“What is it like to be in love?”

“Free. It feels free, like there’s nothing that can stop me, nothing can hold me down.
It feels as if I can do anything because of love and I’m free of the fear of failure because,
even if I can’t do everything, at least at the end of the day,
there’s still me and him. When all else fails, love won’t.”

Reign on Me series

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

[LIS7] Chapter 7: Say Goodbye

words: 8609
rate: PG13
(Chapter 7 of the Living in Shadows series)

“Cereal? We’re having cereal for breakfast?” Junsu questioned when he sat down at the table and all that was laid out were bowls, spoons, a box of cereal and a pitcher of milk.

“If you don’t like it, then you can make breakfast,” Kyuhyun muttered between spoons, “What? You thought Taeyeon and I would cook every meal every day? This isn’t a damn hotel.”

Junsu froze in the middle of picking up a spoon and turned a glare at the younger man. By nature Kyuhyun was snarky and sarcastic and oft times they let it slide, but he wasn’t going to allow such disrespect all the time.

“Let it go this time, Junsu,” Youngwoon said from his seat, seeing what could have led to an actual fight between the members, “And, Kyuhyun, stop being so insolent. You can’t use being tired as an excuse to being disrespectful to your hyungs.”

Kyuhyun, acknowledging that he had crossed a line with his behaviour, dipped his head ever so slightly and mumbled an apology.

Junsu, never one to anger easily, had to take several deep breaths before he could push down his rarely-enticed temper. He sat down and began pouring himself some cereal as he asked, “Where are the others?”

“Here, here,” Sungmin replied sleepily as he shuffled into the kitchen, far from his usual smooth self. Indeed, he wasn’t even dressed for the day, clad only in his boxer shorts. Giving a cursory wave to the others, he made a bee-line for the coffee machine and began brewing a batch.

“Where’s Taeyeon? She doesn’t seem like one to sleep in,” Youngwoon commented,

Junsu, however, snorted, “She sleeps in all the time. She’s a terror in the mornings if you wake her up instead of letting her get up on her own.”

“Two much information,” the other three males said in unison.

He rolled his eyes, “I didn’t even say anything revealing.”

They quietly began eating their breakfast before Taeyeon finally came into the kitchen. Similar to Sungmin’s state of dress, she was still dressed in her sweater and jogging pants when she appeared. Without even a greeting, she sat down at the table, crossed her arms atop and buried her face in the circle her arms created, her long hair falling like a curtain around her head and arms.

“Um, I would like to begin talking with you guys, but perhaps we should wait until everyone’s more awake,” Youngwoon said once they were all seated at the table, Sungmin having just sat down with a big mug of fresh coffee.

“Just talk,” Sungmin insisted.

Kyuhyun and Junsu murmured their agreements and Taeyeon nodded her head even as she kept it down.

“Fine. Well, Taeyeon and I went to meet Mouse last night and we had success,” Youngwoon revealed,

Junsu gripped his spoon a little tighter at the mention of the man who had tried to assault Taeyeon. She, on the other hand muttered what sounded like ‘rat bastard’.

“Apparently there’s been a lot of talk in the underground lately of an auction,” he continued,

“In the black market?” Sungmin asked,

“A black market auction?” Junsu added,

“Redundant fools,” Taeyeon murmured from her end of the table.

“Yes, a black market auction,” Youngwoon barely suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. “There hasn’t been any specifics said and nothings really been eluded to about what will be sold at this auction, but it’s generating a lot of attention in the underground. Apparently nothing like this has ever been done before here, so whatever prompted it must certainly be quite the prize.”

“Do you think the NIB information will be sold during the auction?” Junsu asked,

“Nothing’s for sure, but it’s a definite maybe, especially since nothing more has been done with the information other than target agents during missions. I want to guess that the information being leaked are agent identities and that information could lead to very dangerous things, especially in the wrong hands,” Youngwoon answered,

“And we cannot control where the information goes because it’ll go to the highest bidder,” Junsu murmured, “Unless…” He looked at the older man expectantly.

Their leader nodded, “That’s right. Unless we infiltrate the auction ourselves. If we cannot have the winning bid, then at least we can see who’s bidding on it. Also, if he’s a part of it, Kwon will make an appearance, especially if he’s expecting a large sum from the sale; he won’t want the goods or the money out of his sight at any given time.”

“Do we have the location?” Junsu asked,


“A date?”

“Sorry, you’re not my type,” Youngwoon grinned before confirming, “Yeah, in two weeks. For the next week, we keep training. During the last week, we’ll finalize the details of our plan and decide our roles. I’ll scope out the place so we can figure out a game plan.”

“Let me do it,” Junsu insisted then. Before anyone could argue, he rushed to say, “I haven’t done a god damn thing since we broke into the restaurant. I do more work at my book shop than in this case! Let me do it!”

“Be my guest,” Youngwoon replied, “You’ll be best suited for it anyway since you’ll be able to come and go as you please. Just be careful not to be seen in case you have a visible role during the auction.”

“Consider it done. I’ll scope out the place over the next few days and map it out,” Junsu smiled widely, blatantly pleased with having a job to do.

“Alright, Sungmin? Kyuhyun? How are your tasks coming along?” Youngwoon inquired,

“The restaurant owner has a slate as clean as Kwon’s,” Sungmin revealed, his voice quiet and gravelly from fatigue. He sat back in his chair, one arm wrapped around his bare torso, the other hand holding his mug of coffee up against his lips. All the while, his eyes were closed. “The one who followed Kwon out of the restaurant the night of the hit-and-run is one of his cousins. There was nothing on file for the cousin, however, now that I have his identity confirmed, I can see if he has a car. If he does, I can figure out if there’s any damage on it, if any work’s been done recently or, if it’s as we suspected, if he once had a car and it is now missing. Give me a few days, but I’m sure we’ll find our link between Kwon and the agents’ murders.”

“Great. When you go stalk this cousin, I want a second with you. We’ll learn from the past agents – may they rest in peace – and have people do active investigations alone,” Youngwoon commanded. “There’s safety in numbers and, even though we believe ourselves to be the best agents in the world, having a second pair of eyes will help us see the things we can miss.” He glanced to the youngest male, “Kyuhyun? How is your investigation going?”

“I’m still down to the same three employees,” Kyuhyun admitted, his gaze lowered to his bowl of cereal, “I know I said I’d have a definite answer by this morning but I just need a little more time.”

“Ok, that’s –”

“That’s it!” Kyuhyun jumped up from his chair so fast that it fell back onto the ground,

The others looked at him confusedly as Junsu was the one to prompt, “What’s it?”

“That’s it! That’s missing piece!” Kyuhyun grinned happily, “Sungmin, I figured out what I was missing!”

Before Sungmin could actually reply – he had just taken a large sip of coffee – Kyuhyun bolted out of the kitchen, his cereal forgotten.

Swallowing his coffee, Sungmin glanced at their leader, “Perhaps he’ll have an answer by dinner.”

“Things are coming along,” Youngwoon nodded, “Taeyeon, what are your plans for today? Training?”

“Church,” she said sleepily as she finally sat up. She pulled Kyuhyun’s bowl towards herself and began finishing is contents, “I’m going to church today so I’ll train this afternoon instead.”

“You go to church a lot,” Youngwoon commented, “And this afternoon? How long do you plan to stay there?”

She shrugged as she slowly stood, stretching her arms to the ceiling, “However long it takes to pray.” Giving a small wave to the remaining members, she left, also.

Without a word, Sungmin followed her. It didn’t take him long to catch up with Taeyeon, pulling her into the closest room for privacy.

“Are you ever going to tell Junsu?” Sungmin asked ,

Taeyeon looked at him sadly, “I… I wasn’t going to, in all honesty.”

“And, now?”

“I want to… as scared as that makes me, I want to tell him,” she admitted, “But I can’t right now, not while this case is still on-going.”

“Why ever not? Because of our last mission? Taeyeon –”

“No, because this case is still open. Because it’s too dangerous right now to say anything to him,” she explained. She sighed heavily as she looked away from him, “And as selfish as this sounds, I get so little time as it is and… and whatever time I do get, I want it to be all mine.”

“And my dream? Will we ever be able to tell him about that?” Sungmin asked, crossing his arms over his bare chest, “The blue butterfly?”

“What blue butterfly?” Sungmin and Taeyeon slowly turned to find Junsu standing in the open doorway; in their haste, they had forgotten to close the door. Youngwoon was behind him.

“I… Taeyeon?”

She shook her head, “Just tell him about your dream.”

After explaining about the dream he had had, they were quiet, waiting for Junsu to respond. During Sungmin’s talk, they had spread themselves in the room, similar in size to his study. The room was a perfect square with a large fireplace on one end and couches and cushioned chairs covered by canvas sheets dotting the area. With the dusty hearth and covered furniture, it was clear that the room hadn’t been used in quite some time.

“What is this room?” Youngwoon asked quietly as Junsu sat in what was probably a chair, having not bothered with taking off the canvas sheet.

“One of the parlours,” Sungmin replied,

“What’s a parlour?”

“As if I would know. The last time it was used was probably when my mom was alive and that was when I was still in middle school.”

“Junsu?” Taeyeon tentatively approached him. Tugging over another covered chair, she sat beside him, pulling her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around her bent knees. “You haven’t said anything and it’s been five minutes.”

“Well, other than trying to wrap my mind around why no one wanted to tell me about Sungmin’s dream, I’m trying to wonder if you’ve realized something that the other’s haven’t,” Junsu replied, regarding her peculiarly,

Taeyeon blinked, clearly perplexed, “What should I have realized?”

Junsu chuckled, “Wow, it’s a good thing you guys did tell me otherwise you’d never remember.”

“Remember what?” She asked, eyes narrowing slightly,

“Taeyeon, why is Sungmin and Youngwoon worried about you?”

“Because… because he had a dream premonition about a blue butterfly and they realized I have a blue butterfly tattoo.”

“But, that’s not your only tattoo.”

Realization dawned on her as she smacked her forehead before rubbing her eyes wearily, “I can’t believe I didn’t think… in my defence it’s not like I’m consciously thinking about them. Most of the time I forget it’s even there. I even forgot I had a tattoo until they saw it,” Taeyeon rambled as she shook her head in disbelief,

“How did they even see the tattoo? It’s not in the most obvious of places,” Junsu questioned, his expression suddenly slightly peevish.

“I don’t even remember what I was doing, probably taking off my knife holster,” she replied. She sighed heavily before she called out, “Sungmin, Youngwoon… you guys should know something.”

The two, who had been standing on the other side of the room by a window, drew closwer,

“What’s up?” Youngwoon asked,

“You know how I have that blue butterfly tattoo?” When both nodded, she added sheepishly, “I forgot to mention that I don’t have just one butterfly tattooed on me… I have five.”

“You have what!?” Sungmin questioned, his fox-like eyes narrowed,

“I didn’t think of it before because you were so worried that I had a blue butterfly on me and after you told me your dream I thought it meant that I was the one in the dream. I forgot that I have five tattooed on me in total. When we talked about it I never realized that we only ever refer to it as one tattoo… well, I did get them at the same time, but there are five in total and you must’ve only seen one of them,” Taeyeon explained,

As if realizing what she was getting to Youngwoon’s eyes widened as he questioned, “Why do you have five butterflies?”

“One… for each… member…” she revealed tentatively, watching the men’s reactions warily,

Sungmin crossed his arms, “Don’t tell me all five are blue.”

“All five are blue,” Junsu confirmed when Taeyeon hesitated and glanced at him, silently asking for help.

“So that means any one of us could be the blue buttefly,” Youngwoon sighed,

“We don’t know for sure. The butterfly could still mean something else other than the literal sense,” Sungmin reminded, however, his tone was doubtful. He glanced at their leader, “What do we do now?”

“We continue on with the case. We all entered this profession knowing it was dangerous and we all took up one last mission knowing what could happen to us… we continue on with the case. Besides, we haven’t exactly done anything since realizing Taeyeon could be the butterfly. If anything, she’s thrown herself into the case to further prove us wrong,” he commented, glancing at her.

She shrugged, “I wasn’t going to let you guys surround me in bubble wrap.” She stood from her chair, “If we’re done here, I’m going to sleep before I go to church.”

Once the three men were the only ones left in the room, the two older men glanced at the third.

“What?” Junsu asked when he saw their stares,

“Oh, don’t act like you didn’t notice,” Sungmin scoffed, “I saw it the moment she came into the kitchen.”

“I thought the sweater looked familiar,” Junsu murmured as he glanced at the door as if deciding whether or not to go after her.

“It’s yours isn’t it? You’re the only one who was a part of the SPD,” Youngwoon noted.

Junsu nodded, “Yeah… my name’s on the sleeve, too.”

“You two haven’t gotten back together, have you?” The eldest questioned,

Junsu shook his head, “I thought I had a long way to go with her but… but maybe not.”

“Don’t push her too much,” Sungmin spoke up then. When the others looked at him curiously, he added, “It’s a big thing that she’s back here with all of us so… just don’t push her too much or she might run.”

“You two were looking quite cozy before I came here,” Junsu said, eyes narrowing at the other man,

Sungmin rolled his eyes, “I’m not even going to respond to that, it’s such a stupid accusation. You know I would be all over Kyuhyun if given the chance. Only God knows why but all I want is that damn brat.” Before the other men could tease him, Sungmin left, returning to the kitchen for his coffee.

Later that morning, Taeyeon was running down the main staircase clad in a knee-length, wine-coloured dress, black flats and a white cardigan. Her hair was simply pulled back and secured at the nape of her neck. She had barely made it to the door when her name was called out. Turning back, she found Youngwoon, Sungmin and Junsu coming from the depths of the house.

“What’s wrong?” She asked, immediately seeing the worried looks on Sungmin and Junsu’s face and the evidently panicked expression on Youngwoon’s.

“Eeteuk was attacked by two men following him,” Youngwoon explained, having just gotten off the phone with him, “He was shot twice. He says he’s okay but he could be lying and –”

“And you want me to heal him?” Taeyeon guessed.

“Yes, we should go now,” he replied, going over to a closet in the foyer and taking out a pair of running shoes.

“But, I… I was on my way to church,” she stammered, looking at the others before returning her attention to their leader, “I… I’ll heal him afterwards. I need to go –”

“You can go to church any time, Taeyeon. I need to make sure Eeteuk is okay,” Youngwoon said as he tied his shoes and stood up.

“I…” she turned pleading eyes towards Sungmin,

“Youngwoon, if Eeteuk says he’s okay, maybe it can wait until after –”

“What is so important about going to church? I understand the need, but why can’t you put it off? It’s not like there are allotted times for you to visit and you go almost every day anyway,” Youngwoon argued.

When she remained silent, it was Junsu who read her clearly, “There is an allotted time, isn’t there? You used to go to church after a mission, but not every day. What’s going on?”

Still she said nothing, her gaze still on Sungmin, however neither knew if she wanted support or silence.

“Taeyeon,” Junsu said, his voice firm, his gaze narrowed and suspicious. In the past she never hesitated to tell him anything. That she hesitated now and even looked to another man for help irked him.

“I think the time for being selfish has passed,” Sungmin said quietly, apologetically.

Although he hadn’t agreed with her methods, he had sympathized with her reasoning. He knew she would never intentionally hurt anyone, least of all Junsu; that was why he didn’t mind keeping her confidences from the other man. Now, however, he couldn’t see any other way without breaking down what little, fragile bonds kept the team together.

“Sungmin, can you bring Junsu to the church? I… I’ll go help Eeteuk-sshi,” Taeyeon asked, her gaze dropping. She moved towards Youngwoon when she felt a familiar hand wrap around her wrist.

“You cannot tell me yourself?” Junsu questioned, his voice hard. He released her hand when she looked up at him, her expression stricken and her eyes shining with unshed tears. “T… Taeyeon?”

“Can… can we speak after I return?”


“No matter what I want to talk to you when I return,” she repeated. When he hesitated to answer, she whispered desperately, “Please, Junsu.”

Unsure and still skeptical, he finally nodded.

“Sungmin, I’m taking one of your cars,” Youngwoon announced as he held the front door open for Taeyeon.

“The polite thing would be to ask,” Sungmin muttered before waving them away. Once the door closed behind them, he turned towards the other man, “I’ll meet you at the garage in ten minutes? I want to change before we go,” he said; the three of them had been training in the backyard since breakfast.

“Ten? That’s how long it’ll take me to get to my room,” Junsu stated, momentarily distracted from what had just taken place; “And you have a garage? And what’s this about cars? You have more than one?”

He rolled his eyes, “Just shadow walk and you’ll get there faster.”

“Yah – Sungmin! You really are rich, aren’t you? You can give me a car,” Junsu grinned as he gave him a small salute before he dissolved into the nearest shadow.

Once he was alone, Sungmin sighed heavily, pushing back his half-head of hair from his face. He had a feeling a storm was coming and they would need to do everything to ensure the team weathered it and came out intact.

“You guys shouldn’t be here,” Eeteuk hissed as Taeyeon and Youngwoon entered his office, the latter shutting and locking the door behind them. “If any of Kwon’s men see you with me, they might make the connection and go after you guys next. There’s a reason I haven’t seen you guys in over a week!”

“Just be quiet for a moment and let Taeyeon see your wound,” Youngwoon said, guiding the older man towards one of the chairs before his desk and pushing him down to sit.

“They already got the bullet out and bandaged the wounds,” Eeteuk insisted, smacking away the other man’s hands as he tried to unbutton his jacket, “Youngwoon, really! They discharged me from the hospital afterwards. Clearly, I’m fine!”

Youngwoon gripped the other’s lapels firmly. He was leaning over the other man and now glared at him, “Please Eeteuk… let us do this. Do you think I would use any measly excuse to see you regardless of the danger and consequences? I’m not impulsive like that. I came here and dragged Taeyeon with me because I can’t think properly until I know for sure that you’re okay, until I see it with my own eyes.”

Eeteuk stared up into the younger man’s eyes. He saw the sincerity and quiet desperation there. Finally, he sat back in the chair and sighed, “Fine, fine… but you guys can’t stay here for too long. I won’t risk your lives.” He pushed the other man’s hands away, “I can do that.”

Youngwoon sat in the other chair, his dark eyes sweeping over Eeteuk as if memorizing every detail, burning them into his mind. Eeteuk had to stand up after taking off his suit jacket because he had his weapon holster strapped on once more. The holster itself was a large, black padded mat wrapped around his abdomen with many pockets and straps to keep his weapons and any assortment of tools he felt necessary to keep with him. He undid the strong, Velcro straps which kept it securely in place and carefully placed the large holster pack onto the desk beside his jacket. As he began to undo his button-up shirt, he noticed the curious stare from Taeyeon.

“I like to be prepared,” he explained with a slight shrug of his shoulders,

“This is as big as my knives case,” Taeyeon said as she examined the holster, appreciation evident in her tone.

“Eeteuk’s a little paranoid when it being prepared,” Youngwoon revealed, affection warming his tone, “You can find pretty much anything you’d ever need for field work in that holster pack.”

“You call me paranoid and, yet, it does very well for me,” the other man scoffed as he took off his button-up and draped it overtop his jacket on the desk. He sat back down in the chair clad in just a sleeveless, fitted shirt, his left bicep wrapped in bandages.

“You’re a desk agent.”

“I used it today.”

“Very well.”

“So, what are you going to do, Taeyeon? Inspect the wound?” Eeteuk asked,

She hesitated, glancing at her leader, “You said you told him.”

“I told him that you guys have special abilities like me. I never said what those were,” Youngwoon replied.

“I can heal your wounds,” Taeyeon explained, “You shouldn’t feel too much, perhaps a little pulling since I’m healing tissue. Had it been broken bones it would’ve hurt a whole lot worse.”

Eeteuk’s jaw literally dropped in response. He remained silent as Taeyeon gently propped his arm on the chair’s arm rest and began unravelling the bandages. He watched, shocked and curious as she laid her palm against the bullet wound in his bicep. She closed her eyes and he felt a strange, tingling warmth spread through his muscle. He felt the pulling sensation she had warned about, but it was with no little force. Indeed, it felt as if his entire muscle were cramping. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before she removed her hand and his arm looked as if it had never been shot.

“Oh my…” The agent murmured,

“Where’s the other wound?” Taeyeon asked,

Eeteuk’s cheeks actually pinked as he slowly lifted his shirt to reveal the bandages beneath taped to the right side of his abdomen.

“Please excuse me, I’ll be touching your stomach,” she said quietly, demurely as she knelt by his chair. She made quick work of the bandage before placing her hand over the gunshot wound there. After a few minutes of healing, she suddenly spoke, “This may hurt a bit more. The bullet went in deep and I want to make sure your organs are fine.”

Eeteuk nodded his response.

When she was done, Taeyeon straightened and returned her attention to the holster pack as Eeteuk began to dress.

“Amazing,” he murmured as he lowered his shirt, “Even the bruising is gone.”

“She’s more than just my ace,” Youngwoon agreed,

“As much as I appreciate the visit and I most definitely appreciate you healing my wounds, Taeyeon, but this wasn’t necessary,” he stated as he pulled on his button-up and began doing it up; “Your files may no longer be with The Sector and it looks as if you never were a part of the NIB which benefits us especially for this case, but Sector agents will recognize you both. Word might spread to the wrong people that you two were seen here at headquarters.”

“Alright, alright, we’ll leave,” Youngwoon sighed with mock-drama as he stood from his chair,

“While we’re here, can we steal some equipment?” Taeyeon grinned,

The agent rolled his eyes, “No need to steal. I can supply you guys with whatever you need. Of course, Youngwoon has his own stash of toys, too.”

“Never leave empty-handed,” the younger man shrugged his shoulders. “Taeyeon, you wait for me out in the hall.”

Once she was gone, Youngwoon stepped into the older man’s arms, wrapping his arms around the other’s shoulders as he pressed his forehead to Eeteuk’s.

“You know I’ve had worse injuries when I was a field agent,” the older man said quietly,

“I know, but that means it’s been five years since I’ve had to worry about such a thing,” he murmured.

“Well, at least I got to see you,” Eeteuk pulled back just enough to see the other man clearly, “Even though we talk every night, that just doesn’t compare to seeing you.”

“I know what you mean,” Youngwoon said quietly. He sighed heavily as he pressed his lips against the other’s forehead, “I should get going.”

“I know,” Eeteuk replied even as he gave him one last hug, “You’ll call me tonight?”

“Of course and I have an update for you, too,” he replied.

Eeteuk grabbed the younger man’s strong chin between his thumb and forefinger, holding it still for a brief kiss, “Be nice to the kids.”

“I always am,” Youngwoon replied with a roll of his eyes, “Although, the way things stand they’re more liable to kill each other while I’m not around.”

“Be careful, Youngwoon,” Eeteuk gave him one last kiss before allowing his hand to release him,

“You be careful, too; you were the one who was shot,” the younger man countered gruffly. He reached up, his hand momentarily holding the other’s cheek before he dropped his hand “I’ll see you when the case is done.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too, Jungsu.”

As the garage door was closing, Taeyeon came out of the car, waiting for Youngwoon to do the same. Before he could leave the garage, she called out to him to halt his progress. He turned back, a silent question in his expression.

“You… you’ve figured it out, haven’t you? Why I go to church?”

He nodded, “And you sent Junsu and Sungmin to go in your place. Has the time finally come?”

“Yes although, I didn’t want it to come so soon,” she admitted as she walked around the car to his side, “I wanted just a little bit more time to myself, I’ve already lost over a year.”

“You’re not the only one,” Youngwoon reminded gently.

“I… I asked him to talk to me when we got back,”

“I recall.”

“Can… can you be there?” She asked,

“Because I’ve known?”

She shook her head, “I… I think we should all be there. Yes, part of it is me being a coward and wanting you to be there with me, but the other part is it’s time I lay all my cards on the table. We worked together for two years. You guys became my family and, yet, I still allowed this separation. I… I wanted to – no, I needed to run –”

Youngwoon placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her, “Taeyeon, you forget that I already know all of this. I know why everyone kept away. Perhaps you should be saying this once we’re all together, hmm?”

“So, you’ll be there?”

“Yeah, I’ve already told Kyuhyun to meet us in the study as well,” he replied. He squeezed her shoulder comfortingly, “It’ll be okay, Taeyeon.”

She nodded, but was mute on the journey from the garage to Sungmin’s study.

Once they reached the study it was to find Junsu and Sungmin already there. Sungmin was sitting at his desk as Junsu paced beside it, his short steps somehow curt and frustrated. Seeing his movements, Taeyeon hesitated in the doorway, however, Youngwoon placed a hand on her shoulder again and she found the strength to walk in. Almost immediately, Junsu saw them and he began to walk over to them. Youngwoon stepped in front of her and held up a hand to silence anything the other man might say,

“Just wait. Kyuhyun will be here soon,” their leader stated,

Junsu glared at the older man, but when Youngwoon refused to move, he swore beneath his breath and walked back to where he had been pacing. Several tension-filled minutes passed as Taeyeon took a seat before the desk and Youngwoon walked over towards a window, sitting against the sill. When Kyuhyun arrived, he was the most perplexed especially since he hadn’t been around earlier when Taeyeon had been trying to go to church. Taking the other empty seat beside Taeyeon’s, he looked around, confused.

“What’s going on? Another meeting?” The youngest man asked,

Taeyeon shook her head, “There’s something I have to say.” She hesitated, feeling as if her heart would burst, it was beating so fast; “I… I… I have a son.”

“Considering your faces right now, I’m guessing only Kyuhyun and I were left in the dark,” Junsu voice was raspier than normal, shaking with quiet anger, “Though why I wasn’t the first one to know is beyond me!”

“I… had left Korea before I ever knew I was pregnant,” Taeyeon recalled, her tone tentative and soft, “After our last mission, I had to get away… from my past… who I was… everything. I had already been living in Vegas a few weeks when I found out I was pregnant. I… I didn’t know what to do, who to call, so –”

“Me. You should have called me,” Junsu interjected, his eyes narrowed dangerously,

“I…” She glanced across the room, not sure how to proceed. The blatant anger and betrayal in Junsu’s expression, while deserved, cut deep.

“That’s when she finally talked to me when I called,” Youngwoon spoke up.

“I didn’t want to burden my stepmother, but Youngwoon convinced me to call her. There was no way I was giving up the baby but, at the same time, I couldn’t keep him,” she felt the hot threat of tears and immediately bowed her head to hide them. Her throat felt as if it were swelling with the emotions running through her, suffocating her; “After what had happened in the last mission, what right did I have? I couldn’t protect the…”

She inhaled deeply to keep her voice from breaking, “How could I protect my own child? Besides, how was I to know if I had any enemies? It’s not like I cover my face during every mission, what if I had made a mistake and hadn’t realized it? My child would be in danger every moment they would be with me.”

She stopped speaking then, the cries she had struggle to keep down now keeping her mute. Junsu was sorely tempted to speak, but then he saw how her hand trembled as she tried to subtly wipe her face. He had known the moment she bowed her head that she was crying. She was too proud to ever bow her head to just anyone. And, regardless of how angry he was at her, regardless of how much he hated her at that moment, he couldn’t help but want to comfort her, pull her into his arms and wipe her tears for her.

“Taeyeon?” Kyuhyun was the one to reach out and tentatively touch her subtly shaking shoulder,

She shook her head and, when she spoke again, her voice was raspy and nasally from crying, “I called my stepmother and she stayed with me until I had the baby. She agreed to keep him until I felt I could keep him… until I felt I was worthy to have him. Coming back to Korea I… I could see him again. I couldn’t go close in case anyone saw, but my stepmother brought him to the church and… and at least I could see him.”

“He’s already so big,” Junsu said quietly, his voice breaking at the end. Hands fisting at his sides, he demanded, “Were you ever going to tell me the truth!?” It had been the most prominent of questions in his mind the moment he and Sungmin entered the church and he recognized her stepmother. It didn’t take long for the pieces to fall into place when he saw the small toddler with her.

“No,” she admitted quietly. She looked up when she heard him storming towards the door, “But, Junsu, I –” he left the study, slamming the door behind him, “– changed my mind…”

“No matter what happened between you two, he had a right to know,” Kyuhyun stated simply,

“I know… I know,” she murmured, her fingers curling into the skirt of her dress, “There… there comes a time when it becomes too hard… too hard to admit you’re wrong… too hard to apologize… too hard to come back when that’s all you want to do.”

“Tae –”

“Excuse me,” she said quietly as she stood and, for once disregarding her pride, ran from the room.

“You visited her when she was pregnant, didn’t you?” Kyuhyun asked, his gaze zeroing in on their leader, “That’s how you knew exactly where she worked, what she did. Knowing Taeyeon, if she wanted to keep as separate from us as possible, regardless of your badgering, she wouldn’t give up her location. But, you managed to make her let you come to visit.”

Youngwoon, from his perch by the window, nodded, “It actually took much longer for me to convince her to call her stepmother. She had never felt particularly close to her stepmother and, so, really didn’t want to burden her with the pregnancy. I escorted her stepmother and son back to Korea after the birth.”

“That is definitely once piece of information you do not want Junsu knowing right now,” Kyuhyun commented, “How old is her son now?”

“He’ll be turning two in a few months,” Youngwoon answered,

“What’s his name?” Sungmin asked. While at the church, he had asked Junsu if he would confront the stepmother, but the other man had declined. Indeed, Junsu had promptly returned to the car and broke down completely. He had never seen the younger man in such a state.


“That’s a good name,” Kyuhyun murmured,

“Taeyeon once told me that it was the name Junsu had always wanted,” their leader revealed,

“That’s like rubbing salt in the wounds, isn’t it? Naming her son with that name but never planning to tell the father about the son,” Kyuhyun commented,

“Even though she says that, I don’t believe for one second she was going to keep such a thing from Junsu,” Sungmin replied, “Taeyeon may have changed – indeed, we all have – but, she’s not a bad person and she would never intentionally hurt anyone. To her, she wasn’t worthy to keep her son. To admit that is a huge blow to her pride. To admit everything as she just did, Taeyeon had to knock herself down from her own pedestal.”

“Well, we always said that her biggest flaw was her arrogance,” Kyuhyun said as he stood from the chair and began walking towards the door, “But, that’s not to say none of us have a healthy dose of pride.”

“What will come of our team now?” Youngwoon asked once he and his best friend were alone in the study;

“Do I agree with her keeping her son a secret? No and definitely not from Junsu. Do I understand why she did it? Yes. We all separated after retirement to protect ourselves, erecting the walls to keep us safe from everyone. Our last mission made us realize how fallible we can be, how vulnerable. Despite returning, she was determined to keep herself apart, always thinking ahead of how she can run away again at the earliest opportunity,” Sungmin paused, before musing aloud, “What we just witnessed was her allowing us into her defences, allowing herself to be vulnerable again. The question, I suppose, is how will she cope knowing she has left herself open to being hurt? How would any of us cope if we left ourselves in such a defenceless state?”

“I think that, should she rise to the occasion, we will be witness to a merging of Taeyeon’s past and present; a maturity into someone with the best parts of who she once was and who she’s been forced to become from running away,” Youngwoon stated thoughtfully. “Do you think that we will all faces such possibilities, Sungmin?”

“That depends on whether or not we are capable of change,” he replied, glancing over his shoulder at his friend even as he got up from his chair,

“Aren’t we?”

“No. For example, I’ve had a hangover all morning.” And, with that, Sungmin strode out of the study. He never looked back, afraid he would see the disappointment in his best friend’s eyes.

“So, I knew there was something I was missing, regardless of the fact that I had gone through the hospital’s employee database and the NIB’s criminal databases as well. And, then, this morning I realized what it was I was missing,” Kyuhyun explained as he pulled up multiple windows on his two monitors for his computer.

Youngwoon stood behind him, peering at the computer screens, “Yes, you said you needed more time and then got very excited and ran out of the kitchen.”

“Timing,” Kyuhyun replied, “I had narrowed it down to the top three candidates of who had access to the storage room, what I never looked at was their work schedules to see if this synchronized.” Pulling up a window, he pointed to the screen, “This is a pharmacist at the hospital and he was the only one who worked during the week leading up to the agent who died supposedly via heart attack.”

He pulled up another screen showing a list of names and nine-digit combinations beside each name, “And, it shows that the pharmacist had accessed that particular supply room a handful of times during that week.”

“But, they could have had any number of reasons for going in there and this doesn’t prove that the other two people on your list didn’t grab the drugs before that week,” Youngwoon commented,

“I know,” the younger man sighed as he leaned back in his chair, “And this is a big hunch I’m going on but, at this point, it’s all we have. Those three employees had the closest connections to anything in the underground and, thus, the most motive. This pharmacist also had the closest opportunity to get the drug. Not the only opportunity or the best since all three suspects had access to the supply room, but the closest in terms of time frame.”

“And in terms of knowledge, I would assume the pharmacist and the nurse would know more about the drug. Granted, we’re not sure how knowledgeable the porter is in such things, especially if they were instructed to learn about the drug, but if we’re going to assume things, that would be another one,” Youngwoon added.


“So, where do we go from here?”

“We need someone to check out this pharmacist, see if there are any more clues connecting him to the underground,” Kyuhyun replied, “I know that means we have three people at the least doing undercover work, but it’ll give us something to do other than training before we begin preparing for the auction.”

“You keep saying ‘someone’… why not you?”

Kyuhyun blinked, clearly startled, “Me?”

Youngwoon nodded, moving so he was in the younger man’s field of vision as he leaned a hip against the desk and crossed his arms over his chest; “Kyuhyun, you were determined to prove you were more than a desk agent, but I think you yourself forget that you are a field agent, too. Just because you’re given data, doesn’t mean you can’t follow it through each phase. Sungmin’s going to continue the investigations with the data he’s been going through, I don’t see why you cannot do the same.”


Youngwoon smiled then, “Yes.”

“But… I was never allowed to do it before,” the younger man replied, once again displaying his rare sensitivity.

“And that’s what we did with any new field agent. And, even though you’ve had two years away from the field, you’ve shown to me your determination and resolve. I’ve also seen a growth in your field skills. If this were any other case, Kyuhyun, I would have no worries of sending you on an undercover job on your own,” Youngwoon replied,

“But it’s not any other case,”

“That’s the problem. This case seems to be quite lethal towards agents. I’m not doing this because it’s you, I did it with Sungmin as well. I don’t want anyone doing any undercover work alone. The only reason I’m sending Junsu to the auction location is because he can come and go at will, provided there are shadows,” he explained.

“I understand. I’ll begin investigating tomorrow, then. He works tomorrow at the hospital, so I can begin following him from there.”

“Who will you bring with you?”

“Well, if he wasn’t doing his own investigation, I would have said Sungmin,” Kyuhyun shook his head, “No, maybe not even then. This new Sungmin… I know he’s your best friend and everything, but he’s just so unpredictable sometimes, Youngwoon. Last night I found him drunk. Sungmin, of all people, drunk. Can you imagine? The old Sungmin never even went near alcohol unless it was to sanitize his hands.”

Youngwoon didn’t respond at first, hoping the younger man would believe it due to him imagining such a scenario. What he was doing, however, was deciding whether or not to tell Kyuhyun about Sungmin’s growing dependence on alcohol and, if he did tell him, how much?

“Well, he can’t help you with your investigation, but I’m sure you could get some insight from him if you need,” Youngwoon replied, “Also, if you give him your hunches and battle plan, he may even help you decide who would be best to partner with to do the undercover work.”

As Kyuhyun appeared to truly contemplate his words, Youngwoon made sure not to give away his true purpose. Indeed, Youngwoon was more than capable of assisting Kyuhyun with such decisions; he was the team leader after all. However, pushing the two together may force them to confront whatever problems came between them since Kyuhyun had gotten in the car accident. Furthermore, perhaps Kyuhyun would realize for himself Sungmin’s poison of choice. Despite being best friends, Youngwoon knew when to put his pride aside, acknowledging that perhaps their youngest man would be the best to help Sungmin cope and fight his growing addiction.

“Yeah, I’ll ask Sungmin tomorrow after breakfast,” Kyuhyun decided, “Everyone seems in high emotion after what happened in the study, I doubt they’ll all show up for dinner.”

“I doubt that, too,” the older man replied. He clapped the other man on the shoulder, “Good job, Kyuhyun.” He was almost at the door before the younger man called his name, “Yeah?”

“Taeyeon and Junsu… do you think they’ll be okay?” Kyuhyun asked, concern evident in his tone,

“That’s a difficult question. It depends on them, depends on whether or not they will rise to the occasion and overcome such a hurdle. It depends if they can learn to forgive –”

“Each other?”

“And themselves. It seems like all of us are carrying residual guilt from that last mission. Indeed, it might prove possible that we all need to address these feelings before we can finish this case,” Youngwoon answered; “All I do know is that Junsu will not give up his son now that he knows of him and I don’t think Taeyeon can handle missing another moment without her son. Whether they decide to raise him together or separately will depend on them.”

“Do you think they still love each other? I know Junsu acts like he does, but couldn’t it be that she appears like a challenge to him? The one that got away?” Kyuhyun suggested,

“That would be possible had this been anyone else other than Junsu. He’s too emotional to put so much effort into something that he wasn’t emotionally invested in.”

“And, Taeyeon?”

“She’s been fighting who she really is since that last mission… I think most of us are.”

“And, you, Youngwoon? Do you feel guilt from that last mission?”

“Some,” he admitted, “But not as much as I first did.”

Kyuhyun felt a surge of jealousy then. Why was he so full of guilt? Why did it hang around his neck like chains weighing him down and, yet, his leader seemed so free? After the last mission ended, he had a feeling the others were fighting with their own guilt and, had they all stuck around, he would have promptly made them realized their self-blame was misplaced. Even though he resented what he felt, he knew it was deserved; they were innocent.

“How?” Kyuhyun asked then, horrified at how choked and broken his voice suddenly sounded, a thread of desperation running through his tone; “How did you make it go away?”

“I didn’t, but I had someone who talked me through it. I had someone who loved me enough to push it away,” Youngwoon answered, his expression softening considerably; “Unfortunately, you all ran away from anyone who did care about you.”

“And, you think this will help me? Having someone love me?” His words were getting quieter now, almost like if he spoke too loudly, it would dispel the small spark of hope blossoming in his chest.

“It might,” Youngwoon replied as he thought to himself, But you need to love them, too.

Taeyeon felt as if she were suffocating.

Suffocating from her present. Suffocating from her past. Suffocating from the most difficult two years she ever lived.

She could practically feel the betrayal and anger permeating the walls, surrounding her and filling her pores. The house had been eerily silent and the backyard had been empty since the meeting in the study. After she had left the study, she was desperate to find Junsu, but she knew that he, above all others, would be able to hide himself from her if he so wished. And, so, she had retreated to her room. She had sat on the window sill, staring sightlessly outside for hours.

Without looking at a clock, she knew that the time to prepare dinner would be soon. She and Kyuhyun had made an agreement that one would make breakfast and the other dinner one day and switch the next, alternating each day. Since it had been his turn to make breakfast that morning – despite his resorting to milk and cereal – it was still her turn to make dinner. However, she doubted if anyone would show up and, in truth, she didn’t think she could face the others so soon. No, after all she had confessed to that day, she felt as if her usual arrogance was left on the ground in pieces. She felt as if by telling the others her secrets, she had exposed her soul or, whatever was left of it after the last mission.

She could still remember that night over two years ago. She could still hear the explosion cutting through the silent night. She could still see the target standing just a few feet away. She could still smell the sudden scent of blood filling the air as the target dropped to the ground. She had been so shocked that she hadn’t realized Junsu had pulled her away from the dead target, hadn’t heard him calling her name and definitely hadn’t felt his arms surrounding her.

Taeyeon angrily swiped at the tears that sprang suddenly. She had no right to tears or self-pity. So much could have been done differently that night and it could have ended differently had her constant arrogance not gone in her way. She should have waited for backup before confronting the target. She should have kept the target talking until Youngwoon and Kyuhyun had given the signal.

Then, as if she could no longer sit still, she jumped off of the window seat, slipped on her shoes and escaped the confines of the spacious room.

Still dressed as she was earlier, she was a blur of deep scarlet as she ran through the house and down the main stairs. She was sure she heard her name, but she kept running until she reached the garage. Knowing where Sungmin kept his keys, she grabbed a set, using its lock button to discover which of the four cars matched her set. The moment the garage door before her car opened enough, she sped out, the tires screeching loudly.

Because the mansion was so secluded from Seoul, the sun had just finished setting when she reached the city. Coming from the west, she drove south east, barely able to follow the traffic laws as her urgency to run away fought with her need to run toward.

“I know this is dangerous… I know this is wrong,” she murmured as she gripped the leather steering wheel of the black sports car, “but, please… please… please…”

The streetlights dotted the quiet, suburban street she found herself on. Parking at the curb before an apartment building, she locked the car and ran inside. Although it had been more than two years, she still remembered the code to unlock the lobby door, her fingers moving instinctively over the number pad. So anxious was she, Taeyeon bypassed the elevator and ran for the stairs, going up five flights without a single thought for stopping.

Once she found the apartment door she wanted, she knocked urgently against the solid wood, not caring that her vision now blurred with tears nor that she trembled from fear and anticipation. When the door opened, her stepmother stood there, pleasantly surprised,


“Please,” she ran into her stepmother’s arms, hugging her tightly before looking imploringly into her eyes, “I need to see him.”

The moment she stood outside the door her stepmother guided her to, it was as if she had lost all nerve, lost all strength. Practically collapsing against the doorframe, she caught sight of what was clearly a play room for a young child. The walls were white but painted with an assortment of animals. The ceiling was painted black with glow-in-the-dark stars and moons. And, there, on the ground was a thick mattress, a toddler asleep on top.

As if she could no longer hold herself up, Taeyeon crawled on the ground towards the mattress. Reaching out, her hand was shaking more violently than a leaf in a windstorm. Her heart was so full at that moment, seeing up-close the dear face of her child, she didn’t know if she was crying for their lost time or crying that they were, finally reunited. Swallowing her sobs, she brushed strands of soft, black hair from his forehead.

“Junho,” she breathed, practically choking on his name.

Slowly, ever so slowly so as not to disturb his sleep, she lay beside him. She curled her arm lightly around him, closing her eyes at his warmth and the tsunami of tender love that flowed through her at the contact.

“It’s so very dangerous for me to be with you and I more than anyone do not deserve to, my little one,” she whispered, “but just this once… just for tonight… let me hold you.”

She ignored the soft sound of the nursery door closing, signalling her stepmother giving mother and son privacy. Instead, she relished in her son’s presence and silently thanks God for the gift of such a moment with him.

Taeyeon fell asleep, feeling true peace for the first time in two years.

(Chapter 8: See Right Through Me)


Anonymous said...

I almost /almost/ gave up on waiting for the update ;A; thank you for returning!

Anonymous said...

OTL This chapter...;w;
From a reader's standpoint, WHY MUST YOU DRAG OUT THIS PAIN???? DDDD''''':
Seeing all of them having such trouble dealing with all of their problems while still trying to keep themselves closed off and unwilling to accept help from one another, I'm surprised that no one has gone completely off of the deep end yet. OTL
Also, so many subplots. ._. Soooooo many supplots! *_* I want to say that these are glorious subplots, but at the same time I think my mind is going to explode by the time we're done with exposition. *_* OTL So much to keep track of...
PapaBear!Kangin is cute :) I think it's kind of sweet how protective he is of Leeteuk, even in such a dangerous world. Although, is this tendency going to be a problem in the future? o.O They all seem to have these tendencies. O_O IT'S ALL A TRAP! O_O
Thank you for the new chapter! :DDD I look forward to your next chapter! ^^

Anonymous said...