Yifan was awake before he was. “Morning,” he said. He had a cup of coffee, but the steam was starting to run out. His eyes were completely blank.
“Are you alright?” Joonmyun asked as he was pouring a cup for himself. “Couldn’t sleep?”
“Yeah.” Yifan rubbed his temples. “I can’t stop thinking about last night.”
Joonmyun’s heart skipped a beat. His hand gripped the handle of his mug. “You’re not telling me—”
“Victoria could be innocent. The person we saw doesn’t match up with your description of her,” Yifan said. Joonmyun deflated in relief. “What I heard made it even more confusing.”
“I’m reporting to Jongdae today. We’ll discuss it,” Joonmyun said. Yifan nodded and leaned his forehead against their dining table. He was still asleep by the time Joonmyun left the apartment.
Jongdae was in their usual bookshop when Joonmyun arrived. He greeted the elderly shopkeeper and went around the tall shelves before settling at the corner table where Jongdae was. Jongdae nodded at him before pulling back a stack of boxes that led to a small room behind the shelves. Joonmyun followed him and covered their entrance.
“The old man let you use his stockroom?” Joonmyun asked. The furniture was a little dusty, but Jongdae did his best with the small space. He brought out his laptop and gave it to Joonmyun. “Thanks.”
“Tell me about what happened. Did you get a lot of information?” Jongdae said. He played with Joonmyun’s phone on the table while he was typing out his report. Joonmyun received a text message, and Jongdae replied to it before Joonmyun could get his phone back.
Joonmyun glared at Jongdae. “What did you say?”
“Nothing. Just ‘fuck off,’ that’s it,” Jongdae said nonchalantly. Joonmyun’s blank stare made him freeze.
“Who texted me?”
“It was just Yifan,” Jongdae said.
Joonmyun’s brows furrowed. “What did he say?”
Jongdae opened the phone and looked for his messages. “‘We need to buy cheese’? What kind of message is that?”
“It’s a code.” Joonmyun cursed under his breath and snatched back his phone. “What do I say? What do I— ah. ‘Sorry, what’s cooking?’”
“What does your code even mean?” Jongdae asked.
“‘We need to buy cheese’ means something important or strange is happening. ‘What’s cooking’ means they have our attention. We use that code to keep prying eyes like you from figuring out what we’re doing.” Jongdae shrugged him off. Joonmyun’s eyes widened when he saw Yifan’s message. He looked up at Jongdae in panic. “Victoria picked him up at the apartment. They’re driving to who knows where right now.”
Joonmyun finished his report as succinctly as possible. “I have to go. There could be people at our apartment.”
“Are you hiding any evidence or something?” Jongdae started packing up as well.
“No, it’s not that. It’s just— we sleep in two different bedrooms and there are no pictures of us on the wall. It just doesn’t look like the apartment of a happily engaged couple,” Joonmyun said. He typed something quickly on his phone. “I need to go home.”
“When did it start being home?” Jongdae said. Joonmyun paused for a second and shook his head. He shrugged off the strange feeling in his stomach.
“I don’t know,” Joonmyun said earnestly. Jongdae hugged him before helping him move the boxes aside. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Be careful out there.”
Joonmyun arrived home, but Yifan didn’t come until early in the evening. Joonmyun was tense and jumpy, and he heaved a sigh of relief as soon as he saw that Yifan was fine. “I was worried,” he admitted as he took a seat on their window chairs.
“She didn’t do anything, Joonmyun. We talked about ourselves and our business. That’s it,” Yifan said. He got a bottle of wine and two glasses for the two of them. “Too early to drink?”
“Give it to me,” Joonmyun muttered. “What else? That can’t possibly be the only things you two discussed.”
“Joonmyun,” Yifan sat across him, “I don’t think Victoria’s our perp.”
Joonmyun sipped from his glass. “No. We’ve worked too hard in building this case—”
“Most of it is speculation. It’s circumstantial. You have nothing to really prove she was involved in those incidents,” Yifan said.
“That’s our job: to find the proof,” said Joonmyun. “We just… need to get closer. This is a good thing. We need to be part of her inner circle.”
Yifan shook his head. “This is pointless. There must be other leads we can pursue.”
“Victoria is the only connection between all of those incidents. The only person they all come in contact with after the accidents. If she’s not the one causing them, there has to be a reason why people are coming to her for help.”
Joonmyun was exhausted, mentally and emotionally. He rested his head on the glass. Yifan looked around. “Did anyone go here?”
“Unless they swept the place before I got here, no one came,” Joonmyun said. He finished his glass of wine before he had to say what came next. “This separate bedroom thing isn’t working.”
“What?” Yifan raised his eyebrow.
“If someone goes here—and I’m almost sure it’s going to happen—we can’t get caught sleeping in separate rooms. We can’t—” Joonmyun was cut off by his own frustration. “We can’t afford to slip up like this. We’re a team.”
Yifan sighed. “It’s work.”
Joonmyun nodded. “Just work.”
That was Joonmyun’s mantra as he saw Yifan standing by the doorway, hesitant to take a step further. They could have conversations. They could make jokes and laugh. They fell into routines that were instinctual to them already. There were walls that were broken down, but there were some hurdles that they still couldn’t pass.
Yifan could hardly look Joonmyun in the eye. Joonmyun couldn’t imagine waking up beside him every morning as they did before when their relationship was real and Joonmyun wasn’t as stiff as a board when he felt Yifan beside him.
“Good night,” Yifan said.
“Good night,” he replied, though Joonmyun’s mind was hyperaware of his every movement. Yifan’s slightest touch burned him, and Joonmyun felt like he was on fire from the inside.
When Byun Baekhyun said he would get Joonmyun one day, he wasn’t kidding.
Joonmyun was buying dish soap in their local convenience store before heading back home. It became routine for him and Yifan to help each other out with groceries as often as they can. He was peacefully in line for the cashier when a loud yell got his attention.
“Kim Joonmyun!” Baekhyun called from behind him. Joonmyun gave him a stiff smile as Baekhyun placed his arm over Joonmyun’s shoulders. “Drop everything; you’re going out with me.”
“Uh,” Joonmyun looked down at his basket, “I’m shopping?”
Baekhyun tossed his basket aside and shrugged. He ran his fingers through his already messy hair and grinned at Joonmyun. “Come on,” he pleaded. “Let your fiancé do the work.” He grabbed Joonmyun’s hand and led him out to his car parked at a building nearby.
“Baekhyun,” Joonmyun said sternly. His hand halted at the handle.
Baekhyun leaned against his car and replied with an incredulous stare. Joonmyun rolled as his eyes as he opened the door. “Exactly where are going?” Joonmyun asked when he buckled up.
Baekhyun smiled cheekily at him before starting the car. “Just a party.”
“Oh god,” Joonmyun groaned. “I’m going to kill you one day.”
“Not tonight, buddy.”
Unsurprisingly, Baekhyun pulled up at a club. He smiled at the bouncer, and that’s all it took for him to let them in. Baekhyun dragged him to a table with several people Joonmyun could barely recognize in the darkness of the place, but he was surprised to see Victoria there with them.
“Nice seeing you here,” Joonmyun said while Baekhyun stuffed him into the booth beside Victoria. She laughed and poured him a glass of something. “Thanks.” Joonmyun took a hesitant sip, but Victoria was the one to urge him to down it in one go. It burned down his throat and gave him a gentle flush.
“How do you know Baekhyun?” Victoria asked. They glanced at him; he was probably past being tipsy as he grinded his way to the center of the crowd.
“I wish I didn’t,” Joonmyun yelled. They laughed together, and a thought crossed Joonmyun’s mind. He peeled himself off the booth and excused himself to go to the bathroom.
As soon as he had some peace and quiet, Joonmyun pulled out his phone to call Yifan. “Hello?”
“Joonmyun! Where the hell are you? You said you would be home half an hour ago.”
His world spun at the volume of Yifan’s voice. Damn those drinks are strong. “Sorry. Baekhyun dragged me into a club.” Joonmyun started kicking down the cubicle doors to make sure no one was listening. “I’m with Victoria right now. I can’t talk much throughout the night but I’ll try to come home as soon as I can.”
“Okay. Take care.” Yifan hung up.
Joonmyun splashed his face with water. “Don’t get drunk, don’t get drunk, don’t get drunk—”
He stopped repeating this to himself until someone went inside the bathroom. Joonmyun grimaced when he saw the girl giggling behind him, and he was glad they went into a cubicle before Joonmyun saw anything.
Joonmyun went back to the table. Apparently Baekhyun had ordered another set of drinks for the group of six. Now that the music had changed and the lights were a little brighter, Joonmyun could recognize Baekhyun; Victoria; Park Chanyeol, a musician that Baekhyun knew somehow; and two girls that Joonmyun didn’t know, though they looked like they were very familiar with each other as they stared each other down with hands inside each other’s coats.
Honestly, Joonmyun could barely remember the actual events of the night. He remembered Baekhyun drinking, Baekhyun making him drink even though he would just toss it to the side when no one was looking, one of the girls stealing the show by collapsing on the dance floor, and around three guys and girls separately trying to hit on Joonmyun throughout the night.
But there was a moment that was vivid to him. It was probably past midnight, and the party was getting wilder and wilder. Chanyeol put down his empty shot glass and cheered for himself. “Victoria!” he yelled. “I dare you to buy drinks for the entire club!”
She stood up, pulled out her credit card, and yelled, “All your drinks for the next hour are on me!”
The crowd cheered, as expected, but Joonmyun could only focus on Victoria and her smug expression as everyone yelled their gratitude to her. “You realize you’re going to go broke after tonight, right?” Chanyeol said, laughing.
“Me?” Victoria asked incredulously. “I’m never going to be broke, ever,” she slurred. She clutched Joonmyun’s arm and laughed hysterically. “Can you believe this guy? Look at me. Everyone wants to be me. Everyone wants a piece of me and my money.” She shrugged. “Can’t blame them. I mean…” Her voice dropped just for Joonmyun to hear. “I make people shit their pants with the sound of my voice. And then they’re all up my ass next time I see them.”
Victoria was giggling endlessly for the rest of the night. Joonmyun couldn’t handle the alcohol and the atmosphere after a while and bid Baekhyun goodbye. Baekhyun wouldn’t let him go without a drunken kiss on the cheek.
It was two in the morning when he stumbled into a cab and fell asleep on the way home. When he managed to make it to his apartment, he was surprised to see Yifan pacing by the window. Joonmyun caught the relief on Yifan’s face as he stepped into the light.
“Hey. You didn’t tell me where you were exactly; I got worried,” Yifan said. He got a glass of water for Joonmyun. “Drink. You’re going to regret this tomorrow.”
Joonmyun waved him away. “I’m not drunk.”
“That’s something a drunk person says,” Yifan teased. Joonmyun sat on their couch and eagerly drank the entire glass in a go. “Whoa, slow down.”
“You won’t believe me,” Joonmyun hiccupped, “but Victoria knows what she’s doing. She knows she’s powerful and people are terrified of her. And she loves it, Yifan. That’s not— it’s not the face of an innocent person.”
Yifan refilled his glass. “You should rest—”
“No, no, no. I might forget it if I don’t say it now.” Joonmyun sat up and held Yifan’s forearm. “She talked about Sooyoung like they were great friends. But as she got drunker and drunker, she kept on talking about all the people that have begged her to let them be part of her legacy. They would throw themselves and their money at her just to have Song Incorporated tacked onto their name.
“She wouldn’t say anything more, but Yifan, if you saw her face, you would know it as well. The power gives her life. She lives off their fear of her.”
Yifan nodded and took the glass from him. “Come on. Let’s go to bed.”
“Please believe me,” Joonmyun said. “I need us to be on the same page. We’re…” Joonmyun sighed. “We’re a team.”
Yifan helped him dress himself and closed the blinds tightly. “I believe you, Joonmyun.”
Joonmyun settled into bed and waited for Yifan to lie down beside him. Yifan waited for him doze off first, and Joonmyun smiled at his tired eyes before he began to rest his.
The clubbing incident was only the beginning of Joonmyun and Yifan’s growing relationship with Victoria. Soon enough, they would go out weekly and talk about movie stars and gossip about CEOs and their filthy affairs. She would invite them to some of her events, and they would graciously accept just to observe her interact with others.
They spent most of these afternoons and evenings observing the other guests as well. There would be some that were hesitant to approach Victoria, but in another event, they would act like they had been friends for ages. Sooyoung was one of those people; she often stood behind Victoria and made speeches explaining their partnership with Song Incorporated.
“What’s your opinion on the Kwon family?” Victoria asked one day. Yifan and Joonmyun were taken by surprise. “I’ve been in talks with them but I don’t know if they’re willing to be our gateway in expanding our resources in Japan.”
Yifan looked at Joonmyun before saying anything. “Well, they had been to each of your events in the past two weeks with at least three representatives. I’d say they’re seriously considering it.”
“But I always notice one person that’s constantly there. Kwon Jiyong, a high-ranking member of their board. The heir?” Joonmyun asked.
“Yes, he’s the one I’ve been negotiating with the most,” said Victoria.
“He’s not impressed,” Joonmyun said flatly. “He would look at your presentations and your graphs on how your company grew, and I don’t think he sees the potential in expanding your business to a country where his products are doing very well.”
Victoria paused to think. “So he won’t partner with us because we’re competition?”
Yifan nodded. “Seems like it.”
Victoria seemed pensive. When she finally smiled, she looked up at the two of them and thanked them. “Thank you for your opinion. You’re good advisers, good friends.” She whispered something to her assistant. “How about tomorrow I take you to a tour around my headquarters?”
“Well,” Yifan bit his lip, “I’d love to go, but I have to contact the mechanic for our car. Joonmyun can go.” Joonmyun nodded.
“That’s great! I’ll see you tomorrow,” Victoria said. She was still beaming at them all throughout lunch. It unsettled Joonmyun. She frequently whispered to her assistant, and each time, the small woman would use her phone to make a call in private. Joonmyun didn’t want to think of the repercussions to giving advice about people Victoria could potentially—
Joonmyun was stricken with fear when the assistant came back and nodded at Victoria once. Her boss went back to peacefully eating lunch, and Joonmyun knew something terrible was about to take place.
That night, Kwon Jiyong was sent to the hospital when a toxic substance made its way to his food from a restaurant. Though no other customers were harmed, they found the substance leaking from a cupboard above the stoves. It was a specialized dish that was only served to Jiyong.
Joonmyun threw up after reading it online. Yifan couldn’t believe his eyes and he recalled the innocuous conversation they had earlier.
“Do you believe me now?” Joonmyun asked while they were in bed, late at night being unable to sleep.
“I do. I believe you.” Yifan stared at the news article on his phone. “I can’t believe— I defended her, Joonmyun. I almost thought she was incapable of hurting anyone.”
Yifan stood up and started pacing. “I can’t sleep like this.” He went to his drawer and pulled out a small flash drive. He took his laptop and started configuring something on it.
“What are you doing?” Joonmyun asked sleepily. “Is that—”
“A bug.” Yifan unplugged it from his laptop and gave it to Joonmyun. “When you’re in her office, stick this behind the CPU. It doesn’t even have to be her computer; as long as it’s connected to their servers. I can figure out a way to her personal files from there.”
Joonmyun nodded and put the drive in his wallet. “How long will you be able to access her files?”
“Probably half an hour or less; it all depends on their security. The virus I put there stays silent until I activate it with a transmitted code. After that, most of their firewalls will be shut down, and I’ll be able to hack into their system in a short period of time. I’ll do it when we’re both here; you can’t miss this.”
Joonmyun was sweating as soon as he made it to the Song Incorporated headquarters. The receptionist saw him, smiled, and let him in instantly without the slightest hold-up. Victoria was in the pantry with their marketing team, having a light conversation with her employees. She smiled as soon as she saw Joonmyun through the glass walls.
“Everyone, welcome Kim Joonmyun, a good friend of mine,” she said to her team. Joonmyun bowed and stood by the entrance uncomfortably. Victoria walked to him. “Let’s take a tour.”
She walked him around the different floors holding different departments. Her advertising department was busy as ever, and there were several different areas for teams that were all competing to give a winning pitch for their new line of phones.
“It’s been hectic since the annual shareholders’ meeting is in less than a month. We need to make a good impression.” Victoria sighed.
“It’s all about trust,” Joonmyun said. “As long as your investors know that their money is being put to good use, they’ll stay.”
“They better,” Victoria joked. They finally reached her office. Joonmyun marveled at the huge space she had to herself. “Impressed?”
“A little jealous. I work from my dining room,” Joonmyun said. They laughed and talked a bit more, but they were disrupted by one of Victoria’s assistants calling her out of the room.
“Go look through my bookshelf and antiques if you’d like anything,” Victoria said as she excused herself out of the room.
Joonmyun went around, though he wasn’t browsing casually. He was searching for cameras anywhere. He pulled out his phone and texted Yifan, “Eyes on me?”
“All clear,” Yifan replied. Sehun sent them his special computer that he would use when they needed to hack into any surveillance cameras. Usually Minseok would hate having to do it, but he understood the necessity sometimes. Most of the time, he liked to stick to the rules, and it’s for good reason. His boss wasn’t exactly pleased to know that they had to hack into surveillance cameras to assist in an operation. It’s a good thing he turned a blind eye and let them all go with a stern warning, one that they continued to disobey.
Joonmyun put on gloves, went to Victoria’s computer, and observed the machinery. It was a good thing that her CPU was hidden beneath her huge desk and it wouldn’t be obvious if Joonmyun inserted the flash drive. He looked up at the door briefly before plugging it and checking if anything alarming activated.
“All clear,” he texted to Yifan. Joonmyun went back to the bookshelves and found a book he had been looking for in his used bookstores for months.
Months… huh. It had been almost half a year since the deep cover operation began. He and Yifan had grown considerably comfortable, and they made more progress than they thought they would in this span of time.
Joonmyun snapped back to himself when the door opened and he still had a hand on the old book. He placed it back on the shelf at smiled at Victoria’s apologetic bows. “I’m sorry I took so much time,” she said. “I just had to iron some details out with the shareholders’ meeting.”
“It’s alright. I love your collection,” Joonmyun said.
“Thank you.” Victoria started walking around, though her shoulders were abnormally tense.
“Is something wrong?”
“Oh.” She shook it off. “Sorry. Everything’s been getting to me. The shareholders’ meeting, the Kwon family—”
“What’s with the Kwon family?” Joonmyun swallowed. He almost didn’t want to hear her answer.
“They suddenly decided to partner with us in expanding more in Japan. It’s great news, but the tragedy with their son is still so fresh,” Victoria said. Joonmyun noted that her words were gracious but her tone held no remorse.
“I thought they weren’t interested,” Joonmyun said cautiously.
She shrugged. “I guess they realized it was the best thing to do. I can’t explain how other people think.” Victoria’s mood suddenly turned around. “You know I really appreciate your presence recently. Will you be able to make it to our conference in a few weeks? I’ll reserve seats for you and Yifan.”
Joonmyun smiled and nodded. “Of course, Victoria. It’s a big day for you.”
“Two years since I’ve been declared the CEO.” She sighed. “It is a very big day.”
Joonmyun awkwardly walked towards the door. “It was really great to be here. Your space is phenomenal. But sadly, I need to go.”
“Of course. Thank you for coming. Someone will guide you out,” Victoria said. She gave him a tight hug before calling a guard to lead him. “Goodbye!”
Joonmyun rushed back home, anticipating whatever they would find in Victoria’s files. Again, she unsettled him with her remarks about Jiyong. It was as if she was unhappy that they agreed to partner with her. It could be due to the fact that it happened too close to the accident to their son. It would be too suspicious, though it wasn’t as if Victoria was a paragon of innocence at this point. Joonmyun still felt like throwing up.
Yifan was waiting on their dining table when he got home. Joonmyun took off his coat and pulled up a seat. “Let’s go.”
“Are you sure no one saw you?” asked Yifan.
“You said there were no cameras on me. I fried any listening devices and used gloves on the flash drive. I’m clear,” Joonmyun said. “Hit it.”
Yifan started running his code. Joonmyun was tapping his feet in impatience as it slowly looked for chinks in the servers’ armor. Yifan altered something with his algorithm and cheered when he got access to the files and folders in Victoria’s computer. “We’re in. We’re in, Joonmyun!”
“Alright, go through her correspondence and transaction records,” Joonmyun said. His eyes looked for irregularities in her spending. Yifan stopped scrolling when he saw something unusual. “What is it?”
“Death threats.” He opened a thread and saw the exchange of threats between both addresses. “A lot of them came from people she’s partnered with now. Kwon Jiyong is here,” Yifan said. “‘Your dirty tactics don’t scare us. If you think you can outplay us, you’re mistaken. Leave us alone and watch your back.’ That’s terrifying.”
“You said a lot of these came from the people she’s affiliated with now. The ones specifically targeted are linked somehow to these anonymous emails. She identified and labelled each one herself because she knows who’s trying to take her life,” Joonmyun noted.
“So has she been trying to kill people to seal deals or to protect herself?” Yifan looked up at Joonmyun. “I think I saw something about payment in one of these a while ago…”
Before they could look at any more messages, their connection was suddenly cut off. “Shit!” Yifan started typing furiously, but Joonmyun stopped him.
“Let it go. We’ll have another chance to get into her system,” Joonmyun said. “We’re specially invited to their meeting in a few weeks. Until then, Victoria probably can’t be bothered.”
“We’ll need to prepare for that. If this has to end, it’s going to end there,” Yifan said.
“Exactly.” Joonmyun nodded at him. “Let’s end this.”
It had been a while since Joonmyun had a sit down with Jongdae or any member of the force, really. He was surprised to see Minseok with Jongdae in their small meeting place behind the bookshelves. “Captain!” he said. “I’m glad to see you.”
“You look well-rested,” Minseok teased. “Did you gain weight?”
“I’m not too busy with chasing people down, so I’ve gotten a little soft at the stomach,” Joonmyun said, and Minseok laughed at him. “So why’d you come with Jongdae today?”
“We heard there was a big development recently,” said Jongdae. “Tell us about it.”
“Where’d you hear that? I haven’t contacted you since last week,” Joonmyun said.
“We’re in contact with Yifan as well, using old communication channels that Sehun opened up for us,” Minseok explained. “Come on. Jongdae, start typing.”
“The things we know now don’t add up to what we knew before. Back then, we were wondering why the families of the victims would approach Song to ask for help. That meant most of them didn’t know she was the one that ordered those attacks. Now we have evidence that those victims were the ones sending her threats. The attacks on them could either be the manipulation that we expected from her or just self-defense in anticipation of their threats.”
“But wait. Why would they want to attack Song in the first place?” Minseok asked, leaning forward to focus.
“Some companies, like the Kwons’, see her as competition. That’s understandable. The other smaller companies that don’t directly butt heads with her target market don’t apply to that.” Joonmyun paused. “If I remember correctly, the Choi family didn’t send her any threats.”
“They don’t directly manufacture mobile devices, so that must be a case of manipulation,” Jongdae said. “What about the Kwon family again?”
“It’s my fault. I’m the one who told her that Jiyong wasn’t impressed and that was probably the major reason why they wouldn’t sign with Song Inc. That was what led to the attack,” said Joonmyun.
“But there was still a death threat from Jiyong to Victoria which is something to take into account,” Minseok added. “This doesn’t sit right with me.”
“Agreed,” Jongdae said. “This report is looking messier and messier every time we add something to it.”
“Good thing the paperwork isn’t my responsibility,” Joonmyun muttered, and Jongdae threw an old magazine at him. “Hey, I still got the short end of the stick; I’m living with Yifan!”
Minseok chuckled. “How are you, by the way? Have you found anything we can use against him?”
Joonmyun shook his head. “I haven’t been looking. This case took over both our lives.”
“But he took over yours,” Minseok said. “Don’t forget that.”
“I never do.” Joonmyun smiled and took his leave.
Joonmyun wasn’t fazed by Minseok’s concern. He was more concerned with his response to it. When did he stop seeing Yifan as the enemy? When was the last time they froze at the sight of each other? When did he start making two cups of coffee in the morning by instinct? He smiled more and laughed more in the past five months than in the two years he spent searching for Yifan.
“I’m home,” Joonmyun called out to an empty apartment. “Huh. He didn’t say he was going somewhere.”
Joonmyun texted him as he started cooking dinner for one. He also didn’t know when eating together became relaxing, when falling into the patterns of regular, unbroken people didn’t feel forced at all. Yifan replied, said he was out with friends, and he was going to come home late. Joonmyun let it go.
“At least he gets to go out,” Joonmyun muttered. Being seen with his actual friends could cause his cover to be broken. Most of his friends were cops or lawyers or random people that knew he would never settle down just to watch his money grow. Joonmyun was a fighter; most of them appreciated that about him.
Especially Kyungsoo, Joonmyun thought to himself. Kyungsoo was strong but quiet, and Joonmyun was strong and brave enough to let it be known. When he crumbled, the first persons he called were Jongdae and Kyungsoo. It almost made him want to break his cover just to see Kyungsoo for a while.
The waiting was worse than the actual conversation. “Hello?” Kyungsoo answered.
“Hey. It’s Joonmyun,” he said.
“Oh thank god. I thought you were dead! Jongdae was joking about it.” He laughed. “It’s been months. Can we talk?”
“How about you come over? I’m making food,” Joonmyun said.
Kyungsoo paused. “How about you stop making food and I’ll go there to make sure you don’t poison us?”
“Hey! My food is edible!” Joonmyun laughed. “I’ll text you my address.”
“I’ll see you.” Kyungsoo hung up first. He arrived in half an hour, pissed off at his clients and absolutely starving. He hung his coat and collapsed on the couch before Joonmyun could even get a word out.
“Uh, hi? Nice seeing you again?” Joonmyun said hesitantly. Kyungsoo was one of his closest friends, yes, but it had been a while since they even said a single word to each other. He groaned, a throw pillow muffling his voice, and stood up.
“Get the wine. I’ll start cooking,” Kyungsoo ordered. He looked through Joonmyun’s cupboards and paused when he saw something strange. “I thought you hated microwave popcorn?”
Joonmyun popped open a bottle and poured it into two glasses for them. “It’s not mine. It’s—”
“Oh,” Kyungsoo sighed in realization, “so that’s what happened to you for the past few months.” He swept their apartment. “Two bedrooms. You sleep apart?”
“Together,” Joonmyun said, though he didn’t know why he was so ashamed of it when he was in front of Kyungsoo. “We used to, but we were worried that if someone broke in, they would figure out that we aren’t really a happy engaged couple.”
Kyungsoo started boiling water before he looked around further. He picked up a picture frame. “I thought you said you didn’t have any pictures of him.”
“I didn’t. That was his picture,” Joonmyun said quietly. He took a sip of wine and walked up to Kyungsoo. “He said that was the night he proposed. You can, uh, you can see how red my eyes were.”
“And this one?” Kyungsoo picked up a frame with the two of them on the beach with the sun rising behind them. It was winter, but Joonmyun was in his thermal coat while Yifan was soaked to the bone.
Joonmyun laughed. “We asked a random tourist to take that one for us. Remember that time I went on vacation all of a sudden? I didn’t know he was taking me to the sea. We both got up early, and I dared him to go into the sea for me.”
“And he really did it?” Kyungsoo asked in disbelief. “What an idiot.”
“I know,” Joonmyun said, and he couldn’t put down the frame. “I hear the water boiling,” Joonmyun said to Kyungsoo, though his eyes were still on the picture in his hands.
“Isn’t it weird?” Kyungsoo said while cooking pasta shells. “You’re with him again. He’s in your personal space everyday. It’s almost like you’re back together.”
“Except we’re not. And we never will be.” Joonmyun was sure of that. He was sure of himself; there was no way he would crawl back to Yifan now. Perhaps the only thing he could say is that he’s forgiven Yifan. He can go through their memories with nostalgia, not regret. He didn’t regret his decisions anymore. He didn’t regret what he went through, but he wondered who he would be now if what they had was real.
Joonmyun shook off his thoughts and went to Kyungsoo in the kitchen. “What about you? What have you been up to?”
“Just winning cases, getting rich. Nothing out of the usual.” Kyungsoo grinned. “Really. I think your six months have been more exciting than mine.”
“Really? What happened to that date you were supposed to go to when I called you?” Kyungsoo bit his lip and looked away. Bingo.
“That wasn’t a date—” Joonmyun cocked his eyebrow. “It wasn’t. When we tried again, that was a date.”
“You never said you were back in the market. If you did, I would have given it a try,” Joonmyun teased as Kyungsoo blushed and sprayed water on him. Joonmyun expertly dodged every droplet. “Did it work out?”
Kyungsoo shook his head. “He said he was too busy for me. It wasn’t as if I had any time for him. We disagreed a lot too, but that was just how we were. I’m a lawyer; he’s a—“ He hesitated. “Well, we wouldn’t get along if we ever met in court.” Kyungsoo smirked. “Then again, you were engaged to a con man.”
Joonmyun ignored his last comment. “How long ago was this?” he asked. Kyungsoo looked up and started counting in his mind.
“A month ago.” He laughed at Joonmyun’s surprise. “It’s alright. It wasn’t going to be good for us anyway.”
Joonmyun helped Kyungsoo peel the vegetables to find something to occupy his hands. While Kyungsoo was busy with the pasta, he took the opportunity to ask one last question. “Who was it?”
Kyungsoo stiffened. “Can’t say. We agreed to pretend like it never happened.”
“Huh. Alright, I get that,” Joonmyun said. They spent most of their time quietly preparing. Kyungsoo made no mention of Yifan and their strange situation, and Joonmyun didn’t poke and prod at the mystery man in Kyungsoo’s life.
“I’m starving,” Kyungsoo said as he laid out their only meal for the night. “It’ll do.”
Joonmyun and Kyungsoo shared stories, laughed, ate, and drank for hours. Kyungsoo was in the middle of another stupid client’s case when Joonmyun’s mind completely blanked out. “You okay?” Kyungsoo asked.
Joonmyun shrugged it off. “I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s just… it’s been a while since I had a normal conversation with someone not related to the case. Hell, you are the only person I’ve talked to without an ulterior motive.”
“Does it get lonely?” Kyungsoo asked. He poured Joonmyun another glass of wine, but Joonmyun refused. His sudden pensiveness was a clear sign that he had enough for the night.
“It does, but not in the way that I expected it to be. All of you: Jongdae, Minseok, and Sehun. You’re my support. You’ve all been my friends when I needed it the most. Now the only person I can talk to is Yifan, and I can’t even do that freely,” Joonmyun said.
“Are you scared of him?”
Joonmyun narrowed his eyes at the question. “That’s ridiculous; why would I be scared of him?”
Kyungsoo didn’t know either. “He won’t hurt you physically, sure, but he’s hurt you emotionally. You’re afraid to trust him, aren’t you?”
Joonmyun stared at his half-filled glass. “I think I can.” Kyungsoo’s eyes widened. “I think he’s a changed person, Kyungsoo. So are you. So am I; we’ve all changed. I’m tired of being angry all the time.”
“I know,” Kyungsoo said. “I’m sorry for encouraging that instead of letting you heal. But what are you going to do with him after the investigation? If you’re dropping everything on his case now, what can you use against him?”
Joonmyun buried his head in his hands. “I don’t know. I genuinely do not know.”
“But you’re turning him in, right?” Kyungsoo’s brows furrowed. “It’s one thing to forgive and to heal, but it’s another thing to let a criminal go unpunished.”
Joonmyun sighed and leaned his head on the dining table. “I don’t want to make that decision.”
“Because I know myself and I know what I’m going to say,” he whispered. “You’re not going to be proud of me.”
“Oh Joonmyun,” Kyungsoo lamented, “what am I going to do with you?” He placed a hand on Joonmyun’s shoulder. “You’re not in love with him again, are you?”
“No!” Joonmyun shot up. “That’s not the case. It’s just— you meet someone. You get to know them. You live with them and you love them, and then everything falls apart. You meet them again, and every movement and every word feels like rubbing salt into a wound.
“Then you’re given this— false fresh start, and you hold onto every ember of anger you have just to keep you from viewing the past with rose-tinted glasses. You have a story to tell, a retcon for your past, but it’s up to you to continue that however you want to. You get to know them again. You live with them again. You start seeing them separately from the person you loved before because times have changed, people have evolved, and… you’re just trying to live again.
“I don’t love him, Kyungsoo. But I’ve talked to him and stayed with him long enough for me to know that he’s just trying to live too. We’re on the same boat.”
Kyungsoo shook his head in exasperation. “Wow. Yifan really brings out the best and the worst in you.” He placed his hand back on Joonmyun’s shoulder, tentatively this time. “You are so strong and so forgiving. Others would have shot him by now, and here you are, talking about letting him go. But he’s manipulating you, and you don’t see it. He’s racking up sympathy because he knows that his fate is in your hands.”
“He thinks we’re really letting him go—”
“Joonmyun, every idiot who’s made a deal with the authorities knows that there’s a loophole to be exploited. He doesn’t trust you fully, and that’s why he’s showing his best side. He could be scamming you again, and you wouldn’t even know until he’s done with you. We won’t always be there to help you pick up your pieces when he does.”
Joonmyun sighed. “We’re not fighting about this again.”
“We’re not fighting,” Kyungsoo said. He cleaned up the table and put their glasses in the sink. “I’m just warning you.”
Joonmyun stood up and walked him to the front door. He handed Kyungsoo his coat on his way out. “I missed you,” Joonmyun said right before Kyungsoo walked past the door. He smiled, squeezed Joonmyun’s forearm, and walked away.
Just like that, Joonmyun was alone again. He washed the dishes and cleaned up the house, but there was something wrong stirring in his stomach. He sat by the window and thought about his past few months with Yifan. Was he being played again? Was he so gullible that Yifan knew all he had to do was break down his defenses and everything would take care of itself?
It sickened him. He was tired of doubting everything and everyone around him; he had enough of that in his actual case. If he treated Yifan like another case, when could he ever catch a break?
Joonmyun dozed off there, but he was shaken awake by Yifan at some time in the night. “You shouldn’t have waited up for me,” he said, but Joonmyun shook him away.
“It’s fine.” He yawned. “Who were you out with?”
“Just some old friends from university,” Yifan said. He helped Joonmyun up and they walked to the bedroom. “Go to sleep. I’ll wash up first.”
“Alright,” Joonmyun said before dropping face first on their bed. He heard Yifan close the bathroom door before he fell asleep again.
Joonmyun’s position hurt his neck after a while, so he sat up and started stretching to warm his body up. Yifan was still in the bathroom, and it was already past two in the morning. Joonmyun was about to knock on the door until he heard Yifan’s frantic voice through the door.
“... have to understand. It’ll take some time.” He paused. “No, I’m not done here. Lu Han, listen to me.”
Joonmyun’s breath hitched when he heard the name. On the record, Yifan claimed to have no contact with Lu Han. He… lied. Again.
“I just need to finish things up, I promise. In less than a month, yes. Lu Han— Is this Yixing? Can you please tell your damn friend that I’m doing the best I can right now? I can’t exactly operate with a cop breathing down my neck. That’s not— very funny, Yixing. Look, just tell Lu Han that I’ll be there soon. Yeah. Goodbye.”
Joonmyun turned red with fury. All this time, all this time Yifan did know where Lu Han was. He did have contact with him. For the past few months, Yifan was living his false life. He acted like he turned back on his ways, like he was a changed person. Except he wasn’t. He lied. Again.
He crawled back into bed by the time Yifan finished in the bathroom. He lied on his back with his head tilted away from Yifan’s usual position. “Good night,” Yifan whispered as he settled underneath the blankets.
Joonmyun felt his heart beat faster and his pulse race as he thought of his conversation with Kyungsoo. He defended Yifan, like the idiot that he was. He told Kyungsoo that Yifan was just trying to live his life the way everyone wanted to live theirs. He told himself that it was time for healing and forgiveness. And he was an idiot for it.
Yifan was snoring. He must have been exhausted that day; the lies started to catch up to him. But he moved his hand to the side and found Joonmyun’s. Instinctively, Joonmyun linked their fingers together as they always did before.
It pained him because he wanted this to work. He wanted to believe in Yifan so badly.
Kyungsoo was right. His friends wouldn’t always be there to help him pick his pieces back up, so he let himself crumble. He let years of betrayal and anger leave scathing marks on his face that he wiped off but could still feel. He let Yifan’s fingers be the only source of warmth that countered the cold seeping into his heart. He let himself break, fully and completely, until he knew that there was nothing worse than the sting of Yifan’s soft touch.
Joonmyun distanced himself because he thought it was the best thing to do. As much as he wanted to stick by Yifan and prevent him from continuing whatever business he had with Lu Han, he was exhausted. He went to his usual haunts and tried to ignore his need to confront Yifan about whatever he heard.
It occurred to him that it could have been a dream, something twisted and terrifying, but he knew it was too vivid to pretend. He wished it were. He wished he could dismiss it as nothing but a manifestation of Kyungsoo’s warnings. That was an escapist’s wish. He was tired of running.
But that was what Joonmyun was doing. If he woke up before Yifan, he would be out of the apartment before Yifan even rose. If Yifan woke up first, he’d rush his way through breakfast and find an excuse to leave. If they both made it in time for dinner, Joonmyun would decline and go straight to sleep.
Yifan caught him once on the night before the shareholders’ meeting. Joonmyun felt his heart crumble when he saw the frustration on Yifan’s face because it was real. Yifan was frustrated and terrified of Joonmyun avoiding him and abandoning him. Yifan was worried, not for himself, but for Joonmyun because something was wrong and he knew it.
He didn’t know it was his fault.
“Joonmyun, talk to me,” Yifan said, though his voice made it less of a command and more of a plea. “Something is wrong, and we are too close to a breakthrough for something to happen now.”
“It’s nothing,” Joonmyun said. “Let me go to bed.”
“You’ve been avoiding me.” Joonmyun stopped. “We live under the same roof; I’m pretty sure I can sense if someone is deliberately trying to create distance between me and them.”
“I’m not avoiding you, Yifan. We’ve always been like this—”
“No, we haven’t,” Yifan said. He faced Joonmyun, and they both leaned on the window as they stared each other down. “We’ve come a long way from those two people that moved into this house half a year ago. I can look you in the eyes and tell you that I’m not afraid of what you want to say. Be honest with me. We both deserve that.”
Joonmyun shook his head. “I just feel like something terrible is going to happen tomorrow. That’s it. It’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal. Something terrible could definitely happen to me or to you or to anyone else in that room tomorrow,” Yifan said. “But how is that related to avoiding me?”
Joonmyun looked outside the window for a while. The city beneath them was bustling as usual, but it all seemed like a blur. The only thing that was vivid in his mind was that moment with Yifan. He could only feel the heat radiating from less than a foot away. He could only smell that gentle cologne he put on everyday. He could only hear Yifan’s breathing as it sped up with Joonmyun closing that distance between them.
Joonmyun had a hand behind his neck again and he reached up to meet Yifan’s lips. Yifan pulled him closer by the hips but let him take control of the kiss itself. And every slight shift, every whispered moan, it was instinct. It was years’ worth of want and need that seeped its way in between them until they were packed too close together for them to ignore it.
Yifan kissed him like he was going to slip away at any second, and that was true. But Joonmyun lived for the thrill that Yifan’s kiss gave him. He lived for that second when they needed to take a breath, and Yifan would bury his face into Joonmyun’s neck to inhale his scent. He lived for Yifan’s hands on his face with his eyes staring into his soul right before he dove in again for another deep kiss.
It had to end, and Joonmyun knew that taking the step forward would be much easier than peeling away from each other. Yifan still cradled his face for a moment longer until he accepted that their moment was over.
“If something terrible happens tomorrow,” Joonmyun’s voice was a deep rasp, “I need to tie loose ends. Close some doors.”
“What?” Yifan said in disbelief. “So you did that as a— what? A twisted goodbye?” Yifan took Joonmyun’s hand, and he made no move to pull it away. “Tell me. That wasn’t work. That wasn’t something you could excuse or defend. That was you and me, doing something we’ve been holding back for weeks. So tell me, what do you really feel?” Joonmyun looked up at him in confusion. “For me.”
Joonmyun’s walls shot right back up. He scoffed and shook away his hand. “Don’t think so highly of yourself. I don’t love you the way I did.” And he tried to walk away.
“So are you saying you do?”
Joonmyun turned around. “What?”
“You said you don’t love me the way you did before.” Yifan took a step towards him. “But that doesn’t close off the fact that you could love me now, as who I am now.”
Joonmyun stared at him, eyes hard. He fucked up. He wanted his words to bite; instead he was the one tripping over himself. Yifan had eyes that were deep with want, deep with indignation. He knew he was right; Joonmyun wouldn’t give him that satisfaction.
“You really want to know why I kissed you?” Yifan nodded. “Fine. I did it because if something big happens tomorrow, whether one of us gets hurt or we finally crack this case, I never have to see you ever again. I wanted you to live your life always thinking about me and always wondering what would have happened if you were real during that relationship, just because of that kiss.
“But you forced my hand, and I’ll have to rip that fantasy up. If you ever think of coming back to me, asking for a fresh start, it’s never going to happen.”
Yifan stood there, wounded and motionless. “I don’t believe you,” he said. His voice was… deeper than usual. Quiet. Lost.
“I know,” Joonmyun said. His voice was weak and scared. His bluff was caught but he was still trying to hold it up. “This never happened. Tomorrow… we’re a team.”
“I know,” Yifan said. Resigned. Tired.
For the first time in months, he went to bed in the other room. Joonmyun stared at the ceiling for hours. The bed felt colder obviously, and he rolled to the side where Yifan’s body made an indentation on the mattress. If he pressed a little harder and curled up a little more, maybe he could feel those hands on his hips and those lips on his neck. Even as a phantom touch, he’d take it all.
If there was tension between them, it took maximum effort to ignore it and focus on their mission. The meeting was going to be held in the afternoon, and they both woke up early to prepare for it. It also helped to know that they both got barely a wink of sleep that night.
“What’s the actual plan?” Yifan asked as he stirred his second cup of coffee for the day.
Joonmyun laid out the blueprints for the building. Yifan raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Don’t ask how I got it. So,” Joonmyun pointed at the auditorium that spanned two floors, “the convention will be held here. Victoria said she’ll reserve seats for us, so it’s likely that we’ll be put towards the front and sides.”
“I got a seat plan.” Yifan pulled out a folder. “We’ll be placed at the side near the stairwell, so we could use that to our advantage.”
“Agreed. I’ll be the one to go to her office on the seventeenth floor. I know where it is and I know the layout and where all the cameras are. You should stay behind and see if anyone important in the room has taken notice,” Joonmyun said.
“Won’t you get caught by the cameras then?”
Joonmyun smiled. “I asked for a little help.”
“Huh, so Sehun’s going to be our eyes. Is anyone else coming?” Yifan asked.
“Just Jongdae and Minseok. Both are dressed as civilians, and I got them invitations so they’ll get in without a hitch. One of them’s going to sit by the main entrance at the back and the other will be on the second floor.” Joonmyun looked at the floor plan again. “That’s pretty solid. What do I do when I get to her office? Is there anything you remember from her emails?”
“Besides the death threats, there’s not much. I remember her transactions were strange at times.” Yifan paused. “There were times when she would pay a small amount to an anonymous recipient and then pay them a lot a while after.”
“If we double-check the dates and match it to the dates of the emails and the date of the sender’s accident—”
“We can somehow form a link between her and those incidents,” Yifan said. “That’s good. Not exactly enough, but it’s something.”
Joonmyun rolled up the blueprint and cleared the table. When he was about to walk away, Yifan placed a hand on his shoulder. It was difficult to ignore the way he flinched at his touch.
“I’m—” Yifan swallowed and looked away. “We’re going to be fine.”
“I know,” Joonmyun said as he shook Yifan’s hand off. “Make sure to bring anything you think you’ll need.”
Joonmyun went back to his room and hid the blueprints and other plans at the back of his closet. He pocketed Sehun’s listening device and hesitated on the gun hidden underneath his bed. He was hoping he didn’t have to use it.
Yifan was waiting by the doorway when Joonmyun finished packing whatever he could in his suit. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Joonmyun muttered as they walked out.
They were overwhelmed by the number of people that turned up in the building. Most were still held in the lobby and outside the building, but those with reserved seats were allowed to come in first.
Joonmyun recognized one of the ushers as Victoria’s assistant. She smiled and approached them. “I’m Sunyoung, your usher for today. Names please.”
“Kim Joonmyun and Wu Yifan,” Joonmyun replied. He looked around in the auditorium again, observing the structure and possible exit points.
The assistant shook her head. “I’m sorry, but there’s only a Wu Yifan on our seat plan.” She double-checked. “Really. I’m so sorry; there must have a mix-up somewhere.”
Joonmyun bit his lip. “Could I just get a seat with him? Surely—”
“I’m sorry, sir, but each chair was specifically labelled for these people.” She looked around at the seats. “We could seat you at the free area as close as possible to the stage, I promise.”
Yifan looked at Joonmyun and nodded. “That’ll be fine, thank you,” Joonmyun said though something felt wrong at the pit of his stomach. Victoria personally invited him; it was unusual for his name to suddenly vanish from her list.
Joonmyun sat almost ten rows behind Yifan. He was right beside the stairwell and side halls, so that was one of the few good things about his day so far. As the hall filled up, Joonmyun lost sight of Yifan. He sent him a quick text. “Are you alright there?”
“Still okay. Seated beside people I don’t know which is good.” He looked back and smiled at Joonmyun to reassure him. Joonmyun nodded and ushered him away with an uncomfortable look.
“Was I embarrassing? Are you blushing right now?” Yifan asked in text, but Joonmyun could only imagine his teasing laugh right now.
“Yes. Shut up.”
The lights dimmed when the presentation began. Joonmyun felt his hairs stand on end as the crowd hushed. Victoria stepped onstage to a long round of applause.
“Thank you, thank you everyone.” She smiled and waited for them to calm down. “If you don’t know already—and I have no idea why you’re here if you don’t—” the audience laughed, “I am Victoria Song, CEO of Song Incorporated for the past two years. In that time span, our company has grown exponentially with the help of sponsors, partners, and most especially, our investors. You are the reason why we are on top. Give yourselves a round of applause!”
She stood humbly and clapped for the audience, raising a hand when it felt enough. “Besides the financial growth of the company, we have expanded in so many ways. Our line of products has evolved from smartphones to tablets to personal computers that have advanced with the innovations of the Choi Company.” She motioned to Sooyoung who sat stiffly with a small smile seen clearly on the large screen beside the stage.
“We’ve also increased our resources in other countries such as Japan, China, the United States, and even some European countries. This shows that the world is preparing itself for the new generation of giants in the industry.” She looked at her teleprompter briefly. “Now this is only the broadest summary of all the achievements we’ve attained in the past year. My vice president will get into detail on each of those. Have a wonderful day everyone!”
Victoria bowed deeply before handing the mic to the next-in-line, Zhou Mi. He spoke to the crowd with the same charisma that Victoria had, but Joonmyun found it difficult to listen when he could only think of where Victoria went. It was strange that she cut her speech short and left so suddenly.
He felt someone looking at him to his left, but when he looked back, everyone was focused on either the stage or the screen. Joonmyun brought out his phone, set it to the lowest possible brightness, and sent a short message to the entire team in the building.
Sunyoung got his attention from the side. She asked him to come with her. Joonmyun excused himself while walking past the row of people beside him. “Where are we going?” Joonmyun asked. He looked back at Yifan and saw that he only just opened his phone. Sunyoung led him to the stairwell before he could see Yifan’s reaction.
“What is this for?” asked Joonmyun again, but Sunyoung was having none of it. She led him to a service elevator and pressed the button to the rooftop of the building. On it, in the center of a large, empty space, was Victoria.
At that exact moment, Joonmyun thought he was going to die. He walked towards her, and the closer he got, the more he wished he brought a gun. The plan was simple, too simple. Victoria turned around and gave him a blank stare. She started pacing, circling around him.
“This company was fine when my grandfather founded it. He spent all his life bringing it up from the ground, and my father, the asshole that he was, squandered every bit of effort that my grandfather put into it. He was paralyzed; it wasn’t like he could do much to stop him. When my grandfather finally passed and my father was caught in a ‘fatal accident’,” Victoria’s air quotes terrified Joonmyun, “I thought it was time for someone competent to step up.
“I did everything I could in that first year as CEO. I tried to prove to everyone that I was everything this company needed. I played by the rules, I made friends, and I did everything my grandfather did to help us rise from nothing. You know what it got me?” Joonmyun stared at her. “Absolutely nothing.”
“So what? Now you kill people to get what you want?” Joonmyun said.
She scoffed at him. “I was tired of playing nice. I am my father’s daughter, no matter how much I hate it. He taught me that being ruthless was necessary, except he never prioritized the company, only his pleasures. I started making deals and associating myself with people who would get the job done. I made bold strokes, and that certainly got the attention of people.
“One by one, they all threatened to kill me because they were threatened by me. Because I wasn’t afraid of stepping on people. Others sent me death threats just because they wanted to mess with a little girl in a big man’s world.” Victoria pulled out a gun from her bag. “They were wrong.
“Sometimes I had them killed just because they pissed me off. Most of the time, I knew that if I made a chess move and took out a bishop or a knight, they would scramble in fear of me touching the king. The first few fell right into that trap. Word spread that someone was out for company hotshots and we weren’t getting touched. Idiots thought that meant we were blessed or something.
“They thought we could protect them; this mysterious assassin wouldn’t touch anyone affiliated with the Song family. They didn’t know the assassin,” she pointed her gun at Joonmyun, “was me.”
At that exact moment, Joonmyun knew he was going to die.
“I know you’re a cop. Baekhyun told me on the night we met. I thought, ‘what would a cop want, going after me in my own party?’ You were smart to bring a con around everywhere; it really establishes trust.” She chuckled. “I let you come close; I let you play around thinking you had the upper hand. I dropped clues, here and there, just enough to keep you chasing but not enough to get me caught.”
“This is a game to you. All of it,” Joonmyun said. His heart was beating like crazy in his chest. Victoria turned off the safety in her silenced gun. Silenced. She was prepared to kill.
“It is,” and her laugh was delightfully sweet, it terrified Joonmyun. Because he was going to die. And only she had control of when she was going to pull the trigger.
“They’re going to catch you. This ends today,” said Joonmyun.
“They won’t. I have this place in the palm of my hand.” She tilted her head side to side. “Did you think I didn’t anticipate your people coming into my headquarters like idiots in costume?” Joonmyun bowed his head in shame. She’s one step ahead all the time.
She glanced at her watch. “Oh, they should be done by now.”
“Done with what?”
“Making short work of your ex-fiancé.”
Joonmyun’s stomach dropped as he ran forward. “What—”
Victoria pulled the trigger.
Joonmyun was only shot once his life before. There was a hostage situation at the mall, and everyone was armed. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it hit him right at shoulder. He was lucky nothing irreversible happened and he only needed some physical therapy to get it back to normal.
This, this was pain that he could only imagine. She shot him at his side, probably missing her mark due to his sudden movement. Joonmyun collapsed in front of her and clutched the bleeding puncture wound, gasping for air. Victoria was saying something again, probably monologuing, but Joonmyun’s hearing was unfocused and muffled.
He didn’t care. While he was out here, half-dead, Yifan could be just downstairs in a pool of his own blood. And Joonmyun couldn’t pretend that he didn’t care.
Victoria’s feet blurred in and out of his view. She was pacing at first, but she suddenly stopped. Her knees showed tension, and she took on the stance of someone aiming her gun. The vibrations on the cement rooftop grew, and Joonmyun’s non-bleeding side felt every thunderous step that the people behind him took.
He was rolled to his sight by a brash hand, and his eyes cleared enough for him to see that it was Jongdae, frantic and in tears as he screamed at the people around him.
Joonmyun fingers, sticky with drying blood, squeezed Jongdae’s arm before he passed out.