“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 24, 2014

[LIS8] Chapter 8: See Right Through Me

words: 10013
rate: PG13
(Chapter 8 of the Living in Shadows series)


“Oh, Taeyeon is so not going to like that role,” Sungmin sighed as he flicked his wrist, enabling him to flip his omelette without the use of a spatula. He stood by the stove, ensuring that the omelette was fully cooked before he tilted his pan and slid it onto a plate with another omelette.

“Well, it’s the only role I can conceive at this point that she can play,” Youngwoon defended as he sat at the table.

“She doesn’t have to play a visible role,” the other reminded as he brought over the plate, placing it on the table with several pieces of toast, cooked spam and a plate of five more eggs cooked over easy.

“But she’s one of our best hand-to-hand,” the older man countered as he began putting food onto his own plate,

“That is the crux of the matter, isn’t it?” Sungmin muttered as he took his own seat, a mug of coffee already beside his plate.

“Breakfast always smells better when I don’t cook it,” Kyuhyun commented as he walked into the kitchen. He had put food on his plate and had taken several bites of egg before he asked, “Where’s Taeyeon? She already eat?”

“She’s not here. She left last night and hasn’t come back,” Youngwoon replied. He put up a hand for silence when he saw the alarm in the younger man’s expression, “Sungmin already predicted this and I saw her as she was leaving. She’s fine and will be back later today… we think.”

“If she’s not here… who made this food?” Kyuhyun questioned,

Sungmin scoffed as he held his mug to his lips, “I lived alone for years. I know how to cook.”

“How come you don’t help with cooking!?” The youngest demanded,

“Because you and Taeyeon decided upon yourselves to take turns making breakfast and dinner and make lunch together,” he shrugged, “Who was I to suppress the enthusiasm of youths?”

Kyuhyun turned his glare to their leader, “You knew about this, didn’t you? And you didn’t say anything!”

Youngwoon rolled his eyes, “Of course I knew Sungmin can cook. He used to pack me food all the time for missions.”

Kyuhyun stared down at his plate, silent for so long that Sungmin finally stated, “It’s not poisonous, eat your food.”

The youngest threw a scowl at him, but did as he was told. They continued eating, Youngwoon explaining that he would be away for most of the day, needing to finish some work at his flower shop. They had just about finished their meals when Junsu walked in, his expression closed for the first time since they had met him. They watched silently as he put food on his plate and began to eat, not even glancing at them in acknowledgement. He finished his food, placed his dishes in the sink and left without speaking a single word.

“He’s mad because we never told him,” the eldest sighed heavily as he stood from the table and placed his dishes in the sink,

“I do believe you, my dear Youngwoon, deserve a little bit more anger than I. I found out a few days ago while you’ve known almost since she knew she was pregnant,” Sungmin mused, finishing off the last of his coffee and bringing his dishes to the sink as well.

“Well, he doesn’t have a reason to get mad at me. I found out last,” Kyuhyun stated as he joined them by the sink, “And, angry or not, he still has to wash the dishes.”

Youngwoon smacked the youngest up-side the back of his head, “Leave Junsu alone for now. Besides, he’ll probably do the dishes later when we’re not around for him to ignore. I’ll be back this afternoon. Sungmin, I’m taking a car.”

“You should’ve just brought your car instead borrowing mine. Taeyeon already stole my favourite,” his friend yelled after him as Youngwoon exited the kitchen.

“Ah… Sungmin, would I be able to talk to you? There’s stuff about my investigation I wanted your opinion on,” Kyuhyun blurted out when Sungmin was about to leave, too.

“Sure, let’s go to my study to talk,” he replied, leading the way.

Once in the room, Sungmin instinctively moved towards the side table, however, he didn’t pour himself a drink. Instead, he stood there, staring at the tumbler and decanter, suppressing his desire to drink whenever he was stressed

“I’ve finally narrowed down my list to the pharmacist,” Kyuhyun said, unaware of the other’s chaotic thoughts as he sat down in one of the chairs before the desk, “You remember him, right? The one with all the gambling debts? Well, I went over my data with Youngwoon and we both feel that there’s nothing glaringly pointing towards the pharmacist and, indeed, my conclusions just make him the one with most opportunity rather than the one with the only opportunity.”

“But, it’s all we have to go on and that’s better than nothing, right?” Sungmin replied, his gaze still on the decanter, almost as if it were a car crash and he couldn’t look away from such a beautiful disaster.

“Exactly.”

“It’s the same with my investigation, indeed, with this entire case. Kwon had an impeccably clean slate and, yet, he’s the most likely to be the leak,” Sungmin said as he finally turned away from the side table, walking to his desk empty-handed. He sat down in the large, leather chair and regarded Kyuhyun, “What do you want my opinion about?”

“Youngwoon gave me leave to proceed with the investigation; he’s letting me do the undercover work myself,” Kyuhyun explained,

Sungmin, ever so attuned to the younger man, easily heard the excitement in his voice. The other day when Kyuhyun had been so blatantly excited about having a breakthrough in his case and running out of the kitchen so abruptly, Sungmin had never seen him like that before. Kyuhyun had always acted older than his age, his mind so full of information it was as if he had forgone his youth in the pursuit of knowledge. However, that moment in the kitchen, Kyuhyun had seemed so young and free, his emotions seemingly bursting at the seams. It had taken everything Sungmin had to not take him in his arms right then and there. Indeed, he had to remind himself over and again that the younger man had hurt him; that, to Kyuhyun, everything they had shared thus far meant nothing.

He looked at Kyuhyun and, it was clear by the other’s expectant expression that he had missed what the other had said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said that because of what’s happened so far with this case, Youngwoon didn’t want me doing any undercover work alone. I wanted your opinion on who would be best to come with me,” Kyuhyun repeated; “Junsu’s doing his own investigations right now and he’s as friendly as a hungry tiger, so I’m not even going to bother approaching him and you have your own stuff to work on. So, really, it’s either Taeyeon or Youngwoon who could help me. Besides, since you’ll need someone to go with you on your undercover work, we can decide now who goes with who.”

“They both have their good points,” Sungmin commented, seriously considering both candidates, “They’re both highly trained field agents, which would be very advantageous for you – no offence.”

“I understand,” Kyuhyun waved away his words. He had his pride, but he wasn’t going to pretend he had more than a year of field experience.

“Youngwoon is the best at hand-to-hand combat while Taeyeon is best with her knives. However, Taeyeon is our second-best at hand-to-hand,” Sungmin pointed out,

“But, Youngwoon is still the most experienced,” the younger man added,

Sungmin nodded, “Taeyeon was always considered an all-rounder in terms of agent skills. She would be an excellent choice for any mission.”

“But, regardless of whatever cold act she tries to play sometimes, her temper is still very much easily enticed,” Kyuhyun countered,

“And you do have a habit of poking bears,” Sungmin murmured, shaking his head slightly, “Yeah, you two would not do well on a mission together. Regardless of how good an agent Taeyeon is, you’d be able to annoy the hell out of a saint.”

The younger man rolled his eyes, “I’m not that bad. I could be worse.”

“Heaven help us,” the other drawled as he looked away from the younger man’s teasing expression.

“Now that that’s decided, there’s something else I want to ask you,” Kyuhyun commented nonchalantly, propping his elbow on the armrest and placing his chin in his hand, regarding the other with a relentless stare.

“What’s that?” Sungmin asked distractedly,

“Why are you looking at the side table?” Kyuhyun asked simply, “When we came into the room, you stood over there for some time. What’s going on Sungmin?”

He looked at the younger man then, startled. Had Kyuhyun been watching him as often as he had watched Kyuhyun? Did that mean all of the younger man’s words were lies and that he truly did appreciate their time together with him and the others? Could that mean that, perhaps, Kyuhyun did cherish whatever it was that they had between them?

“What do you mean?” Sungmin asked, finally, schooling his expression and stripping his tone until there was nothing to detect.

“You mean besides the fact you drink now compared to in the past?”

“Yes –”

“And that you stood over there just now as if you couldn’t decide whether or not to have a drink?”

“I –”

“Despite that it’s only just nine in the morning?” When Sungmin remained silent, Kyuhyun added, “And two nights ago you were drunk.”

What could he say when everything the other had just said was true? Indeed, he wasn’t sure when it began, wasn’t sure when drinking alcohol had ever become an option. He had always bypassed drinking from the moment he was accepted into the NIB’s training program. He knew he had to keep a clear head and he never knew when he would be called upon to do work for the NIB. As an agent, he knew that alcohol was never to be considered, especially when he realized his specialty lay with being a sniper shooter. There were so many factors that could affect an accurate shot, adding alcohol to the equation would equal a failed mission every time.

He couldn’t remember when he first had a drink after leaving The Sector, but he knew the reasoning for it. The last mission had left him shaken unlike any mission before. As with other aspects of his life, he had several premonitions regarding that case and knew that they would find the target during the information-gathering mission. He knew that the target would be armed and that Taeyeon had to be alone. As always, he never even considered trying to change the future, but, considering the outcome of that last mission, he always wondered if given the chance, would he still remain so idle? Ever since the explosion filled the night sky with light and filled the silence with piercing sound, he always wondered what if he had done something differently. Perhaps if he had tried to change the future, if he had tired something then maybe the casualties of that night would not have numbered over a dozen.

Then, he realized that allowing his mind to become clouded by the alcohol made it so he didn’t have to see the world so clearly, didn’t have to see himself so clearly in the mirror. He found that, if he drank enough, he would be able to sleep without seeing the faces of those he killed in his sleep. He lived by the same code that the others of their group did, the ethics by which Youngwoon gave to them; he didn’t kill without just cause. Sometimes, the only way to protect someone was to kill the assailant. And, those he did kill, he still remembered. He remembered each face and name. Even when he couldn’t recall any of it by the light of the day, they still managed to haunt his dreams.

“Sungmin?” Kyuhyun prompted when the other man had grown eerily silent.

He jolted as if he had been consumed by his thoughts. He stared at the younger man for several endless heartbeats, trying to find the words and trying to find the strength to say them. After all, there was different between doing something and talking about it. Somehow, saying the words made it all so real, meant he was admitting to such a weakness, such a fault. He knew Youngwoon was constantly worried about him and disappointed in what he had become. Even though Youngwoon was his best friend, had known him for over a decade, for some reason, knowing that he may disappoint Kyuhyun hurt far worse and scared him even more.

Before he could say anything, however, Kyuhyun stood up. Perplexed, Sungmin watched as the younger man walked over to the side table and pour alcohol into the tumbler until it was half full. Then, he walked over to the desk and placed the tumbler before Sungmin.

“Tell me that you don’t want this drink,” Kyuhyun said, placing his palms on the table, watching the other man with slightly narrowed eyes.

Sungmin had thought that it would be easy to say he didn’t want the drink. He was horrified to find that not only did he want the drink, he was sure that he needed it. He was glad that his arms were crossed loosely about his torso because, at that moment, he could feel his hands slightly tremble as if he had to physically repress the need to reach out and take the tumbler, to at least feel the cool glass against his skin.

“The fact that you can’t answer is answer enough,” Kyuhyun’s voice was soft and quiet, as if he, too, were afraid of the reality. Without removing the drink, he asked tentatively, “Are you an alcoholic, Lee Sungmin?”

“I… I don’t know,” he choked out, horrified at how broken he sounded and yet, he was broken, wasn’t he? “But, if I’m not, I’m fast becoming one,” he added, his gaze never leaving the beautifully golden liquid in the glass tumbler before him.

“Sungmin, you have to stop this, especially before we infiltrate the auction. There’s sure to be alcohol all over that place and even the smallest of distractions will mean disaster for us,” Kyuhyun reminded, his tone a mix of concern and censure. Indeed, he wasn’t sure how to approach the subject with the other man. He wanted to hit him for being so foolish and, yet, he had an unexplainable need to hold him, to be strong for him if he couldn’t be so for himself. Most of all, he was tired of the distance between him and the other man, tired of being like strangers again. He wanted what they once had before he got in the car accident.

“I don’t know if I can,” Sungmin admitted, finally lifting his gaze from the glass of alcohol to Kyuhyun’s face.

Kyuhyun came around the desk to Sungmin’s side, moving the chair so they were facing each other. Putting his hands on the other’s shoulders, he held him firmly, “You can, I believe in you.”

He laughed bitterly in response, “But, I don’t believe in myself. Even now, I can’t help but think how much better I’ll feel if I drink from that glass.”

Frustrated, Kyuhyun grabbed the tumbler and quickly downed it, the liquid burning a path to his stomach. He slammed the glass back onto the desk, for once not caring if his telekinesis broke free of his fragile control, “And, now?”

“Kyuhyun, how naïve. I can always get more alcohol. Even Youngwoon has tried to hide it from me, I will always know where to get more,” Sungmin mused, his tone condescending.

Kyuhyun’s fingers curled into the other’s shirt collar, tugging him forward as he himself leaned down. Kyuhyun pressed his lips against the other’s, the kiss flavoured by the drink. As soon as it started, it ended as he pulled his head back abruptly, just enough so he could see the other man clearly, “Then, let me be your alcohol, Sungmin.”



Youngwoon parked the car at the curb behind a very familiar black, sports car. Getting out of the car, he took the flowers from the front seat he had taken with him after finishing his work at the shop. A few minutes later, Taeyeon’s step mother had let him into the building and met up on the fifth floor.

“Ah, it’s good to see you again Youngwoon,” the stepmother smiled, patting his cheek with motherly affection,

He bowed out of respect as he offered her the flowers, “Have you been well?”

“As well as can be with my stepdaughter living so far away. But, after so long, I have gotten to see her again and spend time with her, so I’m doing much better at the present,” she replied,

“Is it very hard on you, raising the child?”

The stepmother, a woman not yet in her middle ages, shook her head as she continued to smile, “Taeyeon’s father left me with quite a bit of money so that I would never have to work and even she has sent money every month. With so much free time on my hands, having my grandson with me has given me purpose again.” She moved aside from the door, “Please go right in, Youngwoon. I’m just going to the grocery store.”

“I can go for you,” he offered,

“No, no. I like my exercise and I wanted to give Taeyeon some time alone with her son. I plan to walk the long way home,” she whispered conspiratorially. She handed him the flowers, “Go ahead and just leave these in the sink for me. I’ll put them in a vase when I return.”

“Ah, okay,” he bowed again as the stepmother entered the elevator.

Once the elevator doors closed, Youngwoon entered the apartment, closing the door firmly behind him. It didn’t take long for him to locate the pair, he could hear Taeyeon’s voice, warm and bright, the same voice she used to have before her life was coloured by guilt and cynicism. In what he assumed was a nursery or child’s bedroom, he found her sitting on the ground as she softly sang, clapping her hands to the beat. Sitting before her was a small toddler, clapping, smiling and squealing with blatant joy.

For half a second, Youngwoon froze in the doorway when he caught sight of the boy. Junsu had been born an orphan, his father’s name missing from his birth certificate and his mother dying from hemorrhage after the birth. Junsu had spent most of his childhood at the orphanage, leaving when he was a teenager and able to find work. However, there had been a day years ago when Youngwoon had gone to the orphanage with him and he had seen a picture of young Junsu on the wall. When he saw the little boy, Junho, all he could think about was that he was the identical image to his father.

“Have you taught him to call you mommy, yet?” Youngwoon asked,

Taeyeon jolted, having been so absorbed in the playing that she hadn’t realized another had joined them. She smiled then, so brightly, so sadly, “He knows I’m his mom. My stepmother showed him pictures of me so he would know… she knew I would eventually come back.” She swiped at a sudden stray tear, “The first thing he said to me this morning was mama.”

“Do you ever regret not keeping him with you?” he asked quietly as little Junho crawled towards the nearest toy, his attention suddenly swept away.

After the briefest of pauses, she replied, “No. At that time, I truly believed the best way to protect him was by sending him away.”

“And now?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted, her voice impossibly soft; “The scary part of our profession is not knowing if we have enemies. Even you and Eeteuk-sshi have separated for the time being. I’m assuming it’s because others may realize your connection and try to use it against either one of you.” At his raised brow, she explained, “When we were with him the other day, I could tell there was something more between you two.”

“This is true, but there’s one difference between your situation and mine.”

“Which is?”

“Eeteuk and I don’t allow fear to stop us from being happy,” Youngwoon revealed.

What he didn’t reveal, however, was that for a long time they did allow fear to control their relationship. For many years he had refused Eeteuk’s attention and romantic overtures. Indeed, the reason he had ended his previous relationship had been because he had entered the NIB and didn’t want anything to lose. Unlike most of the other members of his team, his parents were very much alive; however, being farmers in the southern coast, it would take a lot of research for any of his enemies to ever find out about them. So, having been secure in his personal life, he didn’t want to complicate things or give himself a weakness to an enemy by getting romantically involved with someone. Eeteuk, however, wasn’t just anyone. He had been relentless in his pursuit and, whenever they were alone, quite blatant. Despite refusing him for years, Youngwoon had found himself in the other’s amorous embrace no fewer than a dozen times and it had always been difficult to stop.

Things had changed during Eeteuk’s last mission as a field agent. Taking place in an abandoned warehouse at the docks in the Gangwon province, Eeteuk had instructed his entire team via radio to evacuate the building with the arrested targets. What he hadn’t told his team mates was that he had found a bomb strapped to an imprisoned hostage. Unsure if he could move the hostage, he had to try to diffuse the bomb himself. When the timer became too close to zero, he had shot the hostage with a tranquilizer and taken cover. An explosion floored the entire warehouse, the hostage dead. He had been severely injured and on the brink of death after the mission, his team mates having to keep him alive at the scene waiting for emergency services.

Of course, everyone in The Sector had learned the results of that mission. Eeteuk’s team had ended a drug transporting circle that ran between Korea, China and the United States. They had also heard about the state of the team leader afterwards. Youngwoon, upon hearing the news, had been strangely devastated. When before Eeteuk had been bordering on being a stalker, he was suddenly never there, leaving Youngwoon with a void he never realized he had. He had gone to visit in the hospital and confessed all to a comatose Eeteuk. What he found out after his confession was that the other man hadn’t been comatose at all. After struggling to not kill the older man himself at that point, he had finally agreed to going on a date with Eeteuk.

From there on, they had started a relationship, albeit a secret one. It was only after Youngwoon had retired that they had moved in together, feeling somewhat safer now that only one of them was an agent. So, he had allowed fear to get in the way in the beginning, but the threat of death had made him realize how precious their time together was. He kept this part of his love story secret from Taeyeon, hoping that she and Junsu would not need such morbid motivation.

Absorbed in her own thoughts, Taeyeon wasn’t aware of the other’s reflecting. Instead, she considered his words, turning them over and over. She remembered when she had found out she was pregnant. Once disbelief had passed, she had been encompassed by fear. She feared for her child, feared raising a child with hands that had only known pain, blood and death. In the moment it took for her to read the positive pregnancy test, she had loved her son already and had acknowledged the safest place for him was far from her.

When her stepmother had left, Youngwoon as her escort, Taeyeon didn’t accompany them to the airport. She had known the moment her stepmother came that she would never be able to withstand being at the airport. She had said goodbye to them in the early morning when sleep clouded her mind even as dread clutched her heart. Long after the door had closed after them and her son, she had collapsed from the terrifying hollowness that surrounded her and loomed waiting in her future. She had felt as if a part of her was missing. She had ended her maternity leave early simply because she couldn’t stand not doing anything, allowing the emotions and memories opportunity to surge forth into her mind. When she had been on the roof the night the others had come for her, a part of her had been excited, anticipatory, as if she knew that seeing them again meant the chance she may see her son again.

“My arrogance has bested me again,” she said quietly, forcing herself from her reverie and breaking Youngwoon free of his.

“Taeyeon?” He was startled to find her crying, so focused he had been on his thoughts.

She pulled Junho into her arms when he slowly came crawling towards her, his eyes blinking rapidly and his head dipping up and down as he struggled against sleep. Holding him against her heart, one hand cupped his neck while the other held his small bottom, her fingers patting out a slow, steady rhythm. As she sat on the ground, she gently rocked back and forth, further enticing him to nap, uncaring that tears coursed down her cheeks.

“I’ve faced death several times since becoming an agent. Even in the circus I’ve done tricks others have never dared. I used to believe myself above fear but, you’re right: that is what has been ruling me, influencing my decisions,” she admitted. Her voice was quiet, whether because Junho was falling asleep or because her feelings affected her so much, Youngwoon wasn’t sure. Perhaps, it was even because of both that she could barely speak above a whisper.

“Fear of what I had done in the last mission drove me into retirement. Fear of what Junsu may think of me after that mission, of one day seeing hate or disgust in his eyes made me push him away. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from him led me to leave Korea. Fear that my life as an agent endangered my son led me to… led me to…” She stopped then, her voice breaking several times during her admission.

She stopped talking for several moments. She sniffed loudly as her nose ran. She chewed on her bottom lip until it was raw red in an effort to stop from crying out. Even then, however, pieces of sobs slipped past and broke the silence. Her small body shook from her repressed cries even as she continued to lull the child to sleep.

“Oh, Youngwoon,” she cried, her voice desperate and cracked, “it scares me to death but I can’t let him go again.”

“Then, don’t.”

“He’s so very precious to me,” her words ended on a sob.

She turned her head enough that her lips pressed against the crown of his tiny head. She clenched her eyes shut, her lashes dotted with tears as even more trailed down her face. His body was so slight, so warm and she clutched him against her breast. She struggled to breathe as each breath turned into a cry, wanting to hold her son even tighter but not wanting to hurt him. She carefully moved towards the mattress, laying him down and humming as best she could while crying as she continued to pat his side. Once he had settled onto the mattress, sleeping peacefully, she covered her mouth with both hands,

“He’s so very precious to me,” she repeated, “I don’t know how I ever let him go.”

“Fear can change the most sane and steadfast person,” he said quietly, crouching beside her and placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Once this case is closed he’ll be the only part of Junsu I have left,” she murmured, reaching out and brushing short strands of her son’s face from his closed eyes, her fingertips lovingly caressing his cheek as she pulled back.

“Do you love him?”

“I had to force my love for him out of my heart before. It was the only way I could live without him these past few years,” she stood, forcing him to drop his hand from her shoulder

“That doesn’t answer my question for right now. Do you love him?” He repeated softly, sternly,

“I don’t deserve him,”

“He’ll forgive you,” he insisted as he stood,

“I can’t forgive myself. I know I hurt him when I left, Youngwoon. I know keeping his son from him hurt him. What if I hurt him again?” She questioned him, staring at him directly before shaking her head, “No, Junsu deserves someone who hasn’t done all that to him.”

“And if he wants full custody of Junho?”

Her heart seemed to literally stop even as she forced the words, “Then, so be it.”

“I thought you said you can’t let him go?” Youngwoon challenged, his voice a gentle taunt,

She turned away from him then, dropping back to her knees by her son’s side. Her hands fisted in her lap and he saw her body stiffen; “Please leave, Youngwoon.”

“Tae –”

“I want a bit more time alone with my son,” she whispered, “I’ll be back this evening.”

Youngwoon stalled, watching as she reached out again with reverence, stopping before she touched her son’s face and ever so slowly, her hand lowered. He understood, then, how overwhelming everything must have been because, even though he was still there, she buried her face into her hands. He left, knowing she wouldn’t want any witnesses to her complete shattering.



Junsu’s stomach was growling as he casually walked down the sidewalk. He had left the house before lunch just in an effort to avoid the others, Taeyeon especially. He pulled the sides of his coat together, attempting to look preoccupied with zipping up his coat as he stopped walking. Instead, he was shooting furtive glances towards a building across the street. Three storeys in height, the building was flush against the adjacent business. Built of faded red brick bricks, its windows boarded up, it had once been the base for a prostitution ring. However, over a decade ago, it had been shut down and never leased since. According to Youngwoon’s information, however, that building would host the auction in two weeks’ time.

With all the buildings on that street being right up against one another, there were no alleyways for him to duck into. So, Junsu had to walk to the end of the street and cross over to the same side as the abandoned building. He followed the wall until he reached the back of the end building, knowing that with such structures, the only exits would be through the front or back. He found a large dumpster and crouched behind it. After ensuring himself there were no cameras nearby, he closed his mind to all thoughts but of letting go of warmth and light.

He moved as an extension of the shadows in the back alley. It was an odd sensation, only able to move with the shadows, only able to go where they went, unable to jump from shadow to shadow, there were times when he had to materialize only to dash and disappear into another. Counting the doors he passed, he found the one which would belong to the correct building. Hiding in the darkness of the doorway, he easily moved through the keyhole into the interior.

Keeping within his black blankets, Junsu systematically made his way through the ground floor. As he kept an eye out for people, he tried to absorb as much as possible of what he saw while also listening whether it be a rat scurrying, a floorboard creaking or even a lock clicking. Knowing he had all the time in the world hidden from all sight, he took his time, committing things to memory to draw out later once he was materialized.

The first floor was dark, the only light coming in through the cracks of the boards covering the windows. Although it appeared as if any debris that may have accumulated over the past decade had been cleared away, the dust that covered the floors seemed to have brush strokes in some places as if swept into place. Carefully inspecting each staircase, he realized that some boards were new while others were reinforced with new planks, nails silver and clean.

He easily moved up to the second floor and found that the walls between rooms were in the process of being knocked down, probably to allow for one big room for the auction. As he moved amongst the shadows, learning each wall to search for any hidden passages, his mind constantly wandered back to the other issues in his life.

He had a son.

Junsu could barely wrap his mind around it and, even though he had only observed the little boy from across a quiet church, he had known immediately that he wanted to be a part of the boy’s life. He never knew his parents, indeed his father’s name was missing from his birth certificate. He had grown up at the orphanage and was never adopted or put into foster care because people thought him too restless as a child, too energetic and always getting into some kind of childish shenanigan. The closest thing he knew to a parent growing up had been the adult staff at the orphanage and the teachers he had in school. However, despite his lack of parental guidance or examples, he knew he wanted to be a father and wanted to be the best for his kid despite never knowing him. He knew he would try to be the best with all he had within him.

Junsu swore when he realized he couldn’t remember inspecting the wall he had just finished. So distracted in his musings, he had done the search of the wall automatically without absorbing any information. Sighing heavily, he went back and redid the wall. Once he was finished on the second floor rooms, he moved up the stairs to the third floor.

The rooms on the third floor were fully intact. As he moved through the rooms, his mind wandered back to his son and, reluctantly, to the mother of his son.

How could she do this to him? He had spent the past two years missing her, pining for her and she had spent it hiding the one thing every man should know: that he was a father. Despite the separation and the distance, he had loved Taeyeon every day that they had been apart. The more time he spent with her, the more he realized she had changed in some ways. She seemed harder and colder and it made him try all the more to win her back. However, since the revelation of her secret, his feelings wavered.

How could she not just contemplate hiding his son from him, but do it? How could she hide such an important part of him? Even after they were reunited, even though they had agreed to try being friends again, still she had kept her secrets. He had thought he was making progress with her especially after she had healed his jaw and taken his pain away. The night she had been assaulted by Mouse and they had talked in her room, she hadn’t even hinted at needing to tell him something. Indeed, the entire time she had been in Korea, she had been going to see their son and not once had she let on that where she went, he should have been with her. She had spent all that time with their son and he had gotten nothing.

Junsu swore again.

All the while he was ranting to himself about Taeyeon, he had slipped away from the void of the shadow world and materialized in a room. Before he could concentrate his thoughts to merge once more with the shadows, he looked at the room he was in. Swearing again, he realized that he hadn’t been paying attention to the rooms at all. Quickly moving through the rooms he had already past, it didn’t take him long to see that all the rooms on the third floor were not only intact, but furnished as well.

The floors were free of dust and shone like dark honey, probably from being newly stained. The walls had fresh paint on them and the furniture were all dark mahogany with deep red upholstery. As he moved around the third floor, he discovered that all the rooms were completely done. He paused in his perusal, taking in all the information he had gathered so far. He wondered if in two weeks’ time if the second floor would be just as lavishly furnished, especially since that was where the main event would take place.

Suddenly, he heard the quiet thud of a door closing. Pushing away all thoughts of Taeyeon and his son, he moved into the darkness, allowing the cold emptiness to blanket him. Becoming one with the shadows, he left. He would return another day to sit and wait and see who came in and out of the building. For now, he would go back to the house and his reality.



Taeyeon wasn’t sure how long she sat in the garage. She had returned to the house at night, turned off the car as the garage door closed behind her and just sat in the car. She had been crying when she left her stepmother’s apartment. Junho had been playing in the living room with his toys when she was leaving. As she stood by the door, she began to cry. Her stepmother held her for countless minutes before she got the strength to leave. Even then, she had to run for her car because if she slowed down for even a moment, she knew she wouldn’t be able to leave again.

Wrapping her arms about her torso, she slouched forward, leaning her forehead against the leather steering wheel. She breathed slowly, trying to reign in her emotions. She had had to do such a thing countless times during her time as a trainee and field agent. However, that moment was the most difficult. So absorbed in regaining her control, she was oblivious to everything around her.

“Hey, Taeyeon.”

She jolted back against her seat, breathing heavily after the surprise. She turned her gaze to find Sungmin leaning beside the front of the car. Undoing her seatbelt and taking out the keys, she opened the door and finally left the car.

Holding out the keys for him, she muttered, “Sorry for just taking your car.”

He shook his head, “Come stalking with me.”

“I… I don’t know,” she replied quietly,

“Yup, you’re coming with me,” Sungmin said decisively as he took her arm and looped it through his own, gently dragging her from the garage.

Any other time over the past two years he would have kept his distance from her. Before reuniting with his team, he hadn’t had human contact since before retirement. However, there was something about the docility of her presentation that struck a chord with him. Indeed, since that moment on the roof where she had been so desperate to flee, the blatant fragility in her eyes had shaken him from the first, distracting him from the edge where he had been precariously balancing for two years.

He wondered perhaps if he was affected by her simply because they had gone through similar changes. The others, while in all essence had remained the same since retirement, he felt as if both he and Taeyeon had gone a different path together. He knew exactly how he had changed, knew that once he ran hot and free, somehow liberated from his previous clear-cut lifestyle as dictated by his socially-inclined parents and the hauteur he wrapped himself in. He knew that since leaving The Sector he had become cold and constricted to the confines of himself, self-secluding in his mansion far from civilization in an attempt to keep to his darkest memories, drowning himself by pushing away all the undeserving good ones.

When he had met up with Taeyeon again, however, Sungmin saw in her a similar change. While he had moved himself away from the public eye completely, she had gone several steps further and left the country. While he had at least deigned to allow the others to meet him in his mansion, she had bolted as if the devil were chasing her and, even when she realized it was them, she ran even harder as if her past were scarier than hell. Like himself, she was colder now, too. Her temperament was still feisty and easily enticed, but there was an edge to her that had only been present when she was executing a mission. He wondered not for the first time what she had gone through during the past two years, especially since not only did she separate herself from everyone, but she also kept her own son away. Such a decision was so far removed from the Taeyeon he once knew, he wondered at what could have changed her. What was worse was that he feared he knew exactly what it was for it had changed him, hadn’t it?

“If we’re going out why are you dragging me back into the house?” She questioned, finally ceasing to resist and walking with him, allowing him to retain her arm,

“You can hardly go stalking in a dress, although I do think you look quite beautiful as you are,” he replied,

She shook her head, unable to stop the small smile from tugging at her lips, “I forgot how much of a charmer you used to be before Kyuhyun joined our team.”

“Trust me, I won’t be charming anyone anymore,” Sungmin replied, his tone suddenly flat,

She watched him, startled at the sudden change in his demeanour, but remained silent. When they reached the bottom of the main staircase, he turned towards her, taking her hands into his own.

“Go up and change and I’ll meet you in the garage in half an hour,” he said, “I’ll catch you up on everything afterwards.”

It was then that Taeyeon realized that Sungmin was dressed for a mission, clad in a black t-shirt, black cargo pants and black running shoes. Taeyeon was halfway up the first set of stairs when he called to her.

“None of that revealing Tomb-Raider clothing, okay? I don’t need to be fighting off any guys we may come across on the streets,” he warned, his tone serious even as his fox-like eyes danced mischievously. “And, weapon-up. This case has proven to be quite lethal to agents.”

Taeyeon nodded before sprinting the rest of the way up the stairs.

Not a minute past a half hour later, Taeyeon was back in the garage dressed in fitted, black spandex shorts, a black long-sleeved shirt and her own pair of black runners. Sungmin, who had been inspecting his sports car, looked up and groaned,

“I said to weapon up,”

“I am,” she replied as she tied back her hair, “Look, I’m even wearing my gloves tonight.”

Sungmin made a point to look at her hands which were encased in leather gloves which had the fingertips cut off. He knew she wore the gloves to protect her hands against her own blades should a slip occur. He also knew she had cut the tips off herself to allow for her sensitive tactile senses. He wasn’t sure how she did it, but she knew her personal blades by touch.

“Well, let’s get going then,” he gestured towards the sports car, catching the keys she tossed to him,

“What were you doing when I came in?” She asked as she slipped into the passenger seat,

“Inspecting my car for damage. You and Youngwoon seem to have this habit of stealing my cars and, if I recall correctly, you drive like you’re in a damn racing game,” Sungmin replied, even as he jetted the car out of the garage and down the long, winding driveway.

“So, who are we stalking? The guy from the restaurant security tapes?” Taeyeon asked as they passed through,

“Yes. In the tapes I saw him leaving the restaurant after Kwon did the night that the agent was killed by a hit-and-run car. I want to follow him if he leaves his house tonight and, if he doesn’t, once he’s asleep, we can search for a car. If he has a car, we can look for clues to see if it could be the car that killed the agent,” Sungmin explained,

“We seem to be doing a lot of B-and-E with this case,” she mused as they drove towards the city,

“What do you expect when the last team had almost no leads and died before they could gather any information? Indeed, most of our information has been obtained because of those murders.”

“I know we’ve only been working on this case for barely a week, but it seems as if it’s been forever already,” she sighed,

“Has it really only been a week?” Sungmin shook his head, “And it could end next week. All we need is proof of Kwon handling the leaked data.”

“Do we know anything else about this target?” Taeyeon asked, referring to Kwon’s suspected cousin from the security tapes,

“Nothing else, but if we can find some hair samples, maybe we can match him up with the samples you got from the attacker the other night,” he replied.

They fell into a comfortable silence as he drove into and through the city. Continuing through the busy business areas, Sungmin parked his car at a school in the middle of a suburban area. Ensuring that his car was blanketed by shadows and unable to be seen from the street, he and Taeyeon walked around the building, heading towards the back. With their backs against the school’s wall, they looked out onto the empty playground, a high, criss-crossing metal fence surrounding the area, separating it from the backyards of surrounding homes.

“So, where’s the target live?”

“The house with the blue birdhouse in the backyard.”

“Who does he live with?”

“A wife and two kids. A daughter who is six and a son still in diapers.”

Taeyeon sighed heavily, “If you turn out to be right about this target, I’m going to really hate this man.”

“Oh?”

“People who have it all and still it’s not enough, risking it all for their own greed,” she glanced at him through the dark night, “I know I’m not one to say this, especially what I did with my son… but, still.” After a pause, she asked, “Any dogs?”

“None.”

“Perfect.”

As one, they raced across the playground towards the backyard with the blue birdhouse. Once they reached the fence, they carefully searched for any potential openings for them to pass through. After a meticulous once-over, they glanced at each other and nodded, acknowledging the only way would be over the fence. Taeyeon quickly climbed over, dropping down to the ground and remaining in a crouched position as she scanned the backyard and the house’s windows.

All clear.

Sungmin reached the top of the fence, but just before he could jump down, his foot slipped. His fingers held fast to the fence’s top bar as his body hit the wire fence and his shoulder jolted from the sudden weight of his body. Taeyeon immediately scanned the area, keeping watch as Sungmin pulled himself up with his one arm and used his free hand to unhook his shirt where it had snagged on the fence.

Once he was on the ground beside her, he immediately communicated, Don’t. You. Dare. Laugh.

He could see a hint of a smile as she replied, Rookie mistake.

Slowly, they made their way along the perimeter of the backyard to the side of the house. Finding themselves in the bushes so they had a clear view of the front door, they settled in to wait to see if the target left the house or went to bed with his family. Time went by and, eventually all of the lights in the house went out except for the softest light in what they assumed may be the baby’s room. With no one leaving the house, they waited another hour before they made their way inside.

Don’t you wish Kyuhyun were here? He could figure out if there is a security system or alarm we should be worried about, She crawled along the side of the house, analyzing the basement windows there.

Could also have brought Junsu. As much as I hate his shadow walking, especially when he uses it against me, it comes in quite handy, Sungmin put a hand on her shoulder to halt her progress. We can use our telepathy to find a way in.

Do you know how? Because I’ve only known Youngwoon to use his telepathy like that. I mean, we both know they’re all asleep inside since their thoughts are completely dormant, but I’ve never actually sought out information in someone else’s mind.

He shrugged, First time for everything.

Sungmin recalled everything that Youngwoon had ever told him about using his telepathy to seek into someone’s mind. Although his future sight seemed to have a will on its own, he never used his telepathy except for when he was with the team and, even then, rarely. It was an odd sensation to send his mind seeking beyond the paths of communication to follow other mental branches, all the while blocking his own mind, keeping his thoughts from overflowing into the other person’s mind.

“There’s no alarm system but there is a spare key hidden beneath the back porch,” Sungmin whispered, not trusting himself to use his telepathy on two levels by communicating with his team mate as he went searching into the family’s sleeping mind.

Taeyeon shook her head, “We’ll be visible from the street if we use the front door.”

“Basement windows were sealed this past autumn because of flooding the winter before last,” he relayed the information,

She didn’t reply, but lightly kicked the closest window, having wasted time analyzing them.

“Ah-ha! Because it’s been so warm this spring, his wife opened the kitchen window during dinner. She wasn’t worrying about it, but it could still be open. If not, I’ll go into their minds again,” he said.

As quickly and as quietly as they could, they went around the back porch to the other side of the house where the kitchen was located, Sungmin having found the house’s layout from the adults’ minds. They were nearing the kitchen window when loud barking broke through the silence of the night. Taeyeon let out a yelp as she jumped back against Sungmin, her hands immediately covering her mouth, his following suit.

Just someone walking their dog, Sungmin said as they heard someone hushing the barking dog and struggling to pull their pet away and down the street.

They remained as they were for almost a quarter of an hour before Sungmin dropped his hands from her mouth and she slowly did the same. When she looked at him, her eyes were narrowed,

Don’t. You. Dare. Laugh, she reiterated his previous words.

Smirking, he replied, Not only a rookie mistake, but the great Kim Taeyeon is scared of dogs?

She scowled at him before gesturing to the window just beside them. The wife did leave it open an inch or so, however the window opened from the top rather than the bottom. The window sill jutted out a few inches, allowing for only the most balanced person to be able to sit on it and only precariously.

Sungmin cupped his hands together to form a step. Placing her hands on his shoulder, Taeyeon was boosted up until she could get a knee onto the sill. She swayed immediately after Sungmin moved his support away and she quickly pressed her palms against the sides of the window’s niche to steady herself. Once she was balanced, she moved her knees to the bottom corners of the niche to increase her base so she could move her hands. Pulling out a pair of rubber gloves, she slid them tightly over her leather gloves so as to protect her finger prints. Then, she slipped her fingers into the narrow opening the window provided at the top, searching for their laches.

The laches must be at the bottom of the top panel. I can’t find them at the top. What should I do?

Sungmin hesitated, startled by her question before he pulled out a small pen-shaped device and handed it to her. Recognizing the diamond-blade pen immediately, she held the glass into place, her hand going over the top frame and began to trace the tip of the blade along the panel’s perimeter, cutting it free from the frame. Once she was done, she handed the pen back to Sungmin and slowly manoeuvered the glass from the frame. She placed the glass inside, leaning it on the sink counter for later before finding the laches at the bottom of the top panel. Carefully, she pushed the latches inward and slowly slid the top panel down completely. Gesturing to the back of the house, Taeyeon eased through the window, placing her feet into the sink basins so she could clean the prints later. As quickly as she could, she navigated through the dark house to the back porch to open the sliding glass door for Sungmin to enter.

What next? She asked as he eased the door closed but kept it unlocked.

He raised a brow at her before replying, Fix the kitchen window and I’ll head over to the garage.

She nodded, accepting the small tube of cementing paste he held out. Retreating back to the kitchen, she methodically applied the paste as thinly along the window frame before putting the glass pane back in. Holding it steadily into place, she waited a few minutes before pocketing the cementing paste and returning the window to its original position.

When she found the garage, Sungmin was analyzing the front bumper with a halogen pen-light.

Find anything?

No. Here, he held out a second pen-light. You start on the other side of the bumper and we’ll meet in the middle. From the police reports, the agent was hit by the front bumper, so, if we find any clues of work being done, it’d be here.

Systematically, they searched the sides of the bumper, inching their way towards the middle.

Found it, Taeyeon waved him closer and held the pen-light over a small bump on the lower edge of the bumper. A paint dribble. It must be recent or else it would’ve eroded away by now.

Beautiful. We’ll start searching for a receipt for a shop then. We’ll be able to find out what work was done and when. It’ll be circumstantial, but it may be enough for a confession. Sungmin put his pen-light in his mouth, holding it steadily as he crouched down by the passenger door and took out his small tools needed to pick the lock.

Why didn’t you just go to the driver’s door? It was closer to you, genuine curiosity coloured her voice in his head,

Because if I make any mistakes, the target may see that the lock’s been tampered with. I’m saying this without any misogynistic biases, but it’s likelier that he usually drives when they’re together, in which case she may not notice anything suspicious with her lock, he replied before a soft click signalled that he had done right. Slipping into the passenger seat, he unlocked the driver door for Taeyeon.

Crouching by the door, she began checking the door’s compartment, analyzing each piece of paper she found.

So, how was your visit with your son? When Taeyeon didn’t reply, he realized she either didn’t want to talk about her son – and by extension, Junsu – or she wasn’t ready to talk about them. Perhaps, even both. So, he tried a different tactic to get her to relax again after he inadvertently caused her to close up. Kyuhyun kissed me this morning.

Taeyeon froze almost immediately. Instead of returning to her search, she looked at him across the dark interior of the car, their pen-lights the only illumination, He kissed you? Not the other way around?

He kissed me. Practically pounced me in my study, he replied with nonchalance as he moved from the door’s compartment to the glove compartment. Our little snap dragon, can you believe it?

I really don’t believe it. Was he drunk at the time? She asked as she began looking in the section between the front seats.

Sungmin audibly sighed as he answered, He actually might have been. He had a bit to drink before it happened.

So… what does this mean for you two?

Damned if I know. Kyuhyun’s always going on and on about how we’ll all probably separate again after this case is done and I think three years is long enough to be pining after that brat.

Does this mean you’re not going to follow up with that kiss? I have noticed you giving him the cold shoulder since he came back from the hospital. She turned her search to the cup holders, If we don’t find anything here, we’ll have to look through the house.

It means I keep him away from alcohol. Besides, saying I’ll get over him and actually getting over him are two different things. The past two years are testament enough, he closed the glove compartment slowly, ensuring it shut with the softest of sounds.

I know how you feel,

He looked up at her, his gaze sharp, Taeyeon?

Instead of answering his obvious question, she held up a small slip of paper, I found a receipt for a body shop.

They were locking and closing the car doors when the sound of stairs creaking permeated the quiet house. They stilled instantly waiting to hear more to locate whoever had gotten up. Quickly, they left the garage so that they wouldn’t be trapped in there should they need to run.

It’s the girl, Sungmin revealed.

They could hear the sounds of someone in the kitchen and, after hearing the fridge opening and closing, along with the soft clinking of glass, they guessed the target’s daughter had woken up for a late-night drink. They waited as still as statues when suddenly the distinct mewling of a cat approached them. Then, at the mouth of the hallway which led from the garage to the main hallway appeared a small cat.

You didn’t mention a cat! You know animals are sensitive to their surroundings!

Could be worse. They could have a dog, Taeyeon could practically hear the smile the other surely had on his face.

Light footsteps approached them and, immediately Sungmin pulled Taeyeon against him, pressing his back firmly against the wall. He turned her in his arms so that most of their skin was hidden from view. When a small silhouette appeared where the cat was, bending over to squat by the pet, he subtly tightened his embrace around her as she pressed her palms to her mouth and his.

Connect with her mind for me, Youngwoon’s commanding voice echoed in both of their heads.

Had they been just a fraction less trained, they were sure either or both of them would have reacted to such a surprise. Sungmin held his breath as he opened the mental pathway to the little girl. Since he was the bridge between the two, he could hear Youngwoon gently persuading the girl to take her cat and go back to bed. Endless minutes seemed to pass before the girl did as she said, quietly retreating without even glancing in their direction. Sungmin waited until he heard the quiet shushing of a door closing as it moved over carpet before he released Taeyeon from his embrace.

We should go before anyone else decides to leave their bed, he stated before sending a quick thanks to his best friend.


Together, they quickly and quietly left the house through the back porch door. Sure to remain hidden as best they could as the moon slowly moved free from their previous cloudy cover. The moment they were on the other side of the fence, they booked it across the empty playground, trying to beat the moonlight back to the car. Satisfied with their discovery and adrenaline still pumping from their quick escape, they both remained silent on the drive back to the mansion.

...

5 comments:

bookworm83197 said...

Ngl, I kinda sniggered when Kyuhyun kissed Sungmin "Let me be your alcohol." I dunno, maybe that's just me, but...really Kyuhyun? XDD
Ooh, more backstory! :O jkdsa;fjda all of this just makes me ever more curious about that last mission, dammit. :'( Everything's being set up so carefully, though, so I can't complain :)
All of these corollaries to everyone's powers are so cool! :D It makes me wonder what else they can do. :3 (Although, speaking of which, is Kyuhyun's problem going to bite them all in the ass later? >_> That would be a problem)
Thank you for the chapter! :D Wow, you were really fast this time. o.O

Anonymous said...

Thank you for so much for this fic! I can't wait for the story to progress. Please don't give up on this and update soon!
Love your writing.

Anonymous said...

"let me be your alchohol" shitshitshitshit! i've been waiting so long for this kiss to happen! FINALLY TT_TT
please continue this story please TT_TT

Anonymous said...

KYUMIN OHMYGOD! so looking forward to what would happen to kyumin now. pls update soon!! plssssss pls pls

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for this to be updated pleaaaaase :(