(Part of the Shatter series which is a sequel to the Surrender and Succesion series.)
He sat in the room, trying to figure out how he managed to get where he was. The lights were dim in the room. The cement walls were a slate grey and the only furniture in the room were a spindly chair and wooden table. He ran his hands through his thick hair before he stood up and paced the room. In one of the walls of the room was a large mirror, but he knew it was really just a window for people to look in on him and watch him. He walked the same ten paces and finally stopped. He rolled up his sleeves to his elbows, placed his hands on his hips and glared at the mirror.
“Are you ready to talk?” A voice asked over an intercom.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” he replied, “I did nothing wrong.”
“A guy ends up dead from a wicked stab wound and you’re found with the murder weapon in your hand. You’re telling me you did nothing wrong?” The voice questioned mockingly,
He laughed bitterly, “You know better than I that not all crimes are so black and white.”
“And sometimes, Choi Shiwon, they are.”
The voice mocked and grated on Shiwon. He had half a mind to punch through the mirror and grab the bastard by the neck; see who’d be mocking who then. He inhaled deeply, steadily. No, he couldn’t do such a thing. He wasn’t the mob boss anymore, he and his men were a legitimate business… but then, how the hell did he manage to get arrested?
Slowly, Shiwon turned away from the mirror, sitting down in the chair and staring at the blank wall. He had been there for hours now and after they were done interrogating him two hours prior, he had been in that room alone. Over and over again he replayed the events that led up to his incarceration. He remembered the two drunks fighting, how he had disarmed the assailant and the bastard had run away almost immediately.
He sat up straighter in his chair: was that really what happened?
The drunks had been slurring as they shouted at one another, he clearly remembered that, but, he also recalled noticing one was drunker than the other. He closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on the image. He remembered the drunks began to fight, and saw the coordination of one of the men. It was too smooth, too sure to have been the movements of someone drunk. He remembered disarming the man, it has been easy… too easy, perhaps? He remembered the man running away, his escape fluid without hesitation as if it had been…
His hands fisted a top the table. He stood up then, turning to stare at the mirror, “You want me to talk?”
“Are you going to talk?”
“Call the Agency,” Shiwon said, his tone demanding absolute compliance.
“H-how do you know about the Agency? Civilians aren’t supposed to know,” the voice stammered, suddenly not as cocky as it once had been.
“I’m not a civilian, remember? Just a few hours ago you called me the leader of the biggest gang in Seoul,” Shiwon smirked, thick eyebrows narrowing as he folded his muscular arms over his chest,
“That’s because you are!”
“Not according to the Agency… I haven’t been for some time,” Shiwon conceded,
“You’re lucky there’s no proof of your gang’s activities,” the voice hissed suddenly over the intercom,
Shiwon’s lips straightened immediately; he was tired of games; “I believe I told you to call the Agency.”
“Anyone specific I should be asking for?” The voice mocked again,
“The Head of International Intelligence and Defence,” Shiwon answered simply, sternly, “Lee Donghae.”
He was pacing. His strides were slow, perfectly even and fluid. His friend stood near him, back against the wall and arms folded. It was late and both were not pleased with the circumstances at all. Finally, he paused and gave his hardest stare at the Police Commanding Officer who sat behind the desk in his private office at the Seoul precinct.
“I want to know why the hell he wasn’t given a phone call,” He stated, his voice even but something in his eyes vibrated with pure menace, pure rage.
“Our files have Choi Shiwon as a former mob boss… sometimes… sometimes certain people aren’t given the same privileges as others,” the Commander explained, trying not to break beneath the other’s stare. It was his precinct, wasn’t it? It was his office, wasn’t it? And the insolent kid was younger than him! Slowly, he rose to his full height, narrowing his eyes, “What I want to know, Agent Lee, is why the damn Agency is getting involved in my affairs!”
“The key word, Commander,” Agent Lee Donghae said, his voice silky and dangerous, “Is ‘former’. Choi Shiwon is no longer a mob boss and his corporation is one of the leading groups in all of South Korea. And may I remind you,” he slowly approached the desks and folding his own arms, “That it is the Agency that has been protecting, not just Seoul, but all of Korea, when no one else could.”
“Leave civil business to the police!” The Commander exclaimed,
“January 6th, January 22nd, February 3rd, February 28th, March 1st, March 15th, March 28th, April 17th, May 4th… shall I go on?” Donghae asked, “These are all days – in this year alone – where the Agency had to cover civil affairs. So, don’t you dare act all high and mighty. You may be Police Commanding Officer and this may be your precinct but don’t you dare forget who protects YOU.”
There was a knock at the door. The Commander bellowed for the person to come in. A police officer came in, but instead of addressing the Commander, turned to the other Agent leaning against the wall, “Agent Park, I believe these are the files you asked for,” he stated.
The Commander’s eyebrows rose and then narrowed, “What the hell is going on?”
Agent Park Jungsu quietly thanked the police officer, who left immediately and then turned his casual gaze to the Commander, “Surely you must know that almost a third of your officers are – first and foremost – under my command?”
The Commander stared, his jaw had visibly dropped, “I… I though you were just another Agent? Only Agent Lee was asked for.”
“Oh, I know what you thought,” Jungsu said nonchalantly as he briefly flipped through the folders in his possession, “And I thought it best not to inform you, especially since we both know this precinct is mine, but this dispute is not. Although, I would inform you that Choi Shiwon is a very good friend of mine.”
“Sir, I didn’t… had I known –”
“What? You would save the Agency back-lashing until I was gone?” He laughed mockingly, “Let’s not suddenly pretend to something we are not nor do we believe in. It is helpful to know that the Police Commanding Officer I had made does not appreciate from where he got his position.”
“Sir, how could I know it was you? No one but your Agents knows what you look like,” the Commander insisted, suddenly realizing how foolishly he had played into their hands.
“A pity for you then,” Jungsu said flippantly as he glanced at his friend, “Shall we collect Shiwon now?”
Donghae threw one last dark glare at the Commander before turning and striding out of the room. Jungsu offered a smile at the Commander, but it was neither warm nor friendly. Then, he followed Donghae out of the room, closing the door silently, but firmly, behind him.
“Interrogation room seven it says,” Jungsu said as he closed the files and tucked it beneath his arm,
“What was going on back there?” Donghae questioned, “I didn’t follow any of it.”
“Traditionally, the Head of Covert Investigations also commanded the police force in Seoul,” Jungsu explained, “With such a job, they have to work intricately with the police in order to do missions. To insure – as much as possible, anyway – that there are no traitors, the Head of that department – in this case, myself – was in charge of the police force and a good number of police officers were, secretly first and foremost, Agents.”
“That’s why you insisted on coming,” Donghae realized,
Jungsu nodded as he led the way, “And why I didn’t introduce myself in the beginning.”
“So that officer who brought you those files…?”
“Is one of my Agents,” Jungsu confirmed, “The Commander’s right, however, in saying no one but my Agents know what I look like. Aside from the Agency, no one knows what the Head of my department looks like.” He shrugged simply as they approached the designated room, “It just makes things easier – and safer – to infiltrate for missions.”
Jungsu stopped before a door, opening it easily. Inside stood the officer who had given him the files. He nodded his acknowledgement and then turned his eyes to the other man in the room, “Choi Shiwon, you are officially the Agency’s now,” Jungsu stated formally.
Shiwon straightened from his chair and silently left the room on the tail of the two Agents. The precinct grew silent, eyes watching as the former mob boss was freely leaving with the protection of the Agents. Once outside, Jungsu led them to his car. He slipped into the driver’s seat as Donghae went into the backseat, Shiwon following him.
The moment the car pulled away from the curb, Donghae turned to Shiwon, “Tell me the names of the bastards who arrested you! Why do you have blood on you!? Did they hurt you? What did they say? Did –”
Shiwon placed his hands on the other’s shoulders to calm and silent him, “Donghae… First thing’s first.” He leaned over and brushed his lips on the other’s, feeling the other relax immediately. He pulled back, “Leave the police alone, they were only doing their job. This is not my blood. They did not hurt me, although, you know I can take care of myself. And, they didn’t say anything except question on me on what happened.”
“What did happen? They said you stabbed someone… a foreigner?” Donghae slanted him a look, “You haven’t gone gangster on me again, have you? Because you did that when we were younger and I don’t think I can go through that again.”
“No, I have not returned to my mob boss ways,” Shiwon rolled his eyes as he sat back against the seat, “I was at the bar. I had put up a sign saying that it was closed since Youngwoon wanted to stay with Sungmin after the funeral. When I left the bar, I saw two men fighting. One fell and I noticed he was bleeding. I disarmed the assailant, grabbing his knife but then the blighter ran off. That’s when the policemen found me.”
“Youngwoon said you left them in the afternoon, but the report says they found you a few hours ago,” Jungsu stated, “Was there trouble at the bar? Or did the fight last that long?”
“No, I…” Shiwon paused, remembering his moments in his best friend’s office. He acknowledge the absence of weight against his chest, his gun was not in its holster, had not been in its holster since he left Yesung’s office. “I stayed for a bit in the bar by myself.”
Donghae’s eyes widened slightly, immediately understanding his words. He reached over in the dark car, his fingers curling around Shiwon’s.
“I was set up,” Shiwon stated abruptly.
“Are you sure?” Jungsu asked calmly as Donghae hissed, “That bastard!”
“The assailant, something… something wasn’t right with him. He slurred as much as the other guy in the fight, but his movements were too coordinated. But if he wasn’t as drunk as he appeared, he was too easy to disarm, too easy in practically giving me his knife,” Shiwon stated, slightly shaking his head, “No, I was set up.”
“Any ideas of who’s doing this?” Jungsu inquired since Donghae was too busy quietly fuming at the revelation.
“None,” Shiwon answered, “And trust me, I’ve thought of all my possible relatives. Kyuhyun was the last one, I swear.” He sighed, briefly remembering the sad decent and demise of his younger cousin; “I would say a rival gang, but it’s been a year and my gang… er… group has been legitimizing the other gangs in Korea. I would know if it was that.”
“It’s too close,” Donghae said then. Shiwon looked at him as Jungsu remained silent, prompting him to continue, “What happened to you happened too close to Yesung’s… murder. The circumstances seem too… similar.”
“You think me being set up is related to Yesung’s murder?” Shiwon asked,
“That’s exactly what I think,” Donghae replied firmly,
“Damn,” Shiwon swore as he turned his gaze to outside the car window, “What is going on?” He paused, “On a second thought, where are we going?”
“I said you’re the Agency’s,” Jungsu said,
Shiwon swung his gaze to Donghae, “What’s going on?”
“I can’t simply bust you out of jail and let you go free,” Donghae stated,
“Why the hell not!?” Shiwon demanded,
“There would be questions as to why the Agency is helping a former mob boss!” Donghae defended,
“Then tell them the damn truth! Tell them that this former mob boss is friends with Agents! Tell them that this former mob boss lives with and fucks an Agent!” Shiwon exclaimed angrily.
Donghae leaned back in his seat, away from Shiwon, arms folded defiantly over his chest.
Shiwon sighed heavily, leaning his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands together and pressing his forehead against his hands, “Donghae… that’s not how I meant it.”
“Hmm…” Donghae hummed before turning his gaze straight ahead.
“While you two are having your lovers’ quarrel, I’ll answer your question,” Jungsu interrupted, the barest hint of amusement in his tone, “Despite what we know of you Shiwon, that you would never murder someone like that, it doesn’t deny the fact that someone was murdered tonight and, unfortunately, your prints on the murder weapon is all there is. It’s hard to prove your innocence and the fact you have a connection to the Agency further damns you because it hints at a corruption somewhere. All we can do is take you out of jail but put you in custody at the Agency.”
“How is that any different from being in jail?” Shiwon asked in a self-mocking tone as he straightened in his seat,
“You’ll have more freedom at the Agency once we put in our reports and analyze the police reports,” Jungsu explained, “And your visitors can come and go as they please, which makes our access to you very easy.”
“If we want access to you,” Donghae muttered, still refusing to look at him.
“I’d leave him be if I were you,” Jungsu interrupted, “Donghae’s been on a short fuse since he got the call you were arrested.” Jungsu paused, glancing in the rear-view mirror at his friend, before continuing, “He almost attacked the Police Commanding Officer.”
Shiwon smirked as he looked over at Donghae, “Donghae… you were going to attack a police officer on my behalf? I’m touched!”
“Yeah, well, you better shut up for a bit longer or else I’ll touch you with my fist,” Donghae threatened quietly.
Shiwon and Jungsu chuckled softly. Shiwon reached over and pried Donghae’s arm from the other. He clasped Donghae’s hand firmly in his own. Despite resisting him the entire time and continuing to refuse to look at him, Donghae allowed his hand to remain warm and secure in Shiwon’s.
A few days later, Jungsu was sitting at his desk in his office. He had several folders open before him and several windows open on his computer. However, as he sat in his leather-back chair, his attention was elsewhere. So much had happened in the past week and yet, they still didn’t understand what was going on. Why had Yesung been murdered? Why had Shiwon been set up? Why? Why? Why? His hand curled into a fist on the desktop. For every day that passed, he felt more and more that Yesung’s murderer was winning.
He felt his heart clench painfully at the thought, as it always did whenever his thoughts turned to his deceased friend. He had been a part of the Agency much longer than Yesung. However, when he heard of the rookie sensation, the genius, the prodigy, who had suddenly risen in the ranks of the Agency, he, like all other Agents, were in awe of him. He recalled Yesung working on and off with the former Head of Covert Investigations, indeed, with the other department heads, in order to accomplish his missions as efficiently as possible. It wasn’t before long when Jungsu was promoted to Head of Covert Investigations and it was himself that Yesung worked with on and off.
After it was announced that Yesung had betrayed the Agency, had been a double-agent, he had felt pain – physical pain – at the thought. This rookie, he had hopes for. He had admired Yesung, had respected him as both an Agent and as a person. He had followed Yesung’s career at the Agency, aspiring for himself and other Agents to be like him, to accomplish missions successfully, efficiently, and with the least amount of bloodshed as possible.
After Yesung had left the Agency, he began to hear whispers, to hear plots of assassination on Yesung. He remembered the cold fury that bloomed within him. Yesung had left the Agency quietly and, as far as he recalled, had reverted to a peaceful living serving neither gangster nor Agency. To suddenly hear former colleagues planning his demise…
He understood their reasons. On some level, he truly did. Betrayal was difficult to deal with. It was like a toxin in the system slowly spreading until it encompassed the being completely. The only way to purge one’s self of the toxin was to find an antidote. Apparently, the chosen cure was to assassinate former Agent Kim Yesung.
It was then that Jungsu had taken it upon himself to protect Yesung. He had given himself a mission. He had disguised himself as a woman, and followed Yesung for some time, long enough to assure himself that Yesung was okay, could protect himself. He swallowed hard; it was his mission that brought him to Youngwoon.
If it had not been for Yesung, he would never have met Youngwoon.
He straightened in his chair and began looking through his files again. His eyes raced over the words, expertly absorbing everything, his mind putting the pieces together. He was trying to figure something out, but he wasn’t sure what. Something was connecting the two incidents and yet, he couldn’t figure it out. He opened up the case files, the pictures of the victim’s large and clear. His eyes swept over Yesung’s photos and his vision blurred immediately. He closed the folder and looked away ruthlessly. It had been a week and yet…
There was a knock at the door and Jungsu quietly beckoned the person in.
“Sir, here are the reports you wanted from financing,” the person said, stepping forward and holding them out.
Jungsu took the folders and dismissed the person immediately. He laid the folders atop of the case files, wanting to distance himself suddenly from the case, from the evidence and photographs… from the memories. He had been there that night. He had held Sungmin tightly even though he wanted to run over himself and beg Yesung to not die. He had to withhold his tears, his screams as Sungmin cried endlessly and yelled for Yesung, screamed at him for holding him back. The sirens echoed in his mind as Sungmin’s sobs echoed in his heart.
He opened up the folders, forcibly pushing his thoughts away from that night. He vigorously wiped away at his wet eyes with the heel of his palm before turning his gaze to the files now open before him. He had barely scanned the first page before he closed the file immediately. He closed all the folders and placed them in his desk, locking the drawer. He left his office, locked the door behind him and headed down the hall.
Youngwoon raced through the apartment, but he couldn’t find him. He ran to the master bedroom, noticing the empty bed and running to the bathroom. Empty. He raced past the closet when he heard it. He froze immediately and listened. Muffled cries came from beyond the double doors. He opened the closet doors and stepped into the spacious, walk-in closet. One wall was lined with shelves, one wall lined with drawers and the final wall, directly across from the doors was where suits were hung up on hangers. It was against that wall that the cries were coming from. He approached; against the corner, beneath the suits, sat Sungmin, one suit clasped in his arms.
“I got… I got a call today,” he stammered, fighting hard to stop crying even though the tears poured down his face, staining the black blazer in his arms and even though his body trembled. “The… the drycleaners have… they have a suit of… of Yesung’s… and… and it’s ready to be picked up but… but he’ll never… he’ll never…”
He buried his face in the blazer, inhaling deeply the scent, which he believed to be essentially Yesung. He hugged the blazer to him, trying to find a warmth in the clothes that he could no longer find from the actual person. Another cry strangled him as he curled further against the corner, pressing his back against the cool wall, ducking his head beneath the suits above and tightening his hold on the black blazer.
“There are all these suits and he’ll never… he’ll never wear…” Sungmin cried even harder, the thought, the words slashing through him like physical weapons. His body shook violently as his heart physically pained him, each pump of the muscle like another stab in the chest. “Youngwoon… what am I going to do with all these suits!?” He demanded, sobbed into the blazer.
Youngwoon closed the distance between them, falling to his knees before Sungmin and pushing aside the suits, “I… I don’t know. They don’t have pinstripes, so I can’t wear them,” he said lightly, despite feeling the familiar sting of tears in his own eyes.
Sungmin heard the light tone, the attempt at a joke. Yesung would have laughed, would have loved the joke, despite how cheesy it was. He would have laughed whole-heartedly, his lips curving in a brilliant smile as little lines crinkled at the corners of his bright eyes. Sungmin cried harder.
Helpless, Youngwoon crawled to Sungmin’s side, pushing more suits out of his way. He sat down against the wall, wrapped an arm around the other’s shoulders and pulled him against him. Sungmin responded immediately, crying even more at the sudden strength, sudden warmth, his body, his mind and his heart craving for a different strength, a different warmth and knowing, absolutely, that he would never have it again.
Youngwoon wrapped his other arm around him, pulling him completely into his embrace. He tightened his arms around his friend when he felt a sudden jolt of pain. He pulled away suddenly muttering, “Ouch.” He looked down at Sungmin, “What the heck was that?”
Sungmin, suddenly jolted out of his misery by the change in his friend’s demeanour, looked at him confusedly, body still trembling, tears still coursing, “What… what was what?”
“I… I felt like I was poked by something sharp,” Youngwoon said confusedly.
Sungmin blinked through his tears and looked down at the blazer in his arms. He slowly pulled the collar closer to his inspection and could see the end of a needle sticking out through the seams beneath the collar. Suddenly, he began to laugh softly as more tears trickled down his face.
Youngwoon blinked at him, concerned, “Sungmin… what is it? Are you okay?”
“I’m not okay in the least,” Sungmin said as he shook his head, a small smile curving his lips as he gazed down affectionately at the blazer still in his arms, “As an Agent, Yesung had several things sewn into the seams of his clothing for quick access in difficult situations… this blazer has a needle and who knows what else in its collar.”
“Sneaky bastard, that’s probably how he always had a pen on him,” Youngwoon stated lightly, noticing his friend’s lighter mood and trying to grasp onto it desperately.
Sungmin grew quiet then, leaning back against the corner, his lips slowly straightening and his expression growing solemn as he gazed longingly at the blazer. The entire time, even through the laughter, he had continued to cry. It felt as if a cold front had passed over him and refused to leave. It felt as if ice had encased his heart, his vessels and organs. It felt as if he’d never feel the warmth of the day again.
Slowly, slowly, Sungmin leaned his head against his friend’s shoulder. Youngwoon adjusted his arm immediately, wrapping his arm around the other’s shoulders and drawing him into his body. He could feel the tremors in his friend’s smaller frame, could feel the sadness leaking, surrounding them and feeding his own agony.
“Youngwoon…” Sungmin said quietly, his voice shaking,
“Can… can you…” He swallowed hard, fighting against the tears and the cries that choked him constantly, “Can you go to… to the drycleaners and… Can you go to the drycleaners and…”
Youngwoon tightened his arm around him, leaning his cheek against the crown of the other’s head as he said quietly, “I’ll go and pick up the suit.”
He grew silent as the younger man continued to cry, leaning against him, face buried in the blazer. He tightened his hold on his friend and cried some of his own tears.
Jungsu sat in his office, slowly typing away at the computer. His door was open and he could hear the goodbyes being said between colleagues outside his door. Several of the other Agents even called a goodbye to him on their way past his office. He sat there, glancing at the late hour on the clock. Within an hour’s time, he had no doubt that only a handful of staff and Agents would be around.
He swallowed hard as he continued with his work for now. His mind had been racing all day: should he or should he not do it? He knew the risks, calculated them in his mind over and over, searching for other possibilities, for ways to cover each risk, each problem. He had spent all day pouring over his plan, not being the tactician Sungmin was.
When he looked at the clock again, he knew it was time. He saved his progress and shut down his computer. He made sure all of his drawers were locked, all of his files and folders kept safe. He left his office, locking the door behind him. He quickly walked down the hall, took a right and then another right. He stopped before a door, but it was locked, the lights turned off in the room. He looked around before squatting down. He took a key from his pocket and then slid it beneath the door. Then, he stood and retraced his steps.
He walked to a stairwell and climbed the cement stairs two at a time. His heart was pumping frantically, his mind racing – he was completely on edge. It was like he was on a mission, but worse. He never felt this nervous, this scared. He reached the floor above his own – the top floor – quickly and left the stairwell quietly. He looked around. Only the corridor lights were on and he could hear the quiet sounds of the janitors cleaning the floor.
He walked quietly, stealthily, knowing undoubtedly his direction. He froze when he heard approaching footsteps, plastering his back against the wall. He breathed evenly, quietly as he concentrated on the footsteps. He heard them enter a room nearby, thankfully, not the room he was going to. Slowly, he inched to the corner and looked around: empty.
He rounded the corner, carefully approaching the room where that person had entered. He subtly peered in to see a janitor pulling a garbage bag from its bin. He quickly slipped past the door, ensuring he wasn’t seen; he couldn’t allow anyone to see him. He continued down the hall and turned a sharp left. He walked steadily, hidden in the shadows as he turned another left. This corridor was completely dark and he knew he was close.
He walked down the dark, windowless hallway. It had no doors save for the double doors at the end. He paused at the double doors. He reached into his pockets for his tools when he heard noise behind the doors. Immediately, he jumped away into a darkened corner, squatting in the shadows and immersing himself completely. The double doors opened and a middle-aged man exited, closing the door and locking it. He went to the opposite side of the doors from where Jungsu was hidden to a black box on the wall. It was small, a number pad on its front and a tiny screen above the number pad. He punched in ten digits, turned swiftly and left.
Jungsu could feel his mind anticipating his next move. He watched as the man disappeared down the hallway, turning right at the end. He stayed squatted for a bit longer. He closed his eyes and tried to think. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and had seen the man’s movements. The number pad emitted a pale blue glow and he had seen the man’s fingers move. He replayed them in his head until he had the movements memorized. He waited ten more heartbeats before slowly straightening. Looking down the hall once more, he walked over to the number pad.
He had lucked out, he knew immediately. If he had tried to unlock the doors before entering the number key, who knows what would have happened. He stood before the number pad and replayed the finger movements in his head. Slowly, he adjusted the angle of his memory, fitting it to the key pad. Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a glove and slipped it on. Closing his eyes, his fingertips hovered above the numbers. Swiftly, he made his fingers move in the same way the other’s had. When he pressed the final button, he opened his eyes. The key pad’s light changed subtly to green before reverting back to blue. It had done the same thing when the man had done it.
He went to the doors and crouched down before the doorknobs. He withdrew his tools, and quickly and quietly began to work the locks. He knew the janitors were on the floor and, eventually, would make their way to this hallway and this office. He heard the soft click that brought him closer to his goal. Slowly, he straightened, replacing his tools into his pocket. He grasped a doorknob with his gloved hand and turned.
He heard another click.
That was not the door. That was the sound of a gun cocking.
How? His plan hadn’t been perfect, sure, but his movements were flawless. He was a master of covert investigations. How? He replayed all of his movements up until that point but could see no mistakes. No one had seen him. How? The man in the office couldn’t have been able to adjust his eyesight to the dark quick enough to see him hidden. How?
“I’m not the Chief of the Agency for nothing.”
The banging on the door jolted Youngwoon awake. He sat up straight on the leather couch and looked around, momentarily remembering where he was. It was late at night already, how long had he been sleeping? Hopefully, Jungsu wasn’t at home worrying. He shook his head, no, Jungsu would know he was with Sungmin. He stood up and glanced towards the veranda. Outside in the night, he could see the still silhouette of his friend. Wearily, he made his way to the door cautiously as the loud banging continued. He carefully peered into the peephole before sighing with relief. Then he opened the door,
“Where’s Sungmin? I need to talk to him!” Donghae said rushing in as Youngwoon stepped back,
“Out on the veranda,” Youngwoon said, suddenly running after Donghae, who ran towards the rooftop veranda. “What’s this about?”
“Jungsu’s been placed under lockdown at the Agency,” Donghae huffed as he sprinted towards the lone figure sitting by the far end of the swimming pool.
“What!? Why!?” Youngwoon demanded,
“I don’t know, but there are whispers going around about him being a traitor, trying to get information and selling it,” Donghae spat as they reached their friend, “Sungmin, I need you to come to the Agency with me.”
Sungmin looked up at him with dark, hollow eyes before looking back down at the calm waters, “Not now.”
“Sungmin,” Donghae reached down grabbing his arm, “Jungsu’s been put on lockdown. We need to break into that room and figure out what’s going on!”
“I SAID NOT NOW!” Sungmin snapped, whipping his arm out of the other’s grasp. He stood up, “Just… just leave me alone, Donghae.”
Donghae narrowed his eyes as Sungmin tried to walk away. He caught up with him, grabbing his arm and holding it tightly, his fingers like steel bands, “No. I’m not going to leave you alone!”
“Donghae –” Youngwoon began,
“STAY OUT OF THIS!” Donghae snapped, he looked back at Sungmin who was now looking back at him in an angry glare, “I’m not going to leave you alone because that’s what everyone’s been doing this past week. You know what, I get it, I really do Sungmin. Yesung is dead and you’re left behind to pick up the pieces. I get why you want to be left alone. I would feel just the same if something ever happened to Shiwon, but you can’t forget about everything and everyone else!”
“Then just let me forget for a little bit longer!” Sungmin exclaimed, “Because I have an eternity to remember!”
“Shiwon is incarcerated at the Agency… and now Jungsu is under lockdown,” Donghae said darkly, eyes flashing, “How much longer until you’ll rejoin us, Sungmin? All of this is happening and we don’t know why. We need to figure it out, but we need your help… I need your help, Sungmin!”
Sungmin stalled, hearing what was happening to his friends. But then he skilfully dislodged his arm from Donghae’s grip, turning his back on him, “I apologize for Shiwon and Jungsu… I didn’t know… but I can’t do anything right now… I can’t think of anything right now. I’m sorry of what is happening to Shiwon and Jungsu, but that still doesn’t surmount to Yesung’s death.”
“That’s right, Yesung is dead, but we’re all still alive,” Donghae defended angrily, “We cannot help but be alive, but you can’t stop living just because Yesung did!” He sighed heavily, body physically sighing with him, voice and expression softening, “Yesung is gone, Sungmin, but the rest of us are still here… We’re still here and we’ve been fighting the battle Yesung lost, despite not knowing he was a part of it.”
With that, Donghae brushed past Sungmin and silently left, not even throwing a backward glance before he disappeared beyond the front door.
Youngwoon came up behind Sungmin, cupping a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Sungmin…”
“Do you agree with him?” He asked quietly, tentatively,
“Yes and no,” Youngwoon replied simply, “You’re entitled to your grief and mourning… but you cannot continue as if the rest of us have also gone.”
“I’ve… I’ve been selfish,” Sungmin said quietly,
“You’re allowed to be,” Youngwoon shrugged, “Just… don’t forget about the rest of us.”
Sungmin turned back towards Youngwoon and the older man immediately pulled him into an embrace. Slowly, ever so slowly, the humid night was filled with soft cries.
It felt… weird.
He had entered this building before, walked these halls and casually greeted these people. But this time, it was weird. It was as if the entire world didn’t know that the most catastrophic event had occurred to his life. He paused before the elevator. But then again, Yesung was no longer a part of their world; hadn’t been so for three years, before he quit under the pretence of being a double-agent. Dressed is black slacks and a black button-up, he entered the elevator and rode it to the second-highest level.
As he walked down the corridor to his destination, he began to analyze his feelings of returning to the Agency. It was as if his life were suddenly split into two similar but distinct eras. The first part had Yesung in it and the second part…
He reached Donghae’s office, but it was empty. He looked around and approached the desk. He sat in Donghae’s leather-back chair and looked at the files lying there. The first one caught his eye, simply because of the title written on its tab: Murder, Kim Yesung. He froze and then slipped the file to the side to reveal the other folder beneath it: Murder, Miura Haruma. He picked up the file and sifted through it,
“So this is why Shiwon’s arrested. A foreigner was murdered? Why is this name familiar?” Sungmin murmured. He stood from the desk when something caught his eye. He looked at the computer screen, despite it being turned off. In the centre of the screen was a single sticky note with words in a script he knew well,
I knew you’d come. Take the files.
Sungmin picked up the folders, hesitating when he reached for the one with Yesung’s name. Then, he tucked them beneath his arm and left as quickly and quietly as he came.
Sungmin sat at the couch in the living room. He could hear Youngwoon (bless his heart) cooking in the kitchen. On the coffee table before him, he had both files opened up, all the papers from both files spread out so he could see them easily. He closed his eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply and steadily as he steeled himself, prepared himself for what he was about to do.
Slowly, he turned his gaze to one set of papers, those belonging to Yesung’s file. He swallowed hard as he pulled out the photographs of the crime scene. He could feel the sting of hot tears, could see his vision blurring. He angrily wiped away at the tears as he pulled the photos closer for his inspection. Slowly, he flipped to the photograph of Yesung’s mortal wound.
The photo trembled as his hand did so. He clenched his teeth hard to stop himself from crying out. He dropped the photo to the table and leaned his elbows on his knees. He pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, wishing the tears away… wishing the hurt away. He inhaled deeply again, trying to calm his racing heart. Finally, he lowered his hands slowly and picked up the photograph once more.
His eyes slowly, meticulously swept over the photograph. He forced himself to believe it wasn’t Yesung’s body he was looking at, that it wasn’t his wound, his blood… He took in the stab wound. It was not small but spanned almost the entire width of Yesung’s abdomen. He picked up the wound photograph from the other file. The wound there was also to the same degree.
He placed both photographs back on the coffee table, but side by side. His eyes swept back and forth between the two photos, trying to understand what he was seeing. Something… wasn’t right. If the murders hadn’t happened three days apart, no one might have suspected that they were related. However, as he stared hard at the photographs, he could tell. How? He stared at them, tried to put himself in that position.
For that brief moment, he tried to forget what happened just a week ago. He tried to forget the death that shattered his world. He tried to forget what was happening to his friends, tried to forget how he had collapsed within himself to the point of blocking out everyone else. He tried to forget everything about the cases and just examine the photographs. If he didn’t know they were related, just by looking at the photographs, he could see that they were, but how?
He propped his elbows on his knees again, clasping his hands together. He leaned his chin on his hands and stared at the photographs. Something… was familiar.
What am I seeing?
He blinked again.
What is it I’m missing? There’s something here I’m missing!
He blinked again, but still could not understand what it was he was seeing but not understanding.
He fell back against the leather couch and sighed heavily, staring up at the ceiling. Things never used to be this difficult. He was a great assassin, but he was an amazing tactician. Throughout his entire career as an Agent and, most specifically, when he became a tactician the past year, he was always praised for his mind, his skill. But now, when it mattered most, why couldn’t he figure out the puzzle before him?
His heart clenched painfully. That was why.
When he was an assassin, he had aspired to be like that great Agent who had been a trainee for only two weeks. When he had still taken on missions, that great ex-Agent had always been at home waiting for him. When he became a tactician, eventually Head tactician, that same great ex-Agent had supported him completely.
As an assassin, he had ghosts that followed him everywhere. He remembered every name and every face of each mission, each person he had assassinated. He remembered them and why they had to be killed. However, when Yesung was around, he forgot all of his missions. He forgot the names and faces. He forgot the guilt that ate away at his heart and the burden he carried on his shoulders.
But Yesung was gone now.
Sungmin blinked up at the ceiling, realizing his thoughts were clear, thinking only of the photographs, which were the same and yet, not. His heart ached painfully at the thought of Yesung, but all other thoughts and troubles that usually plagued him of his past, his missions, his victims, they stayed at bay and did not consume him.
His heart clenched painfully again. That was why.
Yesung was dead. Nothing else mattered. And so, he forgot the names and faces. He forgot the guilt that ate away at his heart and the burden he carried on his shoulders.
Yesung was dead, but he was not.
He sat up and picked up the photographs once more.
(Chapter 4: Signature)
A/N: Yes, that is a random cameo/honourable mention of Japanese actor & singer Miura Haruma. Why did I do it? To annoy my lovely editor, Sarah, of course. Despite being every reader's saviour by stoping my thirst for char. death.. SHE'S VERY SCARY Q__Q ... So I killed off one of her favourite people just to annoy her. That's why she was upset with me before (mentioned it in the cbox, she did). So yes, hope that explains any 'w.t.f.'-moments created by Miura's name. v^__^v