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a joy for ever

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Jeongguk’s alarm goes off at 4:00AM, the same time he’s had it set for the last week. He’s gotten about four hours of sleep, but the driving force behind this early alarm is energizing in and of itself.

He doesn’t have to be at work until 10, and he knows his first client will be 20 minutes late (she always is). But he still rolls out of bed and staggers into the shower, eager to wake himself up fully and get out of the door that much faster. He laid out his outfit for today last night, so all he has to do is pull it on, run some pomade through his long, wavy hair, and grab his phone and wallet.

He catches the first train downtown. There’s a good handful of people on it, but they’re quiet and keep to themselves. It gives Jeongguk time to psych himself up and brainstorm some ideas on opening lines. The last two days he’s been on a roll, and he doesn’t want to break the streak this morning.

He gets off at the exit a few blocks down from his shop, runs his fingers through his hair on the way up the steps. This is usually about when his heart starts pounding. Too much energy, he tells himself. Gonna have to go harder at the gym later on.

The smell hits him before anything else. Amidst the clouds of steam from street vendors and car exhaust, he can smell the flowers. Sure enough, the delivery truck is parked all the way up on the sidewalk, blocking his way to his shop.

And then there he is.

His sunny smile is already on display, even though it’s still dark outside. Jeongguk feels warmer just looking at him. When he catches Jeongguk’s eye, his smile becomes even more radiant, and he waves him over.

“Good morning, Jeongguk-ssi,” the new flower shop assistant says, his short-cropped blonde hair a little mussed - probably from how much he messes with it when he’s distracted. Jeongguk has watched him run his gloved hands through his hair three times in a row before he realized he was doing anything strange at all.

“Good morning, Jimin-ssi,” Jeongguk says, offering the warmest smile he himself can manage. He tried practicing it the other day in his bathroom mirror in hopes that he could somehow replicate the effect Jimin has on him. It didn’t go well.

“I like your earrings today,” Jimin says, placing his hands on his hips. He’s taking a breather from unloading the truck, but Jeongguk knows it won’t be for long. He’s a hard worker. And that’s why Jeongguk is here so early, after all.

Jeongguk fights a blush. He’d added jewelry to all of his piercings last night because he caught Jimin eyeing them yesterday morning. “Thank you. You look... great.”

Jimin giggles. “Thank you. On your way in to prepare your stencils, again?”

Jeongguk shuffles awkwardly and shrugs. “Yep. Got a couple big pieces coming in today that I wanted to get a head start on.” It’s the same excuse he’s used for the last week. Jimin smiles anyway. “But uh... I don’t need to be there right now, right now... can I help you unload?”

Jimin laughs. “You’re too kind, Jeongguk-ssi,” he says. “We do have a ways to go before we’re done, though. I won’t turn you down.”

With that said, he offers a very direct, very cute, and very meaningful wink in Jeongguk’s direction. Jeongguk feels like he might evaporate.

“Okay then,” he says, nervously. “Um. I’ll just grab this and get started.” He picks up the closest bucket to him - dozens of red chrysanthemums - and hauls them inside the shop.

They spend the next thirty minutes making trip after trip, stealing shy smiles and brushing by each other gently here and there. Jimin asks Jeongguk about his day, Jeongguk asks Jimin what’s the weirdest message he’s ever been asked to send with flowers.

The ease and lightness of their conversation makes Jeongguk feel hopeful in a way he hasn’t for a long time. He keeps wishing he could just set up his chair and supplies in the corner of the flower shop so he could tattoo his clients and hear Jimin’s laughter at the same time.

When they’re finally done, Jimin walks him out, gloves tossed, hair even wilder than before. “Thank you again, Jeongguk-ssi,” he says, nudging Jeongguk playfully with his shoulder. “Pretty soon I’m going to have to ask my boss to add you to our payroll.”

Jeongguk had been competing against his past records today, hoping to break his record of tubs and boxes carried. His only regret is that there are too many things to be moved - he can’t do it all for Jimin, though he’ll continue to try.

“Please, I’m happy to help,” Jeongguk says, chuckling. “Gets the blood flowing, starts my day off right. Plus, I get to see you.”

They stop at the end of the sidewalk where the curb meets the intersection separating their blocks. Jimin turns to him with a sweet smile.

“You know, Jeongguk-ssi, I meant what I said earlier. I won’t turn you down.” He looks so soft, glowing in the early light of morning, Jeongguk fears this might be a dream.

“I... um. Do you want to... would you consider having dinner with me, then?” he asks, stuttering at first only to tumble through the rest of the sentence too quickly. He feels his face burn.

“I would love to,” Jimin says, placing one of his small, warm hands on Jeongguk’s bicep. It steadies and electrifies him. “Would you like to have my number so we can figure out a day and time?”

Jeongguk wordlessly digs his phone out of his pocket, unlocks it, and hands it to Jimin. “I’ll text you when I’m on lunch,” he says, while Jimin types his contact info in. “I can pretty much make anything work, to be honest.” Well, he will make anything work.

Jimin hands his phone back to him with a smile. “I’ll be waiting to hear from you, then,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me out since we met, Jeongguk-ssi.”

Jimin is bold where Jeongguk simply cannot be, and for that, Jeongguk is eternally grateful. He lets out a big breath and smiles nervously. “To be honest, I’ve wanted to ask you out since we met. You’re - you’re more beautiful than the flowers you sell,” he offers. Once he says it, he feels the delivery is a bit lame, but Jimin lights up.

“Jeongguk-ssi!” he exclaims, squeezing Jeongguk’s bicep as he laughs. “You’re so sweet. You’re going to keep me on my toes, I think.”

Jeongguk wants to sweep him off his feet entirely.