“Jimin, you’ll be going to see Taemin hyung later, right?”
Jimin looks up from his sheaf of papers suspiciously, but Hoseok doesn't even seem to be teasing, this time. Slumped on the couch, Hoseok is squinting into his own pile of paperwork.
Hm. Jimin didn't really have plans, unless he really felt like he needed some overpriced coffee with his daily dose of aesthetic healing. So to speak. Um, and Hoseok was still waiting for his reponse. “Not sure yet, hyung," he replies cautiously. "Why do you ask?”
Hoseok pulls out a neatly labelled file, tossing it over. “I want him to look these over before I submit, and if you’re already going there, it saves me a trip, so.”
Jimin opens up the file to skim it over and blinks. “Hyung, these are the budget allocations for the club!”
“Proposed,” Hoseok corrects. “Proposed budget allocations.” He frowns. “I still think it’s a bit ambitious, but well, Taemin hyung made some good points…”
Jimin stares. “What do you mean Taemin hyung made some good points? What does he know about it that you want him to look it over?”
Hoseok looks a little embarrassed. “Well, you know last month when I was trying to wrap my head around all the…” He waves his arm vaguely over his head. “The-”
“Crazy?” Jimin interjects. The club Hoseok had unexpectedly ended up holding the reins to after the expulsion of some of the senior students and junior faculty had been little more than a mess. To put it mildly.
Hoseok sighs. “Yeah. I would’ve been okay with the rest of it if it wasn’t for all the politics.”
Jimin grimaces. As a club member and Hoseok’s roommate, he’d been assisting with whatever he could, so brushing against some of the snooty junior faculty had been unavoidable, before and after The Incident (they definitely deserved capitalization, even just in his head). He’d never enjoyed the brief run-ins he’d had with the surviving senior members, either. Add in the staid senior faculty and nobles and whoever was left after all the expulsions and suspensions, Hoseok would’ve had to tread very carefully, indeed.
“One day it kind of got a bit much,” Hoseok sighs. “I mean, there I was in the back alley, having a mini-breakdown with all the paperwork and Taemin hyung saw me.”
Jimin blinks. “Were you in the alley behind the-”
Hoseok nods, sighing. “I was going there to get a coffee, but then I didn’t want to have a panic attack in the middle of all the kids and spark off or anything.” He grins a little. “If I’d ruined the shoppe, I’d be run out of the campus.”
“You’d never lose control in front of kids and civilians, hyung,” Jimin defends loyally. He can’t quite promise anything else, though. The shoppe was a campus institution, almost, and determined to be neutral, no matter what which way the political wind was blowing. It had been that way for all the years the campus itself had existed, to the relief of untold generations of mages, and would probably always be. Though there had been some competition lately, with all the other cafes and little neutral dining spots popping up around town. And then Lee Taemin had walked into the job when there was a shortage of staff a few years back, and the shoppe had once again become the nexus of popularity among the students.
“Yeah well, you didn’t see me that day,” Hoseok mutters. “It had got to the point where I almost wanted to shut down the damn thing like everyone clearly wanted me to, instead of driving me into self-destructing from fucking paperwork.”
Jimin raises his eyebrows, “And Taemin hyung helped?”
Hoseok looks reflective. "Well. Kind of." He grimaces. "I mean, I don't even know how, but the first thing I remember is sitting in a booth with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot coffee, and spilling my guts out to him."
Jimin is curious. This has nothing to do with the cru-- aesthetic appreciation he has for Lee Taemin. He's hardly alone in that, after all, or the shoppe wouldn't be half as busy.
Hoseok laughs a little. "You know, he didn't even tell me anything specific. Just, some things he remarked made it clear that there were things I needed to do other than try to complete useless busywork that was given to me just to keep me quiet. He was the one who helped me get a handle on all the politics, you know. It's weird how he has a knack for it."
Jimin makes a thoughtful sound. He remembers that, when Hoseok hyung had randomly started talking to some people he'd never interacted with before, to junior faculty outside their department, and somehow, all the casual talks had helped them with the rebuild more than anything they had accomplished till then through the official channels.
Jimin nods, but he still doesn't completely get it. "I think I get what you're saying, but... this is complicated stuff you have here, hyung," he says, frowning. "I don't even know the best way to figure out the best materials and runemarkers for the circles we need to put in, much less estimate the cost of the raw materials and labour. How's Taemin hyung gonna help with stuff like predicting energy draws and stuff? This is like, mage-engineer level stuff, almost."
Hoseok opens his mouth, and hesitates.
That's fine. Jimin is patient. He fixes Hoseok with a determined stare and waits.
Hoseok visibly struggles with himself till he sighs and starts talking, his fingers rubbing his forehead. "Look, Jiminnie, I don't really know how to explain it," he says, and he does look uncertain. "Just trust me. I have a feeling. I just know I need to get Taemin hyung to check this."
Jimin pauses. Okay, if Hoseok hyung is having one of his weird preternatural hunches, that's a completely different thing altogether. But still, he has to try one last time.
"Hyung," he starts and then stops. But there's no other way to say it. "Hyung, he's a barista!"
Hoseok, to his credit, looks about as frustrated as Jimin himself. "Yes, Jimin, it's not like I'm not aware!" He breathes deeply, then gathers himself. "Look, if you're not going there today, I'll drop there later myself."
Jimin's already shaking his head. "No, no, it's fine, I'll go, it's no problem. I'd have ended up going there anyway," he allows, when he sees Hoseok's expression. "Sorry, hyung," he says, into the sudden quiet, apologetic.
Hoseok shakes his head. "No, your concerns are valid, Jiminnie. I just wish I had something concrete to reply with."
And he's looking exasperated with himself, exactly as Jimin felt when he heard Hoseok's request the first time, so Jimin can try to be good. "No, it's fine, hyung. I know how you feel."
And he does. He may not be as advanced as Hoseok hyung when it came to certain specialties of his own power, but he's handled a wider aspect. Or as he'd been referred to by some of the more bitter students, with just that level of mild depreciation that seems inherent to stuck-up nobility; "a jack of many trades..." Not that that sentence needed to be completed, what with the way their society worked. Which was not relevant to this discussion, but still, even Jimin has had experiences with flashes of insight here and there (rarely, in his case). He knows intimately what the feeling is, when you know exactly what you need to do, like it's almost a straight path lit up in front of you.
He does know it's different for everyone, and that it's highly personal, so he refrains from asking any more details.
It's only later, when Jimin's gathered up everything he needs to, and is getting ready to leave, that Hoseok says something more.
"Jimin," he starts, unaccountably nervous. "Look, I know you're not totally on the whole thing, but just consider..." and here Hoseok trails off.
Jimin cocks his head. "Consider what, hyung?"
"That Taemin hyung probably wasn't always a barista."
Jimin blinks. Well. Okay. Even from the very first day, that had been apparent. Taemin hyung was... well, a lot of things. Gracious and pleasant, always with an encouraging word or quick smile, pretty cool under pressure - he's never gotten an order wrong, no matter how busy the shoppe is (there was a pretty well known bet on when that'd actually happen), and yes, gorgeous (sometimes all Jimin wants to do is get a giant mug of whatever coffee was on special, settle himself into a corner and just stare as Taemin goes about his business), as graceful when mopping the floor as he is when shamelessly flirting his way into obnoxious tips, and most of all - self-assured. Come to think of it, Jimin doesn't know anyone their age who is so comfortable with who they are.
Some of it has to do with their powers - most only unlock it starting from late puberty, so their twenties were mostly about figuring themselves out. There are tons of people even in their fifties who still discover things about themselves. It's one of the more charming quirks about their world Jimin loves - the unpredictability.
Except, for all of Taemin's quicksilver smiles, his core seems as steady as rock, and wasn't that an answer in itself?
"He's always said he's on vacation..." Jimin trails off slowly, after a few seconds pass.
Hoseok snorts. "Yeah. From what, is the question."
Jimin thinks on that, through his trek across campus, stopping by the offices he needs to drop his assignments, and his detour to exchange the accessories he's been practicing with, until he finally steps into the cool quiet of the shoppe.
He takes a quick look around and thankfully notices that it's less crowded than the usual.
His heart develops its usual loud thudding when he looks up to meet Taemin's gaze. Taemin is coming out of the side door, carrying a new bag of coffee beans. After his talk with Hoseok hyung, Jimin looks at Taemin with new eyes.
Was his smile always as amused? His gaze as mysterious, something hidden lurking about the corners of his eyes?
Taemin places the bag on the counter and leans back, hip tilted against it. "So, Jiminie..." he starts, and Jimin is already feeling a little faint from all that attention concentrated on him, and damn it, this is why he tries not to come in alone here!
Jimin makes a random noise that he hopes can pass as a wordless question, because making actual words seem to be a little beyond him at the moment. He despairs a little. God, crushes were the most inconvenient things known to man.
Taemin grins. Jimin is sure he knows exactly what he's doing, and takes great pleasure in flustering Jimin. Jimin is bitter at himself that he finds it endearing and not annoying.
"So, you got something for me?" Taemin asks finally, and Jimin gapes.
"How do you even know?" he splutters, and Taemin winks, which helps Jimin's heart none.
"I know everything," Taemin says, in a grossly put-on accent, and adopts a zen look for about half a second before both him and Jimin start laughing.
"God, that was awful, hyung," Jimin says, shaking his head. "Please never get into acting."
"Hey, I could be an amazing find! One of those indie, eccentric actors, or something."
"Or something," Jimin agrees, dryly. Taemin doesn't even bother to look insulted.
"How did you know, though?" he asks again, once he's given Taemin Hoseok's papers.
Taemin glances at him, his lips curling into a smiling tease. "Order the N-13, and I'll tell you."
Jimin doesn't even need to look at the menu. "That's the most expensive set here," he wails, and Taemin doesn't have an ounce of pity.
"I'm a poor student, please, mercy," he begs, and Taemin laughs at him.
"Alright, fine, just because you're adorable, I'll make it the N-10. Final offer."
Jimin needs a second, both to figure out if he has enough money for that meal, and also because Taemin called him adorable. Not ideal, but not the worst, by far. He can totally work with adorable.
He takes a deep breath. "Alright. Fine, the N-10, then. Now, will you tell me?"
Taemin beckons him closer with a finger, conspiratory. Jimin leans in despite himself. He tries to ignore his heart starting to race madly again. His body is inconvenient at the worst times.
Jimin almost can't concentrate on what Taemin's saying because he's distracted with Taemin's ever-changing eyes, and the smell of coffee that wafts in from Taemin's proximity, and his lips that are curling to form words--
"Hoseok called me."
Jimin stares for an extended moment before his eyes widen in betrayal. Taemin can't control his laughter anymore, his eyes scrunched up into crescents even as Jimin collapses into a chair, his head thunking down onto the table, muttering into the wood.
"Aw, don't sulk, Jiminie."
"I'd like to see you all smiles when someone's tricked you," he grumbles, not opening his eyes. If he opens them, he'll see Taemin's smiling face, and that's counterproductive right now. He wants to hold on to his irritation for a little bit.
"That was a completely fair trade," Taemin insists, and Jimin scrunches his eyes because he can still hear the breathy laughter Taemin's not even trying to hide. "C'mon, I'll even thrown in a free coffee."
Jimin cautiously looks up. "The one with the chocolatey, peachy-"
"Yes, yes," Taemin says, but he's still clearly amused, and Jimin curls back into the table, unable to stare at Taemin, who can't stop another bout of laughter, even as he goes on to say that Jimin's meal is coming right up.
And then Jimin stops thinking, because that was a touch on his head, and wait, did Taemin really ruffle his hair? So Taemin's hand had really been in his hair and he'd kind of patted his head a bit, oh god, he can still feel the phantom touch of Taemin's hand brushing over his hair, and Jimin's blush spreads down from his scalp down to the rest of his body even as he hears Taemin walking away.
God. He's so, so fucked.