collapse if Bambam drags him to another store after this one. The other two nod, Jackson handing over the brown shirt and Bambam, the white suit. He takes them and happily goes into the changing room, feeling some newfound energy return to his bones at the thought of finally finishing up the shopping.

He shuts the door and tosses his bag on the little stool provided by the side, hanging up the suit and shirt. He quickly toes off his shoes and slips his shirt off, shuddering a little as the cold air from the air conditioner hits his bare skin. He quickly moves to remove the brown dress shirt from its hanger and slips it on. The fabric is surprisingly smooth for cotton, feeling almost like silk against his chest as he buttons up. He rolls up the sleeves once neatly, letting the buttoned end rest at his forearm. It’s a good size that shows off his newly built arm muscles and slightly broader chest now that he’s been working out more. They’ve gone down a little due to him skipping the last two weeks at the gym but he figures he looks pretty good anyway.

He takes off his jeans next, changing into the pristine white suit. As expected from Bambam’s fashion sense, it does go well with the brown shirt. It’s a nice contrast that makes him look classy and rich - almost like those people that were going to be attending the gala tomorrow. The white pants make his legs look longer than usual and the colours compliment his skin tone and dark brown hair well. The jacket is also comfortable and thin enough so Jinyoung won’t be sweating to death tomorrow night. Overall, he just feels and looks as rich and powerful as Jaebeom is.

He can’t wait for it to be over.

Now don’t get Jinyoung wrong, he’d love to act rich and stuff himself with expensive full-course meals for the night. But he’d hate to have to interact or even be in the same room as those people who only want to be at the top, are money-faced and mostly have horrible character. And by horrible character, Jinyoung means stuck-up people who think they’re above everyone else just because they live more comfortably. Working for Jaebeom and calling him ‘ sir’ in the office is already a huge jab at his pride. Doing that in public in front of all those esteemed guests (Read: arrogant people that Jinyoung dread) is gonna be on a whole new level. If Jinyoung is lucky, Jaebeom might end up hating everything more than he does and they’ll get to leave earlier. It’ll be a win-win situation - Jinyoung gets to save himself from embarrassment and Jaebeom gets to go back to being a workaholic in his lonely office.

Jinyoung prays luck will be on his side for once.

 




Jaebeom gets to the office bright and early the next day. He’s there at least ten minutes earlier than usual and he’s pretty sure Jinyoung isn’t at his seat yet. He’s proven right when he walks past the row of tables and sees Jinyoung chatting with Wonpil and Youngjae, a cup of coffee for each of them. They don’t notice him at his place by the entrance and Jaebeom takes the chance to rake his eyes over his secretary’s outfit for the day.

How does he look so good in that brown shirt? Why the hell is that okay? I wear those colours and Youngjae calls me a farmer, of all things,   Jaebeom thinks and curses under his breath. He knew from day one that Jinyoung looks like he walked straight out of a magazine but this really takes it to a whole new level. The younger’s princely looks paired with that suit have turned him into this sexy, classy looking man and Jaebeom thinks it’s unfair how someone can be so handsome in everything. He looks down and furrows his eyebrows at his own outfit. When he’d picked his suit that morning, he thought he’d just go with the classic black-on-black sleek look and be done with it.

He definitely didn't expect Jinyoung to turn up looking like he'd be going for a photo shoot instead of a gala. He should've listened to Mark's advice and actually put in effort in his outfit for once. Other than his triangular necklace and two rings, he'd only worn his usual hoop earrings and called it a day before he left. He subconsciously twists his ring on his index finger behind his back as he walks towards them, suddenly feeling a little nervous. Wonpil catches sight of him and his eyes go as big as golf balls, hurriedly tapping on Jinyoung's shoulder. The man in question turns around and Jaebeom nearly fucking trips.

Up close, Jaebeom can see the little streak of black at Jinyoung's eyelids, lightly winged out to the sides perfectly. His hair is perfectly tousled to his natural centre parting, the short black roots peeking out under the brown. His skin looks unbelievably flawless and glowy under the harsh office lighting and what the hell have I gotten myself into? Jaebeom inwardly sighs. Jinyoung seems to notice his little falter in his steps and has reached out an arm to catch him if he falls, eyes lined with a hint of worry. Jaebeom waves him away and steadies himself, taking in a deep breath to calm himself.

You’re acting like some teenager, calm down. You’ve got a whole day to go, you can’t start messing up now, Jaebeom berates himself and clears his throat.

"Hyung! You're here early," Youngjae greets him with his bright smile and Jaebeom feels himself relax into a small smile.

“We were just talking about you, actually. Well, not you, specifically. But the guests that will be at tonight’s gala. I was telling Jinyoung hyung about...” Jaebeom has trouble listening to anything after ‘hyung’ because when had they become friends? Had Jinyoung started sucking up to his younger brother or something? Jaebeom can’t help the scowl that comes to his face at the thought and Youngjae stops mid-sentence. He looks like a child that’s been scolded and doesn’t know why. Jaebeom notices and wants to say something but Jinyoung beats him to it and has an arm on Youngjae’s shoulder before Jaebeom can even move to speak.

"Youngjae-ah, I'm sure your brother needs to get to work now since it's already eight but I'll catch up with you later if you'd like, okay? Pil-ie has a meeting during lunch anyway so we can eat together like I promised last time," and with that, the smile on Youngjae's face has reappeared. He looks positively excited and as bright as he was before, if not brighter. Jaebeom feels a stinging guilt and a tinge of jealousy. He should've been the one to comfort Youngjae. In fact, he shouldn't have made Youngjae feel bad at all.

And of course, Park Jinyoung had to step in and manage to make things right in a blink.

As if Jaebeom needed another reason to be annoyed at the secretary.

Said secretary waves goodbye to both of them, a smile on his lips that Jaebeom has never had the honour of putting on his lips. He realises then, that Jinyoung never seems to smile around him at all. The fact that Jinyoung immediately drops his smile when they’re alone in the elevator seems to prove it even further. Jaebeom thinks back to his previous interactions with Jinyoung and all he can see is either a glare, a fake smile or a blank expression on Jinyoung’s face, nothing more, nothing less.

Another pang of guilt hits him. Maybe I have been too mean, Jaebeom thinks, a little remorseful. He watches Jinyoung's back as the younger quickly exits the elevator when they reach their floor, following out slowly like Jinyoung's some creature he's never seen before in his life. Jinyoung doesn't notice or at least acts like he doesn't. He simply dumps his messenger bag on his chair, takes out his notebook and goes back to stand in front of Jaebeom, like he always does in Jaebeom's office. Jaebeom realises again that he's spaced out and Jinyoung is waiting to read out his schedule.

“Ah, go ahead,” Jaebeom so eloquently replies. Jinyoung raises an eyebrow but does so anyway, his rich voice filling the silence with ease. It feels weird now that there’s no table in between them and they’re both standing. Jaebeom notices a few things, like how they’re both about the same height, him being only a little taller. He notices how straight Jinyoung stands, not slouching like Jaebeom often does. His hands are also bigger than Jaebeom’s - Jaebeom has surprisingly short fingers while Jinyoung’s are longer and thinner.

It makes Jaebeom wonder if Jinyoung plays the piano or any musical instrument. Or if he likes music. If he does, what genre? Do they share the same music taste? Do they have anything in common? And Jaebeom has another realisation just as Jinyoung finishes reading out his schedule. I don’t really know him at all, huh? Guess Mark hyung was right after all, and the thought deepens the guilt a little more; carves the pit in his gut just that much deeper.

“If there’s nothing else, I’ll go back to work,” Jinyoung steps back and bows a little, turning on his heel and walking off before Jaebeom can stop him. He sits back at his desk, taking out his laptop and files and setting them on the table. His eyes seem to be looking but not really reading as he types and it reminds Jaebeom of a robot. Jinyoung has never really smiled around me, has he? And the guilt from earlier is back, wave after wave and crashing into him as he finally wills his feet to move. Jinyoung doesn’t even look up as he walks past. Jaebeom casts one last apologetic look his way - lips turned down and heart feeling weirdly heavy - before he goes into his office where he stays for the rest of the day.






Chapter Text

“Marketing stocks...check. Revenue...check. Everything’s in order right?” Jinyoung mumbles to himself as he scrolls through the document. It’s his last piece of work for the day before he and Jaebeom have to leave and he’d like to spend a day work-free for once. He’s been meticulously reading through and double-checking everything for the past five minutes, determined to make it perfect. He clicks ‘save’ once he’s done and lets out a satisfied smile. He checks his watch, it’s about ten minutes to seven and he figures he should pack up before getting Jaebeom.

Speaking of Jaebeom, Jinyoung is confused. Usually, Jaebeom would summon Jinyoung into his office to complete whatever useless task he could think of just to annoy Jinyoung. He’d make Jinyoung make him coffee ( Black with a packet of sugar ), make him print some documents or just call him and ask him some questions Jinyoung’s pretty sure Jaebeom knows the answers to. But for the whole day, the intercom has stayed silent and Jinyoung’s getting a little worried. He’d gone in a little after lunch to submit some folders for an upcoming event and Jaebeom hadn’t even spared him a glance.

Is he angry? But why would he be, I didn’t do anything. Unless that’s why he’s angry. Did I miss out something today? Jinyoung frets internally as he packs up his things. He isn’t the neatest person when it comes to his belongings, usually just dumping whatever papers or files he gets wherever there’s space. His pens and highlighters are hidden under some pages, the small container where they’re supposed to be kept is empty where it stands next to his laptop. There are tons of tabs open too and Jinyoung sighs as he hastily closes them. He shuts off his laptop and unplugs the charger, coiling up the cable before stuffing it in one of the table drawers.

I did everything he asked and he didn't seem to ask for anything more so it wouldn't make sense if he's angry. But if he isn't angry then what is he? Is he a teenager or something, going through stupid mood swings like these, Jinyoung grumbles as he picks up his stationary and sticks them into their container. He gathers the papers and arranges them as well as he can, before giving up and just sliding them under some folders for him to arrange next week. He stuffs his laptop and notebook in his bag before grabbing his empty coffee cups and tossing them in the bin under his table. There are empty biscuit wrappers inside from his little snack breaks and crumbs litter the floor from where he'd dropped one earlier. Lunch with Youngjae was more of a mini ranting/advice-giving session regarding Jaebeom, so by the time lunch was over Jinyoung had barely eaten half his bowl of noodles. He enjoyed talking to Youngjae though - he was a natural listener and gave as much advice to Jinyoung concerning his brother as he could. They'd even promised to eat together next time if their schedules allowed it.

It's seven by the time Jinyoung knocks on Jaebeom's door. The gala starts at eight and Jaebeom hasn't told him to book a car or anything so he hopes they can get a taxi in time. He walks in as always, mildly surprised to see Jaebeom's table cleared and him using his phone on the couch. Jinyoung gulps as he sees that Jaebeom has taken off his jacket and his sleeves are folded up to his elbows. The material seems to strain against his broad chest and firmly built arm muscles. Jinyoung has to tear his gaze away before he says or does something stupid. Why does he look so good but act like such a jerk? Jinyoung wonders as he clears his throat to get Jaebeom's attention.

“Have you booked a car?” Jaebeom asks without looking up. Shit.

"N-no, you didn't tell me I'd need to. I can book one right now," Jinyoung moves to pull out his phone but stops when Jaebeom stands. He gulps again, nervously this time. Up close, Jaebeom looks infinitely more intimidating. His steely gaze seems to bore into Jinyoung's and straight into his soul. Sometimes, it feels like he knows everything that's going through Jinyoung's mind.

“That’s fine, I was planning to drive us there anyway. Wait for me by the elevator,” Jinyoung is genuinely surprised but does so anyway, walking out and pressing the elevator button. He’s driving? So I’m gonna have to sit in the same space as him the whole time? It’s gonna be so awkward, oh my god, Jinyoung cringes as he imagines the silence that he’ll be experiencing later. He isn’t an introvert by any means, but that doesn’t mean he’s able to joke and talk to anyone like Jackson or Bambam can. He prefers to think and observe before he talks and he’s pretty sure Jaebeom is the same, judging by how Jaebeom acts in meetings or around clients.

Jinyoung-ssi, ” Jinyoung wants to melt into the floor at the way Jaebeom says his name but also since when did he call me that? "The elevator is here and we wouldn't want to be late, would we?" and Jaebeom sounds impossibly close, his voice right by Jinyoung's ear and Jinyoung jumps. He whirls around and Jaebeom has his signature smirk on yet again.

“Ye-yeah,” he stutters slightly and he swears he hears Jaebeom chuckle. They stand side by side in the elevator, Jinyoung pink in the face while Jaebeom stands comfortably, weight resting on one leg as he adjusts his rings. It's neither tense nor comfortable silence and Jinyoung feels like he should say something but doesn't know what. The elevator finally dings open and he follows Jaebeom out, staring at his broad shoulders as he mindlessly follows him to his car. The silence doesn't seem to bother Jaebeom, like all the other times Jinyoung has followed Jaebeom to his meetings. It's simple - Jaebeom leads, Jinyoung follows. So why do I feel like this should be different? Jinyoung frowns a little as they walk into the carpark. Jaebeom’s car is a black BMW that’s parked right by the entrance in a lot that’s reserved for him only. Jinyoung watches silently as Jaebeom unlocks it and slides in, unsure where he should be sitting.

"Do you want me to open the door for you or something, Jinyoung-ssi?" comes Jaebeom's voice as he rolls the window at the passenger's seat down.  His head peeks out from under and he has a little teasing smile on his lips that shouldn't be so attractive. Jinyoung thinks it is anyway.

"Ah, no. Sorry," Jinyoung mumbles and he ducks his head to hide his pink cheeks. He opens the door and slides into the seat next to Jaebeom, taking his time to buckle his seatbelt and hoping his blush has gone down. His cheeks definitely feel cooler after a minute but he still avoids looking in Jaebeom's direction. The heavy silence is back and Jinyoung wonders if he should say something to break it. He's so focused on thinking that he gets another shock when Jaebeom calls him.

“Did you choose that outfit yourself?” he asks, eyes still focused on the road in front of them. Jinyoung takes a moment to realise he’s talking about the new suit and lets out an ‘Ah’ once he has.

“No, my friend Bambam did. He’s a designer so I trust his fashion sense more than mine. Why? Is it weird?” Jinyoung self-consciously toys with his sleeves, fiddling with the ends where they rest at his wrist.

“No, you look...proper. For once this week, that is. Was it expensive? You used my card, right?” Jaebeom asks and it has to be right at the moment they pull up to a red light. Jaebeom turns his head to look at Jinyoung and Jinyoung wants to sink into the plush leather seats. He’s gonna ask me to pay it back, goddamnit. I shouldn’t have listened to Bam and Jacks, now I can kiss my paycheck goodbye, Jinyoung gulps and he can feel Jaebeom’s gaze burning a hole into his.

"I'll pay you back?" Jinyoung cringes again at how awkward he's sounding today, with all the stuttering and mumbling and unnecessary yelping. The light turns green and Jaebeom's attention is thankfully guided back to the road as he steps on the gas pedal.

"Is that a question or a statement?" Jaebeom lets out a breathy chuckle. "And I gave you my card, right? So you don't have to pay me back, I told you to come anyway. So just...calm down. You're being really jittery today," Jaebeom says and the blush kicks in immediately. The embarrassment from being caught knocks the previous ones out of the water. Jinyoung is pretty sure he's pink all the way to the tips of his gigantic ears now.

“Yes, sir,” he replies, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Come on, Park Jinyoung. Pull yourself together. Where did confident and sassy Jinyoung go, hmm? Jinyoung thinks and he slowly feels his heartbeat go back to normal. He slowly but surely relaxes a little into the leather seats which are definitely more comfortable than the train’s plastic ones.

“Feeling better, Jinyoung-ssi?” Jaebeom asks after he sees that Jinyoung has returned to his usual state of calm. Jinyoung nods slowly, biting his lip unsurely because Jaebeom has stuck to calling him by his name now, even though they haven’t completely dropped the formalities. Am I supposed to call him by his name too? Jinyoung ponders as Jaebeom drives. He finds the silence now less awkward, but there’s still an air of difference now that they’re sitting less than two feet apart and are out of the office.

What the hell does he expect from me? Ah, I’m gonna go crazy from thinking by the time tonight ends, Jinyoung curses in his head. Jaebeom seems blissfully unaware to his inner turmoil as he drives and Jinyoung wishes he could only know what the other man was thinking for once.

 


 

 

Yugyeom lightly taps Mark awake once he's pulled the car to a stop outside the lobby of the hotel. There are already a bunch of guests there and many cars are waiting in the queue behind him. The valet assigned to them is tapping his foot impatiently as he stands outside Yugyeom's door, waiting to drive the car over to the assigned parking lot. Mark finally stirs from his sleep, blinking his eyes groggily as he blindly grabs for Yugyeom's hand. The younger does him a favour and holds his wrist, pulling him up to a proper sitting position from where the passenger seat is leaned backwards.

“We’re here already? That’s quick,” Mark comments, yawning at the end of his sentence. Yugyeom would be annoyed if it was anyone else but he knows how hard his hyung has been working the past week ever since his father, Raymond Tuan, had landed in Seoul for his yearly visit. The father and son have a good relationship and Mark just puts too much stress on himself to be perfect and make his father proud during that one week. Yugyeom knows how much sleep his friend has been losing and so he replies as nicely as he can while having angry people honking at them from behind.

"Yeah, we are. We have to get out now, hyung. There are other people behind us waiting. Come on," Yugyeom says, unbuckling Mark's seatbelt and ungracefully swinging his car door open, almost hitting the valet in the leg. The man shoots him a scowl and Yugyeom shrugs innocently, simply walking to the other side to drag Mark out. To his credit, the American has already gotten out and is busy arranging his hair using Yugyeom's rearview mirror, flicking the freshly dyed indigo strands lightly until they land the way he wants them to. He straightens when Yugyeom walks over and flashes him a blinding smile, pointy teeth and all.

“Let’s go then,” Yugyeom says, tilting his head in the direction of the lobby. He tosses the valet his keys, a warning look in his eyes before he and Mark are walking up the grand, marble steps and into the red-carpeted lobby. Contrary to the entrance, it’s fairly empty and Yugyeom guesses it’s probably because most guests are already in the function room, considering the fact that the gala was going to start in a few minutes.

“Hyung, do you have the invitations?” Yugyeom asks, looking around for directions to the function room. Mark doesn’t reply him, eyes glued to his phone and a goofy smile on his lips. Yugyeom huffs in annoyance and stomps his foot like a child, yet Mark still doesn’t look up.

"Mark hyung!" Mark snaps to attention, hands flying to his chest and effectively covering the screen of his phone, even though Yugyeom already knows who it is. "Invitations? Jackson hyung can wait, he isn't going to fight a war or anything, you know. It's just a two-hour flight," Yugyeom rolls his eyes as Mark sheepishly hands him the black envelopes from his jacket pocket.

“Yeah but still! He didn’t sleep much yesterday because he had a gig and they’re making him fly off for another schedule today. Of course, I have to comfort him or something," Mark defends, fingers moving over his phone as he types a reply to Jackson.

“Y’all should just make it official already, Bammie and I are tired of watching you two pine,” Yugyeom says. Mark immediately pauses in his steps and typing and Yugyeom can’t fucking believe it.

“You guys are together?!” His voice comes out high and way too loud, attracting the stare of a nearby bellboy. Mark clamps a hand over his mouth and shoots the bellboy a bright smile, nodding at him as he ushers Yugyeom towards the entrance of the function room.

"And you didn't fucking tell me? Does Jaebeom hyung even know? Since when? How? What is this, I feel betrayed! I'm supposedly your closest friend after Jaebeom hyung. I literally see you every day and you didn't even tell me?" Yugyeom rambles in a hushed tone as they walk. Mark ignores him all the way until they reach the function room. He flashes their invitations to the security guards standing outside and raises his hands up for a security check, nodding for Yugyeom to do the same. The younger man sighs but does so anyway, mouth falling shut but eyes still accusing Mark as they get checked. Once they're deemed clean and let into the room, Yugyeom is spitting out words like his life depends on it again.

"So who confessed? You? Or him? Did you meet or was it over the phone? How have I not been-" Mark lets out a strangled groan and shushes Yugyeom, sticking a finger to his lips. They're in a much more crowded area now and if news of someone as well-known as Mark dating gets around, there's going to be a lot of trouble.

"I planned on telling you guys after my dad left, even Jaebeom doesn't know yet. You know what happened with Joey, I don't want that to happen to Jacks and I," Mark whispers, finger falling from Yugyeom's lips as he crosses his arms. Yugyeom's mouth forms an ‘O' shape as he nods like he's understood the situation now. And that's probably because he does. Joey is Mark's younger brother who runs a smaller sister company of the one Mark is in charge of. He'd been fine until Raymond had found out he'd been neglecting his work because of a new girlfriend and Raymond had not been happy about it. It resulted in Joey having to make a choice between work and relationship and that is not one Mark wants to make. He isn't worried about the fact that he's gay, because he came out long ago. He's more worried about what will happen after he makes a choice, especially when it's a choice he knows his father will not be happy with.

“Then consider my lips sealed. But speaking of Jaebeom hyung, where is he? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be late to any event,” Yugyeom asks, looking around. Mark does the same, eyes scanning the crowd until they land on a man who’s dressed in full black and is standing by the buffet table.

Bingo.

He drags Yugyeom by the arm, not stopping until he reaches Jaebeom and positively scares his friend by clapping him on the back harshly. Jaebeom yelps and turns. His face is set in a glare that turns into a pout when he realises it's Mark. He rubs his shoulder where he's been hit and feigns pain, groaning like an old man.

“Great acting, you should quit and go be an actor instead, hyung,” Yugyeom teases and Jaebeom reaches for his neck to pull him into a chokehold. Yugyeom yelps and whines, apologising as he taps on Jaebeom’s forearm to tell him to let go. Mark stands by the side, watching and laughing at Yugyeom’s suffering.

That’s exactly the scene Jinyoung returns to.

He’d gone to search for something non-alcoholic, knowing he’d be shit-faced if he drank anything more than three glasses of the fancy wines. He totally hadn’t expected to return and see his usually stoic boss strangling someone and the someone happens to be the man that had come previously to the office. The same foreigner, the guy Jinyoung now recognises as Mark Tuan after seeing and hearing Jackson talk about him for hours , is by the side laughing and clutching his stomach. He approaches them cautiously, an amused smile on his face.

He's never seen Jaebeom like this before, used to his more serious demeanour. This Jaebeom is a stark contrast. He has a boyish smile on his face that makes him look infinitely younger; eyes forming into lines as his perfect pearly whites show. He doesn't spot Jinyoung yet as he busies himself with strangling his friend. Jinyoung takes the chance and admires this look of happiness and youth that he might never have the chance to see again.

“Jinyoung, right? I’m Mark Tuan, Jaebeom’s friend. Nice to meet you,” Mark says, extending a hand to him.

"Nice to meet you too, Mark-ssi. I've heard a lot from Jackson," At the mention of Jackson, Mark blushes a scarlet red that almost matches Yugyeom's suit. Jinyoung stifles a laugh as the redhead buries his burning face in his palms.

“I can’t believe Jacks told you already. He was supposed to tell you next week! Ah, that man, really,” Mark sighs but Jinyoung knows fondness when he hears it.

“You can’t really trust Jackson to keep his mouth shut, it’s kinda impossible with him. I’ve tried and failed for years now,” Jinyoung jokes and is mildly surprised when Mark bursts into laughter. He remembered reading headlines of the elder being known as an introvert that rarely talked to strangers. Guess it’s the effect of knowing Jackson, Jinyoung thinks with a little smile. He knows how much of a ray of sunshine his best friend can be and Jinyoung himself gets affected by his constant buzz of energy all the time. He can’t imagine what dating Jackson Wang must feel like.

“I see why Jackson says you’re really sassy now, Jinyoung-ssi,” Mark says and there’s a shy smile on his lips. It sparks a little hope in Jinyoung - maybe he might make a new friend today. And of course, the moment is ruined by Jaebeom calling his name in a less than happy voice.

“Yah, where were you? I was waiting for like five minutes,” Jaebeom says, frowning as he lets go of Yugyeom’s neck. The younger man immediately scurries to hide behind Mark and whine to him about how much his neck hurts and what a bad person Jaebeom is. He could have just gone to get his own drink then, if he’s so fucking impatient, Jinyoung thinks as he hands Jaebeom his wine glass. He seems satisfied by Jinyoung’s choice of wine after he takes a sip, nodding and licking his lips.

“Did you get vodka or something?” Jaebeom eyes Jinyoung’s drink, the colour a bright pink that looks more like some cocktail than fruit punch.

“No, I get drunk easily so I don’t wanna drink tonight,” Jinyoung replies. Jaebeom seems to take in a consider the information, his eyebrows knitting where they start. He wants to say something but gets cut off by Yugyeom, who seems drunk even though he hasn’t even had a sip of alcohol.

“Jinyoung, right? I’m Kim Yugyeom, Bambam tells me a lot about you. Can I call you hyung?" the youngers asks, all up in Jinyoung's personal space again. Jinyoung takes a cautious step back and Jaebeom reaches his arm in between them to stop Yugyeom from getting any closer. He doesn't know why, but he doesn't like Jinyoung feeling uncomfortable. He tells himself it's just so Jinyoung doesn't end up hating coming tonight even more than he already might, ignoring the voice that whispers ‘ Liar!’.

“Aw hyung, you’re no fun. Let Jinyoung hyung live, tonight’s supposed to be fun, you can live without him for a while," Yugyeom pouts and Mark nods in agreement, wiggling his eyebrows at Jaebeom. Jaebeom doesn’t know what the fuck it means but he doesn’t like it one bit. He narrows his eyes and turns to Jinyoung instead.

“Do you want to go dance? I’ll let you off for tonight if you really want to, you need to relax anyway,” It’s Jinyoung’s turn to narrow his eye now. Since when was he this nice? But I guess one dance wouldn’t hurt, right? Besides, Mark-ssi seems nice and Yugyeom’s probably like a second Bambam anyway, it’s nothing harmful. Go live a little, Park Jinyoung, Jinyoung thinks to himself.

“Are you sure, sir?” Jinyoung asks even as his feet carry him further from Jaebeom and towards Mark and Yugyeom, who is bouncing excitedly.

“You obviously want to go dance, Jinyoung-ssi. I’ll call you if I need anything,” Jaebeom waves him off and Jinyoung bites his lip, a little worried it’s gonna be another prank. But Jaebeom waves with a little smile and Jinyoung lets himself get tugged away by Yugyeom, Jaebeom fading into the crowd.

 


 

 

“Jinyoung hyung! Jinyoung hyung!” Yugyeom cheers and Mark whoops, Jinyoung already regretting his decision. He’d stupidly agreed to a bet with Mark and Yugyeom - whoever lost in a game of RPS had to down a shot of whatever the other two ordered. And with his shitty luck, Jinyoung had obviously lost and had to take the shot. It was a horrible colour of deep red edging on brown and Jinyoung was not looking forward to the burn of his throat.

"Let's go, Jinyoungie!" Mark cheers and Jinyoung tips the glass back, cringing as soon as the bitter liquid touches his tongue. It burns more than any other alcoholic drink he's ever drunk and he shuts his eyes, gasping as he finishes. He immediately reaches for his glass of fruit punch and downs it in one go, feeling better as the sweetness takes away the bitterness. He feels like he's burning up already. God, why did he agree?

“That was super cool, Jinyoung hyung,” Yugyeom complements, a cheeky grin on his face as he sips his own weird drink.

“Uh huh, sure. When I start feeling it tomorrow morning, I’m blaming you, Yugyeom,” Jinyoung says, shutting his eyes and groaning. I should really learn to have some self-control. Or at least how to hold my liquor better, Jinyoung thinks hazily.

“Well, at least you’ll be loose enough to dance now. Let’s go, Jinyoungie. You have to see Yugyeommie dance,” Mark laughs and pulls Jinyoung by the wrist to the large open area away from the bar. It’s not a proper dance floor and the music isn’t loud or hype enough for any dancing, but Yugyeom doesn’t seem to care as he starts moving his hips to the beat. Jinyoung watches in minor shock as the man grinds on the goddamn floor . A crowd has gathered around them now and they’re cheering for Yugyeom, some even joining in the fun.

“Is this allowed?” Jinyoung yells to Mark over the noise, worried about how their reputation could be affected.

"Oh yeah, Yugyeom always does this. No one really cares, it's all for fun anyways. You should dance too, Jinyoung," Mark says and Jinyoung lets out an embarrassed laugh, covering his mouth and shaking his head.

“Aw, come on Jinyoung. Don’t be like Jaebeommie, he’s already boring enough,” Mark nudges him again, pouting. And Jinyoung blames it on the alcohol and peer pressure when he lets out a small nod, Mark whooping and shoving him on to the dance floor. Yugyeom catches sight of him and pulls him along immediately.

"Move your hips, Jinyoung hyung! You've got that ass for a reason!' Yugyeom basically yells into his ear. Jinyoung winces a little but does so anyway, a little awkward and shy at first.  People don't seem to notice him and he moves more confidently, letting the music and buzz in his head take over. And soon, people are cheering too and he and Yugyeom dance together in the centre, a weird mess that somehow feels coordinated. Jinyoung feels like he's floating as he laughs, not caring as Yugyeom lets out another weird sound by his ear this time. He's so lost in the moment that he doesn't notice someone coming up behind him until a pair of hands grab at his hips and he jerks away.

“What-” Jinyoung starts but his voice gets trapped in his throat as he realises it’s a man in a suit, eyes glazed over as he looks at Jinyoung like he’s a meal. The man is about forty, judging by the bad fashion sense and greying hair on his head. Jinyoung is a good few feet away and he can smell the alcohol from the man’s breath as he lets out a greasy smile. Jinyoung immediately feels sick to his stomach and he’s pretty sure it isn’t because of the alcohol. He looks around for Yugyeom or Mark but his friends are lost in the crowd of people and Jinyoung is left alone.

“Hey, don’t be scared. Why’d you stop dancing? You looked so good earlier,” the man mutters as he steps closer to Jinyoung. Jinyoung takes a step back and bumps into someone, nearly falling over as his legs feel like jelly all of a sudden. The faint ring of shouts and sirens are back and suddenly, Jinyoung feels like he’s trapped underwater and can’t fucking breathe . He clutches at his shirt and looks around frantically; everything looks like squiggles of colour and the sharp pain in his belly is back again. The man keeps walking closer, keeps talking but Jinyoung can't hear any of it - only sees his lips moving and curling into a sickening smirk. They're almost face to face now, Jinyoung being pushed forward by the crowd. He feels helpless and weak, like a deer being presented to a wolf. A hand encircles his wrist and Jinyoung shuts his eyes, bracing himself for whatever to come.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" comes a familiar voice and Jinyoung opens his eyes. And instead of the man's old, wrinkly face, he's staring at a pair of broad shoulder and he can finally breathe . Air enters his lungs in slow, deep breaths. He's glad for Jaebeom's grip on his arm because his legs still aren't working with him.

“Mr Im? Ohhh, is he your new toy? Come on, let’s share, yeah?” the man raises his eyebrows and Jinyoung feels Jaebeom’s grip on him tighten even further.

“He isn’t some toy, he’s a person who doesn’t belong to anyone,” Jaebeom grits out, chin jutting out and Jinyoung can see the knot in his jaw, can feel the anger radiating off him in waves.

“If he isn’t anyone’s, that means I can have him right?” the man retorts, hiccuping at the end of his sentence. They’ve gotten the attention of many people now, the people who were dancing all stopping to look over. Jinyoung spots Mark and Yugyeom walking over and he lets out a sigh of relief.

“Let me rephrase that, yeah? He’s my secretary,” Jaebeom reaches forward and jabs the man in his chest, “so don’t you dare touch him,” Jaebeom’s voice is cold and sharp, anger seeping through so strongly that even Jinyoung holds his breath. But the man is probably another state of drunk and he actually laughs. Jinyoung prays for his life.

"Hear that everyone? Mr Im Jaebeom here is in an affair with his secretary! Go tell all the reporters! The Im Family is ruined!" he announces and lets out a laugh before he hiccups again. Jaebeom's face has turned even darker if it's possible. Mark and Yugyeom have walked over by now and their faces all show plain disgust . Jinyoung feels his face burn but he’s more worried about Jaebeom now. He knows how bad his temper is.

“Hey, Jaebeom-ah. Call your dad here to settle it for you again, isn’t that what he-” the man gets cut off as Jaebeom lunges for him, seeing red and having enough of it. Mark and Yugyeom yelp and grab him just in time before he can reach the man’s face. The man seems barely scared as he lets out another laugh followed by hiccups.

Jinyoung is plenty disgusted now.

“Let me go, Yugyeom-ah,” Jaebeom growls, still glaring daggers at the man. Jinyoung steps forward and puts himself in Jaebeom’s line of vision, hands planted firmly on his shoulders as he tries to hold him back. The man opens his mouth to say something else but a loud voice cuts him off again.

"What is going on here?" and out of the crowd a man emerges, gaze as steely as Jaebeom's. The anger on Jaebeom's face immediately melts and gives way to shock, arms hanging limply by his sides. Mark and Yugyeom seem equally surprised. In fact, everyone does. Only Jinyoung seems confused, eyebrows knitted as he drops his hands. The man is definitely someone powerful, considering the fact that he made even Jaebeom shut up. Is that his…

“Mr Im! Glad you’re here, please educate your son better. He nearly punched me earlier for just striking up a conversation with his secretary! Isn’t this kind of behaviour unreasonable?” the drunk idiot is still talking and Jinyoung sends him a glare of his own.

“Mr Yoon, I hardly believe that’s the case here. My own secretary has informed me of what has happened and I heard your loud announcement earlier. Something about my family being ruined, was it?” Mr Im clicks his tongue and the gesture reminds Jinyoung so much of Jaebeom.

"Wh-what? Oh, no there must be some misunderstanding! I would never," Mr Yoon says, suddenly looking much soberer. Heck, he's even sweating and Jinyoung is in awe at how scary Jaebeom's father is.

"I'll see that your contract with my company is cancelled. Expect a call from my employee tomorrow," Mr Im states. Mr Yoon falls to his knees immediately, begging and spitting out a load of rubbish that Jinyoung can't help feeling a little bad. Mr Im simply turns on his heel, not caring when Mr Yoon spits curses at his back.

Father , I-" Jaebeom starts but stops when his Mr Im puts a hand up to silence him.  Jaebeom clamps his mouth shut and drops his head in shame.

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow. I expect you to be at dinner, along with your brother,” Mr Im says, the coldness and formality scaring Jinyoung. Is this how they talk all the time? Are they even father and son? Jinyoung wonders, feeling a shiver run down his spine as Mr Im casts him a look as he walks past. Everyone bows as he walks out, a silence falling over the crowd until the doors shut. Jaebeom's eyes are still downcast and Jinyoung hates the look of shame on his face.

And like a switch that is flipped, everyone starts whispering and pointing.

“...held his hand,” “Stepped in and…” “...punched Mr Yoon in…” Jinyoung shuts his eyes as he hears the whispers, the voices that sound all too familiar in his head. A tightness closes around his lungs again and he stumbles a little, legs giving way again now that the whole incident has ended. A pair of hands grab at his hips again but this time it's gentle and warm. It's nothing like the drunk man's touch.

“You okay?” Jaebeom asks worriedly, voice sounding tired but still caring. Jinyoung wants to fall into his arms and just feel safe for a second, but he resists the urge and nods, stabling himself.

“You should take Jinyoungie home,” Mark says, concern in his voice.

“But the people-”

"We'll take care of it, Jaebeom hyung. Just get home safe," Yugyeom reassures him and gives Jaebeom's shoulder a tight squeeze. Jaebeom gives a grateful smile to his friends before he leads Jinyoung out, hand tight around his elbow as he walks. He makes sure Jinyoung is by his side and shoots a glare at anyone who stares as they walk past, his gaze scaring them off. They make it to Jaebeom's car, Jinyoung shakily strapping himself in and leaning his head against the plush leather seats, eyes shut.

It's funny how he finds it so much easier to breathe in the small space of Jaebeom's car as compared to in the huge room. Silence falls around them but it isn't awkward nor tense. In fact, it's more comfortable than earlier and Jinyoung feels his head start to clear a little. He opens his eyes and sees that they're in the heart of Seoul, near their office. Many stores are still open and the bright neon lights feel oddly calming.

“Feeling better?” Jaebeom asks, eyes still on the road as he drives.

“Yeah. Thank you, for earlier,” Jinyoung says softly, hoping his voice can convey how thankful he really feels.

"You're my secretary, Jinyoung. Of course, I'd protect you," Jaebeom replies like it's the easiest thing in the world to say. It warms Jinyoung's heart and he hums in reply, not even minding that Jaebeom's gone from calling him Secretary Park to Jinyoung in one day. The moment is ruined by a loud rumble and Jinyoung looks down, embarrassed.

“Hungry, are we?” Jaebeom muses, an amused smile on his lips.

“I didn’t eat much for lunch and Yugyeom and Mark hyung dragged me off to drink only,” Jinyoung explains, cheeks flushed.

“Let’s stop by somewhere then. It’s barely nine anyway, most of the stores are probably open,” Jaebeom says. There’s a flash of realisation in his eyes as he stops at a traffic light. He turns to Jinyoung and is he blushing? Oh my god, am I imagining it? Jinyoung wonders as he squints a little.

"That is if you're okay with it? It's fine if you don't want to, I can always drop you home," Jaebeom mumbles as scratches his neck. Jinyoung blames it on his alcohol-induced brain; on the buzz and excitement he gets from seeing the nightlife in Seoul.

And maybe, just maybe, because he’s a little curious about Jaebeom.

"Let's go eat," he says. The small smile on Jaebeom's lips as he turns on his blinker feels like the best reward Jinyoung could ever get.

Chapter Text

The shop they end up in is quite unlike what Jinyoung had imagined it would be. He'd expected some fancy, five-star restaurant when it came to Jaebeom's tastes, not the little barbeque place they ended up in. It was those roadside kinds of shops, a cosy place at the end of a stretch of road. The place smelt like delicious, freshly grilled meat and soju - the kind Jinyoung preferred over the fancy wines served earlier.

Jaebeom seems to be a regular here and the old lady at the counter greets him immediately when he walks in. They exchange greetings and Jinyoung sees Jaebeom blush and duck his head when the friendly ahjumma pets his head even though he’s a good head or two taller. Jinyoung hears something about Jaebeom not visiting enough and the pout on the old lady’s face makes him grin a little.

He takes the restaurant in; it’s pale wooden floors and walls feel warm against his touch. The tables are set low with barely much space between them, just enough for someone to walk through. Several posters cover the walls, mostly of beer advertisements with famous actors in them. There aren’t that many people, only a young couple at the table by the door. Jinyoung thinks Jaebeom would like some privacy so he walks to the table at the sectioned side of the shop, where it’s quieter and warmer. The red cushions are plush when he sits cross-legged, his pants riding up a little to expose his ankles. His jacket is folded neatly by his side, his sleeves rolled up and buttoned at his elbow.

Jaebeom appears a few minutes later, a small grin on his face. He shrugs his jacket off and messily folds his sleeves too, Jinyoung’s eyes trailing the movement quietly. He diverts his attention to the menu right when Jaebeom’s eyes flick up to his. The younger misses the way Jaebeom’s lips curl into an amused smile, eyes busy with reading the menu that suddenly seems so interesting.

“Is it okay if I order for us?” Jaebeom asks. Jinyoung looks up and nods immediately, internally relieved. He can’t seem to focus on anything but Jaebeom now that they’re in such close proximity again. Jaebeom smiles, his eyes forming slits and lips almost disappearing as they press together. Why does he look like a cat or something? Jinyoung thinks. He barely listens as Jaebeom rattles off their order to one of the waiters, mind wandering off to how Mark and Yugyeom are doing. He snaps out of it when Jaebeom calls him.

“Do you wanna order a drink?” he asks, both him and the waiter looking at him expectantly.

"Soju, please," he replies. Jaebeom raises an eyebrow and Jinyoung can tell he already has something to say.

“You sure you wanna drink something alcoholic? After everything that happened earlier, I assumed…” Jaebeom trails off, waving his hand vaguely. Jinyoung stifles a laugh and nods.

“I want to forget everything that happened. Besides, it’s you, Mr Im,” Jinyoung replies, head tilting a fraction. “I hardly think you’d try to do anything,”

"Is that your way of saying you trust me, Jinyoung?" Jaebeom asks. He's leaning his chin on his hand now, a lazy smirk tugging on his lips. Sitting down, they're almost the same height. Jinyoung doesn't say anything, only shrugs in favour of the plates of meat arriving at their table. They fall into companionable silence - Jinyoung buttering up the pan and grilling the meat while Jaebeom works on the drinks.

He'd ordered a beer, the glass filled to the brim with white foam at the top. He cracks open the soju bottle and pours a shot for Jinyoung, the cold liquid quick to condense on the glass. He hands the tiny thing to Jinyoung, who takes it with a nod.

“A toast,” Jaebeom suggests, raising his glass.

“What are we toasting to?” Jinyoung asks, even though he mirrors the action.

"To saving your life and you trusting me?" Jaebeom smiles and Jinyoung plays along, their glasses clinking in the quiet room. The bitterness of the beer is comforting and Jaebeom smacks his lips, licking the foam off with his tongue. Jinyoung has already finished his shot and is pouring himself another. Jaebeom watches the calm movements as he picks up the tongs and flips the meat over.

“Thank you, again. I uh...really mean it,” Jinyoung mumbles. Jaebeom finds it cute how he looks away, cheeks tinged pink under the dim lighting. They’re sitting close now and face to face, Jaebeom can see the dark hues of brown in Jinyoung’s eyes; the perfect arc of his eyebrows. Jaebeom thinks that if angels on earth did really exist, he’d be sitting in front of one now.

"I told you. You're my secretary, of course, I'd protect you," The words fall off his lips softly and it feels way too intimate. But Jinyoung smiles anyway, nodding his head like he's accepted it as that and nothing more. Is there anything more? Jinyoung can’t tell. He thinks of how angry Jaebeom had gotten, the pure fire in his eyes and the low growl of his voice when he’d made his threats. He then thinks of this Jaebeom - the innocent grin when he talked to the ahjumma and the way he spoke those words. Of course, I'd protect you.

Of course, he would. If anything happens to me, he's responsible by law. The thought feels bitter and it comes with a sense of resignation because it means Jaebeom doesn't care about him at all. But don’t you want him to care? Things have shifted and changed over the course of one night and both of them know it. Jinyoung knows he can’t go back to ignoring Jaebeom after this, he isn’t that big of an asshole to do that.

And maybe a small part of him doesn’t want to go back at all.

But he shakes the thought from his head. He focuses on picking up the meat and balancing it on a scoop of rice, ignoring the heavy gaze on him. He stuffs it into his mouth, letting out a pleased hum as the meat melts in his mouth, the delicious juice the right amount of oily and salty on his tongue.

“Is it good?” Jaebeom asks as he picks up his own slice and does the same. He chews as he awaits Jinyoung’s answer, eyes never leaving the younger’s face. Jinyoung nods; face feeling like it’s on fire under Jaebeom’s scrutinization.

“That’s good to hear. I like my meat fattier because it tastes better with the beer but I was afraid you’d find it too oily or something,”

“Ah, I’m not that health conscious. You should eat with Jackson one day, he’s all about the organic stuff and his diet,” Jinyoung muses. Jaebeom perks up at that.

"You mean Mark hyung's one-night stand?" he asks.

"More like his boyfriend. Jackson goes on and on about him all the time, they're practically dating already," Jinyoung snorts, barely catching himself from revealing the status of their relationship. Judging by Mark's reaction earlier, Jinyoung's pretty sure they aren't supposed to tell anyone yet.

“I didn’t know they still talked. Mark hyung never told me anything about it,” Jaebeom’s eyebrows furrow and Jinyoung feels something akin to pity settle in his chest.

“Maybe you’re just too busy so he doesn’t want to bother you,” Jinyoung doesn’t know why he’s even making the effort to comfort him.

“Aren’t you equally busy, Jinyoung?”

“Only because I work for you,” Jinyoung replies in the space of a breath.

“And here I was thinking we got past our banters,”

“I’m a persistent man,” Jinyoung plays along, shrugging in a way that has Jaebeom smirking again.

“Sure that isn’t the soju talking?” It’s a challenge and Jinyoung knows it; knows how stupid he would be for falling for it. But he does anyway because he's Park Jinyoung and he isn’t exactly in the rightest frame of mind.

“You’ll be surprised at how much I can drink before I start talking nonsense,” Jinyoung retorts, downing his shot of soju to further prove his point. It burns his throat and tastes more bitter than it should, but he swallows it anyway. Jaebeom seems fairly amused now, fingers drumming against the table.

“Shall we test that out then?”

 


 

Jaebeom-ssi, ” Jinyoung hiccups and Jaebeom hums in reply. He hardly minds that Jinyoung has progressed from Mr Im to his name in the matter of one night. He’d been waiting for it actually, ever since he’d let Jinyoung’s name leave his lips. He thought if he was less formal and strict, Jinyoung might actually smile for real around him just once.

The younger seemed to be doing much more than that now. Jinyoung had lasted almost three-quarters of the soju bottle before he'd gained a permanent redness to his cheeks. Sober Jinyoung was already too cute to handle. Drunk Jinyoung made Jaebeom want to coo and pet his hair. Or jump off a cliff. Either ways, every pout and giggle Jinyoung let out sent a wave of warmth to his heart and flutters to his stomach. No matter if he spouted nonsense or let out hiccups mid-sentence; Jaebeom found this Jinyoung a thousand times better than the one he'd been facing for a week.

“Jaebeom-ssi,” Jinyoung repeated, more firmly this time. His eyes are glazed over and unfocused, pointer finger hovering over Jaebeom’s face. Jaebeom hums again, stuffing the last piece of pork in his mouth.

“Was..was t-that your father?” Jinyoung’s words are slurred but Jaebeom understands them anyway. The topic makes him shift uncomfortably in his seat, eyebrows knitting together. Jinyoung doesn’t take notice, only staring at him and awaiting an answer.

"Yeah, it was. Have you not seen him before? He's in the news a lot," Jaebeom says, remembering the countless articles and reports regarding the Im Family - namely his father. They were usually about how successful they were, the new buildings they acquired or whatever event they went to. And there were those articles too. When they'd receive criticism and be dragged into whatever fake scandals their competitors would cook up. And the worst ones, when Jaebeom was still a child and he had no idea what was happening. He only remembers the constant questions and flashes of the camera, blinding his sight as he clung tight to his father's leg. Things had been different since then, and he'd never known why.

“You two seem…” Jinyoung makes a gesture with his hand, trying to think of a suitable word in his drunken state. His nose scrunches up and Jaebeom chuckles. “distant,” Jaebeom snorts. “Why?”

Jaebeom shrugs. “I grew up like that, ever since I was five, I think. My father’s a busy man and he doesn’t really feel the need? To talk much to me? He’d adopted Youngjae, saying I could learn how to take care of others more and the responsibility of an older brother would be good for me. But I think he’d done it as a replacement for his absence all the time,” Jaebeom shrugs again, feeling a little lump form in his throat. He looks up and he can’t believe it.

Park Jinyoung had fallen asleep.

At least he hadn’t heard any of that. Don’t need another person playing the pity card, Jaebeom thinks. He rests his chin in his hand, silently watching Jinyoung as his head sways a little until it lands on the table with a soft thump . Jaebeom winces, leaning forward to check on Jinyoung. But the younger is still knocked out, even snoring a little. His soft snores sound more like purrs and it reminds Jaebeom of his cats at home when they'd climb on his bed and snuggle to sleep at night. Jaebeom smiles, undeniably fond in the privacy of the little dining space.

He looks so peaceful like this. Should I wake him up? I mean of course I should, I can’t leave him sleeping here the whole night, Jaebeom mentally facepalms. He pulls his phone out from his pocket, shifting a little so the small gadget can slip out. There are texts from Mark and Yugyeom in the group chat, followed by a missed call from Youngjae. He swipes right on the notification and Youngjae picks up on the fourth ring. There's barking from the other side and it's eleven in the night but his younger brother sounds as awake as ever.

“Hyung! Mark hyung and Yugyeommie told me everything that happened so I called but you didn’t pick up. Jangmin hyung told me something about Father turning up at the gala and I got even more worried. Are you okay?” Youngjae blurts out and Jaebeom can’t help the grin that nearly splits his face in half.

“I’m okay, Youngjae-ah. I’ll explain everything later on, but can I come over? Jinyoung got drunk at dinner and I have zero idea where he lives, Plus, I think he’d be more comfortable and less afraid if he woke up at your place instead of mine,” Jaebeom admits and his brother’s loud laughter fills his ears. He hears some rustling on the other side and assumes Youngjae is getting up from his gaming chair again.

“Sure, hyung. I’ll go prepare the guest room, you remember the password combination right?”

“Yeah, see you in a bit,” Jaebeom hums and hangs up, letting out a sigh as he stuffs his phone in his pocket again. He takes in Jinyoung, still sleeping peacefully across the table, and wonders how the hell he’s gonna drag a grown man to his car without someone calling the police. The fact that he’s dressed in all black and that Jinyoung looks like every possible rich target out there doesn’t help one bit. He prays no one is still out at this hour, or that anyone who spots them is too drunk to care.

He stands up, pulling his pants down from where they’ve ridden up before shrugging on his jacket. He loops Jinyoung’s over one shoulder and nearly trips over Jinyoung’s stretched out foot. He squats down and gently taps Jinyoung’s shoulder.

“Jinyoung,” the younger man makes some incoherent mumbling sound. “Jinyoung, get up. I’m taking you over to Youngjae’s for the night, but you have to get up first,” Jaebeom feels like a parent persuading his child. Jinyoung lifts his head, eyes droopy and mouth twisted downwards. He blinks sleepily, squinting his eyes. Jaebeom can’t help the laugh he lets out and resists the urge to pet Jinyoung’s head.

“Jaeeebeom…” Jinyoung blinks again, cocking his head to the side. “...-ssi? Is that you? What time is it? Why are you in my home?” Jinyoung asks and Jaebeom snickers. He wishes he could take a video of this and use it as blackmail forever. Instead, he loops an arm around Jinyoung’s elbow and tugs him up, the younger clumsily getting to his feet. Jinyoung stumbles, his weight nearly taking both of them to the floor again. But Jaebeom’s sturdier even though they’re about the same weight and he pulls Jinyoung closer, hand coming to his waist to support him.

“We’re still at the restaurant, Jinyoung. It’s about eleven fifteen and you’re drunk ,” Jaebeom states.

"Ah, that explains a lot!" Jinyoung says too loudly near his ear and he jerks away from the younger laughing. And it's the first time Jaebeom has ever heard a laugh so beautiful, ever seen someone smile so perfectly. Jinyoung's eyes form a line and the skin crinkles at the side, looking like whiskers. He raises a hand to cover his mouth but Jaebeom can see his perfect teeth anyway. His heart thumps in his chest and he gets lost in staring for a minute, mouth twisted in a stupid smile. Jinyoung doesn't notice, eyes closed and his body weight against Jaebeom's.

Snap out of it. If you keep staring at him like an idiot no one’s gonna get home tonight, Jaebeom scolds himself. He stands Jinyoung upright easily, making sure nothing is left behind before he ushers them out of the semi-private sitting room. The couple was gone and only the same ahjumma was left at the counter, counting the day’s earnings carefully. She perks up as she hears Jaebeom.

Halmeoni, I’ll be going first okay?” Jaebeom says, pulling out his wallet and handing her a few notes. It’s way more than the bill actually is and she protests, pushing the money back but Jaebeom smiles and shakes his head.

“You youngsters, always spending cash like it grows on trees. Keep it and save for a rainy day, Jaebeom-ah,” her words are soft and her tone reminds Jaebeom of his own grandmother. His heart instantly swells and yearns for some form of comfort and warmth, so he reaches forward and gives her a soft hug. It’s difficult to hold two people at once but he doesn’t mind.

“Take care, halmeoni . I’ll be back soon, I promise,” Jaebeom squeezes her frail hand lightly.

"Be careful on the way home! And take good care of your boyfriend," she calls after them. Jaebeom's face burns bright red and he glances down to make sure Jinyoung didn't hear it. Jinyoung is, thankfully, still barely conscious against his shoulder. He heaves a sigh of relief and begins the walk back to his car.

The night is a lot quieter as compared to when they first stepped foot into the restaurant. Shops are still opened by the streets are definitely less crowded now. Because it’s less crowded, the cool breeze sends a chill down Jaebeom’s spine and he can feel the goosebumps rise up on his arm. Jinyong doesn’t seem to take notice, even though he isn’t wearing a jacket and has his sleeves rolled up. Jaebeom relishes in the body heat of another person and quickens his pace.

He gives himself a pat on the back for having the mind to park nearby by the side of the street. He unlocks the door and the headlights flicker on, lighting up the dimly lit street. He moves to the passenger seat and pats on Jinyoung’s shoulder again, the younger not opening his eyes but lifting his feet and blindly stepping to get into the car. After a few minutes of pure torture watching Jinyoung try, Jaebeom huffs and lifts the younger’s legs up, effectively carrying him and placing him into the car. Jinyoung has a contented smile on his lips and Jaebeom mutters a little ‘Brat’ as he buckles him in. He shuts the door and walks back to his side, strapping himself in and starting up the ignition. He turns on the lights and cranks up the heater, shuddering as the warm air fills the car and envelopes him. He removes his jacket and throws both his and Jinyoung’s somewhere to the back seat, making a mental note to retrieve it tomorrow. He steps on the gas pedal, the engine whirring softly as he finally starts on the journey to Youngjae’s place.

Jaebeom isn't exactly the soberest considering he's had a pint of beer to drink too, but he's well under the alcohol limit for driving so he thinks he's pretty safe. He lets his mind wander while his body moves on auto-pilot, knowing the route to his younger brother's house like the back of his hand. That damn old pervert, I swear I’m gonna kill Yugyeom one day for letting this happen, Jaebeom thinks as he glances over to Jinyoung. The younger has sobered up a little and is sleepily rubbing his eyes, head resting on the window. You care, don’t you? A voice, the annoying one that represents his conscience, says. You know you do, that’s why you got mad. That’s why you stepped in. You care about Jinyoung, not just because he’s your secretary. Admit it, you coward, the voice taunts again and Jaebeom wants to slap that part of him. He once again wishes his conscience didn’t exist.

But a part of him knows it’s true. Because when he’d seen that old geezer lay a hand on Jinyoung, something in him - like a rubber band being pulled taut to its limit, had snapped and his legs were moving before his brain could take over. After that everything had been sort of a blur, his temper taking over. He’d only remembered Jinyoung in front of him, eyes determined and hands firm against his shoulders, telling him to stop. And then his father, walking out from the crowd with his cold eyes and strict voice. In that instant, Jaebeom’s anger had melted away and given way to the emotion he hated the most - shame. It always seemed to weasel its way in whenever Jaebeom’s father was around and he hated how small it made him feel in comparison. He’d watched as his father took care of everything in a few minutes, using his words like Jaebeom should have. It felt like a slap to the face when he’d been dismissed like that in front of everyone.

Especially Jinyoung, his secretary who wasn’t supposed to suffer through any of this if Jaebeom hadn’t invited him in the first place.

Of course, the guilt had been eating him up for the past few hours. Heck, if something had happened to Jinyoung, he'd punish himself for it for the rest of his life. That’s why I’m doing this, nothing more, nothing less, he tells himself. The annoying voice once again goes ‘ Liar! ’ in his head. And once again, Jaebeom ignores it in favour of pulling up on Youngjae’s driveway.

The lights are still on and he can briefly make out Youngjae’s shadow moving about. It’s a bigger house compared to others but it was a gift from their father when Youngjae said he wanted to move out to live on his own a few years ago. Jaebeom unbuckles his seatbelt and does the same to Jinyoung, nudging him awake in the process. Jinyoung’s eyes flutter open, a little yawn coming from him as he stretches. Jaebeom can’t help the little chuckle he lets out and Jinyoung’s half-lidded eyes fly to his.

“Don’t laugh at me, Jaebeom-ssi, I’m drunk and you shouldn’t be laughing at the drunk. You should be helping them,” Jinyoung mumbles with a half scowl. Jaebeom is pretty sure Jinyoung doesn’t know what he’s saying but he gets out of the car to help anyway. He pulls Jinyoung up by the arm, throwing it over his shoulder and wrapping his own arm around Jinyoung’s waist. The faint buzz in his head makes the places they touch feel hot and tingly and Jaebeom can feel Jinyoung’s breath on his neck as they walk. His face heats up and he hopes Youngjae will mistake it for him being drunk when he punches in the password.

“Hyung, are you blushing?” comes Youngjae’s voice as soon as he steps into the house. Crap, crap, crap.

"No, I drank too. Come and help me, Youngjae-ah," Jaebeom clears his throat and wills his face to cool down.

“How much did Jinyoung-hyung drink?” Youngjae asks, taking over Jinyoung’s dead weight while Jaebeom kneels down to remove his shoes.

“Not much! I have veeerry low alcohol tolerance,” Jinyoung exclaims and Youngjae yelps in surprise.

“I thought you were asleep, hyung,” Youngjae mutters and Jinyoung smiles, eyes still shut as he blindly reaches to pet Youngjae’s hair. It’s such a domestic sight that Jaebeom feels his heart clench.

“I’ll take him to his room and then we’ll talk, okay Jaebeom hyung? There’s some water if you want some,” Youngjae says, chin nodding to the kitchen. Jaebeom nods and lets his brother carry Jinyoung off, hearing Youngjae’s laughter loud and clear. He moves to sit on the couch, stretching and sighing as he can finally rest a little. Coco, Youngjae’s pet dog, comes up to snuggle by his feet and he reaches down to scratch behind its ear. It’s been a long day and he can feel the tiredness settle into his bones.

"Do you want anything to eat? Or some medicine so you don't get a hangover tomorrow," Youngjae asks as he appears in the hallway joining the living room and the bedrooms.

“No, did you give some to Jinyoung though?” Jaebeom asks, sitting upright and making space for Youngjae next to him. Coco perks up at the appearance of her owner and jumps onto the couch, a white ball of energy even at this hour. Nora would never, Jaebeom muses as he remembers his grumpy Siamese waiting for him at home.

“Of course. So tell me hyung, what happened? I only heard bits and pieces from Yugyeommie earlier. He says he’s sorry by the way, he was blaming himself for it and all. You should talk to him,” Youngjae advises and Jaebeom nods, now feeling a little guilty about wanting to kill the younger earlier. He tells Youngjae what he remembers, the details coming to him slowly as he talks. Youngjae also tells him Yugyeom’s side and he feels his anger melt away completely when he hears how bad their youngest friend feels.

“But is Jinyoung hyung okay? It isn’t like him to clamp up like that,” Youngjae frowns.

“Now that you mention it…” Jaebeom immediately thinks of that day, when he’d walked in on Jinyoung freezing up at his desk. Did something happen to him before? The Park Jinyoung I know would never let someone touch him like that, Jaebeom thinks. Youngjae’s hand on his knee startles him and he snaps his head up.

“Hyung?” Jaebeom shakes his head, dismissing the thought.

“It’s nothing. I should probably get home, I haven’t fed my cats all day. You know about the dinner with Father tomorrow, right?” Jaebeom asks, getting up. Youngjae definitely notices something is up, but he doesn’t push it and Jaebeom’s grateful.

“Yeah, see you there, hyung. And I’ll bring Jinyoung hyung to work tomorrow, so don’t worry,” There’s a hint of a tease in his voice and Jaebeom lightly smacks his elbow.

“It isn’t like that,”

“I never said it was, hyung. Goodnight, drive home safe,” Youngjae says as he opens the door for Jaebeom. The air outside is as cold as it was earlier and Jaebeom braces himself for the walk to his car.

"Don't be a brat. Goodnight," Jaebeom chides lightly as he waves. The door shuts behind him with a soft click and a few minutes later he sees the lights in the house flicker off. He gets in his car quickly, a lingering feeling that he can't identify in his chest. He looks to his side and he can still hear Jinyoung's musical laughter in his ears, can still see his eye wrinkles and that wide smile as he drives off.

It isn’t like that, right?

Chapter Text

“Hyung… Jinyoung hyung, wake up,” Jinyoung squeezes his eyes shut even tighter, trying to make out the voice that calls him. The moment he tries to think his head pounds and it feels like it’s going to split in half. He groans and rolls over, eyes still shut as he tangles himself up in the silky sheets. Wait, silk? I’m too poor to afford this, he thinks and forces his eyes open. It’s silk, that’s for sure. He isn’t in his own room, that’s for sure, too. So where the hell am I?

“You’re in my house, hyung. Did you forget everything from last night?” the voice says again and Jinyoung cranes his neck up to look at the owner of it. He sighs in relief when he realises it isn’t some stranger and he didn’t land himself in some one night stand.

“Youngjae, thank god it’s you. What happened? Why am I here? Ah, my head hurts like a bitch,” Jinyoung groans, curses spewing from his mouth in his morning haze. Youngjae doesn’t seem to mind, only laughs and helps him sit up.

“You really don’t remember? Not even the gala?”

“Gala? What-” Jinyoung’s eyes fly open as memories from last night hit him all at once like a firetruck. The gala, that damn pervert, Yugyeom and Mark hyung. Oh god, how much did I drink? I couldn’t have drunk that much right? Wait but how the hell did I end up at Youngjae’s? After the gala…

“Shit. I’m so screwed,” Jaebeom, Jaebeom, Jaebeom. He’s gonna blackmail me for the rest of my life. I even called him by his name and made him carry me, he might just move on to firing me right away.

“Remember now?” Youngjae asks, a cheeky grin on his face. Jinyoung groans and nods, burying his face in his hands.

“Where’s your brother? Did he say… anything?” Jinyoung bites his lower lip, nervous.

“He’s at home, I think. I told him I would wake you and bring you to work today and he was okay with it, so I don’t think he’ll do anything. Just go wash up, hyung. I’ll put some clothes on the bed for you after you shower and there’s medicine on the bedside table. Don’t worry so much, Jinyoung hyung,” Youngjae says with an assuring smile as he gets up from the bed.

“Thank you, Youngjae-ah. I’m sorry for kinda crashing at your place,” Jinyoung scratches the back of his neck sheepishly. Youngjae bursts into his loud, bright laughter and Jinyoung finds himself grinning.

“It’s okay, hyung. I don’t mind the company. The bathroom’s to the left, I’ll be outside making breakfast if you need me,” Youngjae shuts the door as he leaves and Jinyoung lets out a tired sigh. His head still aches; it feels like someone is hammering nails into it and all Jinyoung can feel is the constant throbbing pain. He glances to the side and finds the medicine Youngjae was talking about, along with a glass of water. He gulps down two pills and downs the water greedily, throat feeling less like sandpaper when the liquid soothes it.

"I really need to control myself," Jinyoung mutters, looking around for his phone. He finds it hidden somewhere between the pale blue sheets. The battery's almost dead and there are tons of messages, mostly from Jackson and Bambam in their group chat. There's also some from Wonpil, asking where he is. 7:24, no wonder he’s worrying . He locks his phone and tosses it aside, deciding to reply later when his brain can actually function properly. He shuffles to the toilet, the clothes from last night feeling extra uncomfortable on his body. He shuts the door and dares a look in the bathroom mirror.

I look like shit, Jinyoung thinks and rubs at his face, feeling the little stubble at his chin growing already. His eyes are slightly sunken in and his face is puffier than it’s ever been. There’s close to zero colour on his face and he feels like a zombie, not just looks like one. He looks out of place in the grand bathroom, marble floors and white porcelain fixtures that probably cost his monthly paycheck. He easily forgets that Youngjae is also the son of a super rich millionaire with how easy-going the younger man is.

Jinyoung peels his clothes off, wrinkling his nose at the now crumpled pile of clothing on the floor. He decides to hand them up on the hook behind the door - they did cost a fortune so of course, he has to treat them with some form of care and respect. He climbs into the shower and turns the faucet on, warm water spraying out and hitting his chest. He lets out a happy sigh, letting the warm water relax his tired and stiff bones as he reaches for the soap. He rinses and scrubs harshly, his skin turning pink where he’s scrubbed the hardest. The mirror is all fogged up by the time he dries himself off and he can barely see himself in the mirror as he brushes his teeth. Youngjae had even given him a little bottle of moisturiser which he gratefully lathers on his face once he’s done.

He leaves the bathroom feeling fresh and clean, humming a tune to himself as he dresses. It’s a simple white shirt and black pants, paired with a black blazer that he’s seen Youngjae wear before. He’s mildly aware what people would think and suspect if he comes to work with Youngjae dressed in his clothes but he also knows that everyone in the office loves Youngjae and would never dare to speak ill of him. He also knows what Jaebeom would do if he finds out any scandalous rumours regarding his brother surfaces and reaches his ears. And so, he dresses without hesitation, even taking the time to style his wet hair the best he can.

The smell of freshly fried eggs and coffee hit his nose the second he leaves the bedroom. He follows the smell and reaches the kitchen, where Youngjae is finishing up on some fried kimchi tuna. There’s a tiny bark behind him and he turns in surprise.

“You have a dog?” Jinyoung asks, bending down to let the dog sniff his hand. It approaches him curiously, head tilting in a way that reminds Jinyoung of Jackson.

“Yup! She’s Coco, isn’t she adorable?” Youngjae coos and Jinyoung chuckles. It fits Youngjae, he muses. He watches Youngjae scoop Coco up and put her on his shoulder as he finishes up with the food.

“Hyung, could you help me bring the coffee and bread to the table?” Youngjae points to the coffee pot and loaf of bread by the side. Jinyoung nods and carries the food over to the dining table in between the kitchen and the living room, happily taking a sip of the freshly brewed coffee from one of the cups. He pulls out a chair and takes a seat, the pale brown wood cushioned by velvety soft cushions. Youngjae lays the plates of fried kimchi tuna and eggs in front of him and Jinyoung can’t help but subconsciously lick his lips at the food.

“Thank you for the food,” Jinyoung says out of habit and Youngjae grins, watching expectantly for his reaction. Youngjae doesn’t cook often. But when he does, he likes to put all his effort into it so that the people he’s cooking for will feel the love he has for them. He isn’t close with Jinyoung like Wonpil is yet, but he’d like to be one day and this seems like a good starting point for that.

He’s rewarded when Jinyoung lets out a soft hum, a smile on his lips as he quickly takes a few more bites of his kimchi tuna-egg sandwich.

“It’s really good, Youngjae-ah. Where’d you learn to cook this?” Jinyoung asks once he’s swallowed down his food. He’s already making another one. Ah, this hyung, Youngjae notes as he reaches for a slice of bread to make his own sandwich.

“Jaebeom hyung taught me. When we were kids, he used to cook supper for me when it was too late into the night and the servants were all asleep. If you think my food is good, you should try his one day,” Youngjae replies, taking a big bite of his own cooking. The egg is the perfect amount of cooked, some bits melting in his mouth; the kimchi juice mixed with the chewiness of the tuna giving it a nice texture. Jaebeom would be proud of him.

“Your brother can cook? He looks like he only knows how to work all day,” Jinyoung snorts, but there’s a spark of curiosity in his eyes that Youngjae doesn’t miss out on. The younger’s lips pull into a mischievous smile but Jinyoung just keeps talking.

“He’s in the office all day, would it kill him to go home just half an hour earlier? I bet he even works on weekends, doesn’t he? And he-”

“Are you worried , hyung?" Jinyoung's mouth falls open and Youngjae stifles a laugh. He watches in amusement as Jinyoung's jaw works, mouth opening and closing like a goldfish while he thinks of something to say.

“That’s not- I’m not!” Jinyoung very eloquently replies. His cheeks are so pink! He’s like Jaebeom hyung, I swear these two, Youngjae muses as he chooses to sip on his coffee instead of replying.

“Youngjae! It’s just that if he goes home earlier I can too! And the lesser he works the more I can relax, too. Ah, it really isn’t like that,” Jinyoung makes a sound that’s somewhat a groan. Frankly, it sounds more like a dying animal and Youngjae has to laugh now.

“Alright, alright. If you say so, hyung. Let’s just finish up and go to work, okay? We can’t be too late, I think even Jaebeom hyung has a limit to his patience for this kind of situation,” Youngjae changes the topic because he feels a little bad about poking fun at Jinyoung this early in the morning, but he doesn’t miss the way Jinyoung almost chokes at the mention of Jaebeom’s name.

‘It isn’t like that,’ ‘Ah, it really isn’t like that,’ You two even say the same thing, how can it not be something? These two hyungs, really, Youngjae shakes his head in amusement. He watches the way Jinyoung quickly stuffs the sandwich into his mouth, cheeks still tinged pink, and wonders how two people can be so blind.

 


 

Jaebeom walks into the office that morning and nearly forgets that Jinyoung is still over at Youngjae’s place. He had walked out from the elevator and was this close to yelling for Jinyoung when he’d remembered where the younger was. He’d then proceeded to break into a small smile in the privacy of the top floor as he recalled yesterday’s events.

I wonder how he’ll act today. I hope it doesn’t get awkward, Jaebeom supposes that when it comes to someone like Jinyoung, he has to plan his every move. It's like manoeuvring around a booby trap - one wrong step and it could lead to the downfall of whatever they've built so far. It's only the change in formalities and the fact that Jaebeom kinda saved Jinyoung's life, but something has definitely shifted between them and Jaebeom rather it stay that way. He much prefers a talkative ( drunk or not ) Jinyoung to the quiet, unresponsive version he's been seeing the past week.

Should I still call him by his name? But people might talk and that’s definitely not good news, Jaebeom thinks as he settles in his chair. It’s the same room, same old four walls and furniture, but Jaebeom finds it duller without Jinyoung sitting outside. But then again, it wouldn’t matter if they don’t know about it, right? Maybe just once when he comes in later and I’ll judge based on his reaction. There’s a rush of excitement; a tingling feeling low in his gut, and he finds himself rolling Jinyoung’s name over his tongue a few times just to familiarise with it.

"Park Jinyoung. Park, Jin, Young," The syllables feel oddly comfortable as they fall from his lips and Jaebeom, once again, finds himself smiling. He doesn't realise it, not for a long time, until he catches his reflection on his computer screen and frowns. What the hell am I doing? He’s your secretary, for fuck’s sake. Not some guy you’re trying to make friends with. Control yourself a little, will you? Jaebeom chides. He lightly taps on his cheeks to tell himself to focus before he turns on his computer, busying himself by flipping through the files submitted to him yesterday. It works. His mind soon wanders off Jinyoung and to the new project his father’s secretary has emailed to him. He clicks on the email and his heart immediately sinks.

Mr Im Jaebeom,

Below is an attachment of the proposal for the upcoming annual Christmas project. Please do read it and report your thoughts. Your father has also asked me to remind you about tonight's dinner. Dinner will start at seven and he has also requested the presence of your secretary.

Thank you.

 

It's so like him to not even bother emailing his son in person. And even Jinyoung now, too? He's never bothered about my employees.f this is about the stupid fucking gala thing I swear I- Jaebeom's thoughts get cut off by a knock on the door. He doesn't even get the chance to reply before Jinyoung waltzes in, looking much better and definitely less drunk. Jaebeom feels his heart leap up, as the invisible anchor has suddenly been lifted just from seeing Jinyoung.

 


 

Jinyoung reaches the office with Youngjae at eight-ten, officially forty minutes late to work. Many people turn and stare when they walk past, some mildly surprised while others look alarmed. Some even rush Jinyoung to go up quickly, saying how ‘Mr Im arrived ten minutes ago!'. Jinyoung nods his thanks while Youngjae seems fairly amused at how everyone reacts to his brother.

“Are people that afraid of Jaebeom hyung?” Youngjae asks when they’re in the elevator up. Youngjae’s stopping at the fifteenth floor, where the Human Resource department is. Jinyoung stifles a laugh, lips pressed together to hide a smile.

"It is your brother, after all. You know how bad his temper is. I've seen him flare up at least five people the past two weeks,” Jinyoung states, remembering the many meetings when people had gotten on Jaebeom’s nerves. He’s gotten so used to it now that he doesn’t even blink when Jaebeom raises his voice.

“He just wants the best for everyone, though. Father is unnecessarily strict with him and how he runs the company, that’s why I think he’s so on edge all the time,” Youngjae says, softly with a frown. It piques Jinyoung’s interest. He vaguely remembers Jaebeom saying something about his father when they were eating yesterday, but his brain is still malfunctioning from his hangover to fully remember what.

"Is your hyung...on bad terms with your father?" Jinyoung cautiously asks.

"I don't really know myself. When I first came into the family, Mr Im wasn't around a lot at all. But whenever he came home, Jaebeom hyung just seemed to shut off for that period of time, until Father left for another of his business trips. And when they do talk, I'm usually not allowed to listen. It doesn't really bother me much, because I'm not interested in running the company or anything like Jaebeom hyung is. But sometimes I wish I knew, so I'd know how to comfort hyung whenever I need to," Youngjae replies, a sad look on his face. Jinyoung reaches out and puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. He has so many things he can say but doesn't feel like he should. Not just yet, anyway. Hence, he opts for silently comforting the younger until the elevator dings at level fifteen.

“Jinyoung hyung, I know we aren’t that close yet, but could you do me a favour? Please look out for Jaebeom hyung. He carries the weight of a lot of people on his shoulders every day, I don’t want him to overwork himself on top of that. Please stop him if he gets too stressed, ” Youngjae says as he watches the elevator door open. He meets Jinyoung’s eyes and the plea in them makes Jinyoung’s heart wrench.

“Of course, I will. I wouldn’t want to see your brother overwork himself either,” Jinyoung assures him and Youngjae’s face finally lights up with a smile. Jinyoung feels a pang in his chest for the young man.

“Thank you, hyung. Good luck for the rest of the day, I’ll text you for lunch?” Jinyoung nods and waves goodbye, watching the elevator doors close on Youngjae’s retreating back view. The weight of a lot of people, huh? That man really needs to learn that there are people here who care about him and not just his work, Jinyoung thinks as he finally reaches the top floor.

It’s as quiet as always, but Jinyoung knows Jaebeom is waiting in his office already. He dumps his bag at his seat, scowling at the new stack of files and Jaebeom’s messy handwriting on the post-it at the top. He grabs his notebook, the same darned one Jaebeom had given him, and walks to the door. He knocks, once and firmly, before pushing it open.

Jaebeom is seated as always, hair by the side as always. He’s dressed in a more casual look today, similar to Jinyoung is, but he still looks as much as the CEO he always is. Jinyoung crosses the office with long strides, stopping in front of his table like usual. But nothing is normal about this. There’s no teasing smirk on Jaebeom’s face, no glare in Jinyoung’s eyes. It’s pure nervousness, crackling and sparking between them like a tangible force, crawling under Jinyoung’s skin like an itch he can’t reach.

Jaebeom breaks the silence first.

“Are you feeling better, Jinyoung-ssi?” Thank you.

“Yes. Thank you for uh, sending me over to Youngjae’s yesterday,” comes Jinyoung’s awkward reply. Say it! a voice in his head urges but Jinyoung decides to let his sentence hang in the air instead.

“Of course. Uh, do you have my schedule?” Jaebeom asks, clearing his throat. He scratches the back of his neck and Jinyoung’s glad he isn’t the only one that’s feeling awkward.

"Oh, yeah," Jinyoung turns his attention to the book in his hand and flips to the right page of the calendar section. "You have a meeting at nine thirty with some shareholders, lunch with Ms Suzy from JYP Enterprises regarding their upcoming launch and then another meeting at three with the editing team. Wonpil told me to pass you some files for the meeting, I'll bring them to you later on. Is there anything else?" Jinyoung looks up from his notebook and meets Jaebeom's gaze.

"Yes, actually. I have dinner with my father tonight and he wants you to be there. I have no idea what he wants but if you aren't up to it, you can just say you fell sick or had some personal matter to attend to. It's up to you," Jaebeom blurts out and Jinyoung can barely understand him at the rate he's talking. "And Youngjae will be there too, but he won't snitch on you if you don't end up going. He-"

Jaebeom-ssi, There you go, it’s just three syllables. It wasn’t that difficult, right? Jaebeom stops his rambling and his eyes shoot up to meet Jinyoung’s in a surprised look. “I’ll go. Don’t worry so much, please. You worrying makes me more stressed than I already am,” Jinyoung’s tone is light and teasing but deep inside, he’s a fucking nervous wreck.

Why did you even say that? Are you an idiot, oh my god. You get drunk, make him take care of you on top of saving your ass, turn up late for work and you’re still so confident? Maybe you do want to get fired, Jinyoung curses in his head and resists the urge to slap himself. Jaebeom, on the other hand, seems to not mind at all. The worried look on his face gets replaced by an amused one and Jinyoung thanks the heavens.

You get stressed when I get worried?” Jinyoung rolls his eyes, but he feels like the weight in his chest is lifted all at once. He isn’t mad, he isn’t mad, he isn’t mad. Isn’t that progress for once?

“Well, with all the trouble you went through last night, I do have lots to repay you for. And I know I said it before but...thank you, Jaebeom-ssi. For helping me and the dinner too. You can just cut out whatever the amount from my paycheck, it’s only fair,” Jinyoung points out. Allowing Jinyoung to use his credit card for the suit was already too much. Jinyoung might not be as rich as Jaebeom is, but he has dignity and a conscience. Besides, he actually enjoyed yesterday despite being shitfaced drunk for half of it.

“No, no, it’s fine. I offered to have a meal with you, it’s only right that I pay,”

“That halmeoni was right about you spending money like it grows on trees,” Jinyoung muses, a quirk to his lips.

“You heard that? I swear, I thought you were asleep. So you made me carry you all the way back to the car for nothing?” Jaebeom asks, incredulous.

“More like dragged me. My feet were still on the floor so it technically wasn’t carrying, Jaebeom-ssi,” Jinyoung shrugs, folding his arms and leaning his weight on a leg. Jaebeom lets out a huff, leaning back in his chair.

“What happened to being grateful, Jinyoung-ssi?”

“I’m still nursing a hangover, must be the headache messing with my brain,” Jinyoung replies without thinking.

“Then maybe you should start on the new files I’ve placed on your table to help you get back to normal. Reading is good for the soul,” Jaebeom says without any bite. There’s a smile on his lips, lopsided with all his charm.

“You could have just told me you wanted me out of your face, Jaebeom-ssi,” Jinyoung shoots back, voice equally void of malice.

"Then, please. I expect those files to be in by lunch! Hangover or not!" Jinyoung hears Jaebeom call after him as he leaves the room, the wooden door falling shut soundlessly. ‘Reading is good for the soul.’ Is that even a saying? Maybe he’s the one with the headache, Jinyoung muses as he finally takes a seat in his own chair. But that went surprisingly well, huh? Good job, Park Jinyoung. You’re finally less of an asshole to one more person.

Jinyoung knows they're nowhere near friends, not by a long shot. But things have shifted between them, there's no denying that. Maybe they've found the right balance, like two cogs that have finally found the right fit and started turning correctly to function. Or maybe they're just being extra cautious and walking in a minefield, waiting and preparing for an explosion. But either way, it's definitely better this way. Even though Jaebeom still gives him loads of work to do, along with crazy near-impossible deadlines.

Try not to think about killing me this time, okay, Jinyoung-ssi? Jaebeom’s messy words read on the post it. Jinyoung peels it off, not knowing why he sticks it on an empty spot in his notebook, and flips open the first file.

There’s a stupid smile on his lips, anyway.

Chapter Text

If you told Park Jinyoung that he'd be spending a Thursday night drinking with Im Jaebeom in some old, half-empty bar two weeks ago, he'd probably laugh in your face and call you an idiot. But right now, when he's spending his evening with Jaebeom for two , not one, days in a row, he’s beginning to think he’s the idiot here.

He's an idiot for doing loads of things, and it probably sucks even more that they're all somehow related to Im Jaebeom. For example, when Jinyoung had agreed to accompany said man to that darned gala. Or when he'd gotten hopelessly drunk because he had close to zero self-control when the leftover adrenaline from that crazy encounter had already affected his thoughts. Or when Jinyoung had stepped into Jaebeom's office that morning and left with a smile on his face for once, when he'd subconsciously let himself feel something more than a dislike for his boss. Or most importantly - when his big mouth had, once again, failed to keep itself shut and gotten him in trouble.

Now Jinyoung doesn’t feel too bad about the last one, because he has morals and a sense for justice and figures he did the right thing anyway. Even if he might have made things a lot worse for Jaebeom and himself. Especially himself . But as he stares at his half-drunk boss across the table, fingers wrapped around his half-empty glass of beer ready to tip it back again, Jinyoung thinks he'd rather lose a dumb temporary job than let Jaebeom face injustice like that ever again.

 


 

 

3 hours ago, at the Im Mansion

Jaebeom rubs his palms against his thigh for the fourth time that hour, the sweat droplets somehow reforming again as soon as he wipes them away. It’s 6:24 , about half an hour till he has to have dinner with his father at home. He’s still on the way there and even though there’s close to zero cars on the road that he’s taking, he’s still nervous and prays there won’t be anything that will make him late. He knows for a fact that his father hates tardiness even more than he does, and he’d like to start off dinner on the best note he can.

He glances at Jinyoung next to him, the younger looking way more comfortable riding shotgun as compared to the first time. There’s hardly any awkwardness between them anymore - something Jaebeom makes use of by asking about Jinyoung’s life. Simple, surface questions like how the younger is handling the workload, his relationship with the fellow employees, etc.

And then there’s the teasing.

Jaebeom can't remember the last time he's had such light-hearted banters with someone other than his friends. It was probably in high school, when he was still a teenager without a whole company to worry about; when he'd been friendly and open to lots of people. He was quite popular in his high school - many girls had crushes on him while guys wanted to be him. He'd been your usual popular bad boy type - leather jackets, piercings and slicked-back hair with a cold stare that made girls swoon. There'd been guys that had crushes on him too, even if he'd ignored all of them alike.

Jaebeom didn’t really know about his sexual orientation then, not until he’d kissed a guy in a game of spin the bottle at a college party, at least. He’d liked it; had wanted to do it again even after when he was sober. Then the guy became his first boyfriend, though no one but his close friends knew. It had been a good learning point for him, even though the breakup had left him heartbroken for a good week or two. But he knew that his father would never accept it. Not with the reputation their names hold, not with the responsibility on Jaebeom’s shoulders, not with the chaos it would bring.

And so it was a secret well kept for years by his brother and closely-knit group of friends, and Jaebeom plans of keeping it like that until he thinks of a way to break the news to his father without getting himself and his future boyfriend into a whole lot of trouble. Of course, if Jaebeom miraculously gets a date with his busy schedule and the crazy amount of work. That's a huge ‘if' if anyone was being honest. But Jaebeom doesn’t have time and the heart to worry about his non-existent love life anyway, not when they’re about two turns away from his old home and meeting his father.

 


 

“You live here ?" Jinyoung asks, mouth hanging open and eyes wide. He gawks openly at the huge metal gates as they swing open automatically for them, revealing a long driveway with grey and white stone flooring. Miles and miles of freshly clean-cut grass and flowers surround them, leading to gardens around the house all the way at the end. There's even a fountain in the middle, a stone statue standing high and proud at the top of a pedestal. The evening sun setting above them gives the whole place an orange-pink hue and it's like a scene right out of the 1700s for a second, making Jinyoung want to pull out his camera and snap pictures to remember it forever.

Is this a palace or something? Maybe he’s secretly some prince. How can someone afford all this shit, what the heck, Jinyoung thinks as Jaebeom drives them to the main door of the house. Jinyoung’s half surprised there isn’t any red carpet laid out on the marble steps as a butler opens the door for him to step out. He shyly nods his thanks, unsure of how to act because obviously, he’s never had someone open the car door for him in his life, much less call him ‘Sir’.

In comparison to him, Jaebeom seems his usual, unbothered self. Of course, he would, he's used to this. Rich CEO and owner of many houses, remember? Jinyoung supposes he's started getting used to the more casual Jaebeom by now - the one that endlessly teases him with his signature smirk and witty remarks - and it has slipped his mind that Jaebeom could end his temporary career in a second. It makes him wonder if Jaebeom also felt the way he did; if the growing comfort and familiarity were just one-sided and a figment of his hopeful imagination.

He stares blankly, spacing out in his thoughts as Jaebeom makes his way up the steps. His long strides carry him to the top in three steps, taking the marble stairs two steps at a time. Jinyoung’s still standing by the car, fingers subconsciously toying with the loose thread at his sleeves.

Secretary Park, aren’t you coming?” Jaebeom’s deep voice shakes him out of his daze and he pulls on the thread too hard that it snaps.

“Right, sorry,” Jinyoung mumbles as he jogs up the stairs to reach Jaebeom’s side. Jaebeom has a blank face instead of his usual teasing smile that appears when Jinyoung spaces out and it makes Jinyoung frown. He also realises, as he follows Jaebeom’s too long and too quick steps, that Jaebeom’s called him ‘Secretary Park’ again.

Is he on edge because it’s his father? Jinyoung wonders as he watches Jaebeom’s back as they walk through the huge hallways.

The interior is as pretty as the exterior is - high ceilings, marble floors and cream white and grey walls with matching furniture neatly arranged around the room. There are paintings hung up on the wall, expensive gold and silver frames around them on display. Some antique vases stand in a glass display cabinet by a wall, Chinese paintings and words in various colours on the fragile material. It's just the entrance and living room, but it's probably two times of Jinyoung's whole apartment already.

Now he's sure it's a huge honour to step foot into the house of the Im Family; he'd love to take a tour any other day. But at that moment, instead of admiring all the expensive and luxurious things before him, his eyes are fixed on Jaebeom's hunched shoulders. The man before him is the same as the one Jinyoung had seen that morning in the office, the same old Im Jaebeom with his twin moles and broad shoulders and black mullet. But he's so similar and so different at the same time, it sends worry straight to Jinyoung's heart.

There’s no confidence in the steps he takes now; no relaxed posture and demanding aura surrounding him anymore. His fingers fidget and tap against his thigh like they’ve been the whole drive here; Jinyoung had noticed halfway through the drive that Jaebeom was definitely not his usual self any longer. ( He didn’t point it out to save Jaebeom from any embarrassment.) The older man has also been significantly less talkative and Jinyoung had caught him biting his lip in worry more than once.

‘My father's a busy man and he doesn't really feel the need? To talk much to me?' Jaebeom had once said. Jinyoung had blacked out soon after and it felt too late to bring it up the next time they met, but that doesn’t mean he hadn’t thought about it. And with Youngjae having to ask Jinyoung to watch over Jaebeom and Jaebeom himself acting so out of character, Jinyoung wonders how deep the wound to Jaebeom’s heart really goes, even if the older man acts like he’s fine all the time.

“The dining room is right through the door, I think Youngjae’s there already so feel free to go ahead first. I need to go to the restroom,” Jaebeom says all of a sudden. He makes eye contact with Jinyoung and what Jinyoung sees in his eyes makes his heart clench. There’s no more light in them, not even a hint of his usual self. Only empty, tired eyes that Jinyoung can’t read are left. And in the instance, it feels like the barrier they’ve worked to break down has built itself back up all over again, and Jinyoung’s further from Jaebeom than he’s ever been. Desperately, he wants to reach out and just be there to comfort Jaebeom, to just know why . But Jinyoung’s a coward above all the things that he is. So, he stays rooted and only nods, gulping hard as Jaebeom turns on his heel and walks down another hallway before disappearing into the restroom.

And if Jinyoung were being honest, he doesn’t even know what he’d do if he knew.

 

 


 

Jaebeom shuts the door lightly but firmly, letting out a heavy breath as he clicks the lock shut. He leans against the wooden white door, not caring about the door handle that digs into his back as he focuses on taking deep breaths. He catches sight of himself in the mirror, in his crisp navy suit and neatly styled hair. Without thinking, he turns the faucet on and splashes the cold water on his face, shutting the faucet after. He doesn't bother with a towel, just lets the droplets run down his cheeks and fall to the floor. His eyes are shut; one hand on the sink and the other clenched in a tight fist. He wants to mess his hair up, wants to tear and burn his stupid suit, wants to cry out and yell his frustrations in the huge bathroom where he’s alone.

Then he opens his eyes and catches sight of himself in the mirror again, crisp navy suit and neatly styled hair, and remembers who he has to be.

Pathetic, aren’t you? Having a breakdown right before meeting Father. What would he think of you, hmm? The annoying voice says in his head and the shame that follows makes his cheeks burn. Another sigh escapes his lips, this one carrying the weight of an anchor in his chest. He reaches for the towel this time, rubbing his face roughly even after the water has been soaked up. Get a grip, it’s just another dinner, nothing we can’t handle, Jaebeom assures himself as he hangs the towel back up. Come on, they’re waiting for you. Just another dinner.

Just another day of being the son your father w ants you to be.

 


 

 

Jaebeom walks into the dining room right on time. The door to his father’s room swings open just as he pulls out the chair next to Jinyoung, making him stop immediately. He stands straighter and sees Youngjae move to do the same, usual bright smile missing. He’s nervous, too, Jaebeom notes. He knows how cautious Youngjae still is around his father, knows how nerve-wracking each of these meetings is.

Jinyoung, on the other hand, seems more confused than scared. He only stands when Jaebeom tugs on his sleeve and nearly he trips on the chair leg when he does. Jinyoung steadies himself but holding on to the back of the chair, eyebrows furrowed the slightest bit. Maybe he isn’t used to it, Jaebeom supposes. He knows for a fact that Jinyoung lives alone and has had close to no experience with dinner etiquette like this. Thankfully, his father doesn’t notice and continues to walk over, eyes focused on his tablet. Jaebeom doesn’t even try to peek anymore. He used to love knowing whatever business his father was involved in, wanted to be involved in them, too. But he’s grown up now and knows his limits. Besides, if it was something important his father would send him an email about it anyway.

Mr Im is dressed in home clothing, beige cotton pants and a white long sleeved shirt. He looks slightly younger than his actual age of fifty-seven, hair still a healthy shade of black. Jaebeom feels like he hasn’t seen him in a long time. But then again, they barely see each other enough for Jaebeom to call it a familiar face that he misses. Mr Im hands his tablet to his secretary, who’s as serious as his father is. He thinks of Hyunjin - ever so smiley and bright. And then Jinyoung - witty and easy to talk to. Thank God I don’t have someone like that as my secretary, Jaebeom thinks.

"Sir, would you like them to serve the food?" said secretary asks. His father nods, waving his hand to dismiss him before turning to them. Their eyes lock and Jaebeom feels like a teenager all of a sudden when he'd get home too late and get scolded for being irresponsible. And then Jaebeom watches as his father's eyes trail to Jinyoung; watches how he narrows them just the slightest before looking like he’s figured everything out. Then he looks to Youngjae - sweet, lovable Youngjae who musters the smallest smile he can manage, and he finally speaks. And the power his aura holds is amazingly strong for someone sitting down when the rest of them are still standing.

“Jaebeom, Youngjae, Secretary Park,” he says, eyes moving as he addresses each of them. Jaebeom sees how his eyes linger on Jinyoung and feels the sudden urge to step in front of the younger to protect him. Instead, he sits down and signals for Jinyoung to do the same, feeling their knees knock against each other softly under the table. He doesn’t bother greeting his father back, because he knows he isn’t expected to anyway.

Youngjae used to do it, even tried bringing him a gift from a business trip once. But he gave up once their father had told him not to waste his efforts on ‘useless gifts like this' - Jaebeom ended up taking the gift instead just to comfort Youngjae. And from then on, most conversations have mostly been one-sided and work-related. Their father would ask, they would answer. The non-work-related questions would only come if Jaebeom or Youngjae brought something up; it felt like they had to remind their father that they had private lives outside of work, too.

This time is no different.

“How has the company been, Jaebeom? I haven’t checked the reports for a few months now, but I trust that you’ve been doing well,” First thing he does when he gets back from a two-month trip is ask about the company, of fucking course.

“It’s doing as well as always, Father,”

“Good. How was the business trip to Dubai? I assume you’ve closed the deal?” Dubai was a goddamn month ago, Jaebeom grudgingly thinks.

“Of course. The supplier has agreed to the new budget and the next shipment will arrive next week,” Jaebeom replies, voice monotone and cut to the point.

“How about you, Youngjae? The HR Department?”

“It’s doing good, Father. No need to worry. How was your trip to China?” Youngjae asks, a careful smile on his face.

“Same as always. I’ll be planning a new project in America for the next few weeks so if you have anything you need, let Secretary Young know,” Another business trip, another month gone without him, Jaebeom thinks. But there’s no longing in the phrase anymore, no more wanting to be by his father’s side. There’s only a bitterness left, leaving a lump in his throat that he tries to swallow down as the food arrives.

 


 

Jinyoung has no idea how to act. He doesn't know which if he's supposed to accept the wine served; if he's supposed to be eating the food at the same time they are, if he's supposed to even be sitting there . Mr Im’s secretary, Secretary Young he supposes, isn’t anywhere near the long dining table. And Mr Im himself, the one who supposedly requested his presence , hasn’t spoken a word to him at all in the past hour.

Isn’t that good? No need to talk, no way to get yourself in trouble. Just keep your mouth shut and enjoy the food, Park Jinyoung, Jinyoung tells himself. And he really does try, he swears. He's refrained himself from commenting on every little thing Mr Im has said so far, even if some (Read: most ) of them are wrong.

Jaebeom hadn’t punched Mr Yoon in the face that night, even though he would have beaten the man into a pulp if not for Yugyeom and Mark. Youngjae hadn’t been the one to mess up some project files, it was some new intern that didn’t know his shit and Youngjae took the blame instead. And the both of them most definitely hadn’t been fooling around with the employees while Mr Im was gone. Heck, Jaebeom barely even has time for himself, much less another person. And so Jinyoung thinks Mr Im is being pretty fucking unfair to his sons when all they’ve done is work their asses off for the company every day.

But he keeps his opinions to himself anyway. He’s not that big of an idiot to send himself to the grave by speaking when not spoken to. And if even Jaebeom has the mind to keep his mouth shut and accept the criticism, Jinyoung should too.

Emphasis on the word ‘should’.

Because it’s Park Jinyoung and when has he ever kept his opinion to himself? Especially when something is going against his morals and serving someone injustice.

Remember how Jinyoung felt like a huge idiot? Yeah, this is why.

 

 


 

Jinyoung’s deep in his own thoughts (and his bowl of noodles) when a word catches his attention. He perks up immediately, huge ears paying attention to the conversation even as he slurps at his food. He feels Jaebeom tense up next to him, can see the way his fingers curl into a tight ball on his lap where it’s well hidden from his father.

"As I was saying. You really have to learn to control your temper, Jaebeom. If you'd gone any further than that, it would have been really bad for our company's reputation and your own. Then businesses wouldn't want to work with us anymore because they think we have a gangster for a CEO," Is he still going on about that fucking gala? And how on earth is it Jaebeom-ssi’s fault? He protected me from a pervert, anyone with eyes and a brain would see that.

“I’m sorry, Father. I’ll watch myself more in the future,” comes Jaebeom’s reply. His head is hung low and there’s shame creeping into his voice; his jaw working as he speaks like it physically hurts him to. Jinyoung frowns.

“There better not be a next time, Jaebeom. I just want to make sure your reputation stays intact, you know what rumours can do,” Mr Im is still talking, still rubbing salt into the wound when Jaebeom doesn’t deserve any of it. Protecting his reputation my ass. More like keeping his company free from any drama. Does he even care about Jaebeom-ssi? He nearly got into a fight while protecting someone and all he cares about is his stupid company? What a dick, Jinyoung frowns.

“I understand. I’ll accept the consequences if anything happens then,” Jaebeom replies and he sounds so ashamed and hurt when he shouldn’t be and Jinyoung? He should be the one getting the scolding. He should be the one who stood up to the pervert in the first place, not Jaebeom. And now he has to sit here and just watch his boss take the bullet for him from his own father ? Jinyoung has had it.

His mouth opens and words spill before he can even stop himself.

 

 


 

Ever since he was young, Youngjae had been taught the rules of the Im household and he knows each of them by heart. One, do not disturb Mr Im when he’s working. Two, always knock on his door before entering. Three, anything that is not urgent will wait until Mr Im is free. And the list goes on and on and on. Youngjae knows who should and shouldn’t, who can and cannot do certain things in this household. So when Jinyoung, a total outsider who has just stepped foot into their household, actually opens his mouth and talks back to his father - he knows shit is gonna go down.

Frankly, from a third person’s point of view, Jinyoung isn’t in the wrong. He was standing up for Jaebeom (Who, at this point, has gone into panic mode.), not being rude and speaking with the right formalities and manners. But the words he uses, the way he phrases them and lets them fall from his lips - every single syllable is like an attack on Youngjae’s father.

“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think it’s right of you to say that to Mr Im. He protected me from that pervert that night, when everyone else just stood and watched,” Including you , goes unspoken but it feels implied enough anyway. Youngjae’s father seems a little shocked but there’s a hint of a challenge in his eyes; like a spark of interest.

“It’s only normal for a good boss to be caring of his employees and I’m really thankful that he was there to help last night,” Jinyoung raises his eyes to meet Mr Im’s and there’s so much fire and bravery in them that Youngjae feels in awe for a second. Jaebeom looks like he might combust with how red he’s gone in the face and Jinyoung isn’t even done yet.

“He’s done the right thing and losing his temper was the normal thing to do. Wouldn’t you have done the same, sir?” No, no he wouldn't. Because Father isn't Jaebeom hyung and he doesn't have someone to protect. You know that Jinyoung hyung, Youngjae muses in his head. He knows Jinyoung is manipulating and trying to guilt trip his father by saying that. He can’t believe there’s someone crazy enough.

“If you want to get mad and push the blame onto someone, I’d gladly take it. But please don’t punish your son for something he hasn’t done wrong. I’m sure you’re able to differentiate what’s right and wrong, sir,” Jinyoung speaks with such calmness and confidence that even his father looks mildly surprised. “But do forgive me if I’ve spoken out of my place. I just wanted to clear it up so we can all move on from the whole situation quickly,” And Jinyoung even bows, as much as one can bow while sitting, of course.

There’s a few seconds of silence; like the peace before a storm.

But the storm never comes.

"Of course not, Secretary Park. No offence taken," Oh, there's so much offence taken. He hates someone correcting him more than losing money and that's basically his life, Youngjae thinks. Jinyoung seems satisfied enough, a little smug even. Youngjae thinks he has every right to be. It's not every day a man as powerful as his father gets corrected by a secretary, of all things. Youngjae finds it all pretty amusing and amazing. Jaebeom still looks like he’s about to die from a panic attack. He hasn’t spoken a word since Jinyoung has and frankly, Youngjae can’t blame him. He’d be pretty speechless too if he were in his hyung’s position.

Poor Jaebeom hyung, he must want to get out of here so badly, Youngjae supposes he does too. It’s getting way too tense for his liking and he decides someone has to say something before something else happens.

“Father, I think I’ll be going back first. I still have some files to work on and I don’t want to keep you from packing, too,” he says, folding his napkin and placing it neatly on the table.

“Of course. Get home safe and finish up those files well,” His father says, nodding to him as he stands up.

“Are you leaving too, hyung?” Youngjae asks, eyes wide so Jaebeom gets the hint.

“Uh..yeah, we are. Thank you for the dinner, Father. Have a safe trip to America,” Jaebeom bows, eyes still unfocused as he messily drapes the napkin over the table.

“Thank you for the dinner, Mr Im,” Jinyoung says, sounding way more collected than Jaebeom is. And people say Jaebeom is the scary one.

They leave at the same time, the three of them silent until they’re in the privacy of the parking lots. The sky’s turned a deep blue with little dots of stars here and there, the gardens surrounding them now lit by hanging lamps. It’s still as pretty as it is in the day, the night time having its own mysterious yet alluring charm.

 


 

“Jinyoung hyung! That was the bravest but also dumbest thing I’ve ever seen someone do. You know, I’m actually surprised he didn’t fire you right on the spot,” Youngjae says, bouncing from excitement with his usual bright smile now tugging at his lips. Jinyoung chuckles next to him but Jaebeom doesn’t feel amused at all.

"Are you an idiot? Do you know you could've lost your job? Do you really wanna quit that bad?" he nearly yells. Jinyoung and Youngjae both look fairly taken aback at his sudden outburst, both of them looking at him with wide eyes.

“I was fine taking that scolding, it's nothing new anyway. You didn't have to step in and say all that stuff. What if you really lost your job, huh? Do you know how guilty I would have felt?" he blurts out, not really filtering his words anymore now. Jinyoung has the decency to look guilty now, mouth twisted in a little pout that shouldn't look cute when he's trying to be firm but it does anyway.

“Hyung?” Youngjae calls, voice soft and careful. Jaebeom sighs, pulling his car keys out from his pocket and unlocking the door.

“Just get in first, Jinyoung-ssi,” Jinyoung moves silently, eyebrows still knitted and out still evident. “You okay getting home on your own, Youngjae-ah?”

“Yeah, I’ll see you at work tomorrow, hyung. And don’t take it too hard on Jinyoung hyung, okay? He just wanted to help,” Jaebeom nods and waves as he watches Youngjae walk off to his own car parked at the far end of the lot. He sighs again, watching his breath fog up the air a little before turning and climbing into his own car. It’s warm and comfortable, Jinyoung still silent as he fiddles with his sleeve button.

“Jinyoung-”

“Can we go for a drink?” A thump.

“What?” Another.

“Can we go for a drink, Jaebeom?” Jinyoung asks, eyes serious but not unkind.

“Okay,” And then his heart skips a beat.

Chapter Text

 

Jackson Wang is a lot of things. He’s one of the most successful men his age, the rising top rapper in the industry, not to mention charming as hell with enough brains to go with his brawns. But right now, as he re-reads the text from Jinyoung to Mark out loud, he thinks he’s more excited above anything else.

“Wait, wait, what? Jinyoung hyung asked what now?" Yugyeom asks, a smile on his face like he can't believe it. Neither can Jackson.

“He asked where Im Jaebeom lives and the passcode to his home. He says Jaebeom is drunk and he’s sending him home- oh my god, BAMBAM ,” Jackson lets out a squeal as his eyes scan the newest text. Bambam yells and scrambles over, grabbing the phone and holding it close to his face. Jackson sees his eyes dart back and forth furiously, a shit-eating grin growing bigger on his face every passing second.

“Shut up! I can’t believe Jinyoung hyung is finally getting some action after so long. And with his boss !" Bambam and Jackson let out matching squeals. Of course, there are questions in his head. Loads of them and a certain Park Jinyoung would have a lot of explaining to do the next time they meet. But with the idea of his dear best friend ( who’s been experiencing a dry spell even though he wouldn’t admit it ) finally getting some sort of action in his love/sex life, you can’t really blame Jackson for being all excited and jittery.

“Wait, are you sure? Y’know, we could be wrong. Jinyoung hyung could have murdered Jaebeom hyung and is trying to dump the body at his home to make it look like a murder,” Everyone pauses and turns to look at Yugyeom, who shrugs. “I’m just saying. Remember the whole hating on each other thing?”

And suddenly, the idea seems so crazy yet possible because it’s Jinyoung , that all of them spring into chaos again. Jackson clings on to Mark and starts rambling about his best friend going to jail for killing Mark’s best friend. Bambam and Yugyeom start acting out possible scenarios for the murder and how Jaebeom would look like dead. Mark’s kind of caught in the middle of it all.

I’m friends with idiots and I’m dating the biggest one of them all. Damn Jaebeom and Youngjae for leaving me with them all the time. Wait, Youngjae, Mark suddenly remembers that Youngjae would probably be around to know what the hell was going on. He reaches around Jackson’s body, hands grasping blindly until his fingers wrap around his handphone. He quickly swipes out of Jinyoung’s chat and goes to Youngjae’s, praying the younger is on his phone at the moment.

 

To: Coco’s appa

Did Jaebeommie go drinking with Jinyoung?

 

And just when Mark’s about to give in to Jackson’s whining about him not giving the younger the attention and comfort he needs, the reply comes in.

 

From: Coco’s appa

I’m not sure about that hyung. But I know they left together after dinner with Father.

Jaebeom hyung was mad about something Jinyoung hyung did and they went to talk it out, I think.

But I’m sure they’ll be okay.

 

Mark lets out a sigh of relief and lets his arms fall around Jackson’s shoulders, the younger looking up at him.

“What’s up?” Jackson asks, curious now. The younger two have calmed down now, gathering around Mark and Jackson as they all sit on Mark’s large couch.

“I texted Youngjae. He told me that Jaebeom got mad at Jinyoung for doing something-”

“Not surprised,” Bambam mutters to Yugyeom.

“And that they went somewhere together after dinner to probably talk it out. They ate with Jaebeom’s father so I can’t imagine what could have happened. But I hardly think any murder or sex would have gone down,” Mark says with a little laugh. He knows his best friend, knows how much Jaebeom would have to drink before he completely loses himself to intoxication. He also knows that both of them are smart enough not to do anything remotely stupid like that. And if Jinyoung is sober enough to text him and think of sending Jaebeom back, he’s pretty sure they’re gonna be just fine.

On the other hand, the three of them seem pretty let down by it.

“Aw, I thought something fun was happening to the two of them for once. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the two assholes got together?” Jackson says without thinking. Mark knows it’s the wrong thing to say when the same scheming look crosses Bambam, Yugyeom and Jackson’s faces at the same time.

“Oh no. You guys are not doing this,” Mark warns, putting a hand on Jackson’s arm, like physically stopping him would stop his mind from running wild with ideas. But Jackson Wang is Jackson Wang for a reason and not even Mark can do anything to stop his sudden outburst that nearly knocks Mark off the couch.

“We can lock them in Jaebeom’s office one day! Or send them on a business trip together! Maybe we should all get together one day and then play spin the bottle or something. Oh, did you know Jinyoungie’s a romantic? How’s Jaebeom like? Is he into books and stuff? ‘Cause Jinyoungie loves that kind of-” Mark clamps a hand over his boyfriend’s mouth, effectively shutting him up.

“Jacks, I love you with all my heart and I think your ideas are amazing but, we are not gonna set Jaebeom and Jinyoung up. They’ll both have our heads for it and you know it,” Jackson pouts and plops down next to him, looking like a kicked puppy. “And love...it’s not something that you can force, Jacks,” And if it’s possible, Jackson deflates even more.

“Mark hyung does have a point. I mean if I were them, I would wanna fall in love naturally too,” Bambam says, playing with an imaginary beard on his chin. Yugyeom raises an eyebrow. “You know, with whoever I wanted,”

"That's awfully cheesy, Bam-ah," Yugyeom says, pushing Bambam by the shoulder lightly. The skinny Thai boy squawks and nearly falls over, catching himself by the elbow.

“Shut up. You’re cheesy,” Bambam nudges him back, a smile growing on his face.

“That doesn’t make any sense,”

“You don’t make sense!” Yugyeom laughs, high pitched and chicken-like. Bambam squawks again, laughing as Yugyeom tangles their arms together and pushes him on to the couch. Pillows dig into his back and he has to lie at an odd angle but Bambam squirms and tickles Yugyeom back like his life depends on it anyway. They’re quite a mess, all limbs and laughter taking up half the couch where they’re sprawled next to Mark and Jackson, but Mark doesn’t miss the way Yugyeom’s hands linger on Bambam’s nape and the fondness in his friend’s eyes.

Oh, Kim Yugyeom. You’ve gotten yourself into quite something this time, Mark thinks as he watches with an amused smile. His thoughts get disrupted by a tugging on his sleeve.

"Yeah, Jack?" Jackson pouts - pretty pink lips and all that Mark feels tempted to steal kisses from. His boyfriend had just flown in from Hong Kong this morning and twenty-four hours without Jackson just feels too long with how in love he is.

“I’m sorry for saying that. About getting Jinyoungie and Jaebeom together,” his voice is soft and so, so precious that Mark pulls him snug against his chest just to have him closer.

“It’s okay, baby. I know you had good intentions, you don’t have to apologise for that. Besides, I’m sure if there really was something going on between the two of them, they’re old enough to figure it out on their own. I think our maknaes are the ones who need a little nudge this time,” Mark says, eyes darting to where the two in question are slumped against each other with dazed smiles on their faces as they talk.

“They’re cute,” Mark comments, fingers running through the short strands of hair on the back of Jackson’s neck.

“And so are we,” Jackson mumbles, grinning at Mark brighter than the sun and sweeter than any candy Mark’s ever eaten. And this time, Mark just gives in and kisses him breathless.

 


 

Jinyoung pulls open the door to the bar slowly, peering in with a foot on the step. The bar’s the same as always, dim blue and yellow lights with the smell of roses along with alcohol hitting his nose. A bright neon blue rose sign hangs on the feature wall, the light illuminating that half of the bar. There aren’t many people here, which is kind of normal for a Thursday night. Only a bartender and some drunk old men slumped against the counter or fake leather seats; Jinyoung likes privacy anyway.

I hope hyung’s here. I mean he has to be - it’s his goddamn shop, for fucks’ sake, Jinyoung thinks. He steps in and hears Jaebeom moving behind him, the heels of his loafers clunking against the grey cement floor. The bartender looks up and gives him a wave, dimples framing his face and Jinyoung recognizes him immediately.

“Jinwoo hyung,” he greets, strolling over and pulling Jinwoo into a hug. The elder smells like alcohol and Jinyoung’s pretty sure he’s sneaked in a few shots for himself throughout the day, not that the boss would do anything anyway.

“Jinyoung-ah, we were wondering when you’d turn up. Minho thought you were dead or something, where’ve you been the past two weeks?” Jinwoo asks, doe eyes wide and curious.

“Just work, new job and everything,” Jinyoung can feel Jaebeom tense up behind him, the awkwardness rolling off him in waves. “So, uh,” Jinyoung clears his throat, hoping the awkwardness would go away as soon as they get some alcohol in their system. “Where’s Minho hyung?” And before Jinwoo can reply, a loud shout from the door makes all three of them turn.

"Jinyoungie! You're alive! And you're here with...a guy!" Minho practically yells. Both Jaebeom and he wince - Jaebeom at the loudness and Jinyoung at the way Minho refers to Jaebeom. He knows what his friend was about to call Jaebeom, even if he doesn't say it.

“I’m not dying any time soon, hyung,” Jinyoung grins, hugging Minho tightly. The elder stinks of alcohol even more than the rest of the bar, his fancy cologne mixing in with it.

“Have you been drinking? You literally own a bar, hyung. Can’t you just drink here?” Jinyoung asks, pulling away.

“Nope! Jiwonie opened up his own pool place and I went over for a sec. Besides, Jinwoo hyung and Hoonie can take care of the place,” his friend replies, grinning and Jinyoung sighs.

“I wonder how Seungyoon can handle you. Where is he, anyway?” Jinyoung asks.

“Yoonie went overseas for some event thing. Some stupid crap about a fashion show and shit,” Minho curses and pouts, reminding Jinyoung of Jackson.

“It’s okay, hyung. I’m sure he misses you too,” Jinyoung ruffles his friend’s brown-blonde hair, the strands dry under his fingers.

"What can I do for you, anyway?" Minho changes the topic like he always does when it comes to Seungyoon. The two have been in a tango for God knows how long - going as close to having sex and then as far as strangers. Minho's fallen from friends with benefits to in love and honestly, Jinyoung feels pretty bad for his friend sometimes.

( But he also knows that Seungyoon has done the same so it’s kinda fun watching the two pine for each other when they don’t have to. Seungyoon had once drunk-called him and it had been a long two-hour call about how blind Minho is, but that’s a story for another day.)

“Could you…” Jinyoung leans in, cautiously peeking over his shoulder to make sure Jaebeom isn’t listening. “Open up your private room? That’s Im Jaebeom right there and we kinda have some stuff to talk about, I just don’t want any articles to appear or anything,” And Jinyoung has no idea why but he blushes anyway, clearing his throat again.

“Ahhh, I see, I see. Of course, anything for my favourite customer. Go ahead, I’ll tell Jinwoo hyung to bring in some drinks later,” Minho says, pointing to the corner of the shop, where there’s a sliding door hidden by a striking blue curtain. Most customers wouldn’t even know something like that exists in a small bar like this. But Jinyoung has been here more times than he would be proud to admit and Minho usually ends up dragging his ass there to get drunk for a ‘special friend bonus’. It means Jinyoung gets the front row seat to watching and listening to Minho go on and on about how good Seungyoon looked that day or some crook he caught staring in the club.\

Either way, Jinyoung is thankful and nods as he gets the key from Minho. He turns and pulls Jaebeom by the sleeve, past the point of caring when they're finally getting to talk about it. The elder’s breath hitches in surprise at getting pulled away from admiring the aesthetic light bulbs and decorations but he lets Jinyoung pull him along anyway. Jinyoung pushes the mesh curtain away, some strands of loose thread tickling his face as he unlocks the door.

 


 

The room is much like the rest of the bar, dimly lit and decked out with vintage furniture that Minho likes. Blue and white roses hang on the grey brick walls, the outline of the bricks giving the wall a rough, bumpy texture. But it’s also much warmer and comfortable, the fake leather cushioning outside replaced with black velvet. There’s soft music playing in the background, too. Minho set the speakers to turn on automatically once the lights were on so some chill R&B fills Jaebeom’s ears as he shuffles to get comfortable.

“I hope this is better. I didn’t want you feeling uncomfortable outside where other people were,” Jinyoung says after a moment. Jaebeom sits opposite him, fingers fiddling on his lap as he listens. I don’t know if I’m more nervous now that we’re sitting this close again or not, Jaebeom thinks. He's still mad at Jinyoung for earlier, but he isn't exactly sure if it's because he put his job in danger or he made Jaebeom look useless. Either way, he figures he has to say something.

“It is, thank you,” he replies, looking anywhere but Jinyoung. The younger frowns, Jaebeom catching with his peripheral vision. He feels bad about it, but he doesn’t know what to say. Or perhaps he has too much to say, so much so that he doesn’t know where the hell to start. Thankfully, Jinyoung does.

“Are you mad? Because if you are, I’m sorry but I won’t ever take back what I said earlier. Your father was wrong, Jaebeom,” Jinyoung frowns again, even deeper this time.

“Jaebeom hyung. I'm older than you, Jinyoung-ah. And I'm not...mad?" Jaebeom tilts his head like he's equally confused with how he feels. On one hand, he's the slightest bit ( Read: very ) proud and honoured that Jinyoung stood up for him. But on the other hand, the more logical and practical side of him knows that Jinyoung could have lost his damn job and Jaebeom’s father would probably call Jaebeom home for a talk soon.

And that was something Jaebeom was not looking forward to. At all.

“Right, hyung. Then if you aren’t mad, what are you?” Jinyoung asks, genuinely concerned. Jaebeom can see it in the way his eyebrows furrow and he’s leaning slightly forward in his seat. Years of meeting and dining with random strangers had trained him to look for body cues and Jinyoung seems pretty sincere right now. It makes his resolve crumble just the slightest.

“I...don’t know? But I don’t like it,” Jaebeom stutters out, scratching the back of his head. Jinyoung tilts his head this time, but he stays silent and waits for Jaebeom to go on.

“You could have lost your job.” Good job changing the subject. “You know that, right? And my father - he’s a scary man. I don’t think he’s gonna stop at just making you lose your job. He’s the kind to make sure you never find a job anywhere else for the next few years,” Jinyoung seems fairly unimpressed at that but Jaebeom continues anyway.

“And it was fine. He does that all the time, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just him being his perfectionist self and making sure I do my work right. The company means a lot to him so I understand. You didn’t have to defend me,” Jaebeom mutters the last part, trailing off and then clearing his throat. He tangles his fingers together, playing with his rings and once again, avoiding eye contact with Jinyoung. The younger is silent now, but the room is too dark for Jaebeom to clearly see his expression.

Is he mad now? Goddamnit, I should have told Father he was sick then none of this would have happened. What if tomorrow Jinyoung doesn’t turn up for work? What am I gonna do then? Fuckfuckfuck I can’t find another replacement. Not one like Jinyoung, Jaebeom realises that if Jinyoung loses his job, he’s gonna have just as hard a time as the younger.

Over the weeks, Jinyoung has done more than what his job scope has required of him. He does his own notes and read through of every single file he gets, gives his opinion on points that can be improved, lets Jaebeom bounce ideas off him and always knows when Jaebeom needs something. If Jaebeom was being honest, he's the best secretary he's had so far and it's only been what, two weeks? He's also come to rely on and trust the younger to some extent, more than he's ever trusted any of his employees, anyway.

Damn it, there’s so much shit to do for the next few weeks and without Jinyoung, how am I gonna do that? Ah, I hope Father doesn’t fire him, Jaebeom thinks, grimacing at the thought of a hectic week without someone to keep track of his schedule. Are you sure that’s the only reason you don’t want him fired? the same old annoying voice asks. Yes, it is, Jaebeom insists, clenching his teeth. We’ll see, it replies and Jaebeom can oddly picture Yugyeom as the voice. Jaebeom really should kill Yugyeom one day. Jaebeom gets so lost in his thoughts that he doesn’t even realise Jinyoung looking at him. The younger has to clear his throat for Jaebeom to look up.

“Y-yeah? I’m sorry, spaced out for a second,” Jaebeom mumbles, hoping the light is dim enough to hide the heat he feels in his cheeks.

“I-” And just as Jinyoung’s about to finally say something, a knock comes from the door. Why now? Jaebeom grumbles internally.

“Come in!” Jinyoung calls, a blank mask falling over his face so quickly it sends a chill down Jaebeom’s spine. “Jinwoo hyung,”

“Just some drinks. I brought beer, soju, vodka, rum and some sodas and mixers. Want me to mix something up?” The bartender from earlier, Jinwoo , says as he carries a big metal tray in. Jaebeom only recognises some of the labels on the many glass bottles - mostly from his teenage years when he’d sneak off to a pub with Mark. There’s a tin bucket of ice and two tall glasses, followed by mini shot glasses that have a blue rose printed on the side.

“Just the usual for me. Jaebeom hyung?” The name still catches him off guard hearing his name from Jinyoung’s mouth is always nice.

“Rum and coke, please,” he says, going for a safer mix. He doesn’t want to get that drunk tonight, not when he’s alone with Jinyoung in some neighbourhood he doesn’t know well. And it’s not that he doesn’t trust Jinyoung; it’s that he doesn’t trust himself not to do something stupid if he really does get trashed.

Jinwoo makes quick work of the drinks and Jaebeom is mildly surprised to see him pour a shot of vodka into Jinyoung’s mix. I thought he didn’t drink. Jaebeom wonders if it’s another night that Jinyoung wants to get drunk and forget about.

“Here ya go. Buzz if anything, we’ll be outside playing cards. You’re welcome to join after, if you’d like,” Jinwoo says, picking up the tray.

“Okay, thanks hyung,” Jinyoung says, waving as he leaves. Then it’s just the two of them in the room again and suddenly Jaebeom really needs some alcohol in his system to calm him down.

“What were you gonna say earlier?” he manages to say, taking a quick swig of his drink. The rum feels stronger than any he’s had before but he’s still pretty nervous as he waits for Jinyoung’s reply. The younger takes a sip of his own drink, pale pink liquid fizzy in his glass. He licks his lips and Jaebeom can’t help but let his eyes the action.

“I was going to say I wanted to stand up for you, even if I didn’t have to,” Jaebeom doesn’t even have a chance to ask ‘why’ before Jinyoung’s speaking again.

“Because your my boss and...it’s you ,” And the answer leaves Jaebeom more confused than before but that doesn’t stop him from feeling the wingbeat of a single butterfly in his stomach, anyway.



Chapter Text

 

"Because you're my boss and...it’s you ,” Jinyoung says, eyes serious yet so real that Jaebeom forgets how to breathe for a second. He blinks, once, twice, just to make sure it’s Park Jinyoung he’s still talking to and not some alien that’s replaced him. Because he knows Jinyoung - at least he thinks he does. But that’s beside the point right now. Because those seven words send Jaebeom’s mind into a flurry of possibilities and thoughts that he has the sudden urge to throw up.

Or yell.

Maybe both.

He chooses to do none, mostly for the sake of his remaining sanity and reputation. At this point, he isn't sure which is more important when it comes to Jinyoung, or if he has any of them left. He holds up a finger so Jinyoung knows he's has something to say, before downing the whole glass of rum and coke. The cold liquid burns a little in his throat but he sobers up instead. Okay, one at a time, Im Jaebeom. Ask what he means first and then the rest, he tells himself, licking his lips of the leftover alcohol.

“What do you mean by that” is what he plans to say.

"Huh?" is what comes out instead. Jaebeom really wishes he'd have more self-control around Park Jinyoung. Jinyoung stifles a laugh, eyes twinkling with amusement now.

“I mean, you’re one of the hardest working people I know. You work longer hours than most of the people in the office, have countless meetings every week - on top of those events you have to go for. You think and consider the wellbeing of the company every time you decide something and you don’t complain one bit . Plus, you're a good...person?" Jinyoung hesitates like he's unsure of where his mini-speech is going as well.

"And?" Jaebeom probes, a smile growing on his face. He hears praise all the time - from people about how successful and smart he is, etc. Usually, he accepts it with the barest ‘thank you' and hardly any pride because he knows they're saying it just for the sake of it. But when it comes from Jinyoung , it suddenly sounds like something Jaebeom could listen to all day.

“And...you deserve more recognition than you give yourself credit for, Jaebeom hyung. Don’t be so hard on yourself, your health’s gonna get affected and then you’ll turn into an old man faster,” Jaebeom snorts and Jinyoung laughs. It’s sudden and short and covered by his hand over his mouth, but Jaebeom can still see his grin and his eye whiskers next to his crescent-shaped eyes and finds it amazingly cute. Focus! The voice tells him.

"Do I really look that old to everyone? Even Mark hyung calls me a grandpa. And he's older!" Jaebeom finds himself whining, a pout forming naturally on his lips. It's a habit he's picked up from being the younger one in his friendship with Mark for years.

“No, just the way you act is. You’re like this grumpy old fisherman or something. Maybe a farmer?” Jinyoung teases.

“Excuse me, I’m your boss. This is blatant disrespect, Jinyoung-ah,” Jaebeom states with fake hurt and seriousness. Jinyoung grins again, hiding his smile behind his hand. “But for real, Jinyoung. I’m thankful you did that but you have to watch out for yourself too. It’s your job we’re talking about. It might be temporary but you’ve got two whole months left, I don’t want you losing two months of good pay over something like that,”

“I know and I am sorry. But I don’t regret it and even if I do get fired, my stand stays the same. Your father is wrong about you, hyung. You shouldn’t have to hear something like that, much less be used to it. It’s not fair to you,” Jinyoung says with that sincere voice of his again. It sends a warmth to his heart that someone outside of his friend circle actually cares about his well being for once; a soft smile taking over the grin.

“But the world isn’t fair, Jinyoung,” he points out.

“It’s only unfair if you don’t do anything to change it,” Jinyoung shoots back without hesitation.

"I'll drink to that," Jaebeom says, cracking open the bottle of beer. It's some cheap draft beer but he'll take it, filling his glass to the brim where it foams at the top. Jinyoung seems amused but holds up his glass anyway, the two clinking in the privacy of the room. Jaebeom takes only a sip this time, not wanting to get drunk too fast. He knows Jinyoung has a lot to ask and say - it's evident in the way he's peeking at Jaebeom over the rim of his glass as he drinks.

“You can ask me your questions, you know,” he says, folding his arms on the table and leaning his chin on one hand. “But I have a deal to make with you. If I answer your questions, you have to answer mine, too. Fair?”

“The world isn’t fair, Jaebeom hyung,” Brat.

“That’s why I’m doing something to change that. So, deal?” Jaebeom asks, raising his eyebrows. Jinyoung considers it for a second, resting his own chin on his hand and mirroring Jaebeom. Say yes, say yes, say yes, Jaebeom chants in his head as he holds his breath.

"Alright, deal," Jaebeom lets out a breath. "But we both have the rights to refuse any question," Jaebeom frowns but nods anyway. It's both a pro and con and he's sure Jinyoung knows it, too. He’s definitely hiding something. Or maybe he just doesn’t open up easily. Not like I can say much anyway, Jaebeom thinks. He has his fair share of secrets and stories he doesn’t feel ready to tell Jinyoung yet. Heck, some that even Mark doesn’t know yet - he’s not even sure if he’ll ever have the courage to tell anyone at all.

“So, tell me, hyung. I’ve been wondering about this since the first time we met. Do you actually like your job?” And it’s only the first question but Jaebeom is stumped already. Firstly, because he expected something more related to his father or Youngjae or something. Secondly, he’s kinda never been asked something like this. It’s always questions about how he manages to do so well, if he’s planning anything new, etc. It’s always about the company one way or another, never about him . He supposes there’s not really much of a difference between the two, with how involved he is at this point. But the question still leaves him speechless for a moment, mouth opening and closing soundlessly as he thinks of an answer.

And now that Jaebeom actually thinks about it, does he? It’s always been like that for the past five years of his life - the same old place, same old routine, same old people. There’s no feeling when he works, no time for him to think about anything other than the project he’s working on or the proposal he’s checking. Of course, there’s the satisfaction when he completes and closes a deal or the anger when mishaps occur. But it’s always just there before it's the next project - something new that occupies his mind and takes up most of his time. After a minute of thinking, an answer falls from his lips. And it's the truth because Jinyoung had been the first to ask and Jaebeom figures he deserves a good answer.

“I...don’t know. Honestly. It’s just been that way since I was twenty and I guess I never really thought of doing something else? I mean-” he gestures vaguely with his hands, exasperated. “It’s what I have to do so I never considered it as something for enjoyment, just my job ,”

“That’s...sad. Your job is supposed to be something you’re passionate about, not something you do just because you’re told to . Have you really not considered a life or career outside of being a CEO?” Jinyoung asks, eyes wide and voice going higher than usual. Jaebeom shrugs, unable to give an answer because he really hasn’t . Sure, he has his own hobbies like photography and music, but that’s all buried away with his college memories.

He can barely remember the last time he’s picked up his film camera or gotten around to starting on a beat. He’s basically married to his work at this point and everyone he’s close to knows it. Plus, Father would kill me if I ever thought of quitting. Who’s gonna run the company then? Father himself? People are gonna suffer more than they’re suffering now, Jaebeom thinks. Jinyoung sighs, sipping from his glass instead of replying.

“Then what about you, Jinyoung? What job would you like to do after the three months?” he asks, suddenly curious now that the topic’s been brought up.

(There’s also a pettiness in him that hopes Jinyoung says something as lame as Jaebeom’s answer so he can criticize Jinyoung as well, even though the younger has barely done any criticizing. It’s the petty part of him for a reason.)

"Just a stable office job. Something to do with what I studied, probably. I'm tired of part-time jobs that aren't fun or useful," Jinyoung replies without much thought. He’s probably been asked this a lot or maybe he just thinks about it too much, Jaebeom supposes.

"Were your previous jobs part-time, then? Why didn't you go look or a full time one?" Jaebeom asks. Something flickers across Jinyoung's face, just a fraction of a second before it's gone, but Jaebeom recognizes it anyway. Because he's felt it before too, a feeling all too familiar to him when he was younger. He's proven right when he hears what Jinyoung says next.

“I never got the jobs I applied for. I had nothing to my name, other than that valedictorian title and degree. All my year mates had rich parents with connections. Who would you pick - a poor, unknown kid or a minister’s son? And I wasn’t exactly on... good terms with the people in my cohort, so I guess they had their parents pull some strings to make my life difficult," Jinyoung shrugs, picking up his glass to drink from it again. He down the liquid at one go this time, grimacing as the alcohol probably burns his throat.

It's shame, pure and evident in the way Jinyoung avoids eye contact and seems to glare into his empty glass. He contemplates on comforting him as he watches the younger pour out some beer from the same bottle, only filling it till the halfway mark.

Turns out he doesn't have to do anything because Jinyoung continues the conversation like he hadn't just confessed his apparent failure in his career to Jaebeom.

“But that’s in the past anyway. Next question: Do you and your father hate each other or something like that? Every time you're in the same room as him you just get so on edge. It's like you turn into this completely different person," Jinyoung says, brutally honest. But he doesn't say it accusingly, more of like an observation he's made, unlike the harsh way it sounds.

“I don’t hate my father - I could never. But it's just something that happens naturally around him like I have to be on my best behaviour for him. I'm not sure if he hates me or not, though. Like I said before, we barely have any personal conversations when we meet, which isn't much, to begin with," Jaebeom replies, feeling a pebble-sized lump form in his throat. "I guess it doesn't really matter at the end of the day, to him. As long as the job gets done and the company thrives, he's happy enough so I'm content with that," he adds hastily like he has to reassure Jinyoung it isn't that big of a deal.

But it is and Jinyoung sees right through his feeble lie; he seems to have a way of reading Jaebeom’s thoughts at times he wants to conceal them the most. “Are you content with the fact that he’s happy or that he isn’t angry? There’s a huge difference, y’know,”

And of course, Jaebeom knows. He's wondered the same thing countless times in the privacy of his bedroom - when the nights bleed into mornings and sleep feels like a foreign concept as he lays in his bed. He's wondered when avoiding being a disappointment had taken over making his father proud; when the fear of failure had overshadowed the burning ambition for more. He tries to remember when he'd been a risk-taking twenty-year-old and had strived for more and more each day, thinking of countless ways to always improve himself for the sole purpose of making his father proud.

But all he gets are memories of failure, of looks of disappointment and reprimanding for his carelessness. It was then that he’d decided to hold himself back, to take the safe road instead of going down new, undiscovered paths, to store those stupid ambitions away. And at the moment when he hears the question leave Jinyoung's lips, everything feels too real and too much for him that he physically chokes up.

Immediately, Jinyoung’s at his side. Hand gentle on his shoulder, face too close and breath too hot on his cheek where he leans in in concern. Jaebeom’s a coughing fit, eyes brimming over with reflex tears as he fans himself to cool off. Get a grip, he tells himself, counting down from ten until his breathing evens out and the coughs die down. Jinyoung still looks as concerned as before, though he’s leaning away now. Jaebeom finds himself missing his warmth, even if it was just for a bit.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, giving up on an excuse for now. Jinyoung doesn’t call him on it, only staring at him hard before getting up and going back to his seat. It’s silent for a while then, Jaebeom staring down at his drink and Jinyoung staring at him. He can feel the younger’s eyes on him, retinas burning a hole into his head. It’s going to get awkward now, Jaebeom thinks miserably.

But Park Jinyoung is as unpredictable as always, it seems.

“Did I surprise you? With that question?” he asks. Of course, you did. Did you think I choked for fun? Jaebeom snorts aloud. Trust Park Jinyoung to ask something so obvious in a situation like this. But he's also grateful, for it gives him a chance to say something without sounding like an awkward teenager.

“It’s fine. But how about we take a break from the serious questions and move on to some simpler ones? I want to get to know my secretary properly,” Jaebeom says, lacing his fingers together like he’s making a business proposition. Jinyoung seems surprised at this, eyebrows raising. But Jaebeom can also make out a hint of amusement and curiosity in his eyes as he nods and plays along.

“How about a drinking game, then? I’ll ask a question about me then if you get it wrong, take a shot,” Jinyoung suggest, gesturing to the empty shot glasses that seem to be tempting Jaebeom as he looks at them. He weighs his options in his head. On one hand, he knows Jinyoung is unpredictable and he barely knows the guy so that’s a disadvantage. But on the other hand, Jinyoung doesn’t know much about him, either.

Secretly, he also doesn’t mind taking a few shots if it means the possibility of seeing Jinyoung drunk ( a totally not cute image that Jaebeom does not think about from time to time ) again.

“Alright then. Soju, beer, whiskey, vodka or…” Jaebeom trails off, trying to read the small printing on the bottles in the dim lighting. Jinyoung makes it easier for him and chooses the soju, which is a sweet peach flavour. Jaebeom pours both of them fresh shots and slides a glass to Jinyoung, who wrinkles his nose at the alcohol but doesn’t take back his suggestion just yet.

“Twenty questions?” Jaebeom asks, already planning out his series of questions in his head. The goal of this game, for him anyway, is to make Park Jinyoung drunk enough to finally let loose a little. He has some faith in himself and his alcohol tolerance so he doesn’t worry much for the questions he might get wrong.

But then again, luck has never been either of their best friends and she just seems to hate Jaebeom a little more tonight.

By the end of Jinyoung’s tenth question, Jaebeom has drunk eight out of ten of the glasses. It was some simple question about whether Jinyoung had siblings or not and Jaebeom had always pictured Jinyoung as a studious, single child. Turns out he has two sisters and is the youngest of them all. And so Jaebeom drinks, downing the eight glass and feeling the alcohol burn on his tongue. He isn’t totally gone yet, even though at the rate this game is going he's pretty sure he will be soon. Opposite him, Jinyoung is still sober and smiling innocently, waiting for the next question. The younger has only drunk two glasses so far, fairing much better than Jaebeom both in terms of answering and in sobriety.

Jaebeom racks his brain then, even though the alcohol swimming in his system makes everything a little blurry and his thoughts too messy. What would he not expect? Something totally out of character. But then again, what is my character to him? Jaebeom wonders. He stares blankly at Jinyoung, eyes glazed over and unfocused in his hazy state. Then it hits him, all at once and he lets out an ‘Ah!’ that has Jinyoung jumping in his seat.

“How many cats do I have?” he asks, finger swaying in Jinyoung’s face. The younger stares at it, nearly going cross-eyed.

“You have a cat? More than one, too?” Jinyoung asks, hand softly nudging Jaebeom’s stubby finger out of his face. “I never pinned you as an animal person,” he admits. Jaebeom shrugs, happy he finally has something on Jinyoung.

“I’m guessing...two? That’s the usual number, right? Unless you’re like Bambam - he has like four, I think,” Jinyoung replies and Jaebeom breaks into a crooked sort of smile.

“I’ve got five cats,”

“You’ve got what? ” Jinyoung spits out, eyes comically wide and eyebrows high, hidden under his bangs.

“Five cats. Nora, Kunta, Cake, Odd and Bereu,” Jaebeom lists, counting them off his fingers. Jinyoung’s staring at him in shock, blinking repeatedly like he can’t believe it.

“Then who takes care of them when you’re at work? Do you have time to even feed them?” Jinyoung asks.

“Mmhm. My housekeeper comes in the evenings and I feed them in the mornings before I go for work. I also have an automated feeder, in case,” Jaebeom answers. And then he tries to scowl, but it feels more like a pout in his drunken state. “I’m a good owner, okay? Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I neglect my babies,” he defends.

“Your babies ,” Jinyoung repeats, lips pressed together as he tries not to laugh.

“Yah! They are my babies, don’t make fun of them,” Jaebeom scolds even as a grin grows on his face. Jinyoung really does laugh this time, smoky and a deep ha ha ha that reverberates in Jaebeom’s mind. He thinks he really is drunk, then. Because all of a sudden, Jinyoung looks like an angel sent from heaven to him, all beautiful and glowing even under the harsh lighting.

"You haven't drunk your shot yet," Jaebeom reminds after Jinyoung calms down. He watches with a sense of victory as Jinyoung reluctantly downs the whole thing, eyes squeezed shut as he swallows. Jaebeom stares, unabashedly, at the bob of his Adam's apple and wonders vaguely how it would feel against his lips. And then he snaps to attention, eyes jolting wide as he processes what he had just thought about.

You’re way too drunk for this shit, Im Jaebeom. You’re not some horny teenager, control yourself, please. If not for your sake, for Jinyoung’s, he tells himself. Jinyoung’s staring at him again, head tilted and questioning.

“Just thinking about something,” Thinking about you, the voice muses. Jaebeom tells it to shut up.

“You wanna go home? You seem drunk,” Jinyoung hums, looking pointedly at his pink cheeks.

“Am not,” Jaebeom mutters, standing up to prove his point. But his legs feel like jelly from sitting for too long and the alcohol isn’t helping much either. He crashes back into his seat, honestly in shock at his body betraying him like this. Jinyoung only stifles a laugh, walking over to help him up. He extends his hand to Jaebeom, long slender fingers and all. Jaebeom stares at it, hesitating for a second before finally grabbing on and letting the younger pull him up.

It’s just because you’re drunk, don’t think anything of it and just walk, Jaebeom thinks as he lets Jinyoung lead him out of the room. Despite his efforts, the warmth of their connecting palms burns too much and Jaebeom simultaneously wants to jerk away and intertwine their fingers for more. He blames it on the alcohol, the way it heightens his senses and makes him feel like he’s floating at the same time.

He follows mindlessly, watching Jinyoung pay and talk to Minho. He vaguely registers his name being mentioned but he can’t really focus much now, the drunkenness getting too much all at once and clouding his mind. Then he hears Jinyoung say something along the lines of someone called Sanghoon or Seungho ( Jaebeom can’t figure it out ) driving them home.

He just nods, eyelids feeling heavier by the second. He’s leaning on Jinyoung now, body happy to feel some sort of warmth and comfort. Jinyoung also smells really nice, like peaches and freshly washed cotton. He registers someone’s hand on his side and his feet moving as he’s guided to the carpark, the feeling of someone digging for his keys out of his back pocket. He frowns, eyes still shut as someone nudges his legs and whispers softly in his ear to get into the car but he does it anyway.

And then the scent of peaches and cotton fill his nostrils again, much stronger this time. He forces his eyes open, squinting as he stares dreamily at the side of Jinyoung’s handsome face as he clicks the buckle of the seatbelt. He hums, low and soft and content, like a cat purring. Jinyoung glances to him, eyes amused as always.

“Get some sleep, hyung. I’ll wake you up when we reach,” Jinyoung says in his rich, calming voice. And Jaebeom doesn’t register when or how it happens. All he knows is that one moment he’s staring at Jinyoung and the next he’s drifted off into the most peaceful sleep he’s had in weeks.

Chapter Text

 

"Yah, where are are you now? At your boss's house? Or should I say…" Jackson's voice drops to a whisper, low and sensual that makes Jinyoung want to gag. "Your new boyfriend's?" Jinyoung actually gags this time, out loud and he feels so very close to killing a certain Jackson Wang.

“Are you out of your fucking mind? Since when did I say that? Wait, are you with Mark hyung now? That betrayer,” Jinyoung mutters, cursing under his breath. He glances back at Jaebeom, who’s slumped on the couch and thankfully, out cold. His face is still flushed red from the drinking session they had earlier, even though he had managed to get up and key in the passcode to his house when Jinyoung had asked.

( He’d also mumbled something about his babies and feeding, and how warm Jinyoung feels, but Jinyoung chooses not to think too much about that. He also has no idea what he did when he was drunk last time, even though he’s pretty sure it was anything but good. Hence, he thinks it’s only fair if they both keep it between themselves whatever drunk mistakes they make, if only for the sake of reputation and their budding friendship. Jinyoung isn’t sure he’ll call it that yet - it’s more of a work in progress but he’ll think about it later, once he’s done with Jackson and his nonsense. )

“Hey, don’t call my Markie that. And why? What’s wrong with your best friend knowing that you’re at your boss’s house and that you went drinking with him? Aren’t I supposed to be the first one to know? What happened to Wang Gae Park Gae?” Jackson whines over the phone, too loud for someone at midnight. Jinyoung pulls the phone away from his ear, ears feeling oversensitive. It’s way too late for this, Jinyoung thinks.

“Sseun-ah, I love you, I really do. But right now, Jaebeom hyung is passed out on his couch ,” Jinyoung says, praying Jackson will leave it for tomorrow.

“Ah, but that’s the part, isn’t it? He could be drunk, he could be awake, he could be lying naked on the bed waiting for you,” Jinyoung chokes, coughing as Jackson laughs into his ear. Jinyoung risks another glance at Jaebeom and immediately regrets it.

All he can think about is how Jaebeom would look like shirtless, wonders if he the older has abs like Jackson or a flat, toned stomach like his own. Or maybe he has a cute little tummy, a result of how well he always eats. Jinyoung's eyes then travel down to Jaebeom's thighs, thick and moulded by his work pants. And then he wonders how muscular they really are - if they'd tense under his touch or he'd flex them on purpose, just to tease. His face heats up at the thought and he turns away, coughing into his fist to muffle the sound. Jackson laughs again, high pitched and child-like.

“You better watch your mouth before I tell Mark hyung all your past deeds. I have receipts, Jackson Wang. Watch it,” Jinyoung grits his teeth and says.

“Ahhh, Jinyoung-ah. Come on, we’re best friends, aren’t we? Wang gae,” Jackson calls out, waiting for Jinyoung’s reply.

“I’m not saying it till you promise to never say something so...groundless ever again,” Jinyoung replies, blushing as he thinks back to what Jackson had said.

“Alright, alright, I won’t. Won’t you take pity on me now, Nyoung-ah?” Jinyoung sighs, wondering why he’d make Jackson his best friend in the first place. “Wang Gae?” Jackson calls, hopeful.

“Park Gae,” Jinyoung mumbles, glancing back to make sure Jaebeom hadn’t heard any of that. The older is still sound asleep, even though he’s turned on his side since the last time Jinyoung has checked. He’s also grabbed a cushion, cute little black cat paw prints on the white cloth.

He looks like a child, hugging it so tight like that, Jinyoung muses. Jaebeom’s cheek is lightly pressed against the top of the pillow, baby fat bunching up and rubbing against the soft fabric. Jinyoung gets lost in staring for a second, Jaebeom subconsciously rubbing his face into the plush cushion and getting more comfortable in the couch. It vaguely reminds him of a cat - one that loves to nuzzle and seek the comfort and warmth of its surroundings.

“...-ah. Jinyoung-ah. Jinyoung-ah!” Jackson’s voice right by his ear shocks him, making him jump from the couch and yank up a cushion to defend himself. Jackson is still talking over the phone, voice loud enough to be heard without the speaker function. Jinyoung sighs and tosses the pillow down, hand going to his hips as he lifts the phone to his ear again.

“Jinyoungie~ Are you still listening? I’m your best friend, bros before hoes,”

“Yeah, yeah, I spaced out for a little,” Jinyoung mumbles, glancing back at Jaebeom, a little guilty.

“It’s okay, I get that I’m talking too much. I must be bothering you, right?” Jackson sighs melodramatically. Jinyoung rolls his eyes at his antics, already knowing what act he’s pulling.

“Sseun-ah, you know it isn’t like that. I’m just tired from the day at work and then there’s still Jaebeom hyung to take care of so there’s just a lot of my mind right now,” Jinyoung says, figuring it isn’t totally a lie since he can feel his eyelids starting to feel heavier as the hour passes.

“I’m kidding, Nyoung-ah. Don’t get too stressed okay? I love you~” Jackson coos and Jinyoung breaks into a grin despite himself.

“I won’t. Thank you, Jackson-ah. Go have fun with Mark hyung, I’ll call you tomorrow or something,” Jinyoung hums.

“Mmhm, goodnight,” Jinyoung greets him back, hanging up with a tired sigh. He stuffs his phone in his pocket, the battery percentage showing a pathetic 17 percent. Ah, I need to find a charger soon, he laments internally. He glances at the digital clock on the coffee table, 11:57 blaring brightly in white against the small black screen. Then he turns to Jaebeom, who’s still fast asleep, snoring a little even.

I swear this is payback for yesterday. Why do his shoulders have to be so broad? Jinyoung groans internally as he slings Jaebeom’s arm around his own shoulders, the older’s bulkier frame making it slightly difficult for him fit under his arm, especially since Jaebeom keeps leaning his weight backwards in his sleep. Jinyoung pulls him off the couch with some effort, huffing. His steps falter as they walk past the coffee table and he gasps, barely managing to catch himself and Jaebeom. Jaebeom lets out a little laugh, snoring stopping as he wraps his arms around Jinyoung’s neck.

“Hyung, it’s ticklish, don’t do that,” Jinyoung tries to turn his neck out of Jaebeom’s grasp as the older starts to play with the short strands of hair at his nape. His cheeks burn and he swats at Jaebeom again, though it just makes Jaebeom huff out a laugh. Maybe I should just dump him on the floor and go, Jinyoung considers. But then he did send me to Youngjae’s place and everything, he thinks after. Sighing, he decides to just suck it up and carry on anyway.

Jaebeom’s room is located at the far end of the house, where there’s barely any noise from the outside world. The room is dark when he opens up the door, only the barest hint of moonlight streaming in through the window blinds. So when something rubs against his ankle and meows , Jinyoung gets the shock of his life and nearly lets go of Jaebeom.

He reaches blindly for his phone in his pocket, switching on the flashlight and shining it down. It’s a tiny white cat, huge, captivating eyes staring up at him in curiosity. “Hello,” Jinyoung mumbles in a way he hopes comes off as a peaceful greeting. He looks around the room and finds another two pairs of eyes staring at him from the cat tower in the corner by the window, one pair a magnetic green while the other a pale yellow. That’s three, where’s the other two? Jinyoung wonders. He slowly manoeuvres his way around the room, trusting his eyesight and the weak light from his phone to make sure he doesn't bump into anything.

It’s a little difficult holding a phone and supporting Jaebeom at the same time, so Jinyoung stuffs his phone in his pocket, hoping nothing is too fragile in this room. The bed is right smack in the middle of the room and Jinyoung knows he has found it when his knees bump into the foot of the bed with a soft ‘thump!’ followed by a muttered curse of pain. He unceremoniously plops Jaebeom onto the silky sheets before bending and removing the older’s socks and shoes, wrinkling his nose as he tosses the converse shoes somewhere in the corner. Jaebeom has woken up a little, eyes half-lidded as he turns around to look at Jinyoung.

“Jinyoung-ah~” he mumbles, grinning wide in his drunken haze. He makes grabby hands at his jacket and tries to remove it, frowning when he can’t. He’s lying down and he wants to remove his jacket? What an idiot, honestly, Jinyoung sighs and moves to help him, only to be swatted away by Jaebeom.

“I can do this on my own!” he protests, glaring up at Jinyoung as if Jinyoung has somehow offended him by trying to help. He’s so drunk, oh my God, Jinyoung muses, shaking his head.

“Alright, take it off on your own then,” he says, stepping back and folding his arms over his chest. The five whole minutes Jaebeom spends trying is pure gold . He’s twisting uselessly, bottom lip jutted out and eyebrows furrowed as he tugs at the expensive material. His little whines make it even funnier and Jinyoung can’t help but burst into laughter. It makes Jaebeom turn to look at him, squinting as he tries to make out where Jinyoung’s face is.

“Hold on, I’ll turn the lights on,” Jinyoung says, walking to the bedside where he can make out the shadow of a lamp. After a while of blindly grasping for a switch, his fingers finally find one and light floods the room. It’s a small lamp consisting of a clear clock dome and a bird on the inside, soft yellow light emitting from it. It gives the room a homely, warm feeling and Jinyoung can now see the interior properly.

It’s more simple than he’d thought it would be. There isn’t much - a black small wooden table and matching chair with his belongings, a grey shelf piled full of books, the cat tower from earlier and a door leading to the toilet. He assumed Jaebeom would keep all his work material here, the thick files and folders he always sees lying around in the older’s office.

"Would you let me help you now?" he asks, having to press his lips together to prevent from laughing right in Jaebeom's sulky face again. Jaebeom nods and holds his hands up, looking away as he still pouts. Jinyoung stifles a laugh, pulling Jaebeom up and helping him remove his jacket. He then unbuttons the sleeves and undoes Jaebeom's tie, fingers hovering over the first button. "Do you wanna change into something more comfortable?"

Jaebeom shakes his head, flopping backwards unto the bed and sighing happily. A cat, brown ears and paws, jumps up out of nowhere and crawls over to Jaebeom, stepping all over his chest until it buries itself in his neck. Then another one, a fat black one jumps on the bed and lies all over Jaebeom’s legs, right in front of where Jinyoung is standing. He reaches down and scratches behind its ear, the cat melting into his touch.

“Jinyoung,” comes Jaebeom’s sleepy voice. Jinyoung hums in response, eyes lighting up as the same white cat from before comes to nuzzle at his ankles again. He bends and carefully picks it up, putting it next to the black one. They paw at each other and let out a few meows, before the white one rolls and ends up whacking the bigger cat in the face. Jinyoung smiles, reaching down and petting them both.

“Jinyoung-ah,” Jaebeom calls again, voice soft and low.

"Yeah hyung?" he answers, looking up from playing with the cats. And Jaebeom is looking straight back at him, lips curved up on one side in a lopsided smile as he beckons Jinyoung over. Jinyoung hesitates -then, but goes over in the end. He hovers by the bedside table, hands wringing each other without knowing where to put them. Jaebeom notices and shifts over, leaving a space for Jinyoung to sit. He does, carefully positioning himself a good few centimetres away from Jaebeom's middle.

“Thank you. A lot,” he says, cheeks still red as before even though his words are less slurred now. He’s still so drunk, huh? Must be difficult, living with a father and a life like this. Jinyoung supposes. His mind goes back to what Youngjae had said before, and what he’d promised. ‘Please look out for Jaebeom hyung.’ Youngjae had asked, with the saddest look Jinyoung’s ever seen on his face in his weeks of knowing the younger man.

It should really be something bad if even Youngjae looks so put down by it. I wonder… Jinyoung’s eyes trail over Jaebeom’s features, slowly taking in every detail. The older’s eyes have drifted shut, bangs still styled neatly in place. His twin moles, little dots over his left eye that look too perfect to be natural. His jawline, which Jinyoung has always noted to be sharp and nicely angled, seems to frame his peaceful face even better now. His cupid’s bow, which seems more prominent now that Jinyoung’s up close. And those lips, parted as Jaebeom takes slow breaths in his sleep, pink and looking so damn soft under the warm light.

And then his tongue darts out - wetting his lips as he presses them together before releasing them again, the colour going from pink to white to pink again. Jinyoung gets lost in the action, own lips parting in a soft gasp. The image replays over and over again in his mind, fueled by what Jackson had said earlier, about Jaebeom lying naked in bed waiting . Then he feels hot all of a sudden, hands itching to just do something instead of just looking.

He jerks away abruptly, looking away like he’d just witnessed something too private for his eyes. Cheeks burning, he presses his hands to them, sucking in a deep breath to calm down. Once his heart doesn’t feel like it’s gonna explode, he looks for a blanket to cover Jaebeom with. It’s folded neatly next to Jaebeom on the other side of the bed and Jinyoung spreads it out and covers Jaebeom from neck to toe. The older looks smaller under the multi-layered cover; Jinyoung can’t help but soften at the sight.

“Goodnight, hyung,” he whispers, taking in Jaebeom’s features one last time in the soft moonlight. Then he tiptoes out of the room, waving to the little white cat that lifts its head in question as it watches him walk out the door. Jinyoung shuts the door softly behind him, sighing when it clicks shut. Then he slumps against it, letting out a deep breath as the image of Jaebeom’s lips flashes again in his mind, the words ‘naked in bed waiting’ haunting him again.

Ah, I’m gonna go crazy ‘cause of him soon.

 

 


 

 

Jaebeom wakes up the next morning with a paw straight to the face. He jerks awake, Cake jumping away and hissing. Nora has moved from his side to the pillow next to him while Odd is still lying over his feet. Kunta and Beru have disappeared somewhere but Jaebeom feels at ease knowing his cats are okay. His head hurts like hell, though it isn’t the worst hangover he’s ever experienced.

( There was once when Jaebeom had been dared to chug a whole bottle of Absolut vodka at their graduation party in college and his ego was too big to say no. Mark and Youngjae had to nurse him back to health for two whole days while Yugyeom had taken care of all the videos and pictures online in case news of the successor of Im Tradings Incorporate getting drunk spread. It was a whole mess, but that's a story for another time. )

Throat feeling like sandpaper and body feeling like lead, he drags himself out of bed and to the bathroom, each step making his legs feel like jelly. The huge wall clock reads seven thirty-five, Jaebeom's body naturally waking him up a little later than his usual timing. Yesterday's clothes feel sticky and he peels them off, phone falling out of his pocket and on the floor. He winces as it lands, praying the screen isn't cracked. He lifts it and sighs in relief, wiping the screen on a nearby towel. It's on eight percent with messages from the group chat that he makes a note to read later. There are also a few personal messages from Mark and he can already guess what they're about, judging by the smirk emoji he sees Yugyeom sent.

He chooses not to think about it yet, about Jinyoung yet, not until his train of thoughts are more cleared up. Instead, he goes straight into the shower, the warm water feeling like heaven on his skin. He lathers on loads of soap and shampoo, feeling much better as the scent of coconut fills his nostrils and clears his head. It still hurts, though not as much now that he’s gotten the dirt out of his skin and the taste of alcohol out of his mouth. He wraps a towel around his waist and doesn’t bother with his hair, letting the water drip onto his skin when he runs a hand through the wet strands.

Choosing his clothes for the day is always easy, his suits all paired up with matching shirts and belts in advance by the housekeeper. Sometimes, he chooses his own outfits depending on his mood. But today he's nursing a hangover and has lots of questions in his mind, so he simply settles for a grey one with a white shirt and matching belt. Beru appears out of the closet's lowest compartment, meowing as she stretches as Jaebeom's feet. Jaebeom smiles and lets her nuzzle against his leg as he buttons up his shirt. She doesn't seem to like it when Jaebeom has to move to wear his pants but purrs when he picks her up right after he's done.

He dumps his clothes in the hamper by the walk-in wardrobe, grabbing his phone and walking out feeling refreshed. “Charger…” he mumbles as he looks around for a portable. He knows it’s lying around somewhere - Yugyeom had just returned it a week ago after borrowing it for God knows how long and Jaebeom had put it somewhere. Except now he can’t remember where exactly. Is it in the living room? He wonders, walking out in his search.

And what he finds is his portable charger. But he also finds a certain Park Jinyoung sleeping on the couch, chin tucked under a cushion with his phone connected to Jaebeom’s precious portable.

Now Jaebeom would usually get mad at someone for one - entering his room without permission. Two - looking through his things without permission. And three - using his things without permission. But as he watches the patterned rise and fall of Jinyoung's chest and the calm, handsome expression on his face - he can't find it in himself to get mad at all. Instead, he takes a seat at the armchair next to the couch and watches.

He watches the way Jinyoung’s fingers curl around the edge of the cushion as he hugs it tight, the way his bangs fall over one side and expose half of his forehead. He watches the way Jinyoung’s eyebrows furrow every once and then, mouth opening and closing like he’s mouthing words in his dream. Then Jinyoung starts to tense up, shoulders hunching in his sleep and eyebrows curling even more towards each other.

Should I wake him up? It seems like it’s some nightmare, Jaebeom thinks, a little worriedly. Jinyoung is breathing hard now, one hand tightening over the cushion while the other grips at his elbow. Jaebeom reaches forward immediately, his hand so close to touching Jinyoung when the younger jolts awake. Jaebeom flinches back, eyes wide as he watches Jinyoung blink awake.

“Jinyoung? You okay?” he asks, cautious. Jinyoung rubs his face furiously, hands moving to run through his bed hair, which smooths down immediately. He isn’t looking at Jaebeom yet, eyes darting around and Jaebeom can tell he’s deciding whether to tell the truth or not.

“Yeah, it was just a dream,” the lie comes out smoother than Jaebeom had expected. “Could I borrow a disposable toothbrush and your bathroom?” he asks, hands gripping the edge of the couch firmly.

"Yeah, the door in my room," he replies, choosing not to ask just yet. "There are some of Youngjae's clothes in the top drawer on the left, you can change into those if you'd like,"

"Thank you. I'll be out soon and then we can leave for work," It's all Jinyoung says before he's getting up and walking briskly to the room like he can't wait to get over with the conversation.

And it’s kinda scary, how Jinyoung can be so friendly one night and then turn into his closed-off self the next morning. Jaebeom wonders if what they’ve built up so far - all the progress they’ve made going from enemies to some sort of friends - is gonna end up crumbling in the span of a day. He isn’t sure how he feels about it - how he feels about Jinyoung, just yet. But Jaebeom knows that something is definitely up now, that Jinyoung isn’t all that open after all.

And he supposes it means they aren’t that different, despite how much they clashed in the beginning.



Chapter Text

 

The drive to the office is quieter and tenser than Jaebeom would like it to be. Ever since Jinyoung had emerged from the shower, he's been awfully quiet and reserved. Jaebeom had expected at least some form of teasing about his drunk state the night before, like what he’d done to Jinyoung. Or at least a ‘How are you feeling?’, considering he did have a lot to drink the night before.

But he gets none of that. All he gets is silence - cold and unnerving. And for the past few days, Jaebeom has gotten used to Jinyoung’s amused and teasing nature through their recent progress from enemies to acquaintances of some sort. The word ‘friends’ is still a touchy term that Jaebeom doesn’t want to deal with just yet. But as he sees Jinyoung’s blank, unreadable expression in the corner of his eye, he can’t help but think they’ve gone back to square one and everything he’s done so far has been in vain.

There’s a sort of disappointment that feels like a knot coiled up in his chest, tightening every time he glances to Jinyoung and sees the younger’s blank face. But there’s also anger hidden somewhere among the disappointment - anger at Jinyoung for being so difficult and capricious, no matter how hard Jaebeom tries to get him to open up.

He knows he's being hypocritical since he isn't being exactly open about his secrets as well. But he’s just so confused when it comes to Jinyoung, it’s like dealing with two totally different people all at once yet he knows one is the true Jinyoung and one isn’t. And it’s bothering him more than he thought it would, considering he never thought he’d be spending two nights drinking with the person who annoyed him the most.

I really need to talk to someone about this. I hope Mark hyung is free, he’ll know what to do. Or maybe Youngjae, but I’ll feel bad troubling him again after that night. If not I’ll call the brat, he’s always free, Jaebeom thinks as he runs through the list of possible people to talk to. It's a miserably short list, considering he has a small circle of close friends. But it has to do because he might very well lose his mind the longer he keeps this to himself.

 




Jaebeom's toilet is a lot cleaner than his own, Jinyoung realises. His toiletries are neatly arranged in a little container by the sink, the marble surface looking and feeling like it's been polished. It's simple yet tasteful in a way that suits Jaebeom, and Jinyoung finds himself admiring the small pictures posted on the wall right by the door.

They're mostly scenery, some of trees and sunsets while others of lampposts and alleyways. There's one of a cat, a pretty siamese with blue eyes and a collar. Then one of Youngjae and Yugyeom, smiling widely and talking as Jaebeom takes the picture. And one final one, of a child and a woman, hands grasping each other as they pose for the camera.

The child is carrying a backpack, a little cartoon character printed on the red and yellow straps that are slung over his shoulder. He smiles, eyes a thin line and baby teeth showing, and there’s something so familiar about it but Jinyoung can’t place his finger on it yet. The lady has slightly frizzy, red hair and specs, eye smile looking like her son’s own. And then Jinyoung’s eyes zoom in on the nametag she’s holding in her other hand, hangul letters printed on in clear, black ink.

“Im Jaebeom,” Jinyoung whispers out, heart clenching in his chest. Then this lady must be Jaebeom hyung’s mother, he realises. And it feels like he's had a glimpse of Jaebeom's private life, looking at his pictures in his toilet. He feels guilty then; because he knows Jaebeom's been trying to get to know him yet all he's been doing is shutting the older out.

He also feels guilty, because Jaebeom’s genuinely nice and nothing like the rich, snobby people he’s met in his youth. The older actually put effort and time into slowly easing his way into Jinyoung’s life for genuine reasons, yet Jinyoung literally just lied to his face.

And you can still look at his pictures and use his bathroom, Jinyoung sighs. He decides to quickly shower and get as far away from Jaebeom as he can, though it may be difficult considering there’s still the drive to work. And it’s not because he doesn’t like Jaebeom or doesn’t want to open up to him.

It’s because he’s afraid and doesn’t know how to.

And it’s frustrating not being able to get over his trauma, no matter how many years it’s been. Even till now it haunts him, the same old nightmare coming back to him and scaring him awake this morning. He hates how it makes him feel vulnerable and useless, even after all these years of trying to run away from it.

God, I need to stop thinking about this. He quickly strips and folds his clothes, stepping into the shower and quickly turning on the water. He wishes it would wash away all the negativity in his head, wishes dealing with problems was as easy as that. But in his twenty-five years of living, he's old enough to know the world doesn't revolve around you and things aren't always easy.

So he finishes up quickly, dressing and drying his hair the best he can with the towel. He finds a disposable toothbrush set in one of the cupboards and rips the packaging open, angrily brushing his teeth and willing his mind not to wander. It’s a goddamn Friday morning, he can afford to wait till the weekends to wallow in his self-pity.

Get through the day and then you’re free to go call up Jackson or something, okay? You got this, just try not to talk to him too much and then you won’t feel anything, Jinyoung assures himself. He knows it’ll only make him feel guiltier for pushing Jaebeom away sooner or later, that the guilt will one day catch up to him and he’ll feel a hundred times worse. But technically, Jinyoung already feels so shitty he isn’t sure he can go any further than that.

 


 

Youngjae doesn’t know what the hell is going on. All he knows is that Jinyoung and Jaebeom have been ignoring each other the whole entire morning, which is fairly odd since the two are usually caught in some sort of banter all the time. But now it’s like they barely even know each other and frankly, Youngjae’s kinda caught in the middle of it all.

It all started like this. When they’d entered the office together at the start of the day, thirty minutes late for work, everyone started talking. There were rumours flying around everywhere, some weirder than the rest. There were the most expected ones, like them sleeping together or dating. Then there had been the weird ones, like them being secretly related and Jinyoung and Youngjae being cousins, which explains how quickly they’d become friends.

To make matters worse, word of them leaving the office together the day before had surfaced and sparked even more rumours and speculations of their relationship. And of course, people had immediately turned to Youngjae to ask.

“Are they dating? ‘Cause I honestly think they make a good couple,” Kihyun says as soon as he enters Youngjae’s office. Youngjae groans, covering his face with his hands. He can’t believe even his friends are asking now.

"I don't know, okay? Literally every person I walked past has asked me the same damn question the whole morning, hyung. Go ask Jinyoung hyung yourself, please?" Youngjae says, turning back to his computer. He's working on the annual Christmas project and it's taking a toll on his sleep, so he's in a grumpier mood than usual. Kihyun, being the good friend he is, picks up on it.

“Alright, I’m sorry. I’ll leave you to your work. Don’t work too hard, okay?” Kihyun pets him on the shoulder and turns to leave, Youngjae sighing as he watches his friend go. He’s usually the brightest, friendliest person when it comes to the people in the office. But the project, along with his other work and now this rumour thing makes him more stressed than he’d like to be.

He sighs and flips through the files laid out in front of him, words underlined from when he’d read through them yesterday. To be honest, he is curious about it to some extent. When he’d gotten Mark’s text, he’d kind of expected something like this to happen sooner or later. But what he hadn’t expected was for them to ignore each other, not when they had the whole night to sort things out after yesterday's eventful dinner.

The door swings open again and he looks up, ready to tell Kihyun to go bother Jinyoung instead. But it’s Minhyuk, two coffee cups in hand and a smile on his lips. And Youngjae breaks into a smile, beckoning him to sit down.

“Did Kihyun hyung send you here?” Youngjae asks, grabbing his cup of coffee and taking a long sip. It’s from the cafe opposite their office, the one Youngjae only goes to if he has time in between work hours. It’s much better than the three-in-one coffee sachets in the pantry and he hums in thanks.

“Kinda. I heard him telling Kyun-ie that you were grumpy and sent him off, so I went to get you something to cheer you up,” Minhyuk says, grinning as Youngjae looks sheepish.

“I feel bad, hyung. I didn’t mean to lash out like that,” Youngjae sighs.

“I know, and Kihyun-ie knows too. So don’t worry about it too much, okay?” Minhyuk pats his hand reassuringly. And Youngjae knows it’s just a way of comforting him, but it still sends tingles down his hand and sets off alarm bells in his head.

You see, Youngjae and Minhyuk are in this sort of weird, unclassifiable relationship. It's more than friends, that's for sure, considering how they've gone to each other's houses on multiple non-work related occasions and ended up cuddling of some sort. But they're also not at the dating level yet, since none of them has actually gone out and said ‘I like you’.

And Youngjae isn’t even sure if Minhyuk actually likes him romantically since Minhyuk's a generally friendly and clingy guy with the rest of their friends. Like with Hyunwoo hyung, for example. Minhyuk would always have an arm around Hyunwoo and vice versa when they're next to each other, not to mention how they've left work together several times. There was a period of time when rumours of them dating circulated the office, especially the HR department since both of them worked there.

One time, when Minhyuk, Kihyun, Jimin and Youngjae had to do overtime to plan for an event, Hyunwoo had willingly stayed and waited for Minhyuk. The two had left together after, which was the spark of all these rumours when Kihyun had announced it to the whole world the following day at the office.

( It was also the spark to Youngjae’s jealousy, which he never knew he the type to feel. But it kinda led to him ignoring both of them for a good week or so, just to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. And Minhyuk being the sweet, innocent guy he is had gone to ask Mark if anything was wrong. Mark had naturally guessed Youngjae’s little crush and being the good friend he was, endlessly teased him for weeks, but that’s for another time.)

The point is, Youngjae is confused and very possibly still ( still! ) jealous, but he doesn’t plan on doing anything about it. If not for the sake of their friendship, then for the sake of the HR department. He’ll just have to keep acting like he’s perfectly fine with all the touching and not-flirting, which would be much easier if Minhyuk didn’t do it every few minutes.

Like now, for example.

“How about this? I’ll order pizza later, then you can come over for a movie night. We haven’t had time to hang out in a long time,” Minhyuk pouts with hopeful eyes. It’s the goddamned puppy look, God, help me, Youngjae thinks.

“Sure,” Why’d you say that? “What time can I come over?” he smiles and feels like he’s dying inside. Minhyuk, of course, is blissfully unaware of his inner turmoil.

"About seven? Okay?" Minhyuk asks in adorable English, holding up an ‘okay' sign with his fingers. Youngjae laughs and does the same, Minhyuk grinning.

“Then I’ll see you later, Jae-ah. Good luck with the work, Manager-nim!” Minhyuk jokes and even does a bow as he leaves, the door shutting softly behind him. Once it clicks shut, Youngjae groans and buries his head in his hands, wondering why he’d agree to do that.

But he’s so cute, what am I supposed to do? Say no? I can’t do that, he’ll go ask Mark hyung again and then hyung will come and tease me about it all over again. And what if this time Minhyuk hyung finds out? Then I’m really gonna die, he sighs. He takes a long, sip of the coffee and even the sweet taste reminds him of the older.

Then he thinks of the older’s laugh, how it’s so comforting and feels like honey to his ears. He thinks of his smile - refreshing and so charming in the way that Minhyuk’s whole being is. And then his lips - a natural shade of pink and perfectly shaped, plump with a cupid’s bow.

Maybe tonight won’t be so bad. I mean, it’s Minhyuk hyung. You know him and he knows you, you’ve hung out before. Calm down, Youngjae tells himself, nodding slowly like he’s gotten everything together. Frankly, he really doesn’t.

 


 

“Jinyoungie,” Wonpil greets as he walks out of the elevator, surprising Jinyoung who looks up from his work. It’s not like he was doing much anyway; he hasn’t been able to focus much today with everything that happened in the morning.

“Yeah? What brings you here?” he asks, offering a tiny smile.

"He called me over to discuss something, so here I am," Wonpil holds out his arms like he's presenting himself.

“He did? He never told me anything about that,” Jinyoung mutters the last part, checking through the notes daily notes he makes whenever Jaebeom tells him something. Today’s notes are miserably little, only one sad little line about the meeting that changed to happen later on.

“Maybe he didn’t want to bother you?” Wonpil supplies.

“Why would he be bothering me? It’s my job,” Jinyoung states a little harshly. It annoys him, that Jaebeom has been totally ignoring him the whole day even though he knows it’s because he started first. But Jinyoung’s a petty person who never likes to make the first move in anything, and he’s definitely not going to break his stubborn streak for Im Jaebeom, of all people.

“Did something happen between you two? I mean, there have been rumours…” Wonpil trails off, eyebrows raising suggestively. Jinyoung looks positively stricken by the idea.

“Those rumours are bullshit and you know it. Even if something did happen, which it would never,” Jinyoung ignores the look Wonpil shoots him. “I’m not dumb to the point that I’d flaunt it in front of everyone by walking into the office with him. You know that,”

“Yeah but still. You did leave and get to work together. Plus, you're in yesterday's jacket and shoes, of course, people will talk," Wonpil points out, leaning a hand on the top of his desk.

"Then let them. I've got nothing to hide," Jinyoung says, subconsciously clenching his jaw. Wonpil can tell he's annoyed and looks fractionally wary for a second before he reaches forward and ruffles his hair.

“Alright then. Tell me if anything happens, okay? I better go,” Wonpil gives a short wave before he’s walking over to knock on Jaebeom’s door, entering in shortly. Jinyoung turns back to his work, determined not to think about it any longer than he already has.

It lasts for about five seconds.

“I can’t believe he didn’t fucking tell me. It’s my job! Who is he to declare what bothers me and what doesn’t?” Jinyoung curses to himself. “So what if he’s my boss? I can’t believe he’s such a prick,”

Jinyoung checks through his notepad again, hoping to find that there was, in fact, something about meeting with Wonpil. But the same, miserable line stays there, looking like it's mocking him. Jinyoung clicks his tongue in frustration and rips the page off, not caring about the ugly, jagged edges of the remaining paper in his notepad.

He crushes it up and tosses it in the bin under his table, using more force than necessary and making the ball bounce back out. He sighs, giving up on venting his anger on non-living objects and just making his own life harder. Nothing is working out for me today, he laments internally. He pulls out his phone, deciding if non-living objects can’t handle his frustration, then someone would just have to.

Jackson, unsurprisingly, picks up on the third ring.

“Jinyoung-ah! I’m so glad you called. I was about to-”

"Come pick me up from work today, I'm tired of living," Jinyoung cuts him off. Jackson barks out a laugh.

“Already? I thought you’d last longer than that, with your stubbornness and all,” Jackson says.

“I’m not dropping out of the job, I'm just tired. Sick of it, really. So would you be a dear friend and pick me up? I miss hanging out," Jinyoung figures it's not too far from the truth since he hasn't properly hung out with Jackson in a good week or two. The job's been taking up more of his private life than he'd like.

“Of course,” Jackson says. There’s some rustling in the background, followed by someone shouting Jackson’s name and some instructions Jinyoung can’t make out. “Hey Nyoung, I have to go but I’ll be there by six, okay? See you,”

“Yeah, thanks Sseun-ah. See you,” Jinyoung greets back before he hangs up. He glances at the time, 2:54. Just a few more hours and you’re done for the week, he notes.

Maybe this was karma, for being such a difficult person to get along with all these years he’s lived. And now, the world is finally giving him his due rewards and putting someone equally difficult right in his face.

But of course, Jinyoung stays as stubborn as ever. When he’d told Jackson he wasn’t dropping out, he meant it.

“If he wants to ignore me too, then so be it. Let’s see who breaks first then,” Jinyoung snarks under his breath. He glares down at the stupid notebook given by Jaebeom, his messy handwriting on the previous page where he’s written under Jinyoung’s drawing. Jinyoung finds it hard to resist the urge of tearing that page out, too. This time, he wants to throw it straight in Jaebeom’s ( totally not handsome ) face.



Chapter Text

 

“So you’re telling me you both have been ignoring each other the whole day but you have no idea why,” Jaebeom nods but Mark isn’t done yet. “But you’re also saying you’re not gonna do anything about it because you think it’s his fault,” Jaebeom nods again. “And you’re also a stubborn asshole who won’t back down,”

“Hey! I am not a stubborn asshole," Mark fixes him with his best-unamused face and Jaebeom sputters. "I'm not an asshole . Not to Jinyoung, anyway. I tried to talk to him in the car but he wouldn’t even grace me with a whole sentence so how on earth is this my fault for not backing down? He even left work without telling me, knowing that I could have him fired any minute and he still did it,” Jaebeom defends, hissing across the table. He might be angry, but he does have manners.

They're at the usual restaurant they go to, which is owned by one of their mutual friends, Seokjin. He's a year older than Mark and they all met in their college years - when Jaebeom still wore his lip piercing and both Mark and Seokjin had pink hair once. They've kept in contact even after they graduated, sometimes texting and visiting at big events, like this restaurant's opening. And once Jaebeom had gotten a taste of Seokjin's food, he'd been a goner.

Not to Jinyoung, anyway ? Since when were you two so chummy? I swear you guys were at each other's throats a week ago, don't tell me the rumours at your company are true," Mark points a fork at Jaebeom, tines dangerously close to his face and making him look cross-eyed at the older. He scowls and lightly pushes it away, though the teasing look is still on Mark's face.

“What rumours?” Jaebeom asks. He’s been holed up in his office the whole day, so he’s only heard bits and pieces of the whole story. ( And no, he didn’t stay in the office for the sole purpose of avoiding a certain secretary. )

“Oh y’know, just something about you two leaving and coming to work together, how the great Im Jaebeom is romantically involved with his newest secretary. Just the usual,” Mark grins, sharp teeth showing and if he wasn’t older than Jaebeom, God knows what would have happened to him by now.

“How did you even know?” Jaebeom prompts.

“Let’s just say I have eyes and ears everywhere. Also, I spoke to Youngjae earlier and he kinda told me that Jinyoung spent lunch bitching about you,” It doesn’t really come as news that Jinyoung and Youngjae spent lunch together but to bitch about him? Really? To his own brother?

"Well-! It's not like he's been exactly nice either, has he?" Jaebeom defends, feeling betrayed. Mark only shrugs, and it spikes his urge to hit something even more. He clenches his jaw and subconsciously juts it out, making Mark grimace and point at it.

"You're doing that chin thing again." Jaebeom scowls but unclenches his jaw anyway. "And I was kidding about them being true, I know you aren't an idiot. But if they really aren't, then why are you suddenly being so nice to him? I haven't heard you call anyone without honorifics since you decided Yugyeom was gonna be the last friend you made," Mark points out, picking up a dough fritter and munching on it.

“And I’ve known you like my whole life, Jaebeom-ah. We’ve been through all your breakups and arguments together, be it with a friend or significant other. I’ve never seen you so...agitated by someone like this. Not to mention you two aren’t even friends,

It’s then that Jaebeom realises that Mark is right. He had let himself get unnecessarily and overly wound up over Jinyoung, though he has zero reasons to. Their relationship is supposed to be simple - CEO and secretary. Not Jaebeom swooping in to save Jinyoung from a drunk pervert or Jinyoung defending Jaebeom from his father's accusations.

He let himself make some sort of a friend out of Park Jinyoung - if he can call them that. And Jinyoung had done the same, unknowingly trusting Jaebeom to some extent after he'd saved him during that damned gala. It makes Jaebeom think yet again, that despite their initial clashing and fighting, there's always been some sort of chemistry between the two, be it during work or outside of it. Then there's them having similarities in the way that they're both secretly broken in one way or another, which is something Jaebeom desperately wants to find out about.

But with things going the way it is now, he thinks he's hardly anywhere near Jinyoung’s good books.

He sighs, figuring Mark actually does have a point this time and that he should probably listen. Mark seems to figure that out, though he saves Jaebeom the trouble of explaining why he’s gotten so worked up.

“Are you friends?” he asks instead. “You told me you went drinking, talked, dropped him off...it’s kind of hard not to think you two aren’t friends by now. Or is your pride too much for that?” Mark teases.

“It is not! But what if Jinyoung doesn’t actually think of me as someone trustable and everything he’s been doing so far has just been for the sake of it? What if he’s just being nice because he’s taking pity on me?” Jaebeom asks, voice getting louder and whinier as he goes. He ends with a sigh, deflating into the plush seating. Mark seems mildly alarmed at his sudden outburst, reaching forward at patting his hand.

“Do you want to be friends with him? That’s what matters, not whether he’s being fake-nice or not. If you want to be friends with him, I know you’ll do anything to change his mind. You’re Im Jaebeom, you’re like the most determined person I know,” Mark says.

Does he want to be friends with Jinyoung ?

Jinyoung - who smiles with his eyes wrinkling at the sides; whose laugh is a deep, smoky ha ha ha hidden behind his hand. The one that immediately defended him even if it could have cost him his job and felt no regret after that. The man that cheers Youngjae up and always lends a hand in the office, even if he has a mountain of work at his table waiting for him.

Jinyoung, who had willingly agreed to accompany him wherever he asked, no matter what difficulties he had ended up facing. And finally, the one person who had listened to him and bothered to ask what he wanted for once, not about his father or the company or the shares. About him, Im Jaebeom, and he’s somehow found comfort in the way Jinyoung is.

“Yeah,” he replies, slowly dragging out the syllable. “Yeah, I do,” he says again, more firmly this time. Mark grins, proud like he knew Jaebeom was going to say so.

“Good, then go talk to him tomorrow,”

“But...it’s Saturday tomorrow? Why would I see him?” Jaebeom asks, a bad feeling creeping up on him as he sees Mark pull out his phone from his pocket. He watches as Mark unlocks it and dials a number, the contact name My Wang appearing on the screen when he hits call. Jackson picks up almost immediately.

"Jaebeommie said okay to tomorrow," Mark smiles wickedly, eyes glinting as he looks right at Jaebeom like he's challenging him to disagree. And Jaebeom never backs down from a challenge, does he?

“What? I did not! Jackson-ssi! I never said okay to anything!” Jaebeom leans over and attempts to grab the phone from Mark’s tight grip. The older simply holds out his other hand to block him and angles his phone out of his reach, Jaebeom cursing his small hands and short arms. He hears Jackson’s voice over the phone and some other incoherent noises, followed by Jackson’s high-pitched laughter into the phone.

“He did?” Mark casts Jaebeom a sideways glance that definitely can’t mean anything good. “That’s good. Mmhm, I’ll see you later, Gaga,” Mark says lightly before hanging up. He stuffs his phone back into his pocket and Jaebeom gives up, plopping down on the seat with a pout.

“Won’t you at least tell me what I so-called agreed to?” Jaebeom asks, voice bordering on a whine. He hasn’t even met Jackson and now the man is plotting something for him with his so-called best friend, that definitely can’t mean anything good at this point.

“That would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it? Just come over at ten tomorrow morning and bring those cartons of beer and cider you never have time to drink,” Mark says, picking up his chopsticks and going back to eating. Jaebeom takes it as the end of the conversation and sighs, muttering under his breath about bad best friends and bad influences. He just hopes whatever it is, it’s nothing he can’t handle.

 


 

Jinyoung promptly leaves the office at five fifty, messenger bag slung over his shoulder and bouncing against his leg as he speedwalks out of the building. Jackson hasn’t called or texted yet, so he assumes his friend is still quite a distance away. And with the weather getting colder by the day as they approach winter, it probably would be wise for him to stay inside with his thin, worn-out coat.

But Jinyoung knows Jaebeom is still in his office, so there’s the possibility of him calling Jinyoung and holding him back for work anytime. It would mean conversation with the older man and frankly, Jinyoung isn’t sure he’s ready for that just yet. He figures Jaebeom can’t do that if he isn’t there to pick up the call, so he’d quickly dumped everything into his bag and left without informing the older at all.

The petty part of him is proud and counts it as his victory, while the mature, responsible part of him is worrying that he might lose his job over something as dumb as this. So it’s safe to say that he’s in some sort of an internal war with himself and he can’t wait to rant to Jackson so he won’t have to suffer alone.

It’s terribly cold and Jinyoung wraps his arms around himself, hovering by the doors to the office building so that he can feel the warm air from inside whenever someone opens the doors. Loads of his colleagues are leaving work now, some in groups while others alone. He checks his phone for the time every minute and God, where the fuck is Jackson Wang? The longer I stand here, the higher the chance of meeting the Devil.

He prays Jaebeom doesn’t decide to go to the carpark via the front doors today, or he’d be dead meat. But then again, he supposes if Jaebeom had been ignoring him the whole day, he would do the same now, wouldn’t he? Or maybe not. He is unpredictable, Jinyoung thinks. It’s getting colder by the minute and Jackson still hasn’t appeared in one of his flashy, sports cars yet so Jinyoung mood is pretty shitty. He thinks that if Jaebeom does appear and talks to him, they might end up fighting right here in front of the whole world to see.

Then someone taps on his shoulder and Jinyoung nearly jumps. He whips around and it’s Wonpil flanked by Sungjin and Younghyun, the three holding in their laughter. He scowls but sends a thankful prayer up to the heavens because it isn’t Im Jaebeom for once.

“Waiting for your boyfriend?” Wonpil asks, still teasing even after what Jinyoung told him.

“Shut up, we are not and never will be dating. I’m waiting for Jackson, why?”

“We’re going drinking since it’s y’know, happy hour, and we wondered if you wanted to join,” Younghyun speaks up.

“Ah, I’m sorry but I’ll have to pass. Maybe next time?” Jinyoung genuinely means it because even though he’s only going to be working at the office for a few months, the people there aren’t half as bad as he thought they would be. Besides, if they’re friends with Wonpil, he supposes they can get along just fine.

“I’m holding you to that, Jinyoungie. Oh and,” Wonpil shrugs off his coat, much thicker and newer than Jinyoung’s. “Take it, you look like you’re gonna freeze your ass off,”

“Aren’t you gonna be cold, too?” Jinyoung asks, even though the coat looks awfully tempting. Wonpil notices and snorts, pushing the coat into Jinyoung’s hands when he doesn’t take it.

“The bar we’re going to is close by, anyway. You can return it to me tomorrow. Or y’know, treat me to a drink someday,” Wonpil winks and Jinyoung laughs, lightly smacking him on the arm. But he takes the coat anyway, shrugging his current one off and folding it in his hands before wearing Wonpil’s.

“Thank you, Pil-ah. I’ll return it tomorrow,” Wonpil pouts. “ And get you that drink,” Jinyoung sighs.

"Love ya, Jinyoung-ah. Okay, can we go now? I don't have a coat and it's cold," Wonpil moves to slide in between Younghyun and Sungjin, the two letting him cling to them for warmth.

“Alright. See you, Jinyoung,” Sungjin says, nodding to him. Jinyoung nods back and waves, watching as the three of them cross the street. The coat is definitely much warmer than his own and he wraps it around himself tighter, crossing his arms and leaning against the grey walls of the building. His breath escapes him in little puffs of fog as he waits, feeling more comfortable now that he’s warm and comfortable.

Jackson finally arrives a few minutes later - ten minutes past the arranged meeting time and his white Audi pulls up on the street in front of Jinyoung. He has the cheek to wind down the window and wave, grinning like he's early and it’s an achievement. Jinyoung makes his way over, sliding into the passenger seat with a glare. He shuts the door with more force than necessary and Jackson winces.

"I'm sorry? I got held back ‘cause the props for the photo shoot came late and of course, they had to make sure I looked as good as always," Jinyoung snorts. "I'm sorry, Nyoung-ah~" Jackson coos, one hand coming to poke at his side. It gets annoying after a while and he sighs, grabbing Jackson's hand and firmly placing it back on the wheel.

“It’s fine, you’re a celebrity and everything so I get that you’re busy,” Jinyoung says.

“Really? That easy? Since when were you so nice? Who are you and what have you done to my Park Jinyoung?” Jackson jokes, ever the mood maker.

“Oh shut up, it’s been a long week and I have so much to tell you,”

"Ooh, tea!" Jackson exclaims, sounding very much like a high school girl.

“What the fuck is tea ?” Jinyoung asks, feeling a laugh bubbling up in his chest. Jackson looks positively shocked that he doesn’t know what it means.

“Seriously, how old are you? You act like you’re forty or something, have you really not heard of the term ‘tea’ ?” Jackson asks. Jinyoung shakes his head, not really caring if he does sound forty or not. He’s been told many times by his friends that he acts and sounds like he’s living under a rock for not knowing most of the slangs used these days.

“No, so explain it to me,” Jinyoung says.

“It’s basically like the juicy details of whatever drama has been happening in your life. Like the gossip, the people involved, what happened, why it happened, etcetera. And, and if it’s really dramatic and lots of juicy stuff happened, the tea is pipin' hot," Jackson says in English, even using some sort of accent to make him sound like those people in the movies. Jinyoung has no idea why people talk like this these days.

“I won’t question it but please, don’t ever say that in front of me again. You can use it with Bambam instead,”

“But that’s no fun!” Jackson whines, pouting.

“I think my life is fine without some fun. But do you wanna know what happened or not?” Jinyoung asks, wanting to get it off his chest as soon as possible. He’s always appreciated a second opinion, especially when it comes to something like this. And in all the years they’ve been best friends, he’s come to trust Jackson’s opinion as much as his own family’s.

“Of course! But first, can we go somewhere to eat? I haven’t eaten since ten in the morning and there’s this new restaurant I wanna try,” Jackson says. “Or, or! We could order food in and watch a movie. There’s also this new track I’m working on that I want you to listen to,”

"Movie night it is," Jinyoung says. He likes spending time at a friend's house where it's comfortable more than eating at a restaurant where he can't even hear himself think. Besides, Jackson has a huge television and Netflix, which Jinyoung sadly, can't afford. "But you're dropping me off later. I haven't been home in two whole days,"

“Two days? What the heck have you been doing, living on the streets? Or did work get too much and you ended up sleeping in the office?” Jackson asks, turning on to his street. The high-rise apartments and houses here are more expensive than Jinyoung’s whole year of pay and he dimly thinks of his small 400 square-foot apartment.

“No, I’m poor but I’m not a beggar. I have dignity ,” Jinyoung states, Jackson barking out a laugh. He’s driven into the parking lot of his penthouse’s building now, easily parking his car in one of the lots reserved for residents. They step out of the car, Jinyoung choosing to take his wallet and phone only instead of his whole bag and old coat. Jackson looks fairly comfortable in his baggy designer sweats and pullover, though he moves to cling to Jinyoung as soon as he locks his car.

“Wait, this isn’t your coat. Did you buy a new one?” Jackson asks, feeling the material of the borrowed coat.

“No, it’s Wonpil’s. He lent it to me because I was freezing my ass off waiting for you outside of the office,” Jinyoung says, feeling slightly petty. Jackson grins and hugs him tighter as an apology.

"I should get you one for Christmas since your current one is so old and worn-out. You've had it since college or something," Jackson points out. Jinyoung figures he could use a new one of his own and Jackson would insist on buying him something , anyway.

He also rathers a useful coat than some stupid Tinder premium Jackson had gotten him last Christmas. He, along with Bambam and Wonpil, was convinced Jinyoung wanted to get laid when all he said was he ‘wasn’t interested in a relationship at the moment’. Them being the good friends they are has assumed he was looking for casual hookups and signed him up for the premium option on Tinder, even going as far as creating an account for him. It had ended up in a whole month of horrible dates ( which Jackson had forced him to go on ) and endless messages about how good he looked before he cancelled the subscription and deleted the app for good.

“If you’d like to. What do you wanna order? Pizza? Chinese? That horrible vegan food you like? ” Jinyoung asks, pressing the elevator button. It dings open in front of them a few seconds later and they step in, the posh marble walls and handles making him feel like he’s in a hotel instead of a condominium.

“I was thinking jajangmyeon, actually. And excuse you , organic food is healthy and it tastes good,” Jackson defends as he presses the button for the top floor.

“Of course, it does. I’m sure meat made out of gluten tastes amazing ," Jinyoung snarks, grinning when Jackson rolls his eyes at his sarcasm. They reach Jackson's floor and get off, only needing to take a few steps before they reach his front door. The perk of living in a penthouse and being rich is that he can have the whole level to himself, so there's the privacy that Jinyoung loves.

“You should be grateful I’m still your best friend after years of listening to your sarcastic and witty remarks. I don’t know how your boss and colleagues handle you. Are you sure you haven’t lost your job yet? ” Jackson asks, unlocking the door. Jinyoung takes in the familiar apartment and happily toes off his shoes, not answering Jackson yet in favour of plopping down on his huge couch.

“Nope, and I don’t plan on losing it anytime soon,”



Chapter Text

 

They’re halfway through the movie when Jinyoung actually starts on his main agenda for meeting Jackson tonight - talking about the problem at hand, Im Jaebeom. They’re watching some cliche rom-com that honestly could do better in terms of plot and character development which Jinyoung had spent the first half of the movie criticising. The voices of the actors quickly turn into background noise as Jackson’s loud voice takes over.

“Tell me what happened, Nyoung-ah. From start to finish, nothing left out. I need to know, I feel like I haven’t been part of your life for a whole month,” Jackson dramatically declares, latching onto Jinyoung’s arm. They’re seated on the huge couch with a felt blanket draped over their legs; Jackson’s many cushions surrounding them in some sort of barrier.

Jinyoung’s fairly comfortable in his work outfit ( which is actually Youngjae’s, now that he thinks of it ) - baby blue shirt definitely crumpled by now and nice fitting grey slacks. Jackson had offered to lend him some sweats and a t-shirt but he’d like to stop owing people things and favours.

"So from Wednesday? Or just yesterday?" he asks. He supposes the gala was sort of a build-up to this, too.

"There's a Wednesday? Exactly how much have you not told me?” Jackson exclaims, the look of fake-hurt taking up his features.

“It was the gala, remember? The one you and Bambam dressed me up for. Not much happened, anyway. There was just this pervert that tried to touch me and then Jaebeom stepped in and stopped him,” Jinyoung shrugs, though he knows it’s not all that happened. It’s far from the full story, actually.

"Details, details, details! I don't want a hundred-word summary," Jackson whines.

“Alright fine. So Yugyeom and your boyfriend had made a bet with me and the loser had to drink this horrible thing. Naturally, I lost and got kinda tipsy because I can’t my liquor for shit and I sorta let Yugyeom convince me to dance?” Both of them wince, Jackson shaking his head in disappointment.

"And it was fun for a while until I kinda lost them in the crowd and then this old geezer comes up behind me and touches my waist ,” Jackson frowns, hand wrapping comfortingly around Jinyoung’s.

“So of course I panic and then that feeling came back. The one where I can’t do anything and I’m just stuck there and he was saying stuff like I’d looked good dancing and-” Jinyoung’s voice catches in his throat, forming a lump that he tries to swallow down.

“Do you still get the flashbacks these days?” Jackson asks softly.

“Only once, a week or two back, I think. In the office and then I just- it just happened, I guess. But Jaebeom was there and he thought I fell asleep so he tapped me to wake me up and it got me out of it. It nearly happened that day, when the man was about to touch me again,” Jinyoung audibly gulps. “Then Jaebeom was there, again, to save me. But he nearly got into a fight because that man was drunk as hell, provoking Jaebeom and everything,”

“Aw, he wanted to fight for you! That’s a lot for someone with a reputation like him,” Jackson comments.

“I know it is, that’s why I got mad when his dad showed up and kind of shamed him in front of everyone by shutting him down. His dad is a huge prick who doesn’t realise his own son’s efforts,” Jinyoung states, remembering what Mr Im had said to Jaebeom during their friendly dinner yesterday.

“Wait, wait what? Mr Im himself showed up? And you got mad at him? Damn, Jinyoungie. You really love getting involved with the whole Im Family, huh?” Jackson comments, like Jinyoung had won some lottery.

“I really don’t but it happened and now I have to live with it. But yes, I got mad and we had dinner yesterday at their house so I may have spoken out of place to Mr Im,” Jinyoung admits, grinning a little at Jackson’s unbelieving face.

He remembers the look of anger that had crossed Mr Im’s face and the pride he’d felt in that moment, for finally standing up for someone he cares about. Admitting that he does care about Jaebeom isn’t that difficult now, after everything that’s happened that past two days, it’s a little hard not to.

If you care so much, stop being such a prick to him. He probably thinks you hate him with how bipolar you’re being, Jinyoung thinks.

“And you’re still working there? What spell have you cast over Im Jaebeom?” Jackson teases and Jinyoung smacks him on the arm.

“I did not cast a spell on him, I’m just a good secretary,” Jackson snorts which Jinyoung purposefully ignores. “But we went drinking on both days, just to blow off some steam and y’know, drink our troubles away,”

“What problems would someone like Im Jaebeom have?”

“His dad - unappreciative prick, insults his children even when they work their asses off, especially Jaebeom. He doesn’t even appear at the office but once he gets back to Korea he’s all over it like he’s the one who worked so hard to make it succeed all these years,” Jinyoung snidely remarks.

“So what I’m hearing and piecing together is Im Jaebeom saved your life at the gala and in return, you stood up for him? And you both went for drinks on both of those nights and you ended up staying over at his place right after," Jackson says, lips curling into the beginnings of a Cheshire smile.

“No, he dropped me off at Youngjae’s place on Wednesday night and he went home after. I brought him to Minho hyung’s bar yesterday but we both drank so Seunghoon dropped us off at his place and I slept on the couch. That’s when I called you, remember?” A look of realisation crosses Jackson’s face, though it’s quickly replaced by a smirk.

“You mean when Im Jaebeom was supposedly passed out on the couch and totally not naked in the bed waiting for you? ” Jinyoung chokes on his spit and shoots Jackson a glare. “Of course, I remember. I experienced radio silence for a good few minutes for God knows what reason. Care to explain, Jinyoungie?”

I would really love not to, he thinks. It was when Jackson had brought up that god-awful topic of Jaebeom possibly lying naked in his bed, waiting for Jinyoung to end the call and them doing less than decent things. He’d spent minutes just lost in his imagination and staring, ineluctably thinking of how Jaebeom would actually look sprawled out on the sheets in his naked glory.

He is a man - a very gay, single, young and healthy man, after all. He’s found Jaebeom to be attractive on more than one occasion, be it in his tight-fitting suit or rolled up sleeves that accentuate his arms and broad shoulders. The older man also happens to be his type - the kind that can be sexy and so very confident yet is actually a softie that gets teased and riled-up easily.

Jinyoung likes the thrill of being with someone different from him - someone whom he cannot read yet interests him with every single thing they do. While he also likes having the upper hand in most of the conversations he has; likes to be able to predict and to manipulate the other person's thinking - Jaebeom has proved to be one of a kind in his own special ways and if Jinyoung was being honest, he gets more curious each passing day.

But Jackson doesn’t have to know any of that - not yet, anyway. There are too many risks, too many ‘what if’s and ‘then what’s that Jinyoung rather be avoided, at least for now when things have already turned out to be this way. And him admitting it to Jackson would be as good as him waltzing into Jaebeom’s office and hanging a sign over his head that says ‘I admit defeat’ in big, bright red letters.

So, he lies.

“His cat ran out of his room and I had to carry her back. He has five of them, y’know? He’s like some crazy cat man,” Jinyoung says, hoping Jackson would drop the topic.

“Still doesn’t explain why you couldn’t talk to me and carry the cat back. I know you’re a multitasker and I’ve seen you do it with Bambam’s cats,” Jackson accuses.

“Yeah but it’s different. I don’t know his cats and the one that ran out was struggling a lot. But I told you I’m sorry, didn’t I? Don’t be petty,” Jinyoung teases, poking Jackson’s cheeks to appease him.

“Says you! You’re the most hateful person on earth! You bring up arguments from when we were in high school just to get your way, how am I the petty one?” Jackson laughs, high-pitched and bubbly.

“It’s who I am,” he shrugs. “But back to the problem, we’ve side-tracked enough and I plan on getting home earlier tonight. I miss my bed,” Jinyoung wistfully says.

“Okay, okay. Then tell me what happened this morning and then after,”

“I had a dream of the incident and I sort of jolted awake and Jaebeom was there, just staring at me oddly and of course, I panicked because what if I had said something weird while asleep? But he didn’t say anything so I quickly excused myself to the bathroom to wash up and when I got back, everything just felt a hundred times more awkward,” Jinyoung confesses. Jackson frowns, which most likely means he’s trying to understand the situation and think of a solution to it. Jinyoung leaves him to it while he munches on some of the dim sum they’ve ordered in.

“Did he try to talk to you? At least? I’m sure someone as persistent as Im Jaebeom would,” Jackson says.

“He did but I kind of shot any conversation down?” Jackson shakes his head and sighs disapprovingly. “I’m sorry, okay! I just don’t know how to or if I should even be trusting him this much so obviously, I'd take the easy way out. I'm a coward, you know that," Jinyoung replies, voice edging on a whine.

“And it’s not like he’s been the most friendly and open person, has he? I don't know how to act around him half of the time and when I do, it's usually when either one of us has alcohol in our system which shouldn’t be happening between a secretary and a CEO, in case you forgot,”

Even the excuse sounds pathetic to my own ears, Jinyoung dimly thinks, ready to sulk any minute now if Jackson attacks him.

Both of you aren’t open and friendly but just happen to be stubborn assholes who won't back down. That's why you're both suffering when this is an easy problem with an even easier solution," Jackson nods solemnly like Jinyoung is the dumber one here.

( Jinyoung is pretty sure he's smarter; one because he actually graduated from college and second because Jackson just isn’t that kind of person. He can stare at a page and not read anything on it for hours unless it's lyrics or something he likes .  )

"Why do I feel like you're plotting something already?" Jinyoung asks, eyebrow raising in suspicion. He holds a cushion up in between them as if he can physically block any ideas that are bound to come out of Jackson's mouth in a few minutes.

“I have not! Not alone, anyway,” Jackson grins up at him mischievously, eyes twinkling with his signature cheekiness.

“Who else have you dragged into this amazing plan of yours, then?” Jinyoung indulges because he knows there’s no stopping a determined Jackson Wang, not when plans have already been made. Maybe even put into action already - God knows what Jackson’s wonderful mind thought of this time.

“I have a beautiful, smart, loving and caring boyfriend - he’s equally tired of you two skirting around each other, by the way -  for a reason. There’s also Bambam and Yugyeom - you know those two are up for anything that involves a fun plan. And then this guy called Youngjae, too! I heard he’s a sweetheart with a really loud laugh and is Im Jaebeom’s brother so of course, I invited him. That’s pretty much about it,”

Pretty much it? That’s four whole people, Sseun-ah. And you said you invited Youngjae somewhere? Oh God, if we end up going to some stupid theme park like teenagers on dates…” Jinyoung trails off, cringing at the thought of him and Jaebeom having to make up in the middle of a damn theme park because of their friends.

“Don’t think so lowly of me, Jinyoung-ah, I feel like you’re insulting my intelligence. The plan I’ve come up with is fully idiot-proof and has a success rate of a hundred percent, promise!” Jackson draws a cross over his heart and Jinyoung snorts.

If the survival of whatever he’s built with Jaebeom over the past month is dependant on Jackson crossing his heart, he thinks he’ll just dig a grave and jump in right now. While he loves Jackson with all his heart, his ideas haven’t always been the most reliable and they have landed them in trouble plenty of times in the past.

( There was once - freshman year of college and Jackson was already friends with half the school while Jinyoung was just ‘the pretty best friend’ - that Jackson had suggested they sneaked into the biggest party of the year which was thrown by the school’s football team. They weren’t even in football but of course, Jackson wanted to go. It was those more official parties with invites and everything and Jackson had actually stolen one and photocopied a pair for both himself and Jinyoung. )

( Even the half-drunk seniors at the door could tell Jinyoung was no Kim Jieun and Jackson was no Park Seungwoo so obviously, they’d gotten into lots of trouble for that whole stunt. Jinyoung had ignored Jackson the whole week they had spent cleaning up the equipment store and only caved when Jackson had kneeled down in the middle of the school’s main hallway and begged for forgiveness. )

“If only I had any faith left in your ideas. What do you need me to do, then?” Jinyoung sighs, tossing the cushion aside and leaning back into the couch. It’s a lot softer than the one he has at home and it feels good when his tired bones sink into the plush material.

“So are you saying yes?” Jackson sits up, bouncing a little in his place. Jinyoung barely manages a nod before Jackson is grabbing his shoulders and shaking him excitedly.

“Wait, I have to tell Markie,”

"I didn't even say anything, though?" Jinyoung mumbles, though Jackson hears and shushes him while he digs around the couch for his phone. They both jump when his ringtone ( a classic, iPhone one ) sounds and the whole couch vibrates. Jackson flips over multiple cushions and finally finds the damn thing; screen lit up with the caller ID showing ‘Markiepooh’ in big, English letters.

“Mark! I was just gonna call you,” Jackson says excitedly as he plops back down next to Jinyoung. “Are you with Jaebeom-ssi now? What did he say?”

“Jaebeom? What the hell are you two up to?” Jinyoung asks, leaning in a trying to listen to what Mark is saying. But Jackson notices and turns away, getting up and pacing about so Jinyoung can’t hear him. I swear if something horrible happens tomorrow, I’m gonna get a new best friend, Jinyoung thinks and makes a mental note as he watches Jackson talk.

“Really? That’s good because Jinyoungie said he’s free tomorrow, too,” When the fuck had I said that? Jinyoung wants to yell but really, there isn’t a point trying to fight Jackson when he’s like this.

"Then I'll tell him to go over to your place at ten. And we're still on for date night, right?" Jackson breaks into a wide grin and Jinyoung feels happy for his friend because Jackson's always been well-liked and sought after but he's never been the one seeking, not until Mark.

“Okay, see you. Love you,” Jackson makes a kissing sound into the phone and Jinyoung fake gags, bursting into laughter when Jackson hangs up and his expression immediately settles into a glare.

“Am I not allowed to be affectionate to my boyfriend? Just because you’re Mr Single-since-forever doesn’t mean I have to be,” Jackson says.

“I’m perfectly happy being single. I don’t even have enough time for myself with this job, much less a boyfriend,”

“But that’s the thing, isn’t it? What if Im Jaebeom is taking up your time on purpose so you can’t date anyone? What if he’s planning on sweeping you off your feet one day and then making you his boyfriend and not anyone else’s?” Jackson prompts, poking his side. He flinches away and narrows his eyes at Jackson as a warning, though the brunette only grins in reply.

“Don’t be ridiculous, he isn’t some evil mastermind that spends time plotting stuff like that. Besides, there’s nothing going on between us. How many times do I have to say this today?” Jinyoung grumbles, crossing his arms as he sulks.

“You mean people asked the same thing?”

"Yeah, we came to work together because I fell asleep on his couch, remember? And obviously, people noticed and rumours started," Jinyoung replies, surprised Jackson hasn't heard about it yet.

“Park Jinyoung, you scandalous man. Getting into a romantic relationship with your boss after a few weeks at work and even getting wrapped up in dating rumours,” Jackson has the cheek to let out a low, impressed whistle and Jinyoung really should consider new friends some time.

“There is nothing going on between us! And it’s so annoying that no one believes me because do I look like an idiot? I’m not dumb or lonely enough to fall for Im Jaebeom , no matter how rich or good-” Don’t say good looking, you idiot. "Good at his job he is," Jackson snorts, eyes moving back to the movie still playing on the television. They're nearing the end now but they've missed most of it so none of them bothers actually paying attention anymore.

“You can admit he looks good, y’know. Even I think he does and I’ve only seen pictures,” Jackson muses.

“You think everyone looks good. And no, I’m never admitting something that will just fuel whatever imaginary ship you have going on in your head,”

“So you do think he’s good looking, then? Because honestly if I hadn’t met Mark first, I would have hit on Im Jaebeom without a second thought. Have you seen those shoulders? And with that jawline and side profile, he should quit his job and be a model instead,” Jackson sighs dreamily and Jinyoung smacks his head with a cushion.

“Stop lusting after my boss, it’s creepy,” You’ll also make me start thinking about him in that way and I don’t want that, he also thinks but keeps his mouth shut. “But back to the topic of tomorrow, what the fuck have you planned this time? And how are you so sure I’m free? For all you know, I could have a blind date or something like that,”

“Well...do you?” Jackson asks, eyebrow raised.

A beat of silence passes between them and Jackson snorts.

"No, but-!" Jinyoung's cheeks heat up, voice getting high and shrilly for a second before he clears his throat. "That's beside the point. What if I don't want to go?” he asks, exasperated.

“Don’t you wanna solve your problem with him? Because throughout the whole conversation I haven’t heard you say you hate him or anything close to that when usually, you’d be straight up bitching about anyone you didn’t like. But you haven’t done any of that so I naturally assume making up is what you want,” Jackson states, though not harshly.

And Jinyoung is lost for words because Jackson is right - he does want to make up with Jaebeom because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t even plan on turning up to work anymore. If he didn’t, why would he be feeling guilty about something he usually wouldn’t give a fuck about?

But he does give a fuck and he does care. Very much so, in fact.

Because it’s Im Jaebeom and boss or not, Jinyoung knows he’s a good person. He’s known it ever since Jaebeom had saved him, maybe even before if he had paid attention. And Jinyoung might be an asshole but he isn’t blind to the good left in the world; Im Jaebeom has just managed to weasel his way into Jinyoung’s short list of people he cares about and it feels like he’ll be staying there for a long time now.

So he does, in fact, want to make up. Because he can't bear the thought of having someone he cares about not talking to him ever again and he really would like to face his problems for once.

“Yeah, I do,” he manages after a minute. And I will, no matter how much it’ll hurt my pride, he decides. Because he cares about Im Jaebeom now - no matter how much he tries to deny it, his heart tells him so, in the end. And since listening to his mind didn’t work for the past twenty-five years of his life, maybe it’s time he doesn’t.



Chapter Text

 

Youngjae arrives at Mark's place a few minutes ahead of schedule  - containers of various Korean takeouts in his hand and his phone in the other as he pushes Mark's front door open. He keeps his eyes shut though, hoping he won't be met with a naked Mark and Jackson. He's heard stories from Yugyeom on how many times the youngest has walked in on the two foreigners in compromising positions and he does not need to be another witness to their endless passion.

“Youngjae-ah,” comes Jinyoung’s voice and he lets out a sigh of relief, slowly opening his eyes again now that the coast is clear. Jinyoung is sitting comfortably on the couch, one leg propped up against the other while Mark sits by his side. The two have become fairly well acquainted due to the night at the gala and have kept in contact ever since, hence forming a good friendship quickly.

He slips out of his Supreme slides and pushes the door closed with his foot, shuffling on the other to keep his balance. Mark and Jinyoung share matching snickers behind him and he turns to shoot them his best pout, hoping they’ll get the message. Thankfully, the two aren’t as oblivious as Yugyeom or Bambam would be and quickly get up to help.

Jinyoung takes the bag of takeouts while Mark shuts the door for him, allowing him to stand on two feet comfortably and not feel like he’ll fall any minute. They bring the food into the living room, where a bowl of caramel popcorn and some bag of chips already take up a quarter of Mark’s coffee table.

“Am I the latest?” Youngjae asks. He can hear loud yelling and laughter from the kitchen so he assumes everyone else is just here already. But he sees Jinyoung sift uncomfortably in his seat and Mark chuckles, shaking his head.

“Our dear Jaebeommie isn’t here yet so no. Gyeomie and Bambam are helping Jackson in the kitchen with the rest of the popcorn though I think they should be done soon,” Mark says, casting a wary look to his kitchen.

“You actually entrusted your kitchen to the three of them?” Youngjae snorts, plopping down on the couch next to Jinyoung, who automatically grabs a cushion and hands it to him to hug. He gratefully takes it and leans his head on Jinyoung’s shoulder, folding his leg up and sitting more comfortably.

“Jacks knows if he messes anything up he’ll get hell for it so I’m not too worried. Besides, it’s just popcorn, I’m sure they’re done already,” Mark waves him off while he resumes his place on Jinyoung’s other side.

“Have you met Bambam yet?” Jinyoung asks, turning to him.

“Only once, when I came over to Mark hyung’s place to finish up a game we were playing and then he was here with Yugyeom and Jackson. He’s really funny,” Youngjae laughs as he recalls his first encounter with Bambam.

The younger had been the one to answer the door when he'd arrived at Mark's place. He'd then proceeded to yell in surprise and slam the door shut, only to open it sheepishly again after a few minutes. Turns out Bambam had mistaken Youngjae for Jaebeom ( God knows how he had done that when the two barely look anything alike, save for some of their features. ) and freaked out, hence the slamming and yelling.

( It was also the day that their group chat, JJ PROJECT, was born. The idea of helping the two hotheads find peace, and maybe something more, was born on that day and ever since then, it had been a good week of planning getting this get together into action. The gala and dinner had just been luck acting in their favour. )

“We think there’s something going on between him and Yugyeom,” Jinyoung says, voice low as he leans in further so that Youngjae can hear him. Mark nods along in agreement, turning to join the conversation.

“They cuddle all the time when they’re around each other. Yugyeom went all the way to Gangnam to visit Bambam in his studio way past midnight just because Bambam hadn’t eaten. Have you ever seen Gyeomie do something like that for us?” Mark asks, whisper-yelling.

“And Bambam talks about Yugyeom all the time ; it’s like they’re in love, ” Jinyoung emphasises on the phrase and Youngjae chokes out a laugh.

He understands what they mean, though. Although he hasn’t been around Bambam a lot, they text plenty in the group chat, even about their private lives. And when he tells you that Bambam and Yugyeom seem to have never heard of private life, you best believe him.

When he asks questions about Bambam, Yugyeom will answer and vice versa. They always seem to be arranging to meet up, judging by the ‘See you later, gyeom-ah’s and ‘Bam-ah, where are you?’s randomly popping up in the group chat from time to time.

It’s cute and endearing to see them like this - mindlessly flirting with each other even if they say they don’t mean to. And Youngjae has known Yugyeom almost his whole life, the two being closer in age and being from the same college. They basically grew up together and Youngjae has never seen Yugyeom this happy, not even when he was dating that other kid ( Jeongguk? Junggook? Jangkook? ) back in high school.

“I get what you mean, hyungs. But it’s cute, isn’t it - our two maknae s falling in love. Do you think they know it?” Youngjae asks and all three of them look to the kitchen, where they can see Bambam and Yugyeom clinging to each other as they talk to Jackson while the popcorn microwaves.

“They’re probably scared to tell each other. I mean, it’s Yugyeom. He took like two months just to confess the last time,” Mark says, shaking his head. They all watch as Yugyeom picks up a freshly popped corn and feeds it to Bambam, who happily accepts it.

“I swear if they become as bad as you and Jackson, I’m never coming to any gatherings with all of you again. Ever,” Jinyoung declares as he wrinkles his nose. He doesn’t hate PDA but he would like not to see his friends make out in front of him. His appetite is important, thank you very much.

“Who becomes as bad as Mark hyung and Jackson hyung?” Yugyeom suddenly asks, long legs stepping out of the kitchen. The two of them whip their heads to Jinyoung, who smoothly schools his face into a smile.

"My friends Wonpil and Sungjin. I was just telling Mark hyung and Youngjae about them and their recent date," he says easily as Yugyeom makes his way over with a bowl of popcorn. Yugyeom doesn't question it and nods, placing the bowl on the table and sliding onto the couch next to Youngjae.

“Well, I personally don’t think anyone can get as gross as Mark hyung and Jackson hyung. Do you know what they were doing when Bambam and I got here?” Yugyeom asks, eyes going wide and finger pointing at Mark accusingly. Jinyoung and Youngjae stifle laughs, partly because of Yugyeom’s obliviousness and the other half because of the brand new discovery.

"Tell them, Gyeom-ah! If we have to suffer they have to, too!" Bambam yells as he enters the living room with Jackson in tow. Mark scowls and Yugyeom and Bambam let out matching cackles as the remaining two moves to the couch.

“So basically, they were butt-naked in the kitchen and obviously, not doing anything innocent. Just be careful which surfaces you touch later on,” Bambam warns with a cheeky grin. Jackson smacks him on the arm and he whines, smacking Jackson back on the chest. It’s so childish yet endearing and Jinyoung bursts into laughter, falling back on Youngjae, who also laughs with him.

Their bickering ends soon though, with the ring of the doorbell. “Ah, our final guest is here,” Mark states with a smile. The rest of them shoot Jinyoung pointed looks and his smile fades, lips pressing together thinly. His palms suddenly feel sweaty as he watches Jackson get up to open the door and he grips his knees to ground himself.

“Jaebeom-ssi! Welcome! I’m so glad to finally meet Markie’s best friend, I’m Jackson Wang,” Jackson greets in his usual fashion. He pulls the door open wider and Jinyoung catches sight of Jaebeom and fuck, if he doesn’t look even better than usual.

Black tight, ripped jeans hug his thighs and expose little patches of white skin along his thighs to his knees like they're tempting Jinyoung to tug at the holes to see what's underneath. The sleeves of his white t-shirt seem to hug his arms and when he raises his arm to shut the door, the material strains slightly against his chest and his muscles become on display for the whole world to see.

Fucking hell, what is he looking so good for? I look like some beggar next to him, Jinyoung thinks as he subconsciously tugs at the too-long sleeves of his baby blue knitted pullover. They flop pathetically over his fingers and he folds his arms to hide them, leaning into Mark so he doesn’t look as uncomfortable as he feels.

“Jaebeommie!” Jaebeommie? “I’m glad you came, I was beginning to think you didn’t want to come or something,” Mark says with a not-very-subtle look in Jinyoung’s direction. Jinyoung sees it anyway and rolls his eyes. But when he looks at Jaebeom to see his reaction, the older is staring right at him with that same steely gaze he’d seen on the first day of work.

Except for this time, there's a hint of resignation in the way his lips are parted in a short breath; shoulders drooping the very slightest as he shifts his weight between his feet. Jinyoung is frozen in his seat, gulping hard and unable to tear his gaze away.

But like a switch is flipped, Jaebeom blinks and the moment is gone.

 


 

 

Jaebeom didn’t know someone could look so ethereal yet be so tempting to hold until he saw Jinyoung.

The younger man was clad in a baby blue sweater with a thin, white t-shirt peeking out through the knits and it seemed to give him a soft, cuddly vibe that screamed baby boy. His lips seemed more pink than usual, plump and tempting even as Jinyoung presses them into a thin, nervous line.

They make eye contact right after Mark’s statement and Jaebeom feels like he hasn’t seen the younger in days. Jinyoung looks as good as always, brown hair messily swept across his forehead and Jaebeom feels his stomach do somersaults.

Shit, this is so awkward. Why the hell did I agree to come? Jaebeom wonders as he stares at Jinyoung. There's so much he wants to say and do but there are also so many reasons why he can’t. He doesn’t know what to do because he desperately wants to make this work but being around Jinyoung is like being around fire and water - he’ll constantly get burnt then put off until he can’t take it anymore.

Right now, with Jinyoung staring right in his eyes, Jaebeom wants to dig a hole down to the core of the earth and jump to his death. He can't take it and blinks away, averting his eyes to anyone, anything but Jinyoung. Mark notices and pats the space next to him, a soft smile on his lips like a comfort. He nods as people greet him, Yugyeom yelling a loud “Jaebeom hyung!” while Youngjae gives a short wave.

Jaebeom doesn’t hesitate and plants himself there, hands awkwardly folded in his lap and posture oddly straight. It’s my best friend’s house and I’m the one behaving like it’s my first time here. How lovely, he thinks as he risks a glance at the rest of them.

Youngjae is cuddled up right next to Jinyoung while Yugyeom and this skinny kid ( He assumes it’s Bambam ) cluster on the far end of the L-shaped couch.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he says to no one in particular. “There was a jam on the way,”

“It’s all cool, Jaebeom hyung. Can I call you that - hyung? I don’t really like being all formal. You’re also Markie’s best friend so whether you like it or not, we’re bound to see each other again,” Jackson grins charmingly as he settles himself next to Jaebeom on the couch. His hand goes to rest of Jaebeom’s knee automatically and Jaebeom stares at the hand like he hasn’t seen one in his life. Jackson notices it and lets out a small gasp.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I’m a naturally clingy person so it happens. I’ll move if it makes you uncomfortable?” Jackson asks, eyes genuine and wide in innocence. Jaebeom doesn’t even know the guy but his heart softens, anyway.

“It’s fine, I’m just surprised. And um, hyung is okay,” he mumbles, scratching the back of his neck. Jackson smiles like he just won the lottery.

“Great! And I heard you brought booze, right? Then shall we start the movie?” Jackson asks loudly, clapping his hands to get everyone’s attention.

“Finally, I’ve been waiting for like an hour, no offence to Jaebeom-ssi,” Bambam says. Jaebeom gives a short nod, mostly because how does someone react to that? He decides it’s easier to just go with the flow and keep in the background, so he sits back further into the couch and opens up a beer, taking slow sips as he listens to the others debate about what movie to watch.

They end up going for some an old spy movie - Skyfall. Jaebeom hasn't seen it yet and it can't hurt to try watching something out of his usual genre so he agrees to it. But he can't help but notice Jinyoung barely says a word, too. The younger mostly provides a short statement or offers a laugh once in a while - nothing like his usual, witty self.

He can’t stop the feeling of curiosity that bubbles up in his chest and he wonders if Jinyoung’s realised the same about him, too. Or if Jinyoung’s just as nervous and jittery and if the previous day of ignoring each other had affected the younger just as much.

He keeps thinking about it throughout the movie - eyes on the screen while his mind brews up endless possibilities and scenarios of what could happen. So when someone taps on his shoulder, he gets a mild shock and nearly strangles the person. But it's just Mark, an amused smile on his lips and eyes glinting as he watches Jaebeom.

“Remember that portable you lent me? It’s in my room if you wanna get it,” Mark whispers to him.

“Now?” Jaebeom asks, surprised because of how random it was. And if he was in a clearer state of mind, he should have known something was bound to happen.

“Well, you might forget later on. Besides, I know you aren’t paying attention,” Mark whispers back. Jaebeom feels his cheeks heat up at being caught and he nods, deciding some alone time would be good for his thought, anyway. He quietly gets up from his spot next to Mark, carefully stepping over Jackson’s curled up form at their legs before he makes his way to Mark’s room. He’s been over plenty of times and knows the place by heart, taking a right down the hallway and walking into the last door on the left.

When he pushes the door open, the afternoon sun streams into the room through the dark, brown blinds and hits the clean, white walls and all at once, he feels at peace. The portable charger is lying on the table amongst a heap of files and some game discs but he doesn’t grab it, not just yet.

Instead, he makes his way over to the small window by the bed and sits on the ledge, staring out into the city below him. Mark happens to love looking at the stars when he can't sleep at night so this window is without blinds, a space cosy enough for him to hug his legs to his chest and lean his back against the wooden frame.

Just five minutes and then you have to go out there, okay? No running away from Jinyoung just because you don’t know what to do, Jaebeom tells himself. And he gets lost in his thoughts; gets lost in admiring the way cars zoom past each other on the busy streets of Seoul below him and how different people are busy living their lives. It’s so quiet and peaceful that he feels at ease for once that day.

And yet, fate finds him in the end.

 


 

Jinyoung knows he’s made a mistake once the door swings shut behind him, the tell-tale sound of a lock clicking loud in the quiet of the room. There are whispers and shushes from their friends outside the door and Jinyoung really fucking regrets coming here.

"Jackson-ah, let me out," he tries turning the doorknob, gritting his teeth as he refuses to turn around and accept his fate. Jaebeom, on the other hand, is still completely silent and it only serves to send his nerves into a bigger frenzy. He hadn't even seen the elder yet but he can feel his looming presence, gaze burning holes into the back of his head.

"Not until you guys talk shit out. We're going back for the movie, shout when you're done!" comes Jackson's reply through the door, followed by snickers that distinctly sound like Bambam. “There’s also some extra sweats you can use in Mark hyung’s toilet,”

Jinyoung sighs when he hears the footsteps of his supposed friends get softer and he gives up. Change first, talk later, he thinks. His pants are drenched in fruit juice and it feels awfully sticky against his thighs as he shuffles from one foot in front of another. Jaebeom watches him like a cat in his corner, still unmoving from earlier. Jinyoung can’t really bring himself to care about how he looks now - all he wants to get into a clean pair of pants and murder Jackson Wang.

He shuffles into the toilet and shivers when his feet make contact with the cold, marble floor. He spots the said pair of extra sweats and a clean towel hanging on the rack and shuts the door. Making quick work of his soiled pair, he tosses them into a corner and rinses off his thigh where the juice had been spilt on him.

Accident, my ass. I swear one day, I’m gonna murder Jackson Wang on his wedding day, Jinyoung swears under his breath as he scrubs the stickiness away. His pale, white skin turns red under his palm but it’s not sticky with fruit juice anymore so he dries off and re-dresses. The sweats are a little tight on his ass, which is much plumper compared to Mark’s, but it’s better than nothing. He tosses the towel together with his sweats and decides he’ll deal with it later.

Later, as in after he’s talked to Jaebeom, which in hindsight seems more intimidating now that it’s the only thing he can focus on.

He slowly unlocks the door, swinging it open and immediately coming face to face with Jaebeom. They both startle and flinch back, heat rising to his cheeks. Jaebeom coughs and hovers by the door, both not saying a word and looking away.

“Um…” Jinyoung starts, hand motioning to the bedroom.

“Ah! Right! Sorry, I thought you might need help or something since you were um...taking so long,” Jaebeom trails off. He turns sideways to make way for Jinyoung to walk out, soon following after. There’s an awkward distance between them and tension hangs thick and heavy in the air, like some form of tangible ropes tugging and pulling at them.

“Ah, it’s okay, I’m okay,” Are you sure about that, Park? “So-! Um...I guess we have to talk things out huh?” Jinyoung tries a smile but it feels like he’s dying a little inside and probably looks like it, too.

“We don’t have to if you don’t wanna, y’know. I can just lie and say we did,” Jaebeom says, gripping the back of Mark’s chair. Jinyoung rubs his arms and considers it for a moment - the idea sounding extremely tempting. No, not gonna run away again.

“No, I want to talk about it. Please?” Jinyoung asks, voice coming out soft but definite.

“Okay,” Jaebeom replies with a nod, signalling for Jinyoung to go on.

“About yesterday. I didn’t mean to be so cold and cut you off when you were being nice and genuinely asking,” Jaebeom hums, still watching Jinyoung from his spot across the room. “And thank you for letting me stay over and using your bathroom and stuff and even driving to work after,”

Say sorry, you dumbass, a voice yells in his head. Jinyoung bites the inside of his cheek and swallows, trying to calm his nerves. But with Jaebeom looking like he’s expecting something more , it’s kind of hard to.

“Is that all you have to say?” Jaebeom breaks the silence after a while, frustration evident in his voice. Jinyoung wants to yell out and hold him back, but words don’t come out and Jaebeom sighs, hurt flickering over his features as he gets up.

“If that’s all you wanted to say, I rather you say nothing at all. You’ve been so fucking confusing these past few days and I honestly thought that maybe-” Jaebeom clears his throat. “Maybe, we’d gotten somewhere. I thought maybe you’d actually want to solve this, as I did. But I guess that was just me, huh?" He lets out a hollow laugh and Jinyoung's heart clenches.

“No, that- that isn’t what-”

“Then what is it? ” Jaebeom’s voice is barely above a whisper but it cuts through Jinyoung’s sentence like steel. He blinks at Jaebeom, not knowing what to do because he’s messed this up way too much and dragged Jaebeom into it as well.

“I don’t even know what it is you want from me or how I’m supposed to act around you, Jinyoung. You’re so easy to talk to and genuine one day and then so closed off the next and I’m tired of trying without getting anything back. I’m human too, I have feelings and thoughts and right now, you aren’t being very sensitive towards them,”

“If you don’t tell me what is it you expect from me or what you want to do then please, don’t expect me to know. And I know, I shouldn’t be expecting this much from my secretary. Fuck, this wasn’t even supposed to go so far and I just-” Jaebeom clenches his jaw and his fist simultaneously like he physically has to stop himself from saying too much. Or maybe ‘too much’ might just be what Jinyoung needs to hear, but he doesn’t get the chance to, anyway.

"Just tell me whenever you feel like it, okay? We can act like we talked it out, it doesn't matter," Jaebeom says, turning to the door. He knocks on it and Jinyoung watches numbly as he shouts for Jackson to unlock it. The door swings open a few seconds later and Jackson stands by the doorway, shooting them both a smirk and Jinyoung feels like shooting himself .

“The movie just ended and we ordered pizza, come get some when you want!” Jackson calls as he leaves. Jinyoung knows what he’s implying and it only makes him more uncomfortable and guilty because not only has he ruined everything, he’s made Jaebeom lie on top of it. And it’s worse that Jackson believes it and is now hoping for something more between them.

“I’ll give you space, come out whenever,” Jaebeom mumbles as he grabs the portable charger in his hand. He casts Jinyoung one last look over his shoulder before he walks out, leaving Jinyoung in complete silence and all the privacy he’s ever wanted.

You wanted this since you obviously don’t know how to say ‘I’m sorry’ so now you got what you wanted. Isn’t that fucking great? Jinyoung thinks. The guilt he feels now is a hundred times worse than before - eating him alive and he wants to yell for Jaebeom to come back so he can explain everything. But his cowardice still holds him back from doing that even after all these years and maybe that’s all he’ll ever be - a coward.

Someone who would rather hurt the people he cares about than facing his own problems just because he’s scared . And it sucks even more that Jaebeom has been hurt to the point that he has chosen to bear everything to Jinyoung to stop himself from getting hurt further because Jinyoung is an insensitive coward.

Seeing Jaebeom hurt, angry and frustrated makes him feel even guiltier than ignoring him itself. And it scares him when he thinks of Jaebeom never talking to him ever again because Jaebeom has carved his way into Jinyoung’s life and he is definitely someone that won’t be easy to forget, not when Jinyoung doesn’t want to.

He thinks of Jaebeom’s retreating back; the hurt in his eyes and really, really wishes for some courage.



Chapter Text

 

Jinyoung goes to work on Monday feeling just like he did the day before - like gum someone had chewed up and spit out before stepping on it. Like trash, basically. He had spent Sunday wrapped up in his own thoughts, letting the guilt eat him up alive while he tried to function like a normal human being.

Usually, he loves the weekends since it meant time away from Jaebeom. It meant that he wouldn’t have to put up with any bullshit Jaebeom might throw his way for two whole days and he would be free to curse and roll his eyes as many times as he wanted.

But things have changed so much. Somewhere along the line, Jaebeom has gone from ‘The Demon Boss that he hates with a passion’ to ‘Some kind of friend that he actually cares about’. They’ve progressed so much and it sucks that he actually wants to see Jaebeom again, especially since he has so much to say and do.

Speaking of which, he has also spent his weekend contemplating on ways to approach and apologise to Jaebeom without messing up further. He has thought of a big, grand gesture like yelling out his apology but that would probably make Jaebeom embarrassed or think it was some sort of joke. There was also another plan of a small, little note pasted among the many files he would have to submit but that would probably come off as too insincere.

Then, of course, there's the most obvious solution which would be talking to Jaebeom in the face but Jinyoung’s obviously too much of a coward to do that. And usually, he would have Jackson or Bambam or even Mark to tell him to man the fuck up and just do it. But the three of them, including Yugyeom, have all been fooled by the illusion that Jinyoung and Jaebeom have actually made up due to their amazing plan.

Youngjae, on the other hand, isn’t as blind as them. Also, Jinyoung might have caved and told him when he had texted to ask about it on Sunday morning. Youngjae had immediately called him and they had a good two-hour talk about it before Youngjae had to leave to bring Coco to the groomer’s, even though they had agreed to carry on on Monday during lunch.

So Jinyoung now has to wait until lunch, five whole hours, until he can talk about it to someone again and it feels like every second he spends sitting outside Jaebeom’s office is killing him. The older hasn’t even arrived at work yet but Jinyoung can feel the tension hanging in the air, the nervousness bubbling up in his gut.

Then the elevator dings open and his heart stops.

Jaebeom walks out, looking as fresh and charming as always in his black suit and white shirt, hands tucked into his pocket. They make eye contact the minute he steps into the room and Jinyoung feels the air shift, all at once. Jaebeom tenses up as Jinyoung stands to greet him, left hand slipping out of his pocket as he stands awkwardly straight.

“Good morning,” Jinyoung greets, bowing as always. He fiddles with his notebook on his table, fingers tracing the spine.

“Good morning, Jinyoung. Could you read me my schedule now? I have a lot of things to do today and I won’t have much time later on,” Jaebeom says, voice cool and cut. He clearly doesn’t want to see me at all, but I can’t really blame him for that, now can I? Jinyoung thinks dimly. He swallows and nods, lifting the notebook so he can read.

“You have a meeting at ten with the Finance team to confirm the final budget for the event - the files are already placed on your table. A meeting with the HR team to review the applicants at two and then some paperwork and proposals to review. I’ve placed everything on your table,” Jinyoung says, looking up once he finishes.

“Okay, thank you,” Jaebeom replies, hovering where he’s standing like he has something to say. Or maybe he’s waiting for Jinyoung to say something, judging by the way he glances at Jinyoung with wide eyes. Jinyoung considers talking to him right there and then, telling him everything he’s thought about for the past few days.

But the moment passes and it’s gone before Jinyoung can say anything, and he fears he might not get another chance.

“I’ll email you the files I need checked and printed - just fax them over or something if you’d like. I’ll buzz if I need anything and tell anyone who asks that I’m busy,” It feels like Jaebeom is telling Jinyoung to stay away and that he doesn’t want the younger around at all. But he can’t bring himself to say anything since he did do this to himself. He nods and watches Jaebeom walk into his office, the heavy doors closing behind him and Jinyoung’s heart sinks to his toes.

Reap what you sow, Park Jinyoung. Maybe if you hadn’t been so closed off and scared in the first place, none of this would have happened, the voice tells him. Jinyoung sighs and falls back into his seat, shutting his eyes and letting his shoulders droop.

“I really need to get my shit together,” he mutters to himself. The silence in the room echoes around him and Jinyoung feels inexplicably lonely.

 


 

“You look horrible, hyung,” Youngjae remarks as soon as he sees Jinyoung. Jinyoung snorts and slides his tray on to the table, pulling out the chair and taking a seat opposite Youngjae. The younger is already munching on some kimchi fried rice and Jinyoung feels his stomach growl as the fragrance from his own bowl of noodles hit his nose. Apparently, stressing over his emotional problems take more of a toll on him than he thought and his stomach has been growling since two hours ago.

“Thank you so much for pointing that out,” Jinyoung dryly replies as he picks up his chopsticks. Youngjae laughs and Jinyoung smiles despite himself. They’ve grown closer over the weekend and Jinyoung has come to dote on Youngjae like a younger brother he’s never had.

“But how was the morning? Did you guys talk at all? Or has my brother been hiding in his office the whole entire time?” Youngjae asks.

“Hiding. I feel like he hates me, y’know? He told me to tell anyone who asked about him that he was busy and you know how usually, I’d go in and pass him the papers I print out? Then he’d usually throw a fuss about it if I don’t? He actually told me I could fax them over if I wanted to,” Youngjae lets out a low whistle and Jinyoung sighs for the nth time that day. The strands of noodles he’s picked up swing a little but he pays no attention to them.

“It’s like he can’t stand me. And I know, I can’t blame him for it since this is my fault and if I were him, I wouldn’t be able to stand me, too. But it just sucks, Youngjae-ah,” Jinyoung groans in frustration, letting his cutlery fall from his hand and clank on to the rim of the bowl. Youngjae points at them and he sighs, picking them up again and wiping away some stray splotches of soup with a tissue. He stuffs a mouthful of noodles in his mouth while he listens to Youngjae.

“Then just talk to him. And before you tell me you’re scared, I already know, hyung. If I were you, I would be too. It’s normal and it’s okay to be scared. But it’s not okay to give up before you even try and keep running away from the problem by using the excuse of fear,” Youngjae says, voice soft and sincere. “I’m not saying it’s your fault but you have to do this because Jaebeom hyung is waiting for your answer. You don't want the problem to persist but you don't want to answer him, either. That's why hyung gets frustrated and mad - because he's just as confused as you are,"

It’s then that Jinyoung realises he’s never really considered how Jaebeom has felt all this while. All he’s been thinking about is how he’s been scared and afraid of telling Jaebeom the truth and apologising but he’s never considered how scared Jaebeom must have been to bear his feelings to Jinyoung like that. He’s never thought of how much courage it must have taken to tell all that to someone who’s been so difficult all this while and he’s been what, wallowing in self-pity?

Youngjae is right - as confused, scared and angry he may be, Jaebeom feels the same. And he’s been the one dragging all of it on, no matter how much he says he wants to change it. He’s been given the chance to apologise all this time, has had the ability to and Jaebeom is waiting . He always has been.

“Go find him and talk to him, Jinyoung hyung. He’ll be glad to listen to you - I know he will. So don’t scare yourself anymore and just go for it, there’s literally nothing more you can lose. Other than your job, I guess,” Youngjae grins. “But I think Jaebeom hyung likes you too much to even fire you, huh?”

“He does not. I’m just a good secretary,” Jinyoung replies, feeling lighter now that he’s finally decided what he wants. “But thank you, Youngjae-ah. I really needed someone to tell me this and I’m sorry for dragging you into this, even though it doesn’t concern you much,”

Youngjae shakes his head and pats Jinyoung’s hand assuringly. “I like listening to people’s problems and helping them, so it’s okay. Besides, it gets my mind off my own problems, too,” he says lightly, shrugging.

“Ah, you mean,” Jinyoung leans in, voice dropping to a whisper. “Minhyuk hyung?” He’s rewarded by Youngjae jerking away with a whine, covering his face which tints pink. Some people look over and Jinyoung has trouble hiding his laugh, raising a hand in apology to them.

“Hyungggggggg,” Youngjae whines as he swats at Jinyoung. “Don’t say that in public! It’s embarrassing!”

“You’re the one who told me about it over the phone, of course, I’d wanna know more about it. You can’t expect me to just leave it at that without more information,” Jinyoung defends, grinning. During their call on Sunday, Youngjae had accidentally let his little crush on Minhyuk slip and Jinyoung had spent a good ten minutes grilling him for details. It had been cut short but that didn’t mean Jinyoung had forgotten about it.

“But there’s nothing more to know! We had pizza and watched a few movies and left when it got late,” Youngjae says. The blush on his cheeks deepens and gives him away almost immediately.

“I’m not dumb, Youngjae-ah. And I know you aren’t as innocent as people say, tell me,” Jinyoung brandishes his chopsticks and Youngjae bursts into laughter.

“Okay! But you can’t tell Jaebeom hyung, he’d kill Minhyuk hyung,” Jinyoung nods, signalling for Youngjae to continue.

"We just kinda cuddled and stuff and it was nice and fun for a while. And then he had to leave and I walked him to the door, obviously. Then he said ‘I like hanging out with you, we should go on dates like these more,'" Jinyoung shoot Youngjae a knowing look, eyebrows wiggling. "Then we hugged then he left,"

“Dates, huh? He’s into you,” Jinyoung declares as he finishes up the last of his noodles.

“You can’t just say that and expect me not to get my hopes up, hyung. Besides, he’s close with a whole bunch of other people and I just- I don’t know,” Youngjae sighs, pouting.

“Don’t think about it too much and just go with whatever happens. If you’re meant to be together, it’ll happen. Are you going to see him later?” Jinyoung asks. He glances at the time on his phone, 12:39. Lunch is over in about twenty minutes but for some reason, he can’t wait to go back quickly.

“Yeah. I mean, we are in the same department and there’s that meeting and everything later on, too,” Youngjae replies, stacking up his bowls and cutlery onto his tray.

“Then buy him a drink or something. Go flirt and come back victorious,” Jinyoung jokes, sounding like a queen instructing her knight to go fight a war. But he deeply cares for Youngjae and believes the younger deserves his own happiness for the amount of happiness he gives others.

“How about this? If you manage to become friends with Jaebeom hyung, I’ll ask Minhyuk hyung out,” Youngjae suggests.

“Alright, deal. I think it’s about time the both of us get some courage and do what we want, anyway,”

 


 

Jaebeom feels like a robot by the time he returns to his office after the last meeting for the day. It had taken them about two and half hours to review all of the applicants and current interns to see who was ready to be promoted or not. His brain was on overdrive from reading thick stacks of profiles and resumes, even talking to Youngjae earlier had failed to cheer him up a little.

He crashes into his chair, letting out a deep sigh as he rubs at his temples. Luckily, he had managed to finish up most of the paperwork in the morning and during lunch, when his appetite had failed him and he decided to stay in the office with two cups of coffee instead.

He sort of regrets that now since his stomach has been bugging him since the middle of the meeting. He considers buzzing for Jinyoung and telling him to bring in some biscuits or sandwiches from the pantry but he hasn’t spoken to the younger since this morning and telling him to do something so insignificant feels a little anticlimactic, in his opinion.

Speaking of which, he wonders if he's feeling so lost and unenergetic because he hasn't been speaking to Jinyoung at all. Usually, their friendly banters or the younger's presence would bring him some sort of comfort and add some spice to his daily work life. But he hadn't asked Jinyoung to accompany him to his earlier meetings and the younger had, in fact, faxed him the paperwork so they've barely stood in the same room for more than a minute.

To add on that, he’s been thinking and hoping for Jinyoung to stop him and just talk to him the whole entire day. He’s daydreamed up many scenarios that his tired brain now goes back to again, running through them over and over and adding new possibilities.

He also thinks of their argument on Saturday, though he isn’t sure he can call it that when he did most of the talking. The confession still burns hot on his tongue and weighs heavily on his heart; he wonders if it actually mattered to Jinyoung how he felt or if it still does.

He’s been distracting himself with work the whole entire day just so he won’t cave in and approach Jinyoung first, as he very much wants to. You've already done your part, it's his turn now. There's no point in forcing friendship on him if he doesn't want it, he keeps telling himself. His pride would also take a huge hit if he goes to look for Jinyoung and gets turned down again, so he rather not risk it.

Besides, he’s given Jinyoung a chance and all he has to do now is wait. While every minute of waiting and hoping feels like a stab to the chest, he’s made it this far so what’s a few more minutes?

Then a knock sounds out, loud and clear and Jaebeom whips his head to the door so fast, he threatens to give himself whiplash.

Then another and Jaebeom really hopes it’s Jinyoung if not he might fire the person who opens the door right on the spot.

But then the door swings open and in walks Jinyoung and suddenly, Jaebeom isn’t sure if he wants to see him at all.

They stare at each other for what feels like an eternity - eyes locked and lips parted but none of them talking. Jaebeom stays rooted in his seat, hands splayed out on his table. Jinyoung stands a few feet away from him, hands behind his back and Jaebeom wants to reach out and just do something to make sure it’s real.

“I-I didn’t call you in,” he stutters out, eyes darting to the phone on his table, in case he had accidentally done so in a haze.

“I know, I just- I wanted to talk to you, Jaebeom hyung,” Jaebeom hyung. Fuck, did I miss hearing that, Jaebeom thinks. He nods absentmindedly, signalling for Jinyoung to continue.

“I’m sorry. It was insensitive and selfish and selfish of me to not your feelings all this time, when I was only thinking about how scared I was,” Jinyoung gulps, his Adam’s apple bobbing and Jaebeom traces the motion with his eyes.

“I’ve just been really used to running away from my problems for a long time because of my past. And-and I know, it’s wrong to take it out on you when you deserve the truth so...I’m sorry,” Jinyoung looks up for the first time in his whole speech and Jaebeom’s heart breaks for him when he sees the sorrow in them. But he’s also curious now that Jinyoung had brought up the topic of his past and he can’t help but ask.

“What happened to you when you were younger?” he asks, a little cautious because he doesn’t want to trigger Jinyoung’s usual fight-or-flight response.

“I was...betrayed. By one of my closest friends and then bullied by him and a few others,”

 

“It was when I was in the first year of high school and I met a guy called Seongwoo. He was really nice and we got close very quickly - hanging out after school,  sneaking each other notes during classes and all that fun stuff. Then one day, he confessed to me and I was so confused because I didn’t know if I liked guys or not yet,” Jinyoung blinks and Jaebeom swears he sees tears in his eyes.

“But he was understanding about it and helped me through everything, until one day I felt brave enough to confess to him, too,” Jinyoung lets out a hollow laugh, biting his lip so hard it turns white and then pink again when he releases it. He looks away for a moment, glaring at the ground like he’s trying to keep it in.

Jaebeom watches him visibly struggle with his emotions for a second and it's a new sight, seeing the usually cool, neutral Park Jinyoung so close to losing it. It makes his gut twist in worry and he fears he might do something stupid if he gets any closer. Hence, he forces himself to stay seated - toes clenching in his shoes and stomach doing flips - and waits.

"We had agreed to meet at our usual spot - the old, little playground by the convenience store a few blocks down from our school. I should have known something was up when he had asked to meet so late in the evening but I guess I was blinded then, by something that felt like love,” Jinyoung’s eyes are far away, voice small and soft like he’s afraid of speaking too loud.

“But I went and there he was - sitting on the swing that he liked so much. And I told him how much I liked him and asked if he still liked me, too. But you know what he said?” Jinyoung asks, voice cracking on the last syllable.

“What?” Jaebeom whispers, even though he knows he doesn’t have to.

"He told me he would never be a queer like me and that everything was just a game by his friends. He told me he’d lied and that people -   things like me didn’t belong in this world and that we didn’t deserve to live,” Jaebeom’s heart shatters into a million, fragmented pieces and he wants, so desperately, to hold Jinyoung and tell him it’s okay. But he doesn’t know where he stands or what they are and there are so many things that can go wrong now.

“And his friends came out and they cornered me- called me names and everything and it was horrible. I thought it would stop at that but-” Jinyoung chokes and Jaebeom’s heart clenches at the sound. “Seungwoo said I didn’t deserve to live anymore and I guess he really meant it. I would have died from blood loss if that ahjumma hadn’t found me in time,”

“I got rushed to the hospital and had to stay in there for a week because of my injuries. The cut scarred up my stomach and I transferred schools, where I met Jackson, Wonpil and Bambam,” Jinyoung manages a small smile, though his eyes are still cast away from Jaebeom. Jaebeom wonders if it’s because he’s embarrassed or afraid, though he doesn’t have to be at all.

“But the accident left me with emotional scars too and I got diagnosed with mild PTSD so I had to go for regular therapy sessions. It took about a whole year until the relapses stopped fully but sometimes, I still get flashbacks when I’m under lots of pressure and feel scared,” Jinyoung admits, twisting his fingers together.

“Is that why you were like that when I found you that day? And why you froze up at the gala?” Jaebeom asks, standing a few feet away from Jinyoung now. He doesn’t know when or how his body has moved but standing close like this - he can feel the fear and uncertainty radiate off Jinyoung in waves.

"Yeah. I usually avoid powerful or scarier people because Seongwoo and his friends felt like that to me - people who would hurt me just because they could. And I guess that was why I was so wary of you in the beginning, too," Jinyoung says, looking up at Jaebeom with apologetic eyes.

“Do you still feel that way now? Are you still...are you still scared of me?” Jaebeom asks, voice barely above a whisper. They make eye contact and it holds this time - two people staring at each other and trying to find a sign of trust in each other’s eyes.

“No,” Jaebeom looks into Jinyoung’s eyes and finds Jinyoung back - the same one who had suggested a drink and listened to all of his troubles.

“Because you’re different. You don’t care about the money, or the limelight or any other stupid thing rich people love. You care about the people and their lives and that’s why I’m sorry. You don’t deserve dealing with such a difficult person like me on top of everything you’ve gone through,” And Jaebeom would be lying if he said his heart didn’t do a little happy dance at that.

“I know my past isn’t a good excuse and I understand if you hate me after this but-” Jinyoung swallows again, though this time it’s more of to keep himself from saying too much all at once. “I just wanted to let you know - that I’m sorry and that I didn’t mean to hurt you in any way, at all,”

"Do you mean it? Because you seem to have a habit of changing your mind a lot," Jaebeom tries to joke. But there's an underlying uncertainty and he holds his breath, heart pounding in his ears. He doesn't know if this is what he wanted to hear but it's so much better than not talking at all. He's closer to Jinyoung than he's been in days and it's a kind of dizziness that sets his heart racing.

“I’m not a big fan of lying to people I care about, hyung ,” Jinyoung replies, lips curving up into a handsome smile and maybe, they’re finally getting somewhere. And hearing Jinyoung admit he cares feels like the biggest victory Jaebeom has ever experienced. He feels like he’s floating now - grin taking up half of his face and eyes forming crescents.

"Good because I'm not a big fan of being lied to, either," He says in a space of a breath and Jinyoung's smile widens, though there's a sort of shyness behind it that makes him even fonder. He can't help but notice Jinyoung seems to glow in the hazy light of the evening sun - orange and yellow hues highlighting the brownness of his irises and hair; lips looking especially pink and plump, reminding Jaebeom of the strawberries he loves.

His heart beats - once, twice - loud and clear in his ears as he focuses on Jinyoung’s smile.

And maybe - just maybe, in the privacy of this office with only the sun as their witness - something new had bloomed.