(Sequel to Succession and Survival; part of the Succesion series which is a sequel to the Surrender series)
Sungmin’s fist made powerful contact with the other man’s jaw. He heard a distinctive crack as the man fell to the ground, “I told you once, I’ll tell you again!” Sungmin said with a growl in his voice, “This alley belongs to me!” It had been a week since he had accepted the mission and over two months since his last mission; it felt good to hit a scum bag again.
“You talk pretty tough for a pipsqueak,” The other man replied as he staggered to his feet, one hand holding the side of his jaw Sungmin had just hit,
“I can make you permanently shut up with another punch,” Sungmin threatened, eyes flashing dangerously.
Unbeknownst to the lone wolf before him, Sungmin had been tailing him for three days now. He knew him to be one of those who killed one of his late comrades; he had a score to settle, to say the least. Sungmin raised his right hand and swung. The man shut his eyes immediately, but felt nothing. When he opened them, he found his face a mere centimetre from Sungmin’s fist. He fell back against the alley wall,
“Not only are you deaf, but you’re an idiot too!” Sungmin exclaimed as he opened his hand then suddenly grabbed the man’s neck, pushing him tightly against the wall, “My alley, my turf, my business. Stay the fuck away from here or I’ll break every single bone in your body one by one.”
“I’ll… I’ll stay away!” The man insisted, trembling beneath Sungmin’s hand,
“Give me one reason I should let you go and give you the chance to go against me again,” Sungmin challenged, his voice low but resonated his threat until they burrowed into the lone wolf’s bones. “I could make this easier on myself and kill you right here and now… save myself time from having to do so later on when - I know - you’ll just piss me off again.”
“No! No I won’t!” He clawed at Sungmin’s hand, trying to pry it off to no avail, the smaller man was too strong for the lone wolf.
Slowly, Sungmin raised the man against the wall until his feet no longer was on the ground. Sungmin stared up at the man, holding him securely against the wall with just his hand on the man’s neck. He could feel the man try to swallow in order to alleviate the increase of pressure on his windpipe,
“Not fun, is it - not being able to breathe?” Sungmin questioned lightly as his eyes narrowed angrily, “I suppose…” He tilted his head to the side, his expression giving an illusion of innocence while his eyes held the truth, “I suppose one could say this is what it’s like to be hung.” He pressed his hand harder against the man’s neck, “Hey, I actually heard two people were hung from a lamppost just over a week ago.” He smiled cruelly as his eyes glinted like black diamonds, “Apparently they were government spies and, apparently it happened in neutral territory too!”
“Why… Why does… that matter… to you!?” The other man gasped out his question as he struggled to breath, flailing against the wall in an attempt to shake off the younger man’s hold on him,
“It doesn’t… not really,” Sungmin lied easier than he thought possible before that maniacal smile returned, “But the idea is interesting… I wonder what it’s like to hang a person.”
“HEY! WHAT’S GOING ON HERE!?”
Lazily, Sungmin turned his head to one end of the alley. A silhouette appeared against the dark night and slowly it approached. Yesung came into view, dressed in a wrinkled suit and loosen tie. His white shirt stained with beer told a story about a man who had been drinking and happened to stumble upon the scene. The sharpness in his eyes belied that story.
Sungmin stared at him a moment, appearing as if he were trying to figure something out. Suddenly, he said, “Oh that’s why you look familiar.” He tilted his head slightly, “I’ve heard about you… once the number one spy in the world but in truth, you were a double agent for the mob! When you were found out, you were abandoned by both sides.” He laughed bitterly, “How pathetic.”
Yesung said nothing for a moment. They had planned this scene to project him into Key’s circle. However, now that it was actually happening, he realized he didn’t account for every detail; he had forgotten about his own feelings. Sungmin was too good of an actor, with his expression and his tone… His words cut him deep and shook his soul like a fragile leaf in a cold and bitter tornado.
For a moment - a fraction of a second - Yesung was tempted to step back and leave. When he felt that moment stretch out into eternity, he felt even more reluctant to continue this play. What spurred him on, what gave him courage was the slightest hint of the Sungmin he knew and loved. For a split second, the light in Sungmin’s eyes changed and he saw the warmth they usually held and he found it easier to breathe again.
Taking a slow, steadying breath, he steeled his resolve and clenched his fists at his sides to stop himself from weakening once more; “My name may be tainted, but my skills aren’t,” Yesung replied gruffly, making a show of pushing up his sleeves to his elbows. “And a little alcohol won’t do anything to me.”
Sungmin knew his words were true, alcohol would never affect the great Kim Yesung. However, tonight, he also knew that Yesung hadn’t truly had a drop of alcohol. All the same, he released the lone wolf from his grasp and turned to face Yesung completely. He cracked his knuckles menacingly as he smirked, “Then prove it.”
Yesung came at him, a punch swinging. Sungmin caught his fist in a hand, but failed to notice the other hand as it made fierce contact with his abdomen. The pain it caused didn’t amount to the feeling of the air being sucked out of him. His lungs shuddered as he gasped for air. He grabbed Yesung’s arm and flipped him towards the wall.
Yesung bent his knees as he was thrown through the air, making sure that his feet were flat against the wall, stopping his body from colliding against it as Sungmin had wanted. He kicked off the wall and when he landed on the ground, he had kept his hold on Sungmin’s arm, managing to twist it behind his back.
“Who’s pathetic now?” Yesung chuckled.
Sungmin spun out of his hold, reversing it so he had Yesung’s arm twisted back. He shoved Yesung against the wall, “You are.”
Yesung breathed heavily against the bricks at his face. Taking a deep breath, he used his free hand to push against the wall, making both him and Sungmin stagger. He felt the other man’s hand loosen its hold and he pulled away from him. The momentum was sending him back towards the wall, so he bent a leg stepped against the wall. The muscles in his leg contracted and when it released, he knew what power it would give him. Using the rebound from his ‘walking against the wall’, Yesung extended a leg, using the force to propel him into a roundhouse kick.
The side of his foot caught Sungmin’s cheek, cutting it deeply. When he landed, he was facing Sungmin who was clutching the side of his face.
“I believe I just proved myself,” Yesung spat. With that, he rolled down his sleeve, turned on his heel and left in the direction he had come.
“Bastard,” Sungmin grounded out as he tasted copper. He spat and red suddenly marked the bricks he had aimed for.
“That’s amazing pipsqueak,” the lone wolf grunted, “You held your own against Kim Yesung.”
“So you know of him too?” Sungmin asked, pretending to forget the previous animosity as he gingerly wiped away the blood from his own face,
“Ever since that incident a year ago, everyone knows who he is,” the other man replied, “The disgraced double agent? How the mighty have fallen,” he chuckled as he slowly rose from where Sungmin had allowed him to crumble before the fight. “But you - you, pipsqueak did pretty good against that guy. Most wouldn’t have been able to turn his own hold against him.”
“He got out of it,” Sungmin reminded bitterly,
“But you still got him into it,” the man replied, “We could use someone with your skills.”
“We?” Sungmin asked suspiciously.
“Others like ourselves… outcasts with no real purpose but to fend for ourselves,” the man rubbed his neck, still sore from Sungmin’s earlier assault, “Let me introduce you to someone.”
“And who the hell is that?” Sungmin questioned defensively, eyes narrowed at the man in a feign of suspiciousness mixed with piqued curiosity;
The man smiled a yellow, toothy grin, “He’s known as Key.”
“DAMN IT YOUNGWOON!” Jungsu kicked at the chair before him, send it crashing against the opposite wall.
The bar had finished closing and Youngwoon had entered his office to find Jungsu there. With Sungmin on indefinite leave, Youngwoon took it upon himself to run the place by himself. Now, he stood with his hips against the front of his desk, arms crossed loosely as he watched Jungsu pace before him.
“I don’t want you in this!” Jungsu exclaimed angrily as he stopped his pacing and faced Youngwoon completely, fists clenched at his sides.
“And I want to do this,” Youngwoon argued, “The reason I first joined the Agency is because I wanted to be able to personally stop people like Key from murdering other agents!”
“Agents like your parents?” Jungsu asked, his tone holding a cruel edge he hadn’t planned.
Youngwoon’s eyes widened in surprise before narrowing in anger, “Yes, damn you - like my parents!”
“Then let me remind you of why you left in the first place!” Jungsu argued,
“I left because I couldn’t handle killing people, okay!? I wasn’t strong enough to go through with a second assassination,” Youngwoon grounded out, his cheeks reddening from his raging temper,
“Not being able to kill someone doesn’t note weakness,” Jungsu defended in frustration,
“It doesn’t note strength either!” Youngwoon countered, his words holding a jagged tone.
When he first left the Agency, Youngwoon felt a self-righteousness about his decision. However, as the months and then years passed, his feelings were tainted with regret. In the back of his head he could hear a voice telling him that had he been able to assassinate a second time, a third time… had he accomplished that, he would’ve been able to save more lives.
Whenever he would regret his decision, he remembered the first mission he had been given. The memory of it was clear, even the high he had gotten from accomplishing his first mission was still fresh. Unfortunately, what was also clear was when that high ended.
He still remembered the look in the man’s face when he begged for his life; Youngwoon had justified it then with the thought that this man probably had many beg for their lives and he spared none, so, Youngwoon wouldn’t spare his in kind.
He still remembered the shunted sound of the sniper; Youngwoon had justified that remembering that this man had fired plenty of guns and Youngwoon was merely preventing him from firing more.
He still remembered the smell of death that wafted in that man’s office after the deed was done. Sungmin had called to him from the hallway, telling him he had ‘taken care’ of the men who had come running when the alarm had sounded in the building. Youngwoon tried to justify the presence of death as it passed too closely to his soul. When he couldn’t, he reminded himself that it was his job.
He still remembered the crying. It was a whole-body cry. It shook the old woman’s body and, in turn, reached towards Youngwoon and set an earthquake upon his heart. He still remembered her body. It was kneeling on the ground as she flung her arms on the gravestone of her deceased son. The sight broke the hearts of friends and family who witnessed it; it killed Youngwoon’s. He still remembered her voice. It trembled and cracked as she screamed out his name over and over.
Because of that, he was never able to justify killing. Because of that, he never forgot that man’s name.
“I need a way that I can fight back,” Youngwoon said, banishing those old demons from his mind, “If I don’t they’ll never forgive me.”
“They? Youngwoon, your parents wouldn’t do that! If anything, you’re worried about not being able to forgive yourself!” Jungsu exclaimed, “There’s nothing to forgive, Youngwoon!”
“I wanted to be an agent to protect people Jungsu. When I first saw those bodies hanging there, do you know what I saw?” Youngwoon asked. When Jungsu stayed silent, he practically lunged at Jungsu. The elder stumbled into a chair as Youngwoon towered over him, his hands clenching the armrests; “DO YOU!?”
Jungsu stared up at Youngwoon, and for the first time, he was scared of him. Hesitantly, he shook his head in a negative, silent response.
“I saw you,” Youngwoon managed, his voice suddenly hoarse and strained. He took steady breaths to regain control of himself, of his emotions before continuing, “I’m taking this mission so that I can protect you.”
“You don’t have-”
Youngwoon moved his hands to Jungsu’s shoulders, pinning them against the chair to the point of bruising, “Don’t presume to tell me how and when to protect you, Jungsu. If I so choose to protect you then I will do so the way I want to when I want to, understand!?”
Jungsu stared at him hard, relaxed beneath Youngwoon’s threatening hands; “Watch it Youngwoon,” he said, his voice deceptively calm and collected, “I’m not a department head for nothing.”
“Fuck, what’s wrong with us!?” Youngwoon questioned exasperatedly as he pulled up Jungsu enough to slip into the chair beneath him. He held Jungsu on his lap, “We never fight like this.”
“Yes we do,” Jungsu countered, “We’re just never this physical,” he muttered the last part, rolling his shoulders as he still felt the imprints of Youngwoon’s hands pressing against him.
As if sensing how he felt, Youngwoon pressed his lips to his shoulder, “I should be able to protect you if I want to.”
“I understand that, but what about me?” Jungsu turned his head to look at him, “Stopping you is how I protect you.”
“I need to do this,” Youngwoon muttered against his shoulder,
“I know,” Jungsu sighed, his hand coming up and caressing the side of the younger man’s face, “And it scares me that I can’t protect you.”
“You don’t have to,” He insisted, turning his head to kiss Jungsu’s palm,
“Don’t presume to tell me how and when to protect you, Youngwoon. If I so choose to protect you then I will do so the way I want to when I want to, understand?” He questioned softly, sternly; reiterating Youngwoon’s words from moments ago as he traced Youngwoon’s bottom lip with his thumb.
“Not in this,” Youngwoon argued quietly as he bared his teeth and playfully nipped at the other’s thumb,
“Yes… in this,” Jungsu replied gently as he moved his hand to Youngwoon’s chin, turning it and tipping it to look up at him, “The moment you take this mission is the moment I stay by your side at all times.”
“Jungsu-” Youngwoon began in a light, warning tone.
“No!” Jungsu interjected sternly. His tone was strong and firm; the most commanding Youngwoon had ever heard in all the time they’ve been together. Jungsu locked eyes with him, holding him prisoner with his clear eyes that demanded no less than his full attention; “I’m not leaving you for a single moment, I won’t risk it… I can’t.”
Youngwoon opened his mouth to argue, but Jungsu immediately silenced him with a kiss.
Sungmin entered the apartment when the sun was beginning to rise. He had been brought somewhere, but had been blindfolded during the journey. He had met the young man, but he had been shrouded in darkness, so Sungmin had never been able to see Key’s face. As the lone wolf explained his case, Sungmin had imagined the image of the young man he had seen on the screen a week ago.
Slowly, Sungmin made his way to the bedroom and collapsed face-down on the bed. Arms flung to his side in wild abandon, Sungmin relished the feel of the soft mattress below him and the sheets that felt soothing against his cheek.
“I thought I heard the door,” Yesung said as he sat down on the bed beside him, clad in just pyjama bottoms, “I was on the veranda.”
“Shh… sleepy,” Sungmin murmured,
“Min, you’re dirty and wounded…” Yesung managed, his heart breaking every time he relived their fight. Sungmin said nothing as Yesung picked him up in his arms and carried him to the bathroom.
When the water ran between hot and warm, Yesung filled the bathtub. Sungmin did nothing but close his eyes as Yesung slowly removed his clothing. Without warning, Yesung picked him up in his arms again and held him securely,
“Yesung?” Sungmin looked at him through sleepy eyes,
“Forgive me,” Yesung whispered as he brushed his lips against the other’s.
Gently, ever so gently, he lowered Sungmin into the water. He leaned his head against the tub’s edge and relished as the water soothed him. The heat ebbed away the ache in his muscles and bones as the water made him feel lighter than the burdens he carried in his mind.
“Mmm…” Sungmin murmured deliciously as he felt Yesung lift his arm and gently rub a wet cloth over it.
Slowly, gently, Yesung washed Sungmin. He washed away the dirt and the pain, but he knew he needed more to wash away the memory of their fight.
Since he had walked away in the alley, Yesung had immediately returned home and had tried to loose himself in the sounds of Seoul’s night life while lying out on the veranda. However, images disrupted any semblance of peace he could muster. He remembered the cruel words said between them… remember their harsh treatment of one another…So now, he handled Sungmin like porcelain because he couldn’t bear to hurt him like he did the other night, just hours ago.
When he was done, Yesung grabbed a giant towel and opened it for Sungmin. Slowly, lazily, Sungmin stood up from the comforting water and stepped into the towel Yesung held for him. Yesung embraced him in the towel, inhaling the smell of fresh soap that now encased Sungmin. Yes, it was a far better smell than that of the alley.
Sungmin swayed slightly towards him and Yesung took his hand and led them to their bed. Sungmin dropped the towel and climbed onto the bed, curling up like a cat in the afternoon sun. Yesung ran his eyes over his naked body. His eyes took in every curve and contour of Sungmin’s body as the morning sun streamed into their room and made his skin glow golden. He walked over to the closet and returned with boxers and pyjamas for Sungmin. With sleepy protests from his dongsaeng, Yesung slipped the clothes onto Sungmin as he lay supine on the mattress.
After he put his pyjama bottoms on, Yesung’s hand trailed from the waist band to Sungmin’s abdomen. His fingers grazed over the forming of a giant bruise on the left side. Without having to test it, Yesung knew the bruise would match the size of his fist. He leaned over and pressed his lips against the purpling skin.
“Forgive me,” he murmured.
Sungmin let out a soft, laugh, “That tickles,” he muttered as he teetered between this world and that of slumber.
Yesung embraced his waist, pressing his cheek against his stomach as he inhaled the soap smell again, trying to banish last night’s memories with newer ones, better ones. As he lay there silently, he could feel Sungmin’s body move with every deep, even breath. He stilled his own breathing just so he could feel and hear just Sungmin’s. Doing so reassured him that Sungmin was alive and well.
He sat up then proceeded to tug Sungmin’s arms through the pyjama top, managing to slide it behind his back. Slowly, Yesung buttoned it then moved his hands further up to Sungmin’s jaw. His fingers traced long cut there, now visible after the blood and dirt that had been caked on, was now washed away. It was a clean cut, a deep cut and mirrored that of what Yesung felt in his heart whenever he saw it or remembered how it happened.
He trailed butterfly-light kisses along the cut, “Forgive me,” he whispered.
Sungmin turned his head in the other direction, Yesung’s warm breath tickling his skin. He said nothing this time, but remained in his half-awaken state as a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Yesung stretched out along side Sungmin and eventually, out of instinct, Sungmin curled against his side as if seeking protection even in his sleep. Yesung wrapped his arms around him, one hand cradling Sungmin’s head in the crook of his shoulder, his fingers a hair breadth away from the would-be scar. He pressed his lips against the top of Sungmin’s head and closed his eyes. Once more, he took a deep inhalation of the scent of soap that now mingled with the natural scent that was Sungmin.
“Forgive me,” Yesung breathed before he succumbed to his fatigue.
“There’s no need,” Sungmin barely whispered before finally allowing himself to fall away from the world, but only after Yesung had done so first.
Jungsu burst into his office, “Is it true!?”
Donghae looked up from his papers at his desk, “Another killed,” Donghae confirmed,
“That two more this month! It wasn’t-”
“No… it wasn’t Sungmin,” Donghae answered immediately, “If it had been… I would’ve personally told you.”
“Then who? I thought all agents were taken out of the case the moment we took over!” Jungsu exclaimed angrily, approaching the desk, “How the hell are more agents being murdered when the only ones on this mission are us five!?”
“Apparently the board wanted more insurance in the mission than just what we’ve been doing to this point,” Donghae replied,
“What!? Sungmin’s undercover in the gang trying to get closer to Key, Yesung and I been gathering information from his old contacts, you’re hunting down informants and Youngwoon’s the eyes and ears on the streets - how is that any different from other missions!?” Jungsu demanded,
“That’s the thing,” Donghae replied, “According to the chief, the board thinks more needs to be done since the past missions revolving around Key have failed miserably. So without even the chief knowing, the board had been designating missions to other agents,” Donghae practically threw his papers back down on the desk, “Fools, all of them. Don’t they realize we’ve planned this the way we have for a reason!? Bunch of bastards have forgotten what it’s like on the field, so I don’t know why they’re questioning our judgements when we’re still in practice!”
“They’re getting desperate,” Jungsu suggested as he plopped down in one of the chairs before Donghae’s desk, “If they’re going behind our backs to try and orchestrate this mission, it means something’s changed.”
“And you think what’s changed is now they’re desperate?” Donghae asked,
Jungsu nodded, “It’s been two months now since Key broke out of prison; one month since we took over this mission… In total fourteen agents have been murdered by Key and his gang. If anything, the board is feeling that their power is slipping, that the Agency is not just losing agents, but its balance of power in regards to the rest of the world’s intrigue.”
“Whatever their reason if they just left this to us, there’d be two less deaths,” Donghae grounded out.
Jungsu watched him a moment before asking, “What’s wrong?”
“What? Nothing,” Donghae retorted,
Jungsu scoffed, “I don’t know why people even attempt to lie to me. I’m head of Covert Investigations; if I couldn’t pick out a liar from a crowd then I wouldn’t be able to do half of my missions.”
“Shiwon visisted DoHae today,” Donghae explained, an unintended bitter edge lined his words;
“Of course, damn it,” Donghae slammed a fist to his desk, “I can’t control it but every time I think of him with her… He loves me. He loves me… and yet I can’t help but get upset whenever I know he’s gone to visit her!”
“So that’s why you’re here at the Agency at two in the morning instead of at home in bed?” Jungsu inquired lightly,
“Yes. Well, Shiwon’s not at home either, he said he was going to his headquarters, something about not having an accountant anymore made things difficult.” He ran a hand through his hair, “It’s just as well that I’m here… I was able to receive the report immediately,” Donghae breathed steadily to calm his pounding heart. He loved Shiwon with all he had, but he still couldn’t shake the feelings of jealous. After all, it was DoHae who had been there for him when Shiwon needed someone the most. He pushed his thoughts to the back of his mind and turned clear eyes towards Jungsu, “You didn’t have to come when you received the report.”
“I had to… I couldn’t believe another murder,” Jungsu shook his head, “Besides… on the off-chance I was able to find board members here I’d be able to throttle their idiotic heads.”
“Well, you can go back to Youngwoon now,” Donghae replied. When Jungsu shot him a quizzical look he offered a small smile, “Didn’t you tell me you vowed to stay with him every second of the day if he took on the mission?”
Jungsu nodded as he pulled out his ringing cell phone. “And I haven’t left him. This is the first time I’ve let him out of my sight outside of the house.” He glanced down at the screen, “Eh? Why’s he calling?”
“Who?” Donghae peered at him curiously,
“It’s a taxi driver Youngwoon and I know. He’s always working the graveyard shift and is always the one to pick us up from the bar after Youngwoon’s done closing,” Jungsu opened the phone, “Hello? Yes this is him…WHAT!? I’ll be there soon!” Jungsu snapped his phone shut and shoved it into his pocket as he bolted out the door.
When he reached the elevators, he urgently pressed the button several times. The doors slid open and Jungsu popped in, immediately pressing the ground-level button. Before the doors shut, a hand came between them, stopping them from closing,
“Jungsu, what’s wrong!?” Donghae demanded,
“Damn it Donghae, let me leave!” Jungsu exclaimed angrily, trying to push him away,
“Just tell me what the fuck happened!” Donghae argued, forcibly pushing past his hyung into the elevator,
“Youngwoon’s been attacked,” Jungsu grounded out, his face red with fury as his body trembled.
Donghae leaned back against the elevator wall, crossing his arms firmly, “I’m coming with you.”
Jungsu walked into the bar and it was nothing like he left it over an hour ago. The booths were all smashed up; stools were strewn about the floor, broken; glass was everywhere; the walls were punctured by bullet holes and the floors were splattered with blood.
His eyes scanned the lifeless bodies around the room, none were customers he had ever seen. He heard a noise behind the bar and bolted over. Immediately he fell to his knees beside the bloodied and beaten body of his beloved.
“Youngwoon, what happened!?” Jungsu demanded as he pulled his head onto his lap,
“So… tired,” Youngwoon muttered. His body felt as if it had been on fire and was now sliced open by ice everywhere. Even speaking - no, even breathing - took too much strength.
“Jungsu-sshi, you’re here!” The taxi driver appeared with a towel.
“What happened?” Jungsu asked again as the driver rolled up the towel and pressed it against Youngwoon’s abdomen,
“Hold that there, he’s bleeding heavily,” The driver instructed and Jungsu obeyed immediately, “I’m not too sure. I came early to pick him up as always, but when he was late I went in to check up on him as I usually do. The place was as it is now and I found him back here. Honestly, with all this blood around him I don’t know how he’s survived this long… who knows how long he’s been lying here.”
“When I find the bastards who did this,” Jungsu began to shake with anger as his free hand cradled the side of Youngwoon’s face, “They’ll wish they’ve never been born.”
“The ambulance is here,” Donghae called from the door. He whistled when he saw the scene before him. He gingerly made his way to where he heard the voices and almost screamed at the sight of Youngwoon’s body; “Jungsu, go with Youngwoon to the hospital and… I’ll settle things here.”
“I need to go find who did this,” Jungsu grounded out as the paramedics came in with a stretcher.
“No, you need to go with Youngwoon,” Donghae argued as the paramedics carefully lifted Youngwoon’s body onto the stretcher, “The fact that Youngwoon’s still alive means we’ve bought ourselves some time.”
“What?” Jungsu questioned,
“They left him for dead Jungsu, they didn’t completely finish him off because they didn’t think he’d survive this. He did survive however, and they probably weren’t planning on that,” Donghae explained, hoping his logic would cool Jungsu’s anger, “Now go with Youngwoon.”
Jungsu looked hesitantly as he looked at the other bodies in the bar,
“When he wakes up, Youngwoon will want you to be there,” Donghae said softly and that was more than enough to convince him. With a soft murmur of thanks to Donghae and the taxi driver, Jungsu left with the ambulance.
“Do you need help cleaning this up?” The taxi driver asked as he rose to his feet,
Donghae turned to face him, startled because he had forgotten the driver was still there and surprised because the driver was still there; “Ahjusshi… most people run when they see something like this. You didn’t. Why?”
The taxi driver moved towards the sink behind the bar and washed his hands of blood and dirt he had accumulated while tending to Youngwoon before Jungsu and Donghae had arrived; “For almost two years I have driven Kim-sshi from this bar to his home, everyday. I’ve seen the tough and temperamental bar owner and I’ve also seen the kind and laughing friend in him. I know what this part of Seoul is considered and I know that his bar is visited by both sides. When I came in here, I knew I couldn’t run away.”
“You know more than most civilians,” Donghae commented casually, “Actually, you seem to know a lot of information that’s confidential; where neutral territory is, for example. Most people of Seoul aren‘t even aware of the dangers in their own town.” Donghae tilted his head as he regarded him a moment, “Did you use to work for the Agency?’
The taxi driver shrugged, “Yes and no. I’m a taxi driver, through and through, but I’d help agents seek information if they asked for it. You‘d be surprised how much people talk when in a taxi.”
“And did agents ask for your help often?” Donghae asked curiously,
“Only two did and I always obliged,” the other man replied easily,
“Who?” Donghae wondered,
He smiled at him the way a kind uncle or grandfather might do; “Kim Youngwoon’s parents.”
“Such a serious expression.”
Jungsu’s eyes flashed towards Youngwoon’s face and relief flooded over him to see that he had awaken. At the same time, his heart was filled with guilt. He had left Youngwoon’s side the moment he heard that another agent had been murdered. Only one hour, he had promised before running out the door. During that time, however, Youngwoon had been attacked and left for dead.
“I’m still here, so stop thinking those thoughts,” Youngwoon commanded, his voice raspy as he reached out and took Jungsu’s hand.
Jungsu could barely stand the sight of him. He lay supine in the hospital bed, dressed only to the waist as his upper torso was wrapped in bandages. Wires seemed to be attached to Youngwoon everywhere as it monitored his vitals.
“I was only gone for a moment,” Jungsu began,
“It could’ve happened at any time. It was just a coincidence you weren’t there,” Youngwoon insisted in a weak voice, “Just as well because then you’d be in the hospital bed next to mine instead of just being my visitor.”
“Youngwoon…” Jungsu gazed at him through a veil of hot tears. Youngwoon moved his hand from Jungsu’s and wiped away a stray tear. Jungsu held that hand to his face, closing his eyes as if he were imprinting the feel of that hand to his memory; “I thought… I thought…”
“I know what you thought,” Youngwoon interrupted, “But I’m still alive, so stop acting like I’m half-way to the grave.”
“He’s right you know, doctor just said he’ll be good again in a few weeks. Apparently, most of the blood on him wasn’t even his own.”
“Donghae,” Youngwoon looked towards the door of the private room and smiled weakly at him.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Donghae insisted, “But I wanted to make sure you were okay, Youngwoon.”
“I’m fine,” Youngwoon insisted, “Just inconveniently tired. All. The. Time.”
Donghae chuckled lightly. His hyung was strong and always moving, now that his weakened state limited what he could do, he knew that Youngwoon was feeling restless already. “A few more weeks,” Donghae repeated before asking, “But… do you have enough strength to tell us what happened?”
Youngwoon nodded, “About ten minutes after Jungsu left, some thugs came in. I can’t explain it, but I just knew they were lone wolves. I told them I wouldn’t put up a fight if they let all my customers leave.”
“Their safety comes first,” Youngwoon interrupted Jungsu; “I’m not going to let innocents become victims just because some spoiled little brat wants to take revenge on the gangsters and the Agency.” His outburst of anger took its toll and Youngwoon fell into a coughing fit. The cough shook his whole body and drained his energy quickly. It was a few moments after he had grown silent before he could speak again.
“What did they do once the bar was cleared?” Donghae prompted hesitantly,
“Demanded I tell them about Shiwon since they knew he frequented the bar,” Youngwoon answered,
“What… did you say?” Donghae forced the words out because Youngwoon’s words had left him unable to breathe.
“I told them to go to hell,” Youngwoon replied easily, “Fortunately for me, they surrounded me.” He managed a smirk, “Did you do a body count while you were in the bar?”
Donghae blinked, “Yes… twelve.” His mouth slowly dropped in realization, “They were the lone wolves who came in!? You took them ALL out!?”
A ghost of smile traced Youngwoon’s lips before he stared up at the ceiling as a peculiar light entered his narrowed eyes, “Oh yes… and I was getting along fine when a thirteenth person came in. He was young and on first glance, an innocent… but no… something… something in his eyes told me otherwise.”
“Key?” Jungsu asked, his voice trembling as he spoke.
Youngwoon nodded, “I’m guessing. He looked different from his photo, but there was a ghost of the boy in that man’s face. In all honesty, all of my injuries were caused by him; the previous twelve lone wolves could barely lay a hand on me.” Youngwoon closed his eyes as he forced himself back into his memory of that fight several hours ago; “He came at me without an inhibitions. Questions were demanded as he attacked me without any sense of control or doubt, as if… if he didn’t get answers from me, it would be the end of his world.”
Silence fell upon the three and Jungsu and Donghae knew that Youngwoon had fallen asleep. Jungsu, still holding Youngwoon’s hand, brought it to his lips before rising from his seat and turning towards Donghae.
He glanced at his watch, “It’s noon… is Shiwon at his headquarters?”
“Most likely,” Donghae answered easily before adding a suspicious, “Why?”
“I just want to talk to him more about Key,” Jungsu explained casually; too casually for Donghae’s liking. However, Donghae watched Jungsu look at Youngwoon for an extended moment before taking his leave.
“Donghae,” Youngwoon’s voice drifted towards Donghae.
He turned back to Youngwoon, startled to find him awake, “Did we wake-”
“I was just resting, not sleeping,” Youngwoon insisted sleepily before continuing, “Before I do sleep however… listen to what I have to say: The first time I saw Jungsu fight, he was undercover as a girl customer in my bar. He’s good at his job and a professional… however, in the rare chance that he’s emotional when he’s fighting, Jungsu throws caution to the wind and loses his reason to his heart.”
“What you’re saying is that I should follow Jungsu to Shiwon?” Donghae asked quietly, tentatively.
“He’ll continue fighting until someone stops him. If no one stops him, he’ll fight until one or both of them are dead… and no offence to Shiwon-sshi, but Jungsu will not loose in a hand-to-hand combat.” Youngwoon continued, bypassing Donghae’s question,
“What!?” Donghae gaped, “But-”
“If I were to fight Jungsu seriously… hand-to-hand… I would lose before I even had a chance to raise a fist,” Youngwoon answered honestly. Slowly, Youngwoon opened his eyes and locked eyes with his friend, “Now… ask me again if I’m telling you to follow Jungsu.”
Donghae said nothing as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellular.
Yesung scowled as he picked up his jeans from the chair and searched it for his vibrating phone. He and Sungmin had been out late doing their own parts for the mission, so anyone who dared call before the sun set was going to have to put up with his temper. Clad in just his pyjama bottoms, he found the phone in the back pocket and answered it,
“WHAT!?” Yesung practically growled, “What? Is he okay? Thank good- what? He wouldn’t… he would never… …” Yesung snapped his phone shut, “Sungmin!”
Slowly, Sungmin sat up in bed, rubbing his tired eyes, “Eh?”
“We have to go to Shiwon’s headquarters. NOW,” Yesung instructed as he kicked off his pyjama bottoms and began pulling on his jeans,
“But… why?” Sungmin yawned as he stretched his arms up to the sky,
“Because if we don’t,” he stopped on his way to the closet, “Jungsu’s going to kill Shiwon.”
He heard the click of a gun being readied to be used. He had been gazing out a window, lost in his own thoughts. Shiwon never reflected on the past because it would hurt too much. So, for the first time, he allowed himself to unlock the door to his memories.
He thought back to when he was reunited with Donghae after five years. He recalled the stormy night when he had chased him for what seemed an eternity before they met face-to-face again. He remembered how much his heart swelled at just the sight of him, and how his heart burst when he finally held him.
He continued to when he married DoHae and even further to when he first met her. He remembered the wisp of a girl with the biggest smile and heart he had ever come to know. He could still remember the warmth that she gave off. She was the first person he had come to know who wasn’t part of the underground war between the mob and the Agency. Her outside presence to that darkness drew him in and allowed him to escape the tumultuous world he had known all his life. It was in that escape that he had come to love her, his best friend.
He thought all the way back to when he first became friends with Donghae, two kids meeting on a tennis court. So young, so innocent… so naïve to the world that both friends were going to be thrust into. Shiwon thought that he had been a safe choice, but neither of those kids had known that, in reality, they were on opposite sides of a secret war. Then again, perhaps it was Shiwon who was innocent and naïve; hadn’t Donghae admitted to know who Shiwon truly was all along?
Then he delved deeper to another friend, another companion. He remembered running down corridors, scraping knees whenever they tripped. He remembered creeping up to close doors and trying to hear the meetings on the other side. He remembered eating meals filled with delicious food and laughter. He remembered several times in his childhood when he stood before two graves, crying… those memories were always accompanied by a small pair of arms wrapping around him.
It was in his memories that he failed to realize the opening of his office door; the confident stride of heavy boots on the floor. It was the click of the gun that had ruthlessly pulled him out of his reverie.
Slowly, Shiwon turned around to see the gun pointed at his chest. His eyes travelled to the shooter as he locked eyes with that long-lost friend of his. Another friend. Another companion. Another lifetime ago.
He smiled, nonetheless, “Welcome home, Kyuhyun.”
(Coming soon, the sequel: Soliloquy)