(Last of the Shatter series which is a sequel to the Surrender and Succesion series.)
“YOU BASTARD!” The young guy gripped the gun even harder, his finger trembling on the trigger as his eyes narrowed dangerously, his face reddening with anger.
“You’re right,” Sungmin shrugged as he gripped his daggers. It had been so long since he held them, had to use them, but almost immediately they became an extension of his arms. He was trained for this, he was ready. “I am a bastard. I received orders to assassinate your brother five years ago and I did it.”
Donghae kept one hand on his gun, but stretched out the other to silence Youngwoon, “No… he needs to do this. That look on his face… he has something to prove, something to accomplish from this… he needs to fight this guy or else he’ll continue living with his demons.”
Youngwoon gripped the edge of the bar counter, not believing he was allowing Sungmin to fight alone. They had both been assigned that mission five years ago when they first became real Agents. He remembered it well:
It was morning when they got the manila envelopes and the mission was to take place that evening. If he recalled correctly, he had been the excited one, the anticipatory one. Sungmin, on the other hand, had been nervous, anxious, worried he would fail the mission. They had been together since they both entered the Agency and trained together. They always sparred together, trained together, studied together. They had become fast friends, which ultimately had sealed their fates of being partners once they were Agents.
The mission was to assassinate a young businessman. He was an intern in the governmental buildings of Seoul. However, it was soon learned that information from the government was being leaked to unsavoury characters in Seoul. Worse of all, it was suspected that information was being sent north of the border between the Koreas. The Agency found out that the businessman had gained his information by threatening key people in the governmental buildings. Then, once they gave up their information, he would kill them anyway. After all, he couldn’t have any witnesses to his deeds.
The businessman had to be stopped at all costs. The Agency had tried to arrest him before, but if they made a public arrest, that meant revealing to the rest of Korea the existence of that branch of the government. Their proof was decisive against the businessman and so, they decided to leave his demise to their Assassination department.
Shortly after eight in the evening, Youngwoon and Sungmin had gone to the apartment building, managing to slip into the building after someone was leaving, even holding the door open for the pair of seemingly innocent young men. They had made a beeline to the stairs, bypassing the elevator and barely registering the security camera on the roof. They reached his floor, but stayed inside the stairwell.
Youngwoon had barely glanced at Sungmin as he headed to a window in the stairwell. He pulled it open and began climbing out of it without a backward glance at his younger friend. Sungmin peered out the window, watching as Youngwoon began to inch sideways on the wall, lunging from the windowsill to the closest balcony. He almost missed, gripping the top of the railing with one hand. With a suppressed groan, Youngwoon pulled himself up. He glanced inside the balcony’s glass doors, but the curtains were drawn. He silently hopped onto the balcony, crossed it with all speed to its other side and, without a thought, leapt to the other balcony, his hands grasping the railing securely.
Sungmin had watched until Youngwoon was about five balconies away. Youngwoon finally looked back at him across the great distance and signalled for him to proceed. Sungmin closed the window and left the stairwell, stepping into the corridor with all the confidence that he lived there to dispel any suspicions of his presence should anyone see him. He slowly walked down the corridor, gripping his hands to stop himself from shaking too badly. Then, half-way down the hallway, a door opened and Youngwoon’s bald head appeared. His friend signalled for him to quickly join him. They were in.
The sounds from the bathroom told them where their target was and the running water told them they had some cover for any noises they might accidentally make. From that point on, all it took was a surprise entry on the target and a quick bullet to the head. Soon, the shower’s hot water was mixing with the red liquid seeping from the target’s head. They had closed his door and left, this time, a more direct route than their entry.
The gunshot ripped Youngwoon from his memories. He came back to the present just as he saw Sungmin do quick movements with his daggers. He heard the distinct clink of metal on metal. The sound told him Sungmin had intercepted the bullet. The angry red line that was now bleed on the apple of Sungmin’s left cheek told him that the bullet still managed to graze his face. Close, too close. The young man was shooting to kill.
Suddenly, Sungmin lunged at the younger man, crossing his daggers in an X and forcing the top apex beneath the gun, angling upwards to the ceiling. He met the younger man’s eyes directly and could see the anger, the intent. He had killed many people in his career as an Assassin, and he had come across that look before but, this time, it held something different, seemed more personal, more narrowed to just him.
“Your brother was a traitor and a murderer! He was giving information to South Korea’s enemies! There was even proof he was sending information to North Korea! Do you not understand how dangerous that is!?” Sungmin demanded, struggling with the younger man who was trying to free his gun, but Sungmin kept pressing him, pushing him back.
“Then arrest him! You didn’t have to kill him!”
“He had to be stopped. He knew too much. He had to be silenced,” Sungmin stated, his voice deadly flat, all remnants of the bartender Youngwoon and Donghae knew was gone. “He placed himself before the country, before you and your mother.”
“DON’T TALK LIKE YOU GAVE A DAMN ABOUT MY FAMILY!” The young man roared, using his anger to fuel his strength. He managed to shove Sungmin back, aiming the gun at him again, “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF WHAT MY BROTHER’S DEATH DID TO US!”
Sungmin shifted his arm. For a moment, it felt as if time slowed down. He wasn’t sure if he was already dead, or going insane, but he was sure he saw the bullet. He saw as it grazed against the dagger he drew up, saw as it sparked from the metal-on-metal friction. It slid along the dagger before continuing, this time, not to his head, but into his forearm. He felt the burning pain right down to his bones, but he bit down hard to stop from crying out.
“SUNGMIN!” Youngwoon cried out. He turned ruthless eyes on Donghae but was startled then. Donghae’s entire body was tense, his gaze focused on the pair. What surprised Youngwoon, however, was that Donghae’s gun was still raised, still aimed at the young man. He could tell Donghae was biting down hard, his jaw stiff and then, realized for all of Donghae’s words, the younger man was having just as much trouble just standing back and watching.
“JUST STOP THIS!” Youngwoon exclaimed then, “What will killing do for you!? You’ll just get arrested afterwards anyway for murder. Is it worth it? Is this all worth your freedom!?”
“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT FREEDOM WHEN YOU TOOK MY BROTHER’S LIFE!” The young man yelled, swinging his gun towards Youngwoon and shooting wildly.
Suddenly, a dagger and a bullet were on the ground, dropping directly from the air where they crashed together. Sungmin immediately stepped between the shooter and Youngwoon. He was down to one dagger, which was all he needed to protect himself, but a second dagger would be more security. However, he didn’t dare risk bending and picking up the other dagger, he’d be too vulnerable, too open to another attack from above.
His left hand, the one with the dagger and the one that had been shot, was burning fiercely and it took a chunk of Sungmin’s strength just to keep holding it up. He had to finish this and do it fast. He watched the young man and could see that he was slowly losing his control on his own anger. If he didn’t finish it fast, the young man would grow unpredictable. The fact that he had shot at Youngwoon so suddenly, despite his intent so centred on Sungmin, only alluded to the damage and chaos he could cause.
“Why don’t you just kill me?” Sungmin questioned, “What’s taking you so long to pull that trigger and shoot me?”
“I have tried to shoot you,” the young man grounded out,
“Then why waste bullets on someone else? Why not try your luck with your remaining bullets on me? I only have one dagger left, who’s to say you don’t get lucky and actually shoot your target dead on?” Sungmin taunted, hoping the little confidence that allowed him to say such words was not misplaced.
“You can still walk away,” Youngwoon interjected, “You can still drop the gun… it doesn’t… it doesn’t have to keep getting worse.”
“I’ve already killed twice, there is no ‘getting worse’ than that. If I drop this gun, I’ll go to prison anyway,” the young man argued, “I might as well make being incarcerated worth it.”
“No, that’s not how it’ll happen,” Youngwoon insisted,
“What are you doing!?” Sungmin demanded, not talking his eyes off the younger man,
“You’ve been so concentrated on him, you forgot about us,” Youngwoon stated,
“Youngwoon, shut up!”
“My friend here hasn’t lowered his gun even an inch,” Youngwoon confessed. He watched Donghae’s eyes widen slightly, but kept them on the young man.
The young man, as if he really did forget about the other, briefly glanced at Donghae to confirm what the bar owner revealed, “If he shoots at me, I’ll shoot too!”
“He won’t shoot unless you shoot,” Youngwoon stated,
“Youngwoon, stay out of this!” Sungmin practically growled, what was his best friend doing, saying?
“And that’s why, you should put your gun down and not kill anyone,” Youngwoon said,
“Don’t listen to him; he’s just trying to distract you from killing me!” Sungmin exclaimed, “You’re wasting time, aren’t you? You should just shoot me, shouldn’t you?”
“If you shoot, this guy will shoot you,” Youngwoon warned, “What good will it do you to be dead?”
“YOUNGWOON, SHUT THE HELL UP!” Sungmin roared,
“I could say the same to you!” Youngwoon retorted angrily, his fists clenched so tightly his knuckles were turning white.
“You think I give a damn if he kills me? I killed his brother! I was the reason he targeted Yesung. I was the reason Yesung got distracted that night,” Sungmin recounted and then bellowed, “YOU ALREADY KILLED YESUNG, SO JUST KILL ME ALREADY!”
“DO YOU WANT TO DIE THAT MUCH!?” Youngwoon demanded, his fists slamming on top of the counter.
Silence fell amongst the four young men and for, a moment, Sungmin wasn’t sure who Youngwoon was directing that question to. However, he didn’t have to think for very long because the young man broke the silence first.
“STOP TRYING TO CONFUSE ME!” He yelled, taking a step back.
Sungmin tensed immediately. That was the first defensive move the young man had made. Was he really backing down? Or just trying to lure him into a trap? Worse yet, he could tell the young man was descending faster and faster into his own dark insanity. If they waited much longer, he may lose the last of his control and go on a rampage with his remaining bullets. He may have his dagger for some semblance of protection and Donghae may have his own gun but, he was fully aware that Youngwoon was unarmed.
“I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO DO! YOU’RE TRYING TO CONFUSE ME SO I WON’T SHOOT ANYONE, BUT THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!” He warned, despite taking another half-step back.
Sungmin couldn’t wait anymore and, he was half-worried Youngwoon would say more, further confusing the young man. He lunged through the air at the young man, his arm raised, holding the dagger upside-down as a shield for his face. The young man reacted as he predicted.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Sungmin slumped to the floor, his body hunched over for just a moment before it toppled to the side and he was motionless.
“SUNGMIN!” Youngwoon and Donghae cried in unison.
They waited, prayed for some signal or sign that Sungmin was still alive. However, all they got were crimson trails sneaking out from beneath Sungmin’s body. Donghae felt the onslaught of tears immediately, fought against them, knowing if his vision was compromised, he wouldn’t be able to avenge Yesung’s and, now, Sungmin’s deaths. He gripped the gun even harder, narrowed his eyes and took aim.
Youngwoon felt his heart freeze the moment he heard the gunshots. No, no, no, this can’t be happening. His mind flashed with happy images of his best friend from when they trained together, from later on when they worked together at the bar. No, no, no, it can’t end like this. They couldn’t lose another friend. No, not after fighting so hard for so long. He felt a cold resolve sweep through his body. He didn’t care he wasn’t armed, he couldn’t be idle anymore. He couldn’t keep running from what he was trained to do. Grabbing a knife from the counter, Youngwoon vaulted the bar counter only to freeze,
“I still have one more bullet in this gun,” the young man aimed it at him, kicking aside the lifeless body and stepping towards the bar owner, his shoes leaving bloody footprints on the floor, “I can finish my revenge.”
“Not unless I kill you first,” Youngwoon said darkly, ruthlessly. He was done trying to reason, he was done trying to talk sense. No, not as his best friend lay dead on the ground, the floorboards inked with his young blood. No, he was trained to be an Assassin and so, he would come full circle and kill the brother of his first mission.
“Don’t forget about me,” Donghae replied angrily, “I won’t let you get away for what you’ve done… what you just did… I WON’T LET YOU LEAVE HERE ALIVE!”
“Don’t get into other people’s business… you have nothing to do with this… I just want him dead,” the young man said, his voice rough, edgy and thick with anger, his dark eyes alight with triumph so close in his grasp.
“I tried to save you, tried to save your life but you had to go and shoot…. And kill…” Youngwoon shook his head, “I tried to save your mother some grief this time around, but you wouldn’t let me, would you!? No, you had to go too far!”
“MY MOTHER DIED THE DAY YOU KILLED MY BROTHER! You think she cared about anything – anyone – else after that!? I was sixteen and she abandoned me for alcohol! EVERYTHING MY FAMILY HAS BEEN THROUGH HAS BEEN BECAUSE OF YOU!” The young man roared angrily.
A dagger and a bullet dropped to the ground, right in the middle between Youngwoon and the young man. Suddenly, the gun dropped to the ground with a loud thud. The young man fell to his knees, a knife stuck in his chest, just a little left to his sternum, perfectly horizontally between his ribs. Trembling, he slowly looked down at the knife impaling him. It had been thrown, whipped sideways so that it hit him horizontally. The aim had been precise, the impact decisive.
Slowly, he looked up at Youngwoon, whose hand was still outstretched from throwing the knife. “You said… you tried… to save my life,” the young man stammered as pain slashed throughout his body, his strength draining quickly and his vision blurring dangerously, “But my life… ended… five years…”
The young man fell to the ground and spoke no more.
Youngwoon’s eyes travelled from the young man’s body to the floor between them, the dagger and bullet. Suddenly, he ran to Sungmin’s side. The younger man was propped up on an elbow, one arm slung across his abdomen, “You… I thought you…”
“And if you ever trained… with Yesung… you would’ve heard… me breathing,” Sungmin muttered, wincing against the pain that burned in his abdomen and arm.
“Where did he shoot you!? Lay back down!” Donghae cried as he replaced his gun and ran over to his friends,
“Well he tried… for my head… again,” Sungmin said as he allowed them to lay him back down on the floor, “He was still predictable, but I had… a feel his anger would… affect aim. Deflected bullets… two to stomach… one in arm… again.” He squeezed his eyes closed tightly as he gulped for air, “I’m sorry… Yesung… I can’t… join you after all.” He glanced up at the faces of his two friends, “There are… still people who… aren’t dead… Have to live… for them.”
Youngwoon let out a strangled laugh as tears began to spill down his cheeks. His restricted heart suddenly felt free and light. He bent over Sungmin, embracing him as best he could without hurting the younger man. He had almost lost Jungsu once, had lost Yesung already and, to think, he almost lost his best friend… He felt such warm relief that he cried even harder.
Donghae, so affected by the tough bar owner’s tears, had to turn away. He took out his cellular phone, dialled and held it up to his ear, “This is Agent Lee, Department Head for International Intelligence and Defence. I have one agent down and target dead. Location is in Seoul’s former neutral territory…”
The lights were dim in the room, a small handful of men and women sitting at a metal table. The metal table between them had many papers scattered before each sitting place. Hanging above the table was a large sheet of glass which acted as a computer screen as Donghae, who headed the meeting, displayed his facts and report, signalling the end of the case.
“It seems that as means for money, the younger brother got into bad business in Japan and began doing the same thing his brother did here in Korea. The Japanese Agency found out and had been tracking him since, even when he returned to Korea to continue searching for Agent Lee Sungmin and former-Agent Kim Youngwoon,” Donghae explained, the large sheet of glass displaying pictures and information he had been putting together. He had left the bar and returned to the Agency and had been there since.
He glanced down at the two folders before him, each with a small photograph paper-clipped to the front. One was Agent Miura and the other was Yesung’s, “His mother has been called and, this time, she’ll be informed of everything that happened, including the case of her older son’s exploits. If she understands the Agency’s reasoning for assassinating her older son and the reason her other son is now also dead, it will hopefully, help her to begin to heal or, at least, to continue living with their ghosts.
“Former-Agent Kim Yesung had been targeted because of his connection to Agent Lee Sungmin,” A picture of Yesung, Shiwon and Agent Miura appeared on the screen, “Choi Shiwon had been targeted by mistake. Presumably, the younger brother had been watching the bar, lying in wait for Kim Youngwoon. When Choi Shiwon exited, he must have assumed it was Kim Youngwoon. However, when it turned out to be Choi Shiwon instead, the younger brother had already killed Agent Miura. Instead of trying to kill Choi Shiwon, he framed him and escaped,” Donghae continued.
“How did you find out who the murderer was?” One of the other agents present questioned,
Donghae pulled up images of Yesung and Agent Miura’s wounds on the screen, “If you pay attention to the abdominal wounds of both former-Agent Kim Yesung and Agent Miura Haruma, you’ll see that there is a coarse jagged pattern in the way the wounds are formed. Agent Lee Sungmin was examining the photos when he realized the familiarity of the wound patterns. He matched it to the wound patterns of victims he had seen five years prior, the assailant being the older brother who was Agent Lee Sungmin and former-Agent Kim Youngwoon’s first Assassination mission.”
“How did you manage to trap the younger brother? It seemed easy – too easy,” another agent commented, no suspiciousness in his tone, just a simple stating of the facts,
“Myself and Agent Lee Sungmin approached former-Agent Kim Youngwoon and told him our findings. Together, the three of us devised a plan. Former-Agent Kim Youngwoon would open his bar, presumably after days without business while I and Agent Lee Sungmin waited in the back for our murderer to appear,” Donghae shrugged, a little grin breaking his solemn expression, “It did seem too easy, but it was our only plan at the time and we had nothing to lose. Fortunately, the plan worked and we were able to ambush the younger brother… In this case, the easiest solution was the right one.”
“You’ve all read the reports by myself and Agent Lee Sungmin,” Donghae stated, “Are there any other questions?”
When all answered ‘no’, Donghae turned to one of the agents closes to him, his vice-head, “Status on Agent Lee Sungmin?”
“He was treated in our infirmary and ready for discharge,” she answered,
Donghae blinked, “Really? He was shot four times and he’s ready to leave? Lucky bastard!”
Some agents stifled their laughs as his vice-head explained, “Bullet extraction was successful. He was put on blood transfusions and antibiotics immediately after. He’s still healing and still weak, but he’s refusing to stay put. He threatened to kill our doctors and nurses if they didn’t release him from the infirmary by day’s end.”
Donghae laughed softly as he turned off the computer, the images dissolving from the hanging glass sheet. The lights turned on as he stacked his files together and then enfolded them in a dark-brown folder, large, red print on the front reading ‘Complete’. “Status on Choi Shiwon?”
“Released from holding,” his vice-head answered swiftly,
“Status on Agent Park Jungsu?”
“Apparently he’s being released later today,” his vice-head said uncertainly, glancing at the other agents who were equally surprised,
“Any information as to why he was put on lockdown or why, suddenly, he’s being released?” Donghae questioned,
His vice-head shook her head, “None, sir. These are just the reports being released from the Chief from just before the meeting.”
“Very well… take the reports and the transcription from this meeting. Make three copies, one for myself, your files and deliver the last to the Chief,” Donghae instructed. He glanced to the other agents, the Head and vice-Head from the Assassination Department and the vice-Head from Covert Investigations. “Meeting adjourned.” Donghae handed his brown folder to his vice-Head, “Leave this on my desk for me, please.”
He waited until the room was empty and then, slowly, he sank to his chair. He propped his elbows on his thighs and then arched downwards, his head curling to his chest as his hands laced over the back of his head, holding it down. So much had happened and he was exhausted. Everyone had been affected from one plot for revenge. All it had taken was one young man’s desire for revenge to change all of their lives. Yesung had been murdered, Shiwon had been framed and even Jungsu had been placed under lockdown. The last one couldn’t have been in the young man’s plans and yet, Donghae had a feeling all three were connected to the mission.
He had been trained to never get emotionally involved in a mission and yet, last night, it had happened. It was hard enough to push away his feelings after Yesung died, but last night when he saw Sungmin drop to the floor, his hold was slipping. In that moment when he believed – truly, in his soul, believed – that Sungmin was also dead, he stopped caring about the mission. He didn’t care if it was ever resolved, or if he went against any Agency policies. All he cared about was killing that young man and getting his own revenge. Donghae shuddered then, could he enact revenge as that young man had been doing on him and his friends?
Warm, large hands cupped his shoulders, slowly spinning his chair to face the side. He felt a warm presence before him and, slowly, raised his head. Shiwon was kneeling before him, a smile dimpling his cheeks.
“It’s over,” Shiwon said simply, softly.
That broke the last of his hold. He was so tired, so very tired. He was physically, emotionally and mentally drained from the entire mission, from all the events. He cried heavily, gasping for gulps of air as Shiwon wrapped him in a firm embrace. Donghae cried into his shoulder, held onto him tightly as if he were Donghae’s last grasp on reality, on the present, on life.
“You always were a cry baby,” Shiwon teased lightly, gently, trying to soften the mood.
Somehow, through his tears, through his purge, Donghae managed, “Shut up or I’ll kill you.”
Sungmin left the infirmary with silent and scared doctors and nurses behind him. He had threatened them and was still wondering if he was serious or not. He entered the waiting room outside of the Agency’s infirmary looking for Youngwoon, knowing his best friend was waiting for him. He was wearing black slacks and he only managed to slip on his short-sleeved button-up onto his arms, not bothering with an undershirt. His abdomen was bandaged heavily, as was his left forearm. As he spotted Youngwoon talking to a middle-aged woman, he tried to button his shirt with just one hand.
The sound of a slap was crisp in the waiting room.
Sungmin froze, his right hand loosely holding the halves of his shirt together. Youngwoon slowly straightened from his ninety-degree bow, his cheek red. The older woman slowly collapsed into a nearby chair, crying hysterically, her sobs echoing in the waiting room and radiating down the halls and even into the infirmary.
Youngwoon murmured more words to her, but he doubted if she heard any of them. He wasn’t even sure she heard most of what he said before she slapped him. What he did know, without a doubt, was that she heard him say he had been the one to kill both of her sons. Slowly, he turned and walked away, leaving other Agents to finish the explanations. He spotted Sungmin and walked over,
“That’s their mother… isn’t it?” Sungmin asked, beginning to button his shirt again,
Youngwoon nodded. He glanced over his shoulder before continuing to walk away, “I saw her and recognized her from the first son’s funeral… I thought perhaps she should know who it was that ended the lives of both of her sons.”
“That was… brave of you,” Sungmin stated,
“I had to attempt to make peace with her… I can’t do any more than that,” Youngwoon shrugged. He was a silent a moment before glancing sideways at the younger man, “I can’t believe you actually convinced them to let you go after only a few hours after surgery.”
“I was very convincing,” Sungmin replied swiftly,
“Very threatening more likely,” Youngwoon shook his head with a soft chuckle, “You’ve changed so much since our training days… to think how blasé and confident of an Agent you are now.”
“I had to change,” Sungmin shrugged, “If I was to continue as an Agent after you left… especially after you left. That first mission… I wouldn’t have succeeded if you weren’t there.”
“It was both of our first times,” Youngwoon shrugged, then added, “By the way, why did you tell that kid yesterday that you were the one who killed his brother? You and I both know it was me who did it, despite what our reports say from five years ago.”
“You weren’t armed, Youngwoon. If he was going to kill one of us, he might as well focus on the one who can actually fight back,” Sungmin stated, “And in the end you still killed him…”
“And you put in your report that I didn’t and told Donghae to do the same, why? Again?” Youngwoon questioned,
“We may know who really killed the brothers… but in the eyes of everyone else, I’d rather have the mark of the Assassin, than you,” Sungmin replied, “You left the Agency after our first mission, I didn’t want the stain of blood to follow you.”
Youngwoon was silent a moment before stating quietly, “Thank you.”
Sungmin smiled at him, genuinely smiled at him. They were silent before Sungmin asked, “Where are we going?”
“Down to the holding rooms… Jungsu’s being released,” Youngwoon stated, eyes narrowing and hands fisting at his sides,
“Do you know why he was put on lockdown in the first place?” Sungmin inquired,
“No, the Chief didn’t say a damn – wait… those are their voices,” Youngwoon stopped immediately from turning the corner. He and Sungmin stood there, silently listening.
“You better put everything to right, Chief!” Jungsu’s voice stated, “The whole Agency probably thinks I deflected! Must I go through the strife you put Yesung through!?”
“Stop being so dramatic. I’ll release a statement and everything will go back to normal,” the Chief replied flippantly,
“It’s that easy to just control everything? You do things, decide things on your own without a damn care for anyone else involved! Do you have any idea what your decisions have done to people!? It ruined Yesung’s life – he was almost assassinated a number of times – not to mention recently and now my own reputation is damaged –”
“Damaged, but not irreparable. It can be fixed,” the Chief interrupted.
“And what if this case hadn’t been solved!? What if it continued on for longer? Would you have continued to lie to everyone? Huh? Would you have kept it all to yourself as the rest of us suffered!?” Jungsu demanded angrily,
“Watch your words, Agent Park. I am still the Chief here,” the older man’s voice cut like a physical blade.
“Yes, sir,” Jungsu grounded out.
Youngwoon and Sungmin rounded the corner. Both Agents turned to them, both involved in the conversation, neither sensed the presence of others. “What have you been lying about now?” Youngwoon demanded of the Chief, approaching them with Sungmin at his side.
“Sungmin!” Jungsu called suddenly,
“You’ve been lying to me? About what?” Sungmin looked at the Chief, confused.
“Yesung’s still alive,” Jungsu stated, throwing a hate-filled gaze at the Chief.
“WHAT!?” Youngwoon roared at the middle-aged man,
“That… that can’t… I saw him… I saw him!” Sungmin stammered,
Jungsu shook his head, “We moved away, remember? We didn’t… not really, but we just assumed he did! I got reports from financing and saw that the Agency was sending money to Seoul General Hospital in steady payments since Yesung’s presumed-death day. When I was arrested, I was sneaking into the Chief’s office to find out more information.”
Sungmin was silent, too stunned and startled to say anything. Youngwoon, sensing his silence, glared angrily at the Chief, “We saw his body at the funeral!”
“A body double,” the Chief said flippantly, “Very easy to arrange with my position and power.”
“Just as easy as to manipulate the lives of your Agents!?” Youngwoon demanded. He went to lunge at the Chief when Jungsu restrained him immediately, “Let me go, Jungsu. He deserves what’s coming to him! After all we’ve been through! Sungmin, for God’s sake… everything the Chief’s made him suffer!”
“You’re all making a mountain out of a molehill,” the Chief brushed aside their angry words and expressions, “I did what I had to do. I knew that if Agent Lee thought Kim Yesung was dead, then he would dedicate himself to the mission and that it would be resolved even quicker. And look, I was right.”
“By chance,” Sungmin grounded out, “What if I had killed myself instead!? WHAT THEN!?”
“You wouldn’t have killed yourself,” the Chief waved aside his hostile words,
“You don’t know what the hell I would have done!” Sungmin exclaimed. Quick as lightning, his fist made fierce contact with the Chief’s jaw.
The Chief stumbled backwards, even falling onto his behind, clutching his jaw, “AGENT LEE!”
“You’re lucky I don’t kill you,” Sungmin spat darkly, icily. He turned on his heel and began walking back from where he came, “Consider this my resignation.”
Jungsu, throwing the Chief a grinning look, followed, a fuming Youngwoon at his side.
They opened the door to Yesung’s hospital room. Late afternoon sunlight poured into the private room and onto the single bad. The body in the bed was someone none of them believed they would ever see again. The room was silent, save for the soft beeping of the heart monitor. Wires connected Yesung to different machines that monitored his vitals, and an IV line was sending him an assortment of medication to keep his health stable as he recuperated.
Slowly, Sungmin stepped into the room, tentative, scared, as if any minute this dream would fade away and he would wake up cold and lonely and Yesung would still be dead. Donghae and Shiwon (who they got on their way out of the Agency) and Jungsu and Youngwoon, waited by the door, silently slipping just inside the doorway as they watched. None dared to breathe, dared to make sudden moves, dared to even hope, even with the proof right before them.
Sungmin felt so many emotions at once, he couldn’t name them all, couldn’t acknowledge them all. His anger at the Chief slowly faded from his mind, replaced by the astounding relief that Yesung was, in fact, still alive. Endless hours and countless days of never-ending tears hit Sungmin again with full force as he reached Yesung’s bedside. He cried, the tears pouring from his dark eyes as he barely repressed the sobs that threatened to choke him.
He stood there, willing Yesung to open his eyes, to wake up, but he didn’t hope too much. The nurses told him that Yesung had been unconscious since he was brought in, that they weren’t sure if he would ever wake up despite his miraculous victory over a close death. He swallowed hard against the lump forming in his throat as he reached out with trembling hands, grabbing the hand nearest to him, the one without the IV line in it.
He held it gently at first, simply relishing in the warmth, in the feel of Yesung’s hand that he was sure, so sure, he would never feel again. He was angry at the Chief for lying to him and angry at himself for never realizing, never suspecting. So caught up in his own grief, in his own sorrow, that his mind had been clouded, fractured, unable to see the clues before him, not even able to see past the disguise of the body double at the funeral. He should have known. He should have sensed. His grief revisited him anew and he realized how blinded he had been.
Slowly, ever so slowly, as if scared to break the dream reality before him, he tightened his hold on Yesung’s hand. He fell to his knees at the bedside, pressing the back of Yesung’s hand against his tears, imprinting the feel and allowing himself to finally – finally! – believe that Yesung was not dead.
He cried then. Cried real, soul-deep, heart-wrenching cries that shook his small frame. They echoed in the room, touching, enveloping everyone there. He cried out of relief, cried out of happiness, cried out of love. He cried for regaining his light, his happiness, his love. He cried for regaining the other half of his life, his soul, his heart.
Everything that had happened, melted away, briefly pushed from his mind as all his thoughts, all his emotions, all his intentions focused on the man lying before him. His heart beat again, slowly at first, as if it hadn’t beat in so long. He felt it beat strongly, surely and knew, just instinctively, that it was in time with Yesung’s.
He clutched Yesung’s hand, pressing trembling lips against it, reverently, lovingly. Suddenly, he felt the weak pressure of his hand being squeezed back. His eyes darted to Yesung’s, but they were still closed and his vitals had all remained the same. But he had felt it, he was sure. He laughed quietly through the tears as he stood, leaning over Yesung.
With his free hand, he brushed the hair back from Yesung’s forehead. He brushed his lips against the other’s, “Wake up, Yesung… Come back to me.” Then, he whispered, breathed the words from the first night he surrendered to Yesung, “It’s just about you and me.”
First, he heard it, the deeper breaths rather than the shallow puffs of slumber. Then he watched as awareness slowly slipped into every line of Yesung’s face. Then, slowly, slowly, his eyes opened, their dark depths cloudy and dull before, eventually, lighting with recognition. Distantly, Sungmin could hear the collective gasps of his friends, but he was concentrated on Yesung.
Yesung locked gazes with him, his dark eyes searching, reading and understanding the emotions playing across Sungmin’s face and eyes. Finally, he attempted a small smile as he promised, “You and me.”