Changsub has never told anyone about this, but one time, back when he wasn't even a month into the job, he went to see Director Seo and asked for permission to resign.
Director Seo had listened to his concerns with a serious expression on his face, nodding along and making sympathetic noises in all the right places, but in the end he’d smiled and folded his hands and said: “How about this. Give it four more weeks, and if you still feel the same by then, you can come back and we’ll release you from your contract, no questions asked.”
Changsub had been sure that nothing could possibly change his mind, but Director Seo had always been nice to him, and he supposed that this was the least he could do to give the company time to look for a replacement. So he had agreed with the firm intention to resign in four weeks’ time.
But somehow, 3 years later, he’s still here.
‘Here’ being a fansign in a mid-sized auditorium. He’s worked many, many fansigns over the years, so it’s really just a routine at this point — keep an eye on his artist, move the fans along in an orderly fashion, take care of all the gifts and strange novelty headbands — and this particular fansign should have been no different.
Except now there’s a girl standing in front of him, bowing her head as she shoves a box of nutritional supplements into his hands.
“Manager-nim,” the girl is saying, very earnestly, “Stay strong.”
“Ah,” Changsub says, looking down at the box, then up at the girl, then down at the box again. There’s a small card attached to it. It says ‘Manager-nim fighting!’ in cute, flowy handwriting. “Uhm. Thank you?”
The girl nods at him, still so unbearably earnest, and then there is a very long, very uncomfortable moment of silence until Sungjae, sitting at the table next to them, picks up his microphone.
“Excuse me,” he drawls for everyone to hear, “But I’m pretty sure this is still my fansign, not hyung’s.”
There’s a smattering of laughter from the audience as the girl standing in front of Changsub startles and goes bright red, rushing over to take her seat across from Sungjae.
She's apologizing, clearly mortified, but Sungjae just does what he does best: he calms her down, makes her laugh, signs her album and leaves her utterly charmed, all in the span of 30 seconds.
She has something for Sungjae as well — a box of what looks like very expensive macarons — and Changsub finally remembers he has a job to do, hurrying to take care of the present while still awkwardly holding onto his own.
Only once the girl's time is up and she's moving away with another shy wave does Sungjae turn his microphone back on, rest his chin in his free hand, and look right at Changsub.
Changsub narrows his eyes at him.
“Ah," he sighs. "Hyung has become so popular lately.”
Among another wave of laughter from the audience, Changsub closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and curses the MBC variety show department with every fiber of his being.
The only reason Changsub had agreed to go on that stupid show in the first place was because the PR department had sent Im Hyunsik after him, which was a seriously low blow. Hyunsik doesn’t even work for PR, he’s a producer, but apparently he and everyone else in this company love to see Changsub suffer.
In any case, one does not simply say ‘no’ to Im Hyunsik, which is how Changsub had ended up with the camera crew of Omniscient Interfering View following him around all day. Granted, the focus had still been mostly on Sungjae, and it wasn't like he'd never been on camera before — he’s shown up in a fair amount of behind the scenes videos for the simple reason that bothering Changsub is Sungjae’s favourite waiting room pastime — but there’s a difference between youtube and national television.
The entire experience had been incredibly awkward, and somehow it had gotten even worse after filming was over and the episode had aired, because then there had been the part of the show that had been uploaded on Naver. Changsub had no idea what he had done to deserve this, but apparently someone at MBC just really had it out for him.
And the thing is, he’d had no intention of watching any part of the show at all, no matter what anyone had said. But that conviction had only lasted until Hyunsik cornered him in the break room and shoved his phone in Changsub's face with an expectant smile.
"Isn't that nice, hyung," he'd said, sounding like he genuinely meant it. "You've gone viral."
And just like that, looking at the view count with shaking eyes, Changsub had resigned himself to his fate and hit ‘play’.
The clip, which Changsub has since had sent to him by a truly unreasonable number of people, is mostly just a supercut of Sungjae teasing him throughout the day: the kind of behaviour that usually makes Changsub yell at him when he isn't hyper-conscious of the cameras.
It's nothing special, really. Just the everyday antics that make the rest of the staff laugh and roll their eyes at them, while Sungjae looks smug and Changsub cries about how this job is going to send him to an early grave. So. Business as usual. But for some reason, the show's editors thought it worth highlighting.
Towards the end of the video, there's Changsub in the green room, looking stiff and vaguely uncomfortable, his knee bouncing up and down even though he'd been so sure he'd managed to keep that particular nervous habit in check.
“Is there anything you want to say to him?” comes the question from behind the camera.
Changsub stills. And sighs.
“Sungjae-yah," he says, sounding incredibly tired. "Let’s calm down a bit.”
The scene, of course, cuts to the hosts and panellists’ reactions, all of them laughing and telling Sungjae-ssi to go easy on his poor manager.
And then there's Sungjae, smiling his prettiest made-for-TV smile and saying, “It’s fine. That hyung loves me.”
In the car on their way back from the fansign, Sungjae spends 10 minutes staring intently at his phone before he tells him, "I'm doing a live."
Changsub just nods, turning off the music and keeping his focus on the road.
It's far from the first time Sungjae has started a broadcast while they're driving — Seoul traffic being what it is, it's a good use of otherwise wasted time. Besides, filming for the new drama starts up again next week, and then Sungjae will be too busy for this kind of fan service.
Changsub doesn't mind. Listening to Sungjae talk makes for far more pleasant background noise than the radio, even if he'd never admit as much out loud. He does hope Sungjae won’t bring up what happened at the fansign today, but the story will be all over the Internet by tonight even if he doesn't. As if Naver's trending topics weren't bad enough already. If he has to see one more headline about 'Omniscient Interfering View Showcasing Yook Sungjae's Refreshing Relationship With His Manager', Changsub is going to quit. For real, this time.
Sungjae is in a good mood today, saying hello to his fans in Korean, Japanese, English and Chinese before stumbling his way through basic greetings in a few other languages. Out of the corner of his eye, Changsub can see the genuine smile on Sungjae’s face as he settles in to read the comments. He gives it another minute for more viewers to join and then starts the live in earnest, talking about his day and answering questions here and there.
Changsub lets his mind drift, focusing less on the content of the words and more on the cadence of Sungjae's voice. Monitoring is technically in his job description, but if Sungjae wants to give spoilers he’s going to do it whether Changsub pays attention or not. If anything, he might be even more likely to say things he’s not supposed to if he can get a reaction out of Changsub in the process.
This is the problem with being in charge of the CEO’s favourite, Changsub thinks: Sungjae can do no wrong and he knows it.
Traffic slows to a standstill, so Changsub leans back in the driver’s seat and looks out at the busy streets. Rush hour can be a nightmare, but he doesn’t mind all the driving, not really. It gives him space to think, and he’s already going through the rest of the week’s schedule in his mind when Sungjae’s voice yanks him back into the present.
"’Does Changsub-ssi have a girlfriend?’"
Changsub’s hand almost slips off the steering wheel. He whirls around, turning wide eyes on Sungjae, and in his shock it takes him a second to realize that Sungjae just read a fan’s comment.
Sungjae is laughing, his shoulders shaking with it, and the glint in his eyes does not bode well for Changsub at all.
“Ah, no,” he says, ignoring Changsub’s frantic hand-motions telling him to shut the fuck up. “Hyung has to take care of me, so he doesn't have time to date.”
Changsub is going to kill him. He’s going to kill Yook Sungjae, and then Director Seo will be all disappointed in him, and also he’ll go to jail or whatever, but it will have been worth it.
He’s so busy seething that he almost misses the sudden change in atmosphere, but then Sungjae stops laughing, and something about his expression as he looks at the screen makes Changsub freeze.
"'I'll date Changsub-oppa'?” Sungjae reads, and the smile on his face is still so very pleasant, but the tone of his voice sends a shiver down Changsub’s spine. “No, you can't have him. Hyung is mine."
Since the car isn’t moving anyway, Changsub gives in to the urge to close his eyes and drop his forehead to the steering wheel.
“Sungjae-yah,” he groans before he can remind himself that Sungjae’s phone is definitely going to pick up his voice. “Please stop giving people wrong ideas.”
“Wrong ideas? What do you mean, hyung?” Sungjae asks, and when Changsub opens his eyes to glare at him, Sungjae is the picture of innocence.
He only breaks when Changsub starts mouthing obscenities at him, taking extra care to shape every syllable as clearly as possible. Then Sungjae is laughing again, full of glee and entirely unrepentant, his eyes staying on Changsub for a moment longer before he finally turns back to his phone. Changsub, his face burning, keeps glaring at Sungjae's stupid perfect side profile.
“Alright, alright,” Sungjae says, scanning the comments and looking way too pleased with himself. “I'll stop teasing hyung, since all our Melodies are asking so nicely.”
At the same time, his hand finds its way to Changsub's thigh and squeezes, just once. Changsub jumps and swats him away, hoping to god that none of that was visible on camera.
When the cars in front of them start moving again, Changsub almost sighs in relief and shifts the car back into drive. He still keeps half an ear on whatever nonsense Sungjae is saying now, but at the very least he seems to have changed the topic, and traffic demands Changsub’s full attention. So it’s only once the live is over and they’re parked in the underground garage of Sungjae’s apartment complex that he lets out a long, tired exhale and turns to his right.
“Yah, Yook Sungjae,” he says, “Are you out of your goddamn mind?”
Sungjae, because he’s a little shit, tilts his head in mock-confusion. “What do you mean, hyung?”
Changsub reaches up to flick Sungjae’s forehead. Sungjae makes an indignant noise and retaliates.
Five minutes and one minor slap fight later, when Changsub leans back with a huff and adjusts his seatbelt, he’s already feeling a bit better about the entire situation. That doesn’t mean he’s going to stop complaining, though.
“I swear,” he says, smoothing down his hair with a quick look into the rearview mirror, “Are you trying to get me fired? The CEO is going to call me into his office tomorrow to yell at me and then he’ll kick me out, is that what you want?”
Sungjae just rolls his eyes. “Please, like I’d ever let that happen. Here, let me—” He bats away Changsub’s hands, because he was apparently doing an insufficient job at fixing his own hair.
Changsub gives him a flat look but stays still anyway, letting Sungjae brush long fingers through his hair and tuck individual strands into place behind his ears.
“So what, you’re going to get on your knees and beg for my job security?”
Sungjae snorts. “No. For one thing, Eunkwangie-hyung would never let the CEO fire you. And even if he did, I’d just threaten to terminate my contract.”
Changsub blinks at him. “Yook Sungjae,” he says again. “No, seriously. Are you out of your mind?”
Sungjae’s answering grin lights up his entire face, mischievous yet sweet. It’s the kind of look that made half the nation fall in love with him. It’s the kind of look that made Changsub fall in love with him, too.
“It’s like I said, right?” Sungjae says, leaning across the middle console as he cups Changsub’s cheek with his hand. “Hyung is mine.”
Any answering words get lost when he claims Changsub’s lips with his own.
It’s a fairly chaste kiss, a soft hello after a long day of work more than anything, but Changsub melts into it anyway. His eyes fall shut and his hands come up to grasp at Sungjae’s coat, searching for warmth in the early evening chill.
It’s not long before Sungjae starts to pull back slowly, as if reluctant to let go. He steals one more kiss and then another, but by the time Changsub finally blinks his eyes open, Sungjae is back in his own seat, looking as composed as ever.
“Thank you for your hard work,” he says, with only the slightest hint of irony. Then he’s grabbing his bag and opening the door to step out into the garage.
Changsub is still staring blankly after him when Sungjae stops with his hand on the door and leans back inside.
For a brief moment, Changsub thinks about his own, dark apartment; about the leftovers in his fridge; about all the laundry he promised himself he’d do today.
Sungjae, looking amused, raises one eyebrow at him.
Changsub unbuckles his seat belt, grabs the keys and gets out of the car.