Here’s what Jung Hoseok knows about Paradise Cruise Country Club and Resort:
- Despite the aforementioned title, there’s no actual cruise.
- There is direct access to the Yellow Sea, though, but still no cruise.
- Peak season operates between the second week of May and the third week of September.
- Offered recreational amenities and activities include a fully-operational gym, an indoor and outdoor basketball court, sand volleyball, shuffleboard, croquet, a 9-hole golf course, outdoor tennis court, 2 racquetball courts, bi-nightly bingo, ballroom dance classes, surfing lessons, and a full-service spa.
- Oh. And the pools. Can’t forget about the pools.
“Please tell me why I return to this capitalistic cesspool year after year,” Yoongi bemoans into his mango nectarine slush. It’s a new menu item. Yoongi’s claimed twice that it tastes like feet, but Hoseok still catches him sipping periodically when Hoseok turns away to check his emails.
“Because it pays well and has benefits” Hoseok says, tapping along his screen, marking what needs an immediate response and what he can put off until later. The five follow-ups from the event manager asking about possible wedding locations on property near the pools but without it actually smelling like “pool”? He’s gonna keep ignoring those. “Plus, you get enough fresh air and social interaction to make up for the eight other months you take a monastic vow of silence and refuse to leave your studio for a week and a half at a time.”
Yoongi stares at him. Takes a blatant slurp of his smoothie. Flips him off.
Two fingers this time.
Hoseok understands where Yoongi’s coming from. Abstractly. Because Hoseok doesn’t mind the ten hour shifts or blistering heat or answering the same question every twenty minutes from a different guest. He doesn’t even mind guests. He adores the guests. One, because they keep him paid and two, the highest contributing factor here, Hoseok actually likes people. Unlike Yoongi. So yeah, Hoseok gets why Yoongi questions his existence every time summer rolls around and he finds himself back in the same barstool, sipping some variation of the same non-alcoholic smoothie, glaring at the wide, blue sky like it’s personally dishonored his entire discography.
“New recruits.” Yoongi bobs his chin over to the front gate where the general manager is pattering across the pool deck with three boys following closely behind. Hoseok turns fully and watches as the elderly man throws a hand here and there, supposedly giving them a tour of the facility that the head lifeguard will have to redo later because Mr. Kim is a sweet, sweet man, but his eyesight is next to nothing and he personally doesn’t look like he’s spent more than ten minutes in the sun in the past thirty years. Mr. Kim is much more of a front desk man and it shows.
“Those yours?” Yoongi asks as he pretends to wipe down the bar, and Hoseok narrows his eyes as he follows the little group on their path around the pools.
“Not sure. I did phone interviews.”
“Great,” Yoongi grumbles as they watch the newest additions to their “resort family” bob along to whatever it is Mr. Kim is saying. “If we end up with a repeat of last year I’m gonna quit. Or sue.”
Hoseok hums along even though he knows neither of them would quit. Despite the complaints, they both actually enjoy their jobs. If either of them really were going to tap out, Hoseok would have gone two years ago and Yoongi the first week of his first summer.
“Let’s pray for a miracle.”
If the resort was more a hotel with international acclaim, Hoseok and Yoongi wouldn’t have to worry so much about new hires. But it’s not a hotel. Hotels are looking to put heads in beds and they don’t care whose heads those are so long as they can pay. But Paradise Cruise is first and foremost a country club, which means their clientele is usually inclusive to lowkey celebrities, businessmen, politicians, doctors, and other supposedly high-up individuals on the career food chain.
Most of those clients have children despite how often Yoongi says anyone with a six-digit income shouldn’t procreate. But they do, and those children grow up into aloof teenagers who don’t understand the value of a hard-earned won, and then those children’s allowances get cut and they get jobs at the Club where their parents can still keep an eye on them and the offspring themselves make an easy buck and add a bullet on their resume because no one on staff wants to upset the CFO of Samsung by firing his son because he’s not actually qualified to work in guest services.
So yeah. It’s a toss-up every season whether the new hires on the pool deck will actually be the scoped applicants that Hoseok tossed his chips in for, or if they’re gonna be some incompetent soggy piece of toast that they’ll all have to bite their tongues around as to not upset some wayward government official.
“Incoming,” Yoongi mutters, and Hoseok looks up from his tablet to find Yoongi’s vanished behind the bar and there’s a doddling group headed his way.
“Morning, Mr. Kim!” Hoseok greets brightly, sticking his hand out for a shake and bowing as Mr. Kim takes it, only to pull him for a hug instead. Hoseok laughs over his shoulder and gives is tiny back a quick pat. “Looks like it’s going to be an excellent season again.”
“Sure does, sure does,” Mr. Kim squeaks, adjusting his frames as he releases Hoseok. They’re even thicker than last summer, like the cut bottom of glass bottles. His eyes bulge a little as he speaks and Hoseok grins wider to hide his laughter. “Happy to have you back again, Hoseok-ah. Have time to meet the newest additions to our family?”
Hoseok hears Yoongi’s disgruntled scoff from nearby and assumes he’s hiding on the floor or in a cupboard. Little bastard.
“Of course, sir. Always happy to have extra hands around.” Hoseok turns his smile on the boys from before and bows neatly. “Jung Hoseok. Pleasure to meet you.”
The three boys bow, and Hoseok takes in each of their faces as they introduce themselves.
Jeon Jungkook. One of the boys Hoseok interviewed. Four years of lifeguard training, went to swim champs in high school, and absolutely adorable even though he kind of looks like he might pass out if anyone tries to ask him a question.
Hoseok winks at him.
Jungkook goes pink all the way to his hairline before lighting up in a wide-lipped grin. Cute.
Park Jimin. Pretty. Excellent hair. Carries himself with the air of someone who should be four inches taller than he is. When he smiles at Hoseok it’s trained, like he’s catering to what he sees. He’s definitely not one of Hoseok’s picks, going off the smile alone.
That, and he’s wearing Gucci slip-ons.
And then there’s Kim Namjoon.
“Pleasure,” Namjoon smiles, something slow and beautiful and practiced. He’s got great teeth. Fantastic teeth. Teeth that Hoseok wants to lick.
Wait, no. That’s creepy. Ew.
Hoseok takes his outstretched hand and gives it a quick shake. Namjoon isn’t one of his, either. Even if he had recognized the name, he’s like Jimin, just more professional. Not a rough edge to him. Polished and perfect. The way he carries himself is like he should be at some internship for a Fortune100 somewhere, not standing here in a horrid white polo with “lifeguard” slapped across his ass.
“Nice to meet you,” Hoseok greets, taking back his hand to turn to Mr. Kim.
“Our newest lifeguards,” Mr. Kim says, like the red shorts don’t make it obvious. He turns to the group. “Hoseok-ah here has been here seven summers. Best we’ve got. You’ll learn a lot from him.”
Hoseok hears the short one, Jimin, mutter something distinctly like “how to make a panini?” and Namjoon discreetly pinches his side. Jungkook side-eyes both of them, frowning.
“I have some items to attend to, so I’ll leave you boys here with Hoseok-ah until Hyunwoo-ssi gets here. And remember: Paradise Cruise—”
“A tradition of excellence,” Hoseok parrots along with Mr. Kim, who claps happily at him before shuffling off towards the main building, his shock of grey hair fluffing up with the breeze.
Hoseok waits until he’s at the front gate and out of earshot (he was out of earshot five feet away, but Hoseok likes to be mindful unlike some people) before leaning against the bar and tapping the counter. “Come on hyung, stop being a hermit.”
Yoongi pops up and returns to his smoothie. “He’s always so fucking chipper start of season.”
“He’s sweet. Shut up, hyung.” Hoseok gestures to the boys who are staring at Yoongi vaguely, as if he doesn’t actually exist. “Say hi to the kids.”
There’s a stare off for a few moments before Jungkook (still-terrified looking) bows deeply again. The other two give much smaller head nods.
“So I know you got the tour,” Hoseok starts, clipping his stylus back to the tablet and rubbing a finger under the bridge of sunglasses where sweat is starting to slide them down, “but Hyunwoo-hyung will give you a more detailed layout of the pool and its regulations. You’re all certified obviously, but you’ll have to learn the posts here, understand how the rotations and guests work and what not.” Hoseok snaps his fingers and Jimin turns back to him idly. “Something on your mind, newbie?”
Jimin pouts and Hoseok immediately recognizes the look as something that’s supposed to get the kid whatever he wants. He’s got great lips. “When’s our break?”
Hoseok’s eye twitches. “Your shift has barely started.”
“Well, what about lunch?”
“It’s nine in the morning.”
“I’m on a strict diet.”
Hoseok lowers his tablet and gives Jimin a onceover. He’s short but compact, muscles in all the right places. Fantastic ass. He sticks it out like he knows Hoseok is looking.
“You get a half-hour for lunch,” Hoseok answers dully. “It’s worked into your schedule that’s posted behind the front desk of the lifeguard office.”
“We only get a half-hour?”
“Would you like a full? How about I hand feed you grapes while hyung over there fans you with a palm leaf?”
Jimin scowls and Hoseok’s surprised when Namjoon snorts a little, just a puff of laughter. Jimin glares up at him and elbows him hard. Jungkook has slowly congregated closer to the bar, as far as he can get from the other two without drawing too much attention. Hoseok catches Yoongi eyeing the kid up and down, expression almost non-existent except for a glean of amusement.
Someone waves from across the pool and Hoseok squints before lifting his tablet in greeting. “Hyunwoo-hyung’s here. He’ll be in charge of your pool training. Might want to drop some of the sass or he’ll have you on puke duty the whole week.”
Jimin rolls his eyes and Hoseok, safely hidden behind his shades, does the same. “The resort has its perks, it’s a fun place to be, but remember that first and foremost you’re here to protect and help the guests. Feel free to ask questions of any of the older workers, we’re always happy to help.”
They exit with bows once more, and as soon as Hyunwoo has then wrangled with the rest of the returning lifeguards from last year, Yoongi curses thickly under his break.
“What a group,” he says around a mouthful of fruit. He’s snacking on some of the cherries that are supposed to go in the drinks. “Fucking brats.”
“I like Jungkook. The young one. He’s cute.”
Yoongi hums, not quite an acknowledgement, and goes back to inventory. When Hoseok looks back across the pool area towards the others, he spots Namjoon lingering towards the back, watching him with narrowed eyes, and Hoseok just quirks his head and ignores it because he’s not going to get caught up in some rich boy’s agenda again this year.
Hoseok checks in with Hyunwoo around lunch to see how morning training went. The first day of opening season isn’t until tomorrow, so the guards, all two dozen of them, are free to work through drills and bonding exercises most of the day.
Apparently their returnees have been refreshing well, and the three new guys appear to be loved by all.
“Really?” Hoseok questions, and Hyunwoo edges a brow up as he bites into a snowcone. Hoseok cringes at the sight. His poor teeth. “Sorry. I met them this morning and was a little worried about… Well, all of them, actually.”
Hyunwoo shrugs, like it’s something he considered as well and got past. “Jeon Jungkook’s a little quiet, but he’s hardworking and practically part fish. When Park Jimin isn’t posturing, he meshes well with everyone. And Kim Namjoon struggled on a few of the drills but has some natural charisma I think will come in handy with difficult guests. I say they’ll do great.”
It’s reassuring to hear that from their head guard. Hoseok likes to be proven wrong when it comes to bad first impressions, and if the three boys are getting the job done and building comradery and potentially going to keep people happy and alive, then Hoseok can’t complain.
Hoseok can’t quit complaining.
If there’s anything he prides himself in, it’s his character. Hoseok doesn’t like excuses and he doesn’t like kiss-assing. Get the job done, and get the job done right no matter how long it takes, and don’t complain while you do it. That’s what he’s always been taught, that’s what he’s always lived to serve out.
Except when it comes to Kim Namjoon.
“I don’t understand how someone has such complete lack of control over their limbs!” Hoseok shrills. “He just—! How did he get hired! How has he not drowned himself yet!” Yoongi makes a non-committal hum. “Hyunwoo-hyung said he was doing just fine! In fact! Hyunwoo-hyung said that he had a lot of potential! So where is it! Why is it every time I pass Kim Namjoon he either whacks himself in the eye with his whistle, wacks someone else in the eye with his whistle, or trips over his sandals!?” Yoongi passes by with another hum.“I greeted him this morning and you know what he did, hyung?!” Yoongi hums again. “He bumped into the lifeguard stand and knocked it into the water! Those things are screwed into the concrete!”
All of this is said, of course, in a very heated whisper with a mouthful of strawberry fro-yo under the counter of the bar as Yoongi chops up pineapples.
“Are you done?”
Hoseok stares down at his bare feet and harrumphs, but he nods around the head of his spoon.
“Hoseokie. Hobi. I love you, but you need to chill.” Hoseok looks up, affronted, and Yoongi waves a pineapple spine at him. “No. He’s a clutz. We know that, now. But that’s beyond your capacity to control unless you fire him, which you won’t, because you’re a good person and you’re half in love with him and this is some kind of weird grade school crush tantrum and you know it .”
Hoseok sinks further into his cubby hole and glares. “That’s low, hyung.”
“Tough love, kid.” Yoongi drops a tangerine into his lap and Hoseok huffs but starts to peel it. “Now that you’ve gotten all that sexual tension out of your system, do you need to talk to me about anything besides Kim Namjoon and his big hands and very firm calves and the way the midday sun captures the dimple on his left cheek better than the right so you always make sure to do your walk-through west to east so you can appreciate it longer?”
Hoseok, with red hot horror building in his stomach, gathers his sandals and tablet and tangerine peels. “Next time you try to skip out on opening, I’m gonna put your name on the volunteer list for tango lessons.”
Yoongi’s eyes slit. “You wouldn’t.”
“I’ll put Jin-hyung on the list, too,” Hoseok says, backing away with a grin. “And we all know what happened last time hyung tangoed.”
Yoongi slams his pineapple down on the counter but doesn’t retaliate, and Hoseok shoves the tangerine in his mouth and makes a tiny finger heart that Yoongi pretends to eat when Hoseok blows it his way.
Hoseok, despite how often the people in his life he considers dear friends have told him he’s more likely to eat a cockroach before admitting he’s a person with feelings, is actually uncomfortably aware of his feelings, like, all the time. The real problem is that he doesn’t know what to do with them once they’ve manifested, so they just end up fermenting inside, sometimes leaving him bitter and unwelcoming, which is definitely something someone who works in guest services shouldn’t be.
“I don’t really get what you’re asking,” Taehyung frowns as he pulls himself out of the water with a grunt. He falls back to lay on the sun-soaked concrete of the pool deck, and Hoseok sinks down beside him and hands over the headband he fished from the water that slipped off Taehyung during his laps. “Thanks. So you want to be more expressive?”
“No, not expressive,” Hoseok says, tapping his fingers across his elbows, eyeing the pool out of habit. The sun has fully risen, but there’s still that early morning haze coating the grounds. Most of the guests are finishing up late breakfasts or heading to a first class of the day, so the deck is clear and the guards are taking advantage of the downtime by chatting near their stations or warming up in the water like Taehyung.
Taehyung pushes his dripping fringe back and fishes for his sunglasses hanging off the stand. “Oh, good. Because you’re, like, the most vibrant person I know.”
Hoseok throws a hand to his heart. “Taehyungie. This is why you’re my favorite.”
“I’m your only,” Taehyung laughs and kicks his feet in the water. He’s not wrong. Hoseok knows all the guards, it’s part of the job, but Taehyung’s the only one on staff he’s gotten as close to as they have. Probably because during Taehyung’s first summer, the two of them got caught in the water slide for a full afternoon trying to extract a rather obese gentleman who had attempted to exit his tube mid-ride.
Experiences like that forge life bonds.
“However,” Taehyung sing-songs, and Hoseok is pulled sharply back into the here and now, “I’ve seen you eyeing one of the new guys. Tall? With the dimples?”
“Please tell me I haven’t been that obvious.” Taehyung waves a vague hand around and Hoseok groans into his palms.
“Is that what this is about?” Taehyung asks, and Hoseok just grumbles a string of unintelligible noises. The feeling must get across because Taehyung nudges his side. “Hyung, you’re the sweetest and warmest person I know. I’m sure Namjoon-hyung would be honored to be crushed on by you.”
Hoseok’s head is begging him to kill this conversation, but he seriously needs the reinforcement. Yesterday morning Hoseok went to greet Namjoon outside the cabana, where he was lingering around one of the front tables, obviously waiting for someone. Hoseok thought he had been casual about the hello, maybe a little coy, but Namjoon took one look at him and then proceeded to throw his entire cup of strawberry mango supreme across the front of Hoseok’s polo.
It was an accident, surely it was an accident, but still. Projectile fruit.
And Hoseok, albeit a little upset, was truly only infuriated that he found the whole thing impossibly adorable.
“I hate him,” Hoseok breathes. “I mean. I don’t hate him. But I hate him.”
“You hate the way he makes you feel.” Hoseok nods. “I get that.”
“Boys suck,” Hoseok grumbles, and Taehyung holds up a fist and Hoseok gives it a bump. “Having boy problems?”
“Having Park Jimin problems,” Taehyung corrects.
Hoseok sits up immediately to peer down at him. “Was he mean to you?”
Hoseok has decided that Park Jimin is a demon. Sure, he’s charming, but it’s the charming ones you have to watch out for. Like Seokjin. Hoseok doesn’t trust Seokjin one bit. Never has, probably never will. Does it put a strain on their friendship? Absolutely not. But that’s because Seokjin has the heart of a small child and could never harbor ill intent towards another creature on this fine earth.
“He was…” Taehyung tips his head back to think. “I think he was flirting, but he was like, rich people flirting, so I kind of just ended up feeling very small, and you know I get kind of splotchy and cry when I’m embarrassed, so I lied and said I was having an allergic reaction to tree nuts, and he said he’d sue the resort because they should have nutrition facts listed on menus, and that just made me feel worse, so then I lied again and said I had to go fish a shrew out of the hottub. So now I’m a loser and a liar.”
Park Jimin? Evil. Anyone who makes Taehyung unhappy is on the resort Hit List, the one where they purposefully send their colleagues the most atrocious guests and never give them the employee discount. Hoseok will have to inform Yoongi of the addition later. No more forty percent off kombucha for Jimin.
For now, Hoseok just nods and pats Taehyung’s tummy reassuringly. “Namjoon tried to brush his teeth with sunscreen yesterday.”
Taehyung’s lip curls. “Oh, ew. And you’re still attracted to him?”
“Maybe there’s hope for both of us, then. Wanna race?”
“Can’t,” Hoseok says and shoulder rolls to his feet. “Gotta finish rounds. Apparently there was a complaint about there not being enough chairs with umbrellas on the north side.”
“The travesty,” Taehyung croons as he pushes up to his feet to climb his post. “How dare our poor guests have to walk to the other side of the pool to sit in the shade.”
Hoseok lightly knocks Taehyung’s ankle with his tablet. “See you at lunch?”
“If that group of moms coming across the lawn don’t get me before then.”
Hoseok does inform Yoongi (and Seokjin) of their newest addition to the list later that evening when they’re eating ramen on the floor of Hoseok’s apartment in their boxers because, for whatever reason, a million dollar resort can’t send someone to fix his air conditioning without a forty-eight hour notice.
Yoongi raises his head. His brow deepens farther. “Wait, what’d he do?”
“He made Taehyung feel small and unimportant.”
Seokjin clicks his tongue, smacks his lips as he tries to get some of the seasoning off them. “Wow. That, like, bumps him up to the first slot. Congrats, Lim Chulsoo in landscaping, you’re no longer the most hated employee on property.”
They all raise their cans of beer in a toast, and then Yoongi asks as he picks off some of the skin on his chicken wing, “But Taehyung-ah still likes him anyway?”
“Not sure if he likes him,” Hoseok shrugs, shoving a bite into the left side of his mouth and speaking around it. “But he didn’t say he didn’t like him.”
Yoongi cackles, and Hoseok knows whatever’s about to leave his little garden gnome mouth is going to be terrible. “Kind of like how you keep saying Kim Namjoon is your nemesis but then you go on a tangent about how his voice makes you want to—”
Hoseok throws his arms out, successfully knocking Yoongi’s side and sending him rolling under the coffee table. “ALRIGHTY THEN,” Hoseok squeaks as Seokjin sniggers around a mouthful of cold noodles. “Hyung. That was a private conversation.”
Yoongi peers up at him where he’s still curled in on himself like a roly poly. “One I didn’t want to hear,” he answers stiffly, then rocks back over onto his butt. “And Jin-hyung and I have an unbreakable vow to not keep secrets from each other. It’s how we’ve managed to stay together this long.”
“Open communication is the key to a healthy relationship,” Seokjin says with a note of finality and honesty that Hoseok isn’t often privy to hearing. Seokjin dabs at the sweat building along his temple, then wilts when he spots both Yoongi and Hoseok staring wide-eyed at him. “What?”
“That was awfully serious of you, hyung,” Hoseok says.
“Babe,” Yoongi starts, and then just says again, “babe.”
Seokjin bristles, ears bright red, and shoves the remaining contents of his rice bowl into his mouth and says around the mushy clump, “Hoseok, stop being a baby bitch and ask the man out so that I can have alone time with my boyfriend again.”
“Now that’s what I was expecting to hear,” Hoseok nods as Yoongi collapses with a wheeze on the floor.
It’s been two weeks. Hoseok has managed to survive two weeks of Kim Namjoon’s progressively darkening thighs and his cheek craters and his swooshy hair and that stupid laugh he does that makes him sound like a bleating sheep.
It’s been two weeks and Hoseok has yet to hold a full conversation, or anything coming close to some semblance of a conversation with Namjoon, and he kind of feels like a lump of dehydrated fruit that’s been dropped on the sidewalk to grow crusty in the sun.
“Hoseok-ah, come here for a second.”
Hoseok hums and lopes forward to lean over the bar. Yoongi wags his finger for him to move in closer still, and Hoseok pushes up on his toes.
Yoongi promptly lifts the collar of Hoseok’s shirt and dumps a hidden cup of ice down his back.
Screeching, Hoseok flails away from the counter, startling an elderly couple passing by and drawing the attention of every individual on the pool deck, including, unfortunately, the lifeguards. Taehyung’s laugh is carrying all the way from the kiddie area, bright and contagious, but Hoseok is more mortified by Jimin and Namjoon smiling behind their hands two stands over.
“What the hell, hyung?!” Hoseok turns back to Yoongi, voice weak and squeaky, and he keeps fanning the back of his shirt because now he’s sad and embarrassed and damp. “What was that for?”
“You’re not allowed to talk shit about yourself,” Yoongi drawls.
“I wasn’t talking—” Yoongi scoops another cup of ice and lifts an eyebrow, egging him on. Hoseok holds up his hands in surrender. “Fine. Fine. But I’m not saying he directly makes me feel like that on purpose. It’s just a side-effect.”
A moment of hesitation and then, “What the fuck?”
“We’re not a good fit,” Hoseok explains. “He’s, y’know. That.”
Yoongi looks over his shoulder. Stares. Slowly draws his gaze back to Hoseok. “Are we discussing the same man who I witnessed squirting half a bottle of honey directly into his mouth yesterday?”
“Ew, he did that?”
“Your voice says that’s disgusting but your face says you’re enamored.”
Hoseok presses his palms against his eyes until he sees colored spots. “Make it stop, hyung.”
“Just ask him out.”
“Because you’re not a good fit.”
Hoseok voice turns strained. “Well, yeah.”
“Because he’s rich?”
“I mean partially, yeah. We come from different worlds.”
Yoongi makes a retching sound and Hoseok flops across the counter to take Yoongi’s hands. Yoongi scowls but still laces their fingers together. “Stop it, hyung. You know what I mean.”
“I don’t,” Yoongi answers flatly, and with a straight face says, “You’re funny. You’re kind. You’re handsome. You’re all smiley. Everyone loves you.” Hoseok’s about to coo at him and Yoongi quips, “Don’t get ahead of yourself. I tolerate you. This is a business relationship.” Yoongi then proceeds to kiss the back of Hoseok’s hand. “All I’m saying is that he’s here for the summer. If it doesn’t work out, the fallout is minimal. What are you so afraid of?”
Hoseok takes Yoongi up on his advice two days later when he spots Namjoon under one of the cabana umbrellas before afternoon shift. He has a book propped open against the slope of a backpack so he can read while he eats, and Hoseok pats down his shorts and adjusts the collar of his polo (oh god he’s in a freaking polo how unattractive is that) and gives himself a little pep talk because Yoongi’s right. Regardless of the frumpy uniform, Hoseok is funny and charming and old people and moms and dogs love him. That’s great boyfriend material right there. Hoseok is fantastic boyfriend material.
“Hey, whatcha reading?”
Namjoon startles and almost flings his carton of curly fries into the bushes. Hoseok sucks on his teeth to hold back a laugh and Namjoon blinks up at him. The bridge of his nose is a little pink from the sun and he’s got a loose lock of hair falling in the center of his forehead.
Hoseok sits on the bench beside him quickly so he can shove his hands under his thighs to keep them from wandering. The last thing he needs to do right now is card his fingers through Namjoon’s hair. That’s creepy. That’s sexual harassment.
“Oh, uh, just some stuff,” Namjoon finally answers. He looks unsure of what to do with his hands, as well. He’s got a fry in each. Who eats fries with two hands?
It’s incredibly endearing.
Yoongi’s gonna smack him when he tells him about it later.
“For class?” Hoseok prompts, and Namjoon shakes his head.
“Oh, uh. No. I graduated a couple years ago. This is just light reading. For pleasure.”
Hoseok perks up. "Oh, I graduated two years ago, too! Ninety-four?"
"Uh." Namjoon stalls. Stares at something on Hoseok's mouth long enough that Hoseok reaches to wipe his lip in case he has some salad dressing residue there or something. Namjoon comes back to himself. "Yes."
“Cool, cool.” Well this is going just swimmingly. But Hoseok reads. He’s comfortable in this territory. He can work with this.
Hoseok rests his elbows on the table and leans forward to read the chapter heading. He snorts at the title. “Kundera? You call that light reading?”
“Is that a problem?”
Namjoon answered roughly, protectively, and Hoseok swivels his head and finds that they’re almost nose to nose and despite the sharp edge to Namjoon’s voice, his eyes look sad. Disappointed.
“What? No.” Hoseok can smell summer on him. Sunscreen and sweat and something a little spicy, a little too warm for the heart. He flops back into his seat before he tries to touch the sweat beading in the divot of Namjoon’s collarbones.
Because that’s creepy.
And sexual harassment.
“It’s just you’re reading an author that focused heavily on themes of morality and existentialism,” Hoseok says instead. “Not exactly what I’d call light reading. What?”
Namjoon just blinks at him again. Closes the book carefully and studies Hoseok’s face. The furrow between his eyebrows only deepens the longer he stares. “You know Kundera’s work?”
Hoseok nods warily, like this is some kind of test and Jimin’s watching from the brush with a notepad and a tape recorder. “Yeah? I have a psych degree, but I took a ton of lit classes because my dad’s a professor.” Namjoon blinks at him. “I, uh, read Lightness of Being like my second year and Laughter right after. His works are a little too political to me, but the idea that we’re worse for wear when we swap meaningful and concrete relationships for impersonal ones is pretty heavy on the mind, ya know?”
Namjoon’s eyes are wide. There’s a ketchup covered fry poised halfway to his mouth.
Hoseok tugs on his bottom lip with his teeth, keenly aware that he needs to shut up but without the knowledge of how to do just that.
“Have you read Albert Camus?” Hoseok asks, because apparently, he doesn’t know how to just leave a tragedy of a conversation to die. Namjoon’s eyes just grow bigger and Hoseok panics. He keeps talking. “His voice is breathtakingly poignant, but I disagree with his philosophy on the meaninglessness of human life. Like, I get he’s trying to show that the universe is irrational and that life has no redeeming purpose in order for the reader to understand to make the most of what they have now, but it’s just fucking depressing, you know? Now if you want a really well-done political novel on love and death and our purpose here on earth, you should check out Garcia Marquez’ works. Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece and doesn’t leave me wanting to drown myself in the ocean when I’m done with it.”
Namjoon still hasn’t eaten his fry.
Namjoon still hasn’t blinked.
Hoseok’s legs are jumping crazily, all his anxiety apparently rushing to his feet, and Hoseok opens his mouth to apologize because god that must have painful to listen to, but Namjoon just closes his book and says, “I have to go.”
He gathers his food and his backpack and leaves, just like that. Hoseok stares at his empty seat, momentarily stunned, then looks up to find Namjoon walking with a purpose towards the other end of the pool deck where Jimin’s stretching under the awning of the storage building.
Jimin says something to him and Namjoon answers, and Jimin looks in Hoseok’s direction immediately and then starts laughing . Like full-bodied, on the grass, wriggling up like a worm laughing. Namjoon just covers his face with his non-fry holding hand.
Hoseok ducks his head and pretends to organize the napkin dispenser before making a break for the bar.
Walking with a purpose was right, and that purpose was to get away from Hoseok as fast as he could and go tell his friend how much of a freaky dweeb Hoseok is. Great. Just great.
Hoseok peers up from under his lashes and Yoongi’s frown deepens. “You look like you just got dumped.”
“I tried to talk to Namjoon but I ended up on a tangent about existential twentieth century literature and he just stared at me like I was a moldy kiwi and left and went to go laugh at me with Jimin.”
Yoongi tenses, nostrils flaring, and he looks over Hoseok’s shoulder to where Jimin and Namjoon must still be laughing at him because he curses something filthy under his breath and tries to grab a paring knife from the sink.
“Hyung! What the fuck, you can’t stab someone over this!”
“I wasn’t gonna stab anyone, Hobi.” Yoongi twirls the blade in his hand a few times. “Threatening. I was just gonna threaten a little.”
“Please stop picking up weird stuff from Jin-hyung,” Hoseok sighs, then rests his forehead against the cool wood of the counter. His panic, which had been rapidly intensifying, has dissolved completely and left behind a headache. “We still have three months of working with them.”
“Not if I can help it.”
“Hyung, I appreciate you wanting to defend my honor, but I’m fine. I’m used to it. It’s fine.”
Yoongi doesn’t say anything for a little while, but Hoseok looks up when a cold bottle is pushed against his cheek. Peach and nectarine juice. Hoseok’s favorite.
“You shouldn’t have to be ‘used to it’, Hoseokie,” Yoongi says. His eyes are tight. “That was an asshole thing to do.”
“It was,” Yoongi says, tone leaving no room for argument. “I love listening to you talk about random shit. It’s great. Your eyes get all bright and your dimples come out. How could Namjoon walk away from that?”
Hoseok pouts to keep from smiling because he’s still sad about all this. He just wants to be sad for like a minute and Yoongi’s making that hard to do.
“Well, he did. Let’s drop it.” Hoseok takes a sip of juice and sighs. “Obviously he’s not interested, so now I’m gonna move on and focus on my job and probably eat eleven pounds of cinnamon chips later. Wanna join me?”
Yoongi grins and tosses a towel over his shoulder. “I’ll have Jin-hyung bring some stuff home tonight. Steak?”
“I love having friends in high places.”
Hoseok grabs his juice to-go and continues his rounds, making sure to spend extra time at the tennis courts and the front lawn where yoga is about to start so he can avoid the pool. He makes conversation with some of the frequent flyers, their regulars that have been coming to the Club longer than Hoseok has worked here. He helps an elderly couple fix their croquet set up, becomes the ref of a game of red-light green-light to a group of sugar-wired seven-year-olds, and helps one owner find their lost emotional support dog.
By the time he makes it back to the pool deck, there’s been a change in shift, and Hoseok is able to avoid both Jimin and Namjoon who are at their respective guard stations and unable to converse.
Instead he spots Jungkook sitting on the edge of an empty kiddy pool, eating a popsicle and staring at something in the sky.
There’s nothing up there but perfectly puffed clouds, and Hoseok grins as he slips into the space beside him and says, “That one kind of looks like a turtle.”
“That’s definitely a dolphin.” Jungkook blinks hard once and then flinches away from Hoseok. “Oh, hyung. Hi. Sorry.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya.”
“No, I was just zoned out there. No worries.” Jungkook glances down to his melting ice cream and promptly shoves half of it in his mouth.
Hoseok laughs so hard he snorts.
Jungkook gives him a close-mouthed grin around the mouthful of raspberry swirl, and Hoseok thinks Jungkook’s cute when he’s not being so nervous.
Jungkook’s on break and, like some kind of divined miracle, there are no children around anyway. So Hoseok chats with him for the next five, ten, fifteen minutes; about college and movies and music and dogs and if a taco or a slice of pizza would win in a fist-fight if they became sentient.
“Definitely taco,” Jungkook answers in all seriousness, eyes big and earnest “Has more spice. A little zazzle. Pizza’s too plain. No surprise.”
“But tacos are so flimsy,” Hoseok responds just as soberly. He notices that Jungkook has a bit of ice cream staining the corner of his lip and reaches to wipe it away with his thumb. “Pizza has some beef to it. Get it? Beef?”
Jungkook laughs this big, squeaky laugh and swats Hoseok on the arm and yeah. Okay. This is how you talk to someone. This is how you make someone feel fuzzy and nice and like a decent human being. Kim Namjoon could take some pointers.
Hoseok’s gaze flickers to the stand across the pool where Public Enemy #1 in question is sitting. He’s got shades on, but Hoseok looks away quickly because his head is turned enough their direction that he doesn’t want to get caught staring.
Jungkook’s laughter is fading into little giggles and it’s cute. He’s cute. He’s a good kid. Wired and a little skittish, but really good. Hoseok should take him out to dinner sometime. Maybe that’ll help with the jitters. Help him make some more friends on staff so he’s not always eating ice cream alone in the children’s area.
“Do you wanna grab dinner tomorrow night?”
Jungkook blinks, his smile flickering with a bit of confusion. “What? With me?”
“Yeah, with you. You’re cool. I think we could be good friends.”
Jungkook’s eyes light up and he nods, giddy again. “Yeah. I’d really—I don’t have a lot of friends here. That’d be really nice.”
“Great.” Hoseok checks his watch and realizes he needs to get back to work before one of the lackies reports him. Last thing he needs is one of the rich kids taking over. Yoongi would slip into his apartment at night and smother him with his fanny pack. “Meet me outside the lifeguard hut after work?”
Jungkook nods and Hoseok pets his head before walking away, giving it a little fluffing. He has to walk the rest of the pool to do his checklist and on the way passes Jimin’s stand.
And Jimin, who is not in his seat but beside it.
Staring him down.
Hoseok slows but doesn’t stop, glancing over his shoulder for someone else and just finds a family of five passing by with about twelve inflatables that he should probably politely reprimand them for.
Instead he turns back around and Jimin is still eyeing him. He’s so pretty it’s scary. “Can I help you?”
Jimin narrows his eyes, like he’s trying to read Hoseok’s soul. “Do you flirt with all your co-workers?”
Hoseok stops mid-step and feels his face pinch up. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
Hoseok taps a finger along his tablet and smooths over his expression. “Eyes on the water, Park. I haven’t had anyone die in this pool yet and I don’t plan on changing that today.”
Jimin does that muttering thing under his breath again and turns back to the pool with his arms-crossed, and because he’s the spawn of satan in Chanel sunglasses, Hoseok doesn’t question it.
Jeon Jungkook is absolutely adorable, but Hoseok won’t ever say that to his face.
At least, not for another week.
It took a bit of prodding and two bottles of soju, but once Hoseok got him to open up, Jungkook was all warm and genuine and giggly. He was polite to the servers and they swapped stories from high school, Jungkook about swim team and Hoseok about the ocean. Jungkook does this thing when someone talks, where he tilts his head to the side and presses his chin in his palm and just looks at you in this way that makes you want to tell him more. It’s nice. He’s nice.
“So, uh, was this a…” Jungkook fades out and Hoseok lifts an encouraging eyebrow. “A date?”
Hoseok’s foot doesn’t quite make it over the curb and his toes catch on the concrete. He flails for a couple seconds, heart rising to his throat, and suddenly Jungkook has an arm around his waist and tries to tug him back in. He overcompensates, and the two of them both end up tumbling onto the lawn. Jungkook’s weight knocks all the breath out of him. Maybe ruptures an organ. Holy shit, that’s a lot of muscle.
“A date?” Hoseok manages to gasp, and Jungkook pushes himself up so they can look each other in the eye and nods. “Oh, uh. I’m sorry Jungkook-ah,” Hoseok wheezes, “but that wasn’t my intention at all.”
Jungkook is cute. The cutest, actually. And he’s kind and funny and can eat a pound of meat in under ten minutes but Hoseok doesn’t want to date him. What has he done? He’s about to crush the heart of the most precious boy in existence.
“Oh, thank god,” Jungkook exhales, pressing his forehead into Hoseok’s chest to laugh. “Fuck, that was nerve-wracking.”
Hoseok blanches and lifts an unsure hand to pat Jungkook’s head. “Is this… Good?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jungkook knocks his cheek against Hoseok’s shoulder and laughs some more. “Like half-way through the night I suddenly realized this could be like a date-date, y’know? And you’re really cool, hyung, but I like someone else and I was just trying to think of the best way to let you down.”
Oh. Well. This works out?
Hoseok gives him a big squeeze. “That’s really thoughtful of you, Kook. Thanks for taking my feelings into consideration.”
“Well, no worries there. Totally not a romantic thing. Just tryin’ to be a good hyung.”
“Well, in that case.” Jungkook wraps his arms around Hoseok’s waist and flails like a fish. Hoseok squeaks out a laugh. “I had a lot of fun and would love to do it again sometime. Next Tuesday?”
“Works for me.”
Hoseok squishes Jungkook’s cheeks between the palms of his hands and Jungkook tries to drive his knee into Hoseok’s spleen. Hoseok’s just about to retaliate with a karate chop to the neck when there’s a cough from overhead, and they both tense and glance towards the sidewalk.
Please don’t be security out on the prowl ready to whip out a citation for PDA—
“Hi, Namjoon-hyung!” Jungkook rolls onto his side so that Hoseok has a chance to breathe. “You’re here late.”
God, why couldn’t have been security? Hoseok can sweet-talk himself out of a ticket. How is he supposed to sweet-talk Kim Namjoon? The last time Hoseok tried to flirt, it ended with utter humiliation. And why does he want to flirt anyway? Namjoon’s simple association with Park Jimin makes him evil-adjacent. Who cares if he’s in short shorts and is wearing these atrocious sandals with socks and his hair, usually pushed back with a heavy hand, is falling fluffy and straight over his forehead.
“I was covering a closing shift.” Namjoon looks between the two of them, a furrow building between his brows as he adjusts the straps of his backpack. “Having fun?”
“The funnest,” Hoseok answers, and then he leans over to pinch Jungkook’s side. Jungkook flails so hard he knocks one of the trail lights out of the ground with his foot.
“It’ll pop back in,” Hoseok says when Jungkook looks to him with devastation. “Just push it down real hard.”
Jungkook busies himself with re-inserting the light while Hoseok crawls to his feet, brushing off dirt and mowed grass and what might be a squished earthworm. He grimaces as he flicks the goo off his elbow, and Namjoon’s laughing behind his hand when Hoseok looks up. “I’ll wipe this on you,” he threatens and Namjoon laughs louder. Hoseok’s throat knots up at the sound.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Namjoon says with a salute. Stares at his hand like it’s not attached to his body. Drops it to his side. He hesitates before asking, “So, uh, why are you guys out so late?”
“Kook and I had a dinner date,” Hoseok answers, trying to smooth his expression into something nonchalant and classy and not at all like he’s flailing so hard internally he might throw up.
“Cool, cool.” Namjoon’s staring at something over Hoseok’s head and Hoseok resists twisting around to look. “Cool. Do you guys... do that often?”
Hoseok frowns and says over the sound of Jungkook’s enthusiastic shouts of finding a salamander, “No, tonight was the first time. But it was fun! We’re gonna turn it into a weekly thing.”
Namjoon nods. “Cool. Really cool. Well, I’ll see you in the morning?”
Hoseok nods back, trying to control his grin. “Yeah! Yeah, see you then.”
Namjoon looks at him for a moment longer, then the thing above his head, and then he nods again and ruffles Jungkook’s hair on the way past. When he’s slipped around the bend in the path, Hoseok wraps his arms around his stomach and sinks to his knees to shriek quietly into his thighs.
“I feel you, hyung,” Jungkook agrees, lizard forgotten as he uses his sandal as a hammer to beat the light back into the ground. “Namjoon hyung is hot.”
He is. Undeniably so. But he’s also supposed to be an aloof asshole except nothing about that encounter was assholish in the slightest. Did Hoseok make up the cabana incident? Were he and Jimin really not laughing at him and he’s just projecting his paranoia now?
Hoseok rolls onto his side and disregards the possibility of squishing more worms. “Is he the one you like?”
“Nah.” Jungkook gives the light another whack. “There’s, uhm. Yeah.”
“Kook,” Hoseok grins. “That was terrible.”
Jungkook mutters something under his breath and Hoseok wiggles closer. “What was that?”
“It’s Yoongi-hyung, okay?”
“You like Yoongi-hyung?” Jungkook ducks his head and wipes his hands on his thighs. “Our little kitchen gremlin?”
“One and the same.”
Hoseok’s fast flushing heart goes cold. “Jungkookie, you know that Yoongi-hyung and Jin-hyung are dating.”
“Yeah.” Jungkook mumbles something else under his breath, and when Hoseok asks him to repeat it, Jungkook smacks the light just because he can and says, “I like Jin-hyung, too.”
Hoseok takes a big breath and says, “Holy shit.”
“I know.” Jungkook’s voice is watery and he whacks the light again. “I know they’re together and there’s no room for me but I like them both.” Whack. “They’re funny.” Whack. “And they make me feel comfortable.” Whack. “And the other day Yoongi-hyung held my hand and I thought I was going to die.” Whackwhack. “And Jin-hyung makes me laugh and that’s nice. They’re nice.”
Hoseok rolls until he can wrap his arms around Jungkook where he’s still crouched on the grass. “Jungkook. You have to ask them out.”
Jungkook squeaks. “What? No. Never. I’d die.”
“Jungkook.” Jungkook peeks over at him with his big, brown eyes. “Do you trust me?”
“I’ve only known you for three weeks.”
“But do you trust me?”
“Well. Yeah,” he shrugs. “Probably shouldn’t, but yeah.”
Hoseok pats him on the butt. “Ask them out. Together. Just do it. Believe in hyung.”
Jungkook watches him intently for a moment more and then sags to the ground so that half his weight is lying on Hoseok’s legs.“If I get rejected and have to move to some cave in the wilderness and I die from eating a poisonous mushroom, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your life by singing nothing but ABBA’s Dancing Queen very softly in your ear every time you try to fall asleep.”
“Oh my god, you’re perfect for them.”
The next evening, Hoseok and Jungkook and Taehyung all stay after the pool’s closed to chill in the hottub and plot out the proposal. Hoseok suggests to confess through a song, but Jungkook is afraid he’d get too nervous and forget the lyrics. Taehyung says to set up a nine step scavenger hunt around the property, complete with riddles and fellow staffers dressed in RPG garb, but Hoseok nixes that because despite the catastrophic nerd that Seokjin is, Yoongi hates walking around in the heat enough as it is, and the likelihood of them getting fired is higher than he wants to test.
“Message in a balloon?”
“Message in a bottle?”
“You should do some puns. Jin-hyung loves puns.”
“Or pasta. Yoongi-hyung loves pasta.”
Hoseok and Taehyung make eye-contact over Jungkook’s head and screech together, “Pasta and puns!”
Jungkook giggles into the crook of his arm as they high-five over his head and it’s decided. Hoseok’s going to get Seokjin to invite them all over for a group dinner date and only 40% of the group will show, and Jungkook’s going to woo them with his kitchen prowess and dry humor and extensive knowledge of nautical archaeology.
“What about you two?” Jungkook asks when they’ve calmed down.
Hoseok sips on his fruity beer and looks over with a frown. “Us two?”
“Yeah. How are your boy troubles going?”
“Still being troubled.” Taehyung hoists himself into a sitting position. “Jimin keeps rich people flirting and I keep being the most unattractive human being on earth.”
Jungkook frowns. “Hyung, you’re freaking gorgeous.”
“You win the highest bid at the benefit every year,” Hoseok adds. “Old ladies literally spend obscene amounts of money just to have you dance and dine with them.”
“That’s because I ask them questions and don’t treat them like old people three breaths away from death,” Taehyung answers. “And I don’t mean physically unattractive. I just. Y’know. Flirting is fun, but I can’t tell if he’s doing it with me the way I do it with people, because it’s nice to see them smile and feel wanted, or if he’s just, like, treating it like a game or wants something from me.”
Jungkook makes a pained noise and Taehyung sighs. “Yeah. So please let me know if either of you have a more depressing love life.”
Hoseok curls around the tub edge to look at them both. “Every time I try to ask Namjoon out he either causes me bodily harm or goes to Jimin to laugh at me so there’s that?”
Taehyung and Jungkook both turn to him quickly, equally alarmed. The intensity in Jungkook's eyes makes Hoseok want to give him a big squeezy hug, but Taehyung is the one who growls out, “What? That’s such a dick thing to do. At least Jimin isn’t, like, trying to make me feel like shit. It’s just the way he’s conditioned.”
Jungkook’s brows furrow. “But Namjoon-hyung is really sweet? He asks about you a lot, too.”
Hoseok’s heart stutters. “He does?”
“Actually, yeah, he does,” Taehyung agrees, him and Jungkook glancing back at each other in confusion as they share some non-verbal recount of the past month through head tilts and eyebrow raises and come to the conclusion that yeah, Namjoon apparently does talk about him a lot, and it’s never actually been negative.
Hoseok sinks off his seat so that he’s sitting on the tub bottom with the bubbling water up to his chin, arms crossed against his chest, feeling very much so like he’s the punchline to a well-thought out and very mean joke. “Well, if he’s harboring some kind of secret crush, he should let me know asap as possible because Yoongi hyung is gonna throw a mango at me the next time I talk about his hands.”
“You can talk to us about his hands,” Taehyung chirps.
“They’re very nice hands,” Jungkook agrees.
Hoseok glances up to the star-dotted sky and sighs. “They are, aren’t they?”
“So. Hyung.” Yoongi glances up from where he’s garnishing several plates of tiny burgers. Usually he’s only on drink duty, but Jaeho is coming in late today and there’s a particularly peckish group of young women who just finished a jet-ski tour and, well, gotta keep the customers happy. “Would you be interested in adding a third to your relationship?”
Yoongi’s face scrunches in confusion, and then he looks so absolutely mortified that Hoseok almost goes over to the freezer to grab him some ice because he’s going alarmingly pink and the last thing Hoseok wants to do is fill out an incident report right now because one of the employees passed out on his shift.
“Hobi. Hoseok-ah.” Yoongi swallows thickly, folds his hands neatly on the counter. “You’re wonderful, and I love you, I do, but I think our relationship should—”
“What? WHAT?” Yoongi throws his arm up in defense. “What is happening?!”
“I’m not asking for me!” Hoseok shudders as several mental images flash through that he could have lived his life without witnessing. “Oh, ew. No. Nope.”
“What was I supposed to think? You basically just asked me to take part in a threesome with you.”
“EW HYUNG EW.”
“HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL?”
“WHY ARE WE SCREAMING?” Taehyung shouts as he passes by with a couple of the girl guards from morning shift. Hoseok wipes away a fake tear and immediately pads over to drape himself across Taehyung’s coconut and vanilla scented body. Taehyung folds him up in a hug without question.
“Yoongi-hyung doesn’t want to have a threesome with me,” Hoseok pouts against his shoulder, and Taehyung is so warm and smells like pool and sunscreen and Hoseok can’t help but grip him tighter.
Sooyoung can’t cover her mouth in time to hide her smile, but Chanri busts out a full-belly laugh as Taehyung pets the back of Hoseok’s head. “But you’re a total babe, hyung.”
Hoseok glances up from under his lashes. “I know, right? Who could resist all this?”
They both look over at the same time and Yoongi is swiveling between them, skittish and unsure of what to do with his hands. He places them on his hips. The counter. Points a finger at them. “You both are messing with me and I don’t appreciate it.”
Taehyung winks. “Yoongi-hyung, will you have a threesome with me?”
“Go throw yourself in the deep end.”
“Would you have a threesome with anyone?”
Yoongi’s cheeks are the same color as the little umbrellas he puts in mai tais. “We are not discussing my sex life right now. This is a family-friendly establishment.”
“He didn’t deny it,” Taehyung whispers, not all that quiet. Yoongi’s mouth purses.
“He didn’t,” Hoseok agrees. “You’re right. I wonder who it is.”
They twist back to him. Yoongi’s shoulders hunch up to his ears. “Stop that. You’re being creepy.”
Taehyung has to go clock in again, but he presses a wet kiss to top of Hoseok’s head and then crawls across the counter—“THAT’S UNHYGIENIC, TAE.”— to kiss Yoongi’s temple before he’s viciously batted away with a spatula.
Hoseok keeps Yoongi company for the next half hour as he grumbles and food preps while Hoseok follows up on emails from the managers in the main buildings. There’s a lot of paperwork to what he does, and he’s tempted to talk to Mr. Kim about opening up a secretarial position next year with just how many times he has to explain to the event planner alone that no, there’s still nothing he can do about the scent of chlorine during the upcoming wedding this Friday.
He’s in a particularly heated customer service battle with her when he feels it.
Hoseok’s not sure how he does it. Some kind of past trauma that he’s repressed that always keeps his mind on edge. The hundreds of hours of training videos he’s watched since he was fourteen. Maybe it’s just years of being on the water, aware of every movement the ocean makes and how to condition his body just to respond to it. Muscle memory. That six sense that can’t be taught.
Hoseok’s not sure how he does it, but he gets that tingle through the pit of his stomach, like when you miss the bottom stair and there’s this moment of weightlessness, of surety, that you’re going to fall.
Hoseok slips off his glasses and glances to the main pool first. Sooyoung’s standing at the ready by her stand, doing scans across her zone. Jimin’s up in his stand, surprisingly diligent as he leans across his rescue tube, searching the water. Towards the back zone are two more guards, both equally immersed in their job. No one’s tense, though. No one’s focusing in on a particularly troubled area. It’s the usual sweep. Same for the kiddie zone, where Namjoon and the rest of the guards are standing at their posts, or making rounds, occasionally chatting with parents or helping a child down one of the slides.
It’s quiet, but Hoseok still has that sinking feeling, like there’s something he’s missed, and he grabs his tablet from behind the juice bar and leaves Yoongi mid-sentence to move closer to the kid’s section.
Hoseok waves a hand over his shoulder in quiet dismissal, greets guests here and there as he takes the winding path around the pools. A mom of two stops to ask him where the nearest bathroom is, an elderly man asks him to help find his misplaced reading glasses.
“Hoseok-ssi,” someone calls, and Hoseok turns with his customer service smile and finds Namjoon’s changed positions with another guard and is now just a couple of tables away. His zone is clear or else Hoseok would get on to him for taking his eyes off the water.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Just making sure you’re alright,” Namjoon says, eyeing him a little more intensely than Hoseok can honestly handle in the moment. “You seem a little…off.”
Well, that’s unnerving. “I’m fine, I’m fine. Hey, have you noticed something, well, off?” Namjoon quirks an eyebrow, glances towards the water, then tilts his head back to Hoseok when he finds it clear. “Like, I don’t know… I don’t know, honestly.”
“Gut feeling,” Hoseok nods, pursing his lips.
“I’ll keep an eye out.”
The smile is enough to calm Hoseok’s fluttering chest a bit, and Hoseok smiles genuinely for the first time in hours when he says, “Thanks, Namjoon-ssi”.
“We’re the same age, correct?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“So…” Namjoon shuffles in place and coughs into his hand, and if Hoseok wasn’t keenly aware that Namjoon is BBFs with the spawn of Satan (who today is donning Gucci glasses), Hoseok might actually think that Namjoon is embarrassed . “Would you be interested in dropping the formalities? It’s already been a month, you know.”
“Oh, uh—” Movement over Namjoon’s shoulder, further down the pool. A man in a baggy dress shirt and khaki shorts heading for the exit. “I don’t know if—”
“Right, of course,” Namjoon squeaks, rubbing the back of his neck. “Work environment. I didn’t mean to put you in a difficult situation.”
“No, that’s not—” Hoseok cuts himself off again, going on his toes to peer over Namjoon’s shoulder and squints. Ill-fitting dress shirt man isn’t alone anymore.
Shit, shit fucking shit.
“Namjoon, radio into Yoongi-hyung that we have a possible Code Amber.”
Namjoon, already with his finger on the dial, stops in shock as Hoseok shoves past him. “Hoseok, what’re you—”
“Don’t make a scene,” Hoseok says, already straightening his shirt and slipping on a bright smile. “I’ll handle it. Watch the pool, but wait for my signal. Call Yoongi-hyung. If I’m right, he’ll need to contact management. Okay?”
Namjoon nods, already speaking into the receiver, and Hoseok heads towards the far gate where the man from before is reaching for the hand of one of Mrs. Yang’s boys, Yoonwoo. Her family’s been staying at the Club for years now. Hoseok would recognize that spike of hair anywhere.
“Hey, kiddo,” Hoseok greets loudly, tablet at the ready, trying to look twice as calm as he actually feels and like he’s not on some kind of unfounded manhunt.
Yoonwoo turns and does a giddy little dance on his run up to his side. Hoseok ruffles his hair fondly as the kid hugs his leg. “Hi, Hobi-hyung!”
“Hey, little man. Where you off to?”
Hoseok looks up purposefully at this, making eye contact with the man from before. Hoseok was right about the terrible shirt. Tight at the arms and too loose in the stomach. Untucked. His khakis are more like cargo shorts, like a child trying to pretend their older than what they are.
Or in this case, someone trying to pretend they have more money than what’s actually in their account.
“This uncle was gonna take me to mom,” Yoonwoo grins, throwing a tiny fist out to the man who is leveling Hoseok with a steady stare.
Hoseok grins at him cordially, but speaks down to Yoonwoo. “Your mom’s in a yoga class, kid. There’s at least a half hour left.”
“But ajusshi said she was asking for me.”
“Right.” Hoseok extends a hand. “Hello, I’m Jung Hoseok. You are…?”
The man eyes his hand warily, seems to shake off some inner thought before taking it. His voice is nasally when he speaks. “A work friend of, uhm, the family.”
“Right,” Hoseok nods again. “So you know his mom through… work?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“That’s cool. Accounting gets pretty tiresome. The resort’s a good place to relax.”
“Yeah,” the man grins, rubbing at the back of his neck. Hoseok brushes a hand through Yoonwoo’s hair on impulse, pulling him in a little closer. “Being in the office all day can really mess with the joints.”
“Yeah, I get it. Hey, kid, here’s a coupon for the cabana. Go have Yoongi-hyung grab you some juice.”
Yoonwoo lights up and takes the ticket in two hands. He turns suddenly to frown at the man. “But mom…”
“Said she’d pick you up after yoga,” Hoseok grins, turning just enough to give him a little shove back in the direction of the pools but still keep sight of the man. Hoseok catches Namjoon watching him in the distance, too far to read his expression but hand tight on his walkie. Hoseok lifts his arm in front of him, makes a fist, and Namjoon lifts the radio to his mouth. “Go on!” he urges Yoonwoo again, “Or I’ll never play sharks and minnows with you again.”
Yoonwoo giggles and heads off at a bumbling walk towards the kiddie pool. Hoseok waits until he’s only a couple arm’s length from Namjoon before he turns fully back to the stranger.
“So?” Hoseok grins, cocking a hip to the side “Family friend?”
The man’s got a bead of sweat on his upper lip and there’s this spark in his eyes, something a little crazed, something that kind of scares the crap out of Hoseok. “Yeah, that’s right.” He looks down at the watch on his wrist. A knock-off, something Hoseok could grab from a street stall on the boardwalk. “Guess I should get back to the class. His mom will be upset he didn’t come with me, though.”
“I think she’ll be understanding of her son not running off with a stranger.”
The man freezes, smile melting from his face. That spark grows just enough for the pit to open back up in Hoseok’s stomach. “Excuse me?”
“Mrs. Yang,” Hoseok enunciates slowly, “is a pediatrician, not an accountant.”
It’s like a mask is dropped before him. All pretense this guy had about being some kind of semblance of a well-to-do human being is gone and all that’s left is this chilling scowl of a man who just tried to kidnap a six-year-old.
The guy swivels, already trying to break for the gate just a few yards away. Hoseok glides forward, cutting him off, and says as sweetly as possible, “I swear to god if you take one more step I will lay you out on this pool deck.”
The man scoffs, eyes mocking. “You’ve got nothing on me.”
“Uh-huh. Tell that to the police when they show.”
“There’s no police coming,” the man grins, side-stepping. Hoseok matches his movement. “You don’t have a radio. No backup. No one to help. Now I’m gonna walk away, and you’re gonna let me, or I can’t promise that someone here won’t get hurt.”
This is not what they teach him in training. You’re supposed to avoid confrontation. All the confrontation. Verbal, physical—the whole shebang. And here Hoseok is, trying to be a hero, and he’s got some psycho pedo threatening to do whatever it is psycho pedos do when backed into a corner. Does he just let him go? Can he stall this a moment longer? Security should be on their way, right?
“Go ahead, try to hurt me. Security’s already on the way. There’s no way you’d make it out to the front gate without someone noticing you.” Hoseok eyes him up and down. “Surprised anyone let you in at all with that thrift store find. Cargo shorts? Seriously? It’s like you’re asking for someone to report you.”
“Little shit,” the guy hisses, lunging forward to shove past Hoseok. Hoseok reaches for him and barely misses the collar of his shirt, but when he spins to chase after, the man is high-tailing it back because two hotel officers are slipping through the gate, hands on their belts, eyes searching.
“You fucking bastard,” the man seethes, breaking past Hoseok to race back towards the pools.
Training says not to make a scene. Never upset the guests. Never give anyone a reason to down-rate the Club.
Hoseok throws his tablet down and kicks off his sandals and books it after him.
Families startle out of their way, shouting complaints and surprise as the man shoves at everyone he can. Hoseok artfully dodges, careful not to bump anyone, blood swishing hard through his heart as he races past the kiddie pool, the pads of his feet thudding painfully against the concrete as he twists around the walkway. A whistle blows and another follows, and Hoseok pumps his arms faster when he spots the man heading for the employee gate beside the cabana.
A large family tumbles out of the changing rooms just then, blocking the single path, and as the man slows just enough to go around them, Hoseok lurches forward, slams a shoulder into his narrow back, and they both hit the ground and skid.
The man took most of Hoseok’s fall, but Hoseok’s still winded from the impact knocking the air out of him. He struggles to get a full breath as the man elbows him in the ribs again, and Hoseok digs a knee into his spine and yanks one arm up and behind his head.
“Stop it,” Hoseok gasps, still trying to get his lungs to function properly. He pushes down on the guy’s arm when he continues to squirm and the man cries out.
“Hoseok-ssi,” someone calls from nearby, and Hoseok looks up to find the security guards looming overhead, chests heaving from the sprint. “Hey, we got this, son.”
Hoseok nods, rolling off the guy and to the side a few times so he can sprawl in the grass and catch his breath. There’s the sound of handcuffs, some light and legal threatening, and when Hoseok opens his eyes the guards have left with the man in tow and the little crowd from before is dispersing.
Cold water drips on his face, and Hoseok flinches against the feeling on his heated skin.
Yoongi’s leaning over him, face blank, water bottle hanging loosely from his hand as he shakes it so droplets fall on Hoseok’s forehead.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” he says, deadpan, before extending a hand.
Hoseok takes it with a groan and allows himself to be tugged from the ground. Yoongi shoos people away, saying that he’s fine and there’s nothing to see and offering out free drinks for the disturbance.
“A fucking idiot,” Yoongi repeats when he passes by again. “Could have killed yourself.”
“I couldn’t just let him go, hyung.”
There’s a tender spot just under his ribcage, a few scrapes on his knees and shins where the sidewalk wasn’t kind to him either.
“Just had to be the hero,” Yoongi grumbles, shuffling to his station. “Just had to run after a creeper. Just had to tackle the guy.”
“Did you get it on video?” Hoseok grins cheekily, taking the bag of ice Yoongi offers over the counter to him.
A moment of silence and then,
“Fuck yeah, I did,” Yoongi nods, face blank for a solid four seconds before he just starts laughing, this husky, throaty thing that’s more of a cough and makes Hoseok laugh along with him so hard his ribs ache.
“Fuck, you scared the shit out of me,” Yoongi breathes a few minutes later when they’ve settled down. Yoongi’s leaving the main register to Haewon as he helps Hoseok with first aid at the end of the bar, disinfecting his knees and cleaning up a gash on the back of his arm he couldn’t see. “Namjoon radioed in and I thought my heart stopped. Then I see you sprinting by like the devil and shit, Hobi, don’t do that shit again, okay? We’re not paid for that.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Hoseok says just to get him to stop.
Yoongi lifts a hand as if to smack him and Hoseok raises a brow in a challenge. Like Yoongi’d ever actually hit someone.
Yoongi’s eyes slit and he grumbles something under his breath definitely not meant for the family at the end of the bar to hear. He says louder, “Might wanna find Namjoon soon. He was freaking out.”
Hoseok groans into the palm of his hands. “He’s fine. Not like he actually cares.”
“Uh-huh,” Yoongi quips. “Keep telling yourself that because he’s on his way over now.”
“What! No!” Hoseok scrambles to get away and Yoongi blocks him in so he can finish wrapping the bandage. “Hyung, no, hide me I’m gonna die .”
“Calm down, you sound like Jungkook,” Yoongi hisses, swatting his thigh. “And he’s already seen you so quit squirming, damnit .”
Yoongi covers the side of his head where Hoseok managed to clock him on accident, and Hoseok’s in the middle of trying to kiss it better when Namjoon approaches from the side of the bar, holding one of Hoseok’s abandoned sandals in each hand.
“Hoseok-ssi,” he greets, not even batting an eye at Yoongi who is trying to extract himself from Hoseok’s legs wrapped around his waist. “Hey, are you okay?”
“’m fine, just fine,” Hoseok squeaks. Winks. Does some finger guns what the hell . Yoongi snickers in his hold. “What about Yoonwooie? The kid I sent your way?”
“He’s good,” Namjoon nods. “We had someone go get his mom, explain the situation to her. She wants to thank you personally.”
“Hoseok-ssi, you just stopped a kidnapper.”
“Anyone would have done it.”
“I wouldn’t have,” Yoongi interjects, and Hoseok slaps his butt and gives him a shove back towards the counter. More dangerous to have the gremlin here than not. Yoongi, despite the fluffy cheeks, is vicious and won’t hesitate to gather blackmail for Seokjin.
“I don’t think I could have done it,” Namjoon agrees when Yoongi has returned to his register to help with a small rush coming through. His tone is softer than before, eyes crinkling at the edges. Hoseok’s mouth goes dry. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Dandy,” Hoseok says and does the wave with his arms. “Bruises and scrapes. Nothin’ life-threatening.”
There’s a moment of hesitation, like Namjoon is trying to find more words to say even though now is the time he should just walk away for both their sakes. This is about when things start to go downhill for them.
“Are you going to be okay with your boss?” Namjoon asks instead. “Is this something you could lose your job over?”
Hoseok, a little tingly in the stomach region with content over the knowledge that Namjoon is trying to make actual adult conversation, smiles brightly at him. “Nah, pretty sure they’re not gonna fire me. I kind of run the place, so I doubt they’d find someone to replace me such short notice.”
Namjoon’s face freezes. “You… what?”
“I’m the pool manager,” Hoseok says. “I can pretty much do what I want. Within reason, of course, but I think decking a potential kidnapper is good enough reason.”
“You’re…” Namjoon takes a deep breath. “Pool manager?”
Hoseok feels his smile droop. “Three years ago.”
“So you’re my boss?”
“Uh, since you started?”
Namjoon looks like he’s watching someone eat red pepper paste by the spoonful. “You weren’t at my interview. Or Jimin’s?”
“I had to cover lifeguard duty.”
At this point, Namjoon has given up all pretense of politeness and is just staring open-mouthed at his feet. “You’re a lifeguard.”
Melting with misery. That’s what’s happening here. Hoseok just wants to crawl into a pool grate and die. “Yeah. You have to be to be the pool manager.”
A very soft “holy shit” slips out of Namjoon’s mouth.
Hoseok kicks his heels against the footrest of the bar stool and curls his toes around the cool metal. Realizes, belatedly, that Namjoon still has his shoes held hostage in a vice grip. “You’re taking this pretty hard…?.”
“I’ve been so disrespectful to you.”
He really hasn’t, especially since most of the staff is casual with Hoseok after all these years. But if Namjoon, and by extension Jimin, didn’t know that he was their boss’s boss, then yeah, they haven’t been… Actually, yeah, it’s been bad.
Hoseok just shrugs. “We’re the same age and I’m not strict. It’s fine.”
“Oh my god, you’re a lifeguard. I’ve said so much shit about you.”
Oh. Well. That smarts.
Namjoon’s head whips up, eyes bulging, like he realizes what he just said was a really shitty thing to have said, not just to his boss, but to any person at all. “Not like, shit about you as a person or anything, not mean shit, just…” Namjoon goes to run his hands through his hair. Stops. Stares down at where he’s still holding Hoseok’s shoes and then stoops down to place them neatly below Hoseok’s feet. He rises quickly. “You know, we tease Yoongi-ssi because he’s more likely to cut off a finger than get into the pool and just, we’ve never seen you in the water and you know— Oh my god, I sound like such a dick.”
The last part is said under the breath, like Namjoon is verbally chastising himself for being such an awkward human being.
Hoseok thinks it’s endearing. Everything Namjoon does is endearing and that’s fucking annoying is what it is because Namjoon’s also infuriating and Hoseok should be offended right now but he just can’t bring himself to be.
“Seriously, Joon, it’s fine,” Hoseok says, placing a hand on Namjoon’s arm and giving it a soft squeeze. “I’m not strict and you’re a fantastic lifeguard, anyway. I receive nothing but positive reviews from guests about you.”
Namjoon has gone silent and is staring at something over Hoseok’s shoulder, obviously lost in thought.
“Yeah,” Hoseok continues, patting him again when Namjoon has made no effort to show he’s still breathing. “Just calm down. We made a great team today and saved a little kid and put a bad guy behind bars and no one’s gonna lose their job.”
Namjoon inhales a huge gust of air, holds it longer than a human probably should, and when he blows it out he makes a concerning wheezing/whistling noise, like the time Hoseok had to give this old man the heimlich because he was choking on a mint.
“You okay, dude?” Hoseok asks, stepping forward when Namjoon still has not shown signs that his organs are functioning at healthy levels.
It happens very quickly after that.
Hoseok moves in close.
Lifts a hand like he’s going to snap in front of Namjoon’s face.
And suddenly he’s bent over on the concrete, clutching his face as blood pools between his fingers and drips on his favorite sandals. They’ve had a rough morning, him and his shoes.
Namjoon is muttering an unintelligible mess of apologetic syllables. Yoongi’s cursing. Someone is shoving a towel under Hoseok’s face. Someone else is guiding his head up from his knees.
“Hey there, hyung,” Taehyung coos, and Hoseok’s not in the mood for his sweet smile because Namjoon just fucking punched him in the face.
Yoongi is still cursing. Colorfully and creatively, Hoseok notes, but not loud enough for any of the guests to hear them. It also seems to be aimed in a particular direction, and Hoseok groans as Taehyung presses against his nose to check if it’s broken or not and lets out a warbly sigh of relief when Taehyung gives him the all clear. His nose is his best feature. Without his nose, he drops down to like a seven instead of his usual steady 8.5.
“What the hell, Joonie-hyung?”
Hoseok glances over to where Jimin has burst onto the scene. Somehow Hoseok got wrangled to the side of the cabana, out of the way of foot-traffic, and now he’s stooped on the ground with three lifeguards and a very hyped up bartender standing over him and holy shit Hoseok might be concussed.
“I didn’t mean to!” Namjoon says, throwing a cursed arm out and almost whacking Yoongi in the sternum. “It was an accident!”
“This is like the fourth time, though,” Jimin hisses, glancing Hoseok’s way.
Taehyung tenses and says over his shoulder, “This is the fourth time you’ve broken Hobi-hyung’s nose?”
Namjoon’s eyes are wide and desperate. “Oh god, it’s broken?”
“It’s not broken,” Hoseok argues, but with his nasal passages full of blood and a towel pressed to his mouth, it comes out more as “ Indebrodgen.”
“Look,” Yoongi points, one hand on his hip. “He’s delirious as well.”
Hoseok is somewhat delirious. It’s been a long forty-five minutes. He’s probably dehydrated. The scent of blood is making him nauseous enough that he’s periodically gagging on it. His head is throbbing, and Hoseok really just would like to crawl under the shade of the counter and sleep this entire day out of existence.
Taehyung grips his arm when Hoseok stands too quick and sways, but Hoseok just swats him away. He wipes his face along his forearm, leaving a streak of blood. “I have a concussion,” he says, looking around at all of them. “I’m clocking out. I’m going home. Yoongi-hyung, please come check on me in two hours to make sure I haven’t stopped breathing in my sleep.”
Everyone starts to argue with him, but Hoseok just holds up a finger and they all take a step back. “Do not make me repeat myself.”
And with that, Hoseok leaves them behind, dignity firmly left behind on the floor with his bloody rag, and two hours later it’s Seokjin who stops by with some ice pops to carefully nudge him awake.
“Still have a crush on that guy?” He asks when Hoseok has successfully sculpted his pillows into a small nest for him to lean against.
Hoseok swallows down his watermelon popsicle and then threatens to throw it back up on Seokjin if he ever mentions Kim Namjoon to him again.
A few days pass before Hoseok returns to work. He has enough vacation days to technically take a month off and still legally get paid, but because it was an injury inflicted by another co-worker on company grounds (and because Mr. Kim and Mrs. Lee in HR adore him and he helped them avoid a pretty huge lawsuit), Hoseok gets worker’s comp and a gift basket filled with fruit and candy and a chipper “get some rest, you work too hard anyway”.
Which is true to an extent. Hoseok does work hard. But that’s mainly because the idea of sitting alone at home in his room for an extended amount of time is terrifying; so Hoseok is back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed that following Friday morning, and just in time as well.
“Hobi-hyung!” Jungkook squeaks, racing towards him full-speed until it visibly registers on his face that Hoseok was in fact not on vacation and has been bed ridden with a head injury and therefore should not have a full man’s grown body thrown his direction. Jungkook slows to a light jog, instead, and then takes Hoseok’s hand in his own and squeezes his fingers. “Hi, hyung. Welcome back. How are you feeling?”
Hoseok grins and throws his arms around Jungkook’s shoulders to give him a big hug. “Fantastic. Antsy. I missed sunlight.”
Jungkook slumps against him and pats his back. “Missed you.”
“Missed you too, baby boy.”
Jungkook huffs against his neck and gives Hoseok a small shove. “Rude. Sexual harassment. I’ll sue.”
Hoseok lunges forward to pull him into a loose headlock, and that’s how the others find them a moment later: with Hoseok pressing a spitty kiss to Jungkook’s cheek as he squeals.
“Welcome back, hyung!” Taehyung grins, loping forward to throw his arms around Hoseok and Jungkook in a weird, waddly hug that Hoseok honestly really needed but would have never asked for.
Hoseok’s mid-laugh when he glances over Taehyung’s shoulder and spots Jimin and Namjoon lingering a couple yards away near the pool edge, both looking pinched in the face. “Hey, guys!”
Jimin lifts a hand in a loose wave and Namjoon just… stares. This is not unusual, though. It’s actually common Namjoon Behavior that Hoseok is learning to manage, and quite nicely, he thinks.
Hoseok pushes the other two off him and lifts his arms overhead to stretch. There’s an incredibly clear sky today, and the sun feels good on his skin. He’s in the middle of a particularly concerning spine-crack when he looks over to find that Namjoon is still staring, only this time he’s gone red down to his chest. His mouth is hanging open. Hoseok frowns. “What’s wrong? You feel okay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Namjoon is still gaping. Jimin nudges him and he smacks his mouth shut hard enough his teeth click. Hoseok winces. “You’re just… in uniform. Or out of uniform?”
Hoseok glances down at his red shorts and frowns. “It’s the same thing you’re wearing.”
“Yes, but.” Namjoon is still resolutely not making eye contact. “You’re not in your polo.”
Okay. Weird, but they’ve had weirder exchanges. “I’m not a manager today. I’m head lifeguard.”
“Oh.” Namjoon nods. Turns to Jimin. Nods again. They have some kind of silent conversation wherein Jimin looks absolutely delighted for no apparent reason. Namjoon looks like he’s been asked to take part in an impromptu comedy skit but he’s the butt-end of all the jokes.
“Yeah, Hyunwoo-hyung had a family emergency and will be out for a couple days, so I’m in charge.”
Namjoon swivels back. “But you’ve always been in charge.”
“Now he’s just in charge with less clothes on,” Jimin whispers behind his hand.
Taehyung makes a gasping noise beside him, but when Hoseok glances over to see what’s up, Taehyung is beaming over his head at Jungkook who seems about at a loss as Hoseok is. Taehyung raises his eyebrows and widens his eyes. Blinks once. Jungkook blinks twice. Edges a brow up. His mouth parts in a little “oh”.
O-o-k-a-a-a-y. Maybe not this weird.
“It’s still early,” Hoseok claps, backing away from all of them because there’s obviously something that needs to be discussed here that he by no means wants to take part in, “so we’re going over some basic safety procedures and a couple trial rescues. Be north side in five minutes, okay?”
He gets a grunt and a salute and a perky “you got it, hyung”, but Namjoon is suspiciously quiet as Hoseok walks away.
Drills go well. A lot of the guards are stoked to have him on for the week, but none of them use the change in command to slack off. If anything, working under Hoseok keeps them even more in line.
Rumor has it that when Hoseok switched to manager instead of head guard a few summers ago, an anonymous thank you note was sent to HR. Hoseok was miffed, but Mr. Kim laughed aloud and said that if there’s one area he wants his supervisors the strictest in, it should probably be in the pool zone. It’s not like Seokjin is going to kill someone if he undercooks a lobster.
Well, the percentage is very low.
So Hoseok is strict. Not a bad quality to have in a leader. And he doesn’t play favorites. Jimin learns that the hard way when he can’t answer in time the rescue procedure for an unconscious choking victim and Hoseok has him practicing long distance rescue approaches for twenty minutes. Chansung laughs behind his hand and Hoseok laughs back and says he can join Jimin, as well.
Taehyung and Jungkook are in the second group, wrapping up rear rescues, but Namjoon’s group has finished their entry drills and are resting by the guard building.
Hoseok frowns. “Kim Namjoon.”
Namjoon stumbles over his own feet, maybe air, in an effort to spin away from the lizard he was playing with in the grass between the wall and fence. He shuffles over to Hoseok immediately, large and dimply and devastating. “Yes, uh, sir?”
Hoseok ignores the fumbling formality. “Did you put on sunscreen today?”
Namjoon glances down at his arms and frowns.
“You’re getting really pink,” Hoseok tells him, reaching into his own fanny to pluck out a travel sized tube of sunscreen and squirts a dollop on the tips of his fingers. “C’mere. Quick.”
Namjoon takes a lumbering step forward and Hoseok moves in to start patting his cheeks. He makes quick work of it, but by the end Namjoon is even redder than when they began. “Make sure to stay hydrated, okay? The last thing I need is for you to pass out in the pool.”
“Uh. Yes. Yes, sir.”
“Good boy,” Hoseok grins, giving his cheek another pat for good measure, and Namjoon makes this wheezy, whimpering noise that has Hoseok spinning away on his heel.
Taehyung’s snickering and Hoseok silences him by threatening to give him puke duty until Hyunwoo returns.
The rest of the day is uneventful. The whistle only gets blown to tell kids not to run, they recover a good ten grand in lost jewelry from the deep end, and the only medical emergency they encounter is an older gentleman who got a bit of heatstroke and had to be escorted back to the main building.
“No one died!” Taehyung yells in lieu of a greeting, and Hoseok laughs and high-fives him as they strip from their guard uniforms into their commoner board shorts. Jungkook wants to head down to the beach and have Hoseok give him a lesson on a board before the sun sets, and Taehyung hasn’t been in the ocean yet this season, so they’re packing up to head that way when a familiar blond coif intercepts them on their way to the cabana.
“Hey, Jimin-ah,” Taehyung greets casually, and whatever Jimin was about to say seems to have evaporated on his tongue.
“Hi, Tae,” Jimin smiles, something soft and lovely that Hoseok has never seen from him before. It suits him well, but Hoseok feels like someone just pushed his head in a pool drain. “Where are you guys off to?”
“Beach,” Hoseok answers, shiftily watching them both. That was definitely the face of a boy half in love; but Hoseok’s never seen Jimin and Taehyung interact outside of working hours, and he’s curious to see if their meetings truly are as terrible as Taehyung recounts them to be, especially if Jimin’s been looking at him like that all this time.
“Have you ever surfed before, Jiminie?” Taehyung asks, and Jimin’s smile could put the sun to shame, holy shit, what is Taehyung’s secret to taming evil rich boys?
“Not since we vacationed in Bali,” Jimin answers, and theres so much warmth in his face it’s like dead-eye staring into the sun. “But that was when I was in Jr. High. My mom prefers Europe, so we’re usually inland when the weather’s good.”
“Ah, yes. Bali,” Taehyung nods, looking at Hoseok to nod again. “Great place.” Hoseok nods back as if in agreement.
Jimin’s grin, already huge, just continues to grow. “Yeah, it’s gorgeous. You’d like it a lot. We should go sometime.”
“To Bali?” Taehyung squeaks.
“Yeah.” Jimin catches his bottom lip between his teeth. “Are you free next weekend? I don’t think my mom’s using the jet.”
Taehyung, with absolutely no emotion in his usually expressive eyes, says, “I have to wash my cat.”
“Oh, you have a cat?” Jimin’s eyes crinkle. “I love cats.”
Hoseok twists over his shoulder to feign a cough but really he’s trying to hold back a peal of gob-smacked laughter.
“She’s not actually my cat,” Taehyung says, tone and expression still unfathomably flat. “Just a temporary cat. A friend’s cat that I’m watching. But she has super sensitive skin so I have to bathe her like, four times a week.”
“Oh, no. I can come over and help, maybe?”
Taehyung makes a low humming noise in his throat that sounds strained with hysteria. Hoseok claps a hand on his back and steps in to say, “Jimin, we really need to go meet Jungkook.”
“Oh, yeah! Of course. See you later?”
Jimin looks as if he wants to say more, maybe ask to tag along—instead he just smiles at Taehyung one last, lingering time and then scampers off towards the changing rooms.
When he’s disappeared inside the building, Hoseok keels over.
“Wowowow, you were not kidding about the rich people flirting.”
“I know!” Taehyung hauls him up but keeps one arm around Hoseok’s waist as they head for the beach access gate. “And it’s not like he’s mean or anything, but just—Bali, hyung! He wants to go to Bali!” Taehyung whisper-screeches, like the possibility of Jimin lurking around is a great likelihood. Which it is. Hoseok can’t count the number of times he’s found Jimin in improbable places around the resort, as if he’s on the hunt for something. Or spying. “For a weekend on his private jet.”
For as frustrated and bewildered as Taehyung’s behaving, Hoseok can see the faint tinge of pink along his tanned cheeks and peeking out on his ears from under his bandana.
Hoseok grips Taehyung’s hand tight. Swings them between their bodies as they step onto the sand. “I think he might actually like you.”
Taehyung, for the longest moment, just stares out over the ocean as they walk. Hoseok almost misses it over the sound of the waves and wind when Taehyung mutters a quiet little, “Yeah.”
“But,” Hoseok presses, still swinging their arms, “he just doesn’t know how to talk to you.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says to his feet, lips twitching from fending off a smile.
“So why don’t you just try talking to him first?”
“What happens when you talk to Namjoon-hyung, first?” Taehyung asks just as Jungkook calls out to them from the surf where he’s been stomping along during their approach.
Taehyung practically lays down in the beach grass in near hysterics when Hoseok roughly tugs his hand back and promises that he’s gonna have Yoongi make Taehyung pay full price for drinks for the rest of his life.
Hyunwoo makes an uneventful return and Hoseok sheds his unflattering red shorts for his equally unflattering white polo. He’s got a week’s worth of emails to catch up on, has started avoiding the main building because the event planner is hosting another beach wedding with the cabana as a reception area and is insistent on stifling the scent of chlorine this go round, and Kim Namjoon has apparently made it his soul mission to wreak havoc on Hoseok’s already tumultuous schedule.
“Wasn’t he already doing that?” Seokjin asks from one of the bar stools. He’s on break and chose to sneak out of the kitchen, dawning an atrocious straw hat and a pair of baby blue sunglasses, and is on his fourth mocktail. Yoongi remains nearby, tending to guests, occasionally passing by to hold out a toothpick with a slice of mango or pineapple on it for Seokjin to snap up between his teeth.
“It’s gotten worse,” Hoseok states gravely, eyeing the subject of conversation across the pool, waiting for some kind of misfortune to fall. “He’s gonna die at this rate. I’m gonna die at this rate. If not from bodily injury then from stress. How has he lived this long?”
“I think you’re overreact—”
“He set a table on fire.”
“A table,” Hoseok says, never taking his gaze off Namjoon as the latter remains perched, seemingly safe, in his stand, “on fire.”
“It was metal. He set a metal table on fire.”
Yoongi and Seokjin both pause to look at him. At each other.
Yoongi, without glancing his way again, uncaps a bottle of rum and swiftly pours some into Hoseok’s iced tea.
Hoseok sighs. “Thanks, hyung.”
A couple weeks go by of various injuries and incidents. A knocked over stand here, a broken toe there. Namjoon gets attacked by a seagull twice and pinched by at least five crabs. A kid throws up on him three times, all separate instances, all different shades of cabana popsicle colors. Namjoon trades a shift with one of the waterfront guards and no one consults Hoseok about whether it’s an intelligent decision or not until, only an hour into their afternoon, medics are called down to the waterfront for a jellyfish sting.
It’s Namjoon. Of course.
“He only got hurt because he pulled a little girl out of the way,” Jungkook points out later that evening when they’re in the hottub again, and Hoseok just slips under the water to scream.
There’s a bank holiday the following week, and the resort uses the opportunity to close some of the attractions and classes early due to lack of guest participation. This means the pool gates are locked and the beachfront is swim at your own risk, which means Hoseok and Taehyung and Jungkook spend their half-day surfing and snorkeling and laying out in the sand.
When hunger finally drives them back to the grounds to mooch food off of Seokjin who is still trapped in the kitchen (can’t very well give time off to the head chef when the restaurant is still running), they spot a trio of bodies laying out by the cabana.
“Is that Yoongi-hyung?” Taehyung squints, but Hoseok would know that bucket hat and pasty, glowing skin from a mile away. Despite half the summer passing them by, Yoongi has somehow managed to remain the same shade as their first day of work.
Hoseok, on the other hand, is almost always getting over a sunburn or about to get a sunburn.
(Taehyung says he always looks “sun-kissed”, but Hoseok thinks that’s a kind way of saying he’s on his way to becoming a half-baked lobster.)
“Who’s he with?” Jungkook perks up, already bee-lining towards the chairs. They’ve only been on two dates, but Jungkook orbits Yoongi and Seokjin like they’re his own personal suns. If either of them are within throwing distance, Jungkook will find a way to gravitate to their sides.
“Hyung!” Jungkook calls out, only for three heads to fwip his direction.
Taehyung makes a wheezing sound. Hoseok promptly trips over his sandals.
Jimin looks like he’s eaten a star. Namjoon looks like he’s eaten a moldy piece of tofu. Both of them stand as they approach, but Yoongi remains firmly planted in his lounge chair, hidden under an umbrella so there’s no chance of light reaching him.
“Come from the water?” Yoongi asks as Jungkook flops into the empty space of his chair. Yoongi tucks in his legs to make more room and Jungkook curls up at his feet, sighing happily. Cute.
“Yeah. Kookie here is a natural,” Hoseok grins, running his fingers through the tangle of curls around Jungkook’s forehead. Jungkook must be tired because he doesn’t even put up a fight. “Giving me a run for it.”
Yoongi and Taehyung both scoff and Hoseok laughs, loud and bright despite the buzz under his skin at being so close to Namjoon outside the (metaphorical) safety of a professional environment. Hoseok is still trying to place the tingling as anxiety or lust, but it’s gotten nearly impossible to distinguish the two.
Hoseok, despite his best efforts, likes Namjoon a lot and that freaks him the fuck out.
Hoseok is trying to craft an escape plan; but Yoongi’s here, and Jungkook obviously isn’t budging until Yoongi does, and Hoseok is a terrible liar so there’s no way he can just up and leave without causing a scene unless Taehyung fabricates some kind of story on the spot to get them both out of there. But Taehyung is dragging over two chairs, the picture of ease, so Hoseok takes a seat and frowns when Taehyung props his feet up in his lap but doesn’t bother to push them away.
Namjoon and Jimin have both returned to their own spots and are eyeing them all warily. Like the two of them are on the other side of a window looking in. Like they’re not allowed to participate.
Hoseok feels sludge settle in his lungs and tilts his body towards them. Says as light as he can muster, “What are ya’ll up to? Hyung, I thought you’d be napping inside today?”
“I was” Yoongi grunts, and his hand has found its way to Jungkook’s hair. He tugs gently and Jungkook’s eyes flutter closed. “Jin-hyung is supposed to meet me here after his shift and I ran into Jiminie and Joonie.”
Jiminie? Taehyung mouths to Hoseok the same time Hoseok mouths back, Joonie? Since when has Yoongi been so close to their arch nemeses and absolute objects of their misplaced affections?
“So. Tae.” A shiver goes up Hoseok’s spine at the look in Yoongi’s eyes. His voice is casual as can be, but his eyes are laughing at them. His eyes are saying that he’s about to set a fire and then run away cackling. “Jiminie here was telling me that—”
“I LOVE TO SWIM,” Jimin bleats, successfully masking whatever bomb Yoongi was hoping to drop on them on this fine Tuesday afternoon. Hoseok and Taehyung both stare as Jimin hastily pushes his hair off his forehead once, twice, five times. He’s got shades on, Gucci today, but his massive smile is shaky at the corners. “Swimming, yup. Love me some swimming.”
“That’s… good?” Taehyung grins, eyes tight with confusion but otherwise genuinely happy that Jimin, as a paid and licensed lifeguard, enjoys swimming. “Were you in any clubs in school?”
“No. I only attended private academies,” Jimin says and oh holy night, here they go again. “Sports were limited to like, rowing and tennis. But I spent my summers in Busan at my grandparents villa by the ocean. That’s where Joonie-hyung and I learned to swim.”
Hoseok feels a grin slip out. He glances over and catches Namjoon already looking his way. “No wonder Namjoon-ssi has such a fascination with marine life.”
Namjoon plunges his head, successfully hiding his expression, but Hoseok can see his bright red ears and is worried for a moment that he’s insulted Namjoon, made him feel small in the worst of ways.
But then Jimin smacks a palm across Namjoon’s thigh which makes him lift his head, and Hoseok’s insides knot up because Namjoon doesn’t look embarrassed. One side of his mouth is curled up, revealing a little dimple. He looks pleased beyond can be. He looks… smitten.
“Joon-hyung loves the ocean and everything about it,” Jimin says, and Namjoon laughs his little sheep laugh. Catches his bottom lip between his teeth. Wow. Wow, okay, the teeth-licking urge is strong today.
“So does Hobi-hyung!” Taehyung gleams. “Have you ever surfed, Namjoon-hyung? Hobi-hyung is an awesome teacher.”
“Oh. Oh, I don’t know if that’d be a good idea,” Namjoon says, his jaw jutting out, making his face serious and determined. A lovely face. A hideously beautiful face. Hoseok wants to do nothing more than plop himself across Namjoon’s thick thighs and kiss that stupid, ridiculous, light-filled face.
“Because of the safety hazard?” Hoseok says, voice distant in his ears as he watches Namjoon’s sharp eyes flick back to him.
Namjoon looks at him for what feels like a long time before saying, soft and careful, “Among other things.”
It’s hot. It’s mid-August but it’s super hot is anyone else unreasonably sweltering? Anyone else feel like human fondue?
“Hobi-hyung would keep you safe,” Tae comments casually, relaxing back in his chair like he’s posing when really he just has terrible posture. Hoseok keeps trying to get him to work on his core strength, but for a professional athlete, Taehyung is alarmingly opposed to group exercise. “There isn’t anyone I’d rather be in the ocean with more than hyung.”
“That good of a lifeguard, are you?” Jimin laughs, and a month ago Hoseok would think he’s being an ass but this Jimin, bubbly and a little unsure of himself, makes Hoseok want to take his face between his palms and squish. Huh. That’s a new feeling.
“I mean he is, but—Oh!” Taehyung claps his hands together, successfully startling Jungkook back awake where he had dozed off on Yoongi’s feet. He blinks up at them, dazed. “You didn’t know? Hyung’s a surf champion.”
Namjoon tenses. “What?”
“Yeah. He’s like, legend,” Taehyung grins, swatting Hoseok’s shoulder. “He won the junior world championships four years in a row.”
Hoseok sighs. Runs his fingers through his hair. He needs to get it cut soon or he’s going to start looking like Jungkook. “Long story short: grew up in Hawaii, was gonna go pro, got injured, family moved, now I’m here. I promise it’s not as depressing as it sounds.”
“Sounds pretty depressing,” Jimin replies, but his grin is giddy and gargantuan and he keeps eyeballing Namjoon who looks like he might ascend through the umbrella into the cloudless sky at any moment.
“No wonder why hyung always beats me in breath-holding contests,” Jungkook grumbles, but he’s smiling and winks, albeit terribly, when Hoseok presses a hand to his heart as if wounded.
“You just don’t pace yourself,” Hoseok says. “Next time go against Tae. He puts me to shame.”
Jimin perks up at that. “Oh? Taehyungie, I challenge you to a contest.”
Taehyung’s head bobs to the side. “Breath-holding?”
“I wouldn’t do th—” Yoongi starts, but Hoseok swiftly kicks his chair. Hoseok widens his eyes and Yoongi, all squinty and confused, quickly breaks into a mischievous smirk.
“Yeah. I bet I could beat you,” Jimin presses, leaning back against his hands so that his chest is squared to the sky and his bare thighs splayed. “I’ve got quite a bit of practice holding my breath for extended periods of time. If ya know what I mean.”
Hoseok’s pretending that he doesn’t know what Jimin’s sudden posturing and low-pitched voice and suggestive eyebrow wiggling means. Taehyung, honest to heavens, really does look like he’s at a loss.
Taehyung quirks his head to the side and Yoongi takes off his hat to hide his smile behind. Hoseok makes a swift cutthroat motion at him because if Yoongi spoils this beautiful mess of a situation, Hoseok will make sure his pay gets docked.
“Okay,” Taehyung nods, and there’s a playful flicker in his eyes that would go unnoticed by anyone who didn’t know him well. “Okay, wanna bet?”
Jimin grins and it’s all teeth. “Yeah. Loser has to clean up the next time someone vomits in the pool.”
“And the next time a kid poops in the kiddy area,” Taehyung adds, sticking out his hand, and Jimin shakes it readily. “Hoseokie-hyung, will you ref?”
“And Joon-hyung,” Jimin tacks on. “No cheating.”
“I don’t think you can cheat this game,” Hoseok says, but agrees anyway as they pad over to the poolside and lower themselves into the deep end. “Rules are that you have to remain fully submerged, no head or shoulders out of the water. Grab the pipes or the ladder if you need help staying down. Loser will be whoever surfaces first. Ready?” Jimin nods and Taehyung gives a double thumbs up. “Alrighty, on the count of three: one, two, three!”
They swiftly sink, and while Jimin only goes a few feet down, Hoseok watches as Taehyung drops all the way to the bottom.
Hoseok takes a seat on the edge to dip his legs in. Someone comes up beside him and Hoseok squelches a groan when he looks over and is met with a vast expanse of tanned, toned thigh.
Namjoon squats beside him and wow, wow okay, that’s so much worse.
“Y’know,” Hoseok starts, trying to take his mind off the way Namjoon’s muscles flex as he shifts to mimic Hoseok’s position, “This is a really weird way to flirt.”
Namjoon tips to the side too far and lands on his arm. He scrambles back up, brushing off his shirt, glancing sidelong at Hoseok, like he can’t fully commit to a look. “What? Flirting? Who’s flirting? There’s no flirting.”
Hoseok blinks. Gestures out over the sun-dappled water. “You mean to tell me this weird mating dance Jimin’s doing around Tae isn’t happening?”
Namjoon instantly deflates. “Oh, that? Yeah, that’s happening. Most definitely. Every night I get a minute-by-minute recount of Taehyung’s day through Jimin. Jimin already has their wedding planned.”
“I knew it!” Hoseok whispers fiercely. “Is it good?”
“You ever seen Crazy Rich Asians?”
“Of course. Great movie. Even better book. Cried twice.” Namjoon is starting to give him that look again, the one he dawns when their conversations go longer than twenty-seconds. Wide-eyed, dreamy. Hoseok clears his throat and glances away. “Please don’t tell me Jimin has enough money to pull off that wedding.”
“He has enough money to pull off that wedding twice in one weekend. Which he plans to do. If he ever gets Taehyung to agree to a date.”
Hoseok almost drops his phone in the pool. “Holy shit.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon chuckles. He straightens up, lengthening through his spine so that it pops. “It’s, well, crazy. His family’s loaded. Hotels. And an airline. And his mom is some kind of beauty guru.”
“What’s he doing here then? Lashing out? Wanted to live amongst us little people for a controlled amount of time?”
“His grandma actually passed away this past spring,” Namjoon replies. Hoseok feels his heart go soft. “She was a pretty big influence on him, and instead of doing this job shadowing at a bank his parents picked out for him, he said he was cutting off all contact for the summer and doing his own thing.”
Hoseok flips this around in his mind for a few moments. Breathes out long and deep. “Wow. I am such a dick.”
A moment of silence, and then Namjoon laughs so loud that he hears Jungkook squeak awake again behind them. When Hoseok looks over his shoulder, Yoongi has twisted so that Jungkook can sit between his legs, head on Yoongi’s stomach. They’re both nodding off again by the time he glances back around.
“No, you’re great,” Namjoon says, voice soft on the warm air. “Jimin is just used to people only wanting to be near him for his money. You can imagine that Tae’s been throwing him through the ringer.”
“Yeah, Tae doesn’t care about that shit,” Hoseok nods. “He’s a good guy. The best, actually. Jimin’s gonna have to prove his worth if he wants to get my blessing.”
“I’ll let him know,” Namjoon says.
Hoseok’s eyes slit. “I’m serious, y’know.”
Namjoon’s cheeks dimple. “I realize that.”
“Your eyes are laughing at me.”
“Because you’re cute.”
Namjoon’s grinning, and it’s not that shy, hesitant, clammed-up thing he does when he’s around Hoseok. Not, this is real and miles wide. Makes him go moon-eyed. Makes Hoseok’s lungs seize. How has he never seen this smile before?
Oh holy mother earth, Kim Namjoon just called him cute .
“So,” Hoseok squeaks. “Lifeguarding?”
“I think this was as close as he Jimin-ah could get to his grandparents without being reminded of them too much,” Namjoon says. “And it’s kind of my job to stay near him.”
“Are you his bodyguard?”
“More like a companion.” Namjoon blanches and backtracks at Hoseok’s stare. “Not that kind of companion! Just, like. My family has always worked for the Parks. It was natural, us being so close in age, to be each other’s closest friend.”
Hoseok doesn’t say anything else to that, and Namjoon brushes his hand through his fringe, like he’s trying to tidy it up. “So… Surfing?”
“It was my whole life and then suddenly it wasn’t,” Hoseok shrugs, not really wanting to get into it, not really wanting to let on how much it still hurts. “I’m still working on finding a new dream, but I’m content with where I’m at now.”
Namjoon shifts closer, looks as if he wants to say more, but suddenly Jimin’s bursting through the surface of the pool, gasping as he throws himself over the ledge.
“What the fuck?!” Jimin screeches, but the words don’t carry weight as he heaves in air. “Seriously, what the hell! How is he still down there? Hyung, what’s my time?”
“Two twenty-eight,” Namjoon intones, a little shell-shocked by his phone screen and Jimin’s sudden arrival; as if he forgot they were even down there.
Jimin coughs and swivels towards the water as if to make sure Taehyung isn’t actually in a passive state of submerged drowning, then turns on them when he hears Yoongi’s quiet chuckling. Jimin’s cheeks are bright pink and Hoseok doesn’t know if it’s from exertion or the absolute fury his tiny body can’t seem to currently contain. “You tricked me,” he whispers dangerously.
“Nah, you walked into that on your own,” Hoseok beams, bobbing his head down to Taehyung who is still sitting calmly at the bottom of the pool.
“Seriously, how is he still down there?” Namjoon leans into Hoseok’s space to peer over the side. He smells less like sunscreen and sweat today and more like spice and old books.
Through the calm surface, Taehyung looks up at them and waves.
“He’s an Olympian,” Yoongi intones blandly from his seat and Hoseok laughs aloud at their expressions.
“An… Olympian,” Jimin chokes and doesn’t even try to clear his throat. “Like… the Olympics?”
“The Olympic Olympics,” Namjoon repeats and Hoseok kind of shrugs non-committedly. “The thing that happens every two years to determine the best athletes in the world Olympics.”
“Yeah, those,” Hoseok beams and leans over to grip Namjoon’s wrist. “What’s his time?”
Namjoon finally closes his mouth and checks the timer. “Almost four minutes.”
Yoongi’s full out convulsing at this point, body thrown over a deck chair as he does his scratchy laugh where no actual sound makes it from his mouth. Jungkook is smiling thickly, eyes closed but face bright.
Jimin looks about ready to beat him with a sandal when Taehyung comes sputtering to the surface, laughing between breaths. “How’d I do?”
“Like four and a half,” Hoseok grins, standing to grab his outstretched hand to pull him over.
“Dangit,” Taehyung laughs, running his hands through his hair to brush his bangs up. “Getting worse. Last time I was—”
Jimin comes lunging forward with a snarl on his face, and Hoseok tries to intervene because it looks like Jimin’s going for a punch. He’s shoved aside, though, barely manages to catch himself from tumbling over the ledge into the water, and he looks up with a curse on his tongue and finds Jimin has Taehyung pressed in close and—
“Fucking finally,” Yoongi mutters from the chair, chin perched in hand as he and Jungkook watch the two makeout.
Well, Jimin’s doing a lot of the work. Taehyung kind of looks like he’s going to pass ou—
Hoseok scoops Taehyung up before he can hit the concrete, and Jimin leans over him, breathing hard, hands reaching out to check his pulse.
“Taehyung, can you hear me?” Hoseok asks, adrenaline fading when he pats Taehyung’s cheek and his eyes flutter open. “Dude, can you hear me?”
Taehyung blinks hard, takes one long look at Jimin, whispers, “Wow.”
“I can’t believe you fainted from me kissing you,” Jimin smirks, but his eyes are a little less wild now that he realizes Taehyung is okay.
“Pretty sure he fainted from lack of oxygen,” Namjoon dolefully intones. “But yeah, believe what you want.”
“Yeah, heard you the first time,” Hoseok laughs as he helps Taehyung sit up. “Come on, hotshot, let’s get you some water.”
“I’ll help him,” Jimin offers, reaching to take Taehyung into his arms.
Taehyung holds up a hand before he gets too far. Jimin pauses, his sweet face falling, and Taehyung says in a low, sharp tone, “How do you feel about whales?”
“Whales?” Jimin questions. Jimin looks at Namjoon worriedly, but Namjoon just shrugs minutely, the tiniest of crinkling smiles around his eyes. “I think they’re one of the most majestic creatures on earth and I wish we had stricter climate regulations because the warming of the oceans is killing off their food source.”
Taehyung stands fully. Squares his hands on Jimin’s shoulders. Jimin looks like he’s about to drop to the ground, which is, y’know, understandable when Kim Taehyung is giving you his full, unbridled attention. “Will you marry me?”
Jimin’s face twists. He pinches his eyes shut. Suddenly screeches out, “Is that all it took?!”
Taehyung, with his hands still on Jimin’s bare skin, says, “What?”
“I’ve been flirting with you for weeks and all it took was my concern for marine life?” Jimin hisses, but he’s rocking forward to press his forehead against Taehyung’s collarbone. He smacks it there a few times, like he’s trying to knock some understanding back into his brain.
“And you’re beautiful,” Taehyung shrugs.
Jimin curls up to look at him. Bats. His smile is full of flirt. “You think I’m beautiful?”
Taehyung looks insulted. “I think you’re gorgeous.”
“I have a running tally of how many times I’ve yelled at him for staring at your ass during a shift,” Hoseok interjects.
Jimin’s entire being lights up. “You like my ass?”
“It’s a very nice ass,” Taehyung nods. “You must have worked hard on it.”
“Thanks. That’s really sweet of you to say.”
“Can I touch it sometime?”
Jimin nods again, delighted and bubbling with energy, not at all looking like the devil incarnate. “I’d be honored. So this means you don’t hate me?”
“You ask me that after we make out?”
“Timing wasn’t right earlier.”
Taehyung laughs, deep and dark, but it isn’t mocking. He presses a palm to Jimin’s forehead. Uses his fingers to push Jimin’s fringe away from his eyes. “I don’t hate you. I think we need to have some pretty hefty talks, though. Unless you just want this to be a summer fling? Because I don’t do flings.”
Jimin’s smile spreads as he looks up at Taehyung in wonderment. “Oh good. I don’t either. Let’s talk. I love listening to you talk.”
“Uhm. Okay.” For the first time in the four years that Hoseok has known him, Taehyung looks completely thrown. Hoseok isn’t used to seeing him so embarrassed, and when he glances over with brows raised to catch Yoongi’s eye, Yoongi looks equally nonplussed. “Okay. Wanna grab some fro-yo?”
They leave hand-in-hand, passing Seokjin on the way who promptly approaches Yoongi, presses a wet smack against his temple, and then holds out his palm and says, “I win. Pay up.”
Yoongi grumbles, jostling Jungkook out of the way, and places a stack of bills in Seokjin’s waiting hand.
“Thanks, babe,” Seokjin gleams and pockets the cash. He reaches out with the same hand to tickle Jungkook under his chin. “Kook, want to join us for dinner?”
Jungkook’s staring dreamily up into Seokjin’s face. It takes a few beats (and Yoongi clearing his throat) to get him to answer. “Oh. Oh, I was gonna eat with Hobi-hyung.”
Jungkook looks over, wide-eyed and torn, and Hoseok waves him off with a grin. “It’s fine. We can reschedule. Text me after, kay?”
“Okay,” Jungkook nods, still looking dazed as Yoongi and Seokjin each take one of his hands to tug him up.
Hoseok watches them leave in the same direction Taehyung and Jimin went, heart heavy in his chest. It’s not like he’s jealous of them, no, not even in the slightest. But there is this weird, tugging sensation just below his stomach that if Hoseok mulls over too much, it starts to morph into something that looks alarmingly like longing, and there’s no way Hoseok has the time or energy for that shit.
Namjoon saddles up to his side. Hoseok shivers violently when their arms brush.
“Sorry,” Namjoon murmurs, putting a couple steps between them. He rocks back and forth on his heels as if unsure of what to do with his body, which is often how Hoseok catches him looking. “So… Is Yoongi-hyung secretly a celebrity or something? Is Jin a long lost member of the royal family?”
Hoseok sputters and quickly pinches his lips together to squelch his laughter. He side-eyes Namjoon. Edges a brow up. Shoves his hands into his jacket pockets and begins to head back towards the beach. They’ve been out long enough that it’s going dusky out, and Hoseok never misses a chance to watch the sunset.
“Wait, no way. No.” Namjoon stumbles up to his side again, but this time he doesn’t move away when their shoulders touch. “You’re kidding, who is it?”
Namjoon shakes his head. “No way.”
“Do you listen to Korean hip-hop?”
“Do I—” Namjoon stops just as they reach the beach. “No, don’t you dare—”
“Have you ever heard of Agu—”
“Don’t you dare say it!” Namjoon shrieks, stamping his feet, and Hoseok is overjoyed by Namjoon’s response that he crumples into the sand in hysterics. “No. No, this is not happening, not happening…”
The tears are unstoppable. Hoseok laughs so hard his stomach starts to seize, and only then does he open his eyes to find Namjoon seated beside him on the dune, steadily watching Hoseok’s face, mouth curled to the side again so only one of his cheeks dimples. He has a hand resting over his heart, like Hoseok’s words have physically ailed him.
God, he’s so pretty.
Hoseok wipes his eyes with his sleeves and curls his knees up to his chest to hold. “We’re college friends,” he says, finally looking away from Namjoon’s mouth long enough to gather himself. “His company threatened to cancel his contract if he didn’t start taking vacations, so I invited him out here with me, he met Jin-hyung, and he’s been coming back ever since. They live in Seoul in the off-season.”
Namjoon looks like he wants to unpack a lot of that sentence, but instead he just whispers under his breath, “Why am I the only normal person here? How is this possible?”
“Dude,” Hoseok laughs, and Namjoon fwips his direction at the sound. “You work for Jimin’s family and you’re calling yourself normal? Jungkook’s probably the most average out of any of us and he holds a national record in the butterfly.”
Namjoon, for a very long breath, looks at Hoseok as if he just spoke another language. Hoseok blushes hard at the intensity of his gaze, and something in Hoseok’s chest wants to sing and dance and maybe jump into the ocean.
“Yeah, we work for the Parks, but we’re, how should I say it, staff?” Namjoon says, head still cocked to the side. His hair is loose today so it falls across his forehead. It makes him look young. Soft. Hoseok clenches his hands to keep from reaching out. “My dad is their head chauffeur and my mom is Mrs. Park’s first maid.”
Hoseok’s tongue twists. “Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to assume.”
Namjoon shrugs and looks back over the beach towards where the sun has stained the water shades of pink and violet. “I’m not ashamed. The Parks are kind and I met Jimin because of it. They helped to fund my school tuition. The only reason why Jimin’s getting to do this self-discovery mission of his is because I’m here watching him so, I mean, they trust me with their son’s life.”
“Which is flabbergasting,” Hoseok says, giving Namjoon’s shoulder a nudge, “seeing as I’m constantly worried that you’re going to fall off the cliff side.”
Namjoon’s smiling, big and wide. Hoseok watches color warm his face. “I’m not that clumsy. You just make me nervous.”
Hoseok snorts and digs his heels into the sand. “Yeah. Sure.”
“You do realize how intimidating you are, right? It’s terrifying.”
Hoseok’s gaze wanders the soft planes of Namjoon’s face. His honest, open eyes. “You threw a smoothie at me because I scared you?”
“Yes. And that was before I knew you were my boss ” Namjoon answers, the wind shifting his hair so he has to brush it away. “And that you’re famous.”
Hoseok presses his lips together and shakes his head. He’s having trouble looking at Namjoon and processing at the same time, so they sit there in startling, companionable silence as the sun finally hits the horizon line and begins to sink into the water; as Hoseok flips around the last ten minutes in his head, twisting and turning the pieces, trying to understand them better.
So Namjoon’s not rich. He’s not an asshole. He’s weirdly good at communicating and eye-contact and apparently when he smiles for real, it can basically solve global warming.
Hoseok rubs at a tense spot on his temple. Looks over. Spots a bit of sand on Namjoon’s upper cheek. “Joon. You’ve got something…”
Hoseok brushes his knuckles against Namjoon’s skin, just below his eye, all the way down to the corner of his mouth where his dimple is resting. Namjoon tenses under his touch, then turns so that Hoseok’s hand ends up cupping his face.
His very warm, very soft, very kissable face.
Namjoon looks at Hoseok again with that wide-open expression that makes Hoseok squirm in the best of ways. But then Namjoon is breathing thickly through his nose. He closes his eyes. Exhales hard.
“Look,” Namjoon starts, and Hoseok draws back his hand and cups it in his lap. “I get that you’ve got something going on with Jungkook and that’s so cool. I respect that, I support you, so I backed off. So if you could just... Stop being you? Around me? That’d be really… really great. Yeah.”
A bead of sweat rolls down Hoseok’s neck. A seagull squawks nearby. In the distance a particularly heavy swell crashes into the sand.
“What,” Hoseok says, “the absolute fuck?”
Namjoon frowns. “Hoseok—”
“No, seriously what the fuck?” Hoseok’s on his feet, feeling wild and unhinged as he leans over Kim Namjoon’s hunched form. “There’s nothing going on with me and Kook. But that’s not the point, though, what the hell? What do you mean stop being me? That’s so shitty. You’re so shitty, you know that right? God, fuck, to think I had a fucking crush on you what is wrong with me?”
Hoseok is angry enough to cry, but that’s only something he does sprawled in bed in the safety of his own home. Out here he’s exposed. Out here he has Kim Namjoon’s sweet, confused face looking up at him like Hoseok just kneed him in the solar plexus.
“What?” Namjoon finally chokes out, and Hoseok snarls.
“What, got an ego on top of being a shitty human being? Is that all you care about? People liking you?”
“What?” Namjoon just repeats again, and Hoseok throws his hands in the air and starts to stalk away. He hears Namjoon scrambling behind to follow. “No, Hoseok, that’s not what I meant—”
“No,” Hoseok snaps without turning around. “I’m done with this. Yoongi-hyung’s right. I’m a great person. I’m kind and I care about people and I’m a superb listener—”
“What, yes, I know that—”
“And I’m smart!” Hoseok yells, struggling to power-walk in the sand in his flip-flops. “And passionate! And have a great sense of humor!”
“Yes, I completely agree—”
“And I’m hot! Like, not to be narcissistic, but I work out!”
“I GET THAT, OKAY?!” Namjoon roars from behind, followed by some kind of unintelligible screeching that has the birds responding to it. Hoseok looks over his shoulder and Namjoon looks so bewildered it almost makes Hoseok feel guilty for screaming at him. “I agree with all of that! That’s what I’m trying to say here!”
Hoseok takes this information like a punch to the kidneys. “What?”
“You’re not…” Namjoon runs both hands through his hair, successfully spiking it up. “Okay, no. We’re starting over. Hi, I’m Namjoon.”
Hoseok looks down at Namjoon’s hand, poised between their bodies. “You mean like completely? Why are we completely starting over?”
“I don’t know, I just need to lay a new foundation. Please humor me.”
“Okay, fine.” Hoseok takes his hand and forces himself to frown. “Hi, Namjoon, I’m Hoseok.”
“Hi, Hoseok, I think you have a beautiful smile.”
All the air forces its way through Hoseok’s throat in a hacking cough. “What?”
“Actually, I think you’re fucking gorgeous,” Namjoon presses without releasing his fingers. “Did you know that your mouth’s the shape of a heart? Did you know that your heart is gorgeous, too? You really are the sweetest person I know, but you don’t take shit from anyone either and I think that’s so admirable and also hot as fuck.” Namjoon’s speaking fast with the same genuine excitement that Hoseok’s only seem him reserve for small amphibians and crustaceans. “Also, that day we were talking about Kundera? I didn’t ditch you because I thought you were weird, I left because I was so turned on I got a little hard and no way in hell was I gonna let you see that, so I went to Jimin to like, scream a little, but he just laughed at me instead. Not you. All at me.”
Hoseok’s knees go weak. “Holy shit.”
“And I just said all that out loud because you told me earlier that you have a crush on me,” Namjoon says, taking another step forward, hesitating just before they can get too close. “Or had a crush on me. I hope you still have a crush on me. Please still have a crush on me.”
Hoseok must look dodgy because Namjoon says in a clear voice, “I swear, if you try to run away right now, I will hunt you down, Jung Hoseok.”
“I’m just—You like me?” Hoseok squeaks, brushing his hands over his shirt. Except, he’ s still holding Namjoon’s hand, so he just ends up pressing Namjoon’s hand to—holy shit, Hoseok’s just been standing here with his nipples out for half an hour and now he’s making namjoon grope his boob.
Hoseok wants to run into the ocean and never come back out, but Namjoon’s eyes are wide with delight as Hoseok pulls his hand away and quickly zips up his own jacket.
“You like me?” Hoseok repeats in a small voice. Namjoon’s brow creases. “Since when?”
“My first day,” Namjoon says, biting his cheek. “I mean, back then I just thought you were hot, but then you were always so smiley and you’re well-versed in literature and you know how to put Jimin in his place and that’s just sexy all in itself and I’m—” Namjoon heaves in a huge breath. “Jung Hoseok, I am so enamored by you.”
Hoseok shakes his head, moves forward into the space between them and places his palms on Namjoon’s warm chest. Namjoon stills under his touch, but Hoseok just looks up right at him and says, “Kim Namjoon, you’re gonna take me on a date right now. Like, right right now.”
Namjoon swallows, his eyes blown-wide. “Okay. Yes.”
“And we’re gonna talk contemporary lit and poetry and rap and politics and art.”
Namjoon shudders. “Okay.”
“And afterwards,” Hoseok says, dragging his nails down Namjoon’s sternum, lingering just under his belly button, “I’m gonna to take you back to my apartment and wreck you, but only if you’re into that, because consent is important.”
“Oh my god,” Namjoon whispers so quiet it almost gets lost on the breeze. “I am so into you.”
Hoseok rocks forward on his toes, pressing their bodies together, and brushes his lips against Namjoon’s ear. “Fair warning, I’m probably gonna lick your teeth.”
Namjoon’s knees buckle, successfully sending them both sprawling into the sand. Namjoon curls up in the dune grass with a groan and Hoseok laughs so hard Namjoon asks if he needs CPR.
“Was that pick-up line, Joon-ah?”
Namjoon spreads his fingers wide to peek through them. “If I say yes then can I kiss you?”
Hoseok crawls forward, grabs the neck of Namjoon’s tanktop to tug him up, and Hoseok shifts so that he’s straddled over Namjoon’s lap. Namjoon makes a wheezing noise, and Hoseok leans in quick to plant his lips on Namjoon’s forehead with a wet smack.
“That was it?” Namjoon pouts. “All that show just for a—”
Hoseok rolls his hips, pins Namjoon’s shoulder into the sand with one hand as the other slides into his gorgeous, fluffy hair. He tugs hard, pulling a low moan from Namjoon’s mouth just before he leans in close, mouth pressed against his jaw to murmur, “Behave, baby boy.”
“Please don’t call me that,” Namjoon chokes, but there’s a smile in his voice, and when Hoseok leans back, all he can see is dimples and sparkling eyes and that ocean-deep smile.
“You are so pretty it’s ridiculous,” Hoseok says just before he falls into Namjoon to kiss him wholeheartedly, smiling when Namjoon’s hands circle his waist, daring to dip under the loose hem of Hoseok’s jacket so they can splay across his lower back.
“Kim Namjoon, you’re gonna be the death of me,” Hoseok hisses, and Namjoon just laughs, bright and lovely, and pulls Hoseok back in to kiss again and again and again.
“They went to Bali?” Hoseok blanches.
“Last night?” Namjoon adds, leaning over to snag a sip of Hoseok’s guava juice. Hoseok pushes it closer so he doesn’t tip the glass over (again), then looks back over to where Yoongi is casually wiping down the counter like he didn’t just spring that Taehyung and Jimin are currently relaxing on a private island in Indonesia as of six hours ago.
Yoongi shrugs like “what can you do”.
Jungkook falls across the counter, head cushioned on his arms. His pout reminds Hoseok of those animal adoption ads where they try to destroy your heart with pictures of sad puppies. Hoseok has nearly adopted many a dog because of that look. “I want to go to Bali,” he whines, looking out across the pool forlornly. They’ve still got an hour before the pool opens and they’re spending it eating fruit and possibly spiked smoothies. If Hoseok doesn’t ask, then none of them are liable.
Jin, who’s on his day-off and has decided to spend it gracing them with his presence and obnoxious requests of having his fruit cut into abstract shapes, reaches over to pat Jungkook’s head. “Hyung will take you. Tell me when, I’ll get us there. Yoongi, babe, are you free this weekend?”
Yoongi’s about to grumble something out when Namjoon laughs and says, “Jin-hyung, how are you—” Seokjin spins on the stool to glance his way. Namjoon stills. “Hyung. Hyung, please tell me you’re not like, secretly a celebrity or something like Yoongi-hyung.”
A long silence ensues in which Hoseok has to shove three orange slices into his mouth to keep from guffawing.
“No,” Seokjin finally says, cocking his head to the side. “I’m a member of the royal family.”
Namjoon does his bleating laugh, but it’s shakier at the corners than usual. More goat than sheep. Seokjin’s face remains expressionless and Namjoon tenses up again. “Are you serious?”
Hesitation, and then Jin smiles brightly. “Of course not, Joonie.”
“Okay,” Namjoon nods, the beginnings of a grin on his face, and Jin looks Hoseok’s way and winks, devious and scheming. “Okay, so th—”
“My dad is actually the kingpin of the Seoul mafia syndicate.”
Silence settles over them once more. Namjoon looks around briefly before stuttering out a chuckle. “Very funny, hyung.”
But Jin is smirking now, something dark and delectable and a little frightening. He rests his chin in his palm and leans into the counter, the picture of casual and dangerous ease.
Namjoon’s grin sputters and slides right off his face. “That’s a joke, right? You’re joking? He’s joking, right?”
Hoseok drinks loudly from his straw. Yoongi walks away cackling. Jungkook looks as if he might just drop to his feet and ask Seokjin to step on him.
“Guys. Guys, that’s a joke, right?”
“Oh, Namjoonie,” Seokjin croons, popping a star-shaped strawberry into his mouth. “You have so much to learn.”
Namjoon presses his head into the counter and wails.