let your whole world fall.
kris/suho — pg-15 — angst — language — 21795 words
trust is not a broken plate that can be made more beautiful by attempting to fix the cracks.
kris/suho — pg-15 — angst — language — 21795 words
trust is not a broken plate that can be made more beautiful by attempting to fix the cracks.
“They got him.”
Jongdae’s head peeked out from over his cubicle wall. Joonmyun held the pen in his hand tightly before it slipped out of his grasp and flew behind him. He looked up and swallowed the lump in his throat. “Where?”
“Interrogation room.” Jongdae turned the corner to stop Joonmyun before he ran across the hall. “Are you sure you want to be the one talking to him?”
Joonmyun’s eyes were trained on the floor beneath Jongdae. “Who else wants to do it?” When he looked up, anger and agony streaked his face before he wiped it away. “No one’s been on this case longer than I have.”
“It’s not about the case, Joonmyun,” said Jongdae. “It’s personal.”
“Who cares if it is?” He stood up in a rush. The rest of the precinct took one look at his state, glanced at the man they could see from the small window in the interrogation room’s door, and went back to their business.
Everyone had been to the spare room at the second floor. Everyone had seen the colored yarn stuck to blurry pictures of people with question marks next to their presumed names. Everyone had watched Joonmyun wake up on the couch in the pantry with his laptop on his chest. Everyone observed as their precinct’s top detective slowly crumbled in the chase for his ex-fiancé, the man who conned him into giving away almost all his life savings with a quick signature and a peck on the cheek.
“Jongdae,” Joonmyun placed a hand on his shoulder as he passed by him, “call my lawyer.”
“Already did.” Jongdae smiled at him, just a small quirk of his lips. “Good luck.”
He and Jongdae had been partners on countless cases, and Joonmyun was proud to call him one of his closest friends. They had each other’s backs; this only proved that.
Joonmyun had his hand on the doorknob for the longest time. He kept his profile hidden from view and leaned against the door. Minseok, their captain, passed by and nodded at him before entering the observation room through the other door.
Joonmyun felt a presence in front of him and looked up. “Nothing’s going to happen if you just stand there,” Kyungsoo said. He put on his coat and motioned towards the door. “As your lawyer, I strongly suggest not speaking to him.”
“As a cop, I sadly have to inform you that it’s my job,” said Joonmyun. Kyungsoo swatted his hand as he tried to turn the doorknob. “Come on. I can handle myself in there.”
Kyungsoo took a deep breath. “Let me go in first. Don’t look at him, don’t say a single word, and let me test the waters. Once we’ve established that we have the upper hand no matter what he does, you can come in with whatever police work you need. Can you do it?”
Joonmyun shrugged. “Just go.” He opened the door for Kyungsoo and waited a few seconds before he followed suit.
It took him by surprise, the exhaustion in his features. The last time they saw each other was eight months ago; Joonmyun tracked him down to a local marketplace. He was sitting in a nearby café watching the perimeter. Jongdae was undercover as a shopping civilian. Sehun had eyes into the surveillance cameras on every corner.
Joonmyun saw him first. He was the still the same, always the same, though his hair grew back to its natural color and his shoulders seemed more hunched than usual. Joonmyun would chide him about it, but he knew that it was his way of teasing Joonmyun about his height. And there were nights when he’d pull him down by the tie and...
They made eye contact, a split second of Joonmyun’s lips almost curving into a smile, and then they were in pursuit. Jongdae dropped his plums and rounded a corner to cut into his path, but he slipped into a narrow alleyway that led straight into the plaza.
“Sehun!” Joonmyun said into his earpiece. “Give us a visual!”
“On it,” Sehun said. It took him a few minutes to respond, but Jongdae was already searching for him in the center of the square. Joonmyun went into every side street with no luck. Panic punched him in the gut.
“Sehun?” Joonmyun said. His voice was faint when it dawned on him. They lost him. Again.
And now they had him back. Joonmyun didn’t know if he was happy to know it was over, relieved to see him alive, or furious, so furious, to see him in his life again. He had spent the majority of two years chasing after him in his spare time. The chase was difficult, but facing him in real life?
It was even worse.
“Wu Yifan,” Kyungsoo started his voice recorder, “alleged businessman. Actual con man, thief, expert hacker, fraud, and accomplice to it.” He paused his recorder. “Asshole, too. Off the record.”
“Nice seeing you too, Kyungsoo,” Yifan said. Joonmyun stood in the corner, leaning against the wall for support. At the sound of his voice, he pressed back even harder. Yifan looked up at him briefly, but his eyes darted away when Joonmyun kept his gaze to Kyungsoo’s back.
“Eyes here, Wu.” Kyungsoo turned his recorder on. “Add evading arrest to your list of offenses, but that’s not my job. My client has a bone to pick with you.” He opened his briefcase. “About a million dollars’ worth of it.
“You are also associated with Lu Han, the man who claimed to be your boss in your ‘small business’ but was actually your accomplice in conning my client. He is among others that can also be attributed to Mr. Lu’s work. He’s been on the run as well.”
“Lu Han and I... “ Yifan bit his lip. “We’re not associates anymore.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you were, and my client’s suing you for it.” Kyungsoo looked behind him and nodded.
Joonmyun stepped forward, taking the case file from the table. That’s when Yifan learned to keep his head down. That’s when Joonmyun felt his years of burning rage suddenly simmer to a cold detachment. He thought he would scream, rip at Yifan, but instead he could only list down every offense on Yifan’s case and stare straight into his soul.
“You’ve put up quite a fight, Yifan. Against me and the police.” Joonmyun put the folder down. “We could end that with a deal.”
“What?” Both Yifan and Kyungsoo said.
“We have reason to believe that a certain Victoria Song is involved in the… accidents happening to her constituents in order to fully gain their assets for her company. For the past year, several smaller electronics companies have been bought by Song Incorporated, and their profits have skyrocketed to almost 300%. That wouldn’t normally be suspicious, but at least a month prior to the deal, core members of those companies would be in ‘accidents’ that almost take their lives. One person died.
“We thought they were all coincidences until we found the connection with Song Incorporated. We need to tie Victoria Song directly to these incidents before we can make an arrest.”
Yifan folded his hands together. “And what does that have to do with me?” He paused. “Nothing, if that’s what you’re going to ask.”
Joonmyun shook his head. “We need a way into her life. We need to get into her inner circle and get her talking. We need to involve ourselves in her business to see how it works.”
“How do you think I’m going to help with that?”
“You have connections. Resources.” Joonmyun glanced at the file in Kyungsoo’s briefcase. “About a million dollars’ worth, if I’m not wrong.”
Yifan tilted his head in discomfort, avoiding Joonmyun’s eyes. “Joonmyun…”
“I’ll drop the charges against you,” Joonmyun said. Kyungsoo made a sound of protest. “After you help us close this case, you can walk the streets as a free man.”
Kyungsoo stood up suddenly, brows furrowed as he stared at Joonmyun. He pulled him outside while Yifan contemplated the deal. “Are you insane?” he said.
Minseok stormed out of the observation room and glared at Kyungsoo. “Are you insane? He was going to crack. We were finally going to make some progress on this case that we’ve been stuck in for months.”
“And we’ve been pursuing Yifan for the better part of two years, Captain.” Kyungsoo turned to face Joonmyun. “You’ve invested too much of your life to let him go like this.”
Joonmyun heard his voice crack with misplaced concern and desperation. He would have none of that. “It doesn’t matter,” Joonmyun said. “We’ll find something against him. I can’t be the only person he’s fucked over.”
“So you’re going to use him?” Kyungsoo said. “This is how you work?”
“Did he have the same compassion when he used me?” asked Joonmyun, voice dripping with spite. “It’s just a job that has to be done.”
Kyungsoo shook his head at the two of them. He messed up his hair in frustration. “You know what? Fine. It’s just work, right?” He looked at Yifan through the small window in the door. “I had plans tonight. If you were just going to let him go, you might as well have not called me to be here.”
“Kyungsoo—” Joonmyun tried to, but he just shook his head as he had a hand on the doorknob.
“I supported you from the very day he left. I was there when you were dying inside, Joonmyun.” He opened the door. “I hope you’re making the right decision.”
Kyungsoo took his things, nodded at Yifan, and walked out of the precinct without a single word. Minseok placed a hand on Joonmyun’s shoulder. “You’re not changing your mind, are you?”
“Too late for that now,” Joonmyun said. When he went back inside, this time without Kyungsoo serving as his shield, Yifan could look at him without wincing at the emptiness in Joonmyun’s eyes.
“You’re offering me something huge. How are you sure I’m the solution to your case?” Yifan was trying to play Joonmyun; he knew that. Seeing Kyungsoo storm off destroyed the illusion that they were some sort of perfect team ready to break him down, and he wanted an advantage over Joonmyun. He wasn’t going to get it.
“Don’t think so highly of yourself. You’re not the solution. You’re just a gateway.” Joonmyun sat down in front of him. The detachment he felt heated up at the proximity to Yifan. “Have you ever had any contact with Victoria Song?”
Yifan leaned back. “Who said I’m taking your offer?”
Joonmyun slammed his palms on the table. “You’d be an idiot not to! You have a long list of sins to pay for, Yifan. You’ve also managed to piss off every detective in this precinct.” He motioned at the rest of the office with a careless wave of his hand. “We are giving you a fighting chance. Take it.”
Yifan stayed silent for a few minutes. Joonmyun kept his eyes on him, waiting for any sign that he’s made up his mind. His mind started to wander after a while, and he crawled back into his first memories of Yifan. He always wondered: how was I deceived so quickly, so thoroughly?
It was typical of him to be the one to approach Yifan first. They met at a gala hosted by Joonmyun’s family. They were celebrating the golden anniversary of their company, and Joonmyun remembered being four years younger and a lot more impulsive than he was now. He remembered sitting by the bar and entertaining old friends he wished he got rid of much earlier in his life. It would have saved him the trouble of having to deal with them now.
Then there was Yifan, sitting alone and quiet in a table filled with people. He seemed silently content with his position, but Joonmyun was the one who established eye contact. He was the one who ignored the old flames surrounding him to raise a glass at the tall stranger halfway across the room. He was the one who walked towards him, smile growing as the blank stare from the man slowly morphed into an interested spark.
“Having fun?” Joonmyun asked, taking the seat right beside him. The tall stranger laughed and took a sip of his drink.
“Honestly?” Joonmyun nodded, though it took some effort for him to mask the shiver he felt at the sound of his voice. “I’m just a representative and I don’t know a single soul in this room.”
He smiled. “Except you, I guess.”
And at that exact moment, Joonmyun knew he was so smitten. They introduced themselves shortly after, and Yifan was the name running through his mind all night. Even as his father called him up onstage to join their toast, he had his eyes on Yifan and the way he held himself with such quiet poise.
Joonmyun chased after him when he left the ballroom, and Yifan held the door to the elevator when he saw him through the reflection on the walls. “Floor?” Yifan asked, long fingers on the panel.
“Twenty-seventh,” he said but he only pressed one button. Joonmyun waited a beat, paused for a pulse, but Yifan didn’t move an inch.
That was a clear enough sign for Joonmyun to pull him down by the collar, other hand on the back of his neck. Yifan held him by the hips and allowed Joonmyun to control the pace and to press him hard against the elevator walls. The doors almost opened once, but Yifan slammed the close button with his elbow in the instant it started to open. Joonmyun laughed against his lips, tilting his head back to take a breath. Yifan pressed soft kisses against the expanse of his neck and held his waist tightly.
“I didn’t read that wrong, did I?” Joonmyun asked breathlessly as the doors opened to the twenty-seventh floor. Yifan leaned down for another kiss, softer and slower this time. He led Joonmyun to his room, to his bed, and to a night Joonmyun wouldn’t forget.
That morning, Joonmyun woke up to warm sheets and an arm slung over his waist.
Now, Joonmyun was brought out of his reverie by the cool surface of the metal table being unbearable beneath his palms. Yifan still looked deep in thought, but his eyes had a hard emotion in it. It felt like defeat.
“How are you sure I’m not going to be on the receiving end of those accidents?” Yifan said. “If I associate myself with the police—”
“You are going to receive the same protection that every civilian deserves,” said Joonmyun, “unless you’d like to be treated as a criminal, sent to prison, and tried even if you could have done something to prevent that. You are being given a choice. Some people don’t even get half a chance.”
Yifan stared at the wall. When he closed his eyes, it was like it physically pained him to say the words. .”I’m a friend of a friend. We’ve met once a few years ago, and I’m not entirely sure if our mutual friend will help me out. I’ll have to pull some strings,” Yifan said. He met eyes with Joonmyun. “You’re letting me go after this?”
“Get Victoria Song behind bars or prove her innocence. Then we’ll let you go,” said Joonmyun. It almost made him feel sick to be lying so blatantly. He wasn’t a vengeful person, but Yifan stole more than just money. He stole joy from Joonmyun’s life, he stole three years of his life, and he stole Joonmyun’s ability to trust, completely and openly.
It was Yifan’s turn to be played. Somehow, Joonmyun wasn’t satisfied.
“Is this necessary?” Yifan asked as Joonmyun secured the ankle monitor on him. “I’m on your side.”
“Precaution,” said Joonmyun. He scouted the café earlier, noting the possible exit points and spots where he could observe. Yifan told him to stay behind in the car just in case his contact got a glimpse of him. A question popped into his mind. “Who is your contact anyway?”
“Friend,” Yifan corrected. “Amber Liu; you remember her, right?”
With a casual comment, Joonmyun was reminded of how deeply they were involved in each other’s lives. Joonmyun was a regular sight in Yifan’s office; Yifan would go out with Joonmyun’s non-detective friends every few weeks. Then there were the traces of Yifan’s deceit. Joonmyun had no image of Yifan to plaster on every wall; Yifan, as Joonmyun liked to imagine, had his face on his mind at all times.
Joonmyun dug his nails into his palm and nodded. “Is she there already?”
“She says she is. I’ll go around the block and make it look natural.” Yifan parked a few buildings away before he exited the car. Joonmyun knocked on the window beside the passenger’s seat to get Yifan’s attention.
“Put on the earpiece,” Joonmyun said.
Yifan rolled his eyes. “Come on, I’ll be in and out as quickly as possible.” Joonmyun stared straight at him. “Fine.”
“I don’t need any further complications on this operation, Yifan. Every word you say will be monitored.”
Yifan nodded and walked towards the café. Joonmyun set up his earpiece and laptop. “Sehun?”
“I got eyes,” Sehun said through the earpiece.
“What the hell?” Yifan said. “I didn’t know this was a three-way—”
“Five-way,” Minseok interrupted. “The entire team dedicated to this investigation is monitoring the situation. We’ve spent too long for this to be derailed by a con.”
Joonmyun winced at his choice of words. Minseok was harsher to Yifan because his mind held only memories of Joonmyun’s hollow eyes and furious obsession. He didn’t have nostalgia leaking on every chapter and every page that had Yifan’s name on it. He wasn’t burdened with thoughts that hung over him like a heavy cloud.
To Minseok, Yifan was a faceless threat that now resurfaced as a hesitant ally.
To Joonmyun, Yifan was a whirlwind that shook him to the core and a shadow that creeped along the edges to haunt his daily thoughts for years.
Yifan was ordering a drink when he made a startled sound. “Amber. Nice seeing you again.”
“You too.” She laughed. “Lighten up. You’re acting like we haven’t been friends since elementary.”
“That was a long time ago,” Yifan said. “Are you still best friends with Victoria Song?”
Amber snorted. “She’s too busy for a lowlife like me, sure, but she’s not getting rid of me that easily.” Yifan’s deep laughter was heard through the earpiece. “How are you, Yifan? How’s, uh, business?”
“Not that active in that side recently, but…”
The feedback was suddenly cut off. Joonmyun’s senses jumped into high alert, double checking the status of their devices. “Sehun? What’s going on with Yifan through the cameras?”
“He dropped the earpiece into a glass of water,” said Sehun. “Amber didn’t notice.”
Joonmyun unlocked the car. “Captain, do I intervene?”
“No,” Minseok said. “We’ll just have to hope that he doesn’t give anything away.”
Joonmyun’s jaw twitched. What was Yifan even thinking? If he thought he was getting away from this deal, he was horribly wrong. “Captain, I really don’t feel comfortable with this situation.”
“Wait,” Jongdae said, “Amber looks comfortable. She doesn’t look like she senses anything wrong.”
“Let it go, Joonmyun, but get ready for pursuit if needed.”
The seconds ticked by, and Joonmyun grew antsy at how helpless he felt. Sehun and Jongdae would update him on the little info they could pick up from the surveillance cameras, but Joonmyun’s mind was a blur. Almost half an hour passed before he heard a tap on the window. Joonmyun unlocked the door and stared at Yifan as he settled into the driver’s seat.
He smacked Yifan on his head. “Don’t you ever pull crap like that again.”
“I wasn’t comfortable,” Yifan said. “It’s better that I took it off so that Amber could let her tongue slip a bit.”
“And what did she say?”
“Victoria’s having a little party in a few weeks. It’s meant for friends, friends of friends, and potential business partners.” Yifan bit his lip. “Like me.”
Joonmyun raised his eyebrow. “What story did you tell her?”
“I’m trying to invest, let my money grow instead of taking it from others.” Yifan cleared his throat while Joonmyun shifted in his seat. “Amber gave me an invitation with a plus one.”
“Huh,” Joonmyun exhaled. “Good job. Let’s go back to the precinct.”
Minseok and Jongdae were waiting in his office. Yifan dropped the envelope holding the invitation on Minseok’s desk. “Done.”
“Good,” Minseok said. “We need to figure out the plan now that we have a way in. This is going to be a deep cover operation. As soon as you show your face to Song, you need to limit communication with the rest of the team. Build your safe houses and all, but you’re on your own.”
Jongdae took the envelope and read through the invitation. “It should be me.”
“What? No.” Joonmyun scoffed. “I’m better at going undercover.”
Jongdae pulled him aside. “You’re going to have to go undercover with him for an unknown period of time,” he whispered. “Are you ready for that?”
“Why is everyone so concerned about me?” Joonmyun furrowed his brows. “This is about—”
“The mission, yes,” Jongdae said. He glanced at Yifan again. “We’re concerned because you’re acting like everything’s perfectly fine when it’s not. Pursuing him took dedication and pain; you can’t just be perfectly fine, Joonmyun. You don’t say it, you don’t show it, but I know.”
At that moment, Yifan’s phone rang in the middle of complete silence. He cursed in Mandarin when he saw the caller ID. “It’s Amber.”
Minseok stood up and started pacing. “Put it on loudspeaker.”
“Hey, Amber. Is everything alright?” Yifan said with a cheeky smile that translated into a tense voice. He put his phone down on Minseok’s desk.
“Yeah, yeah, things are fine. Just saw something that made me curious a while ago,” she said. Yifan took a deep breath.
“What is it?”
“I saw someone in the car with you. Wasn’t that your boyfriend from a few years ago?” Yifan gritted his teeth. “Didn’t you two break up?”
“We did,” Yifan answered as a reflex. Minseok’s eyes widened and he urged him to say something. “But we, uh, got back together a few months ago.”
“So the ring on your finger…”
Yifan looked down and saw himself fiddling with the ring she was talking about. He looked at Joonmyun and waited for him to give some sort of response before he could reply to Amber. Joonmyun couldn’t bear to meet his eyes.
Joonmyun sat down and buried his head in his hands. Jongdae was right; he wasn’t okay with this. He knew how the story would go, and it sickened him to think that he’d have to go in there as Yifan’s fiancé. The world was playing with him again, tossing him around like a helpless rag doll.
“Hey that’s great! Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
Yifan sat down on the chair beside the table. “Slipped out of my mind, I guess.”
“That’s usually the type of thing people mention first.” She paused. “I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks, Amber. It’s been…” Yifan swallowed as he looked at Joonmyun on the couch. “It’s been really great. Crazy, even.”
“Tell me more about it,” Amber teased. “I’ve never seen Wu Yifan so in love.”
“Ah, that’s too embarrassing. I’m with him right now,” Yifan said. Joonmyun still couldn’t look him in the eyes. “We’re going through our investments and all.”
“Oh, so he’s your business partner too?”
“Yeah.” Yifan took the phone from the desk. “We’ll see you in three weeks.”
“Nice talking, Yifan. Really, I am happy for you.” Amber hung up.
Joonmyun stood up and sniffed. “That’s settled then.”
“Joonmyun—” Yifan tried to speak, but Joonmyun wouldn’t have any of it.
“Shut up. I have to be deep undercover as your fiancé for who knows how long, developing a life—our. life—that doesn’t exist,” Joonmyun said, seething with frustration. “You don’t get to make any more decisions from now on.”
“That’s unfair; I’m being dragged into this too, Joonmyun!” Yifan yelled. “Not everything is about you—”
“I’m not making this about me! This is about an operation that keeps getting more and more complicated to pull off!”
Yifan scoffed. “Oh please. You’re preaching about being professional but you’re the one who’s waiting for an opportunity to lodge a bullet in my brain.”
“Are you telling me I don’t have the right to?” Joonmyun hissed. “Do you even think about how much you fucked me up when you ruined my life?”
Yifan shook off the question. “I’m asking you to give me a chance.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Joonmyun slammed his fist onto the desk. The force shot up his forearm, but he resisted the urge to wince. “This is a chance. We are extending patience and trust that you don’t deserve, Yifan.”
They stayed in tense silence for several minutes. Joonmyun and Yifan were on opposite sides of the room while Jongdae and Minseok were smoothing out details they had control over. Minseok cleared his throat as Jongdae nodded and left the office.
“Joonmyun, Yifan. I hate to say this, but you need to sort things out. If you don’t convince them that you two are partners, you endanger the entire mission. It’s a difficult situation, but you have to work out all the kinks in your story.” He handed them a set of keys. “There’s a room on the third floor. Take all the time you need.”
Joonmyun bowed and left the room, wanting to put more and more distance between him and Yifan. He caught up on the landing right before the third floor, but they stayed silent until Joonmyun settled down in the room and Yifan sat by the window to stare out of it.
“Do you still have your ring?” Yifan asked. His voice cracked a bit; they had been quiet for too long.
Joonmyun sighed. They had to start eventually. “Bedside table. In the box you proposed with.”
Yifan winced. Joonmyun sighed again. It was barely past noon, and they were already exhausted beyond belief. Joonmyun would ask a question, build a world that they were supposed to live in, and Yifan would respond with things that felt like they came out of a fairytale. Yifan would ask a question, figure out the damage he caused Joonmyun when he revealed his lies, and Joonmyun would respond with a glazed over version of the months he spent in pain before he transformed it to the burning resolve that led them here.
They spent all day locked up in that room. By the end of it, Joonmyun was Yifan’s fiancé for four months, though they had gotten back together a year before that. Yifan never told Joonmyun about his illicit activities when they were together a few years ago. Supposedly, Yifan had changed. Joonmyun sparked that in him, made him want to be a better person and to stop all his activities for a chance to be with Joonmyun completely. It took him two years to cut ties with all his henchmen, and now he was ready for a wholesome life with the man he loved.
In an ideal world, in a perfect world, this would have been reality. Instead it’s nothing more than a cover for the anger that would flare up inside Joonmyun whenever he saw Yifan. It was nothing more than a shield for Yifan to keep himself alive. When the lights were on them and the show started, they would play their parts to the best of their ability.
Joonmyun had a safe house near Gangnam. It was a two-bedroom apartment, and it would be good enough for them to keep their distance within these walls. Since they had more free time as two self-employed citizens, Joonmyun established himself as a heavy reader, going from bookstore to bookstore almost every other day. He would meet with Jongdae occasionally in those bookstores and pass information that could help them out.
“Are you two speaking at all?” Jongdae said one day when they were both quietly reading at a corner in a used bookstore.
“Other than, ‘what’s for dinner,’ and, ‘I’m going to bed?’” Joonmyun chuckled. “We’re trying, Jongdae. That’s good enough.”
“You know,” Jongdae sat up, “after this entire experience, you’re probably never going to see him again. You should get closure while you can.”
“Why are you so concerned?”
Jongdae mock-gasped and widened his eyes. “Is that even a question? I’m your best friend! I always care.”
“Correction: Kyungsoo is my best friend,” Joonmyun said. He laughed as soon as he saw the disappointment on Jongdae’s face. “I’m kidding. Also how is Kyungsoo? I never got to apologize properly.”
“He just won a big case recently and we, uh.” Jongdae stopped.
“Spit it out; I won’t get hurt.”
Jongdae chuckled. “We just went out with the rest of the old group. He really didn’t tell you about it?”
“I didn’t expect him to. Tell him I’m sorry,” Joonmyun said.
Jongdae bit his lip. “You know I can’t do that.”
“Ah, shit. Never mind.” He looked away. The worst part about being in deep cover is not being able to speak to anyone he knew. If Kyungsoo knew the situation Joonmyun was in, he would laugh his ass off before smacking Joonmyun on the head. “What do you tell people when they look for me?”
“You’re on vacation, you’re out of the precinct, or you’ve been missing for a week and we’ve given up on looking for you,” Jongdae said, laughing at the terror on Joonmyun’s face. “Don’t worry; we’re reserving the last one for a special occasion.”
“Please don’t give my parents a heart attack.” With the look on Jongdae’s face, Joonmyun wouldn’t even be surprised if he received a call.
“We can’t keep meeting like this,” Jongdae said. It was the truth. If their intel was correct, Victoria had an eye on all of her partners and prospects at all times. Joonmyun would have to be careful if he needed to communicate with the rest of the team.
“I know.” Joonmyun smiled at him. They had been partners for years now, and they rose through the ranks together. If Joonmyun could only trust one person in his life, it would be Jongdae. “I’ll talk to you… when there’s something to talk about.”
“Hey,” Jongdae took his wrist when he stood up, “you’ve allowed yourself to hate for a long time. Give yourself a chance to heal.”
Joonmyun shook off his hand and exhaled. “I know.”
“I’m home,” Joonmyun called out as he toed off his shoes. They usually went straight to their rooms when they got home, but Jongdae’s words rang in Joonmyun’s ears. He needed to make something work.
Yifan was in the kitchen. He was surprised to hear Joonmyun’s greeting, but he welcomed him in. “Oh hey. Dinner’s ready.” He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a can of beer. When he was about to offer Joonmyun, he paused, shook his head, and returned the extra can on the shelf. “You don’t like beer.”
“It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that—”
“You’d rather not. I know,” Yifan said. Knowing things about each other, remembering the little details… they worked like intimacy exercises. Every time Yifan would avoid a pet peeve of Joonmyun’s or Joonmyun would remember Yifan’s favorite meals in a certain cuisine, it felt like the knife in their heart was being twisted again and again.
Except… sometimes it felt good. Sometimes Joonmyun felt comforted to know that someone understood that he lived life off his routines. Sometimes Joonmyun felt comforted to know that someone let him into their life just enough to memorize how they like their coffee on late nights.
It took trust to get where they were then: Joonmyun was in love and content while Yifan was… Joonmyun wouldn’t know.
It took breaking it to get where they were at the moment: Joonmyun ate in silence on the dining table while Yifan stared out the large window overlooking the busiest area of the district.
They didn’t speak after that. They went back into their own rooms and waited for time to reset before they went through their days the exact same way over and over again. Slowly, conversation creeped into their routine. They started talking about paperwork, then their noisy neighbors, then it developed to their clothing and other mundane things.
“Remember that ugly pajama set you owned? The one covered in three different patterns?” Joonmyun laughed loudly with his half-empty glass of wine held precariously in his fingers. “I told you that if I see you wear that one more time—”
“You’d break up with me, I remember,” Yifan said, laughing as well. He’s stopped drinking his beer for a while now, but he enjoyed watching Joonmyun loosen up with every glass of wine in his system. Joonmyun was still laughing to himself; Yifan wanted to keep it that way. “Remember that ugly onesie outfit you wore with Kyungsoo in high school? I wanted it framed in our bedroom—”
“And I wanted to beat your ass if I ever saw it there, yeah.” Joonmyun’s smile was lopsided, careless. He swirled his wine as he avoided Yifan’s eyes. “Was I no fun? To be with?”
Yifan raised an eyebrow. An uninhibited Joonmyun is truly a sight to behold. “Why are you asking?”
“I’m too uptight. I try too hard to please everyone,” Joonmyun said. His voice got lower and lower, as if he was ashamed of his own words. “You know that.”
“I do,” Yifan said. Joonmyun winced; he was hoping Yifan would comfort him or sugarcoat his words. “You try too hard, and that’s why people are drawn to you. And besides,” Yifan paused, “that wasn’t the reason why I left.”
Apparently, Joonmyun wasn’t the only one uninhibited by a little alcohol.
Yifan suddenly felt hot, hotter than before. Joonmyun’s stare turned cold, sobered up. Yifan struck a chord, and it caused something dark and haunting to echo in Joonmyun’s mind.
“So why did you leave?”
And now it was Yifan’s turn to stare emptily at the distance. Joonmyun put his glass down because he didn’t want to make a mess; the mess in his mind was terrible enough. Yifan started sentences, but they were senseless as soon as he tried to string something together. He was searching for a lie, but Joonmyun didn’t deserve that. Not after everything Yifan had already done.
“It wasn’t my choice,” Yifan said. “I was meant to find a way to take your money. I wasn’t supposed to propose. I wasn’t supposed to start planning a life. Lu Han told me to find the right time and leave as soon as I got it. If I said anything, if I even alluded to something that would have revealed us, it would ruin our reputation.”
“So it wasn’t me?” Joonmyun tilted his head back. “I knew you conned me and left for the money, but somehow I still found ways to blame it on me. It was a command, right? It wasn’t because you got bored and decided to take my money on your way out?”
“God, no. Joonmyun, don’t— don’t blame yourself. It was all just business,” Yifan said. The flat look on Joonmyun’s face didn’t reveal much.
“Thanks. That helped… a little.”
Joonmyun stood up shakily and started cleaning the living room. They moved two of the living room chairs beside the window, facing each other. It was easier to ease into living together if they actually tried to accommodate each other instead of drawing circles around themselves.
He collapsed on his bed afterwards. Joonmyun heard Yifan’s door close, and his mind had space to breathe. He didn’t need to blame himself. It wasn’t his fault.
“Fix the tie,” Joonmyun said as he looked for his coat in his closet.
“How about I don’t wear the tie?” Yifan tugged it off in haste before Joonmyun could talk him out of it. Joonmyun glared at him as he put on his coat. Yifan shook his head and took the coat off. He pulled out Joonmyun’s tie, unbuttoned the top two, and messed his hair up. “This is a party, Joonmyun. Be cool.”
“You wouldn’t know what that is even if you tried,” he muttered as he looked at himself in the mirror. Yifan swatted his hand away when he tried fixing his hair again.
Yifan sat on his bed, fiddling with his phone. When Joonmyun wouldn’t stop messing with his clothes, Yifan tossed a pillow at him. “Be cool, Joonmyun. Are you nervous?”
“I am,” Joonmyun said, though he avoided Yifan’s gaze when he started laughing. “Don’t make fun of me! This is difficult.”
“I know,” Yifan said. “You’re a natural ass-kisser though, so it won’t be too uncomfortable.”
Joonmyun threw the pillow back at his face. “Shut up and get the car ready.”
Yifan was still laughing as he left their apartment. Ever since they got tipsy that other night, the tension between them eased up. They had more late night conversations and light-hearted banter, and Joonmyun felt comfortable enough to let his guard down occasionally. Kyungsoo would be worried. Jongdae would be proud.
The car ride to Victoria’s mansion was quiet but nerve-wracking. Joonmyun tried to recall all the things Minseok told him before he fully went undercover. Don’t seem too eager to speak to her. Let her gain interest so that she approaches you first. Treat her like a friend the moment she looks comfortable enough.
When they arrived, Yifan was instantly ambushed by Amber. “Yifan!” She took one look at Joonmyun and smiled. “So you’re the fiancé.”
“Yeah, you must be Amber?” Joonmyun still felt uncomfortable, but the ring on his finger grounded him to the story. He fiddled with it as Amber and Yifan kept talking.
Yifan got them drinks and they stood by the balcony overlooking the city. “This place is really nice,” Yifan said. “Love the view.”
Joonmyun shrugged. “Impractical. Too far from the bulk of the city. It took us half an hour to get here.”
“Heavy traffic really pisses you off, does it?”
“Doesn’t everybody hate it?” a new voice said. She smiled at them before shaking their hands. “Victoria Song.”
“Kim Joonmyun,” he introduced himself and placed his drink on the stone ledge. “This is Wu Yifan, my partner.”
“I know you,” Victoria said. “I haven’t seen you out and about for a while.”
“Well,” Yifan glanced sideways at Joonmyun, “I just tried to keep a low profile.”
Victoria was tailed by two bodyguards in black and her personal entourage of other CEOs and hotshots in the electronics industry. There was one from the Kwon family, a few of her other Chinese friends, and another bodyguard probably in civilian clothing. She’s insane with security, Joonmyun thought to himself.
“Really? Your name has been popping up recently. I’m interested in having a chat,” Victoria said. Her eyes were on Joonmyun, probably trying to figure out where she had seen him before.
“Us too,” he replied. Someone caught his eye from the entrance to the terrace. “I think someone wants your attention.”
Victoria turned back and gave a stiff smile. “So many guests to attend to, I’m so sorry. I’ll…” She looked at her bodyguards and they nodded. “I’ll find a way to contact you. I heard you’ve been investing more and it would be great to have you as a part of the family.”
“Thanks,” Yifan said. They all walked away, though Joonmyun still had an eye on Victoria as she approached the newcomer. It was Choi Sooyoung, the heir to an innovative electronics company.
Except… Joonmyun remembered a report in the newspaper from two weeks ago talking about her father being caught in a near-fatal car accident. She must be the acting CEO, in that case. Yifan’s eyes told the same story; they nodded when they saw Victoria’s smile become gentler towards Sooyoung.
“Watch where they’re going,” Joonmyun said quietly. He took another drink from the walking waiters and waited for Yifan to say something. “What’s going on?”
“I can’t turn my head without making it obvious that I’m watching them,” Yifan muttered.
“Shit, uh,” Joonmyun shifted to the side, “keep looking at me. Do you see her?”
“Yeah, she’s talking to a waiter. Is that— okay, there’s a gun strapped to his back. That’s a guard. And— shit, I can’t see,” he said.
Joonmyun leaned against the stone railing of the terrace. “Come here,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“She’s starting to move. Sooyoung and her lackeys are all following her.”
Joonmyun started laughing softly and placed a hand on Yifan’s shoulder. “People are looking at us. I’m going to do something, but don’t make this weird. Keep your eyes on her.”
Yifan gave him a look but nodded anyway. “Okay?”
Joonmyun rested his hip on the railing and reached up to kiss Yifan with a hand behind his neck. Yifan leaned forward and placed a hand on Joonmyun’s waist, but he pinched the hand and pulled away slightly. “Eyes open!”
“Geez, sorry. It was a reflex,” Yifan muttered before leaning down to kiss Joonmyun again. He struggled to focus on Victoria’s whereabouts, but she seemed to enter a small side house with her group.
From a distance, they looked like a couple that just had a quick moment of fun. The smaller man pulled away and beamed at his partner while he laughed at the spontaneity.
In truth, Joonmyun’s smile was tense and Yifan’s chuckle was out of sheer will. They stepped back and cleared their throats in discomfort.
“Where’d she go?” Joonmyun asked when they both downed their glasses at once.
“In there. It looks like a guest house or something.” Yifan paused. “Do you know where the bathroom is?”
Joonmyun narrowed his eyes. “This isn’t the time—” Realization dawned on him quickly. “I think it’s in there. You should, uh, check it out. I’ll… socialize or something.”
“Meet me at the canapés,” said Yifan before kissing Joonmyun’s temple absentmindedly. He froze when Joonmyun shot him an odd stare. “Sorry.”
“Reflex. I know.” Joonmyun waved him away and walked to the bar. If he wasn’t allowed to have fun, he would at least get tipsy enough to think he was having fun. He took a seat, ordered a light drink, and watched as Yifan slipped into the guest house.
Joonmyun was spacing out when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, saw a familiar face, and cursed under his breath.
“Oh come on,” Baekhyun said, “that’s not a polite greeting to your best friend.”
“Byun Baekhyun, you and I know each other well enough to know that you are not my best friend,” Joonmyun said, laughing when he remembered his terrible experiences with Baekhyun in business school. He hopped off his seat and gave his old friend a hug. “What are you doing here? I thought you were still based at Bucheon.”
“My father sent me here to ‘make friends,’” Baekhyun made quotation marks in the air, “but I know he just wanted to get rid of me.” He looked around briefly. “I thought you weren’t pursuing business anymore. You said you wanted to be a cop?”
Joonmyun chuckled, though his mask couldn’t prevent the nervous sweat from breaking at his neck. “I tried that out for a while, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I hoped it would be.”
Baekhyun raised an eyebrow. “It didn’t feel like you were helping people anymore?”
“Sounds idealistic, but yeah. It didn’t sit right with me.” Joonmyun tilted his head to the side, expertly avoiding his gaze. “I invest my money, I spend it, and I live a good life.”
“That’s the spirit!” Baekhyun slung an arm over his shoulder and ordered a drink from the bartender. He raised his glass. “To living the good life!”
“Hear, hear,” Joonmyun said. He meant it, truly, but his enthusiasm was stifled when he saw Yifan being escorted out of the guest house with Victoria right behind him. They were speaking amicably, but Joonmyun noted how tense Yifan’s shoulders were. A guard pointed towards the main mansion and made directions with his hands.
Yifan looked for Joonmyun while he was walking. When their eyes met, Yifan tilted his head towards the mansion. Joonmyun rested his elbow on the bar and subtly raised three fingers to tell him to wait.
Baekhyun was still cracking jokes and telling stories beside him. “Hey,” Baekhyun got his attention, “you okay?”
“Sorry, I’m feeling a little lightheaded.”
Baekhyun snorted. “Oh please. Don’t lie; you’ve always been a lightweight.”
“So are you!” Joonmyun teased back. They laughed again, but Joonmyun swayed a bit as he took a step away from the bar. “I really don’t feel good though. I’ll catch up with you later?”
“I’m going to get you one day, Kim Joonmyun,” Baekhyun said. He squeezed his shoulder one last time before winking and walking away.
Joonmyun stuck to the crowd of people all drinking and mingling. He couldn’t find a glimpse of Victoria; she must have been inside the guest house again. Who knew what they were discussing in there?
Yifan, Joonmyun remembered. He kept his head down as he made his way to the guest bathroom in the mansion. Yifan pulled him in the room and locked the door.
“No cameras,” Yifan muttered. “I’m not sure about listening bugs.”
Joonmyun took a pen from his pocket and pressed the clip. “Hopefully that fried something.”
“A gift from Sehun?” Joonmyun nodded. “Good. Shit, Joonmyun. I don’t know what I heard.”
Joonmyun sat on the plush chair in one corner of the giant bathroom. “Were they talking about the Choi Company?”
“I think. Sooyoung was crying, begging Victoria to help her. Victoria spoke… I don’t know how to describe it— softly? Like she was trying to comfort Sooyoung? She was in tears, rambling, and then Victoria offered to protect her family if she agrees to partner with Song Incorporated.”
“Wait.” Joonmyun stood up and started pacing. “She’s offering protection? So Sooyoung doesn’t know that she’s the one that caused that accident?”
“But what if it really isn’t her, Joonmyun? What if she’s connected to all these incidents because she’s been protecting them all along?” Yifan argued.
Joonmyun shook his head. “Their company makes phones; they don’t provide security. They have to be tied to the accidents somehow.”
“But there’s a chance that Victoria might be innocent?”
“I don’t buy it. Companies wouldn’t go straight to her just to ask for help. It’s not…” He groaned. “Nothing’s right about this.”
They were disrupted by a knock on the door. Yifan panicked and silently screamed at Joonmyun. “What do we do?”
tJoonmyun took a deep breath. He ruffled Yifan’s hair, half-unbuttoned his shirt, pulled out a side of his shirt from his pants, and swiped water on Yifan’s lips. Yifan looked at himself in the mirror. “I’m a mess.”
“That’s the point,” Joonmyun said as he did the same things to himself. “Do you go out first or do I?”
“I’ll go. Hide in the cubicle,” said Yifan as he unlocked the door and gave the guards a sheepish smile. “Sorry.” He looked back at Joonmyun and made sure he was hidden before he left the room.
Joonmyun leaned against the cubicle wall, suddenly exhausted. They had only been to the party for a few hours, walking around and mingling with anyone who caught their eye. Victoria added the element of suspense. She was nothing like what Joonmyun expected, and the stories surrounding her added to the intel they collected weren’t adding up to the person Joonmyun saw.
He met with Yifan by the canapés. It was starting to get late, and Victoria stood on a platform holding a mic to deliver a speech.
“First of all, thank you to everyone who came tonight! I hope you enjoyed the food, the drinks, and the company,” she said sweetly. Everyone clapped and cheered for her impeccable hosting. “This wasn’t meant to be a professional occasion, but the Choi Corporation has just agreed to make their innovations exclusive to Song Devices. Let’s give them a round of applause and welcome them to the family.”
Yifan and Joonmyun looked at each other while clapping. They saw Sooyoung standing by the side of the platform, emotionless and distant. She didn’t seem too happy about the partnership.
“Enjoy yourselves, everyone. Food and drinks never end, and so does the night!”
Joonmyun tugged on Yifan’s sleeves. “I don’t think we have any more to gain here.”
“We should talk to Sooyoung, get her side of the story,” Yifan said. He was about to walk towards her, but Joonmyun stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Why not?”
“We’ve been seen too much tonight,” he whispered. Joonmyun pressed his cheek against Yifan’s arm. “We have to go.”
As they walked out of the terrace, Joonmyun looked back once. He briefly saw Victoria and Baekhyun laughing together, and she smiled at him as he walked away. Joonmyun got the chills.
Yifan collapsed on their couch the moment they got home. Joonmyun sat on the chair by the window, suddenly wanting a glass of wine to drown his stress. Yifan tossed a throw pillow at him when he saw Joonmyun making his way to their wine rack.
“No more drinking,” he said.
“Fine,” Joonmyun muttered before he occupied their other couch. A thought crossed his mind. “Yifan.”
“Can we agree that things that happen on a mission are… uh,” Joonmyun paused, “they mean nothing?”
“Good,” Yifan said. “Things that happen on a mission— it’s just work.”
“Exactly. Let’s not make things weird.” Joonmyun turned his head and nodded at Yifan. They looked at each other. It seemed stranger to pretend that Joonmyun’s hand didn’t tighten on Yifan’s neck in that kiss or that Yifan turned his body closer to Joonmyun’s just to see Victoria better. In his mind, Joonmyun couldn’t deny that his stomach stirred when he felt Yifan’s lips and he released a shaky breath because of the familiar tingling that consumed his body while he was in Yifan’s arms. It was… instinct. A reflex. Muscle memory. The familiarity of their intimacy. Anger couldn’t change what Joonmyun’s body craved.
No, no, he didn’t crave it, per se. Joonmyun just… missed it. He missed intimacy. He spent the past two years in a furious manhunt, and his mind shut down all its defenses at the slightest taste of it.
Joonmyun dreamed that night. He dreamed of that one day when Yifan woke up earlier than he did and spent the early morning on the balcony of their shared apartment. It was almost winter; Yifan was still in his sleepwear and he hated being cold. Joonmyun brought one of his giant coats and draped it over his shoulders before he stood beside Yifan. Joonmyun was surprised when Yifan stood behind him, pulled him close, and covered him with his warmth.
They stayed there for a while, talking about mundane things like grocery shopping and the construction projects in the city. Yifan kissed the top of his head before dragging him back inside because he felt how cold Joonmyun’s hands were. Then they spent the rest of the morning in bed, regaining warmth and spreading it on the sheets. Yifan looked at him, smiled softly, and closed his eyes to fall asleep again.
Joonmyun dreamed of it in silent slow-motion. He felt every touch and saw every twitch of Yifan’s lips. And when he woke up in the middle of the night, it felt too real. I wish it were real.