The Proposal - 0610jun - SEVENTEEN (Band) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter Text


It would have been a nickname had anyone else come up with it. Yoon Jeonghan, however, started calling him that just to taunt him.

Joshua told him to call him by one of his names instead, but there is no use asking Jeonghan anything, so Joshua’s never bothered to comment on it again.

He bows his head, closing the door behind him with his foot.

Jeonghan’s office shows off that he makes the most money out of all of them. He likes to do that, whether with interior or the way he presents himself— Joshua’s never not seen him in an expensive suit.


Despite both of their English fluency, Jeonghan pretends he doesn’t hear Joshua unless he speaks Korean to him.

He puts Jeonghan’s coffee on his desk with a straight face, despite the fact he had to go back into the coffee shop when he noticed a phone number on the cup. He hopes Jeonghan won’t comment on how long the journey took.

The barista looked horrified when Joshua returned, blushing profusely as she took his order a second time.

Jeonghan takes a sip, and Joshua watches him swallow both the drink and any bitter comments.

“You have a conference call in thirty minutes.”

Jeonghan spins the chair towards the window, making his assistant talk to the back of his head.

He hates it when Jeonghan does this.

“And a staff meeting at eleven,” he adds, jaw tight.

“Did you call... What's her name? The one with the ugly hands.”

He, unfortunately, knows exactly who his boss is referring to. “Janet. I told her that if she doesn't get her manuscript in on time you won't give her a release date.”

Jeonghan hums before taking another sip.

“By the way, your immigration lawyer called.”

He gets no reply, and with Jeonghan’s back turned to him, Joshua rolls his eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me.”

It takes all of Joshua's self-control not to let his jaw drop to the floor.“How did you…” but the rest of the question dies on his tongue. He already knows the answer.

Yoon Jeonghan is the devil. Joshua wouldn’t be surprised if he has an extra eye somewhere.

“Anyway. He said it's imperative.”

Jeonghan spins the chair back, long blonde hair moving gracefully along to the half-circle.

If this was a movie, Jeonghan would be the perfect villain. All that is really missing is a cat on his lap and a bomb hidden in some monument, ready to explode at any second, but this is no movie. Jeonghan doesn’t care for pets—or bombs, Joshua hopes—yet he manages to be faultlessly evil regardless.

“Cancel the call, push the meeting to tomorrow and keep the lawyer on the sheets.” Joshua doesn’t even bother writing it all down; his brain has long been programmed to remember all of Jeonghan’s demands. “Get ahold of PR, have them start drafting a press release.” He then grins, smug. “Frank is doing Oprah.”

Joshua nods impressively. “Nice.”

“If I wanted your praise, I would have asked for it.”

It’s comments like these that make Joshua want to quit on the spot, but the sound of a phone ringing distracts him from acting on that thought.

Though Jeonghan is sitting right next to said phone, he makes a dismissive gesture towards it in a silent command that says: you pick up.

Jeonghan's never asked him to answer a call from his own phone before, so he must be in a mood.

Punishment for the long coffee run, Joshua bets.

He plucks the iPhone from the desk, thumbs accept without checking who’s calling and presses it to his ear. “Hello. Mr. Yoon’s office,” he says in English, nodding along to what the other end of the line has to say.

“Who is it?” asks Jeonghan, leaning back in his overly fancy chair.

“Bob,” he mouths.

Jeonghan immediately signals give it to me.

Calmly, though with his blood boiling, Joshua hands the cellphone over. His boss loves mind games, so if Joshua shows that he’s irritated, in whatever way possible, it will come back to bite him.

Jeonghan has a perpetual hard-on for pressure points.

“Hello, Bob. You stay right where you are, we're headed to your office.” He immediately hangs up, not leaving Bob any room to argue, and swings his legs out of his chair.

His American accent is near-flawless, only showing first-language interference when he’s been speaking Korean for a while or when a word is particularly difficult to pronounce, but the minor mistakes always catch Joshua’s attention.

It’s the only thing about Yoon Jeonghan that’s human.

“Ah. Our fearless leader and his liege. Please, do come in,” says Bob, smiling disingenuously.

Everyone wears that smile in their office, because while Jeonghan is most definitely fearless, everyone fears Jeonghan.

Joshua feels a bit like a historian sometimes with how he follows Jeonghan around everywhere and takes, albeit mental, notes. Surely other assistants have time to lounge around at their own desks, typing away on their own computers, but not Jeonghan’s.

But because Joshua wants to be promoted to editor some day, he makes sure to follow each of Jeonghan’s orders, no matter how ridiculous they may be. He will not compromise a promotion.

“Beautiful breakfront,” Jeonghan says, running a finger along the edge of the desk. “Is it new?”

Joshua can already tell where this is going, and it’s not looking good for both Bob or this admittedly nice piece of furniture. He goes to stand near the door so they can leave as soon as this discussion takes a bad turn, which will be soon.

“It’s English Regency Egyptian Revival, built in the 1800s, but yes, it is new to my office.”

“Witty,” Jeonghan deadpans, putting his hands in his pockets. He looks casual like this, radiating a nonchalant though intimidating kind of aura. “I’m just gonna get right to it. Bob, I'm letting you go.”

His mouth falls open. “Pardon?”

Jeonghan thrusts his tongue into his cheek. It's a public display of his irritation— Joshua knows it well.

“I asked you a dozen times to get Frank to do Oprah, and you didn't do it.” He doesn’t blink once. “You're fired.”

Bob laughs, half nervous, half incredulous. “What? Mr. Yoon, I’ve told you many times that that’s an impossible task. Frank hasn't done an interview in 20 years!”

“That’s interesting, because I just got off the phone with him, and he is in.”

“Excuse me?”

“Did I mumble? You didn't even call him, did you?”

Bob looks pained, like a mouse caught in a trap, and can’t seem to come up with an answer.

“I know, I know. If I were spineless, I'd find it scary too.” Jeonghan clasps his hands together with a sense of finality. “I will give you a month to find another job, then we’ll let everyone know you resigned.”

That I resign— you poisonous bitch!” he yells, but Jeonghan is more interested in his watch than Bob's rampage. “You can't fire me! You don't think I see what you're doing here? Sandbagging me on this Oprah thing so that you can look good to the board? Huh? You are threatened by me!”

Jeonghan grins, and though Joshua knows his boss hates having people defy him, he loves a good fight too.

But this is hardly a good fight. Joshua already knows who’ll end up winning.

Bob slams one hand on that new desk of his. “Just because you have no semblance of a life outside of this office, you think that you can treat all of us like your own personal slaves!” His left hand joins his right, then he leans forward. “You know what? I feel sorry for you. Because you know what you're gonna have on your deathbed?”

Jeonghan’s eyes meet Joshua’s, bored.

“Nothing and no one!”

Jeonghan tuts. “Though I’m sure that screamathon was the most exercise you’ve had in the last five years, listen carefully. I didn't fire you because I feel threatened.” Jeonghan walks to the desk to plant his own hands on its edge, leaning forward into Bofas face until he is forced to reel back. “I fired you because you're lazy, entitled, incompetent and you spend more time cheating on your wife than you do in this very room.”

Joshua sighs quietly. If Bob doesn’t retreat soon, he doubts Jeonghan would mind getting into a physical fight.

“And if you say another word,” Jeonghan continues, “my assistant here is gonna have you thrown out.”

Right, how could he be so stupid. Jeonghan would have Joshua fight his battles. Can’t get his hands dirty, of course.

“Another word and you're going out of here with an armed escort. It will be filmed, put on social media and then possibly the news. Is that what you want?” He doesn’t allow Bob to get an answer in. “Didn't think so. Now, I have work to do.”

And with that, Jeonghan exits Bob’s office through the door Joshua was already holding open.

The only thing Joshua can do is offer Bob an apologetic smile before he follows Jeonghan back to the elevator.

“Have security take his breakfront and put it in my conference room.”

Not a single fiber of Joshua’s being is surprised at the request. “Okay.” He clears his throat as he approaches the next topic. “Have you finished the manuscript I gave you?”

“Read a few pages. Didn’t impress me.”

“Sajangnim, I’ve read thousands of manuscripts and this is the only one I’ve given you. There is an amazing novel in ther—”

“Uninterested.” Jeonghan doesn’t press elevator buttons with his bare fingers, so he looks sideways at Joshua and waits for the button to be pressed for him. “Also,” he starts as they wait for it to come, “I need you this weekend.”

“Oh. This weekend?”

“Is there a problem?”

Joshua scratches his eyebrow. “No. I... just Halmeoni’s 88th birthday. I was gonna go home.”

Jeonghan’s face is expressionless, but Joshua is able to read it. He’ll need to tell his family he can’t make it.

Deep down, though, he knows he’ll be okay with that. He’s worked so hard for this promotion that he doesn’t want to risk losing it for anything.

“I'll cancel my flight.”

“Jonathan, good morning.”

Jonathan, the English name Jeonghan hates with all his might. Joshua is acutely aware of it, seeing as he's the one on the receiving end of Jeonghan's complaining.

“Hello,” Jeonghan replies as Joshua closes the door behind them. He shoves one of his hands in his pockets and uses the other to lean on the back of a random chair.

Joshua goes to sit this time, not expecting another fight.

It also offers some relief for his aching feet, forced into uncomfortable dress shoes day after day. With all the suits and beauty products he’s forced to buy in order to look presentable enough to be Jeonghan’s assistant, his bank account doesn’t exactly allow for a set of more comfortable pointy shoes.

“Do you remember when we agreed you wouldn't go to the Paris Book Fair because you weren't allowed out of the country while your visa application was being processed?” Edwin asks.

Joshua looks out of the corner of his eyes for a crack in his boss’s expression, but finds none.

“Yes, I remember.”

“And... you went to Paris.”

“Yes, I did. We were going to lose DeLillo to Viking,” Jeonghan reasons calmly. “And then we didn’t.”

Edwin rubs his forehead with two fingers. “Well, it seems the US Government doesn't care who publishes Don DeLillo.” He offers a tight-lipped smile. “We just spoke to your immigration attorney.”

Jeonghan doesn’t blink.

“Jonathan, your visa application has been denied.”

Joshua’s mouth drops open. Jeonghan’s poker face remains.

“And… Well, you’re being deported.”

“Deported?” Joshua repeats in disbelief. Edwin nods slowly.

Any other person would be somewhat concerned at how calm Jeonghan looks in a situation so dire, but Joshua knows his brain is working overtime counting the lives he will offer as a sacrifice in order to stay.

“We can reapply, but unfortunately you’ll have to leave the country for at least a year,” Edwin explains before heaving a sigh. “And I know what you might be thinking, with video calling being popular these days, but if you're deported, you can't work for an American company. I checked.”

Edwin then chuckles awkwardly.

“So… until this is resolved I'm going to turn operations over to Bob Spaulding.”

Joshua’s never heard a silence this loud.

“Bob Spaulding, you say?” Jeonghan says almost connivingly slowly.

“We need an editor in chief,” Edwin elaborates. “He is the only person who has enough experience.”

There’s that tongue-cheek poke thing again. Joshua knows he will have to deal with Jeonghan’s sour attitude for the rest of the day. Or week.

Possibly the end of time.

“Believe me, we are desperate to have you stay. If there was any way, any way at all we could make this work, we'd be doing—”

Joshua’s work iPhone rings in his pocket, his equivalent of a desk telephone if he was ever provided a desk.

After checking the caller ID and deciding that his boss will definitely want to take this call, he clicks on an automated message saying Jeonghan is unable to be reached at this time and will call back later.

He pockets the phone again, not expecting to find Jeonghan looking at him for an explanation.

“Oh. It was Mary from Ms Winfrey’s office,” he whispers. “I sent her a message telling her you’ll call later because we’re, well… otherwise engaged.”

But not only is Jeonghan the devil, he is also, in fact, a mastermind. So only two seconds pass before there's a glint in Jeonghan’s eyes and a smirk etched on his lips.

“Stand up,” he tells Joshua in Korean, not quite a whisper but not out loud either.

Joshua raises an eyebrow, staying put.

Come here.”

He sighs before slowly rising from his seat.

Jeonghan pulls on his arm the second he’s rounded the chair, bringing him closer.

“Edwin,” Jeonghan starts, smiling insufferably. “I understand the predicament that we are in. And, well…”

He puts an unwelcome hand on Joshua’s shoulder, warm but not clammy. It suggests Jeonghan hasn’t been nervous at all this entire conversation.

“I think there’s something you should know.”

Edwin raises a curious eyebrow, and Joshua can’t keep his own curiosity off of his face either.

“We're getting married.”

Joshua blinks.

Edwin doesn’t seem to know where he should look.

Jeonghan squeezes Joshua’s shoulder, repeating the sentiment. “We’re getting married.”

The world starts to spin. Joshua barely manages to get out “I’m— sorry? Who..?”

“You and I,” Jeongha replies in hushed Korean, still smiling at Edwin. “Joshua and I are getting married.”

Before Joshua can tell Edwin that this is the biggest load of crap he’s ever heard and that he should not believe a word that comes out of Jeonghan’s diabolical mouth, Edwin asks, “Isn't Mr. Hong your secretary?”

Joshua is so confused by what’s happening that he doesn’t take offense at the incorrect title, but apparently Jeonghan does.

“Assistant,” his boss corrects. “And it wouldn't be the first time one of us fell for our assistants.” His previous smile turns into a sly grin. “Would it, Edwin?”

The man scratches the side of his neck and doesn’t offer an answer.

“Hold my hand.”

“No,” Joshua replies immediately.

“Hold. My. Hand.”

“I. Said. No.”

Jeonghan takes his hand off Joshua’s shoulder, and Joshua thinks he's changed his mind about the whole thing, but then he feels fingers against his own.

Frustrated, Joshua squeezes once, hard.

“You know,” Jeonghan says to Edwin, emphasizing their entwined hands by swinging it once. “Joshua and I… we’re just two people who weren't meant to fall in love but did.”


“All those late nights at the office and weekend book fairs. Yeah... It just happened. Can’t fight a love like that.”

This would be where Joshua sinks into the floor, but he hasn’t quite figured out that particular trick yet.

“We’re very happy,” Jeonghan says, creating a significant crack in his story.

Joshua himself hasn’t ever seen Jeonghan happy and he’s with him all the time. Edwin won't buy it.

Joshua hopes he won't buy it.

“We wanted to separate our work and personal lives, so we've kept it private all this time. That's why neither of us are wearing our engagement rings. I’m sure you understand.”

Edwin nods slowly, clearly not entirely convinced but not wanting to argue it either. “Well. Uh. Good for you. I guess.” He flaps a hand in their direction. “Just… make it legal.”

Jeonghan puts on that smile again. “We will.”

Joshua immediately takes his fingers out of Jeonghan’s when Edwin looks down at his cellphone, then shoots his boss a nasty glare.

It’s something he never dared to do before, but he no longer cares. Jeonghan has officially lost whatever respect Joshua had left for him.

“Thank you for allowing us to share the news with you, Edwin,” Jeonghan says sweetly. “We will get ourselves to the immigration office as soon as possible.”

“Good God, will you relax? This is for you, too,” Jeonghan says when they’ve returned to his office.

Joshua scoffs. “Explain that to me.”

Jeonghan takes his time to shrug off his suit jacket and hang it neatly on the back of his chair. “You were there. Did you not pay attention? They were going to make Bob chief.”

“And that means I have to marry you, of course.”

He leans back against the edge of the desk, facing his assistant. “What's the big issue?” And then mockingly adds, “Aw, Joshuji, were you waiting for someone special?”

Most people are. And also, I’m not gay.”

“That’s the problem? Really? It’s legal here, no? And it’s not like we have to have sex. Hell, we don’t even have to touch. It’s just for a piece of paper. Don’t be dramatic.”

Dramatic? Did you suddenly forget the part where all of this is illegal?

“The police are busy enough, they’re not gonna stick their noses into book publishers. Don’t play daft, it doesn’t suit you.”

And Joshua can only laugh. “I am not marrying you.”

“Sure you are,” Jeonghan says nonchalantly, checking his cuticles. “Because if you don't, your dreams of touching the lives of millions with the written word are dead.” He pulls one back with the nail of his thumb, but his cold gaze is focused on Joshua. “Bob is gonna fire you the second I'm gone. Guaranteed. That means you're out on the street looking for a job, and that means that everything you have done so far was all for nothing and all your dreams of being an editor are gone.”

How casually Jeonghan talks about his future feels like little cuts on his skin. Joshua knows his boss couldn’t care less about him, but to be manipulated into marriage...

He can endure late-night requests and crack of dawn appearances, but he will not be wearing a ring for Yoon Jeonghan.

“Jesus, you look like you’re about to go into cardiac arrest,” Jeonghan grimaces. “After the required allotment of time, we'll get a divorce and you'll be done with me.” He pushes himself off the desk. “But until then, Joshuji, like it or not, your wagon is hitched to mine.”

“Sorry about the wait,” says a guy named Mr. Gilbertson as he plants himself on his desk chair. “It's a crazy day today.”

Jeonghan pushed his and Joshua’s chairs closer together while they waited for the immigration officer. They now sit almost shoulder to shoulder, and Jeonghan put a hand on his leg that Joshua immediately removed.

“We appreciate you seeing us on short notice,” Jeonghan tells Mr. Gilbertson politely.

Mr. Gilbertson doesn’t seem amused. “Let’s get right to it. I have one question for you.” He folds his hands together on top of his desk. “Are you both committing fraud to avoid Mr. Yoon’s deportation so he can keep his position as editor in chief at Colden Books? We had a phone tip this afternoon from a man named Bob Spaulding.”

Jeonghan shakes his head in disappointment. “Bob and his wife are getting a divorce. He's going through a lot. He must not be able to stomach seeing other people be in love.” He lets out a sigh. “Spaulding is nothing but a disgruntled former employee who wasted your time. I apologize on his behalf.”

He puts that same hand back on Joshua’s knee now that Joshua can't shake him off.

“We would rather not waste any more of it. If you inform us about the next step, we’ll be out of your hair and on our way.”

The man offers a tight-lipped smile. “Mr. Yoon, Mr. Hong, let me explain the process that's about to unfold.” He starts counting on his fingers. “Step one will be a scheduled interview. I'll put you each in a room, and I'll ask you every little question that a real couple would know about each other.”

He’s clearly scanning their faces for any possible cracks, but for all Joshua knows the word poker face was invented after seeing Jeonghan.

Joshua has a plan too, so he tries to stay as expressionless as he can manage.

“Step two, I dig deeper. I look at your phone records, I talk to your neighbors, I interview your co-workers. If your answers don't match up at every point, you will be deported indefinitely.” He points first at Jeonghan, then at Joshua. “And you, young man, will have committed a felony punishable by a fine of 250,000 dollars and a stay of five years in federal prison.”

The man looks smug, leaning back into his chair.

“So, Mr. Hong, you wanna... you wanna talk to me?”

And this is where Joshua’s plan starts, because if he's learned one thing from his time as Jeonghan’s assistant, it’s that if you can’t fight the enemy, you’ll have to become a new enemy.

“Yes, I indeed would like to talk to you, sir,” Joshua says calmly. He instantly feels Jeonghan tighten the grip on his knee, but Joshua places his own hand on top of it. “You see, the truth is…”

The hand tightens some more, and now it’s Joshua who feels a sense of victory. He is making Jeonghan nervous for once.

“The truth is…” he says again, and it’s almost comical how Mr. Gilbertson is literally at the edge of his seat. “Jonathan and I… You know…”

There’s a dead grip on his knee now. Jeonghan should be glad the immigration officer can’t see it from his position.

“Yes, I know,” Mr. Gilbertson says manically, basically salivating. “You can say it. Just say it.”

“We’re just,” he sighs, “we’re just two people who weren’t supposed to fall in love but did.” He can feel Jeonghan’s eyes on the side of his face. “You see, we couldn’t tell people at work for a variety of reasons, but the biggest reason is the promotion I’ve been given.”

“Promotion?” Jeonghan says under his breath. “Sorry?”

“We both felt like it would be deeply inappropriate, if I were to be promoted to editor—”

“Editor,” Jeonghan repeats flatly, looking at Joshua like he’s grown five heads.

“—while people knew we were together,” Joshua finishes, smiling at both his boss and the officer.

Jeonghan takes his hand off Joshua’s leg, and Joshua thinks his fingers may have left a mark.

“I see…” says Mr. Gilbertson, clearly disappointed. “Have the two of you told your parents about your secret love?”

“No, mine are dead,” Jeonghan replies with no inflection whatsoever.

“He has no siblings either,” Joshua adds, because they need to try to sell it somehow.

“Okay. Are your parents dead?” he asks Joshua.

“No,” Jeonghan answers for him. “Believe me, his are very much alive.”

“I’m sorry? What’s with that tone?”

Mr. Gilbertson lets out an awkward laugh. “Not fond of the in-laws, are we?”

“Of course I’m fond of them,” Jeonghan replies coolly. “So fond in fact, that we are spending the weekend with them. It’s Halmeoni’s 88th birthday, and the whole family’s coming together.”

Joshua is dumbfounded.

“I’m not sure what a harmo… is, but where is this weekend gonna take place?”

“At Joshua’s parents' house.”

“And where is that again?”

Jeonghan puts an arm over the back of Joshua’s chair. “Joshuji, why am I doing all the talking? It’s your family. Why don't you tell him where it is.”

Joshua gives Jeonghan a look, then turns his head to face the immigration officer. “It’s a small town.”

“A small town,” Jeonghan agrees, though Joshua knows he has no idea what he’s talking about.

“In South Korea.”

Both Mr. Gilbertson and Jeonghan look gobsmacked.

“Hold on,” Mr. Gilbertson says once he’s processed it. “Isn’t there a big difference in time zone? That seems inconvenient.”

“Don't worry about it, sir,” Joshua says calmly, “we are young and vital, and being around family will give us energy. We'll be fine.”

“Right. Then I will see you both at… let me look at my schedule… 3:45 on Wednesday for your interview.”

“—and I guess you can move yourself to fly first class.” Jeonghan’s been going down a list of tasks the second they exited the building, all while typing away on his phone. “Please have a closer look at the menu options because I do not want to eat what you chose last time. I thought you could read Engli— you are not listening.”

Joshua stops walking, people passing them on the sidewalk forgotten. “I'm sorry, were you not just in that room?”

Jeonghan’s initial confused look devolves into a grin. “Ah. The lie you told about getting promoted?” He pats Joshua’s arm once. “I’m starting to rub off on you. Anyway, I assume you took notes on what I just said?”

“I was dead serious. I'm looking at a 250,000 dollar fine and five years in jail. That changes a lot of things.”

Jeonghan snorts. “Promote you to editor? You’re out of your mind.”

“Fine,” says Joshua, and bends down to untie his shoes. He’d rather walk around on his socks than continue torturing his feet. “I quit.”

“Wow. Let me get my violin to play a sad song to go with your dramatics.” He signals for Joshua to get back up. “Come on, I know how much rent costs around here. You’d be on the streets in no time.”

“Rather that than in prison,” he shoots back, taking off his left shoe.

“You’re not gonna f*cking end up there. We’re gonna be fine.”

“No, we are definitely not gonna be fine,” Joshua snaps. “Did you not hear him? All our answers need to line up. And I might know every insufferable detail about your life, but you didn’t even know my family still lives in Korea!”

“Big deal,” Jeonghan dismisses, already back on his phone. “Are you questioning my capacity to study? To listen?

“Honestly?” Joshua challenges. “Even if you could listen, you don’t have any sense of empath—”

“Enough.” There’s an air of finality to his voice, almost deafening. He runs a hand through his long hair, then meets Joshua’s eye. “ Fine. If you do the Halmeoni weekend, the immigration appointments and sign the marriage papers, then fine. I will make you editor.”

Joshua points his shoe at him. “And no funny business. I will be made editor right away.”


“And you’ll publish the manuscript I sent you.”

“Oh? You’re making demands now?”

“Yes,” Joshua replies instantly, “I’m making demands now. In fact, here are some more. I want twenty-thousand copies, first run. And we’ll tell my family about our engagement when I want it and how I want it. Not only is this whole thing insane, I will have to say I like men in front of my conservative family.”

Jeonghan shrugs. “Well, if they disown you, there are plenty of vacant spots in the No Parents Club.”

“I do not take this lightly at all, ” he argues through gritted teeth. “I love my family.”

“And if they’d kick you out for liking men, they must not love you that much,” Jeonghan argues back. “Besides, you’ve already shown you clearly value your job more than them, so I think you’re already off on the right foot, no?”

“... You are absolutely heartless.”

“What I am, is trying to save my career,” Jeonghan corrects sternly. “And with that, yours too. You should be grateful.”



“You’re insane.”

“And if that isn't my most fetching quality.” He snaps his fingers twice, impatient. “We’re leaving. Put your shoes back on.”

“No.” He folds his arms over his chest. “I want you to ask nicely.”

Jeonghan raises a single, unimpressed eyebrow.

“Ask me nicely to marry you.”

“You're joking.”

“No, you heard me. On your knee.”

“This is suede.” He points from his pants to the ground. “And that’s disgusting.”

Joshua taps his socked foot. “Not getting any younger over here.”

“I thought we were so young and vital before?”

“Just get on your knee.”

“Not into men, you said?” Jeonghan says with a smirk as he lowers himself. “Because if you ask me, that sounds quite—”

Knee, I said,” Joshua scowls, trying to ignore that that dumb sentence makes his face heat up. For the first time, he’s glad Jeonghan makes him wear foundation. “Singular.”

Jeonghan rolls his eyes, and with some effort of pulling the leg of his pants over his knee, he begrudgingly asks, “Does this work for you?”

“I don’t know…” Joshua hooks his fingers under his chin. “If you pull that pant leg down, I think it’ll feel more from the heart.”

“More like from the wallet.”

“You’ll live.”

“Woah,” Jeonghan grins as he pulls his pant leg down again. “You’re getting pretty brave all of a sudden.”

“Years of repressed anger,” he mutters. “Now come on. Ask me.”

The sight is ridiculous. Joshua can’t blame the odd looks they're getting.

“Will you marry me?” Jeonghan mumbles.

This is from the heart?”

He huffs. “Dearest Joshua Hong, Hong Jisoo…”

“I’m listening.”

It’s a little windy, and his long hair is swept out of his face. Joshua can see every inch of his annoyed expression. “Would you please, from the bottom of my heart, do me the favor of marrying me?”

“That depends… Will you back me up financially if my family decides to cut me off?”

Jeonghan's jaw is tight. “Yes.”

“Lovely,” he responds, trying to suppress a grin. “Then I guess you leave me no choice but to say yes.”

He told his parents he was bringing company, but not quite who.

He could’ve saved Jeonghan the money on the tickets by calling them and saying ‘hey, I’m getting married to a man, what do you think?’ but he doesn’t care for Jeonghan’s wallet.

Besides, if they do decide to cut him off, at least he gets to see them one last time.

In addition to not saying what kind of company he’s bringing, he also didn’t mention the specifics about their relationship. But he can picture what his parents are thinking. Their son is bringing home a girlfriend.

Not quite.

Traveling with Yoon Jeonghan is a nightmare. He brings three suitcases for just three days, and expected Joshua to lug them around.

“This is not Colden Books,” Joshua said seriously. “Out here, we’re equals. Carry your own crap.”

Jeonghan obviously put up a fight, saying that they would have to return to their hierarchical relationship in a couple of days and that Joshua shouldn’t push his luck.

Still, Joshua got on the bus and left Jeonghan to figure out how and where to put his belongings, but from the window, he could tell his boss made the driver do it.

And the man was probably doing it willingly too. It’s because of the hypnotic way Jeonghan speaks sometimes, he’ll talk you up and subconsciously, you’re already doing what he wants you to.

As Joshua looks out of that same window now, there’s just field all around them. Flowers grow on untouched land and the sky is an unblemished blue.

At the start of their journey, he went over the ins and outs of the town. “And it’s close to Wolchulsan National Park. We could show how young and vital we are by hiking.”

“I’d rather throw myself off of this bus.”

Joshua gestured invitingly towards the window. “By all means…”

They’ve got about ten more minutes to go now, and the sweltering heat inside the bus doesn’t seem to bother his boss despite being dressed in a button-up and long pants.

But this is Yoon Jeonghan, a demon, so he must be used to extreme heat. There’s not a drop of sweat on his forehead.

His airpods are perched inside his ears while he makes a business call, shamelessly ignoring the way the other passengers are glaring at him.

It means they all turn to Joshua to fix it.

He taps his boss’s shoulder with a sigh. “We’re almost there. Hang up.”


“Everyone is staring.”

“The depths to which that is not my problem,” he tells Joshua, “are astronomical.”

It takes five more minutes before the call comes to a natural end and Jeonghan hangs up.

Joshua, who thought he could finally relax now that Jeonghan's stopped talking, has to deal with the noise of Jeonghan’s finger tapping rapidly against his phone screen instead. He’d been typing away on his laptop the entire plane ride too.

“Your fingers are gonna fall off.”

Jeonghan raises his middle one. “Nope, work just fine.”

The bus stops.

From the window, he can see both his mother and grandmother. They both look quite a bit older than they did last time, and it tugs at his heart.

He barely ever gets to visit, but it's not within his right to complain. He can’t complain; it was his choice to leave the country after all.

And it might even be the last time he returns to Korea, if this takes a bad turn.

The thought, feeling a bit too real right now, makes him feel sick.

He can’t help but think about Jeonghan’s accusation, the one about him already caring more about his job than his family. It’s hard to argue against, especially considering his willingness to cancel another flight to help Jeonghan with whatever it was he needed help with. Again.

“You look constipated,” his boss says.

“I know you’re allergic to human emotions, but at least get them right.”

“Funny, you. I didn’t say you are constipated, just that you look it.”

Because he can freely do so now, Joshua rolls his eyes.

“There is no need to be nervous,” Jeonghan says, taking out his airpods. “I will be the most desired son-in-law your parents could wish for.”

His mother’s embrace is pleasantly suffocating, but it’s heartbreaking that she has to pour all her strength into it to make up for all the missed hugs from the past few years.

“Jisoo-yah.” She cups his face. “You look tired.”

“The flight was long,” he replies, but he knows that’s not what she means. He is heavily overworked, and it shows.

He hugs his grandmother next, who despite her age manages to hug him even more fiercely than his mother.

“Where’s Abeoji?”

His mother gives him a guilty smile. “You know your father, always working…”

“Never mind about him,” says his grandmother. “Who did you bring?” Her curious, excitable tone makes him realize what he could have had by introducing a girlfriend.

He finds himself relishing in her excitement, knowing it'll disappear the second he introduces his actual company.

Speaking of, Joshua looks over his shoulder to see what the other man is up to. He’s not at all surprised to find his boss chatting up the driver once more, who is happily unloading Jeonghan’s luggage.

Joshua clears his throat. “One second, please.”

Jeonghan is leaning against the bus, arms folded over one another, as the driver puts the final one of his suitcases on the gravel.

“Send your lovely wife my regards,” he tells the man before he notices Joshua’s presence. “Hello, Joshuji.”

Begrudgingly, Joshua reaches for one of the three suitcases.

“Oh now you want to help?” Jeonghan grins, dragging the other two along. “Trying to look good for your family and all. What a good son you are.”

“Talk any louder, will you?”

“Did you tell them you were bringing me?”

“I told them I was bringing someone.”

“Did you say we’re together?”


Joshua is almost too scared to look up when his mother and grandmother’s shoes come into view.

When he does look up, he wishes he hadn’t. Both of them are looking at Jeonghan with their mouths on the floor.

Joshua honestly doesn’t know what to say.

Jeonghan seems to catch on, taking the lead. He bows, and with a smile that shows off his white teeth, says, “Hello, I am Yoon Jeonghan. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

A deafening silence follows.

“Yoon … Jeonghan?” his mother repeats, looking from the blonde to her son. “You brought The Devil?”

“I thought he was A Demon?” his grandmother says.

“I suppose we’ve heard it both ways,” his mother says slowly. “Actually, we’ve heard it lots of ways…”

Jeonghan pats Joshua's shoulder twice. “He sure is imaginative.”

Joshua chuckles awkwardly. “Uh. They’re kidding.”

“Soo-yah, I thought when you said you were bringing someone, that you meant…” his mother clears her throat. “Well, I suppose he could sort of pass as a woman.”

Jeonghan ignores the comment, but Joshua knows all too well that he hates the comparison. “Thank you for allowing me to be part of this weekend. Please take care of me.” He turns his face towards Joshua. “Which bus do we take to the hotel?”

“Oh no,” his grandmother interjects. “We canceled your reservation. We haven’t seen our Jisoo in so long, we want it to be a proper family weekend!”

Joshua freezes. “Sorry, what?”

“You’re staying with us,” she says happily. “At home.”

The whole car ride home, his mother completely ignores Jeonghan as she asks Joshua question after question.

His boss doesn’t seem bothered, thankfully, and maybe it’s for the best anyway. He doubts Jeonghan suddenly knows more stuff about Joshua than he did yesterday, and he’d rather not have his mother find out this whole thing is a sham.

But then he feels a tap on his arm, and Jeonghan is looking at him suspiciously. “I can’t help but notice that almost every business we’ve passed has your family name on it,” he whispers. “What’s up with that?”

“He hasn’t told you?” his mother asks, looking at her son through the rear-view mirror.

“You know our Jisoo is modest,” his grandmother answers, and Joshua can only feel grateful. He would not have known how to answer that otherwise.

Conversation dies down then, and the silence is much appreciated. Unlike Los Angeles, which is ever-changing, his hometown looks nearly identical to his last visit three years ago. Places he thought could use some work when he first left still haven’t gotten it. Almost like time has stopped.

“Is there a conference or something near us this weekend?”

Joshua draws his attention away from the window and turns to Jeonghan with a frown, who doesn't seem confused. “I understand your concern, but there is no conference,” he says. “We’ll explain the reason for my visit when we arrive, Mrs. Hong.”

Ah, Joshua thinks. She wants to know why on earth he’s decided to bring his boss. One that he hates, no less. The only reason she can possibly come up with is that it’s something work-related. And technically, she isn’t even wrong.

Their house is big, something Joshua’s been aware of all his life, but Jeonghan was obviously not.

“We invited some guests over,” his grandmother says as they all get out of the car. “Jiwon and I will go in to make sure everything is in order. We'll call for you when you can come in.”

So here Jeonghan and Joshua are, waiting by the car, leaning their backs against the side of it.

“Has this always been your family home?”


“You never told me you come from a wealthy family.”

Family, yes,” he agrees. “I'm not wealthy. You should know that, you're the one who pays me.”

“But they help you make ends meet,” Jeonghan says, changing the time on his watch to Korea. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have asked me to financially support you if they cut you off.”

“This isn’t a movie, you can keep your deductions to yourself,” Joshua retorts. “And I don’t get why you’re so shocked. You're rich.”

“Well what a perfect pair we make,” Jeonghan says dryly. “How many people do you think are in there?”

“Not sure. Probably quite a few.”

“Are you popular?”


“Are you popular?” Jeonghan repeats unhelpfully.

“Uh. Define popular.”

“Great,” Jeonghan deadpans. “So you just never decided to mention you're some sort of small-town Kennedy?”

“And where would I have squeezed that bit of information in? We've been in the middle of talking about you for the past three years.”

“Okay, you’re getting too ballsy now.”

He’s intimidating, Joshua knows that much, but he’s never been afraid of him quite like his colleagues seem to be.

“Are you gonna use the Boss Card each time we make conversation?”

“This is making conversation to you?”

“With you, I’m afraid it is,” Joshua replies instantly. “You see, I can pretend to be a good fiancé. But for you, it's gonna require that you stop snacking on children while they dream.”

“I snack on children whether they’re dreaming or not,” Jeonghan retorts. “At least, according to you. How comical that you call your parents just to talk about me. What did they say again? The Devil? A Demon? A little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“Is it?” Joshua challenges, taking a step forward.

He’s heard countless employees gossip about Jeonghan’s beauty before, how he shouldn’t have gone into this business and become a model instead. Joshua can’t exactly disagree.

Despite the long flight, he looks flawless.

He doesn’t know how it’s possible that he’s never once seen dark roots on Jeonghan’s somehow healthy blonde hair or bags under his eyes despite the exhausting hours he works.

His grandmother yelling their names takes them out of the trance they’re in. Jeonghan smirks at him, displaying his perfectly aligned white teeth, like he knows exactly what Joshua was just thinking.

He wouldn't be surprised if Jeonghan really could read minds.

“We need to be civil,” Jeonghan proposes as they start walking towards the house. “No more bickering.”

“It won’t happen if you don’t provoke me.”

“Then don’t provoke me, either.”

The smell of various dishes placed on every flat surface is strong and inviting. Joshua hasn’t had authentic home-made Korean food in ages and would have reached for the nearest plate had he not had thirty pairs of eyes on him.

“Uh. Hello everyone,” Joshua says, bowing his upper body. “It’s good to be back. I hope you’re all well.”

Jeonghan bows as well. “Hello, I’m Yoon Jeonghan. I have come along to celebrate Halmeoni’s birthday. Please take care of me.”

There’s a pregnant pause.

“That’s a man?” he hears someone whisper, but the room is so silent that Joshua’s sure everyone heard it. “Why would Jisoo bring a man?”

He gulps, but his grandmother takes him out of his nervous stupor and guides him to the kitchen by hand. He isn’t sure whether he’s supposed to tell Jeonghan to join him or leave him to the wolves, then decides Jeonghan’s ego is big enough to handle whatever is thrown at him.

“Aegi-yah,” his grandmother says, squeezing his hand. “I’ve missed you so much, my lovely grandson.” People slide past him in and out of the kitchen, but Joshua's reeling mind barely registers them.

She further distracts him by starting to fix him a plate, gathering some of his favorites on there.

He lets her feed him some because he knows she likes to dote on him, and he finds some of his nerves slowly ebbing away as she talks about her week.

Said nerves, however, come flooding back in the second his father enters the kitchen.


“Son,” his father replies, going to the sink to wash his hands. “How was your flight?”

“It was fine, thank you.”



“Your mother told me you brought a visitor,” he says, addressing the inevitable.


“Yet you let out most of the details,” his father continues, drying his hands. “Like who they are.”

As if he is attracted to negative energy, Jeonghan enters the kitchen. The glass of champagne in his right hand is placed on the kitchen island before he bows. “Hello, sir. I am Yoon Jeonghan. Pleased to meet you.”

His father slowly turns to his wife. “Isn’t that…”

His mother nods, eyes downturned. “From work, yes.”

“What in the world…”

A guest who has been in the kitchen the whole time tries to defuse the tension, and asks Joshua, “My son has expressed interest in your field, so I wondered, what’s it like being an editor, Jisoo-yah?”

“Oh, no,” says his father immediately. “Jisoo is not an editor. He’s the editor-in-chief’s assistant.” The judgment in his father’s voice makes Joshua’s skin crawl. “Jeonghan-ssi here is the editor.”

A deafening silence follows.

“So you’re… Jeonghan-ssi is your boss?” asks that same guest.

Joshua exhales through his nose. “Yes. He is.” He can feel Jeonghan’s eyes on his back, but they don’t burn as much as his father’s do on his face.

His father huffs, then exits the room.

Joshua instantly goes after him, meeting him in an empty hallway. “Abeoji,” he pleads. “Don’t be like that, please. Not in front of other people.”

“I am just confused, Jisoo,” his father responds. “You show up after all this time, and with the man you hate?”

“I don’t hate him.”

“You compare him to Satan.”

“It’s— that’s an inside joke,” Joshua tries, but his father isn’t buying it.

“Why is he here?” the man asks, stern. “You can fool your mother but you can’t fool me. The truth, Jisoo. Now.”

And this is the point where everything will collapse. His hands are shaking, his mouth feels dry and his heart is beating so violently he’s becoming lightheaded.

“I’m… with him.”

His father draws his head back in confusion. “I beg your pardon?”

Joshua swallows hard. “He’s— we’re….” And then his father lets out a laugh, like Joshua is joking. “I’m serious. We’re serious.”

His father stops laughing. “You cannot be.”

“We are.”

“Is it because he resembles a woman? Did you fool yourself into thinking he’s one?”

“No. He’s very much a man and I’m acutely aware of it.” He only realizes the implication of what he’s said once the words have already come out.

“No,” says his father. “No son of mine will sleep his way to the top. Especially not with another man.”

“I am not sleeping my way to the top!” Joshua snaps. “That’s an insult to me, but also to him. Yoon Jeonghan is one of the most respected editors of the US.”

His father lets out a disgusted huff. “He’s your meal ticket, and you brought her to meet your mother? How dare you?”

“He is not my meal ticket!” Joshua yells. “He’s… He’s my fiancé.”

The sound of glass breaking immediately has Joshua looking over his shoulder, where he meets the watery eyes of his mother.

“Eomma,” he says sadly, “I’m… I’m sorry.” The empty wine glass only broke into about five pieces, and he crouches to pick them up. “I just— I wanted to tell you in person.”

She seems almost frozen, struck by both pain and shock.

“How could you?” she asks, barely a whisper. “And with him of all people? He’s been tormenting you for the past three years…”

“Yes, he’s been brutal sometimes but… we spent so much time together and… he and I… It just happened.”

His father makes a disgruntled sound behind him.

“You love him?” asks his mother, her voice small.

“I’m gonna marry him,” he says to avoid lying more, and he’s glad his voice doesn’t tremble anymore. “I knew the consequences of bringing him here and telling you about this but… I wanted to see you.”

“Oh my boy…” she says, tears falling from her eyes as she hugs her own body rather than Joshua’s.

“What kind of son are you, making your mother cry!” his father shouts, knocking his shoulder into Joshua's as he walks towards his wife. “I want you to leave this instant.”

“No!” says his mother. “I haven’t seen him in three years. If he leaves now, he won’t come back.”

“Good,” says his father without hesitation.

Joshua's eyes start to sting.

“He’s my son!” she yells, stepping out of her husband’s embrace to put her hands on Joshua’s arms. “Aegi-yah, can you… can you please change your mind?”

He manages to keep the tears in. “Eomma, I can’t…”

She, however, can’t seem to, and lets out a sob. “Jisoo-yah, how could you let this happen?”

The lump in his throat grows twice its size, and he struggles talking past it. “There was nothing I could do,” he croaks, putting his arms around his mother’s waist. “I didn’t want it to happen either, but… it did.”

They’re not talking about the same thing, but it still works.

His mother continues to cry. Joshua’s heart breaks entirely.

“Eomma… Don’t make me leave. Please.”

Ten years ago, he used to have nightmares about having this exact conversation, about begging his mother not to shut him out, but that’s all they remained, nightmares.

They couldn’t have come true back then, because he refused to acknowledge his feelings.

Instead, he forced Seokmin to have his nightmares come true, all while saving himself from scrutiny.

Joshua saw the Lees when he walked inside, and wondered what Seokmin would think if his parents told him that Joshua was getting married to a man. Would he feel betrayed? It’s impossible to think he wouldn't be.

“Jisoo-yah, this isn’t right,” she whispers against his t-shirt. “But I can’t lose you. Not again.”

He’s so stunned he almost forgets to breathe. He expected to have to carry all their suitcases back to the car as soon as this conversation ended.

“I can’t lose you, either,” he whispers in return, slowly drawing back so he can see her face. He gently wipes the tears from her face.

“We can’t tell anyone,” she says then, looking from her husband to her son. “We will tell everyone you brought Jeonghan-ssi because he wanted to see Korea again after so long, and that he is just your boss.”


“No,” she says, cutting her husband off. “It… It will require some time to get used to, but if our Jisoo loves this man enough to marry him… I just… I want my son to be happy.”

“This is ridiculous!”

His mother doesn’t argue that, but she leans forward to press a kiss to Joshua’s cheek. “Don’t tell anyone, Jisoo. Let’s have a good weekend, alright?” She gives him another kiss. “Don’t bother Halmeoni with this, okay?”

Joshua nods numbly. “Thank you, Eomma. I love you.”

She doesn’t say it back.

He catches Jeonghan in a corner five minutes after he escapes the brutal confrontation with his parents, and Jeonghan immediately comments on the state of him. “Your face is puffy.”

Joshua doesn’t respond.

“So, are you part of the No Parents Club or not?”

He sighs. “I’d say one foot in, one foot out.”

“Yeah, your father is a real pain,” Jeonghan mumbles, taking a sip of his drink. “I heard most of your conversation.”

“From the kitchen!?”

“No, I was eavesdropping,” he replies casually. “At least your mother was somewhat nice about it.”

“That’s your definition of nice?”

Jeonghan tuts. “We said no bickering.”

“Well now that my mother’s announced that you’re just my boss who happens to also be Korean, we don’t have to put on a front.”

“But your parents still think we’re getting married,” Jeonghan points out, the rim of the glass touching his lips. “Though I’m sure they’d rather not see us get cozy.”

I’d rather not see us get cozy.”

“Just a figure of speech. Calm down, hothead.”

Joshua scrubs a hand over his face, which immediately earns him a smack on the arm. “What?”

“Don’t touch your face. You’ll spread bacteria there.”

“Wha— leave it,” he splutters. “Wait. That's your secret to perfect skin?”

After a second of silence, Jeonghan says, “... You think I have perfect skin?”

Joshua rolls his eyes. “Just a figure of speech,” he mimics. “What was it like before you entered the kitchen?”

“Oh I had a marvelous time. Only got insulted about twenty times. I gave them a piece of my mind, though, then they stopped.”

Joshua’s eyes widen. “What did you do?”

“Threatened to snack on their children, of course,” Jeonghan says, and Joshua honestly believes it until his boss breaks out into a grin. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m definitely worried.”

“I said don’t be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna get myself something to eat.”

Joshua’s never really seen Jeonghan interact with people that don’t work for him, or people he doesn’t want something from, so it’s odd seeing him engage in casual conversation. A woman, a teacher at his old high-school, seems to be curious about him, and starts introducing herself as Jeonghan decorates his plate. Joshua can tell he’s only pretending to listen; there's some mhms and really?s, but nothing about himself.

Jeonghan returns to his side eventually, a plate of food in one hand and chopsticks in the other. “Why is everyone here over the age of fifty?”

“Because most kids have moved away.”

A hum. “Like you did.”

“Not quite to the other side of the world, though,” he mumbles. “Most of them went to bigger cities. For university.”

“Right,” Jeonghan repeats, visibly getting annoyed when he hears people to their left gossiping about his ‘feminine appearance’. He picks up his champagne glass, downs it in one go, then pushes the empty glass against Joshua’s chest. “We’re gonna need more of those if these ancient motherf*ckers want to make it through the night.”

“So,” he says to Jeonghan when all the guests have left and his parents have gone upstairs. His boss is sitting on the sofa while Joshua paces. “I just spoke to my mother. I told her we want to try and get our hotel room back, but she insisted we stay here.”

Jeonghan gives him a blank look.

“She said it would help her… get used to it,” he mumbles.

The blonde crosses his legs. “Okay. What are the sleeping arrangements like then?”

“Though this house is big, it doesn’t have that many bedrooms. One for my mom, my dad, Halmeoni and— well. Me.”

“Your parents don’t sleep in the same room.”

“No. And they obviously aren’t considering sharing a bed for a few days to create two vacant rooms as… well…” He can’t even say it.

“They think we share a bed too,” Jeonghan finishes for him, unfazed.

Joshua tries to ignore his attitude, instead focusing on something entirely else. “You’re gonna have to drag those suitcases up the stairs yourself.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” Jeonghan responds. “I had some of the guests do it before.”

“... You’re serious.”

“Are you really surprised, Joshuji?”

He huffs.

The bedroom is large, about half the size of Joshua’s current apartment, but it’s no longer decorated for a teenager. Instead it’s been changed into a guest bedroom. Everything looks new, pieces of his younger self removed entirely, and he doesn’t know how to feel about it.

The beautiful view of the lake is still there, at least.

He’s also thankful there’s a connecting bathroom. None of his family members will have to fall victim to Jeonghan’s bathroom routine.

It turns out a little piece of him is still there in the dresser, in the form of some of his old clothes. They all smell like laundry detergent, so his mother must have recently washed them.

He hasn’t grown an inch since deciding to leave the country at only nineteen, but while they may still fit, they no longer match him.

“Do you snore?” asks Jeonghan suddenly, opening each of his suitcases.

“I don’t think so.” While trying to recall someone ever telling him that he does, it dawns on him that he hasn’t slept with another person in the same room for years. Platonically or romantically. “Never been told I do, at least.”

“Do you make any other noises?”

Joshua frowns at the sudden interrogation. “Are you gonna murder me in my sleep if I do or something?”

“Yes,” Jeonghan promises. “Are the windows soundproof?”

He wonders how on earth he is supposed to know that and why that’s even important, when a thought strikes him. “Hold on. Is that why you had me call that special window company years ago? You can’t sleep unless it’s silent?”

“Now who isn’t keeping their deductions to themselves?” He carefully lays a neatly folded outfit on the desk chair before pointing. “I’m gonna be sleeping in that.”

Joshua follows the line of his arm to the bed. “No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“That is literally my bed.”

“This is a guest bedroom. I’m a guest. But if it was yours, then you seem to be forgetting what’s so beautiful about marriage, Joshuji,” he says, patting the pillows. “What’s yours is mine.”

He points to the floor next.

“The rug feels pretty nice, and because you’re so young and vital, I’m sure you’ll survive.” Jeonghan clasps his hands together. “I’ll give you the space to sort out your own sleeping situation while I shower.”

And with that, his boss walks past him, grabs a bag of toiletries from his luggage, and locks the bathroom door behind him.

It should make Joshua want to scream and rip his hair out, but it doesn’t. Despite not being in the US right now, he hasn’t quite shaken his regular routine yet; always going with Jeonghan’s flow. He’s also bone tired. He doesn’t care much where he sleeps as long as he’ll get to do so soon.

He didn’t sleep a wink on the plane, worrying constantly about how he’d break the news to his family. There was also the added element that Jeonghan might draw something on his face as a childish prank. Or, say, strangle him to death.

But in this house, with Joshua’s family, he feels less tense about sleeping under the same roof as Jeonghan. He thinks the top contender for killing him is not his boss right now.

A knock on the door shakes him out of his thoughts.


“Aegi,” she smiles.

It hurts not to tell her. She’s the family member he’s closest to, and even though the thing with Jeonghan is fake, a part of him wants to know how she'd react if it was real, if Joshua really did bring someone of the same sex home.

“Where’s your plus one?” she asks, scanning the room.

“Washing airplane air off,” Joshua answers. “Do you want me to pass along a message?”

“No, no, sweetheart. Just wanted to see if you were both alright,” she says. It makes him nervous, not sure what she’s implying, but then she adds, “The flight was long. About twelve hours, no?”

He nods. “It was alright, though. I watched some movies to pass time and the food was nice. The seats were too. We were in First Class.”

“You must be really successful then.”

He chuckles awkwardly. “Well, First Class isn’t that big of a deal anymore these days, but it’s still really nice. And I’m not that successful… he is. He paid for it.”

“Who, dear?”

“Saja— uh. Jeonghan.”

She gives him a smile. “Good for you, my boy. Does he take care of you well?”

“Oh.” He scratches his forehead. “Uh. We’re the same age, he doesn’t have to take care of me.”

“Nonsense,” she insists. “Everyone should treat our Jisoo well, hmm?”

Joshua just smiles at her, not sure what to say. He can’t exactly reprimand his boss for treating him like garbage, even if he might be using Joshua’s childhood shower gel right now.

“I’m glad you’re here, aegi-yah.”

“I’m glad to be here, Halmeoni.” He reaches forward to embrace her again, just because he can. Leaving her was and always is the most painful, but she’d always been there for him. She was the one who wanted him to pursue his dreams.

“Oh. I almost forgot to tell you,” she starts. “Seokminnie is back for a while, said he wanted to spend some more time with his family. You’ll probably see him when you go to the shops. Such a busy boy.”

He tenses up. Though his grandma knows mostly everything about him, he never told her about this; the whatever-it-was that he had going on with Seokmin when they were teenagers.

He gives her a strained smile. “I will send him your regards if I do end up seeing him.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” she says, pinching his cheek like she always did when he was a little boy. “Goodness, there’s barely anything to hold! You ought to eat more.”

“I will,” he laughs. “It’s nice to eat your food again.

“I’m glad I’m able to feed you.” She waves then. “Sleep well, Jisoo-yah.”

“Sleep well, Halmeoni. See you in the morning.”

Once he shuts the door behind him, he sags against it.

Knowing that Seokmin is walking around is somehow scarier than the idea of Jeonghan strangling him to death. He hasn’t seen him since that fateful day ten years ago and still hasn’t grown the balls to confront him now.

It’ll probably result in a fist fight in town square.

So Joshua figures he and Jeonghan can just avoid going into town. He doesn’t actually need anything, so steering their trips towards the waterfall or the park is what he’ll suggest.

Or they can just stay inside. Jeonghan might go up in flames if there’s too much sunlight.

Next, he worries about the door. He knows what it implies to lock it.

His grandmother technically came in without his permission, simply knocking and entering, and his mother would do much the same. Not that he wouldn’t be mortified if his mother walked in on them sharing a bed, he can’t exactly risk her seeing her son sleep on the floor.

Locking the door it is.

He’s surprised to find a mattress in the closet, but considering this is now a guest bedroom, he supposes his parents put that there in case multiple people would be sleeping in here without wanting to share a bed.

Like two people who hate each other and decided to get married.

It takes about ten minutes to get it exactly how he likes and still Jeonghan hasn’t left the bathroom.

He walks over to the door and knocks. “Sajangnim, my parents may have money, but it’s no excuse to crank up the water bill.”

“Do you hear water running? I thought you had functioning ears.” Is the reply he gets. “Remember that skin you admired? It takes effort.”

“Not feeding on the souls of others?”

“That too, I get them bottled.”

At the joke, Joshua's lips give way to a surprise grin.

“It’ll take about seven more minutes.”

Exhausted, he flops down onto the desk chair. He doesn’t care if he’s wrinkling Jeonghan’s outfit, especially when the bastard takes twenty-two minutes instead of seven.

Jeonghan opens the door and steam drifts into the bedroom like he built a sauna in there.

He’s dressed in a light blue silk pajama set and a fluffy band keeps his wet hair away from the shining skin of his face.

He looks like a human being for once.

It’s giving Joshua whiplash.

Jeonghan grins innocently. “That was about seven minutes, right?”

Joshua shoots him a glare, then pushes himself off the chair and strides into the newly suffocating heat of the bathroom.

He can hardly see a thing, but he’s able to spot the large collection of bottles on the counter. Jeonghan seems to have brought the whole spa with him.

He showers quickly, goes through his own routine blind as the mirror is completely fogged up and won’t stay clear for even a second, then puts on his own pajama set, though definitely not silk.

He’d normally sleep in shorts and forgo a t-shirt entirely, but he will not expose himself like that under the eyes of his boss.

When he returns to the bedroom, Jeonghan is sitting cross-legged on the bed, typing away on his phone.

Not looking up from the device, he asks, “Who’s Seokmin?”

Joshua freezes. “Sorry?”

“I eavesdropped.”

He huffs. “Is that your thing now?”

“Always has been.”

Joshua tosses his phone on his blanket before opening his own suitcase to pick an outfit for tomorrow.

“You referred to me informally.”

“Figured it would be strange to use formal speech when we’re supposed to be engaged.”

“Your grandmother thinks I’m just your boss, though,” Jeonghan points out.

“Halmeoni will be around my mother constantly, and I will have to refer to you informally then. It’s just easier if everything's the same,” Joshua reasons, deciding on a blue t-shirt.

“God, not that one,” Jeonghan complains even though he’s not even looking. He must have a fourth eye on the top of his head. “Why do you even still own that?”

“Wha—? What's wrong with it? It was a gift.”

“Throw it out. You, and people that have to look at you, shouldn’t have to suffer because whoever gave you that has bad taste.” Jeonghan finally looks up from his phone, then leans forward to peek into Joshua’s opened suitcase. “I’m wearing a black cardigan tomorrow, you’ll match if you wear that black shirt.”

“It’s almost thirty degrees out.”


“Just because you’re used to the temperatures of hell doesn’t mean we all are,” Joshua replies, leaving the black shirt in his suitcase and putting the blue shirt on a hanger.

“Not only is it ugly, there’s a hole in the back,” Jeonghan says, eyes back on his phone. “It’s a clear display that you have no one to point it out. Now that we’re engaged, I cannot let you go out like that.”

Joshua’s mouth drops open when he indeed spots the hole.

“Wear the black shirt,” Jeonghan says again. “And burn that one. Stat.”

Joshua exhales through his nose, defeated, and takes the blue shirt from the hanger.

He begrudgingly dumps it into the trashcan below the desk.

In the very literal sense of the word, Joshua had no idea what sleeping with Jeonghan would entail.

Jeonghan closed all the windows, turned the aircon off, and now Joshua thinks he might die.

He’s so tempted to shed his clothes and just sleep in his underwear, but Jeonghan would one hundred percent chew him out for it. He’d make it a bigger deal than it is, probably yelling about how his eyes have been accosted by Joshua’s unwelcome bare skin.

Joshua can’t exactly do it subtly either as Jeonghan is still wide awake, sitting against the headboard waiting for all of his hair to dry.

The sound of nails ticking against glass is making Joshua lose his mind. He didn’t even know Jeonghan had nails long enough to hit the screen.

The room is fully dark aside from the light coming from Jeonghan’s phone, and Joshua isn’t used to seeing the room like this, always leaving some kind of light on when he was younger. Back at home, he never draws the curtains. He likes to watch the city after midnight and doesn't mind waking up early now that he’s so used to it.

It feels right to call his apartment in Los Angeles home, even if he’s about to fall asleep in the very house he grew up in.

He only told his parents he was leaving the day before he was meant to be on his flight, a UCLA acceptance letter in his inbox. They were furious, but Joshua had already made up his mind. He was going to touch the hearts of people with the written word. His mother begged and cried, his father yelled and cursed, but it didn’t change his mind

When Jeonghan’s nails start hitting the screen even harder, Joshua snaps. “Can you stop typing?”

“Calm down. I’m emailing Bob about how big of a dickhe*d he is.”

“And you have to do that at—” Joshua cranes his neck to look at the digital clock, “—one in the morning?”

“Yes. His shift is about to start,” Jeonghan replies. “I’m set on ruining his day.”

“Of course you are,” Joshua sighs. “What have you written so far?”

“Just some colorful language. I’ll spare you the details.”

“I’m sure I’ll hear about it in the groupchat.” He immediately slaps a hand against his forehead, cursing himself for letting that slip.

“A groupchat you say?” Joshua hears the bed croak, and like a creature from a nightmare, Jeonghan hovers over the edge of the bed. Joshua nearly has a heart attack. “How very interesting.”

“Oh… You didn’t know about it?” Joshua says, trying to pretend like every employee hasn’t sworn to protect the secrecy of the chat with their life.

“Of course I did, Joshuji,” Jeonghan replies. The screen of his phone illuminates a portion of his face. “I’ve been reading the messages from the start. I just wanted someone to admit to it. You are all very pathetic about it. A very sad excuse for a cult.”

Jeonghan’s smirk turns wicked.

“Can’t believe you would give them updates on my location so Sarah and Devin could f*ck on a toilet seat. Had to close every bathroom for a week. Must have been such a pain for all of you…”

“That was your doing? We were told the pipes were clogged!”

And how terrible that week was. Having to follow Jeonghan constantly, he’s hardly given a break. The little white lies of having to go pee allow him some alone time, free from the shackles of Yoon Jeonghan, but that excuse obviously didn’t work that week. He’d come home with a pounding headache each day.

“If I let them continue, those pipes would have been. With cum,” he emphasizes. “It was a precaution.”

Joshua wonders what kind of dirt Jeonghan has on him. He tries to recall everything he’s ever shared in that group chat when he comes to another realization. “Sarah and Devin broke off whatever they had that same week…”

“I’m sure you understand that I can’t have my employees waste time slapping their bodies together when they should be working,” he says before pushing himself back. Joshua releases a relieved breath as Jeonghan’s terrifying half-lit face finally disappears from view.

He supposes Jeonghan has a point, but he doesn’t have to be so vile about it all the time. He feasts off of their embarrassment, no doubt.

“You never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“Don’t play stupid. It makes you much less appealing of a person.”

Joshua's mouth goes dry. “You think I’m an appealing person?”

“A figure of speech, Joshuji,” Jeonghan shoots back, but it takes him longer to reply than usual. “You’re avoiding my question again. I’m gonna find out anyway, so you might as well tell me. Who is Seokmin?”

Joshua bites the inside of his cheek.

“Silence. Alright, that’s fine. Based on what your grandmother said, he should be hanging around town and considering she called him a boy and there aren’t many young adults here, he must not be hard to spo—”


“Oh?” Joshua can hear his smirk. “Strike a nerve? Who is this elusive man?”

“Getting jealous so soon?”

Jeonghan feigns a gasp of offense. “But of course. It’s heart-shattering to know there’s people out there that know more about my fiancé than I do.”

“That would be everyone I have ever known.” Then he adds, “And you can’t shatter something you don’t have.”

“There he goes again with the one-liners. Your humor is very cheap, Joshuji.”

He clenches his jaw. “Why do you ask, anyway? What’s it to you?”

“Whether you meant to do it or not, your attitude changed after his name was mentioned. Figured something might have happened.”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

Jeonghan huffs, annoyed. “Are you suffering from Alzheimer’s? It was you who bricked it when we were told our answers have to match up perfectly. Sue me for trying to get our answers lined up.”

Joshua sits up to glare at his boss. He’s sure Jeonghan's supernatural powers include night vision. “Mr. Gilbertson isn’t going to ask for a list of feelings I’ve hurt.”

There’s a pause.

“Oh, my dear Joshuji,” Jeonghan says tauntingly. “I have definitely not fully rubbed off on you. I can’t believe you just fell for that.”

“I don’t want you to rub off on me.”

Jeonghan disagrees. “I don’t know about that. You just said you hurt someone's feelings. Can’t get more similar to me than that.”

“That was before we even met!”

“Truly shows how alike we are by nature.”

Joshua presses his lips together, trying to keep his anger in. “If that were true,” he says, leveled, “I’d be hating every single breathing specimen on earth too.”

“Well then, enlighten me. Tell me what you hate, Mother Teresa.”

“You,” Joshua answers without missing a beat. “Especially right now.”


“Some have said, yes.” He wants to take it back the second he says it. He shuts his eyes for a moment, hoping against hope that Jeonghan will move on.

Obviously, he doesn’t. “Is that right? Who did, that twitchy girl from IT?”

Joshua regrets everything. “Her name’s Christy.”

“Weird girl with a weird obsession with you.” Joshua can’t quite pinpoint his tone. “Her face always gets bright red when you walk by. It’s annoying.”

“How is that annoying?”

“Because it's unproductive. Didn’t hire her to ogle you.”

He turns to lie on his side, hoping it will block out the sound of Jeonghan’s nails, but to no avail. It’s like an itch you can’t scratch or a constant buzzing but not being able to find the culprit. Makes you want to explode. “Are you ever going to sleep?”

“... Is there a point to this question?”

“Trying to see if you sleep at all.”

“Is me being some mythical creature one of your fantasies?”

“Just a speculation.”

“Right. Have you gathered any evidence to back this dumb claim up?”

Joshua goes down the list on his fingers. “I’ve never once seen you sleep but you never look tired, your skin is pale and spotless, there seems to be no new hair growing from your scalp, you don't appear to sweat, you’re cruel, vile, heartless, need the suffering of others to survive, and prior to this day, I’d never actually seen you eat.”

“Gee, you almost ran out of fingers there.”

“A solid dissertation.”

“Not quite, as I’ll be debunking some of your evidence right now.” The light from his phone disappears, and it's pitch black around them. “I’m going to sleep.”

“In Dracula-style, at least?”

“No, and whoever sleeps like that should be sent to an institution.”

“Then how do you sleep?”

“With my eyes closed.”

“I thought I was in charge of one-liners.”

“When I say it it’s not corny.”

Joshua rolls his eyes. “I’m asking because Mr. Gilbertson might ask for our… sleeping arrangements.”

“Well,” Jeonghan starts, moving the blankets to his preference, “you can tell him I’m a cuddler.”

“He’ll send me straight to prison if I do,” he deadpans. “He’s not gonna believe that.”

“Mr. Gilbertson doesn’t know sh*t. We could tell him we eat ramen off each other’s chests and he’ll have to believe it as long as we both say the same thing.”

Joshua will never understand how Jeonghan’s mind works.

The sound of an alarm wakes him. The noise is brutal and incessant, nothing like his alarm is at home.

He tiredly checks the time—06:30—and then peers at the bed with one eye still shut. He watches Jeonghan turn it off, stretch his back, and step out of bed like he meant to do this and didn’t accidentally set it.

“Wha’re you doin’?” Joshua slurs.

“Morning routine.” He starts making the bed. “I’m going on a run.”

That definitely opens both of Joshua's eyes. “You exercise? You said you’d rather die than hike.”

“Yeah, because I hate hikes,” he says flatly, “but I won’t be twenty-nine forever.”

He groans when Jeonghan opens one of the blinds. “Go back to bed. This isn’t LA. We’re on vacation.” He only realizes how that sounds when he’s already said it. He’ll need to work on that.

“How awfully domestic,” Jeonghan says dryly. “I’ll sadly have to decline. This very non-vampiric body needs to be taken care of.”

Despite having only slept four hours at most, his boss seems unaffected. Joshua's always been under the impression Jeonghan doesn't get much sleep based on the late night and early morning emails Joshua receives, but he didn’t quite think it’d be this little.

He hears Jeonghan’s bare feet on the floor, the zipper of a suitcase, then the door to the bathroom.

He tiredly rubs his eyes and hopes the sound of the faucet running can lull him back to sleep. It works for a few minutes, feeling a little more drowsy, but then a terrifying thought hits him.

What if Jeonghan somehow runs into Seokmin during his run? Knowing his boss, he’ll squeeze every ounce of information he can get from the boy without Seokmin even noticing.

Jeonghan can be nice, if he wants to be, but it's only to give people a sense of security that he’ll always abuse later. Joshua’s unfortunately fallen victim to this in the beginning of their assistant-boss relationship, but he feels he’s gotten better at keeping his mouth shut over the years.

Yet, yesterday night was a prime example of Jeonghan getting answers out of him anyway.

With a groan, Joshua throws his blanket off his body and sits up. His hair is a mess, that much he feels, and mentally prepares for the jab that’ll inevitably come.

He crawls over to his suitcase, then rummages around for anything that is appropriate for a morning run. He packed lightly, considering their ‘vacation’ spans just three nights, and definitely hadn’t planned to go on a run.

Going on a hike together was always a joke. He knew Jeonghan wouldn’t want to.

He pushes himself off the floor and opens the dresser. He spends a second wondering if his mother locks this thing when they have other visitors or if guests have free reign of his teenage wardrobe, and he really hopes she locks it.

Going through each drawer, he ends up with a pair of red shorts and a breathable-feeling dark green shirt.

He prepares for another jab.

Jeonghan comes out of the bathroom not long after, dressed in a white Nike set made of shorts and a polo shirt like he’s some kind of professional tennis player. It’s the first time in Joshua’s life that he’s seeing Jeonghan’s bare legs.

He finds it an oddly bewildering experience.

“Wow. Christmas came early.” He crosses his arms over his chest, leaning against the doorframe. “You want to join me on my run?”



“You already woke me up,” he says flatly. “And it can’t hurt.”

Oh, but it does. Jeonghan turns out to be way faster than he is, whether that’s from a consistent routine or because he’s just really competitive, Joshua can’t say. What he can say, is that it’s embarrassing on his part. Because all the while, Jeonghan is making a phone call.

His legs move forward effortlessly, voice unwavering with endless stamina, so there is no way Joshua won't store this information away. His boss can’t be human.

They mostly run on the side of the main road, avoiding the inner circle of town entirely, and Joshua is actually quite pleased he doesn’t have to make conversation.

The phone call is purely business, his airpods steady in his ears. His voice is even despite the scowl on his face.

Jeonghan never raises his voice, always managing to stay calm and collected. He has this bored sort of uncaring attitude to him that is downright unnerving, but it’s also kind of impressive.

Jeonghan stops talking, probably having hung up, then looks over his shoulder at Joshua.

There’s a slight hint of color on his cheeks that Joshua hasn’t ever seen before.

“You’re awfully slow.”

“I prefer bench presses,” he mumbles.

Jeonghan's eyes dip towards his arms. He glances up again, to Joshua's face, then snorts.


In reality, he barely has time to work out. His mornings are spent trying to look his best so Jeonghan won’t spit him out during the day, which he spends entirely with Jeonghan, then slaves away during his evenings preparing files and making appointments. Also for Jeonghan. That doesn't exactly leave much room for exercise.

Jeonghan must be able to do this every day because Joshua takes care of all this secretarial crap and more.

Blessing or curse, the stress of his job seems to be enough to keep him from gaining weight.

Jeonghan suddenly hollers that they should have a race, one that Joshua is bound to lose because his boss is a cheating bastard, but he participates anyway. Spousal sacrifices and whatnot.

He’s also scared of losing sight of Jeonghan and finding him going Dementor-mode on a passerby. Namely a passerby called Seokmin.

They don’t run into him, thankfully, but they do pass Joshua’s father when they enter the house.

“Abeoji,” Joshua says curtly.

“Mr. Hong,” Jeonghan says with a bow of his head, but his father doesn’t acknowledge him. He passes them without sparing Jeonghan so little as a glance.

They're forced to watch him reach his car, get in, and drive off. Almost like he can’t stand to be in the same house as them.

Somehow, Joshua thinks things might have been the same if he’d brought a girl home. Regardless of gender, his partner will always be someone that’s keeping him from Korea, and by proxy, the family business.

Jeonghan doesn’t seem bothered by his father’s cold behavior, but it bothers Joshua . His father has been holding a grudge the size of a building since Joshua first left, but there is no need to pretend that Jeonghan, someone his father thinks Joshua loves, doesn’t exist.

Joshua clears his throat, trying to diffuse the tension. “Breakfast?”

“I’ll be taking a shower,” Jeonghan answers, carefully taking off his shoes. “I’ll take coffee, though. You know how I drink it.”

“What? You’ll need to eat something. We just jogged who knows how many kilometers.”

But Jeonghan just walks up the stairs and eventually out of Joshua’s sight without a reply.

He’s about to walk to the kitchen when he suddenly hears a small gasp from upstairs. “Oh! Hello, dear.”

Joshua’s eyes widen at the sweet tone his grandmother addresses Jeonghan with.

“Halmeonim, hello,” Jeonghan replies, and Joshua is even more surprised. He has no clue when his grandmother and Jeonghan got close.

Joshua presses his back to the wall, out of sight, and continues listening.

“I slept wonderfully, thank you. I must say the bedroom is very nicely decorated, a lovely view too. I hope you’ve slept well yourself.”

“Why thank you. I did.” She then whispers, and Joshua barely manages to catch it, “I do not mean to brag at all, but I happened to have decorated that myself.”

“Did you? It shouldn’t surprise me, you seem like a person with great taste.”

Joshua’s jaw drops to the floor.

“You flatter me, kind boy. Our Jisoo is lucky to know you.”

He hears Jeonghan chuckle. His boss just chuckled. “Now you flatter me.”

“Don’t be silly,” she replies. They continue to make small talk, which is just a big compliment-marathon, so they must have really clicked some time yesterday. He’s never heard Jeonghan talk the way he’s talking right now, like a normal human being with actual feelings.

Joshua can’t imagine what his boss could possibly want from his grandmother, but there must be something because there is no way that Yoon Jeonghan, devil’s spawn, is being nice just to be nice. His boss did say he would present himself as a desirable son-in-law, but his grandmother doesn’t even know about their fake engagement.

It makes Joshua’s head spin.

“Did you tell Halmeoni?”

As if his head wasn’t already spinning, he finds Jeonghan in the guest bedroom with his blonde hair wrapped up in a towel in such a way that it resembles a lamb-head.

It should look weird, not because he’s done a bad job, it’s unsurprisingly perfectly done, but because it feels so out of place. Jeonghan doesn’t do cute things.

He’s wearing that black cardigan he was so adamant about yesterday and looks into a compact mirror as he gently pats foundation onto his skin. “I’ve told Halmeonim lots of things.”

Joshua closes his eyes in annoyance. “Did you tell her about our engagement?”

“My, Joshuji, did you not hear your mother? We mustn’t bother Halmeonim with it.”

“… You heard that too?”

“I said I was eavesdropping, no?” He closes the mirror with a satisfying click. “A meal ticket, huh?”

He takes off the head towel, and his damp blonde hair falls past his shoulders. Joshua doesn’t understand how he manages to keep it this color and still have it look healthy the way it does.

“Come to think of it, he still thinks we're sleeping together, just that you're not getting anything out of it. He’d probably prefer I was your meal ticket now.”

“Well in that case, I’ll just tell him we’ve replaced sex with marriage and you’re still my meal ticket.”

“The prison uniform won’t look good on you. Let's keep our mouths shut.” Jeonghan waves a dismissive hand. “Enough about your father, how is your mother holding up?”

“Uh. Haven’t spoken to her since our… discussion.” Joshua doesn’t quite know what else to call it. “Did she talkto you?”

He gets up to sit at the edge of the bed. “I passed her in the hall yesterday evening, she looked away.”

“Oh.. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he insists, grinning. “She was avoiding me on purpose, so I made a point out of talking to her.”


“She looked uncomfortable the whole time,” Jeonghan continues. “It was quite the sight.”

Nope, he takes it back. Not sorry. “There was no need for that.”

“Wasn’t there?” Jeonghan questions calmly. “She made us uncomfortable, so I made her uncomfortable back.”

“... What?”

“Oh, right.” Jeonghan rolls his eyes. “It doesn’t affect you, of course.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Leave it.”

“No. In case you forgot, we’re not actually engaged,” Joshua points out, “there’s no need to take anything she said personally.”

“I’m going downstairs.”

He gets off the bed, trying to move past Joshua who then grabs him by the bicep.

He’d expected Jeonghan to shake him off, but he fixes Joshua a hard stare instead. Joshua squints back at him, trying to dig his way into Jeonghan’s mind. “You really did take something personally.”

The stare grows more intense, colder. “You don’t listen to your own advice very well, do you?” he says snidely. “This is the second time you can’t keep your deductions to yourself.”

“Oh now you’re listening to what I say?”

“I have been listening to what you have to say, actually.”

“With what, your nose? ‘Cause last time I checked you know nothing about me.”

“Tell me, why is that? Could it be that you never tell me anything about yourself? Ever?” Jeonghan retorts. “Every time I ask how your weekend was you always say you didn’t do anything interesting.”

“And what could possibly be the reason for that?” Joshua spits. “Have you considered that my world revolves around you? That I never get to do anything interesting because of you?”

“Is that complaining I hear?” he mocks. “Is it not your scribble at the bottom of the contract? Your ugly excuse for a signature? Were you forced to sign it? Held at gunpoint? Knife to the throat?” He shakes his head. “No. You knew what the job would ask of you and you agreed. You did.”

Joshua has to pull himself together, because no matter how harsh Jeonghan sounds, what he says is true. He did agree to the terms and conditions of the contract, specifically the added salary and the possibility to grow.

Whenever Jeonghan makes him work on the weekends, it’s not to mess with Joshua, he really physically can’t get it all done by himself. He's not once wasted Joshua’s time.

He drops Jeonghan’s arm.

“Besides, you’re gonna be promoted to editor on Monday, so you’ll have all future weekends to yourself,” Jeonghan says, dusting off his arm. “No need to whine about the past. Now, I’m going to get that coffee.”

“I want an answer,” he says. Within a second, he's got Jeonghan caged against the door, hands pressed against the wood on each side of Jeonghan’s head.

Joshua's breathing irregularly from the whole ordeal, the arguing, having to turn Jeonghan’s body and push him against the door, and he watches Jeonghan’s eyes flicker from his mouth back to his eyes, back to his mouth.

It compels him to do the same.

Jeonghan’s lips are slightly open, perfectly smooth and pink, and when Joshua looks back into his eyes, they’re a little glazed over. A different kind of intense.

They’re the same height, so Joshua doesn’t have any sort of leverage, but he hopes he still comes off somewhat intimidating considering their position.

But somehow, even with his body against the wall, Jeonghan has the authority.

“Oh?” he breathes, looking at Joshua’s mouth again. “What an interesting attempt at asserting your dominance.”

Jeonghan watches Joshua's Adam’s apple move, and Joshua's body immediately betrays him— his ears grow a shade darker.

“Joshuji,” his boss whispers. The tone he uses is so unfamiliar to Joshua that it makes even more blood rush towards his face, but then Jeonghan tilts his head. That is familiar. “You think this will get me to open up? You’re getting creative.”

“At this point,” Joshua whispers back, “who knows what works with you.”

“I thought you said you knew everything about me, hmm?”

He doesn’t actually. He knows insignificant things like where he likes to buy his clothes, what coffee he drinks and what employees are on his To Be Fired list. He knows where Jeonghan is basically all of the time at any given time. He knows some more intimate things too, such as the details of his parents’ passing and that he has a tattoo he planned to remove but didn’t, but he doesn’t know a thing about his feelings. He can only ever guess what Jeonghan’s thinking.

“This is fun,” he says, voice tinged with boredom, “but I want that coffee.”

“And I want to know what that was all about,” Joshua counters, balling his hands into fists. “Why are you taking what my mom said personally?”

He huffs out a scoff. “Is this supposed to scare me into surrendering? You should know I’m not the submissive type.” He places his right hand against Joshua’s cheek, and it could almost be considered a sweet gesture if he wasn’t Yoon Jeonghan. “Now get out of my way before I rearrange your testicl*s with my knee.”

Walking down the stairs after his shower, Joshua considers how he’ll properly approach the rest of the weekend.

There is not exactly an Immigration Interview 101, but he found a list of potential questions. They’re superficial, but things they definitely should know about each other. Favorite color, food, hobby, passions, dislikes, etcetera.

There’s also the added element of their living situation that they’ll have to discuss, but Joshua doesn’t particularly mind moving into a bigger place for a while. As long as he gets his own room.

It’s really up to Jeonghan not to come off as an uninterested spouse.

Joshua can already picture Jeonghan cornering him three seconds before the interview to suddenly ask a ton of questions and get them all right during his turn. He can even picture none of their answers lining up and Jeonghan still somehow talking his way out of it.

But they'll actively need to go through the list together, take it seriously.

When he enters the living room, he’s nothing short of astounded to find Jeonghan talking to his mother.

They’re having a conversation? … And it’s civil?

“Eomma,” Joshua says nervously, looking from his mother to Jeonghan. “I thought you were with Abeoji.”

“I was,” she says, patting the spot next to her on the couch. “Come sit, Jisoo-yah. We were just talking about you.”

He tentatively takes a seat. “What were you talking about?”

“Your trip to Paris,” she explains, reaching for her coffee. “Jeonghan said it was romantic.”

As romantic as working their butts off in a hotel room can be. Jeonghan had been a little more on edge than he usually lets on, though only in the presence of Joshua, as he had to make sure that Colden Books be the one to publish DeLillo.

Joshua felt a bit like a character on How To Get Away With Murder trying to find dirt on their competitor, reading an absurd amount of files and reviews until they eventually found something Jeonghan could as proof of unprofessionalism.

They kept bickering back and forth, neither of them sleeping a wink, but Joshua can’t deny how victorious he felt when they ended up publishing the book, even if their strategy might have been a little much.

There’s no sense of victory left, though. The publishing of DeLillo is why they’re in this predicament.

“We're… talking about romance?”

His mother looks a little uneasy. “I want to get to know your— uh, future spouse.”

He smiles softly at her, putting a hand on her knee. “That means a lot to me.”

She covers his hand with her own before addressing Jeonghan. “Do continue.”

Joshua listens to the story like it’s the first time he hears it, because he does hear it for the first time. Jeonghan manages to completely rewrite it.

He makes each of their activities sound more exciting, more romantic, truly showing off his poetic abilities. Instead of working all night, they spent all night talking.

Sparks flew, and all that.

“How is the Eiffel Tower?” she asks. “Is it as beautiful as it looks in photos?”

“It’s a beautiful monument, yes,” Jeonghan answers, meeting Joshua’s eye. “I was paying attention to something else, though.”

Had Joshua had something to drink, he’s sure he’d spat it out. Instead, he chokes on his spit. He’s spluttering unattractively while his mother pats him on the back.

“Aigoo. Our Jisoo’s never been good at taking compliments. Ah. But you must know that already of course…”

“All too well, Mrs. Hong,” Jeonghan says, and Joshua snaps his chin up to stare at his boss in disbelief.

Not once in his many years of working for Jeonghan has he ever really complimented Joshua. When he did, it was always backhanded. Things like ‘you look much less poorly dressed than you did yesterday’ and ‘you have finally grown more in this company than that pimple you had last week’.

He’s waiting for Jeonghan to pick up his coffee, and when his boss finally does bring the mug to his lips, Joshua strikes back. “Well, do keep talking more about our very romantic Paris trip, jagiya.

Jeonghan’s able to keep most of it in, but a little bit of coffee dribbles down the side of his mouth. He quickly covers it with his hand before he starts coughing wildly.

His mother grins awkwardly. “I hope you haven’t both caught a cold…”

“Oh no, Eomma, we're fine,” Joshua replies. “Jeonghan's just a little clumsy.”

Not true, of course. Joshua’s never seen the man so little as miss a step, let alone trip.

“Right. Clumsy me,” Jeonghan mutters, dabbing his face with the back of his hand until Joshua’s mother stands up to get him a tissue.

Once Jeonghan’s made sure she’s out of the room, he immediately turns back to Joshua. His eyes glint with mischief. “Two can play this game, Joshuji.”

“But are you any good at the game, is the question,” Joshua challenges, then smiles at his mother when she returns to the living room.

She places a box of tissues next to Jeonghan on the couch, after which the blonde takes one out to dry both his hands and whatever is still on his chin.

“I actually better go wash my hands,” he announces. “Thank you for the tissues, Mrs Hong. I will be right back.”

When he’s out of sight, his mother suddenly takes her son’s hands. “Jisoo-yah, I want to apologize for the things I’ve said yesterday.”

His initial reaction is surprise, but then he shakes his head. “You don’t have to be sorry, Eomma.”

“But I am… I wasn’t able to sleep. I felt horrible. I made both you and your fiancé feel unwelcome, and this is your own house,” she says, her face down. “I also apologize on behalf of your father. What he said wasn’t right.”

He gently squeezes her hands. “I dumped this on you so suddenly, it must be a lot to take in.”

“It is,” she admits with a small sigh. “But I love you, my son.”


It hurts. It hurts to have to lie to her like this. She’s risking her relationship with his father and possibly the entire town, only for Joshua to have to tell her they divorced in a few months.

He wished Seokmin’s parents had reacted this way to their son, because Joshua doesn’t deserve this at all.

He leans forward to wipe a tear from her cheek. “I love you, too.”

“I will try to… understand. Your father might be absent most of this weekend, though. He’s having a hard time.”

“I understand.”

“He loves you, though.”

Joshua hums, but doubts it.

“You’ve always had such a close relationship with Halmeoni, and I took the opportunity to share something so important and exciting from you. You can tell her, if you’d like.” She gives him a small, guilty smile. “I do still ask of you to…”

“Keep it quiet outside of our household?”

“I’m sorry, Soo-yah.”

Joshua shakes his head. “I understand. This is already more than I could ask for.”

She takes a breath, pulling herself together as she dabs below her eyes a final time. “He’s really handsome, isn’t he?”

“Who is?”

She laughs. “Yoon Jeonghan, of course.”

“Oh,” he replies dumbly. “Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?” she says with another laugh. “You don’t have to downplay it for me. Everyone would say the same.”

He chuckles dryly in reply.

“You know, even if you hadn’t told me about your engagement, I probably would have guessed there was something going on between the two of you.”

Joshua wills his eyes to stay in their sockets. “... What?”

She gives his shoulder a light shove. “You know what I mean.”

“I really don’t.” He planned to get that out a little more subtly, but he’s too stunned to control it.

She picks up her coffee again. “Well, first of all, he looks at you really fondly. I was watching him yesterday night, just to see how he behaves and treats others. No matter who he was talking to, he was always looking at you.” She swallows around a sip. “He must really care about you.”

Joshua cannot believe his ears, but he has to brace himself for what’s to come.

“And then you. There’s this… face you pull when you talk to him,” she continues, then tries to mimic it.

He really hopes she’s doing an awful job at it, because he cannot possibly think of himself looking like that because of or especially at Jeonghan.

“You were talking quietly, but you were grinning to each other constantly. Whenever he was talking to someone else, you kept on looking at him too. Like magnets almost.”

Joshua doesn’t know what to say to that, but he luckily doesn’t have to come up with anything because his phone starts ringing in his pocket.

He doesn’t even check the ID before he presses it to his ear, too eager to get out of this conversation.

“Go to the hallway. I will castrate you if you ever tell anyone what I’m about to say,” Jeonghan tells him in English before Joshua can even utter a hello.

He holds up a finger for his mother to wait, then gets up.

“Are you in the hall?”

“Yes? What's going on?”

“I can’t get the door open. I locked it, but it’s stuck.”

“The ground floor restroom?”


“Oh, yeah. It does that sometimes.”

“What the f*ck? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t think you’d go to that one.”

“I just went to wash my hands and check my face, didn’t even mean to lock the door.”

“… You can see your reflection in the mirror?”

“Wow, my fiancé is so funny,” Jeonghan deadpans. “Now is not the time for your research, Vlad.”

Of their own accord, the corners of his mouth curl up. He immediately catches himself doing so and claps a hand over his mouth. He slowly and reluctantly moves to a nearby mirror and tries to copy what he just did.

He finds it’s almost a perfect replica of the face his mother pulled.

Recollecting himself, he walks over to the restroom’s door and knocks. “Sajangnim?”

“Yeah, hi,” he dismisses. “You said this happens often? What’s the trick?”

“What have you tried so far?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, of course,” Jeonghan says, feigning sweetness. “Can’t break my in-laws' door.”

Joshua hums. “I’ll let you figure it out then.”

His reply is immediate. “I’m not actually against breaking the door. I was just trying to be nice.”

“That’s a first.” Not true, apparently.

“And last.”

Joshua claps his hands together. “Well, I can stand here all weekend.”

“Sure you can, and by all means go ahead, but your mom will eventually come and rescue me,” Jeonghan pipes up. “You’ll look like a lousy little fiancé.”

“I’ll play dumb, tell her I had no idea that you were in there.”

“While you stand next to the door? Doubt she’ll believe you.”

Joshua smirks. He wishes Jeonghan could see it. “You’re so right. I should go upstairs.”

“No! You stay here,” he demands instantly. “The castration threat still stands.”

“You know,” Joshua quips, “I can’t help but notice your most recent threats have all been centered around my parts. Seems a little obsessive.”

“You can’t even say the word dick. I think you need to reel back that attitude.”

“Whew. Going upstairs sounds pretty good right now. Bye, Sajangnim.” Joshua takes a step forward, then another, until there's finally a disgruntled noise from the restroom.

“Fine,” Jeonghan says, strained. “Is there something you want?”

“There’s lots of things I want,” Joshua drawls, “right now, though, I just want to hear you make a fool out of yourself.”

“… I beg your pardon?”

“There’s a combination of things you have to do for it to open,” Joshua explains. “Have at it. You’ll fail.”

Jeonghan barks out a laugh. “Did a demon possess you all of a sudden?”

You’re that demon.”

He tuts. “Can’t be me, because if I did possess you, you’d have the intelligence to realize that I can survive perfectly fine in here. There’s water and a toilet.” There’s a sound, but it’s not from his boss working the lock again. It must be his back leaning against the door. “I thought you’d want something stupid like me telling you everything I know about you.”

“Narcissism? That’s more your thing.”

“Is it?” Jeonghan challenges. “You’re curious by nature. Aren’t you curious just how much I actually know about you? You’ll be surprised.”

Ah, Joshua thinks, mind games. Typical.

He fakes a yawn. “Not interested.”

“I find that hard to believe,” he argues. “You care about what people think of you. Too much, even. You try to be a hero in the groupchat letting everyone know where I am. You want to be a great colleague, try so hard to be, but you're moving mountains for nothing. It’s painful to watch.”

“Are you quite done?” is what he says, trying to seem unaffected, but it strikes a nerve.

“You know, this isn’t the first time someone’s called me your meal ticket,” Jeonghan continues, digging his way under Joshua’s skin.

“Your yapping is giving me a headache. I’m leaving.”

But what Jeonghan says next has him rooted to the floor. “There’s been countless rumors about it at the office.” Joshua immediately narrows his eyes, listening more closely now. “Twitchy from IT was told multiple times she’d stand no chance because you spend all your time under my desk.”

Joshua feels as if someone has reached into his chest and snatched his lungs out by hand.

No. That can't be true.

He spent a year as their equal. He used to go out with them, share stories about their lives over drinks and grilled meat. He complained and griped about Jeonghan just as much as his colleagues did back then. Joshua was just like them.

He likes them. They like him.

There is no way they think he’s been doing sexual acts to get and then keep the assistant job. It doesn’t make sense.

“There’s even a groupchat without you. Identical to the one you’re in. Significantly more active too.”

“You’re lying.”

“Tell me. What motivation do I have to lie?”

“Oh, maybe that you thrive off of ruining people’s day?”

Jeonghan lets out a long-suffering sigh. “Do you recall this one new girl, the one you trained for a few days. Dana or something? Don’t remember.”

Joshua does. He’d been working there for only three months at that time, yet for unbeknownst reasons, Jeonghan asked him to train her.

He quickly realized that she seemed a little too eager to be around him, but figured that it was because he was the only one she knew.

“She kept coming into my office asking me to change her cubicle. She wanted the one right next to you, which was already someone else’s at the time. She was even begging at one point,” Jeonghan says. “Snot bubbles came out of her nose once she was crying so hard.”

“You didn’t need to fire her over that.”

“I didn’t. At one company dinner, she had too much to drink and started showing off the pictures she’d taken of you. Like, saesang type sh*t. She was gonna put them on some blog.” Joshua’s eyebrows knit together. “ That’s why she was fired. Creepy motherf*cker.

What the…

“How— How do you even know that?” Joshua asks, confused. “You always skip company parties.”

“Believe it or not, I happened to be at that one.” Jeonghan continues, “Remember Kevin, the one who trained you?”

“Yeah, you fired him too,” he grumbles. “He was nice.”

“Sure, so nice in fact that he tried to sabotage the score of your first evaluation so he could continue getting paid extra for training you.”

He gapes. To this day he wondered why his computer was acting funny.

“I can name at least five more weirdos who were after your downfall in your first year. I have time,” Jeonghan says nonchalantly. “I’m sure your mom’s getting worried.”

Joshua lets out a disbelieving exhale. “What is the— is there a point to your spiel or does killing my spirit revitalize yours?”

“Yes, there is a point,” he snarks.


“I need you to stop wasting time giving a sh*t about what people at the office think or say about you,” he says, his voice going the tiniest bit softer with each passing word. “They’re a bunch of losers, all of them. They’re not worth your efforts.”

That renders Joshua completely speechless, fully stunned at the… what should he even call this? Advice? Positive feedback? Implied compliment?

“Now open this goddamn doo—”

“Jisoo-yah? What’s going on?” Joshua turns to find his mother rushing into the hallway. “You’ve both been gone a while. Jeonghan's coffee has gone cold.”

She seems to immediately understand the situation Jeonghan’s in just by the looks of it.

“Not that stupid door again. Your father really ought to fix that soon,” she complains. “Why haven’t you helped him yet?”

“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Jeonghan replies dramatically.

“What? Rude boy!” says his mother, relaying the trick to her fake son-in-law.

Joshua can’t even react, brain overwhelmed with the prospect of Jeonghan defending his honor at the office.

Multiple times.

The Proposal - 0610jun - SEVENTEEN (Band) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)


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