“You went on a date and didn’t tell me?”
“It wasn’t a date.” Jungkook shook his head.
“You had a one on one meal with a guy! That. Is. A. Date!”
Ash was the same age as Jungkook, he was the same height, with the same black hair in a similar style. People thought they were related when they were seen together and when a teacher in high school got their names mixed up, they became firm friends. Ash was doing a science masters degree but worked several nights a week at the diner plus any other shifts thrown his way so he could pay for his school fees, which is how Jungkook got the job there too, with the owners practically adopting the two boys.
“It wasn’t a meal, it was a smoothie.” he corrects, Ash.
“That sounds like a date to me. Are you seeing him again?”
“Ash, why are you talking like we met, swapped numbers and actually had a date?”
“You didn’t get his number?”
Jungkook threw popcorn at Ash, hitting him in the face “No! Because it wasn’t a date! I had to blackmail him into the smoothie as it was. He’s a bit of a pompous prick to be honest, I doubt I’ll see him again.”
“You have too many morals, I’d have taken the money and run. He gave it to you. Maybe he wants to be your sugar daddy?” Ash wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
“Ewwwww! That’s gross and you read too much fiction. I don’t want to be kept, thank you very much, even by a gorgeous suited guy.”
Ash leapt onto Jungkook, wrestling him to the ground, snatching a handful of popcorn and throwing it at his face “Ahhhhh!! So you think he’s gorgeous?! I knew it! It was a date, you actually don’t have morals, you just needed an excuse to get in his pants!”
Jungkook shoved his friend off “I do have morals and I didn’t get in his pants so your theory is complete rubbish.”
“You should ask him out properly next time instead of using some lame arsed excuse.”
“It wasn’t an excuse. How can I justify taking that amount of cash? I sang a few songs in the subway.”
“He obviously thinks you’re worth it or he wouldn’t have given you it.”
“That might well be but it doesn’t matter now.”
“He’ll be back.”
“I doubt it.”
“He will. You don’t give away that kind of money and not return. He’s already done it twice. You mark my words and you can buy me a smoothie when I’m right.”
“I have to buy you a smoothie if he comes back again?”
“Yep! And when you two go out on a proper date, you can buy me dinner.” Ash said, pulling on his uniform to head to work.
“How is it that I have to keep buying you things because of your lame predictions?”
“When you get married, I want the annex in your huge mansion.”
“Fuck off! Now I know you’re insane.”
With his friend gone, Jungkook went to his room and put the bundle of notes in the jar under his bed. He thought his friend was funny, he played the events of the evening out in his mind and rolled his eyes, if that was considered a date then he was probably screwed because it was the worst date he’d ever been on. He couldn’t work out whether Taehyung did in fact have the wealth he claimed or whether he was a chancer, trying to appear to be something he wasn’t. He didn’t understand why Taehyung interested him aside from the fact that he loathed arrogance and saw it as a bit of a challenge to take him down a peg or two. It was silly really, he didn’t know him, didn’t know anything about him apart from his name, the fact he wore expensive suits and that he was good looking… but he would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t want to see him again, intrigue winning out.
The weather appeared to be getting hotter and a consequence of that was that Taehyung’s mood took a nosedive. One could say that it was his own doing because he was the one who decided, once again, to leave his car at home and catch the train to and from work but he would blame the app on his phone that told him it would be cooler and there was a 65% chance it would rain. The app lied, straight up lied… it was hotter than yesterday and the day before and he was perspiring like he’d run a marathon, standing at the bottom of the steps entering the subway with the odour of other people seeping through his nostrils.
“Business class on the 14th, four days. Can you book everything and email me the itinerary? Then you can go home, it’s Friday.” he put his phone away, adding to his irritation was now a business trip to Europe next month where he would have to chair meetings for new investors, his PA was capable but he didn’t like leaving his company for long.
Today, he’d at least had the good sense to leave his suit jacket in the office but even with his long sleeved shirt rolled up to the elbows, he was still too hot. The fan he was holding was now feeling more like a hairdryer as it swooshed around the hot air so he gave up with it altogether. He really just needed to get home and wished he didn’t have this sense of desire to find out more about the busker because he could leave the subway and call his driver otherwise.
“Am I not big enough for you to see?” he shouted at a man who bumped into him, spilling some of his iced americano on his shirt.
“Move out of the way next time.” the man shouted back, annoyed that he’d spilled some of his drink.
“This shirt cost more than you’re worth, idiot!” Tae snorted, looking at the brown stain on the crisp white fabric. He didn't do public confrontation and rarely lost his cool but irritation got the better of him today.
The man gave him an offensive hand gesture and ran for the train that had just pulled into the station, leaving Taehyung fuming under his breath, moving through the crowd to find his platform. He heard the voice before he saw the busker and his mood was marginally lifted when he recognised the song from a musical his mother had taken him too when he was younger. He was once again impressed by the vast array of songs he’d heard the busker sing and wondered if he sang them because he liked them or because he thought other people would like them. He nearly didn’t stop to listen to him today because he could feel that knot of indignation threatening to unfurl in his stomach but when the sweet tone of his voice filtered through the humidity, he thought he may as well stay for the next song.
Jungkook looked like he was sweating buckets, even though he was wearing shorts that reached above his knees and a thin vest. The big boots looked out of place and Taehyung didn’t miss the fact that they were the worn ones that definitely needed replacing. Beads of perspiration ran down the side of his face from the edge of the cap covering the tops of his ears but his voice didn’t falter once. Taehyung was impressed that he was able to sing in this environment, the air was so thick with heat and the rancid smell of body odour, grease and some other things he’d rather not have to think about.
This time, the busker looked up the second that the bundle of notes hit the container, he rolled his eyes, firstly because Ash was right and secondly because he would have to barter with the suited man once again. It was becoming an annoyance that the businessman persisted in dropping so much money because Jungkook wouldn’t accept it easily and then he would have to argue the toss, which was quite frankly a pain in his ass when he just wanted to finish his set and head home.
“You liked the smoothie that much?” Jungkook asked.
“Good evening to you too.” Taehyung glared.
“You know that I can’t accept this.”
“You imply that this is my problem and that I care?”
“I’m not implying anything, I’m just stating facts.”
“That list is getting longer.”
“The list of negativity that describes you, I’m not surprised that you have forgotten, it is a most unpleasant list.”
Jungkook rolled his eyes and took a deep breath “If something doesn’t hold my interest, I’m bound to forget it.”
Taehyung smirked “Obnoxious, that’s the word going on the list.”
“Okay, well… you can have this money back or come and get a smoothie. The choice is yours.” Jungkook started packing his bag away, he suddenly couldn’t be bothered to continue singing the last two songs he had planned.
“If I wanted a smoothie, I would buy one. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
“Suit yourself.” Jungkook placed the neatly rolled cylinder of notes in the exact spot he’d been sitting in and turned to walk away.
“Hey! You can’t just leave that there.” Taehyung couldn’t believe the busker was just going to leave that amount of money on the floor.
“I told you I couldn’t accept it and since you won’t accept my terms, someone else can have it.”
Taehyung was extremely exasperated, he grabbed the money and took the steps towards the young man “someone else wouldn’t have earned it!”
“You imply that I care.”
“Insolent. Another word for that list!”
“Because I won’t accept your money? Go and buy someone else, Taehyung and perhaps they will kiss your ass and you can have a list of positivity.”
Jungkook didn’t turn back when he pushed through the commuters and took the steps two at a time, leaving Taehyung standing on the platform, open mouthed and more irked than he’d ever felt in his life.
He wouldn’t be going into the subway again and to hell with the busker.
His briefcase still sat out of place near the bookcase where it had landed when he tossed it after slamming his door. He’d thrown his clothes into the laundry bag and stood under a cold shower, the cool water causing goosebumps to cover his skin. The temperature of the water had reduced the heat in his body but hadn’t done anything to decrease the anger he felt after his exchange with the busker. The one thing that did help extinguish the fire inside him was the freezing cold, honey coloured liquid that was currently sliding down his throat, his third glass already. The slight buzz that came from the bourbon swishing around his glass that clinked when the cubes of ice hit it, was refreshing and the more he swallowed, the less irritated he felt. By the fifth glass he had a plan, not born from the fact his ego was bruised, of course not, it was because he hadn’t paid for the services he’d received and he was a man who always gave credit where it was due.
Thankfully it was the weekend and he’d planned on working on Sunday, so waking on a Saturday morning with a slightly fuzzy head and a crick in his neck from falling asleep in his armchair wasn’t such a big deal. He didn’t even have a brunch date as he usually would because it was close to the period where awards nominations would be announced and that affected his friends. Jimin was the main one it affected because the celebrities would be baying for his services and he needed to prepare ideas for possible themes and since he was usually the one bugging Taehyung for brunch, it meant he had a free morning.
There were many perks of having a lot of money and that was that you could usually find someone to do what you wanted if you paid enough and even though the masseuse said he was fully booked, the right amount of money offered ensured that Taehyung got the massage he felt he needed. Some paracetamol, a shower, a thorough deep tissue massage and he was feeling a whole lot better than he had when he first opened his eyes this morning.
The day went quickly because once he was feeling more himself, he got some work out of the way, having checked his emails and reading the itinerary for his trip, he thought it was best to get ahead. It was soon time to go on a wild goose chase and even in the cold light of day he still thought that going to the diner where the busker worked was a good idea. The idea came to him through his whiskey clouded mind last night because he conceived that if he didn't ever see Jungkook again then their last exchange was one he’d lost and he wasn’t having that. There were very few people in his life that had ever gotten the better of him and he sure as hell wasn’t about to allow an idiotic street urchin to be one of them.
Taehyung accepted that he probably looked out of place walking into the diner with its tasteless name ‘Dino’s Dawgs’ in lights and everyone looking like they’d just fallen out of bed. The small diamond in his Chanel necklace was probably worth more than the building but this wasn’t the time to be considering such things. His beige trousers were well fitted, the white scoop neck top, with its three quarter length sleeves, was tucked nicely into the waistband adorned with a rich brown leather belt. His hair was parted in the middle and styled to perfection, it had been recently coloured so there was a brown gradient with the ends being a milk chocolate colour. He’d been reluctant to have the colour but Jimin insisted that ombre was the rage and he needed to be current when he was meeting with important people because it showed he wasn’t stuck in the dark ages, which is apparently what everyone would think if his hair was all one dark colour. Taehyung really wasn’t convinced that the CEO of a company or the middle aged men sitting around a boardroom table would give a shit about the colour of his hair but he listened to his friend anyway and if he didn’t like it he could always change it.
He eyed the seat of the booth he was shown to and was somewhat relieved that it was leather because the last thing he wanted was to sit on a fabric surface that would harbour dust and all the things he tried to avoid. The waitress was cute, she couldn’t hide the obvious attraction as her cheeks flushed and she couldn’t maintain eye contact, rushing through her lines to say someone would be over to take his order soon. Once she’d gone, he glanced over the menu and while waiting for a server, checked his phone for emails and the like. He was scrolling through Yoongi’s personal social media page when a familiar voice cleared his throat beside him and he looked up to see the busker standing there.
“Good evening Sir” Jungkook cursed inwardly as the man looked up and he realised who it was.
Taehyung noticed the change in expression and had expected such a welcome “Good evening.”
“Can I take your order or would you like longer to decide?”
“I’ll have an iced tea please.”
Jungkook scribbled it down “Will that be all?”
“For now.” Taehyung answered then he went back to scrolling through his phone, smiling to himself when he saw the message that Jimin left on Yoongi’s wall declaring his love for him and knowing how much Yoongi would’ve complained about it.
He wasn’t waiting for very long when Jungkook appeared with his drink, placing it on top of the cardboard coaster that had ‘DD’ printed on it. He acknowledged the drink then looked up at the busker “Thank you.”
“Can I get you something to eat, Sir?” Jungkook didn’t like calling him sir because he annoyed him and it left a bitter taste in his mouth. At least in the subway he could speak freely but here he was at work and had to remain professional because he couldn’t risk losing his job.
“What would you recommend?”
“Everything on the menu is good but I’m sure you are used to more upmarket dining.”
“Are you suggesting this fine diner isn’t upmarket?”
“I’m just surprised to see you in here, that’s all.”
“I’m full of surprises, Jeon Jungkook. I think we should add ‘judgemental’ to that list.”
“Perhaps I should start my own list, sir. I think ‘stalking’ would be at the top of it.” Jungkook was chewing the inside of his cheek because he was slightly irritated by Taehyung’s presence.
The fact that Taehyung laughed out loud in the most taunting way was both unexpected and highly annoying.
“You think I’m stalking you?”
“Pretentious, is definitely added to the list.”
“I do find that to be amusing coming from you with your airs and graces and the way you look down your nose at everyone.” Jungkook was getting flustered and struggling to maintain control. He couldn’t believe how rude this man was and certainly couldn’t understand why he was following him around.
“I would add ‘observant’ to the list but I don’t believe that to be a negative.”
Jungkook huffed and conceded that for now, it would be better to walk away and get on with his job. Taehyung got right under his skin and he would end up saying something he regretted if he stood at the table any longer, especially when he could see someone on the table further down who clearly wanted to order.
Taehyung sipped on his tea when the busker walked away, it hadn’t been his intention to wind him up when he decided to come here but he appeared to rub him up the wrong way a lot. He felt the bundle of notes in his pocket, he’d planned on leaving it as a tip and walking out but now he didn’t want to leave on such hostile terms and considered where to go from here when Jungkook came back.
When he did return, he placed a white basket of calamari down in front of Taehyung. The golden rings of battered squid, nestled on some finely sliced lettuce with a wedge of lemon on top and a pot of white creamy sauce beside it.
“This isn’t mine, I didn’t order anything.” he said, looking up at the busker.
“You asked me what I would recommend and this is what I chose, sir. If you would prefer me to take it away, I will.”
“No, not at all. Thank you.”
Jungkook was surprised by the softness that laced his words and the sudden kindness in his eyes, wondering what the change in attitude represented.
“You’re welcome, would you like another iced tea?”
“Yes please.” Taehyung didn’t miss the fact that the busker’s demeanor had softened as a result of him being nicer.
“Enjoy your food, I won’t be very long.”
“Do you get a break?”
Taehyung smiled and raised an eyebrow “A break… do you get one?”
“Yes, of course.”
“When? When is your break?”
“In 20 minutes or so unless it gets busy.”
“Would you join me for your break? You could bring my tea then.”
Jungkook thought perhaps there had been an alien invasion while he was gone and that someone had abducted the real Taehyung and replaced him with someone semi likeable. He didn’t know how to respond after being on the defense so much.
“I usually sit out the back but thanks.”
“As that is what you usually do, then why not do something different?”
“Okay, I will be back in 20 minutes with your tea.”
“Bring yourself a drink too… unless my money is an issue when it comes to drinks?”
He couldn't think of an excuse to refuse, “Thank you. Enjoy your food.”
Jungkook scuttled off, feeling apprehensive about the sudden U-turn and wondering why there had been an obvious change in tactics. It was perplexing to consider that Taehyung had an agenda, not only could he not even begin to imagine what that agenda might be but he also couldn’t understand why he was the subject of any agenda. None of his questions would get answered if he didn’t speak with him though and there was a part of him that hoped the next 20 minutes would drag.
The 20 minutes didn’t drag, of course they didn’t. They hurried by and were filled with Jungkook taking payments with customers settling their bills and of course the diner had a bit of a lull just in time for his break. He prepared the iced tea for Taehyung and made himself an iced latte, it was far too hot for a regular coffee which he would have preferred. The diner was air conditioned but with all the rushing about, it soon had very little impact on him and a cold drink was the only way to cool down on days when it was warm, even the little windows around the top of the walls didn't help on the days when the air con wasn't having an effect.
“Are you going to take your break standing up?” Taehyung asked as Jungkook put the iced tea down.
“Erm, no, of course not.” he answered, sliding into the space opposite Taehyung.
“Thank you for the drink and the calamari was good, it was a good choice.”
Taehyung wasn’t lying, he didn’t make a habit of blowing smoke up people’s backsides so he meant it when he complimented the food and the busker’s choice. It wouldn’t have been his first choice and he’d definitely eaten better calamari elsewhere but given the establishment he was in, it was good.
“It’s one of my favourites. Thank you for the drink.”
“No problem. Have you worked here for long?”
“About a year, I think. My friend, Ash works here and got me the job. The owners are nice and the pay is better than most places.”
“But you still need to busk too?”
“Yeah but that’s because I can study in between and when it’s quiet at the station I can get some work done. It gets busy here, there are rarely any quiet times.”
“Yesterday, one of the songs you sang was from a musical, have you seen it?”
“I’ve seen the movie but not the musical. You know it?”
“I saw it when I was younger. Do you like musicals?”
“I like the idea of them. I’ve seen the productions at school, even danced in one of them.”
“You’ve never been to a live stage show?”
“No, I don’t really get the time.”
Taehyung eyed him curiously “What do you do in your spare time?”
“I answer your questions.” he smirked.
“Technically you don’t because you didn’t answer the last one.”
“You know a lot about me, Taehyung. Do I get to ask you questions?”
“You can ask me anything you like, that doesn’t mean I have to answer.”
Jungkook had many questions he wanted to ask the man in the expensive suits who dropped money like it was worthless, who had an air of snootiness, who appeared to be repulsed by everything around him yet for whatever reason kept returning. He couldn’t make sense of it, Ash was convinced he wanted to be someone’s sugar daddy but that didn’t ring true because he would surely find someone easier to control and Jungkook wasn’t that person.
“What do you do when you aren’t stalking me?”
The small smile that formed on his mouth showed he was amused “I work.”
“You aren’t very forthcoming are you?”
Taehyung leaned forwards “Perhaps you aren’t asking the correct questions?”
“Do you work nearby? Is the building big or small? Have you worked there very long? Is that enough for you to elaborate?”
The entertainment factor was high and the fact he was entertained showed as the small smile grew “Yes I work nearby, have you heard of Purple Aura?”
“Who hasn’t?” Jungkook had heard of the company, he’d seen the adverts and seen the name under the branding of other companies. He knew the huge building uptown with its purple trim around the outside and all its glass. He’d known students at university who were desperate to get one of the intern positions because it was such a lucrative company… and then it dawned on him… as he ran through everything he knew about the company… he remembered the article in one of the magazines earlier in the year… he hadn’t seen it until now…
“We are doing something right if that is the response.” Taehyung said, watching as Jungkook’s eyes widened.
“You’re Kim Taehyung.”
“Is that a question or are you telling me that is who I am?”
“Are you? Are you THE Kim Taehyung?”
“If you mean, am I the owner of Purple Aura, am I that Kim Taehyung, then yes, I am.”
“Wow. That explains a lot.”
It explained the snobbery and haughtiness, it explained the money that’s for sure. Jungkook scoffed as he thought back to the article in Vogue, the dashing CEO on the cover, the questions about his life and photos spread across two pages.
“You probably know more about me than I do about you or at least now you have the upper hand.”
“True, does that mean that I should expect more questions?”
“There’s plenty I would like to know so you should definitely expect more.”
Jungkook scooted to the end of the seat “They will have to wait, I need to get back to work. Can I get you another tea or anything else to eat?”
“No, thank you, just the bill when you are ready.”
Jungkook nodded and headed towards the back of the diner with his empty cup, his mind boggled with the information that one of the richest men in the country wanted to get to know him. It didn’t make any sense and he made a mental note to make that a question that he needed the answer to because that was something Google wouldn’t tell him. He was lost in thought, entering his details onto the touchscreen, finding the order for the table Taehyung occupied. He printed out the receipt, making sure his iced latte was on it because he had willingly accepted the offer of a drink. The receipt was placed in a leather folder, he added some mints for good measure and was confused when he got to the table and Taehyung was nowhere to be seen.
On the table was a neatly rolled cylinder of notes, sitting on top of two more notes and a business card. He picked it all up and scribbled on the back of a napkin was the message:
You will find enough to cover the bill and a tip
plus the money you wouldn't take yesterday.
Contact me when you have the terms to accept it.
Jungkook stared at the words on the white paper napkin, he needed to get through his shift and find enough head space to give it some thought. He put the cylinder of money in his pocket, settled the bill with the two notes and put the change in the jar of tips for the kitchen staff. The napkin was folded and put away in his bag along with the business card, it was shiny and lilac with a darker purple border, he presumed to look like an aura. He stared at the name, the email address, company website, direct line and mobile number printed, wondering whether that was his personal number or a business phone?
Suddenly he had a lot to think about outside of his usual routine, away from school and work. They were from worlds that were so far apart there was probably a whole universe between them but first he needed to know what a man like Kim Taehyung wanted with him.