So, okay, I have no clue how switchboards or telephones really worked in the 1940s, I'm not even sure if I did the phone extension thing correctly or had enough digits in the number addresses, so bear with me since I didn’t have the time to go research that sufficiently. D: Let's just remind ourselves that this is fiction and that it's sometimes necessary to suspend your beliefs a little. Also, Kendra wanted the g-ri cold war included somewhere and I didn’t feel like working with that, but I kind of tried anyway and ended up with some Jiyong/TOP and a severe and unfortunate lack of Youngbae in the whole thing and you know what? That’s exactly what you get, Kendra, for abusing me and then trying to pass it off for love. (happy belated birthday anyway.)
And thus! Here are my 3000+ words of practically unedited mess. I rushed and that is obvious. ETA: AND OOPS, PSYCHOLOGY WAS TOTALLY NOT AS REFINED A SCIENCE IN THE LATE FORTIES AS IT IS NOW, WHERE IS MY HEAD? Ah well, enjoy the anachronisms, ladies and gents. ETA2: HA HA, I DID SOME RESEARCH AND EGO, SUPEREGO, AND ID WERE FIRST PROPOSED IN THE 1920s-1930s, SO IT IS PLAUSIBLE-ISH. And why is it that I can no longer tell an evenly paced story in 3000 words? My stories will get so long if this keeps up.
The first time Seungri listens in on the number extension 4-2121 is sort of an accident and then sort of kind of (mostly) not. He works the late shift as one of the only male switchboard operators in the area because the pay is decent and he, as a student, needs the money. On top of that, very few women want to work at one to five in the morning, so he can sometimes get off unpunished over slacking off and not being the most skilled operator ever.
It’s two fifteen when he is told by extension 4-0008 to patch through to 4-2121 and he half wonders why someone would be calling at so late because, really, there’s a reason the company can get away with one or two working operators at this hour because no one’s up (and see, at first Seungri had a problem with that, that he was sitting around messing up his sleep pattern and slowly becoming an insomniac for absolutely no reason, but then he reasoned that, hey, if they wanted to pay him an ungodly amount for doing so ungodly little, then you know, whatever).
The only reason Seungri lingers in on the line is because Youngbae recently took him to see that new feature about the invalid lady who accidentally overheard a murder plot on the phone and it really freaked him out when he realized it was a plot to murder her and that her husband was a bastard for setting that up (except Youngbae says that it was more that she was insane and paranoid and that the whole film took place inside her head but Seungri’s pretty sure that Youngbae is just looking way too deep into the movie and maybe Seungri is a dork for worrying about something like that happening in real life but no one has to know). And he doesn’t know what he’s expecting or what he’s hoping for, but he becomes fast aware of precisely why this call is happening so late: it’s a sex call between two men and why is he not doing anything about disconnecting his extension in this call?
Minutes pass by and Seungri is still listening in. Once again, he finds himself grateful for his working hours. No one else is around to see him huddle (just huddle, he doesn’t quite have the courage to relieve the growing ache between his legs because then it really feels wrong and twisted and freaking hot, so he just imagines and listens) in his chair and eavesdrops like a voyeur to the rustling and the quiet moaning and the mischievous taunt of ‘If my wife catches me, we are so dead.’
Seungri can practically hear the sex in extension 4-0008’s soft, slightly high pitched tone, wants to clench and come at the sound of that voice, and he jumps, feels like his heart is going to burst out of his chest, when 4-0008 starts murmuring ‘Hey Seunghyun…Seunghyun, you still holding out on me?’ teasingly. Because, what the hell, how does he know Seungri’s name?
It occurs to Seungri, as 4-0008 comes with a short, clipped ‘hyung—’ that the deeper voice of 4-2121 – who comes a little after with a quiet husky exhale, loud enough to be picked up and amplified over line – is Seunghyun and it all kind of makes the situation a little bit hotter with the nature of the coincidence.
Seungri recognizes 4-0008 by his voice the second time he asks to be patched through. Seungri listens in again and wonders if these two, 4-0008 and 4-2121 – Seunghyun, oh god, that’s creepy to use in this situation, when he’s Seunghyun too – have a schedule for this, if it’s a daily, weekly, monthly thing. He wonders why 4-0008 calls up 4-2121 and has phone sex with him when he, apparently, has a wife, wonders if 4-2121 is married or has a girlfriend or maybe even a boyfriend, wonders how two homosexuals found each other in a strictly heterosexual world.
Seungri could also wonder why the sound of these two – masturbating to the sound of each other’s voices and words – gets him off, why he has a sort of obsession with how 4-0008 murmurs out his orgasm, but that’s too personal, like calling 4-2121 by his name, like imagining that these two know there’s an operator sitting alone in a dark room, breaking company regulations and rubbing his thighs together because he’s too afraid to be committed to the idea of jacking off to, to fags to use his hand but too hot and bothered to not do anything at all.
4-0008’s wife knows. Seungri knows she knows, because she comes to where he works, at five thirty in the morning as he gets ready to go home and catch up on some sleep before school and morning classes in three hours, and asks him to track the lines for her.
“I – I can’t.” he tells her weakly, not mentioning that he already knows exactly what her husband does over the phone and with who and that he’s just finished listening to him do what he always does an hour ago, “I, it’s against company rules and it might be illegal, I think, and – ”
She is tall and proud and confident and imposing in her fur coat and hat. “Look, I’ll pay you to just…occasionally keep tabs on where our extension’s calling out to. That’s your job, isn’t it?”
Seungri tries to put up a fight, “Why don’t you just hire a private investigator for this? This isn’t what I’m paid for, I could get fired and I need my job – ”
She draws herself up to full height and leans forward onto Seungri, pressing a wad of cash into his hands, “Your job is to connect us to where we want to call and if you happen to misdial or find that one of the switches is faulty, you have to record it and make sure it doesn’t happen again, right? So if you just write down the numbers that are voluntarily given to you at the start of the call anyway, it’s not bad.”
Her eyes are boring into him and the money is burning a hole in his hand and Seungri figures that he can just report all the numbers he knows are okay, the ones he can get from someone else from earlier in the day (and is it bad that he’s doing all this so he can keep listening in and getting his kicks off of people he doesn’t know?), “Okay.”
Seungri notices that a smiling man is standing outside the building when he comes to and leaves from work. He seems harmless, just smiles with tiny eyes and waves when Seungri passes by, but the fact that he’s just there is freaking Seungri out. Maybe, he justifies, 4-0008’s wife took him up on that advice and hired a private investigator. But then, Seungri realizes, why is he following Seungri?
But the smiling man keeps smiling and waving and Seungri keeps listening in on 4-0008 and 4-2121 and nothing changes.
It’s a strange night. For starters, 4-2121 calls to be connected to 4-0008 instead of the usual other way around.
‘I can’t do it tonight.’ 4-0008 says and Seungri doesn’t move, blink, breathe. ‘Bitch is on to me and she’s being unbearable about it. I think she’s hired someone to have me followed.’
4-2121 laughs and it’s a nice relaxed tenor. Seungri shifts in his seat and tries to calm down. ‘Naw,’ he drawls lightly, ‘I think she’s just paid someone to watch your line.’ And Seungri is on edge again and, oh god, he’s going to get fired and go to jail and and and and –
4-0008 is completely silent but his fury is translated through the harsh static. 4-2121 laughs again (the two of them really make a pair, their voices are incredible and Seungri is distracted for a moment thinking, no wonder he can’t get enough, and no wonder they do what they do in the early hours of the morning) and there’s a faint sound of scribbling in the background. ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered, I’ll send you a telegram about it since I don’t know if she’s paid them enough to listen in or whatever. In the meantime, don’t throw a hissy fit, okay? Be a good little boy.’
Even though Seungri doesn’t know the two of them that well, he can pick up on the condescension, the playful teasing in 4-2121’s words, and doesn’t blame 4-0008 for his vicious, ‘Fuck. Off.’
4-2121 still gets the last word in before they disconnect, trilling out, ‘Gladly.’ before 4-0008 slams his receiver down.
Seungri decides that he doesn’t want to be a part of this crazy drama, doesn’t want to get between a wife and her husband and his boyfriend and private investigators and smiling men waiting for him on the corner and secret telegrams to avoid listened in on lines.
Maybe Seungri started this whole thing by hearing things he wasn’t supposed or maybe he would have eventually been dragged into it, but all he really knows is that he’s finished with it, he wipes his hands clean of this mess.
The smiling man is still smiling when he grabs Seungri by the arm and shoves him against a wall. “So I’ve seen the lady decked all out in the fur stop by here a few times to talk to you and I want to know everything you’ve told her.” Seungri stares at him as the seconds drag on and it clicks, oh, this is how 4-2121 is taking care of it, how he has ‘got it covered’.
“I haven’t – I don’t – ” Seungri stutters for a moment, before he remembers who he is and that, that he’s fine, cool, cocky, hasn’t done anything blindingly illegal and hasn’t played for anyone’s advantage. “All I’ve given her were numbers that were for making appointments with people and checking up on friends. I got those from the other operators who work earlier day shifts, because…because I didn’t. I.”
He’s not sure how to finish that off, so he shrugs in what he hopes is a cool fashion and yanks his arm away. Now that the initial shock has worn off, he realizes that he’s a bit taller than the man and he doubts that he has a gun.
Seungri’s wrong, because the man whips out a gun and twirls it flippantly between his fingers so the barrel flashes as the light catches it. “If you’re lying to me,” he says, sweetly and innocently and how is he still smiling like that? “Then I could shoot you, but that would be really messy.”
Is that supposed to be a threat or incentive, Seungri thinks and he shrinks back against the wall. “Look, don’t you think that, if I gave her numbers that were incriminating to whoever hired you, that she’d have gotten her evidence and attacked or whatever already?” he points out, logic taking over the attitude and the fear and he just wants to go home and sleep.
The smiling man taps his index finger against the gun and nods slowly in agreement, “Alright, makes sense. She doesn’t know anything from you. So why don’t you keep it that way?” and with a playful salute, he beams a bit more, tucks his gun away, and strolls down the street in the opposite direction.
Seungri is vaguely reminded of that film he saw with Youngbae.
Seungri is sitting in his chair at three seventeen, reading through his Psychology textbook because he has a review tomorrow and a test the day after that and he doesn’t understand anything about how all these tests and years of gathered data are supposed to prove how people think and act and why there have to be terms for a bunch of things that already have normal names.
No one’s called today and, even if anyone did, he’d connect them and leave it at that in lieu of recent events and of his studying. He’s learned his lesson and if listening uninvited to phone sex leads to guns in his face, then he can do without a little sexual excitement here and there, thank you very much.
Except, apparently, this whole deal with 4-0008 and 4-2121 isn’t done with him yet, because one moment Seungri is reading about the ego, id, and superego for the fiftieth time because it still doesn’t make any sense, and the next someone is whirling around his chair and gripping him by his shoulders.
Seungri is prepared to scream (though no one would hear him, more than likely) and the person holding onto him is glaring and hisses out in a very familiar voice, “So you’re the little shit who’s spying for my wife?”
Seungri actually does scream, but more because it’s really surreal to hear 4-0008 in person and talking to him, actually him and not the 4-2121 Seunghyun, and not because he’s afraid.
…On second thought, though, as 4-0008 covers his mouth with a rough hand and shushes him with a sharp look, he is a little afraid.
“I’m going to kill you.” 4-0008 says in an extremely matter of fact manner, so Seungri believes him and immediately begins to panic a little bit, “I’m going to do what Daesung and Seunghyun don’t have the balls to do and then I’m going to go home and kill my wife and I am going to go to jail and I don’t fucking care.”
Seungri takes 4-0008 by the wrists and squeezes, more to not go hysterical and start crying than to calm 4-0008 down, and he resolves to confess everything he’s ever had to do with these people and their lives right now at this very moment if it’ll save his life. “I never told your wife anything, I swear. The only thing I’ve ever done was listen in on your and Seunghyun’s – extension 4-2121, I mean because, it’s awkward to call him by his name since I don’t know him and that’s my name too, which is sort of why I liked to, um, don’t, I, anyway – I listened in on your phone calls because they were really hot. I’m serious, that’s it, everything else was done between you guys, so please don’t kill me.”
4-0008 stares at him like he’s crazy, so Seungri just stares back and tries for a cute innocent smile. 4-0008 rolls his eyes up to the ceiling and makes a loud exasperated noise in his throat, as if he can’t believe he has to deal with this, cuffs Seungri hard in the side of the head, and plops down in a seat next to him with a huff.
“God,” he mumbles out, running frustrated hands through his hair, “God, I’m so annoyed, really, you’re a little perv?”
Seungri frowns, “I – I only did it for a little while, I stopped after – after.” He thinks about it. And realizes. “…Oh. Okay. Yeah, I’m a perv.”
4-0008 snorts and cradles his chin in one hand, a look of deep thought crossing over his face, “The fuck am I gonna do now, the homicidal urge is gone. Fuck.”
Seungri looks at 4-0008 in something akin to amazement because, because because because, he’s so – so lithe and cool and pretty and –
“I also think,” Seungri confesses and his mind has not caught up with his mouth or it might be the other way around, “that I have a crush on you, is this too sudden?”
4-0008 blinks and raises an eyebrow at him and Seungri tries for that smile again because he sure wants to melt into the floor out of sheer embarrassment right now.
“…You said you’re name was Seunghyun too?” 4-0008 asks carefully, “Like…like my Seunghyun, or were you kidding or are you just delusional?”
Seungri clenches and unclenches his fingers and tries really hard not to think about all the erotic things his heard from and thought about this man sitting next him. “Yeah, well, my friends call me Seungri, so. Um. What’s – what’s up with you and your…Seunghyun anyway? You’re married.”
4-0008 busts out laughing, “Oh my fucking – we’ve known each other for like three minutes, two of which I wanted to kill you and thought you were a little freak, still do as a matter of fact, and now you’re all intrigued by my life and sexual relationships?”
Seungri thinks over that and decides that yeah, that was a stupid way to try and go with the conversation. “Sorry,” he mutters sullenly and pouting, “Your life and affairs and boyfriends aren’t really my business, right, I just was curious why you and that smiley guy were trying to kill me.”
4-0008 rolls his eyes and crosses his legs as he sinks back into his chair. “Don’t try to get me to feel sorry for you, you brought this on yourself, no one told you to get caught up in our affairs. Anyway, it’s…complicated.” He shrugs and it looks as cool and badass as Seungri’s always wanted his own shrugs to look, “So. Yeah, it’s none of your business.”
They then sit in silence for a while, 4-0008 staring off into space, thinking again and Seungri flipping through his textbook, before Seungri finally dredges up enough nerve to say what’s been on his mind ever since 4-0008 calmed down (he shouldn’t say it or even think it because it’s a bad idea, because it’s not anywhere near socially accepted on so many levels, because they barely know each other and because he keeps thinking about how 4-0008 looks when he orgasms every other second they spend together and that’s just not a healthy relationship, obviously).
“Hey.” Seungri says, and 4-0008 snaps back to attention and tilts his head back to show as much, “Hey, do you…wanna go hang out sometime? Like, get a coffee or whatever.”
4-0008 tilts his head further back and smiles a little ferociously so his canines show. “Really now, the man who has a wife and has phone sex with another man who sends out private investigators slash hit men who also happen to be our friends after cute innocent little operator boys? Is that smart?”
Seungri is already getting use to the feeling of superiority that 4-0008 thrusts upon him with barbs and sarcasm and he’s figuring out how to respond to it with his own confidence and bluntness. “No it’s totally not, but that’s okay. Now, what should I call you rather than four dash zero zero zero eight?”
He is taken aback for a second, before flashing a less feral and more genuine smile and laughing. “Oh my god, you’re really super annoying. I’m Jiyong, you little insufferable shit, and you better pick a good place for coffee or I’ll have Daesung off you in a heartbeat.”