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to always follow the sun

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It’s a lovely Friday night in the city. The weather has reached both temperature and humidity perfection - zero chance of precipitation. Even the stars are faintly visible despite ample light pollution and smog, almost like the night was designed by the Lord himself specifically to be beautiful and perfect for romantic walks downtown, club hopping with friends, or even curling up on the couch at home for a movie night with a bucket of popcorn. 

 

Jeon Jeongguk heaves a sigh, crumpling up one last sticky note to toss at the trash bin a few feet away. 

 

He misses. 

 

The little balled-up piece of bright yellow paper taps the rim of the basket, rolls off, and bumps into another identical crumpled sticky note that had suffered the same fate. The closest thing to stargazing Jeongguk gets tonight is staring at the scattered little balls of paper across the office’s drab navy carpet. 

 

Jeongguk!

 

“Coming!” Jeongguk scrambles to his feet, paper crunching under his shoes as he makes a mad dash toward his boss’ office. There’s an art to getting around the office at breakneck speed without dinging one’s hip on the corner of the assorted tables and desks. Jeongguk has not yet mastered that art. 

 

“Yes, sir?” Jeongguk says as he swings through the doorway and comes to an unsteady halt in front of his boss’ desk, rubbing sympathetically at his bruised hip bone. 

 

He always feels out of place in this office - standing there in a cable-knit sweater and chinos in front of one of the most powerful and well-dressed men in the entire company. The Kim Taehyung - chief editor of Singularity, the most successful online publication in the country, quickly gaining recognition globally. 

 

Taehyung’s office looks vaguely like the inside of a futuristic spaceship with its sleek white accents and glossy black furniture. There are these oddly shaped lounge chairs that don’t look remotely comfortable to sit in, but they’re actually not half bad. Jeongguk had gathered this information on the one and only occasion his boss had invited him to sit down to talk. He had already been planning on which box from the storage room he was going to use to pack up his belongings because he’d been so certain he was getting fired in that moment. But he’s still here and not lounging at home in a ratty pair of sweatpants waiting on his next unemployment check, though he’s not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing or not. 

 

Jeongguk assesses the situation quickly. Taehyung’s suit jacket and tie have come off already. These things only usually last until after the majority of the office personnel leave for the day. Then Taehyung will either a.) remove the aforementioned jacket and tie immediately or b.) bitch about how stuffy the office is and how suffocated he feels until Jeongguk either a.) turns the office air conditioner down to polar ice cap temperatures or b.) very, very carefully suggests that his boss should just take off his jacket. Jeongguk’s Option B does not always have the highest success rate. Hence the aforementioned sweater. 

 

“Did you schedule a meeting with Jen Kwon?” Taehyung questions, eyes narrowed inquisitively.

 

“Yes, after being on hold with her office for two and a half hours and then getting into an argument with her assistant for another twenty minutes that ended in him cursing not only me but my children, grandchildren, and my grandchildren’s pets… I got it scheduled,” Jeongguk says with a mildly satisfied nod, even allowing himself a tiny, closed-lipped grin. 

 

“Cancel it.”

 

“Of course, sir,” Jeongguk breathes, pulling out his phone and making a quick note. 

 

Taehyung leans back in his desk chair, arms crossed over his chest as he looks at the wall thoughtfully. “RSVP to that fundraiser thing next week. I’m going to need a new suit for it. Something textured or printed.” 

 

“Pinstripes? Herringbone? Paisley? Floral?” Jeongguk really hopes Taehyung chooses one of those four, because he literally does not know of any other print options. 

 

But Taehyung just waves his hand dismissively, brows furrowed in agitation. “I don’t know, just get something I don’t already have. I don’t want to stay there all night, either.”

 

“Of course. I’ll have a driver there to pick you up at the one-hour mark.”

 

“Make it forty-five,” Taehyung states. “What does my tomorrow look like?”

 

Jeongguk pulls up the schedule, thumb lightning-quick on his touch screen as he pushes back his overgrown bangs with his free hand. “You have a Swedish massage tomorrow at eight fifteen, video conference at eleven, late lunch with Hwangmok and Chandler He at Sundance at one-thirty - ”

 

“God, I hate Sundance. I want kobe steak. From that one Japanese place. You know the one.”

 

“Got it. After lunch you’re booked up here with meetings for the rest of the afternoon. But it’s been three weeks since you called your mom - ”

 

Taehyung lets out a loud, long-suffering sigh, feet thumping back onto the ground as he pushes away from his desk and absently swivels from side to side in his chair. “Shit. I just remembered she told me Seochun’s grandmother was in the hospital for something.”

 

Jeongguk nods. “She had a cholecystectomy, and she’s doing fine. I had flowers and a card sent to her room Monday morning. She’s resting at home now and said to tell you thank you and she loves you.”

 

“Right. What else?”

 

“You do have a few other invitations pending RSVP - ”

 

“Just confirm the important ones and decline all the others. Send a gift,” Taehyung orders absently, standing up and rifling through some paperwork on his desk. 

 

“Got it,” Jeongguk states. He flips through his notes and calendar on his phone, nodding to himself before speaking again. “Everything else can wait until Monday - ”

 

“Where’s my dinner?”

 

Jeongguk’s jaw is loose for a moment before he speaks again, voice pitchy despite his best efforts. “Dinner?”

 

Taehyung turns and leans against his desk, making a point of rolling his eyes. Jeongguk would have been the recipient of a quick smack to the head for getting caught rolling his eyes in his family’s household, but he doesn’t think even Mama Jeon would marginally intimidate Kim Taehyung.  “Do most people not eat three times a day? Has it not been hours since I last ate?”

 

“Right, of course,” Jeongguk says quickly, already pulling up his bookmarks folder on his phone of Taehyung’s favorite restaurants. “What do you want?”

 

“Just get me whatever I ordered last time from that place I went to the other day. The one that had that weird vinaigrette on the salad.” Because his boss has always operated under the assumption that Jeongguk has an eidetic memory and telepathic abilities. 

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk says, already pulling up the right place on his phone to check the delivery hours. “Anything else?” He doesn’t have any mystifying superpowers but he has begun to figure out how to read and predict Taehyung with at least moderate accuracy. 

 

When he looks back up, Taehyung has his cell phone in front of his face, fingers tapping rapidfire on his keyboard. “That’s all,” Taehyung says, eyes never leaving his phone screen.

 

Jeongguk silently bows out and goes back to the mess he’s made in the main office. He flops down into a random swivel office chair and props up a leg as he dials the restaurant to place the order. He ignores the implications of being on a first-name basis with the staff member taking his order. 

 

“We’re a bit short on drivers tonight so it might be a slightly longer wait than usual,” says Yunhee, and Jeongguk hums in understanding. 

 

“It’s no problem. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Or ever, probably.” 

 

Yunhee laughs at the statement, but Jeongguk is dying on the inside just a little. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Standing outside is a bittersweet reminder that the weather is unusually nice and warm for the time of year but his soul is eternally damned to a life of sixty-plus-hour workweeks and zero social life. He occupies himself sorting emails on his phone and sharing calendar invites with Taehyung as he waits for the delivery driver. 

 

It takes the driver an obscene amount of time to drop the food off. He calls the restaurant to complain no less than three times while he waits, but poor Yunhee is just as stressed about it as he is and it gets them nowhere. By the time Jeongguk is scurrying back through the lobby towards the elevators, his phone is nearly dead and he’s pretty sure the food has gone cold. He quickly pushes the call button for the elevator, biting his lip and bouncing his leg as he waits impatiently. 

 

Finally, the elevator pings and the doors slide open. Jeongguk stops in his tracks as Taehyung materializes in front of him, jacket slung over an arm and phone in hand, briefcase at his other side. 

 

“You’re still here,” Taehyung says blankly, barely sparing an upward glance as he steps off the elevator and taps away on his phone. 

 

“Yeah, I just picked up your food,” Jeongguk says, motioning with the takeout bag. 

 

Taehyung’s eyes part from his phone screen just long enough to regard the bag and then shrug. “You can have it.”

 

“Oh, but it’s mushroom florentine,” Jeongguk says, getting quieter at the deadpan look Taehyung pins him with before he’s even finished the statement. Taehyung doesn’t seem willing to break the silence, so Jeongguk is dumb enough to start talking again. “It’s just, I’m on a special diet and, it’s… carbs. Like, a lot of. Of carbs...” His voice trails off to practically nothing by the end of his sentence. 

 

The elevator pings again, and the doors slide closed. 

 

Taehyung blinks once. Then his eyes are back on his phone and he’s walking off. 

 

“Good night, sir!” Jeongguk calls after him, the takeout bag crinkling in his hands. 

 

Taehyung doesn’t reply. 

 

Jeongguk hums and twists his lips as he looks at the bag of food in his hand. 

 

Then he realizes his wallet and keys are all the way on the sixteenth floor and heaves a sigh as he presses the elevator call button once again. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk paws his way through his key ring until he successfully gets the front door to his apartment open, nudging it with one foot as he caddies an armful of stuff through the threshold. Inside the apartment is dark, no light peeking out from under either bedroom door - not even the faint flickering glow of a television. 

 

He drops the bag of food on the kitchen countertop and deposits his other belongings on the couch, sighing in relief at getting the heavy messenger bag off his shoulder. He should probably eat something. He hasn’t had anything since lunch, which was half of Taehyung’s forgotten leftovers from yesterday and a juice box he’d nabbed from the breakroom. He should definitely eat. He makes his way into the galley kitchen and pulls open a cabinet. He grabs a bottle of cheap merlot and reaches for the corkscrew in the drawer by the stove on autopilot. 

 

“Need help with that?”

 

Jeongguk yelps and almost launches the corkscrew and bottle of wine in opposite directions. “Jesus christ, Yoongi, don’t sneak up on me like that! I’m seriously gonna put a freaking bell on you.” 

 

His roommate just smirks and leans over the counter from the opposite side, chin resting in his palm. “You’re really riding the struggle bus there, bud. You’re gonna be drinking more cork than wine.” 

 

“Adds texture,” Jeongguk says, finally prying the cork free. He pays no heed to a cup or glass (not that he owns any actual wine glasses, anyway) and takes a nice long gulp straight from the bottle. 

 

Yoongi meanders over and switches the light on, casting the kitchen into harsh-white lighting and the adjacent living room into a dull glow. “Thought you were on one of those fad diets.”

 

Jeongguk sets the bottle down and smacks his lips. “Do you know how hard it is to stick to a diet when most of my lunches come out of a vending machine?” 

 

Yoongi shrugs. “I take it work was delightful as usual.”

 

Jeongguk shakes his head, a clear indicator he is not about to talk about work right now. He watches as Yoongi wanders into the living room and takes a seat on the couch. “What are you doing here? Weren’t you going out with your friends?”

 

“Ehh, wasn’t really feeling the party scene tonight,” Yoongi muses, switching on the television and kicking his feet up. 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says. Yoongi was right about the cork bits, but that’s not going to stop him. He’s an adult, so he’s going to have more than just wine for dinner. He grabs a bag of kale chips before joining Yoongi in their small living room. “So you’re just hanging out here tonight?”

 

“Yeah, man. Wanna watch a movie or something?” Yoongi says, flipping through channels too fast to actually be registering what’s playing. 

 

“Sure. Long as you don’t care if I fall asleep halfway through,” Jeongguk states as he hunkers down in his favorite spot on the couch, the one with his own butt-shaped imprint and various stains on the carpet from many nights’ takeout and greasy fast food mishaps. “You’re really just here hanging out by yourself? That’s kind of unusual for you.”

 

With impeccable timing, the shower starts running at that exact moment. 

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Congrats on getting laid,” he grumbles, taking another long drink. 

 

“Thanks,” Yoongi says, willfully ignorant to any sarcasm in Jeongguk’s tone. “Oh look, Shaun of the Dead.” 

 

Jeongguk settles in, dryly munching on kale chips and sipping on his textured wine, making a little pile of cork bits on the coffee table. It’s gross, but Jeongguk has been beyond caring about these types of things for months now.

 

Not twenty minutes later, a man comes out of Yoongi’s room, feet thumping on the carpet. 

 

Two sets of feet. Two men, both with freshly washed hair and smelling like Yoongi’s body wash, come moseying into the living room to lean over and each give Yoongi a peck on the cheek. They both mumble something about hitting him up later before excusing themselves out the front door. It all happens within the span of a few moments before a toothpaste commercial rambling from the television even has time to finish. 

 

Jeongguk fixes Yoongi with a look, mouth gaping around a bite of half-masticated kale.

 

“Umm… Study sesh?” Yoongi offers. 

 

“What the actual fuck?” Jeongguk snaps. “You’re over here having hot sexy threesomes and I don’t even have time to go on one single date. What the actual fuck is my life?” He drops the bag of chips on the table and hugs the wine bottle to his chest, bottom lip curled in a pout. 

 

“Well, technically I didn’t go on a date, either. All I did was swipe right.” 

 

“God,” Jeongguk sighs. “The last time I went on a date was, like, two months ago and Taehyung was texting me so much the guy thought I was cheating on my boyfriend with him. My nonexistent boyfriend.” 

 

Yoongi hums and bobs his head in recollection. “Oh, yeah. I remember that. That’s the time when Taehyung called right in the middle of the guy giving you a blowjob, huh?”

 

Jeongguk lets out a frustrated squawk. “No!” he practically screeches. “Those were two separate incidences!” 

 

“Yikes,” Yoongi says, wrinkling his nose and sending Jeongguk a pitying look. “You know, I only offer this out of the kindness of my heart because it pains me to see your sex life so depressingly - ”

 

“I do not need a pity-handjob from you, Yoongi,” Jeongguk cuts in. “Or any other sexual favors. Not now, not ever.”

 

“Don’t say I never offered to help,” Yoongi says with a shrug.

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk feels and probably looks much like one of the zombies from last night’s movie selection when he rolls over in bed to the sound of his ringtone blaring from his nightstand. He peeps through one squinted eye at his phone screen and sighs in relief when he sees it’s not Kim Taehyung on the caller ID. 

 

“Hey, Mina,” Jeongguk grumbles as he presses the phone to his ear. 

 

Jeonggukie!” He very quickly realizes the error of his ways and puts a good six inches between his ear and the speaker. “Did I wake you up?

 

Jeongguk exhales and checks the time. “No, Mina. It’s eight-fifteen on a Saturday. Why would anyone be sleeping at this hour?”

 

Mina laughs flippantly and ignores the comment. “I was calling to tell you we sent out the invitations for the engagement party this morning.

 

“Shit,” Jeongguk hisses. “I was supposed to do that. I’m sorry. I’m literally the worst man-of-honor ever.” 

 

No, no, it’s okay! I know you’re so busy with work and stuff. You being there on the day-of is what really matters, anyway. I wasn’t expecting you to plan my bachelorette party or anything."

 

“Yeah, but I should be helping a lot more,” Jeongguk mumbles. “I’m sorry. Work is always so demanding.” 

 

I know,” Mina says softly. “It’s okay. I promise it’s okay. Do you think you’ll make it to the engagement party at least? ” 

 

“I’m gonna do everything in my power to be there,” Jeongguk promises. “Now that I know the date, I can request off in advance and hopefully Taehyung will approve it.” 

 

Here’s hoping,” Mina agrees. “You never ask for any time off, anyway. I don’t see why he wouldn’t approve it. I mean, you didn’t even ask off for your birthday. Or my college graduation. Or Great Auntie JooJoo’s funeral...

 

“I know, I know. It’s easier said than done,” Jeongguk breathes, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “He can’t really help his schedule any more than I can help mine.”

 

Awh, you’re such a good assistant,” Mina says. “You’re always so supportive of your boss. It’s cute.

 

“It’s not that,” Jeongguk says. “I just look up to him, I guess. He’s got a lot on his plate. He can be an ass sometimes, but it’s just stress and work overload.” 

 

Kinda like you! ” Mina chirps. 

 

“‘Kay, I’m going back to sleep now. Bye.”

 

No, don’t go! I miss you so much! You never call your sister!

 

“I’d call my sister more often if my sister wasn’t such a smart mouth little punk,” Jeongguk mumbles, staring at the ceiling with placid, glazed-over eyes. 

 

Fine, I’ll let you go back to sleep. Just don’t forget to request off for the party, okay? I want to spend time with you before we move away and I for real never get to see you.

 

“I won’t forget,” Jeongguk assures. “Love you.” 

 

Love you, too, Jeonggukie,” Mina says, making a kissy noise and then ending the call. 

 

He pulls the phone away and is about to lock it back when he sees several new email notifications. Against his better judgment, Jeongguk taps on the most recent one from Taehyung and opens the email. 

 

Jeongguk, 

Please arrive early Monday so we can touch base on my schedule for next week. 6am should be fine, but the earlier the better...

 

Jeongguk groans and tosses his phone elsewhere on the bed, then promptly goes the fuck back to sleep. 

 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

It’s a Monday. 

 

There’s been six verifiable incidences so far, and it’s not even noon yet. 

 

It’s a mother fucking Monday. 

 

Jeongguk types furiously on his computer, casting the occasional glance toward Taehyung’s closed office door as he plugs away at his tasks for the day. 

 

“Right, I understand you’d like an appointment with Mr. Kim, and I assure you he greatly appreciates your time, but as I said before, he has no openings for the next three weeks,” Jeongguk says to the caller on his headset. It’s practically a well-rehearsed script at this point. 

 

“No, I’m sorry, I can’t cancel anything he already has set. No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that either. He’s available Monday through Friday, eight a.m. to five p.m... No, I can’t make any changes to that. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Yes, I assure you I do work for Mr. Kim. No, I can’t put you through to him right now. He’s in a meeting. Yes, I can take a message for him. Okay… Okay... Right. Got it. Thank you, Mr. Lee. Have a wonderful day.”

 

Jeongguk ends the call and looks down at the notepad where he’s scrawled Mr. Lee’s message for Taehyung. 

 

Kim, fire your incompetent assistant ASAP & call me back. - DL

 

Jeongguk snorts and sets the notepad aside just as Taehyung’s office door opens and two women in business-professional pantsuits file out, sending a warm farewell to Taehyung as they close the door behind themselves and pass by Jeongguk’s desk.

 

“What an incredibly nice young man,” one of the women says, hushed so only her counterpart should be able to hear. 

 

“I was just thinking that. You don’t meet many young men in this line of business with his level of professionalism and respect. What a gentleman.” 

 

“I need to figure out a way to introduce him to my daughter.” 

 

“I heard he’s single.” 

 

“A divorcee .” 

 

“Who in their right mind would leave him?” 

 

Jeongguk watches the women’s retreating figures, cheek in his hand as he eavesdrops on them until they’re out of earshot. He’d known Taehyung was previously married - amicably divorced, from his understanding. He hasn’t heard anything about the ex-wife, though. Just that she travels a lot and has never called Taehyung in the entire eleven months Jeongguk has worked here. 

 

Jeongguk!” 

 

Jeongguk launches up from his desk, rolling chair clattering behind him as he makes a beeline into Taehyung’s office. He stands at attention near the doorway, hands behind his back as he waits for Taehyung to finish typing whatever he’s in the middle of on his computer. 

 

“Why do I have an email on my personal account from Daniel Lee insisting I terminate you immediately?” Taehyung questions. 

 

“Ah, yeah about that,” Jeongguk says. “I tried to tell him you’re booked for weeks and he wasn’t having it, sir.” 

 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, folding his hands on his desk and making extremely heavy eye contact that gives Jeongguk the urge to squirm uncomfortably. “I pay you to make my life easier, don’t I?”

 

“Um, yes sir, that is my main job duty, I think,” Jeongguk says very carefully. 

 

“How is it making my life easier if I have investors emailing me directly to complain about my assistant who seems incapable of scheduling a simple meeting?”

 

“Sir,” Jeongguk says calmly, “you’re booked solid for the next three weeks and then it’s spotty after that for the next two months. Unless I have a cancellation, the earliest I can get Mr. Lee - ”

 

Taehyung silently holds up a hand. Jeongguk quickly closes his mouth. “Is any of this my problem?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

“Then why am I hearing about it? Isn’t it your job to figure it out, or am I just paying you to bring me dinner two hours after I ask for it?” 

 

Jeongguk tucks his chin, biting his lip. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kim. I’ll get Mr. Lee in as soon as possible.” 

 

“I’m sure you will,” Taehyung states, redirecting his attention back to his monitor. 

 

Jeongguk slips out of the office and goes back to his desk. He leans over on his elbows for a moment, rubbing at his temples with his fingertips. 

 

He can handle this. He can handle Taehyung on his worst days. He can handle that dick Daniel Lee any day. He can handle it, but fuck he doesn’t get paid enough for this shit.

 

Luckily for Jeongguk, his boss is catching a flight out of town tonight and won’t be here tomorrow. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Unluckily for Jeongguk, his boss calls him around six that evening - not even thirty minutes after he’d gotten home from work - in a bit of a tizzy. 

 

Jeongguk gets the call about halfway through his carb-free leftovers and contemplates not answering. Then he remembers that he’s made a metric fuck ton of overtime this week, and he’ll get to claim the hours. Maybe he’ll be getting Mina that badass espresso machine for her wedding gift after all. 

 

He swallows a mouthful of food before he answers, barely catching it on the last ring. “Hello?” 

 

Jeongguk, it’s Taehyung.” 

 

“Oh. Yeah. I’ve, uh, had your number saved for a while now.” 

 

We have an issue,” Taehyung states, and Jeongguk restrains the sigh that wants to escape. 

 

“What’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks instead. 

 

Taehyung breathes a heavy sigh across the line. “It’s complicated. I might need you to reschedule my flight.” 

 

“Your flight that leaves in,” Jeongguk pulls the phone away to check the time, “like, two hours?” 

 

Now’s really not the time to be a smartass, Jeongguk.” 

 

“Right. Sorry, sir,” Jeongguk says quickly, falling into work mode. “Are you at the office?” 

 

Unfortunately.” 

 

“I’ll be right there.” 

 

Taehyung sighs, relieved. “Okay. Good. See you soon.” 

 

“Okay, bye,” Jeongguk mutters as he’s standing up from the couch. He tosses his leftovers back in the fridge and then heads into his bedroom to get dressed. 

 

A bus ride and two more urgent phone calls from Taehyung later, Jeongguk is booking his way down the hall of their office building. He breezes past his own desk toward Taehyung’s office, slowing at the sound of Taehyung’s voice from inside. As he gets closer, he realizes Taehyung is on the phone with someone. Taehyung has never been a fan of Jeongguk barging in during phone calls. It usually - correction: always - results in an ass-chewing. 

 

“It’s just for tonight. I really don’t have any other options or I wouldn’t be asking you,” Taehyung is saying, deep voice muffled through the walls. It sounds tense - personal. Taehyung’s voice is loud enough in the otherwise silent office to make eavesdropping an inevitability. A moment later Taehyung is saying, “He came down with the flu and my backup is booked tonight. I’ve already tried calling around. I’m not going to get anyone on such short notice. My flight leaves in - ” a pause, “ - fuck, I should already be at the airport by now. I’m not going to make it.” 

 

Jeongguk takes a deep breath. Whatever is happening, it sounds bad. After the Monday he’s had, though, it doesn’t surprise him that things managed to go from bad to straight up shitty. 

 

“Yes, I understand how important this is,” Taehyung continues, voice fluctuating in and out as he presumably paces his office. “My assistant is on his way here. I’m going to see if he can work something out.” 

 

Jeongguk makes a decision. He softly taps on the door to signal he’s coming inside and then slowly pushes it open. He spots Taehyung immediately, pacing around with a phone glued to the side of his head exactly how he’d anticipated. 

 

What he hadn’t been anticipating, however, is the little girl sprawled out on the floor with coloring books and an array of crayons scattered around her. She looks no more than four years old, tugging at the hem of her checkered dress and kicking her feet in the air as she contemplates her next choice of crayon. She grabs for a yellow crayon and starts scribbling, horribly outside the lines but gazing down at it with huge, wondrous brown eyes like her art is coming to life. 

 

She’s the spitting image of the man who stops and notices Jeongguk in the doorway. She has the same wide eyes and downturned pout as she concentrates on her artwork. Jeongguk looks up from her to Taehyung, who’s already turned away to continue his phone conversation, voice booming in the quiet room. Jeongguk puts things together pretty quickly. Whoever this little girl is, she’s not supposed to be here tonight and Taehyung is struggling to make child care arrangements.

 

Jeongguk makes yet another decision that might get him in trouble. He sneaks into the room and heads straight for the little girl. He kneels on the floor next to her, earning her attention away from the coloring book. 

 

He shh ’s her with a finger to his pursed lips as her eyes land on him. 

 

“Hi,” he says softly, smiling. 

 

She bats her eyes shyly, wiggling around on the floor until she’s sitting up on her knees in front of him. “Hello,” she says, grasping two crayons in her left hand and one in her right.

 

“I’m Jeongguk,” he whispers. 

 

She turns to look tentatively over her shoulder at Taehyung, who’s quiet as he listens to whoever’s on the other line. He’s turned toward them now, though, eyeing the two of them curiously. She turns back to Jeongguk. “What are you doing here?” she asks, not quite able to grasp the concept of a whisper. 

 

“I work here,” Jeongguk answers softly. He gestures toward Taehyung. “That’s my boss.” 

 

“Oh.” She shifts around on her knees like she’s deciding if she wants to go back to coloring or not. 

 

“Do you want to go get a snack?”

 

Her eyes light up, but she quickly turns back to Taehyung and flags him down with a wild wave of her crayon-wielding hands. Then she says, extremely loudly and not even close to a whisper, “Daddy, can I go get a snack?” 

 

Jeongguk is so shocked he barely registers as Taehyung gives her the go ahead and promises her he’s almost done on the phone. His boss of almost a year - whose dry cleaning he’s picked up and whose grandmother he’s sent flowers and whose fucking shoe size he’s near intimately familiar with - has a child. 

 

Jeongguk has to collect himself quickly as said child is up and ready to go hunt down this snack he’d suggested. Her ponytail bounces around as she makes a dash for the door, tiny hands grabbing at the handle. Jeongguk beats her to it though, and opens the door for her. She waits politely on the other side and follows him toward the break room. 

 

“You never told me your name,” Jeongguk says. 

 

“I’m Sunny,” she says, skipping along beside him through the office. “But that’s not my real name. That’s just what my daddy calls me.” 

 

“So it’s a nickname?”

 

Sunny comes to a dead stop. Jeongguk pauses and turns to see what the hold up is about. “What’s that?” 

 

“A nickname?” Jeongguk repeats. She nods. “Oh. It’s just, like. A fun name that someone calls you instead of your real name.” 

 

That seems to appease her. They resume their walk to the break room. “Do you have a nickname, too?” 

 

“My mom calls me Gukie,” he admits easily. 

 

“Oh.” 

 

“You can call me that, if you want.” 

 

“Okay!” 

 

She overshoots the break room doorway by a few steps, having to whirl around and catch back up as Jeongguk giggles at her. She doesn’t seem bothered by it, too excited about whatever snack magic Jeongguk is about to work. He musters up some peanut butter crackers and a bottle of apple juice from the vending machine, pouring it into a styrofoam cup from the water station. He even finds her a bendy straw, which they’re both pretty damn excited about. He sets her up at one of the tables and she crunches on her crackers and sips on her juice, elbows up on the too-high table and legs swinging contentedly under her chair. 

 

That’s how Taehyung finds them a few minutes later as he appears in the doorway. 

 

Jeongguk looks up from where he’s sitting across the table from Sunny, half-eaten cracker in hand and peanut butter smeared on his lips.

 

“I see you two are acquainted,” Taehyung states as Jeongguk quickly finishes the cracker off in one bite and wipes his hands clean on a napkin. 

 

Sunny hums a distinct uh-huh around a mouthful of food. 

 

Taehyung sighs, walking across the room and leaning against the wall. “Jeongguk, we’re going to have to cancel my flight for tonight. We’ll have to call and reschedule early tomorrow - ”

 

“Couldn't get a babysitter?” Jeongguk asks. He feels like there’s no point in dancing around the subject. Obviously his boss isn’t entirely open with his staff about having a daughter. Jeongguk gets it, he does, but at the same time it stings a tiny bit. He’d figured after a year of working together as closely as they have, he might be privileged to that kind of information.

 

“Not tonight,” Taehyung breathes.

 

Jeongguk isn’t even really sure why he says what comes out of his mouth next: “I can watch her.” 

 

Taehyung looks baffled as Jeongguk checks the time again. 

 

“If you go now, you can still make your flight.”

 

Taehyung thinks about it for a moment. He looks over at Sunny, who’s perfectly impassive about the whole situation and much more concerned with finishing the last few sips of juice at the bottom of her cup. Then he starts nodding. “Okay. Alright. I’ll have to take you up on that.” 

 

“It’s a done deal then,” Jeongguk states, offering a smile to Sunny, who pauses in her snacking just long enough to send a boxy smile right back. 

 

“Do you mind staying at my place?” Taehyung questions, digging in the pocket of his slacks. “It’ll be easier. You can take my car - her car seat is in the back already.”

 

Jeongguk is on his feet, accepting things with both hands as Taehyung starts handing them over. Car keys, medical insurance cards out of his wallet, a credit card for emergencies. Taehyung gives him a quick rundown, talking so fast his words all ultimately jumble together, but Jeongguk is so used to it he gets it all down without needing to ask a single question. This all happens as Taehyung scoops Sunny up and whisks back down the hall to his office, Jeongguk hot on his heels. 

 

Jeongguk calls a cab as Taehyung wrangles Sunny’s arms into her jacket and zips her up. Then he loads up her backpack quickly and gets it over her shoulders. Jeongguk watches with his phone to his ear, answering the cab company’s questions on autopilot and hanging up when he’s through. He tilts his head curiously as Taehyung kneels in front of Sunny, eyes soft and voice lower than Jeongguk has ever heard before. 

 

“I have to go now,” Taehyung says, and Sunny nods in understanding. She seems like such an easy-going kid. Jeongguk assumes that trait must come from her mom’s side. “Jeongguk is going to watch you for the night, though. Is that okay?” 

 

Sunny gives an exaggerated nod, pony tail flapping around. “That’s his real name, but he said I can call him Gukie.” 

 

Taehyung nods, listening but trying to hurry things along. “Jeongguk is in charge, okay?” 

 

Sunny parrots back an ‘okay’ as Taehyung ushers them out the door. 

 

It all happens in a complete whirlwind. One minute, Jeongguk is making a late night emergency trip to help out his boss - chief editor and presumed eligible bachelor - and the next he’s loading his boss’ kid into his boss’ car and taking off toward his boss’ apartment. It’s not exactly how he imagined his Monday night to go, but Sunny is cute and he can’t find it in himself to be even slightly mad about it. 

 

Sunny is just finishing up telling Jeongguk the names of all the stuffed animals she keeps on her bed when he makes it to Taehyung’s apartment. It takes him a minute of fiddling and accidentally opening the sunroof before he figures out which button opens the garage. Sunny doesn’t seem to mind, still rambling on about her stuffed pig that her dad had won her out of a claw machine and proceeded to name Bernadette. Jeongguk is processing all this new information as quickly as he can, but at that one, he has to pause behind the steering wheel and really think about it for a second. 

 

He shakes it off and unloads them from the car, carrying Sunny’s sparkly purple backpack on his shoulder and flipping through Taehyung’s keys to the one he’d said goes to the front door. As soon as they make it up the elevator to one of the highest floor, Sunny takes the lead and walks them straight down the hall, hopping to a stop right in front of the door. He unlocks the door and quickly disarms the alarm with the code Taehyung had rattled off, finding the light switch on the wall nearby and flicking it on. 

 

He’d been expecting the inside of Taehyung’s home to be sleek and professional like his office, perhaps a lavish bachelor pad. It’s a little bit of that, but it’s so obviously overrun by the real chief in charge that Jeongguk laughs out loud. Toys ranging from dollhouses to Lego sets litter the huge living room, splashes of bright colors across the neutral modern decor. There’s an organizer full of books and boxes of art supplies pushed up against a wall underneath a large abstract painting. The coffee table is covered in Disney movie DVDs and sticker books and hair accessories. The apartment is huge, he realizes as he finds his way into the kitchen and looks around in awe at the spacious interior. 

 

Sunny bounds down the hall to her room, tinny voice echoing along the walls. “Come see my room! Come see my room!” 

 

Jeongguk obliges, moseying down the hallway and glancing at the framed pictures on the wall. There’s a timeline of Sunny’s life - from the first newborn pictures all the way to her most recent school picture where she’s shooting the camera a cheesy, wide grin. Jeongguk couldn’t stop himself grinning right back if he tried. He finds Sunny’s room, decorated in purples and blues and greens. It reminds him of Mina’s room from when they were kids - minus the oversized stuffed unicorn lying on the floor that’s twice as big as the tiny girl that flops down on top of it to pet its mane.

 

“I’m jealous,” Jeongguk says, pretending to pout and earning a giggle from Sunny. 

 

“D’you like it?” she questions loudly, beaming at him. 

 

“I love it.” 

 

Sunny kicks her legs excitedly. 

 

Then it’s off to show him her favorite toys and books and movies - which is pretty much all of them. At some point, Jeongguk talks her into sitting down to watch one of her favorites while he rummages around in the kitchen to throw together a late dinner. Sunny eats with a big smile on her face and only makes a little bit of a mess. But she helps him clean up afterwards by standing at the kitchen sink on a stool and talking about everything that’s happened in the movie so far since he missed it while he was cooking. He manages to talk her into putting on her pajamas, which she’s not too keen on doing. She seems to want to make a good impression, though, and obliges without too much complaint. She makes a valiant attempt to brush her teeth by herself - insisting she can do it - but Jeongguk ends up helping her and getting equally covered in pink strawberry toothpaste suds. Jeongguk has never brushed a little girl’s hair in his life before tonight, but Sunny reassures him about it with a toothy grin in the mirror. 

 

Taehyung texts him to check in sometime after Sunny settles back in to finish the movie. 

 

>> Everything okay?

 

>> yeah! she’s watching a movie atm

 

>> Isn’t it almost 9 there? She has school in the morning.  

 

Jeongguk gulps. He checks the time, and sure enough. 

 

>> crap, i’m sorry.. i’ll get her to bed asap

 

Jeongguk doesn’t wait for a response, although he does see the bubble pop up to show Taehyung is typing one. He pockets his phone and heads to the couch. 

 

Sunny is passed out, halfway sliding feet-first off the couch. Jeongguk giggles and snaps a picture before gently waking her up, shaking her by the tiny little shoulder. She barely opens her eyes for a moment, seemingly not even registering her surroundings. She sleepily extends her arms, waiting to be picked up. 

 

Jeongguk’s heart melts. He picks her up and her arms automatically wrap around his neck as he totes her into the room. He tucks her into bed, snaps one more picture as proof for Taehyung, and tiptoes out of the room. 

 

As he sinks onto the couch and starts flipping channels, he finds a new message from Taehyung. 

 

>> There’s no need to apologize. I forgot to tell you her bedtime. She has to be at school by 7:30. I’ll send you the address. I already emailed her teacher to explain the situation.  

>> I really appreciate you doing this, by the way. 

 

>> no problem. she’s a sweet kid. dw i’ll get her to school on time!!

 

>> Thank you. I owe you. 

 

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow at the message. His boss owes him something. It’s a strange feeling. He decides against replying back. Taehyung has this overly formal thing going in text messages where he feels like every single message needs some sort of acknowledgment - always perfectly capitalized, punctuated, and spelled correctly. One time Taehyung accidentally wrote ‘yoy’ instead of ‘you’ about four months ago. Jeongguk kept the screenshot just to prove to himself that his boss is, in fact, a human. 

 

And since he didn’t respond to Taehyung’s text, and since he didn’t think to ask when he’d had the chance, he’s not even sure if there’s a guest room. He doesn’t exactly feel comfortable snooping around opening and closing doors. So he curls up on the couch watching Jeopardy and mumbling wrong answers to himself until he falls asleep. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

He’d been woken up that morning at an ungodly hour by a tiny finger poking his cheek and had then opened his eyes to an elf-like replica of his boss’ face directly in front of his. That had been the start of a hectic morning comprised of negotiating with a four-year-old to get her fed, dressed, and ready for school. Traffic had been absolutely atrocious with the school rush and he’d missed the curbside drop-off zone and had to remake the block twice.

 

But he’d made it - Sunny is at school with both matching shoes and socks, and he’d even gotten her hair into a ponytail with a red bow to match the ladybug print on her shirt. Now he’s on his way to work in Taehyung’s car. He hadn’t technically asked if he could drive the car to work, but he’d figured it was safe to assume. He’s still driving it like it’s made of glass, though, and almost has a heart attack when a phone call rings from the car speakers.

 

He lets out a startled fuck and then quickly tries to figure out which of the fifteen-thousand buttons on the steering wheel will answer the call on Bluetooth. He finally finds the button and mashes it with his thumb as he reads Taehyung’s name on the caller ID. 

 

“Hey, sorry, I was about to call you when I made it to the office,” he says, carefully eyeing the car behind him that’s too close to his bumper for comfort. 

 

It’s fine. Is everything going okay? ” Taehyung’s voice comes through the speakers, low like he’s trying to keep hushed. 

 

“Yeah, yeah. Everything’s fine! I just dropped Sunny off at school,” Jeongguk replies, hoping it sounds confident and not mildly panicked the way he feels. So far Taehyung doesn’t seem like an overbearing helicopter parent, but there’s still an unavoidable sense of pressure at taking care of his boss’ kid. 

 

Good - that’s good. Thank you,” Taehyung says. “I know I’ve already asked too much of you in this situation -

 

“No, no, it’s fine - really!”

 

Can I finish my sentence? ” 

 

Oh, right. There’s the asshole Jeongguk knows. Jeongguk clears his throat and hums a nervous affirmative quickly followed up by a mumbled apology. 

 

I understand if you’re not able, but would you be willing to leave work early and pick her up after school? ” Taehyung questions, sounding almost apprehensive. It makes Jeongguk ponder the possibility that the snappiness is all due to stress - not just from work but from worrying about his child.

 

At that, Jeongguk doesn’t really have to think about his answer. “Yeah, of course. It’s really no problem.” 

 

I called and switched to an earlier flight,” Taehyung continues. “Do you think you would be able to meet me at the airport after you pick Sunny up? ” 

 

“Oh, um. Yeah, definitely."

 

Right. Good. Okay,” Taehyung says like he’s convincing himself. “I’ll forward the flight information to your email. See you then.” 

 

“Sure thing, boss.” 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t have time to find the button to end the call before Taehyung calls out over the line, “Jeongguk - ” 

 

Jeongguk waits, but Taehyung is quiet. He can’t imagine that he’s struggling with that to say. Taehung always knows exactly what he wants to say at all times. “Um. Yes, sir?” 

 

I’m just curious as to why you haven’t even asked me about compensation for all this.” 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, navigating the car down the busy road in front of the office building. “I - well. I wasn’t going to bring it up while you’re so busy.” 

 

I see.” Taehyung clears his throat. “We’ll discuss it when I get back. I’ll text you when I land.” 

 

“Got it,” Jeongguk says, seconds before Taehyung ends the call. He has a satisfied grin on his face as he realizes he gets to park in Taehyung’s reserved spot. As he’s pulling in and killing the engine, the car notifies him of a new text message from Taehyung. Frowning in confusion, Jeongguk clicks the button to let the automated voice read the message over the stereo. A generic, monotone woman reads Taehyung’s text: 

 

“How do you feel about Italian?”

 

Jeongguk’s puzzled frown deepens. He disconnects his phone from the Bluetooth and pulls up the text on his screen, blinking at it when it assures him that the car did, in fact, read out the message correctly. 

 

>> How do you feel about Italian? 

 

>> you mean the food??

 

The typing bubble appears moments after the quiet sound tells Jeongguk his message sent. 

 

>> Jeongguk. 

>> What else would I be referring to? 

 

Jeongguk feels his face get hot with embarrassment as he fumbles to tap out his reply without making any typos. 

 

>> oh. i don’t have anything against it, but most of it doesn’t work for my diet

 

Taehyung’s response, again, is immediate:

 

>> Seafood? 

 

>> seafood is good!

 

A read receipt pops up under the message, but Taehyung never texts back. Jeongguk runs the text conversation over in his head a few times as he boards the elevator. He wonders if Taehyung is planning to take him to some sort of thank-you lunch tomorrow. But then he remembers Taehyung is booked for lunch every day this week and probably doesn’t even realize it. Jeongguk appreciates the thought, though. He’s never had lunch with Taehyung before, as that time has always been reserved for much more important people than the lowly pencil-pusher. 

 

He’s actually kind of glad. No, he’s totally glad. He likes his short lunches, fifteen or twenty minute reprieves at whatever random time of day he has a chance to get away. It’s not like he’d ever want to give up his break and go to a nice seafood restaurant with his boss, who’s usually a prickly jerk when the lunchtime hanger sets in, anyway. 

 

If he feels the slightest tinge of disappointment, it’s definitely only because he’d be missing out on a great free meal.

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Sunny is in the back seat of Taehyung’s car, feet bouncing along excitedly as Jeongguk asks her questions about her day. She’s so exuberant and tired from a long day at preschool that most of her words run off into gibberish, but Jeongguk nods and smiles like he understands every word. 

 

“Gukie,” she calls from the back seat, fiddling with one of the buttons on her overalls. “Where are we going?” 

 

“We’re going to pick up your dad from the airport,” Jeongguk replies, barely getting the last word out before Sunny erupts into squeals. 

 

Somewhere in the midst of all the cute shrieking, Jeongguk’s phone pings over the Bluetooth connection with a new message from Yoongi. He thumbs the button to let it play over the speakers without thinking. 

 

Good thing you didn’t make it home last night el-em-ay-oh those two guys from last time came over and double di-

 

Jeongguk is yelling and scrambling to hit the button to cancel it, heart racing. The robotic voice cuts off just in time, but he’s still lightly panting and cuts a glance at the rear-view mirror to check on Sunny. She’s still sitting in the backseat, twisting a lock of hair around a finger and sticking it in her mouth. He breathes a sigh of relief. 

 

He manages to avoid any other crises as they reach the airport. Sunny wiggles around in her car seat as he unlatches the buckle and helps her out of the car. She doesn’t hesitate to link their hands together as they go inside to wait by the gate. They’re a few minutes early, so they keep themselves entertained by playing ‘the floor is lava’ on the different colored floor tiles. 

 

Neither of them notice right away when Taehyung walks up in the middle of their game. 

 

Sunny notices him first - belting out a shrill 'daddy'  and then taking off. Jeongguk has a moment of panic as she runs off, but relaxes when he notices Taehyung standing just a few feet away, scooping Sunny up into one arm as he lugs his carry-on in the other hand. She squishes a huge kiss into Taehyung’s cheek and wraps her arms around his neck to squeeze. He kisses her on the head as he walks toward Jeongguk, stopping just in front of him. 

 

Jeongguk suddenly feels nervous. “Um, hey. How was your flight?” 

 

“Uneventful,” Taehyung states, face unreadably blank. 

 

“Here, I’ll get that,” Jeongguk says as he goes for Taehyung’s bag. 

 

Taehyung eyes him strangely as Jeongguk reaches for the bag but wordlessly hands it over. The strange look never leaves as Jeongguk leads them out the door toward where he parked Taehyung’s car.

 

Jeongguk stops a few steps away and, realizing he still has the keys, paws at his pockets to dig them out. “Sorry, here you go,” he says as he rushes to hand them over. 

 

Taehyung reaches out and takes them slowly, almost suspiciously, as Sunny pets the back of his hair and babbles about everything on her mind at that moment. 

 

Jeongguk heads toward the trunk as it pops open and loads Taehyung’s bag into it. Then he turns to his boss, shifting his eyes between Taehyung’s intimidatingly impassive demeanor and Sunny’s smiley, giggling one. “Should I, uh,” he stutters, failing to come up with the words.

 

Taehyung raises a brow as he starts the car with a click of the remote. He heads to load Sunny into the back, taking about half the time it took Jeongguk to do it. He shuts the door and turns to Jeongguk, who swears he sees the faintest hint of amusement twitch at the corner of Taehyung’s lips. “Did you make arrangements for another ride?” 

 

Jeongguk’s heart slams down into the bottom of his stomach. “Um, I - no, I didn’t. I can call a cab.” 

 

“I was just wondering,” Taehyung continues, “since you don’t seem to want to get in my car.” 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says. “Right. Sorry, I was just confused.” 

 

Taehyung turns away to walk around to the driver’s side. Jeongguk must be hallucinating because now he’s swearing he saw a glimpse of an actual smile. Any trace of that is gone by the time he ducks into the passenger side and settles into the seat. 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t ask where they’re going. It’s a quiet ride once they get stuck in traffic and Sunny seems to tire out from all the excitement, passing out with her head slumped back in her car seat and mouth agape. Jeongguk giggles and gets the urge to snap a picture before he chickens out with her dad sitting right beside him. 

 

“Any plans for the evening?” Taehyung questions, making Jeongguk jolt with surprise. 

 

Jeongguk is thankful Taehyung decides to ignore it. “Oh, uh. No, actually. I was just gonna go home and watch The Bachelor with my roommate or something…” 

 

“Isn’t that a reality show?” Taehyung asks as he maneuvers through the slow-moving traffic. 

 

“Yeah, it’s,” Jeongguk says, stumbling, “well, yeah. It’s kind of dumb. My roommate got me hooked on this season, though.” 

 

“Hm,” is Taehyung’s only response. 

 

A few moments later, when Jeongguk can’t decide if the awkward silence or awkward conversation is worse, he pipes up again. “How did the conference go yesterday?” 

 

Taehyung’s eyes slide over to Jeongguk for a second and then back to the road. “I try not to talk about work around my daughter.” 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk breathes, breaking out in a nervous sweat. “Sorry. But that’s, um, that’s actually a good idea, I think. To like. Keep your work life and stuff separate.” 

 

“It’s essential,” Taehyung states. “But it is easier said than done.” 

 

“Yeah, I imagine,” Jeongguk says, nodding in understanding. There’s been plenty of times when he’s woken up in the morning to emails and text messages from Taehyung time-stamped at the oddest hours on any given day of the week. “Is that why you - ” Jeongguk nearly blurts out the question, but cuts himself off and starts praying Taehyung will disregard it. 

 

“Why I what?” 

 

Jeongguk shifts uncomfortably, trying to relax and prop his elbow on the arm rest and look natural but failing miserably. “Why you, um, didn’t tell me you have a kid.”

 

“I’m sure I mentioned it at some point.” 

 

“That - What ? I feel like I would remember something like that?” 

 

“You have a tendency to forget things.” 

 

“What?” Jeongguk splutters. He gapes, and wow,  Taehyung is definitely grinning and trying not to - no hallucinations here. This whole thing is fucking surreal. Jeongguk almost forgets he was trying to defend himself. “Is this about your dinner? That was one time!” 

 

“Lucky for you,” Taehyung hums as he turns the wheel to pull off the road and into a driveway, “I don’t forget about peoples’ dinner.” 

 

Jeongguk looks out the window and blinks. Taehyung is pulling up to the valet parking of a restaurant Jeongguk isn’t familiar with. 

 

Taehyung simply puts the car into park and then goes around to wake Sunny from her nap. He holds her hand as he walks her inside, Jeongguk trailing behind a few steps and trying not to think about how much he doesn’t fit in. Taehyung could have at least warned him they were going to a nice restaurant like this - some fancy seafood place with column-shaped aquariums situated among the tables and a giant lobster tank near the entrance. Taehyung drops his name when the hostess asks for a reservation, and she immediately guides them through the restaurant to a table near one of the fish tanks. 

 

Jeongguk is in a bit of a daze as he watches Taehyung help Sunny into her booster seat and then moves the silver and glassware out of her reach. He slides into the chair across from her and listens as Taehyung orders something from the wine menu, practically a foreign language to Jeongguk’s ears. 

 

“She likes the fish,” Taehyung explains, unprompted, as Sunny gives a huge yawn from the chair next to him. “The ones in the tank, mostly. But we’re learning to like tilapia, right?” 

 

Sunny scrunches up her nose but nods dutifully. Taehyung smiles down at her like she placed every star in the night sky singlehandedly. Jeongguk tries to ignore the way his heart softens at the sight. 

 

“How was she?” Taehyung asks, directed at Jeongguk. 

 

“Oh, she was great,” Jeongguk promises, nodding positively. “She was on her best behavior.” 

 

Taehyung’s entire face softens. “I knew she would be.” 

 

“Gukie made basketti,” Sunny chimes in. “He makes the best basketti.” 

 

Jeongguk rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. “I’m not really the best cook.” 

 

Taehyung chuckles. “The critic reviews suggest otherwise.” 

 

“And he makes good cookies,” Sunny adds.

 

Jeongguk blushes and can’t contain a small laugh. “They were Oreos.” 

 

Taehyung laughs, too.

 

“We did like this with the milk,” Sunny continues, miming holding a glass and dunking a cookie in. Then she sighs, giving a lazy smile. “It was so good.”

 

“And just like that, I’m dethroned as the best chef in the world,” Taehyung says through a gentle laugh. 

 

Jeongguk has no idea what planet he’s even on anymore. He can’t really remember hitting his head and slipping into a coma, but he doesn’t think coma patients realize it happened either. That seems like a more logical explanation than the current scenario: Sitting in a fancy seafood restaurant with his boss and the cutest child in the world while his boss is smiling and laughing. Jeongguk is still in the Twilight Zone when the servers arrive to bring their food. He stops questioning this bizarre alternate dimension when he tries his food and lets out an audible groan at how devastatingly good it is. The wine is even better, so good Jeongguk drinks at least three glasses and gets a bit warm and fuzzy. That’s when he cuts himself off - he can not get tipsy in front of his boss, no matter how unusually nice this version of his boss seems to be.  

 

Oddly enough, it’s one of the nicest evenings he’s had in a while. Taehyung is, bafflingly, pleasant. The entire time. Not once does he bring up work or even mention Jeongguk’s role as his assistant. Not once does Taehyung linger with his cell phone in his hand. It stays firmly planted on the table, downturned except for him to check the time occasionally. 

 

After dinner, Taehyung drives him home. Sunny is out for the count in the back, belly full more from sharing her dad’s food than eating off her own plate. When they reach Jeongguk’s apartment block, Taehyung pulls the car right up to the entrance and idles along the curb. 

 

“Would you prefer cash, check, or wire transfer for your payment?” 

 

Jeongguk’s brows pinch in confusion. “I thought that’s what dinner was for.” 

 

“Dinner was a thank you for doing this on such short notice,” Taehyung says. “But I still have you pay you. Is the regular rate I pay my sitters alright with you?” 

 

“Um,” Jeongguk stutters, speechless. He collects himself and nods tentatively. “Yeah, that’s fine. Um, cash is fine.” 

 

Taehyung nods concisely. “I’ll get it to you this week.” 

 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk says distantly. His hand hovers over the door handle. “And thanks for dinner. It was, um. Really nice.” 

 

Taehyung nods. “See you tomorrow.” 

 

“See you tomorrow,” Jeongguk says back.

 

“Gukie,” Sunny calls sweetly from the back seat, just as Jeongguk pulls the door handle.

 

Jeongguk leans around the back of his seat to get a good look at her. 

 

She’s rubbing her eyes tiredly, chest heaving in a tiny sigh. She turns her big eyes to him. “Are you leaving?” 

 

“Yeah, sweetie,” he says softly. 

 

She pouts, bottom lip jutted out and quivering. It’s downright unfair.

 

Nooo, don’t be sad,” he coos, letting loose a pout of his own to match. “We’ll hang out again sometime, okay?” 

 

She sniffs but heaves a sigh of assent. “Okay... Bye, Gukie.” 

 

Jeongguk nods, smiling, and then turns back to Taehyung, who’s staring at him. Jeongguk feels a pang of anxiety in his gut. Maybe he shouldn’t be promising he’ll see her again when - 

 

Taehyung smiles. “I’ll hold you to that.” 

 

The sharp anxiety morphs into a flutter. Jeongguk flushes and then stumbles through an awkward good night before scrambling out of the car. When the door is safely shut behind him, he can’t see through the reflection of the streetlights on the window but he waves through the back one to Sunny, anyway. He imagines her waving back and smiles before the car slowly pulls away onto the street. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

From that night onward, shit just gets weirder and weirder. 

 

“He, like, holds the door for me and stuff now,” Jeongguk is saying into his phone as he’s sprawled on the living room couch the following week, feet sore from a long day of running errands. 

 

Did he not... hold the door for you before? ” Mina questions, sounding unimpressed. 

 

“I mean, like, he wouldn’t let it slam in my face or anything. But it’s not like he’d go out of his way to open it for me or hold it open if I was way behind him,” Jeongguk explains. “And he like. It’s weird. He’s been asking me how I’ve been doing. Like, ‘hey Jeongguk, how was your weekend?’ It’s super weird.” 

 

So what you’re saying is suddenly he’s being a decent human being,” Mina concludes. 

 

Jeongguk sighs. “He was always a decent human being. Sort of. He’s always just been… too busy for pleasantries most of the time. I’m not here to, like, carry on small talk with the guy. I’m here for him to dump all four-hundred-thousand of his to-do list tasks on me and then count on me to get it all done.” 

 

Mina laughs. “You always defend him like that. Why don’t you just admit you have a big fat crush on your boss and move along? ” 

 

Jeongguk splutters too much for his immediate denial to be convincing. “I do not have a crush on him.” 

 

I Googled him,” Mina says. “He’s so hot. How do you deal with that every day? ” 

 

“I don’t ogle my boss,” Jeongguk states.

 

Mina snorts. “Sure you don’t.” 

 

“Okay, when I first started, yes. I was so nervous around him because he is super intimidating and - okay, yeah, he’s super hot. But I got over it, okay?” Jeongguk states. “He’s just another hot straight guy. It doesn’t even phase me anymore.” 

 

Mina hums skeptically. “How are you so sure he’s straight, anyway? ” 

 

“He was married, Mina! To a woman.”

 

So? What’s your point? ” 

 

“I’ve seen what that guy wears to the gym, okay? Total straight guy,” Jeongguk huffs. 

 

I literally had no idea you were bi until you came out,” Mina states. “Stop stereotyping.” 

 

Jeongguk relents with a sigh. “Okay, fine. But straight or not, he’s still my boss. I’m pretty sure there’s like fifty rules in the employee handbook against work relationships.” 

 

So then why is he flirting with you? ” 

 

“I didn’t say he was flirting,” Jeongguk argues. “He’s just. Being nicer.” 

 

And you think that has nothing to do with you doing a good job of watching his kid and then going on a dinner date with him? ” Mina poses. Jeongguk is too flustered to cut her off, so she just keeps going. “Single parents get so turned on by dependability. It’s, like, their number one kink.” 

 

“God, please shut up,” Jeongguk groans. “I hate you so much right now.” 

 

Whatever, Jeonggukie. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be hitting you with an ‘I told you so’ in the near future, anyway.” 

 

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Mina is so wrong about everything. She’s never been right in her entire life. Not when they were kids, not when they were teenagers, and definitely not now that they’re adults. She used to think Jeongguk was going to be a professional basketball player. She was wrong about that. She talked Jeongguk into getting a bowl cut one year right before family Christmas pictures, assuring him he’d look like one of those K-pop stars. Their entire family had giggled and called him coconut and made shitty jokes about confusing him with the round Christmas ornaments on the tree for three consecutive days. She’d swore up and down that Jeongguk was a total dudebro, as straight as they come, until she barged into his room one day and caught him making out with the boys’ varsity point guard. 

 

So when she says Taehyung is flirting with him, he knows she’s wrong. It’s the principal of the matter. She’s physiologically incapable of being right about this. 

 

Jeongguk gathers his things into his messenger bag at the end of the day, antsy as usual until he makes it out the door to safety. His boss could call him back at any time. It’s not uncommon for shit to hit the fan five minutes before the end of the day. 

 

Taehyung comes out of his office, eyes glued to his phone as he types. He sweeps down the hallway toward Jeongguk’s desk and passes by without a second glance. 

 

Jeongguk is relieved, because Mina is fucking wrong and that proves it. He slings his bag over his shoulder and heads for the elevators. Taehyung is there waiting already, having already pressed the call button to summon the elevator. They wait in relative silence for the arrow to light up. 

 

Neither of them speak. There’s just the incessant tapping of Taehyung’s keyboard on his phone. The elevator pings and the doors slide open. They board the elevator like perfect strangers and Jeongguk hits two buttons - the garage floor for Taehyung and the lobby for himself. The elevator surges downward and Jeongguk stands awkwardly, resisting the urge to tap his foot on the floor. 

 

Jeongguk is pointedly looking at everything except Taehyung, but when he senses eyes on the side of his face, he cuts a look over toward the other man.

 

 “Cute sweater,” Taehyung says, an almost imperceptible smirk at the corner of his lips. 

 

Jeongguk looks down at his sweater and frowns. “Thanks. Got it on sale.” 

 

Taehyung hums, nodding. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything about Taehyung’s impeccable charcoal suit, crisp white dress shirt layered under a deep maroon sweater. Or his neatly parted and combed brown hair, almost as shiny as the jet black Oxfords on his feet. 

 

Jeongguk shakes his head, refocusing on getting through the elevator doors and trying not to overanalyze the possible intimations behind a questionably sincere compliment like cute sweater.

 

The elevator stops at the floor for the lobby. Jeongguk steps off. 

 

“Have a good night, Jeongguk.” 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t have time to formulate an answer before the doors slide shut. 

 

Mina has never - never - been right about anything like this.

 

She’s not about to start being right now of all times. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 



He’d really thought dinner the night after he watched Sunny was a fluke. 

 

But if that was a fluke, then so was his current situation in which he’s sitting across a table from Taehyung for a late afternoon lunch on the patio of a quaint but high-end bistro down the street from their office. Taehyung had casually requested his presence at lunch following their morning executive meeting. Jeongguk had immediately accepted, thinking this was more of a work-thing than a get-to-know-you thing. He’d even figured there would probably be other people from work here. 

 

But no. It was just him and Taehyung. And Taehyung wasn’t even talking about work. He hadn’t even followed up on any of the thirteen assignments he’d flung at Jeongguk so far today. He was asking Jeongguk questions about himself like this was a second job interview. Jeongguk was, of course, answering them like he might be in line for some sort of promotion he wasn’t aware of. But the questions range from where Jeongguk grew up to what he aspires to be outside of P.A. work to how he met his roommate to which of Jeongguk’s many sweaters was his favorite. Then the conversation had switched gears over to talking about Sunny - and Jeongguk had to ask. 

 

“So how did you guys come up with the name ‘Sunny’?” 

 

Taehyung chokes slightly on his iced water. He pats his mouth dry politely with his cloth napkin. “That’s a great question,” he says. But then he doesn’t actually answer it.

 

Jeongguk waits, half-grin on his face as Taehyung picks at his lunch. 

 

Taehyung eventually looks back up at Jeongguk and bites his lip to hold back a smile. He ducks his chin, and Jeongguk wouldn’t believe it unless he saw it with his own two eyes, but he’s pretty sure his boss just blushed. “I picked it out,” Taehyung admits. He looks up, more confident now as he tosses his head to adjust his bangs. “Her name is actually Soongyu. After the Girls’ Generation member.” 

 

Jeongguk belts out a laugh. 

 

Taehyung squints at him playfully. “My ex-wife was surprisingly okay with it. Now she says it suits her perfectly.” 

 

“That’s amazing,” Jeongguk says, grinning. 

 

Taehyung shrugs it off, leaning over against the armrest of his chair. He looks up at Jeongguk, eyes roaming over his features almost like he’s just now noticing what he looks like for the first time. It unsettles Jeongguk. Not in a bad way, more in a ‘did my boss just check me out and what do I do with this information’ way. “You’ve never spoken with Jihae, have you?” 

 

“Jihae?” Jeongguk repeats, racking his brain and then shaking his head. “Uh, I don’t think so. Doesn’t ring a bell.” 

 

“My ex-wife,” Taehyung says. “Her name is Jihae.” 

 

“Oh. Then no,” Jeongguk replies. “She hasn’t called since I’ve been here. Not that I know of.” 

 

“That’s about right. She’s a busy person. That’s part of the reason we didn’t work out.” 

 

Jeongguk rests his chin in his hand, elbow on the table as he listens. 

 

Taehyung inhales and lets it out slowly. “I’m a bit private about my personal life,” he says. “It’s part of how I keep things separated. That was an issue in my marriage - keeping work and home life separate. My wife, she… Well, we were both always bringing things home with us we shouldn’t have.” 

 

Jeongguk hums, nodding to encourage Taehyung to go on. 

 

“We mutually agreed to keep the custody situation civil,” Taehyung explains. “Jihae kept Sunny for a while, but when she moved to a new position at her job, she couldn’t keep up anymore. Not with how much traveling the job would entail. A nanny would have been raising our daughter. Jihae didn’t even hesitate - she called me the day after she got the news and asked me to take her.” 

 

“Wow,” Jeongguk says. “It must be hard, balancing what you do with raising a kid.” 

 

Taehyung mulls it over for a second, lips pressing into a thin line before he eventually nods. “It’s not easy,” he admits. “You of all people know how much I work.”

 

Jeongguk is quick to nod in agreement. “You bet I do.” 

 

Taehyung smiles, but it fades to a bittersweet twist of his mouth. “I just want her to have the best opportunities in life. I want her to have the freedom to choose whatever path she wants to take. And I never want her to have to worry about not having the money to do whatever it is that she chooses.” 

 

With that, everything that Jeongguk had always suspected about his boss actually being a good person with a good heart is solidified in his mind. He works hard - suffers through the same long hours as Jeongguk and then some, commits himself to doing the best he can do, pushes himself to the very edges of his physical and mental limits nearly every single day - all for his daughter to have the best life he can give her. 

 

Jeongguk would be a liar if he said he didn’t feel his heart melt. Just a little bit.

 

⁎❀⁎

 

>> hey boss!! so sorry but i’m running a few minutes late.. buses were backed up today!! 

>> i’ll be there asap

 

Jeongguk doesn’t even have time to check when he feels his phone buzz with Taehyung’s reply. He flings himself down the stairs of the bus and speed-walks down the block toward the office. He pants as he makes it into the elevator, slumped against the wall and checking the time on his phone. He checks a text from Taehyung as he waits for his floor. 

 

>> Meeting starts in 5. Hurry it up.

 

Jeongguk sighs and takes off at a near sprint as soon as the doors open. He miraculously makes it to his desk without crashing into anyone or anything. He throws down his messenger bag and starts gathering up what he needs for the meeting just as he hears Taehyung’s office door open and shut from down the hall. 

 

“Glad to see you could make it to work, Jeon,” Taehyung says as he passes by. Out of the corner of Jeongguk’s eye, he sees Taehyung place something on the high countertop that divides his desk from the rest of the main office. 

 

Jeongguk almost misses it as he rounds his desk, ready to chase after toward the conference room. He stops dead in his tracks as he realizes what it is. 

 

A cup of coffee. 

 

Jeongguk gawks at it, eyes darting from Taehyung’s retreating figure to the cup on his desk. It’s a paper cup with a lid, something purchased from a coffee shop. Jeongguk picks it up and turns it around in his hands, eyebrows shooting toward his hairline as he reads that it’s a specialty latte. 

 

He scurries after Taehyung, hot coffee in hand. As the morning meeting proceeds, he sips on the latte - it’s probably the best coffee he’s ever had - and catches himself eyeing Taehyung curiously throughout. Taehyung barely spares him a glance. Business as usual. 

 

But, for the first time, Jeongguk entertains the possibility that his boss might be getting at something. 

 

⁎❀⁎



The coffee becomes a thing. 

 

Every morning for the next two weeks, Taehyung arrives at work at his usual time with two coffees in his hand. One he deposits on the counter at the front of Jeongguk’s desk without a word. The other he takes with him to his office. They don’t talk about it. Jeongguk wouldn’t even begin to know how to bring it up. It seems Taehyung is trying out different kinds, too. Different flavors, different blends. Jeongguk enjoys them all except a peppermint one, but he still doesn’t dare mention it to Taehyung. 

 

Business as usual. 

 

Except all the unusual things that certainly have nothing to do with business. There’s still the door-holding and the additional polite small-talk questions - how was your weekend? Still keeping up with The Bachelor? How was your lunch? Plans this evening?  There’s also the occasional smile that never fails to derail Jeongguk’s entire train of thought. The smiles are more rare - when Jeongguk makes one of his jokes that Taehyung of the past would have raised an unamused brow at, or when Jeongguk stumbles over his words because Taehyung said something like you look nice today. Or when Taehyung shows him pictures of Sunny on his phone and then they get lost for the next fifteen minutes talking about her, Taehyung catching him up to speed on what’s been going on in their lives since Jeongguk last heard. 

 

Sometimes Jeongguk thinks he catches Taehyung checking him out. Sometimes Jeongguk thinks he catches himself checking Taehyung out. Sometimes Jeongguk catches himself sitting at his desk wondering what Taehyung looks like in joggers and a t-shirt instead of designer suits. Or wondering if Taehyung ever gets so stressed he goes home and relaxes in a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine. Or wondering if Taehyung is as good at kissing as he looks like he’d be. 

 

It all gets to be a bit much to keep up with, really. 

 

But two things never change - work is still a bitch, and Mondays fucking suck. 

 

Today is a Monday. It’s first thing in the morning - not even Taehyung, ever the early bird - has made it in yet. Now that Jeongguk is privy to the child in the mix, he knows that Taehyung will be dropping Sunny off at school, stopping at the coffee shop on the way by, and making his way through traffic to the office. 

 

As nice as that thought is, though, it’s still a Monday. And Daniel Lee is on the phone. 

 

Jeongguk is slumped at his computer desk, hand pressed to his forehead as he listens to Daniel Lee bitch through his wireless headset. No matter how much Daniel insists that there must be time to meet with Taehyung this week, the calendar right in front of Jeongguk’s face simply says otherwise. 

 

Daniel does not particularly like it when Jeongguk tells him so. 

 

Jeongguk is in the middle of this squabble when Taehyung makes it into work, dropping off the coffee on his desk on his way by. 

 

“I really am trying, Mr. Lee. If I have any cancellations whatsoever, you’ll be the first to know,” Jeongguk is saying, glancing up at the coffee and feeling the slightest bit of relief as he reaches to pick it up. He takes a sip. Vanilla. It’s delicious, and it makes Jeongguk smile for the first time this morning. 

 

Daniel Lee carries on, getting louder and more hostile. 

 

Jeongguk starts to get flustered despite his best efforts. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lee, but Mr. Kim is completely booked. I can try to talk to him about it, but he’s already confirmed his schedule for this week.” He feels a headache coming on. The coffee is good, but it can’t cure that. “Yes, I understand. I’m doing the best I can. I’ll try to make some calls and see if there’s anything I can do.” 

 

Daniel isn’t having it. 

 

Just as Jeongguk opens his mouth to reword the same things he’d just said ten different times, someone pulls the headset off from over his ears and takes it away. Jeongguk’s head snaps up in panic. 

 

Taehyung stands, leaning over the counter. He has Jeongguk’s headset in his hand and presses it to his ear, mic near his mouth. “This is Kim Taehyung. Hello, Mr. Lee. It’s nice to speak to you again. No, not at all. I just got to work a minute ago and overheard my assistant’s conversation with you.” 

 

Jeongguk watches in awe, realizing his jaw his hanging open and clicking it shut. 

 

Taehyung fiddles with the cup of pens on Jeongguk’s desk absently. “I see. Typically I leave that type of thing for my assistant to handle,” Taehyung says evenly. His eyes flash to Jeongguk, pinning him with an intense but indecipherable look. Jeongguk is floored, feeling a little bit helpless and a lot confused. “I assure you he’s perfectly capable. If that’s what he’s telling you, then I’m afraid that must be the case.” 

 

Jeongguk can’t stand to hold the eye contact any longer. His eyes drop to Taehyung’s hand, still fiddling with things on his desk. He has nice hands - long, slender fingers and well-groomed nails. Jeongguk shakes himself out of that line of thinking and refocuses back on the half of the conversation he still can’t really believe is taking place in front of him. 

 

“That’s good to hear, Mr. Lee,” Taehyung says. “Alright, then. I’ll have my assistant see what I have available next week. Of course. Anytime. Thank you. Goodbye.” Taehyung pulls the headset away from his ear and hands it back over to Jeongguk, who reaches out and takes it like it might bite him if he’s not careful. Then he smiles. “He said he’d email you to request an appointment with me for sometime next week.” 

 

“What?” Jeongguk blurts out, mostly regarding whatever just happened as a whole and not what Taehyung had said in particular. “I mean - oh. Um. Thank you.” 

 

“You’re welcome,” Taehyung says easily. He’s still leaning over Jeongguk’s desk. He crosses his arms and tilts his head, gesturing to something in front of Jeongguk. “How’s the coffee?” 

 

Jeongguk looks down at it. “Oh, um - good. It’s really good. I love vanilla-flavored stuff, so. It’s really good. Thank you for that, too. The coffee, I mean. It’s my favorite so far.” 

 

“Duly noted,” Taehyung says with a single nod. He reaches up and props his chin in his hand, grin tugging at the corner of his lips. “Lunch plans today?” 

 

Jeongguk shakes his head slowly. 

 

“I was thinking about steak, maybe,” Taehyung muses. 

 

Jeongguk swallows, throat suddenly dry. He fidgets with the coffee cup in his hand, thumbing at the cardboard sleeve. “Yeah, um. Steak is always a good choice.” 

 

The mirthful smirk pulls harder on one side of Taehyung’s mouth. Something mischievous glints in his eyes. “Would you be interested in having steak as well?” 

 

“Are you… asking me to lunch?” 

 

“Was that not obvious?” 

 

“Well, you didn’t technically, like. Ask.” 

 

“Jeongguk, would you like to go to lunch with me?” 

 

“Yes, I would.” 

 

“Good,” Taehyung states, straightening up and smoothing the front of his suit jacket. “Get back to work,” he adds as he slowly turns away, grin still in place. 

 

“Sure thing, boss.” 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

“And then he takes me to this freakin’ - I don’t even know. Like, four Michelin star steakhouse where they pull out your chair for you to sit down and place your napkin in your lap for you and shit. I mean - he had to have had a reservation, right? Do you think he went and made a reservation? Like, do you think he planned it? God, it was so fucking good, though. It was like - the filet mignon just melted like butter in my mouth. I swear to god, I almost popped a boner.” 

 

Ew, gross. I don’t want to hear about your boners,” Mina gripes. 

 

“And the whole time, he’s just making these eyes at me like I’m the filet mignon and - and I don’t even know what to think anymore, Mina,” Jeongguk continues. “I can’t tell if he’s just being nicer to me because he thinks I’m a good person and wants to get to know me better in a professional kind of way or if he - you know. Wants to ‘get to know me’ get to know me.” 

 

Mina is laughing before Jeongguk is even finished talking. “I really don’t even think he’s being that subtle, Gukie. It sounds to me like he’s wining and dining you for real.

 

Jeongguk heaves a sigh and rolls over in bed, dragging his comforter with him to bundle up and shove between his knees. “But I can’t just, like, come out and ask him if that’s what he’s doing. What if I’m wrong and he’s not and then I just look like a moron?” 

 

I’m pretty sure you look like a moron regardless, so no harm, no foul,” Mina says with a snicker.

 

Minaaa,” Jeongguk whines. “This is serious. Help me. What do I do?” 

 

I don’t think you need to do anything,” Mina states. “It sounds to me like Mister McDreamy is taking matters into his own hands. I give it, like, two weeks tops before he asks you out officially.” 

 

Jeongguk sighs. 

 

You could always ask him to be your plus-one to my party,” Mina sing-songs with a giggle.

 

“Are you shitting me?” Jeongguk snips. “No fucking way.” 

 

Awh. I guess that means you’ll be all sad and lonely.

 

“Just because I’m gonna be by myself doesn’t mean I’m gonna be sad and lonely.” 

 

Well, you have two weeks to find a date,” Mina states. “Which I’m pretty sure you’ve already found, but now you just gotta finish reeling him in.” 

 

Jeongguk groans and yanks his pillow over his face.

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk is waiting at the bus stop like any other morning before work when he gets a mysterious text message from Taehyung. 

 

>> Where are you? 

 

Jeongguk frowns in confusion. 

 

>> i’m about to get on the bus..

>> wait, did we plan to come in early this morning??

>> shit, am i late?!?

 

His phone pings half a second after he sticks it back in his pocket. 

 

>> I was looking more for an exact location. 

 

Jeongguk hesitates before dropping a pin with his location into his conversation with Taehyung. 

 

Two minutes later, Taehyung’s car pulls up on the curbside right in front of him. The window rolls down and Taehyung gestures with a tip of his chin for Jeongguk to get in. 

 

Jeongguk must finally be getting used to this by now, because he hops into the passenger seat without question. 

 

“Good morning,” Taehyung says, smiling softly. 

 

“Good morning,” Jeongguk says back. 

 

They stare at each other for a prolonged moment. The bus pulls up behind them and Taehyung notices it in his mirror. He pulls the car away from the curb as Jeongguk clicks his seatbelt into the buckle. 

 

“Sooo,” Jeongguk drawls, hands patting an uneven rhythm on his thighs. “Just happened to be in the neighborhood this morning...?” 

 

“Mm… No.” 

 

“Oh, okay. Cool.” Jeongguk bobs his head up and down in feigned understanding, watching the buildings pass outside the window. 

 

“I just thought you might appreciate a ride to work.” 

 

“Have you been, like, courting me or something?” 

 

Taehyung snorts, deep laughter bubbling up from his chest. “Courting? Are we in the middle ages?” 

 

Jeongguk huffs, crossing his arms. “You know what I mean.” 

 

Taehyung settles down, licking his lips and casting a quick glance over at Jeongguk.

 

Suddenly wrought with nerves, Jeongguk starts spluttering. “I mean. No disrespect or anything. I just - you know what, never mind. Please forget I asked.” 

 

When he looks over, Taehyung is turning his head away to hide a grin. 

 

“You are, aren’t you?” Jeongguk accuses. 

 

Taehyung lets out a small laugh. Then he turns, sending Jeongguk an undoubtedly flirty grin as he raises one eyebrow. “That would be against company policy, Jeongguk.” 

 

“Oh, right. Silly me. It’s, like, totally normal for bosses to buy their assistants coffee every morning and take them to fancy lunches three times a week and check them out every time they walk into the room. What was I thinking?” 

 

Taehyung shrugs. “Sounds normal to me.” 

 

Jeongguk laughs out loud, tossing his head back against the seat. Taehyung joins in with his own laughter, but they eventually settle back down. Jeongguk looks over at Taehyung in the driver’s seat. He looks so good - jet black suit and white dress shirt, Rolex shining on his wrist and hair parted slightly off-center, tips of his bangs hitting well below his dark brows. One of his hands is wrapped around the leather steering wheel, a single silver band around his middle finger. The other is resting on the console between them, hand wrapped around the gear shift. The dress pants cling to his thighs where he’s lounging in the seat, and Jeongguk wants to groan. Whether from agony or lust, he’s not sure. It just feels really, really fucking unfair either way. 

 

Taehyung catches him staring when he pulls over into an empty spot across the street from a coffee shop. Jeongguk doesn’t bother looking away. It’s pretty clear now - whatever Taehyung has been up to for the past few weeks, whatever tension has been steadily building between the two of them. Every instance Jeongguk can think of when he’s told himself his boss really isn’t that hot is shot to shit in the split second it takes for Taehyung’s eyes to glance down at Jeongguk’s mouth and back up. 

 

“Come on,” Taehyung says, severing the tension. “I’ll get you another one of those vanilla lattes.” 

 

Jeongguk takes it as an opportunity to remind himself to breathe. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Company policy or not, the ‘courting’ continues. In fact, if anything, it intensifies tenfold after that. Taehyung has taken to regularly stopping by Jeongguk’s desk to fiddle with his pens and paperweights and sticky-notes and ask him random questions. They’ve started timing their trips to the elevator at the same time, always standing at a politely acceptable distance but throwing flirtatious, side-eyed glances across at each other. One time, when Jeongguk was wearing a sweater he’s definitely worn to work multiple times before, Taehyung had walked up to him at the water fountain and rubbed his shoulder under the guise of feeling the fabric like it was the first time he'd ever seen it in his life. 

 

It’s one thing to think your boss is flirting with you and it’s another to know. Because if it’s just a theory, one must still maintain a certain level of skepticism. But once it’s a known fact, all hell breaks loose. Jeongguk has been fighting off butterflies and blushes and giggles for a whole week now, and every satisfied smirk each of those actions earns from Taehyung is slowly but steadily driving him to the brink of insanity. Or to the brink of shoving his boss against the wall inside his office and kissing him breathless. And he knows for a fact, only solidified further by all the lingering gazes and hands brushing hands and the slow but steady deterioration of personal space between them, Taehyung would readily let him. 

 

Jeongguk is at his desk now while Taehyung is in his office down the hall. It’s been fairly quiet so far - just the usual morning run-down and a few errands first thing. Now he’s caught up on everything, bored but uncommitted enough to it that he’s taking BuzzFeed quizzes as he screens the occasional incoming phone call. He feels a twinge of guilt at the thought of Taehyung in his own office swamped with work. 

 

Just as he’s considering calling in an order to Taehyung’s favorite sushi place, his desk phone rings. He answers it automatically and rattles off his usual greeting. 

 

“Kim Taehyung’s office. This is Jeongguk. How may I help you?” 

 

Might I… requesteth thy presence in my office? ” 

 

Jeongguk snorts, swiveling around in his office chair so no one passing by can see the dumb look on his face. “Really?” he whispers, hardly able to keep quiet with the way he giggles.

 

Sorry. I’m doing my best, but I’m not familiar with traditional courting practices.” 

 

“You’re so annoying,” Jeongguk groans, hand pressed over his face to hide his giant grin. 

 

Taehyung chuckles, the breathy sound sending static over the line and suddenly Jeongguk understands the virtues of ASMR. “You shouldn’t talk to your boss like that.” 

 

“Yeah, well, my boss shouldn’t subject me shitty jokes that aren’t even slightly funny during work hours.” 

 

It’s odd that you say that when you’re trying not to laugh.” 

 

“I hate you so much right now.” 

 

No, you don’t hate me,” Taehyung hums. Then, before Jeongguk can confirm or deny, “Come here. I need to talk to you.” 

 

“We’re talking right now,” Jeongguk says, cheeky grin on his face as he idly spins side to side in his desk chair. 

 

Are you being insubordinate? ” 

 

“No, sir,” Jeongguk states, feigning innocence. “I’m just trying to be efficient. Wouldn’t want to waste company time.” 

 

Come to my office,” Taehyung orders. “I want to waste company time looking at your face.” 

 

Jeongguk falters completely at that, biting down on his bottom lip and feeling almost his entire body flush with heat. He collects himself after a perfectly valid fifteen to twenty seconds of stunned silence. “I’ll be right there, sir.” 

 

Good.” 

 

Jeongguk is conflicted about going to Taehyung’s office. On the one hand, he wants to hurtle himself down the hall and bust down the door. On the other, his knees are so wobbly and weak he can barely stand up without shaking. He gets his shit together and walks down the hall like an unaffected individual, though, and has never been more proud of himself. He raps lightly on the door with the back of his knuckles, hears Taehyung's distant and muted come in, and pushes through to close the door behind himself. 

 

Taehyung rolls back from his computer, bringing his arms to lie along the armrests of his leather desk chair. It’s one of the many unusual things that’s been happening ever since Jeongguk watched Sunny overnight - walking into Taehyung’s office and earning his full attention away from his work. It makes Jeongguk’s chest swell with pride and belly flit with nerves.

 

“You know,” Jeongguk ponders aloud with false bravado as he saunters over to take a seat in front of Taehyung’s desk. “I used to think you were intimidating, but now I know you’re just a huge dork.” 

 

Taehyung smiles, tilting his head to the side to rest his cheek in the palm of his hand. His hair looks freshly washed and styled, sweeping lightly to the side with the motion. He’s wearing a dark navy suit with a subtle shine to the fabric over a powder blue button-down and matching tie. Jeongguk likes the starch-pressed, put together look almost as much as he likes the disheveled, work-worn look when he sheds the jacket and shoves his sleeves up to his elbows, hair mussed from raking his stressed hands through it every few minutes. Even in all their persistent flirting over the past few weeks, Jeongguk hasn’t gotten close enough to really smell him, only the occasional drift of cologne when he leans close or breezes past. But Jeongguk knows Taehyung would smell really fucking good if he got in close, nuzzled into the side of his neck and inhaled deep. Probably like expensive body wash and designer aftershave, maybe even the faintest hint of a luxury moisturizer because he knows the guy takes good care of his skin. 

 

It’s only after he’s reemerged from this rabbit hole of thoughts that he realizes Taehyung has said something. 

 

“Huh?”

 

Taehyung shakes his head, probably aiming for disappointment in his face but barely masking his amusement. “I said my daughter has been asking about you.” 

 

Jeongguk perks up. “She has?” 

 

Taehyung nods. “She has. She wants to know when you’re coming to see her again as promised.” 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says eloquently. 

 

“You seem to have left an impression on her.”

 

Jeongguk smiles at that, feeling a swell of pride and affection. 

 

“Which is why I called you in here to ask you a favor,” Taehyung continues, folding his hands in front of himself and putting on an heir of professionalism. 

 

“What’s that?” Jeongguk asks, eyeing Taehyung with playful suspicion. 

 

“It would require working outside your normal hours.” 

 

“That’s, like, pretty normal around here.” 

 

“Or even outside your regular workweek. Let’s say for instance, a Saturday afternoon?” 

 

Jeongguk sucks air through his teeth, shaking his head. “I don’t know, boss. That’s asking a lot of me.” 

 

“It would mean the world to her,” Taehyung says, grin sly because he knows he’s got Jeongguk with that one sentence. 

 

Jeongguk caves instantly. “This Saturday?” 

 

Taehyung nods. “I’ll pick you up.” 

 

“Cool,” Jeongguk says. Then he stills, squinting but unable to stop his smile. “You wouldn’t happen to have any ulterior motive behind this, would you?” 

 

Taehyung isn’t even fazed. “You mean like using my cute daughter against you so I can spend time with you on your day off?” 

 

“Yeah, exactly like that.” 

 

Taehyung looks mildly affronted. “I would never.” 

 

Jeongguk laughs, feeling light and bubbly from the entire conversation. “Had to ask.” 

 

“I understand. I’ll text you with a time.” 

 

“Sounds good.” Jeongguk is about to get up and make his way back to his desk on cloud nine when a thought occurs to him. He sinks back down in the armchair and pins Taehyung with a look. “Actually, since we’re doing favors for each other…” 

 

Taehyung raises a brow. 

 

“My sister’s engagement party is coming up next weekend,” Jeongguk continues with a newfound sense of confidence. 

 

“Oh?” 

 

“And she’s been giving me hell about showing up without a date.”

 

“I see.” 

 

“So,” Jeongguk states conclusively. “I help you out this Saturday, and you help me out next weekend. It’s an even trade.” 

 

Taehyung pretends to mull it over for a moment, eyes drifting off to the side in thought. “I’m a very busy person.” 

 

Jeongguk smirks. “I wouldn’t know anything about that.” 

 

“You’d have to check with my assistant to see if I’m available.” 

 

Jeongguk pushes off his knees and stands up, tossing one more calculated look at Taehyung as he heads for the door. “I’ll see what he can do,” he says moments before the door closes behind him. 

 

And just like that, he has date plans with the hottest guy ever for the next two weekends. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk is running out of phone storage from all the pictures he’s taken at the aquarium today. Sunny hasn’t left his side since he’d unbuckled her out of her car seat except to run out in front of him and point excitedly at the next exhibit. She’s wearing a sunflower printed dress and sandals for the warmer weather, long hair pulled up into a top knot and adorned with a tiny yellow flower clip. Jeongguk hadn’t been lying when he’d professed that sunflowers were his favorite, much to Sunny’s delight. He’d tried so hard to get Mina to do a sunflower theme for her wedding, but she’d gone with a more chic color palette. 

 

Taehyung trails close by as they make their way through the aquarium, usually at Jeongguk’s side or a step or two behind when Jeongguk gets dragged off by a surprisingly strong four-year-old. They have a system down by now - when Sunny is too short to see something, she gives Jeongguk a three-second pout and he quickly scoops her up so she can see. Then when she’s had enough of looking at that thing, she wriggles free from his arms and skips over to the next thing. So far her favorite has been either the jellyfish or the penguins, judging by the intensity of her squeals and flailing and bouncing around. 

 

She is the smallest, happiest ray of sunshine Jeongguk has ever seen, and he is absolutely smitten. 

 

“Gukie - Gukie!” she’s calling from over by an alligator tank, feet stomping and arms pumping excitedly like she’s sprinting in place. 

 

Jeongguk heads right over and squats next to her tiny form as she stoops to point at an albino alligator in the murky water. He squints and pretends he can’t see it, craning his neck and moving his head around and she points insistently. “I don’t see anything.” 

 

“Right there! It's right there!” Her pointing gets increasingly chaotic with one hand as she wraps part of his wrist in a death grip with the other. 

 

“What? I still don’t see it.” 

 

Huffing and getting irritated, Sunny grabs his face between her two tiny hands, squishing his cheeks as she attempts to point him in the right direction. “See it now?” 

 

“Hmm…” Jeongguk leans in closer to the glass. 

 

Sunny lets go of his face and puts her hands on her hips. “Gukie, do you need glasses or something?” 

 

Jeongguk laughs out loud at the sass. He grabs her up and spins around to stand up and then goes to show her the tank of seahorses. 

 

Later, while Sunny is climbing around in some sort of playground for kids, Jeongguk and Taehyung watch from the side with similar fond smiles. 

 

Taehyung leans over, bumping Jeongguk with an elbow so he looks up. Taehyung turns that soft, endeared smile onto Jeongguk and it doesn’t lose any of its warmth. It makes Jeongguk’s stomach swoop, his own smile falling slightly from the strength of the sensation. 

 

“Are you free for dinner?” Taehyung asks.

 

Jeongguk hears Sunny let out a squeal, eyes darting that direction. When he sees that she’s fine, just running and climbing around like a wild monkey, he turns back to Taehyung. “Do you even have to ask?” 

 

He expects Taehyung to bounce back with a quick-witted remark, but instead, Taehyung’s mood seems to wilt. Just barely. If Jeongguk hadn’t been paying close attention to begin with, he would have never noticed. Taehyung takes a breath and then walks over to lean against the railing that runs the parameter of the play area. Jeongguk follows, leaning beside him close enough that their shoulders bump. 

 

“What’s wrong?” Jeongguk questions. 

 

Taehyung shakes his head, eyes following Sunny as she plays. “I really shouldn’t be doing this.” 

 

It sinks like a rock into the pit of Jeongguk’s stomach. “Why are you saying that now?” 

 

“I wish it were just about company policy,” Taehyung explains. “That’s one thing on its own, but…” 

 

“But, what?” 

 

Taehyung tilts his chin toward Sunny, like this should be enough of an explanation on its own. 

 

Jeongguk’s brows knit together. “You’re worried because you brought your kid into this?” 

 

“More or less,” Taehyung says, sagging a bit against the railing. 

 

“That’s dumb,” Jeongguk blurts out. Taehyung cuts a look at him, but he doesn’t back down. If they’re going to flirt around and go on dates, then they’re going to have to be equals in that sense. He decides to speak his mind. “Even if you were doing this with someone outside of work, you’d still have to introduce them to her eventually. You can’t keep something as big as having a kid a secret for that long.” 

 

“I guess you’re right.” 

 

Jeongguk smirks. “Wait, say that again so I can record it.” 

 

Taehyung gently jabs Jeongguk with his elbow. “And you call me annoying.” 

 

Jeongguk laughs softly, sobering a bit as he realizes the conversation is still weighing on Taehyung. He makes sure he’s looking at Taehyung with the full intensity of his gaze, voice low so only he can hear and not the bustling crowd of aquarium-goers around them. “You can talk to me, you know. I’m not your assistant right now. I’m just… Jeongguk.” 

 

Lightly scoffing, Taehyung rolls his eyes and avoids Jeongguk’s gaze. “It’s even more complicated that way.” 

 

“Then stop making it complicated,” Jeongguk says simply. He takes a chance - right in the middle of this aquarium, right in front of all these parents with crying babies in strollers and elderly people enjoying an afternoon outing. As he steps away, he lets his hand slide across the small of Taehyung’s back. Just the vaguest hint of pressure. He meant for it to be comforting, reassuring, but he finds himself struggling to step away from that warmth, withdraw his hand and keep it to himself. Jeongguk is too chicken to stick around and see if it gets any kind of reaction and ambles over to pluck Sunny out of the sea of kids in the play area instead. 

 

They make their way to the hands-on exhibit and Jeongguk learns that Sunny is skittish about sticking her hands into the tanks filled with underwater creepy-crawlies. He doesn’t blame her at all, but he shows her there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s completely worth the look of wonder on her face as he holds a starfish up for her to carefully poke with her index finger. 

 

“Daddy!” she calls out loudly, and Taehyung comes up on her other side. “Look! Look!” 

 

“Wow,” Taehyung says, sounding overly impressed. He reaches a hand into the water and slides it into place right against Jeongguk’s, making his heart jump hard behind his ribs as their fingers overlap. He tilts their hands here and there like he’s getting a better look at the starfish. “Do you know what it’s called?” 

 

“Starfish!” Sunny answers, touching the creature with even more courage now that her dad is next to her. 

 

Then, as quickly as it began, Taehyung withdraws his hand. He kisses Sunny on the side of the head and leaves them to it while he goes to dry his hands. 

 

Their next stop is the stingray encounter. It’s the most popular section of the entire aquarium. There are long lines at the stands to buy food to feed the fish and the giant tank is surrounded by people along every glass wall. Jeongguk spots an empty space along the wall and urges Taehyung toward it. He hangs back as he watches Taehyung walk Sunny over to the space and then pick her up so she can lean over and look at the fish. Jeongguk pulls out his phone and captures the next few moments in photos - Sunny squeaking and adopting a look of horror as a huge ray swims up close to the tank. Her bright, boxy smile and delighted laugh as one of the fish slaps water over the edge of the barrier and splashes them. The side of Taehyung’s face lit up with a smile as he shows Sunny how to reach in and pet the stingrays. 

 

His phone starts complaining at him again about running low on storage. He contemplates deleting a bunch of old pictures to make more space, but sighs in disappointment and pockets his phone. He can hear some of Taehyung’s conversation with Sunny from here. 

 

“Does it bite?” 

 

“No, it doesn’t bite. They’re nice fish.” 

 

“Why’s it all slimy like that?” 

 

“I don’t know. Maybe we can look up the answer when we get home later.” 

 

“How come it’s all flat like a pancake, daddy?” 

 

“I don’t know that either, baby.” 

 

“Do you think that one is a boy or girl?”

 

“Does it matter if it’s a boy or a girl?” 

 

“I don’t think so.” A gasp. “Eww! Is that an eyeball?” 

 

Taehyung’s deep laugh. “Well, it has to be able to see so it can swim, right?” 

 

“I can’t see when I swim. I close my eyes like this and I hold my nose like this.” She shows him what she’s talking about. “See?” 

 

“I see that,” Taehyung hums. 

 

Jeongguk is laughing at the exchange as he wanders up behind Taehyung. The glass wall around the exhibit is still packed, but there’s a tiny amount of space next to Taehyung to squeeze into. In a move even bolder than he thought himself capable, he moves up and presses in right behind Taehyung and slightly to the side so he can reach an arm over the glass. 

 

Taehyung stiffens for a split second before relaxing. He doesn’t say anything as Jeongguk’s hand comes to rest on his waist. He doesn’t even say anything about the way Jeongguk’s heart is pounding through his chest, probably obvious where the back of Taehyung’s shoulder is pressed against it. Jeongguk is operating on pure impulse, spurred on by the way Taehyung leans into him. Taehyung smells as good as, if not better, than Jeongguk’s been imagining for weeks now. Months, if he’s honest. Maybe since the day he’d walked in for his job interview and met Taehyung for the first time, internally begging for mercy as the mere sight of him and calm depth of his voice unnerved Jeongguk to the point of stumbling over his words and sweating in his dress shirt. It’s been a long time coming, he thinks. Long enough that he gives into the urge to lean in just a bit more, close enough that Taehyung’s hair just slightly brushes his face when he turns his head. 

 

Jeongguk dips his hand into the cool water, arm outstretched alongside Taehyung’s. A big stingray passes through the water right under their hands. Jeongguk lets his hand glide over it, subtly moving forward until his hand is sliding against Taehyung’s just under the surface of the water. Taehyung doesn’t shy away at all and plays right along with the little game. When the next ray comes into their arms’ reach, Taehyung lets their hands slide together in the water as they stretch their arms to follow it as it passes. 

 

It feels a little like payback for the starfish incident earlier. It also feels incredibly indulgent. They’ve flirted plenty, batted eyes at each other and bantered under their breath when no one’s around to hear. They’ve tiptoed around each other over fancy lunches, loitered around each others’ desks much longer than necessary, swapped sly glances across the conference room during important meetings. Until today, they hadn’t crossed this line. Jeongguk thinks, with the warmth of Taehyung’s skin through his shirt and the smoothness of his hands as they slip underneath his palms in the water, there’s no turning back. And he thinks again, with the sound of Sunny’s infectious laughter in his ears and her dad’s smiling profile in front of his eyes, he’s completely content with that revelation. 

 

Sometime close to sunset, after Sunny had tired herself out at the aquarium and they’d had dinner at another extravagant restaurant, Taehyung drives them back to Jeongguk’s apartment. It’s another quiet ride, Sunny napping in the back seat and he and Taehyung talking in hushed tones up front. Jeongguk finds slipping into conversation with Taehyung gets easier every time now. They talk about most everything with only a few reservations, but it’s with small, unspoken promises to talk about that some other time. In the future, as they grow closer. They don’t come out and say that, of course, but it’s implied with every warm smile and lingering touch and too-long gaze between them. 

 

“I had a lot of fun today,” Jeongguk is saying, like some script out of a gooey romantic comedy movie. 

 

“Me too,” Taehyung says back, right on cue. 

 

Jeongguk grins down at his lap, hands twitching nervously. He thinks if Taehyung weren’t the guy who signs his paychecks and who could singlehandedly end his career in three words or less, he would lean over and kiss him right now. “I’ll see you Monday.” 

 

“Have a good night.” 

 

Jeongguk chickens out this time. Next time, he tells himself. Next time The Kim Taehyung, chief editor of Singularity, won’t know what hit him when Jeon Jeongguk plants one on him. He offers a loopy smile as he pushes open the car door. 

 

Sunny stirs in the back seat, cooing like a dove as she stretches to life. “Gukie? Where you goin’?” she slurs sleepily. 

 

“I’ve gotta go home, sweetie,” Jeongguk calls back. 

 

Sunny starts sniffling. Then full-on crying. 

 

“Ooh, no, no, no, no,” Jeongguk cries back, quickly unbuckling and getting out of the car. He pulls open the back door and leans over, hands coming up to her puffy red face to smear tears away from her cheeks. “Why are you crying? What’s wrong?” 

 

Taehyung is quiet from the front seat, turned around to watch as Jeongguk consoles Sunny. 

 

“I don’t want you to go,” she says, bottom lip jutted out and teardrops sparkling on her lashes. 

 

Jeongguk is heartbroken. “Nooo, don’t be sad. Don’t be sad. I’ll see you again soon, okay? Ask your dad.” He turns to Taehyung, pulling a face to plead for help. 

 

“We’ll see Gukie again soon,” Taehyung assures. 

 

Sunny sniffs. Jeongguk grabs a napkin Taehyung passes from the front seat and does his best to wipe away the mess. 

 

“Don’t cry,” Jeongguk pleads. “You don’t wanna get snot all over your pretty dress, do you?” 

 

Sunny shakes her head. “No.” 

 

“Okay, then,” Jeongguk says, cringing inwardly at the used napkin as he tosses it to the floorboard. He bumps the underside of her chin gently with his knuckle. “I’ll see you really soon, okay? Don’t cry.” 

 

“Okay,” she mumbles. She looks up at him with her giant brown eyes, frown quivering. “Bye, Gukie.” 

 

“Bye, Sunny.” 

 

As he leans out of the car, he catches Taehyung’s gaze and pauses. 

 

Taehyung frowns, barely able to fight it past a smile. “Bye, Gukie,” he calls in a perfect rendition of his daughter’s tone. 

 

Jeongguk scrunches his nose at him, biting back his own laugh as he closes the car door and waves them off down the road. 

 

Yeah, he thinks. There’s definitely no turning back now. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk arrives at the office Monday morning feeling refreshed and ready to kick ass. He almost forgets that Taehyung is going to be out of the office that day until he’s standing in the elevator on the way up. It puts a damper on his good mood only slightly. He’d been looking forward to seeing how things might change around the office after their trip to the aquarium, but he supposes it will have to wait until tomorrow. It gives him an opportunity to catch up on work, anyway, so he takes the minor disappointment in stride. 

 

Needless to say, when he arrives at his desk and finds a bouquet of sunflowers perched on his countertop and a note with his name on it, he nearly swoons. After a moment of collecting himself and telling himself he’s a grown man and he can handle this, he goes to hide at the furthest corner of his desk and silently screams into his hands. 

 

Then, he positions the vase of flowers under the best lighting he can find in the office and snaps at least nineteen pictures. He sends one to Mina and immediately, his phone starts vibrating with an incoming call. He answers and pushes the phone to his ear -  

 

HE BOUGHT YOU SUNFLOWERS ?”

 

- and promptly feels his eardrum burst at his sister’s unrestrained screaming. 

 

“Oh my god, shut up shut up shut up,” Jeongguk hisses, fumbling to lower the call volume before someone overhears his loud-mouthed sister’s ranting. 

 

Jeon Jeongguk, I cannot believe you haven’t introduced me to my future brother-in-law yet. I’m so mad at you I could hit you. Actually, I think I might. You mean to tell me you got to the point where he’s sending you flowers and you didn’t tell me about it? I want every single detail, Jeongguk, so start talking.”

 

“I can’t right now,” Jeongguk whisper-yells, warily glancing around. Everyone else in the office either hasn’t shown up yet or is quietly working, minding their own business. “I’ll call you later, okay?” 

 

Oh my god. Oh. My. God. I have to meet him. He’s perfect.” 

 

“You will - I - ” Jeongguk gulps. “I asked him to come with me to your party.” 

 

YOU DID WHAT?”

 

Jeongguk loudly shushes Mina, hunkering down in his office chair and trying to make himself small and invisible. “Stop yelling, for fuck’s sake. I’m at work. Someone’s gonna hear you.” 

 

Why aren’t you more excited? I would be losing my shit if I were you -

 

“I am - trust me, I am,” Jeongguk says. Then, in the smallest whisper he can feasibly manage, “It’s just - he’s still my boss, okay? I can’t just advertise it to the whole world.” 

 

Obviously he doesn’t care that he’s your boss."

 

Jeongguk sighs. “I have to get to work, Mina. I’ll talk to you later.” 

 

Okay, but you have to tell me everything. And I mean everything! I can’t believe he sent you flowers, oh my god. He’s so whipped already, I can tell. Have you guys done it already? Because if not, that’s like -

 

Jeongguk ends the call and shoves his phone off to the side, heart hammering. He looks back up at the flowers, sitting daintily in their clear glass vase. He reaches up and plucks the card from the arrangement, pulling it back to himself and tearing it open in a hurry. 

 

Thank you for brightening our day. - T

 

Jeongguk smiles. No one’s ever bought him flowers before. It’s not really his thing. But the gesture has him careening, heart flopping over in somersaults in his chest. He doesn’t even know what to do with flowers - they’ll probably die in, like, two days. 

 

He doesn’t care. He props the card up on his desk where he can see it with just a glance to the side of his computer monitor. He smiles every single time he catches a glance at the card or the vibrant yellow flowers for the rest of the day. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

The next afternoon, Taehyung is late getting to the office due to several meetings he’d had lined up that ran through lunch. He swoops in, phone at his ear and talking loudly with someone on the other line. He’s wearing a taupe suit with pleated dress pants over a tieless crisp white shirt. He doesn’t look up at anyone as he makes his way through the office, brows furrowed in concentration at the conversation he’s having. He doesn’t even spare a glance for Jeongguk as he whisks past. His voice carries down the hallway as the door snaps shut behind him and muffles the rest of his words. 

 

Jeongguk waits about thirty minutes until he’s absolutely positive Taehyung is off the phone before he makes his way toward his office. He knocks softly on the door. 

 

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung calls from inside. 

 

“Yeah, it’s me.” 

 

“Come in.” 

 

Jeongguk goes inside, shutting the door behind himself. 

 

Taehyung looks harried from work, face slightly pinched and eyes quickly darting over his computer screen as he clicks around and types. His suit jacket is abandoned on an armchair, shirt sleeves pushed up and collar gaping open. He spares a glance at Jeongguk for longer than expected, letting his eyes slide from head to toe unabashed.

 

Jeongguk swallows. This is like his worst nightmare come to life. Taehyung looking like this, and then checking him out like that. He’s not sure when Taehyung’s insufferable boss persona started doing these types of things to his libido, but somewhere along the way, a line was crossed. 

 

Taehyung sighs loudly, nostrils flaring as he leans back heavily in his chair. He manages a thin, tight-lipped smile as he turns his full attention to Jeongguk. “Hey,” he breathes. 

 

“I take it lunch with Chandler He was a pleasure as usual,” Jeongguk comments. 

 

Taehyung’s eyes roll up to the ceiling, hair falling away from his face as his head thumps back against his chair. When he looks up, some of the tension is gone. He gives Jeongguk a more genuine smile. “There’s definitely other people I’d rather take to lunch.”

 

Jeongguk grins, shifting his weight on his feet. He ducks his head shyly. “Kinda missed you around here yesterday.” 

 

Taehyung’s eyebrows quirk upward, smile growing a bit devilish. “I’d love to hear you elaborate on that when we have the time.” 

 

At that, Jeongguk feels his entire face heat up, all the way down his neck and out to the tips of his ears. He clears his throat. “Thank you, um. For the flowers. They’re, uh, really pretty. I like them.” 

 

“You’re welcome,” Taehyung says. “Are we still on for Saturday night?” 

 

Jeongguk nods, still recovering from Taehyung’s previous comment. 

 

“Good,” Taehyung states. Then, like a switch flips, he goes back into work mode. “Did you need anything else?” 

 

“No, sir.” 

 

“Alright, then,” Taehyung states, eyeing Jeongguk up and down one last time. He gestures to the door absently, a playful grin tugging at his lips despite his best efforts to disguise it with feigned professional indifference. “Close the door on your way out.” 

 

Jeongguk does as he’s told, relieved to get out into the hallway and away from the thick tension. 

 

Any longer in there and he doesn’t know how much trouble he would’ve inevitably gotten himself into. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

It’s the day of Mina’s engagement party, and Jeongguk is - true to his role in this apparent romantic comedy - freaking out about what to wear. He’s been on a FaceTime call with Mina for pushing an hour now while Yoongi is laid up on his bed with an assortment of snacks and a diminishing 2-liter bottle of soda, offering very useless input. 

 

“Just go shirtless, that’ll give him the right idea.” 

 

I swear to god, Yoongi, if you don’t shut up - Jeongguk? What the hell are you thinking? That top does not go with those jeans! Put that down!” 

 

And so it goes until Jeongguk settles on - wait for it - a plain-ass button down shirt and his nicest pair of dark-wash jeans.

 

It’s classic. It says: ‘I’m single and only somewhat ready to mingle because I’m here with a hot guy I’m trying to date’,” Mina says, scrutinizing Jeongguk’s reflection in the mirror as he angles the phone for her to see.

 

“Really?” Yoongi questions, head tilted curiously. “I think it says: ‘Look at me, I spent two hours picking an outfit and this is what my dumbass self came up with.’” 

 

“I hate you both,” Jeongguk grumbles. He turns the camera back to his face, offering an anxious smile. “I’ve gotta go fix my hair and finish getting ready. I’ll see you tonight.” 

 

Yay! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to meet Mister McDreamy! ” 

 

With impeccable timing, the front doorbell rings. 

 

Jeongguk panics. “Yoongi, go - go answer it!” 

 

Wait, Jeongguk - I don’t think that’s a good idea -

 

Yoongi, moving at a speed ten times faster than his average sloth-like pace, is up and out of the room before Jeongguk can fully voice a protest. 

 

“Oh, no, what have I done,” Jeongguk groans as he hears the front door open and Yoongi belt out an obnoxious greeting all the way across their apartment. 

 

Oh my god, did he actually come to your front doorstep to pick you up? ” Mina squeals. “That is so cute. Hold on, I’m dying.” 

 

“Okay, then. Bye, Mina.” 

 

No, wait! Take me in there! I wanna say hi! ” 

 

“You’re literally going to see him in less than an hour. No. Bye, Mina.” 

 

Despite ample objection from his sister, he ends the call. Then he shuffles into the bathroom to frantically put the final touches on his look. After he finishes off with some modest earrings and a few spritzes of cologne, he emerges from the bathroom with a sense of dread as he realizes Yoongi and Taehyung are carrying on conversation in the living room. 

 

Yoongi has casted his phone screen to the television and is proudly displaying every embarrassing photo and video of Jeongguk he has - with added commentary. 

 

“This was back in high school before Jeongguk grew into his teeth,” Yoongi says. “I got this one from Facebook. His mom tagged him in it and said, ‘My sweet baby boy! They grow up so fast!’ and then there’s just, like, twelve heart emojis and kissy faces. Yeah, he’s definitely a mama’s boy.” 

 

Anyway,” Jeongguk announces his presence loudly.

 

Taehyung turns to him, hands casually in his pockets and bemused smirk on his face. Whatever Jeongguk had been about to say gets caught in the back of his throat. He has to swallow hard to get past it. He hadn’t really thought about the idea of seeing Taehyung in anything except his normal work attire. He probably wouldn’t have been surprised if Taehyung had shown up in one of the exact suits he’s worn in the past, looking everything like the white collar tycoon he is.

 

Instead, Taehyung is wearing all black save for a subtle print on his sheer button-down layered over a black t-shirt. His sleek dress slacks are cinched at his waist with a leather belt, designer loafers on his feet to complete the look. At work, he has always been extremely minimalistic with his accessories. Maybe a nice watch, a ring or two. Tonight, Taehyung’s hands and ears sparkle with luxurious metal jewelry. His hair is styled with natural-looking but intentional waves, parted similar to how he usually wears it. 

 

“Were you gonna… follow that up with something?” Yoongi pipes up from the couch. 

 

“Huh?” Jeongguk grunts, tossing an irritably confused look at Yoongi. 

 

“You just stomped in here all pissy and went ‘anyway ’ and then started staring at your boss with heart-eyes.” 

 

Jeongguk cringes, realizing their immediate need to get the hell out of dodge before Yoongi can embarrass him any more than he already has. “Ready to go?” he asks, but he’s already ushering Taehyung toward the door with an arm across his back, disregarding the bemused look on his face.

 

“I’ll catch up with you guys later!” Yoongi calls from the couch as they head for the front door. 

 

“Feel free not to!” Jeongguk calls back. 

 

“Your roommate seems interesting,” Taehyung says as soon as they’re on the other side of the front door. 

 

“God, he’s - he’s something,” Jeongguk mumbles. Then he stops, grabbing Taehyung under the elbow and pulling him to a stop as well. 

 

Taehyung’s eyes shift warily to Jeongguk as he turns to face him. 

 

Jeongguk takes another long moment to look him over. He feels like one lucky son of a bitch. “Wow,” he finally breathes, slow smile creeping onto his face as his eyes fill with wonder. “You look…” 

 

Taehyung laughs, suddenly stepping forward into Jeongguk’s space and nearly sending him into cardiac arrest. He only reaches up and adjusts Jeongguk’s collar, though, and smooths his hands down, a fraction of a second too long and dragging to be completely innocent. He tips his head slightly, lashes fluttering. “Sorry, your collar was messed up. What were you saying?” 

 

Jeongguk might have fallen for that if he hadn’t just spent an undue amount of time making sure his collar was absolutely perfect in the bathroom mirror. But he’ll let it slide because Taehyung looks mouthwatering and smells even better. “You look amazing.” 

 

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Taehyung murmurs, and then he steps back to turn away.

 

Jeongguk is devastated only for as long as it takes to get an eyeful of Taehyung’s ass walking away from him in those slim-fit pants. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Cut to about two and a half hours later that night after all the awkward introductions and hand-shaking and only half-explaining that Taehyung is sorta-kinda his boss but also sorta-kinda his date. Taehyung had eloquently smoothed over every conversation he’d been engaged in. It reminds Jeongguk that Taehyung is and always has been fully capable of laying on the charm and dealing with people with incredible grace when he needs to. He’d even had Mina practically swooning. Jeongguk had heaved a huge sigh of relief that she’d been far too caught up in greeting all her guests and tending to the party affairs to bombard them with questions. Her fiance, Seokjin, had told them when and where to be for the open bar, gave them each a short hug with a slap on the back, and then bid them a quick farewell with a dashing smile. 

 

Even Jeongguk’s parents had really only spared a moment for their son and his boss-slash-date, taking in the information with only a slight raise of their brows and then each dragging Taehyung into their own respective mom and dad hugs. Jeongguk had watched, knowing he should probably feel embarrassed or mildly concerned, but only feeling a bit giddy. Taehyung had mystified them like he had everyone else, and then they’d been on their way to flit about the party and greet the rest of their family. Once the liquor had started flowing and people started getting rowdier, they’d stopped by to kiss each of the Jeon children goodbye before walking away arm-in-arm.

 

The setup for the party is stunning - poised on a rooftop in the middle of the sparkling city, twinkling fairy lights and glowing lanterns strung alongside the greenery and silk flowers. It had been beautiful at twilight when they’d first arrived, but with the sun long since set and the moon rising steadily, it’s absolutely picturesque. Jeongguk had managed to kill half an hour snapping pictures, awed at the gorgeous views and scenery. 

 

Taehyung finds Jeongguk taking pictures around an arched floral display, using exposed brick and night sky as his backdrops as he bends and stoops to get the best angles. 

 

“You left me with your aunt,” Taehyung comments, sounding more mirthful than offended. 

 

“Sorry,” Jeongguk says sheepishly, closing out of his camera app. 

 

Taehyung holds out his hand, motioning with his fingers. “Can I see?” 

 

Jeongguk flushes but pulls up his photo gallery and hands him his phone. 

 

Taehyung takes it and starts flipping through. He turns and leans against the brick wall, elbow resting on the ledge as his finger swipes over the phone screen. The light flickers across his features, accentuating the way his dark eyebrows drift upward in composed surprise. “These are incredible,” Taehyung says after a while. 

 

“Just a hobby of mine,” Jeongguk says dismissively. He accepts his phone as Taehyung hands it back. 

 

“Not something you want to pursue?” Taehyung questions. 

 

“No, no, definitely not,” Jeongguk mumbles, shaking his head.

 

Taehyung seems to want to say more, but he lets it go. “Do you want to go get a drink?” 

 

Jeongguk smiles. “I’d love to.” 

 

Another forty minutes and a few shots later and they’re both on the dancefloor among the small crowd. Taehyung’s cheeks are rosy from the alcohol and a lot of laughter. He’s not a bad dancer at all as he starts to come out of his shell. Jeongguk is dancing like a total idiot because his family will tease him regardless so he might as well not give a shit. Everyone’s happily buzzed, anyway, tossing back drinks and flailing around with the music. Jeongguk has never seen Taehyung smile so much, never been so positively enamored. 

 

He accidentally drifts away from Taehyung for a few songs when he starts pestering Mina, doing his damndest to embarrass her in an impromptu dance-off. However, as she’s always been, she’s a force to be reckoned with - and so is her future husband. Jeongguk thought he’d for sure shut it down with the worm, but then on the next turn, Seokjin had gotten real low and started twerking and the entire rooftop of people had lost their minds. Jeongguk had gleefully accepted his defeat, tossing back every shot Mina and Seokjin handed him as his punishment. 

 

Shots consumed, Jeongguk sets off to find Taehyung. He finds him sitting at a table, empty glass in hand as he gestures along with the story he’s telling to none other than Min Yoongi. Taehyung doesn’t notice him right away, but Yoongi does and looks up at him with a shit-eating grin. 

 

“Hey, look. You owe me five bucks. He found you,” Yoongi says to Taehyung, reaching across and shaking his knee. 

 

Taehyung looks up at Jeongguk owlishly, lips parted in adorable surprise. Then his face blossoms into a lazy smile. “Hey, you.” 

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk says. He gestures with his head toward the dancefloor. “Wanna dance?” 

 

“Let me get another drink first,” Taehyung says, smiling wide as he stands up. He bumps into Jeongguk on his way by, bracing himself with a hand against Jeongguk’s chest as Jeongguk steadies him with an arm around his waist. 

 

Jeongguk chuckles. “You sure you need another one?” 

 

Taehyung squints, probably aiming for menacing but achieving a cute pout. Jeongguk is half a second from pushing him up against the nearest brick wall to kiss the look off his face. “You don’t get paid to question me.” 

 

“I’m not getting paid at all right now.” 

 

Taehyung hums. “Good point,” he says. “Wait here.” He gives Jeongguk’s chest a firm pat and then slides out of his arm to head for the bar. 

 

Jeongguk watches him go until he registers Yoongi’s evil laughter from behind him. He turns on his heel, swaying a little, and fixes him with a look. “What?” he demands, not missing the mischievous way Yoongi’s eyes dance from Taehyung back to him. 

 

“That guy right there?” He points and Jeongguk nods slowly. “Yeah, he wants you to eat his ass so bad.” 

 

“I - what? Excuse me?”

 

“I didn’t stutter,” Yoongi states, crooked grin jammed into his cheek. 

 

Jeongguk gawks. “Wait - did he say that?”

 

Yoongi bursts out laughing. “Nah, he didn’t have to.” 

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk says, only minorly disappointed. He doesn’t think that necessarily makes the statement untrue. He’s too drunk to be super embarrassed over it, so he just gives Yoongi a dopey grin. “You think so?” 

 

“Oh yeah.” 

 

Jeongguk meets Taehyung halfway on the middle of the dancefloor. He’s already gulped down most of his drink, but he offers the remainder to Jeongguk, who swallows the rest down with one toss of his head. He grabs Taehyung by the wrist, dragging him along as he finds a place to ditch the glass, and then dragging him back to an empty spot. The music has been a mix of everything - throwbacks from high school, oldies for the older generations, newer pop hits to appease everyone. The song now is upbeat, everyone around them bouncing around and drinking and laughing. 

 

“I saw your moves,” Taehyung says, bopping along to the music. 

 

Jeongguk quirks his eyebrows. “Not all of ‘em.” 

 

Taehyung bites at his smiling bottom lip. “Well don’t be a tease.” 

 

Face going stony and serious, Jeongguk busts out into a series of spastic, jolting moves and spins, stumbling on the grand finale and having to land on a knee to keep from busting his ass. He gives a dramatic toss of his hair. “Impressive, right?” 

 

Taehyung stares blankly for a long moment. Then he barks out a laugh, tossing his head back and grabbing the sides of his face like he can’t believe what he had just witnessed. “Oh my god, you’re such an idiot.” 

 

Jeongguk giggles, too, as he gets back to his feet. The music switches over to something slow, light guitar rifts floating through the air and a silky voice purring along with the lackadaisical instrumentals. Jeongguk closes in on Taehyung, panting lightly from all the goofy dancing and a sheen of sweat on his forehead that sticks to his hair. Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind as Jeongguk comes into his space and leans their heads in toward each other. Jeongguk doesn’t bother asking, just wraps an arm around Taehyung’s waist and pulls him closer. Taehyung drops his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders as his eyes roam over his features. Jeongguk sways them gently, much more fixated on his current proximity to his hot boss than concerned with doing any actual dancing. 

 

When Taehyung talks, his breath washes over Jeongguk’s lips, sharp with alcohol but also suspiciously minty like he might have downed a few breath mints while he’d snuck away to the bar. “You’re making it very difficult to maintain a strictly professional relationship with you.” 

 

“Don’t pin this on me,” Jeongguk argues playfully. “You’re the one that just up and started hitting on me every chance you got.” 

 

Taehyung gets so embarrassed he ducks his head down, letting his forehead thump against Jeongguk’s shoulder. He groans, form shaking with mortified laughter. 

 

“Why did you start doing that, anyway?” Jeongguk asks. 

 

Taehyung inhales, lifting his head and looking up at Jeongguk with pink on his cheekbones. He shrugs, glancing around past Jeongguk’s head like the answer is somewhere strung up with the party decor. The lights catch in his dark eyes like a starry night and a glimmering crescent moon, gaze finally dropping back down when he seems to figure out what he wants to say. “I don’t know,” he says dreamily. “I just saw you with Sunny and it… kind of clicked, I guess. It was like I was really seeing you for the first time.” 

 

“Oh, man, Mina was right,” Jeongguk mumbles under his breath. 

 

“What?” 

 

“I said ‘Oh, man, I’m craving a Sprite’.”

 

“Oh. Did you want me to... go get you one?” 

 

“What? No,” Jeongguk blurts out, shaking his head. He spins Taehyung around, looping an arm around his middle and pulling him so his back is flush against Jeongguk’s chest. Taehyung lets out a little noise of surprise but settles in, effectively distracted from the previous conversation. They resume their swaying, barely missing a beat as Taehyung rests his arms along Jeongguk’s. Jeongguk drops his head so his mouth is near Taehyung’s ear, not touching but close enough his breath flutters the soft-looking locks of hair that fall there. “So you didn’t think I was hot when you hired me?” 

 

Taehyung’s body rumbles with a laugh as he tips his head to the side, neck craned beautifully. “I’m not drunk enough to answer that.” 

 

“Come on,” Jeongguk teases, arm squeezing tighter around Taehyung’s waist as his other hand settles on his hip. “It’s not like I look any different now.” 

 

“Whether I thought you were attractive or not had no bearing on my hiring decision,” Taehyung states, constructing his words carefully as he waves a hand for emphasis. 

 

“I had zero experience and zero relevant education.” 

 

“Alright, fine, I thought you were hot,” Taehyung admits with a laugh. 

 

Jeongguk gloats. “I knew it.” 

 

Taehyung turns in his arms, their faces close enough that his nose brushes Jeongguk’s cheek. When he finds Jeongguk’s gaze with his own, his eyes are half-mast. They drop to Jeongguk’s mouth and stay there. “I think I want to kiss you.” 

 

“You think?” 

 

“No. I know.” 

 

Jeongguk licks his lips. Then he grins, cocky and uneven. “That would be against company policy, sir.” 

 

“Never mind. I don’t want to anymore.” 

 

Jeongguk whines. “Noooo, I was kidding. Come back - ”

 

Taehyung is already walking off, though, throwing one last playful glare over his shoulder as he leaves the dancefloor. 

 

The song changes, but the energy from before isn’t there. As the night goes on, Taehyung starts looking more and more tired, contently tipsy and maybe even getting a bit too messy. They both agree to call it a night and start making their rounds for goodbyes. 

 

The cab ride home feels too short, mostly spent wishing he had the guts to scoot over and lean up against Taehyung. Before he can work up the nerve to do it, the cab pulls up to his apartment. 

 

Jeongguk looks over at Taehyung, who’s in the middle of a yawn. “Thanks for coming.” 

 

Taehyung nods, tired smile on his face. “It was really fun. Thanks for inviting me.” 

 

“Text me when you get home?” 

 

“Okay,” Taehyung says easily. 

 

Jeongguk curses himself a moment later when he stands outside the cab and watches it go. He should have done something, anything really, besides sending Taehyung home. He’d probably gotten a sitter for the whole night. This had been a golden opportunity and Jeongguk had blown it. He’d missed his chance at a kiss and everything else. He groans and wants to slap a hand over his face. He could have had Taehyung tonight probably - in his apartment, in his bed, in his arms.

 

Next time, Jeongguk thinks yet again as he stomps up to his apartment empty-handed. Next chance he got, he was gonna kiss the hell out of Taehyung. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

His chance does not present itself any time soon. Work blows in Monday morning with all the force of a hurricane, and by the end of the day, Jeongguk’s to-do list is so long with so many tight deadlines he wants to burst into tears looking at it. Taehyung is in and out of the office all day, too busy to do much more than send a subtle, apologetic smile at Jeongguk as he passes his desk. The next day goes much the same, setting the tone for the entire week. By Friday, everyone in the office is practically taking off through the door at a sprint.

 

Except Jeongguk. 

 

Because Jeongguk had been putting out so many fires and handling so much of other peoples’ shit, he hadn’t had time to do all his own shit. So alas, it’s yet another lovely Friday night in the city, and Jeongguk is holed up at the office, waving at the janitor as he wheels his yellow mop bucket by and gives a sympathetic frown. 

 

Taehyung had left earlier to take care of something with Sunny. He’d mentioned something about coming back later tonight, but it’s nearing nine o’clock and there’s no sign of him. Jeongguk has contemplated going home - all this stuff can probably wait until Monday. He thinks he’s probably safe from being fired. But he doesn’t like leaving work with so many loose ends. And what if, god forbid, Taehyung does show back up and he’s not there? 

 

So Jeongguk stays, chipping away at his to-do list.

 

After another thirty minutes or so, his phone starts ringing. He sighs as he picks it up to check it, assuming it’s probably Mina or Yoongi, but he’s surprised to see it’s Taehyung. 

 

“Hello?” 

 

Hey,” Taehyung says, sounding tired. “Are you at home? ” 

 

“Uhh, no. I’m at the office.”

 

Why are you at the office? Are you still working? ” 

 

“Well, yeah,” Jeongguk says. “I had a lot of stuff to do and you said you might be coming back. I didn’t want to just leave.” 

 

Why would you - ” Taehyung starts, but cuts himself off. He sighs. “Okay. Stay there.” 

 

“Will do,” Jeongguk says before Taehyung ends the call. 

 

He spends the next few minutes rubbing at his bleary eyes more than looking at his computer screen. The more he works, the more he realizes he’s too tired to really get anything done. He wants to go home, kick back on the couch with a coffee mug of wine, and fall asleep catching up on The Bachelor. But Taehyung had told him to wait here, so that’s what he’ll do. 

 

Another few minutes later, he hears footsteps in the otherwise empty office and he leans over his desk to see who it is, watching as Taehyung materializes in the hallway. He’s still wearing the suit he’d worn to work, tie loosened around his neck. He’s carrying a plastic bag that looks like takeout in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other. He walks up and stops in front of Jeongguk’s desk. 

 

“Hi,” Jeongguk greets. 

 

Taehyung gestures with the bottle of wine. “I was planning to bring this to you at home.” 

 

“You were gonna deliver wine and takeout to my apartment?” 

 

“I was going to deliver it and then share it with you, yes.” 

 

Jeongguk’s stress melts away, replaced with something warm and honey-like in his veins. The smile that swells up on his face is so easy and so, so fond. He stands up from his desk and takes the wine bottle Taehyung offers, turning it around in his hands to look at the label. 

 

“I have a corkscrew and some glasses in my office,” Taehyung says, voice already floating down the hall as he heads that way. 

 

Jeongguk follows after, a bit giddy and deliriously tired. “Why do you keep this stuff in your office?” he questions as he steps inside and watches Taehyung dig in one of his cabinets. 

 

“I got a set as a Secret Santa gift one year,” Taehyung answers. He sheds his jacket, folding it lengthwise and tossing it over the back of his chair. He rolls up his sleeves and he sets to work unpacking the food, careful not to upturn any of the heavy takeout containers. When he has everything set out on his desk in a nicely presented spread, he looks up and motions to the bottle in Jeongguk’s hands. 

 

Jeongguk hands him the bottle and watches him uncork it and pour two glasses with well-practiced ease. He drags one of the fancy armchairs right up to the front of Taehyung’s desk and plops down in it, sighing audibly. 

 

Taehyung stuffs the trash into the biggest takeout bag and pushes it out of the way. He positions Jeongguk’s glass in front of him carefully, then takes his seat. 

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says, still a bit dazed and lost in deep contemplation about the surrealness of these events. His gorgeous boss - and he kind of wants to know what it would be like to trade that word out for boyfriend - is sitting across from him in this fancy office, sharing swanky restaurant takeout and a pricey bottle of wine. They eat in comfortable silence until Jeongguk feels the hunger pains he hadn’t even noticed before subside. They both seem too tired to commit to conversation beyond commenting on the food or sharing a glance across the desk. When they finish, Jeongguk helps Taehyung pack the empty containers back into the bag and sets it over by the trash. He comes back and sits down as Taehyung pours more wine into both their glasses. 

 

Jeongguk takes a long drink, letting it wash over his palate before he swallows. “Where’s Sunny tonight?” 

 

“She’s at her mom’s for the weekend,” Taehyung replies, patting his mouth with a napkin and then setting it neatly aside. 

 

“She’s in town?”

 

Taehyung nods. Then he switches gears, not seeming to want to delve too far into the topic. “Why were you working so late?” 

 

Jeongguk shrugs. “I had a lot of stuff to do.” 

 

“It can wait until Monday.”

 

“I didn’t like the idea of you coming back up here and working by yourself late at night.” 

 

Taehyung stares at Jeongguk for a moment before dropping his gaze almost shamefully. “I don’t like the idea of you working by yourself late at night.” 

 

“I’m used to it.” 

 

Taehyung cringes. Then he shakes his head, shoulders lifting and sinking with a deep sigh. “It shouldn’t be like that.” 

 

“I don’t mind.”

 

Taehyung lets out a short laugh. “I don’t know how you put up with me. I was such an asshole to you for so long.” 

 

“No, don’t say that,” Jeongguk says, face pinched with sincerity. “You were just doing your job.” 

 

“I don’t deserve an assistant as good as you,” Taehyung says. “But I don’t know what I’d do without you.” 

 

Jeongguk tilts his head a bit coyly, gesturing with his glass. “You’re making it up to me.” 

 

“I can do a lot better than this,” Taehyung states. 

 

“Yeah?” Jeongguk says, raising a brow. Taehyung nods slowly. “How so?” 

 

Taehyung plants his hands on the arms of his chair and pushes to his feet. He walks around his desk, feet silent on the carpet as he approaches. Jeongguk has to tilt his head upward to follow him as he closes in and comes to stand right in front of him. He leans back against the desk, one hand behind himself on the surface to hold steady. He looks down at him for long enough to make Jeongguk’s heart throb upward from his chest into the back of his throat. Then, without saying a word, he reaches his hand out, palm-up and expectant. 

 

Jeongguk leans forward to set his glass on the desk. He reconnects their gaze, nervously licking the excess wine from his lips and wanting to shiver as Taehyung tracks the movement with his eyes. He reaches up and slides his hand into Taehyung’s, and then he’s being pulled to his feet. Taehyung pulls him in and in, until their feet overlap in the space between them and their bodies are one short lean away from pressing flush together. Jeongguk wraps a hand around the back of Taehyung’s neck, fingers threading through soft hair and curling against the warm skin. Taehyung’s breath hitches, eyes never leaving Jeongguk’s mouth, as Jeongguk leans in and gently bumps their noses together. Jeongguk closes his eyes and the whole room seems to take in an anticipatory breath. He imagines Taehyung still staring at his mouth as he dampens his lips with his tongue again. 

 

He tilts his head, feels Taehyung let out a shuddering exhale, and leans in to taste wine-stained lips. Taehyung’s body curls around him like he’s been craving this for so long it hurts, hands coming up to cling to Jeongguk’s shoulders. Jeongguk slides their mouths together, letting himself be dragged in until he can feel the entire length of Taehyung’s body against his. Taehyung kisses like Jeongguk is air and he’s running out of oxygen, breaths coming in quick puffs against Jeongguk’s cheek. The distance between their mouths is as short and temporary as either of them is willing to let it be, only as long as it takes to catch one breath and dive back in for more. Taehyung tastes as luxurious as he looks, clean and crisp and so beautiful it nearly aches. Their lips catch over and over, deep and then not, quick and eager and then slow and dragging. He’s torn between memorizing the shape of each of Taehyung’s lips between his own and getting lost in the feel of his tongue as it brushes the seam of Jeongguk’s lips. Then his mind is flooded by the white-hot feeling that echoes down his spine, swirls in his stomach at the feeling of Taehyung’s tongue sliding against his, a gentle moan into his mouth. 

 

Jeongguk is overloaded as Taehyung saps all the stress and exhaustion from his body with every push and pull against him, replacing it all with blind urgency and salient want. Jeongguk loses touch with reality as the line is blurred by the noises of their mouths parting and Taehyung’s soft sighs. His mind places them somewhere else, somewhere it’s only the two of them, flips them so they’re lying together like this on a bed and they never have to stop, never have to slow down. Taehyung’s hands get more desperate, tugging Jeongguk impossibly closer, fingers raking through his hair. Jeongguk leans down just long enough to get his hands under Taehyung’s thighs and lift him up onto the desk, legs parting for him immediately. There’s no telling if he was yanked closer or if he pushed his own way in, but in the next moment he’s in between his boss’ thighs and he’s running his hands over the fabric of Taehyung’s suit pants, reveling at the shape and warmth underneath as his brain begins imagining the two of them without the layers between them. It’s not close enough, though, because he wants every part of Taehyung on him, against him. Closer. Closer.  

 

Taehyung breaks their kiss, head falling back as he mumbles an oh god and Jeongguk dives into his neck. Jeongguk winds his arms around Taehyung’s waist, jostling him on the top of the desk to wrench him in, mouthing along Taehyung’s racing pulse and then - 

 

A glass clatters on the desk and red wine splashes down onto the white carpet. They both flinch apart - alarms going off in Jeongguk’s mind that they’ve been caught - but they both sigh with mixed irritation at the mess they’ve made. 

 

“Shit,” Jeongguk breathes, running a hand through his hair. 

 

Taehyung is still panting, seeming to take a second to catch up. Then he shifts down off the table as his hands come up to adjust his waistband, smoothing down his thighs where the legs of his pants have ridden up. 

 

“That’s gonna stain,” Jeongguk mutters, rushing off to go find cleaning supplies.

 

The mood is effectively quashed as they research how to get a red wine stain out of white carpet. They spend the next twenty minutes scrubbing at the carpet trying to clean it up. Jeongguk tries to be more exasperated about it, but he can’t really hide the fact that he’s elated and hazy from making out with his boss in his office. His boss who’d brought him wine and dinner and whose lips were still pink and swollen from Jeongguk kissing the hell out of him. Mission accomplished. Even though technically Taehyung was the one who initiated it, Jeongguk is going to mark it down as a win. 

 

Taehyung orders that they call it a night after that, and it’s for the best because Jeongguk doesn’t know how much self control he really has, especially if Taehyung is going to go around putting the moves on him like that. Jeongguk shivers just thinking about it. They keep their hands mostly to themselves as they lock up and head for the elevators, both trying to hide little smiles from the other and failing at it pretty miserably. 

 

Taehyung drives him home, and when he pulls up to the drop-off, Jeongguk doesn’t want to go. He procrastinates getting out of the car, finding excuses in small talk and reaching over to fiddle with Taehyung’s hand. Taehyung looks exhausted, dark circles evident under his eyes and smile genuine but clearly tired. Jeongguk thinks, knows really, that if he asked Taehyung to come upstairs, he’d say yes. He also knows that Taehyung would probably be more than happy to drive back home with him tonight and let him stay over. Maybe they could wake up tomorrow and spend the day together, not worrying about work and finally getting some time to themselves. 

 

As usual, Jeongguk chickens out. He leans over and presses a quick peck to Taehyung’s cheek, bids him a good night, and then scurries off to his apartment, heart thundering through every second of it. How he went from shoving Taehyung on top of his desk and making out with him to being too nervous to ask to spend the night with him and getting butterflies over a chaste kiss on the cheek, Jeongguk will never understand. 

 

He’s not too worried about it, though. He knows there will be a next time. And even if he gets too nervous or misses his next shot, Taehyung will probably take it upon himself to push things along. So he’s not worried, and he’s not concerned about rushing. He’s just happy, and for once in his life, he’s looking forward to Monday. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Work is relentless and Jeongguk is tired. He and Taehyung don’t really get the time to sort things out beyond a fleeting smile or touch here and there. And on one occasion, a slow kiss in the sanctity of Taehyung’s office before an intern came banging on the door with yet another problem for them to solve. They’d decided it was probably too risky to do that again in the office, but Taehyung had kissed him one last time and promised to make up for it. 

 

His bouquet of sunflowers has long since died out, but he’d kept one and dried it out to clip to his bulletin board. He’d actually looked up how to care for sunflowers to try to keep them thriving as long as possible and stumbled upon some interesting facts. He doesn’t remember a whole lot, something about them being a symbol of happiness and adoration. He’d laughed when he found out how tall they can grow and imagined a sunflower as tall as Taehyung, bright yellow petals and face turned toward the sun. In that analogy, it only makes sense that the sun would be Sunny, and Jeongguk would be another lucky sunflower basking in the warm rays of her smile. 

 

Jeongguk’s smile falters when he remembers how snappy and stressed Taehyung had been today. Work has been building up in him like a pressure cooker, one thing right after another to add to the simmering pot. He’d reached his boiling point when Jeongguk had brought him another string of bad news. Jeongguk was used to it - getting laid into by Taehyung’s cold, wrathful criticism. He thinks Taehyung is a perfectionist of sorts, but with the weight of the entire bigger picture on his shoulders. Everything from the smallest detail like the font size of the caption under a photograph to the huge things like the company budget, investors, the overall image of the entire business - all of it falls into Taehyung’s capable hands. 

 

Maybe Jeongguk should be upset or hurt. Taehyung can be harsh almost to the point that Jeongguk can’t believe it’s the same man that gives butterfly kisses to his daughter and brings coffee to his crush every day for weeks and remembers things like someone mentioning their favorite type of flower. Jeongguk isn’t hurt, though. Not only can he handle Taehyung on his worst days, but he glows with respect and admiration for him even in the wildest of storms. 

 

It’s nearing six o’clock, and Jeongguk is finishing up for the day. Taehyung had left earlier for a conference on the other side of town and wouldn’t be back in for the evening. As Jeongguk starts packing his things to leave for the day, his phone lets out a blip with a new text. 

 

It’s from Taehyung. 

 

>> I’m sorry for talking to you like that earlier. 

 

>> dont even mention it. i know you didnt mean it.

 

>> I feel like such an asshole. 

 

Jeongguk frowns down at the text. He used to be so quick to tack that label onto his boss. Now it feels completely wrong. It’s almost worse that it’s Taehyung saying it about himself. He thinks about what he wants to text back as he pulls his bag onto his shoulder and heads down the hall toward the elevators. He pushes the call button for the elevator and types out his response as he waits.

 

>> i dont see you like that at all

 

It’s completely true. The doors slide open and he absently steps inside as he watches Taehyung’s typing bubble appear at the bottom of the conversation. 

 

>> That’s how I know you’re too good for me. 

>> Will you let me make it up to you? Dinner tonight?

 

He bites back a smile as the elevator heads downward. As much as he’s dying to say yes, he knows Taehyung is exhausted.

 

>> u dont need to make anything up to me.. 

>> go home. be with sunny. relax & get some rest 

 

>> You’re right. That’s exactly what I need to do.

 

Jeongguk’s disappointment is fleeting. He knows it’s for the best for both of them. He has faith that things with Taehyung will only go in one direction - forward. All in due time, he believes. Just as he starts typing out his reply - good. i’ll see u tomorrow - another text from Taehyung pops up. 

 

>> Come home with me. I can relax even better with you there

 

Jeongguk’s heart flutters at the message. Come home with me. He wonders if Taehyung means everything something like that could mean. Jeongguk doesn’t really care either way. He would be content just hanging out with Taehyung outside the context of work. It’s been so long since they cut loose at the engagement party, and even longer since he’s seen Sunny. 

 

The elevator doors slide open and Jeongguk glances up from his phone at the sound. 

 

Taehyung is standing there across the lobby in the elevator exact opposite of Jeongguk, arrow lit to take him upward. When they notice each other almost simultaneously, Taehyung’s eyes go almost comically wide. He barely makes it through the doors as they slide closed, stumbling out into the lobby. 

 

Jeongguk meets him a few steps apart in the middle. He’s wearing a matching surprised look, but Taehyung’s slips away much quicker. 

 

“I came to pick you up,” Taehyung says. 

 

“Oh.” 

 

Taehyung reaches out a hand, disregarding that they’re in the middle of the building’s busy elevator lobby and people from every business and floor are bustling around them. Jeongguk takes his hand, a buzzing inside his chest and champagne bubbles in his bloodstream. Taehyung leads him out of the lobby through the front where his car is parked on the curb by a meter. They part for Jeongguk to get in on the other side. 

 

Taehyung doesn’t start the car right away. Instead, he leans across the console and pulls Jeongguk into a deep kiss, effectively taking both their breaths away. His hand is on Jeongguk’s chin, guiding him to tilt his head to the side and deepen the kiss. When he pulls away, Jeongguk’s eyes stay closed for a brief moment while he comes back down to reality. 

 

“Someone might see,” Jeongguk whispers. 

 

Taehyung looks from one of Jeongguk’s eyes to the other. His warm hand slides over Jeongguk’s cheek, fingertips trailing back to tuck a long piece of hair behind his ear. Then he’s leaning back in, pressing their lips together again, taking his time. 

 

They part with a soft, wet sound. “What if you get in trouble - ”

 

“Slap on the wrist,” Taehyung mumbles, dragging Jeongguk back in for yet another kiss. 

 

Jeongguk melts into it for a lot longer than he even realizes, letting out a soft sound when Taehyung’s tongue drags against his bottom lip and then he nibbles on it. Then he remembers they’re still parked directly outside the office building, and any number of people they work with could recognize not only Taehyung’s car but the two men making out inside it. He gently pushes Taehyung away with a hand on his chest, marveling at the way Taehyung chases lightly and seems to take a moment to open his eyes. 

 

“We can do more of that later,” Jeongguk says. 

 

Taehyung sighs. “I just want you to myself for a bit.” 

 

Jeongguk heart nearly aches with how hard it pulses at that. “I’m all yours.” 

 

“You say that,” Taehyung says as he starts the car, “but I’m going to have to share you and you know it.” 

 

“At least it’s a school night?” Jeongguk offers with a smile. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

When Jeongguk walks through the door behind Taehyung, Sunny screams

 

It makes Taehyung’s babysitter jolt with surprise and lay a hand over his heart as the blood-curdling sound rips through the quiet apartment and she runs by in a blur of lavender pajamas and long brown hair. She leaps into Jeongguk’s arm and clings to him like a feral koala, legs still kicking around with all the pent-up excitement. She ends up climbing all over and hanging from Jeongguk’s arms and neck like he’s playground equipment, giggling and screeching when he fakes like he’s going to drop or her swings her around. 

 

This all happens as Taehyung and the babysitter watch from where they lean against the back of the couch.

 

“So that’s him, huh?” says the babysitter. 

 

Taehyung smiles, locking eyes with Jeongguk and sighing lightly. “Jeongguk, this is my regular sitter, Jimin.” 

 

Jeongguk throws Sunny over his shoulder onto his back so she can hang from his neck. He walks up to Jimin and offers a hand to shake. “Nice to meet you.” 

 

Jimin’s eyes glint with mirth. “Nice to finally meet you, too. I’ve heard a lot about you, Gukie.” 

 

Jeongguk laughs and Taehyung clears his throat. 

 

“Thanks for staying late,” Taehyung interrupts. 

 

“That’s my cue,” Jimin says, winking at Jeongguk as he goes to gather his things. 

 

Sunny relinquishes her hold on Jeongguk long enough to give Jimin a big hug and see him out the door. Then she’s bounding through the apartment, zipping back and forth to show Jeongguk her colorings and noodle artwork from school. 

 

“I’ll go start dinner,” Taehyung says at some point, leaving the two of them in the living room to gasp and excitedly discuss Sunny’s artistic choices. 

 

By the time Taehyung finishes dinner, Jeongguk and Sunny are sprawled out on the floor decorating their coloring pages with stickers. Sunny had politely insisted they use her sea creatures coloring book and had picked out a starfish for Jeongguk and a stingray for herself. Jeongguk’s hair is tied up in two little sprout pigtails on his head, tiny butterfly clips fastened here and there. Sunny’s hair is identically styled, only hers is much longer and all actually stays inside the hairbands. 

 

He hears the shutter sound go off on a phone. 

 

Taehyung is standing off to the side, phone raised as he snaps another picture as soon as Jeongguk looks up. Jeongguk sticks his tongue out and Taehyung snaps one more. 

 

“Dinner’s ready,” Taehyung announces. “Sunny, go wash your hands, please.” 

 

“Okay!” Sunny says, hopping up from the floor on her bare feet and then thumping off with quick little steps to the bathroom. 

 

“Thank you,” Taehyung calls after her.

 

Jeongguk gets to his feet, wiggling his head to show off his hairstyle as Taehyung laughs and comes up to him. 

 

“I like being able to see your face,” Taehyung hums as he steps close, reaching up and gently tugging the hairbands out. 

 

“I should let your daughter do my hair more often,” Jeongguk comments with a cheeky grin. 

 

Taehyung runs his hands through Jeongguk’s hair to fix it, letting his hands slide down to cup his jaw. “I agree,” he says. He leans in and steals a quick kiss. “A lot more often.” 

 

Sunny does a lot more talking than eating during dinner. Jeongguk wonders if she’s only getting away with it because he’s here and her dad is too soft to scold her in front of him. Taehyung is entirely calm, though, and seems to have an endless supply of patience when it comes to her. Jeongguk thinks that’s fair. Adults should know what they’re doing and should be held accountable for their mistakes. Kids are just kids and need to learn from theirs. Jeongguk isn’t one to judge anyone’s parenting, but he definitely thinks Taehyung is doing it right. It’s just another item on the growing list of praises Jeongguk silently gives Taehyung. 

 

Taehyung agrees to one short movie after dinner. Sunny passes out fifteen minutes into it, stretched out longways on the couch with her head on Taehyung’s side and feet by Jeongguk. Taehyung lets the movie play as he carefully extricates himself from the couch without stirring her, maneuvering around to pick her up. She comes to just enough to flop her arms around Taehyung’s neck and legs around his waist, cheek squished into his shoulder and eyes never opening. Jeongguk follows curiously down the hall and hovers at the doorway as Taehyung tucks her in and kisses her forehead before turning out the light. 

 

“Can I get you something to drink?” Taehyung asks once they’re safely out of earshot in the kitchen. He rifles around in one of the many cupboards, intently looking for something. 

 

“I’ll have whatever you’re having.” 

 

Taehyung makes a noncommittal noise of understanding as he finds what he’s looking for - a bottle of wine - and sets it on the counter. Jeongguk isn’t even remotely surprised that Taehyung owns an expensive electric corkscrew and elegant stemware. 

 

They bring the bottle with them to the living room where they set it on the coffee table and get comfortable, each turned with their side to the back of the couch to face each other. Then they talk about a little bit of everything. Jeongguk tells him about growing up with Mina and all the goofy but sacred family traditions like their mandatory Christmas Eve pajama party and ugly sweater contest. When Taehyung tells him he grew up an only child and his parents usually vacation over the holidays, Jeongguk almost lets slip a premature invitation to both he and Sunny for this year’s Jeon Family Christmas.

 

Part of him wants to tell Taehyung he should go change into something more comfortable. He’s down to his dress shirt and slacks, wrinkling more and more as he melts into the couch cushions. Part of him considers how that sounds like a blatant come-on and shies away. Then, the smallest but most compelling part of him kind of wants to risk it all and see what happens. 

 

“You can, like, go change if you want,” Jeongguk says sheepishly. 

 

Taehyung isn’t quite smiling but there’s a spark of mirth in his eyes. “I’d just have to change back to drive you home later.” 

 

“I can take the bus home.” 

 

“Or you should just,” Taehyung bites his lip, pausing for a moment, “...stay.” 

 

Jeongguk swallows. “Yeah. Um. Yeah, definitely. I can - I can do that.” 

 

“Okay, then,” Taehyung says, leaning over and setting his glass on the coffee table. “I’ll go change.” 

 

Jeongguk twiddles his thumbs as he listens to a door open and close somewhere down the hall. His leg bounces nervously until he wills himself to stop it. He polishes off the rest of the wine in his glass and sets it on the table, leaning over with his elbows on his knees to rub his hands together like he’s trying to start a campfire the hard way. He’s not sure what’s on Taehyung’s mind. Well, he has a pretty good idea. It’s not like their first kiss had been chaste and innocent. And it’s not like he doesn’t remember having to pump the brakes earlier when Taehyung had tried to jump his bones in the car. 

 

He knows what he’s getting himself into, but he’s nervous as fuck. What if Taehyung just wants to have a perfectly innocent grown-up sleepover? What if there’s an awkward moment where Taehyung goes to bed later and Jeongguk isn’t sure if he should follow or not and then he follows and Taehyung turns around and asks him why he’s following? What if every single thing Jeongguk knows about sex just falls out of his brain through his ears and he ends up looking like a total idiot like he can’t tell his own dick apart from Taehyung’s? What if Taehyung is into super kinky stuff like chains and whips and flogging? Jeongguk thinks he could probably get it up - Taehyung is that hot. He supposes he can’t really knock it until he tries it, either. He just hopes Taehyung would at least wait to pull out the bondage stuff right away, maybe ease Jeongguk into it. Or - oh god, what if Taehyung wants put it in his ass tonight? He’s so unprepared. He has to have, like, two weeks’ written notice and a calendar invite and a minimum of three hours of meditation before that. They’d just have to settle for handjobs or something. Oh god, what if Taehyung thinks he’s terrible at handjobs? Is that even possible? 

 

It’s taking longer than Jeongguk thinks it should to throw on some pajamas. Or maybe the seconds are just dragging by at a snail’s pace, bogged down with Jeongguk’s ridiculous and incessant worrying. 

 

Not even a full minute later, a door clicks open and shut again. 

 

“Wait - ” Taehyung says suddenly, just before Jeongguk turns around to get a look at him. Jeongguk pauses, confused, but does as he’s told. “Close your eyes for a minute.” 

 

Jeongguk lets out a nervous laugh as he covers his eyes with his hands. “That’s not suspicious at all,” he calls, voice pitchy. Besides the aquarium and the engagement party, he’s never seen Taehyung in anything except a suit. He can’t hear anything as he anxiously waits, shooting down stupid thoughts as they pop into his head: Maybe he’s a furry, or maybe he’s a never-nude, maybe he’s into lingerie (no problems there), or maybe he’s just standing there stark fucking naked and they’re about to do this right here, right now. 

 

“Okay. You can open them.” 

 

Jeongguk draws his hands away from his eyes, heart pounding, and looks up to see Taehyung standing a few steps in front of him in a loose t-shirt and soft-looking flannel pajama pants. His bare toes wiggle on the carpet as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. 

 

Jeongguk has never been more attracted to him. He clicks his tongue with a ruse of disappointment. “Damn. I thought you’d come out wearing cargo shorts and socks with sandals.” 

 

“I’ll save those for later,” Taehyung says with a playful quirk of his brows. 

 

“You’re so sexy,” Jeongguk blurts out without even thinking. 

 

It makes Taehyung blush and avert his eyes, and Jeongguk’s heart is soaring. “Since when do you say stuff like that?” he mumbles with a bite of his lip, attempting to hide his grin. 

 

Jeongguk’s answer is to gesture vaguely at Taehyung’s entire person with his hands. “I mean. Fuck. Look at you. What else am I supposed to say?” 

 

“This t-shirt has a hole in the armpit,” Taehyung states, lifting his arm and showing him. Then he grabs the sides of his pant legs and flaps them. “And these pants are over ten years old. How is that sexy?” 

 

“I’m literally getting turned on right now,” Jeongguk says through a laugh. 

 

Taehyung’s shoulders slump as he fights off laughter, pressing a hand over his face in exasperation. “You’re such an idiot sometimes.” 

 

“Questioning your life choices?” 

 

“Not at all.” 

 

Jeongguk’s smile softens, nerves from earlier sliding right off his body. He leans back on the couch, letting out a content sigh. “Can you come sit down? I’m sick of being in the same room as you and not being able to touch you.” 

 

Taehyung moves without hesitating, crossing the space toward the couch.

 

Jeongguk sees what’s coming, takes a fraction of a second to mentally prepare, and then Taehyung is crawling onto his lap, weight sinking down on his thighs. Jeongguk’s hands instinctively flatten on Taehyung’s waist, pulling him in as he settles in a wide but comfortable straddle. 

 

“Better?” Taehyung asks, holding Jeongguk’s face in his hands to lift it.

 

“So much better,” Jeongguk mumbles back, partially muffled as Taehyung leans down and kisses him. Distantly, Jeongguk realizes Taehyung had taken the time to brush his teeth while he’d been away. He tastes like cool spearmint, lips soft and slightly tacky with a thin layer of sweet-tasting balm, maybe some type of berry flavor. Everything about him is suddenly so soft. Soft hair, soft lips, soft skin. Soft thighs, soft t-shirt. It’s everything that he’s not when he’s at work - sharp gaze, stern voice, hard exterior. He goes so pliant under Jeongguk’s hands and mouth as they kiss, it’s like he could be molded any way Jeongguk wanted him. 

 

Jeongguk holds the back of Taehyung’s head and tips his own sideways, slotting their mouths together again. More open-mouthed and a little more tongue, teeth nipping at Taehyung’s lower lip. He winds Taehyung up until he’s panting, starting to arc into it, and then eases him back down with soft pecks, barely letting their lips catch. Taehyung’s hands move around his neck, palms warm on his skin, and then slide down, over the swell of his chest muscles experimentally before coming back up. When Jeongguk’s lungs start to burn like he’s going to have to start gasping for air, he draws away and leans into Taehyung’s neck to breathe. 

 

One of Taehyung’s hands buries in the hair on the back of Jeongguk’s head as he pulls him in, telling him what he wants. Jeongguk lets out a low sound not unlike a growl and starts mouthing at his neck, nipping at the skin and sucking gently just to test the waters. Taehyung’s breath gets ragged, and even Jeongguk’s caveman brain can put together that Taehyung is sensitive in this area. He commits the next handful of minutes to licking and sucking, mouthing at Taehyung’s collarbone and getting his hair tugged in positive response. It’s turning Taehyung on almost faster than Jeongguk can keep up as he starts to rock in his lap, growing hardness evident through the thin pants. 

 

“So needy,” Jeongguk murmurs, and Taehyung nods. 

 

“Been a while,” Taehyung admits. “Sorry.” 

 

“Fuck, don’t apologize.” 

 

He pulls Taehyung down into a burning kiss, licking into his mouth. He coaxes Taehyung’s tongue out and then sucks on it lightly until Taehyung’s fingers clench at his shoulders. His hands get bolder, sliding over the fullness of Taehyung’s thighs and around to palm his ass. Taehyung groans quietly into his mouth, and Jeongguk gives a squeeze to hear it again. He pushes his hands up under Taehyung’s shirt, intent to get it off and feel every unabridged inch of skin, but Taehyung suddenly breaks the kiss and presses their foreheads together. 

 

It takes him a moment to talk, tongue darting out and gliding across his kiss-swollen lips.

 

Jeongguk beats him to it. “Sorry,” he whispers as he takes his hands off. 

 

Taehyung shakes his head, grabbing Jeongguk hands with his and holding them between their chests. “It’s not that, it’s just - not here.”

 

“Oh.” Jeongguk closes his mouth and forces himself to breathe through his nose. “Did you wanna - ”

 

“Yes. Please, yes,” Taehyung breathes, already up off Jeongguk’s lap and tugging him behind. 

 

Jeongguk lets Taehyung guide him down the hall, switching lights off as they go. His body is ringing with nervous energy. His hands are probably sweaty but Taehyung doesn’t seem fazed. They’re pitched into the dark hallway as Taehyung blindly leads them to his bedroom door, taking care to open it quietly and gently pull Jeongguk inside. There’s another soft click of the door closing before the room softly lightens with a glow as Taehyung slides the switch on a dimmer. Jeongguk doesn’t bother looking around much, only enough to figure out where the bed is and the quickest route to get Taehyung into it. 

 

Taehyung steps up to him again, dragging him into another series of hot kisses. Jeongguk realizes with a shudder that Taehyung isn’t holding back anymore, now that they’re safely tucked away in the bedroom. Taehyung breaks away just long enough to get Jeongguk’s shirt off over his head and toss it. Then it’s back to heatedly pressing their lips together, mouths parting to invite tongues, growing more feverish by the second. Jeongguk gets lost in a swell of pride when Taehyung revels at his chest with the palms of his hands, fingers sliding all the way down his sternum and testing the hardness of his abs. Then he realizes he somehow hasn’t managed to get Taehyung’s shirt off and seeks to rectify that immediately. He flattens his hands on Taehyung’s waist under his shirt and slides them up, letting the fabric bunch on his forearms before Taehyung lifts his arms for him to shuck it off. 

 

Taehyung is lean and smooth, broad shoulders and trim waist. A faint trail of soft hairs leads from his belly button down past the elastic of his pants and Jeongguk runs the back of his fingers over it. Jeongguk’s mouth goes dry at the sight of the tent in Taehyung’s pants. He wonders if he’s wearing any underwear but suspects he’ll find out soon enough judging by the way Taehyung hungrily reconnects their mouths. 

 

“Bed,” Jeongguk mumbles between kisses.

 

“Mm,” Taehyung agrees and pulls him that direction. 

 

Taehyung’s bed is soft and fluffy, piled in cloud-like pillows. They sink into it, Taehyung lying back and pulling Jeongguk on top. Jeongguk vaguely wonders at how Taehyung found such soft sheets and pillowy mattress. Then he insinuates himself between Taehyung’s legs and forgets anything and everything that isn’t warm thighs around his waist, broad hands sliding up the dip of his spine, the dark-haired angel lying beneath him. Jeongguk drops down and lets his weight settle, lets Taehyung roll up into him with a low groan of assent. He brackets Taehyung on one side with an arm, ducking into his neck to seal wet kisses along the taut skin as Taehyung’s head rolls back. He uses his free hand to slide up Taehyung’s side, down around to feel his ass and grope at his thigh as he hooks a hand under his knee and hikes that leg even higher. Then he rolls his hips, grunting at the friction and feeling Taehyung’s hips tense like he’s desperate to buck upward into it. 

 

“Shit, how long has it been?” Jeongguk has to ask. 

 

“Months,” Taehyung replies. “Maybe a year. Longer. I don’t know.” 

 

“Fuck.” Jeongguk rolls his hips again, Taehyung’s arms wrapping tight around his back. “I’m gonna take care of that.” 

 

Taehyung’s only answer is a gasp chased by a soft groan. 

 

“Gonna take care of you,” Jeongguk amends, mumbled between the kisses he sucks into Taehyung’s neck. He makes his way up until he can mouth at an earlobe, nip the soft flesh between the edges of his teeth. Taehyung breathes harder, trying and failing to close his mouth so he’s not loudly panting, as Jeongguk mouths at his ear and then along his jawline. He makes his way back to Taehyung’s mouth and teases, barely letting their lips brush a few times before Taehyung wrenches him in with two firm hands on the sides of his face. He gives in and kisses Taehyung with everything he’s got, long and deep and slow but with an urgency that makes them both moan into it. 

 

“Jeongguk, please.” 

 

“Okay, okay.” 

 

He drags himself away from Taehyung’s mouth and starts making his way back down his neck, swiping his tongue over the pinkening marks he’d left earlier and scraping skin with his teeth. He trails downward, urged on by Taehyung’s hands carding restlessly through his hair. Goosebumps break out over Taehyung’s skin the further down he goes, letting his warm breath ghost over the skin. He’s not surprised at all to find out how responsive Taehyung is when he covers one of his nipples with his mouth, tongue sliding flat over it and then rubbing in a deliberate circle. Taehyung shudders and whispers a curse, throwing a hand over his face to hide under it. Jeongguk stays there for a while and teases, content to feel Taehyung squirm a bit and buck his hips upward in an attempt to get some relief. Then he moves to the other, eyes closed and hyperfocused on the skin under his lips, the hands gripping the back of his hair. 

 

When Taehyung lets out a frustrated noise low in his throat, Jeongguk meets it with a sheepish, breathy laugh and sits back on his heels. He looks down at Taehyung, at his legs sprawled wantonly on either side of Jeongguk, feathery hair splayed on the sheets and skin bathed in dim lamplight. Taehyung’s eyes dance over Jeongguk’s features, the dark look he knows he must have in his eyes, parted lips and mussed hair, bare chest and arms. Jeongguk is tempted to lean back down and tease Taehyung for hours, relish in the way he can’t seem to restrain the neediness of his hands or the anticipation jittering through his body. 

 

One look at Taehyung as he bites his lip and draws his brows together almost pleadingly, though, and Jeongguk caves. He reaches down and palms Taehyung’s cock through his pants, and Taehyung instantly rolls his hips into it. That’s about all it takes for Jeongguk to get fed up with the pants completely, and in the next second he’s stripping them off, stroking his hands down miles of long legs and shifting down the bed on his knees to get closer. Taehyung’s leg twitches, ticklish, as Jeongguk kisses the tender inner side of his knee, hand coming up on the underside of his thighs to push them upward. Taehyung is quick to go along with it, knees falling further apart to make ample space for Jeongguk and heels digging into the mattress. 

 

Jeongguk wants to drag this out. He really does. He wants nothing more than to spend the next handful of hours, or days even, in this bed with Taehyung and pull him apart at every seam. But Taehyung’s thighs tremble under his mouth, his hands twitch anxiously over his own stomach, and he’s painfully hard, dripping, and Jeongguk ditches the idea of going slow. He dips down, licks a line at the base of one thigh and feels Taehyung’s body tense. Taehyung takes a sharp breath when Jeongguk wraps a hand around the base of his cock, and, not keen on wasting any more time, slides him into his mouth. Jeongguk’s eyes flutter closed in satisfaction, lapping at the wetness at the head and feeling a hard throb in the tight ring of his hand. 

 

Taehyung is silent for a stretch, hips tense as he struggles to restrain himself, and then Jeongguk starts bobbing his head and he loses it. He lets out a long, whiny groan that makes desire flicker in Jeongguk’s lower belly and sinks his fingertips into the bunched muscles of Jeongguk’s shoulders until the flesh gives under the pressure. Jeongguk works up enough spit to slide up and down with ease, cheeks sucked in tight and tongue laving at the underside. He falls into a rhythm that seems to liquefy the bones in Taehyung’s body as his arms lay helpless around his head and his knees fall limp to the sides. 

 

“Oh, god, you’re so good,” Taehyung whispers breathlessly. His eyes are closed, only peeking open every few moments to catch a glimpse of Jeongguk going down on him and then weakly collapsing back. He lightly thrusts up in time with the downward slide of Jeongguk’s mouth, slowly devolving into uncoordinated jerks of his hips. “Jeongguk - baby, s-slow down,” he stutters, hands coming to Jeongguk’s jaw to gently pull him away. 

 

Jeongguk slides off, wiping his mouth across the back of his arm to dry it. “You okay?” he pants, watching as Taehyung sags into the bed with relief. 

 

“Didn’t wanna come too soon,” Taehyung mumbles, eyes closed. 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything else, hand still working Taehyung up and down as he sorts out his priorities. When he figures out what he wants, he leans down and presses short kisses to the ridges of Taehyung’s hipbones, letting his lips graze over the skin from one side to the other. The muscles under Taehyung’s soft belly flutter and Jeongguk smiles up at him. “Ticklish?” 

 

“Shut up,” Taehyung huffs. 

 

Jeongguk giggles and kisses him more there, amused at the way Taehyung’s feet come up like he’s about to kick him off. He mouths around Taehyung’s cute belly button, earning a vaguely threatening hum from Taehyung as he swirls a finger around it. When he opens his mouth and nips at the skin, Taehyung jolts and his hands fly to Jeongguk’s shoulders to push at him. 

 

“I will fire you,” Taehyung warns.

 

Jeongguk lightly shushes him and runs his hands tenderly over his sides, fingers spread wide to cover as much warm skin as he possibly can. He can probably only get away with shushing his boss under these exact circumstances. Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind though, sighing and stretching like a cat as Jeongguk intently pets him until he’s nice and soft and pliant again. He hooks his hands under each of Taehyung’s knees and pushes upward just to test how much he can get away with. Taehyung folds up eagerly, hands even joining Jeongguk’s under his thighs to hold himself there. 

 

Jeongguk can’t help the cocky smirk that twists across his face. “You want something, babe?” 

 

Taehyung glares at him. It looks more like a petulant pout. Jeongguk coos and Taehyung kicks him lightly in the arm. Jeongguk can’t resist, crawling up Taehyung’s body just long enough to kiss the pout off his lips, coming away with that swollen bottom lip caught between his teeth. He gently sucks on it before letting it go, watching the way Taehyung tugs it back into his own mouth to soothe his tongue over it. Then he makes his way back down, revisiting some spots he’s already been to and getting himself acquainted with new ones. Taehyung is getting antsy, letting out an impatient huff when Jeongguk takes too long kissing his way back down his chest. Then he gets even antsier as Jeongguk slides down onto his belly, arms looped under Taehyung’s obscenely spread thighs. 

 

Jeongguk takes one last lingering look at Taehyung spread before him, elegant long limbs and ethereal face sculpted in dim fluorescent light and soft shadows, before he dips low between Taehyung’s thighs. Taehyung registers what’s happening as Jeongguk’s breath trails over his skin, and he pulls his knees even closer to his body with a grateful groan. Jeongguk nuzzles into the crook of his thigh before starting to lick, leaving long, wet stripes everywhere except for the exact place Taehyung wants it most. A deep, gravelly moan builds in Taehyung’s chest as Jeongguk lavishes every inch of skin between his legs with sucking kisses and careful scrapes of his teeth. 

 

“Guk,” Taehyung pants. “Guk, please. I’m - please.” 

 

Jeongguk wants to tell him he doesn’t have to beg, because he’s going to give him everything. But he’d rather show him, so he thumbs apart Taehyung’s cheeks and seals his mouth over his hole, and Taehyung groans a drawn-out oh god in relief. Jeongguk takes his time, giving deep, intent swirls of his tongue and groaning at the soft, wet heat and flutter of muscles. He pushes Taehyung’s hips up, hands braced under his ass to get a better angle. The breaths that rack from Taehyung’s heaving chest are ragged, urging Jeongguk on. He goes on like that until Taehyung is a complete mess, sweat broken out on his skin and jaw dropped open to gasp, arms crooked tensely into the mattress and sheets balled in his fists. 

 

At another hard ache between his own legs, Jeongguk’s eyes pinch shut and he lets out a muffled moan. He pulls away and Taehyung’s legs drop back onto the bed. He leans back and pushes his own pants down, catching himself on one hand beside Taehyung as he struggles to kick them off from around his ankles. Taehyung wraps around him and anchors him down, feet hooked behind his back and arms tight across the back of his shoulders. Jeongguk grinds down against him and sighs into his neck, but it comes out pitchy and strained. 

 

“Where do you keep your lube and stuff?”

 

“I’ll get it.” 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t particularly want to, but he rolls over to the side and flops down onto the bed so Taehyung can get up. His hand absently finds his dick to keep himself occupied as he watches Taehyung slip off the bed and rummage through drawer in the nightstand. When Taehyung comes back, he crawls across the bed on his hands and knees over Jeongguk and sits down on his lap. Jeongguk shifts around to get comfortable and looks up at him, watching curiously as he pours lube onto his hand and sets the bottle aside. Jeongguk takes it for himself and slicks up his own fingers as Taehyung leans over to reach behind himself. 

 

“Fuck,” Jeongguk breathes out as he watches Taehyung open himself up. With his dry hand, he grabs Taehyung’s hip and positions him so their cocks are aligned. Then he gets his hand around both of them and groans as Taehyung starts moving his hips. 

 

Taehyung’s mouth falls open, eyebrows knit together as he rides back and forth between his own hand and Jeongguk’s. He grips the sheets beside Jeongguk’s head, body tensing up and collapsing as he breathes deep, in and out. 

 

“You do this a lot?” Jeongguk asks, smirking. 

 

Taehyung nods. It hits Jeongguk like a punch to the gut - imagining Taehyung doing this to himself, spread out right here on this bed all by himself as he thinks about the things that turn him on, takes himself apart with his own hands. 

 

“Oh, fuck,” Jeongguk croaks. He thrusts upward, tightening his hand around their cocks and arching back into the mattress as Taehyung’s moans grow louder and higher in his ear. 

 

“Okay,” Taehyung rasps a few minutes later, withdrawing his hand and reaching between them instead. 

 

“Wait - what?” Jeongguk stammers. “No way - that was so fast.” 

 

Taehyung shoots a sly grin as he leans over and grabs the condom he’d brought with the lube. “Don’t worry about it,” Taehyung says as he rolls the condom onto Jeongguk’s cock and adds more lube to the outside. 

 

Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up. “Wait a second, what does that mean?”

 

“It means,” Taehyung says, lifting his hips and positioning himself, “don’t worry about it.” 

 

Taehyung sinks down on his cock and any words die in his throat. Jeongguk’s hands fly up to Taehyung’s hips and his feet curl on the bed, straining to keep still as Taehyung adjusts. 

 

“Oooh, fuck, okay,” Taehyung pants, thighs trembling as he pauses sporadically. “Maybe - should have - prepped - a little more,” he huffs, words broken up between strained grunts. 

 

“Well, fuck - just pull off then, christ,” Jeongguk splutters. 

 

“I’m fine,” Taehyung insists. He repositions his knees on the bed and leans forward until he’s lying flat on top of Jeongguk and gently rocks back, breathing hard into Jeongguk’s neck. “Fuck. Oh fuck.” 

 

“Was - was that a good ‘oh fuck’ or a bad ‘oh fuck’?” Jeongguk asks, kissing the side of Taehyung’s head. 

 

“Good, so good,” Taehyung sighs, and Jeongguk wraps him up in his arms. He keeps rocking back, taking more and more of Jeongguk each time. Their chests are slick with sweat, skin gliding easily between them. Taehyung keeps panting into Jeongguk’s neck as he builds up to a more steady roll of his hips, letting out the occasional soft moan. He stops when he finally bottoms out, hips locked down tight on top of Jeongguk’s as he gasps, “Fuck, okay, it’s in - it’s all the way in.” 

 

“Fuck yeah, it is,” Jeongguk blurts out, chest heaving, overwhelmed at how tight Taehyung feels around him. 

 

Taehyung sits back, cock deep inside him, and leans back until he’s upright on Jeongguk’s lap. 

 

“You look so fucking good,” Jeongguk says in awe, gaze dragging over Taehyung’s body from where their hips are joined to where his eyes are half-lidded, messy bangs falling over them. 

 

Taehyung hums in acknowledgement and then lifts up, drops back down, and starts riding Jeongguk with a hand propped on his chest for leverage. 

 

“Ooh, wow, you’re good at this,” Jeongguk mumbles, going limp on the bed except for the restrained upward thrust of his hips. He lets Taehyung take the wheel as his eyes glaze over, heat whipping in his stomach and toes curling. His body starts to jolt lightly each time Taehyung drops down as he sets a faster pace, hitting deep inside and rendering Jeongguk’s brain mush. He starts mumbling nonsense, half-coherent things about how good it feels, how hot Taehyung is, how much he wants him. 

 

Taehyung eventually slows down, thighs shaking under Jeongguk’s hands. He swallows, throat bobbing as he wilts forward, energy draining from his body. He keeps rolling his hips in small circles, breathing loudly through his mouth. “Thought you were gonna take care of me,” he pants with a teasing half-smirk.

 

“You just hopped on. I wasn’t gonna stop you,” Jeongguk defends, returning the look with a dazed smile. 

 

Taehyung laughs softly, deep voice soothing and filling Jeongguk’s chest with warmth. He leans over more and places his hands on either side of Jeongguk’s face, cupping his cheeks. “Cute,” he murmurs, closing the distance and kissing him sweetly. 

 

Jeongguk kisses him back, hooking his hands under Taehyung’s legs. “I’ll show you cute,” Jeongguk grumbles, and then he flips them over, Taehyung’s back landing with a dull thump on the bed. 

 

Taehyung sighs fondly. “Idiot.” 

 

There’s not much more talking after that. Jeongguk hooks one of Taehyung’s legs up over his arm, plants his hands on either side, and starts thrusting fast and deep. Taehyung’s moans rip out of his chest, some ringing out into the room and others muffled into the crook of his arm. Jeongguk watches Taehyung crumble beautifully beneath him, words like gorgeous and mine crossing his thoughts. Jeongguk throws one of Taehyung’s legs around his waist, the other one pushed up high against his other side. He drops his chest down and buries his face in Taehyung’s neck, tonguing along the rapid flutter of his pulse under the skin and adding more marks to his collection. 

 

Taehyung pulls him in for another kiss that mostly devolves into them panting into each other’s mouths. Jeongguk digs an elbow into the bed to cradle Taehyung’s head in his arm, his other hand dropping down to grip Taehyung by the hip and hold him steady as he fucks him, quick and deep and deliberate and with every intention of making him come hard, fall apart, sob from how good it feels. His head hangs, face pressed clumsily against the side of Taehyung’s, sweat-damp hair tangling and clinging to their skin. One of Taehyung’s arms wraps possessively around Jeongguk’s ribcage - the other drags down the overheated skin of his back and grabs a handful of ass to pull him down and in at the pace he wants. 

 

They start to teeter over into that disconnect that comes in the few minutes before orgasm, the frantic moments where they just need more, more, and their thrusting gets wild and they’re chasing their own waves of pleasure. Jeongguk squeezes a hand between them and wraps it around Taehyung’s cock, intent to make him come first. It’s still slick from earlier and even more slick as he rubs his palm over the precome at the head. When he gets a grip around Taehyung’s length and starts tugging, Taehyung whines brokenly in his ear, voice wet and cracking and devastated. 

 

“Guk - gonna, gonna come,” Taehyung babbles, body curving upward and flexing back down, thrusts shuddering weakly to meet Jeongguk’s. 

 

Jeongguk nuzzles behind Taehyung’s ear, sucks on the shell, breathes noisily as he worries gently at the lobe. He presses wet, sloppy kisses to Taehyung’s jaw, murmuring more nonsense and gentle encouragement. Come for me baby, I got you, come on baby. All the while he builds up faster, light slapping sounds in the air and hiccuping gasps stuttering out of Taehyung’s open mouth. 

 

Then, as Taehyung comes, he tightens around Jeongguk’s cock, sucks in a breath and lets a long, overwhelmed moan build in his chest before letting it out. Jeongguk lets out his own groan, their voices overlapping like a fucked-out, unstable harmony. Taehyung rides out waves, moaning with each one as wetness splatters between them. His body coils up tight, and then after the peak of his release, he lets out a loud exhale, chest heaving, and then melts into the soft mattress. His body continues to rock loosely with each of Jeongguk’s thrusts, head rolling over to the side so his neck is exposed for Jeongguk to mouth at freely, mostly just gasping into the skin. 

 

Jeongguk comes just as Taehyung starts to twitch and whine with overstimulation. He grunts with each of his last uncoordinated thrusts, unbearable pressure in his belly finally snapping and pouring over, flowing out into his body and flashing like a single nova behind his eyelids. He moans, loud and breathy, into Taehyung’s ear one more time, and then he’s spent. He manages to redirect his heavy body slightly off to the side as he collapses on top of Taehyung. 

 

They lie there and breathe for several minutes. 

 

“Can we do that in your office one day?” 

 

“If we were going to do it in my office, you’d probably want to bend me over the desk.” 

 

Jeongguk’s head shoots up, gaping.

 

“But we’re not going to do it in my office.” 

 

Jeongguk deflates. Taehyung laughs underneath him at his expense. 

 

After he’s caught his breath, Jeongguk props up on an elbow and reaches down to carefully pull himself out, hissing at the over-sensitivity. He sits up, holding the condom around the base of his dick and looking around the room. 

 

“Master bath is right there,” Taehyung says, lazily throwing an arm in that direction to point. 

 

Jeongguk heads into the bathroom, impressed frown on his face as he takes in the fancy interior. There’s a giant bathtub and a walk-in shower with a robotic looking showerhead. The towels are fluffy and soft like hotel towels. He’s developing a suspicion that Taehyung has a thing for soft fabrics. He essentially confirms this when he gets a feel of the super-soft bathrobe hanging from a hook on the wall. He cleans himself up and then goes to take a damp washcloth to Taehyung. 

 

He finds Taehyung is sprawled out on the bed, eyes shut and possibly already dozing off. The moment Jeongguk’s knee hits the edge of the bed, Taehyung’s eyes flash open. He clambers up and over to him and cleans him up before tossing the cloth carelessly toward the bathroom door. 

 

Then he’s kind of - well, confused. He’s not sure if Taehyung is a cuddler, or if he’s about to tell Jeongguk not to let the door hit him on the way out. Or maybe he’s weird about people sleeping in the same bed and -

 

“You’re staying, right?” 

 

Jeongguk holds back a sigh of relief. “Yeah.” 

 

They get situated in bed. Jeongguk ends up on the wrong side and Taehyung makes him scoot over as he climbs in. He doesn’t get too far, though, because Taehyung drapes an arm around him and drags him back, tossing a leg over Jeongguk’s hips with a tired sigh. Jeongguk holds onto Taehyung like a teddy bear, arm around his ribs and cheek pressed into his chest, ear to his heartbeat. They’re both still kind of sweaty, and the room is ripe from the sex they just had, and Jeongguk passes out and gets the best night of sleep he’s ever had. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk wakes, pleasantly warm and unsure of what woke him so early. It’s barely light out, just the faintest glow of sunlight through the curtains. He stretches out and yawns loudly. His first instinct is to reach over to his nightstand and check his phone for any urgent emails from Taehyung - 

 

Jeongguk’s eyes snap open. He’s in Taehyung’s bed, buried in fluffy pillows with a luxury comforter tangled around him, and Taehyung isn’t in it with him. 

 

He panics for a moment. 

 

Then he hears tiny footsteps running around the apartment, and he relaxes. 

 

He shuffles out of the room a little while later dressed in Taehyung’s clothes he’d rummaged around to find. He finds Taehyung and Sunny in the kitchen packing her lunch for school. 

 

Taehyung looks up when he notices Jeongguk emerge from the hallway. “Good morning,” he says, going back to packing things into Sunny’s pink lunch bag. 

 

“Morning,” Jeongguk says sheepishly. 

 

Sunny looks up from her bowl of cereal. “Gukie!” she calls out gleefully, shoulders scrunching up as she smiles. 

 

“Hi, sweetie,” Jeongguk calls back. 

 

Taehyung finishes zipping up Sunny’s lunch and then stashes it away in her backpack. Then he turns to Jeongguk, walking up close and placing a hand on his chest. “Did you sleep okay?” he asks, voice low for only Jeongguk’s ears. 

 

“Yeah. I slept great,” Jeongguk replies. He’s still waking up, blinking sleep from his eyes. 

 

Taehyung leans in and kisses the corner of his mouth, thumb lightly stroking his cheek. “I’ll drop you off at your place on my way to the office.” 

 

“Oh, man,” Jeongguk grumbles. “My boss is gonna be pissed I’m late.” 

 

Taehyung flicks a finger under his chin before turning away. “Don’t make a habit of it.” 

 

“Daddy, what’s that stuff on your neck?” 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk doesn’t make a habit of showing up late to work after all. 

 

He does make a habit of riding home with Taehyung after work and joining him and Sunny for dinner, though. And he makes a habit of giving Sunny a big good night hug before her dad tucks her into bed. And he’s developed this really tough habit of kissing Taehyung every time before he leaves. He starts working on his own spot on Taehyung’s couch where they sit to watch movies, although more often than not he ends up with either a small child or a grown man slumped against his side, taking over his personal space. 

 

He gets used to drinking wine out of a real wine glass and usually lets Taehyung handle opening the bottle. And he’s kind of getting spoiled eating at nice restaurants and getting chauffeured around in a nice car. He’s even more spoiled getting to hold Taehyung whenever he wants to outside of work and getting to chase his favorite four-year-old around the house until they both get into trouble. At first, his time is split between all of that and being a couch potato at home with Yoongi. But then Yoongi starts cracking jokes about Jeongguk paying rent for a glorified storage closet, and Jeongguk finds some of his belongings slowly migrating over to Taehyung’s apartment. 

 

They figure things out at work. Because as invincible as Taehyung thinks he is, neither one of them really wants to find out how bad that ‘slap on the wrist’ will be if they get caught. This means no more kissing like idiots in Taehyung’s car right in front of the building for anyone walking by to see. It doesn’t prevent Taehyung from stopping by his desk to mess with his pens or flip through his sticky notes or just skip past the lollygagging and get straight to outright flirting. Taehyung continues to be the powerhouse editor of Singularity and Jeongguk continues to be his frazzled and overworked assistant. 

 

Saturday afternoons of sleeping in turn into Saturday afternoons at the park, running around with Sunny screaming from on top of his shoulders and stopping to feed squirrels the snacks from her backpack. Sunday nights aren’t the last night of the weekend before he has to drag himself back to work hell - they’re school nights and his last chance before Monday comes to make out with Taehyung on the couch after Sunny goes to bed. 

 

Tonight is another one of those aforementioned Saturday nights. Sunny and Jeongguk had dared each other to stay up late enough to see the sunrise. They’d picked out a whole lineup of movies to watch to get them through the next few hours. Sunny had put on their first pick and then promptly passed out in Jeongguk’s lap twenty minutes into the movie. 

 

Taehyung sits beside him at arm’s reach, arm outstretched on the back of the couch. The living room is dark, television flickering with the docuseries Taehyung had changed it over to after they’d confirmed Sunny was completely out. Jeongguk likes the animated movies Sunny picks out better than the boring nonfiction stuff Taehyung likes to watch, but they all three take turns picking to keep things fair. Sometimes he even gets really into the shows Taehyung puts on. 

 

He cannot say he is into whatever is on television tonight. He can’t for the life of him pay attention. He doesn’t know why. He’s not nervous or anything. He’d stopped getting hung up on nerves and chickening out around Taehyung a long time ago. He’s not even afraid to tell Taehyung when he’s being an ass at work anymore. 

 

He feels… calm. He feels... 

 

Oh, man. 

 

He feels at home

 

These types of thoughts have been crossing his mind for a while now. Last week he’d killed about an hour on the clock at work researching on the internet “how to tell if you’re in love” and taking stupid quizzes. He’d thought about asking Mina or maybe Yoongi about it, but that had been the dumbest idea to cross his mind in a while. And there are a lot of dumb ideas that cross his mind on a regular basis. Mina would lose her damn mind if she found out Jeongguk was toying around with the L-word. She’s already losing her mind that Jeongguk had called to inform her that not only would he be bringing a plus-one to her wedding, but a plus- two

 

During this rather profound internal monologue running through Jeongguk’s head, Taehyung is fully engrossed in the show, completely oblivious. Something happens on screen that piques his interest at some point and he picks up his phone from the side table to look up something on the internet, ever the inquisitive mind. 

 

Jeongguk, as quickly and carefully as he can so as to not bother Sunny, picks up his phone from where it’s laying on the couch by his leg. He taps out a message to Taehyung. 

 

>> hey

>> look at me

 

He sees the exact moment Taehyung reads the texts when they pop up at the top of his phone screen. Taehyung smirks and, instead of doing what Jeongguk asked because god fucking forbid he cooperate this one time, he types back. 

 

>> Why?

 

Jeongguk gives a long-suffering sigh. 

 

>> bc i need to tell u something

 

>> You can’t text it to me? Sunny is asleep, you know

 

Jeongguk huffs and sets his phone aside. Taehyung’s shoulders shake with silent laughter from across the couch. Taehyung finally looks at him, mirth gleaming in his eyes. 

 

He mouths: What is it?

 

And Jeongguk answers: 

 

I love you

 

Taehyung looks - well, he doesn’t look surprised. The smile slips off his face just slightly, eyes softening as he stares at Jeongguk for a long moment that makes his heart and hands tremble. 

 

Then he wordlessly leans over. Places a hand on the back of Sunny’s head where it lay against Jeongguk’s chest. Leans in and kisses her soundly on the forehead. When he pulls away, he looks up at Jeongguk, nearly nose to nose with him. He moves the hand on Sunny’s head to Jeongguk’s cheek and then kisses him, too, on the forehead. 

 

“Let’s put her to bed,” Taehyung whispers, and Jeongguk nods. 

 

Jeongguk tries not to think about how Taehyung hadn’t said it back. In his extensive research, he had come across that possibility - that maybe the other person wouldn’t be ready to say it at the same time. Jeongguk is okay with that. Because he’s pretty convinced Taehyung does love him. And even if he doesn’t, that just makes his next mission to make Taehyung fall super mad crazy in love with him. Payback for what he’s done to Jeongguk’s poor gooey, lovestruck heart. 

 

He very carefully gathers Sunny up in his arms and lifts himself off the couch. Taehyung switches the television off behind him, leaving just a faint strip of light from Taehyung’s room down the hall to guide the way. Jeongguk carries Sunny into her room, letting Taehyung walk ahead of him to shift her massive collection of animal plushies around to make room for her tiny body. Taehyung pulls back the blanket and Jeongguk delicately lowers her onto the bed, making sure her head lines up with the pillow and no stray limbs fall over the side. They both tuck her in, making sure the blanket is nice and snug around her and her favorite stuffed animal is safely tucked under her arm. Taehyung leans over to kiss her one more time on the temple, and then he turns away. 

 

As he heads for the door, he slides his hand into Jeongguk’s and gently pulls him along. He guides Jeongguk toward the bedroom, eases the door shut behind them, and then whispers those same three words back to him over and over throughout the night. Hung high at the peak of a moan or breathed against Jeongguk’s lips behind a sigh or mumbled through the cloudy edges of sleep later on as they’re curled together, sweat cooling on their skin and hearts slowing back down to an even rhythm. 

 

Jeongguk hopes that becomes a habit, too. 

 

⁎❀⁎

 

Jeongguk stands at the office copier, waiting for his document to finish printing off. It is, as fate would have it, a Monday. Things have already been crazy but he’d dealt with all that. Now it’s the after-lunch lull. Taehyung just got back from another inspiring lunch with Chandler He and he has an afternoon teleconference coming up with the one and only Daniel Lee in about an hour. Jeongguk takes his warm paper copies from the tray and heads back over to his desk to drop one of them off on top of his keyboard. 

 

The other he takes with him straight to Taehyung’s office. He stands at the door, able to hear a muffled conversation on the other side, and knocks lightly. 

 

“Hold on just a second,” he hears Taehyung say to the caller. “Who is it?” 

 

“It’s me.” 

 

“Ah. Hello - you still there?” Taehyung says to the person on the phone. “I’m sorry, but I just had something important come up. Can I call you back in a bit? Thank you so much. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.” A pause as he ends the call. “Come in.” 

 

Jeongguk bites back a smile as he pushes through the door. 

 

Taehyung leans back in his desk chair, smoothing a hand down his tie. He smiles at Jeongguk and follows him with his eyes as he crosses the room to his desk. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Taehyung questions as Jeongguk stops right across the desk from him, holding the paper in both hands. 

 

“I needed to talk to you about something.”

 

“Have a seat.”

 

Jeongguk pulls up the nearest chair and sits down in it. He does his best not to put any wrinkles in the paper in his hands, but he can’t help if he grips it too tight because he’s the slightest bit nervous for whatever reason.

 

“How can I help you, Jeongguk?” 

 

Jeongguk laughs, hand coming up to cover his mouth and rub nervously while the other drops to his lap with the paper. “This is so nerve-wracking.” 

 

Taehyung shakes his head, still smiling. “Don’t be nervous, baby. There’s no reason at all.” 

 

Taking a deep breath, Jeongguk leans forward and slides the paper across Taehyung’s desk. He sits back, hands clasped tight in his lap as he bites his lip and watches Taehyung pick the paper up. 

 

“I don’t care for the font,” Taehyung states immediately, shooting a playful look to Jeongguk from around the paper. Jeongguk rolls his eyes. Taehyung looks over the paper, reading it quickly. It’s only a few short paragraphs and then Jeongguk’s signature at the bottom. When he’s done reading, Taehyung turns the paper face-down on his desk and scoots forward in his chair, elbows coming up to rest. 

 

Jeongguk sends a tight-lipped smile, feeling almost pained by the wicked butterflies in his stomach. 

 

“I’ll be sad to see you go,” Taehyung says. “It’s going to be difficult to replace you. I don’t know if anyone will live up to the new standards I have for my assistant.” 

 

“Uh, I kinda hope not, either. Considering we - you know.” 

 

Taehyung laughs, chin dropping into the palm of his hand. “Don’t include any of that when you train the new hire.”

 

“I won’t,” Jeongguk says, laughing. Then he settles down a bit, giving an airy sigh. “I’ll train them as best as I can. I want you to have the best.” 

 

“I know you will,” Taehyung says easily. “So. Photojournalism, then?” 

 

Jeongguk feels a different type of nervous flutter at the comment. “Yeah, um. Looks like it.” 

 

“We have a lot of opportunities for someone with a degree like that here at Singularity.”

 

“As long as I don’t have to hide that fact that I’m dating the chief editor, I’d love that.” 

 

“I’d love that, too,” Taehyung says. His eyes arch with this smile, gentle and warm and bright. 

 

Jeongguk’s life flashes before his eyes. Not the kind of near-death experience life-flashing-before-your-eyes right before you die type of thing. Instead, it’s his entire life, his entire future - trips to the aquarium, lazy Sunday afternoons, first days of school, birthdays, graduations, weddings, family vacations, Jeon Family Christmases, every lovely Friday night and every terrible or mediocre or amazing Monday morning from now through the rest of his life. All the scratched knees and bedtime tantrums and goodbye tears, all the tough fights that no one really wins or hardships that no one really wants to go through alone. He can see it all like flipping through one giant picture album, thumb on the edge of the pages as the snapshots flash by in a blur. 

 

Jeongguk blinks and he’s back. Standing in his soon-to-be ex-boss’ office, staring at his boyfriend’s beautiful face and thinking about how fucking lucky he is that Jimin got the flu that one time. 

 

Taehyung’s smile never leaves. “Dinner tonight? To celebrate?” 

 

Jeongguk stands up, heart so full in his chest it feels like it could burst and start shooting fireworks and set the fire alarms off in the office. “Yeah, that,” he has to stop and swallow a lump, “that sounds good.” 

 

“What do you want?” Taehyung asks. It’s a perfectly normal question by now. 

 

“Anything sounds good.”

 

As long as it’s with the two of you

 

“Good,” Taehyung states with a short nod. He shifts back toward his desk and turns toward his computer. “Is that all you were needing?” 

 

“Yep. All good here.” 

 

“Alright then,” Taehyung says, already typing on his computer. “Get back to work.” 

 

Two weeks later, on his last day of work, the office throws a farewell party for him at lunch. Taehyung goes all-out with catering from Jeongguk’s favorite restaurant and a giant, bright yellow cake. He gives him a gift that he doesn’t show the rest of the office - a professional camera and an array of memory cards with a note requesting that he fill every single one with pictures. Then he pulls Jeongguk into his office for a kiss that makes Jeongguk laugh and nearly cry because it feels really dramatic. Like the goodbye kiss in a sad romance movie that makes everyone worry that there might not be a happy ending after all. It’s funny, and Jeongguk tells Taehyung exactly that, because as far as he and Taehyung and Sunny are concerned, he’s not actually going anywhere any time soon. 

 

Or ever, probably.