(Chapter 9 of the Living in Shadows series)
“It looks as if they’re preparing the building for the auction. It doesn’t look like it from the outside, but there’s quite a bit of space on the inside,” Junsu explained as he sat at the breakfast table after describing what he found in the abandoned building the other day.
Although he finally deigned to talk to the others, he was quiet, keeping his gaze on his plate. He still felt an acute sense of betrayal from the others because of hiding the secret of his son from him. Although Kyuhyun had been just in the dark as he had, he found himself not in the mood at all to speak to even the youngest. Despite the pain he felt from Taeyeon’s secret, he felt even more hurt from Youngwoon. Taeyeon had never hidden the fact that she wanted nothing to do with him. However the one who remained his friend despite a two year separation, Youngwoon hadn’t once hinted at the truth.
“I’ll continue stalking out the place today. I’ll remain there until the night so I can see who comes and goes at all different hours,” Junsu stood and collected his dishes, meaning to leave before he had to spend any more time with his team mates.
“Wait, Junsu, before you go I want to discuss something with all of you,” Youngwoon stated aloud.
Junsu paused by the sink, but refused to turn around.
“I’ve contemplated the plan for the auction and the roles each of us will play. Of course, a plan is never complete until the rest of the team puts in their opinions which is why I’m presenting it to you all,” their leader explained, pausing to take a long sip of orange juice.
“And, how did you decide these roles?” Kyuhyun questioned suspiciously,
“I consulted Eeteuk and we considered what would be present during an auction. You see, things in the underground which create large gatherings are usually done quite flamboyantly, boasting one’s ability and means to be opulent to others in the underground. It’s a way of saying how successful one is and showing off how much power and influence one may have,” he explained, “In our earlier years as agents, Sungmin and I attended a few of these events undercover.”
Kyuhyun raised a brow at the older man, “Well?”
“Sungmin will be our eagle eyes and be a hidden sniper. Depending on the final layout of the building’s interior, he will take up his place either somewhere inside the building or across the street atop a roof looking in.”
Sungmin raised his glass in a silent toast, signaling his complacency with the role given to him.
“You all know I like having my tactician in-field so that any alterations to the plan can be made on the quick should the need arise. Kyuhyun, I want you as one of the bidders at the auction. Only those with invitations will be given access to the building and I can procure some,” Youngwoon explained,
“Ah, finally a lead role,” the youngest male grinned before shoveling cereal into his mouth.
“You don’t seriously believe he’d let you do such a central role alone, do you?” Junsu questioned and, although his back was still towards the others, his words were just as cutting, his tone just as mocking.
Kyuhyun pushed to his feet so fast, his chair clattered behind him, just barely balancing before it fell over. His usually youthful face was a mask of dark anger and the only thing stopping him from having his revenge against the other man was the firm and steadying hand that had grabbed his wrist. When he remained standing still, his head glaring over his shoulder, he felt a sharp tug on his arm. Another tug and he allowed himself to be pulled back into his seat. However, when he turned to look towards Sungmin, the older man withdrew his hand.
Youngwoon glared at Junsu’s back even as he reluctantly stated, “Junsu will be the role of another bidder.”
“Not another word out of you, Junsu,” Sungmin warned, his voice a soft, deadly threat before he took a long swig of his hot coffee.
Junsu immediately swallowed whatever retort he had planned. He was in a bitter, spiteful mood, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew when not to push Sungmin. The other man was just a few days shy of being exactly a year older and, even though Junsu had been lauded as one of the best trainees in history, he would never think himself greater than Sungmin. He continued watching his dishes in silence.
“Taeyeon and I will be visible as well,” Youngwoon continued even as the tension thickened in the kitchen; “There are sure to be waitresses there, so, Taeyeon, you will need to infiltrate their ranks.”
She gave a small nod in reply, her eyes staring sightlessly at the table.
“I will play the role of Kyuhyun’s bodyguard so that should there be any change in the tactics, I can discuss it with him and decide accordingly,” he finished. “Should there be a need to change in any of the roles after Junsu finishes scoping out the building, we can discuss it closer to the date of the auction; we still have just less than two weeks until then.”
Sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms, he said warily, “Let us not forget how lethal this case has been to agents during the four months this case has been opened. Not to mention the agents injured during the two months prior to an investigation even beginning. I know I don’t have to remind any of you, but I shall do so again. We need to be the most careful we have ever been on this case. Other cases and missions have seemed more dangerous, yet no other has been so insidious in its lethality towards agents.
“It does not help that all of our targets have not been confirmed. Even though John Kwon has been the target for some time now, we do not have definite proof that he’s the one. It is crucial that we get proof of Kwon handling the NIB information during the auction. Next week I’ll be meeting with Eeteuk to get some supplies for the auction. We’ll all have miniature cameras to help us garner photographic evidence and I’ll try to get some video equipment as well,” Youngwoon said. His gaze swept over them all, even Junsu who remained by the sink with his back facing them, “Remain vigilant any time you are outside of these grounds.”
When silence fell upon the team, Junsu dried his hands on a kitchen towel and promptly left, sparing none of them a backwards glance. Under the guise of picking up his dishes, Youngwoon saw Taeyeon look up the moment Junsu moved from the sink, her eyes following him until he left. Finally, she picked up her chopsticks and continued eating breakfast. Their leader picked up his dishes and brought them to the sink, taking the pans from the oven and placing them in the sink to soak. However, he was just about to leave the kitchen when Taeyeon rose from her chair, already finished her food.
“Kyuhyun, meet me outside when you’re done eating,” she invited as she brought her dishes to the sink,
“Why?” He asked suspiciously,
“You want to silence any other comments Junsu has for you?”
“Of course,” he replied, unknowing how determined and honest his voice was,
“Then meet me on the back terrace. I’ll be there in half an hour because I want to change, but come when you’re ready. I’ll help you train from now until the auction,” she replied,
Kyuhyun blinked, startled at the offer, “Really?”
“Yes. This is something I should have done three years ago when you first became a part of the team. A friend would have realized such a thing was overlooked and I didn’t. But, I intend to rectify that immediately if you’re up to it,” she said,
“Hell yes I’m up to it!” Kyuhyun grinned, jumping from his chair excitedly,
“I’m going to push you hard, Kyuhyun, but you’ll be better prepared for our up-coming mission,” she assured. Nodding towards the others in the kitchen, she left sprinting.
“Please don’t get yourself killed while sparring with Taeyeon,” Youngwoon sighed warily, “And don’t get tired out before the auction. We need everyone in top form for that night.”
Kyuhyun watched their leader leave the kitchen. He looked towards the only other member there with him. Sungmin ate quietly, having bites of food in between long sips of his beloved coffee. Kyuhyun hated it, but he wondered if all there was in the mug was coffee, if it hadn’t been spiked.
“Did I just unknowingly agree to my own death sentence?” Kyuhyun slowly sat back down,
“Perhaps,” Sungmin mused before offering a small smile above the rim of his mug, “but to train with Kim Taeyeon is an honour indeed. Her place on our team means she is one of the elite, but she is more than that. She was highly coveted by all the others in The Sector and her skill with knives is unparalleled.”
“I… I’m scared that my telekinesis may hurt her,” he admitted, shoving his hands into his pockets,
“You still haven’t learned to control it?” Sungmin questioned, his fox-like eyes widening ever so slightly,
“Of course I knew. I know so many damn things that knowing your lack of control over your telekinesis is the least of it!” He snapped. Letting out a frustrated breath and pushing back his half-head of hair out of his face, he continued in a calmer tone, “If you want to stop worrying about your telekinesis, you need to start using it more. Sparring with Taeyeon will help. Don’t worry about hurting her; she can take care of herself during a fight.”
“Youngwoon’s been helping me a bit with it,”
“And, has it helped?”
“Yes? No? I don’t know… I don’t use it outside of training.”
“Well, you’re going to have to start using it then,” Sungmin picked up his plate and chopsticks and brought them to the sink. Returning to the table, he stared directly at the younger man, “And, no, my coffee doesn’t have alcohol in it.” As if to emphasize his words, he drained the rest of his mug and slammed it onto the table, heading for the door, “Next time you want to know something, just ask instead of throwing attempted furtive glances my way as if you’re afraid of me.”
Kyuhyun was silent as he watched the other walk away.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he was sure his body had never felt so tried and sore. He had been on dozens of missions with the team during the year he was with them, but never had he been pushed so physically. Kyuhyun dodged a punch and, as he came back up he swung the knife in his left hand towards his sparring partner. He felt the slight resistance and knew he had hit the target.
“Sor-” He grunted as he blocked a punch going for his temple,
“Apologize after a fight,” Taeyeon countered as she jumped back from another of Kyuhyun’s punches.
They sparred in the grassy clearing beside Sungmin’s massive mechanical forest. Taeyeon was dressed in black, spandex shorts and tank top for ease in movement, her long hair pulled back in a thick braid. Kyuhyun wore shorts and a sleeve-less shirt. Already both of them were drenched in sweat. Kyuhyun stumbled just as Taeyeon came charging towards him. She pulled back her fist, ready for a strike just as she pushed off from the ground with her foot. When she came down from the hit however, it wasn’t Kyuhyun she struck. Youngwoon appeared between them, easily grabbed her fist and swung her away. She twisted her body in the air so that when she hit the ground, she had one foot and the opposite calf on the ground stabilizing her. When she stood, the front of her right calf was rubbed raw from the ground, grass and dirt sticking to her skin along with drops of her own blood.
“A warning would be nice,” she got to her feet, brushing off her hands,
“You don’t need any warnings. This one, however,” Youngwoon gestured to the younger male, “Needs warnings. He’s exhausted and you only know when to stop when you’re tired.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Taeyeon replied as she walked over to a table where their water bottles and towels were. She tossed one to Kyuhyun,
“You look as if you can go for another hour,” Kyuhyun was breathing heavily as he caught the water bottle,
“Can you go for another hour? Do some one-on-one with me?” Youngwoon asked, a small smile of anticipation spreading on his face,
She shook her head as she grabbed one of the towels and wiped the sweat from her face, “I’m really tired,” she admitted,
Youngwoon stared at her for a moment, taking in every detail of her face, finally seeing the hint of bags beneath her eyes. He nodded, “Get some rest, okay? We need to all be in our top form for this mission.”
They watched as their leader went bounding straight into the forest for his own training.
“How come you’re so tired?” Kyuhyun asked as he plopped down on the grass beside her,
“I haven’t been sleeping much, ten-minute naps at the most,” she explained, “And even that is taking a risk.”
“A risk? Are you hiding from Junsu?”
“You know how he’s like, Kyuhyun. The reason he was being so spiteful earlier is because he has yet to take his anger out on its true target: me,” she said, “He hasn’t sought me out since he learned about my… our son, but when he does choose to, well… I don’t think I can handle a fight with him… not right now. Not while everything is so… raw… exposed.”
Kyuhyun considered arguing with her, but something had been off with her all morning. Any other time he might have thought she were just avoiding the issues at hand, but there was something in her voice, something in her dull eyes that made him truly believe that she wasn’t capable of dissembling. So, instead of pushing her, he decided to talk, decided to give a piece of himself as she unwillingly did to the team.
“After leaving The Sector, I wasn’t sure what to do,” Kyuhyun stated, wiping his face with his forearm, “The NIB was all I knew after leaving high school but, with everyone retiring it didn’t feel right to stay.”
“You decided on teaching high school,” Taeyeon murmured, lying down in the grass beside him. She had been emotionally and mentally exhausted, the training with Kyuhyun finally making her somewhat physically tired. Curling on her side, she closed her eyes and let his soft voice lull her as it used to in the past; “Why when you dislike people?”
“It’s difficult to get a job without a college-level education, even though I could have easily gone back to school to get a degree. However, with my credentials with the NIB, I was able to get a teaching job. I could say that I took the easiest choice, but I think that deep down, I always hoped that we would all get back together again,” Kyuhyun admitted, absent-mindedly playing with blades of grass,
“I’m sorry about what I said last week, when I asked if we ever were really friends. In all honesty, before you, I can’t remember the last time someone even tried to be my friend; certainly not after first year of high school. By then I had solidified my reputation as an intellectual who didn’t have time for friends,” he hesitated before asking, “Do you remember the first time we met?”
Without giving her a chance to answer, he continued on, a small smile tugging on his lips as he recalled, “We almost got into a fist fight in the elevator. I always felt so superior because of my mind and you were so confident with fighting. Even though we were the only people in that elevator, somehow it still wasn’t big enough to hold both of our egos. After that, we went from raging against one another to ranting to one another… turning to each other when we needed to talk to someone.”
“I always treasured the friendship we had formed, even if it was a “work-friendship”,” Kyuhyun continued, his voice impossibly soft, “And, when I came to be on your team I was excited and nervous all at once. Not because I was on a team with the best in the business, but because I was excited to be with my friend and, also, because I was scared I would let you down. I think, because of how I was raised, when we became friends I slipped into the habit of never wanting to disappoint you, scared that if I ever did that I would lose you. I know that isn’t the case and it certainly wasn’t the case with my parents, but I was scared anyway.”
Kyuhyun glanced down at Taeyeon and was only mildly surprised to find her sleeping. He recalled several times when they were team mates before that she had stated his voice was very soothing to her. He was glad he could provide her even just a little bit of comfort.
“Just when I’m finally talking about my feelings, you fall asleep,” he stated exasperatedly even as he smiled fondly at his first friend,
“Ah, finally taking a break, I see,” Sungmin stated as he came walking towards them, a small first-aid kit in his hand. He held it up with a grin, “I figured you would need this after training.”
“Just a few nicks here and there, nothing too worrisome,” Kyuhyun insisted as the other man sat down in the grass, too, and opened up the kit,
“Even so, clean it,” he said, tossing a small spray bottle of disinfectant to him, “I’m sure in the morning you’ll be feeling the aches and pains that come with sparring with her.”
“I’m feeling it now. She was not kidding when she said she’d push me hard in training,” Kyuhyun admitted without any resentment; he knew he was far below the level of Taeyeon.
“Yeah, you certainly look worse, but I didn’t expect anything diff – what the hell?” Sungmin gaped as his eyes swept over the sleeping team mate,
“What? She’s just sleeping,”
“Not that, her leg and arm,” Sungmin took out a bottle of sterile saline and some gauze and came closer to Taeyeon.
“The arm was during our sparing. Her leg happened when Youngwoon intervened. He was throwing her to the ground, but she turned her body so she’d land right-side up,” the younger man explained as the other began cleaning the dirt and grass from her calf,
“She must have been sorely distracted. Her leg, I can understand since it was an injury she probably calculated as necessary to lessen the impact of the throw, but a cut on her arm?” Sungmin shook his head in disbelief as he dried the saline with the gauze before grabbing another spray bottle of disinfectant; “When Taeyeon is on her A-game, no one is able to get a direct hit on her unless she wants them to as part of a calculated plan. In a training match, she would never allow herself to get this hurt.”
“She… she hasn’t been sleeping properly,” Kyuhyun confided when Taeyeon didn’t even move when the disinfectant hit the abrasions on her calf nor the four-inch cut on the medial-side of her forearm;
“I don’t think any of us have been.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I do, so, what are you going to do about it?”
“Me?” Kyuhyun looked up at Sungmin, startled,
“You say we were never friends and that you didn’t mean that much to us –”
“Sungmin, I –”
The older man held up a hand to silence him, “Go talk to him yourself. If you want to get to know us, then you have to talk to us.”
“I talk to you guys,” he defended,
“I don’t think you’ve ever talked to Junsu with just the two of you alone. I never remember such a thing, have you?” Sungmin questioned,
“No,” Kyuhyun’s eyes widened slightly at the realization,
“He’s just… always too happy,” he sighed,
“Well, now is the best time then because I doubt he’s been happy these past few days,” Sungmin shrugged as he gently began to bandage her leg,
Kyuhyun stood up, glancing at Taeyeon before nodding at Sungmin and heading back into the house.
“He’s gone now,” Sungmin said simply as he secured the wrapping on her leg and moved to the cut on her arm, taking out a long gauze with an adhesive boarder to cover it;
“That spray hurt like hell!” She hissed, opening her eyes. Taeyeon had felt herself drifting between sleep and awake, her body relishing in the peaceful rest even as she heard every single word the young man had said as she lay beside him.
“Well, why didn’t you heal your wounds then?” He asked,
“Despite what you all may think, I’m not always aware of my healing abilities until someone else is hurt, then I remember them. In this case, I’ll just let them heal naturally; I don’t think I have enough energy to heal them,” she admitted,
“Why did you pretend to be asleep?”
“He… said some things and I think that on some level, he said them because he knew I was falling asleep. If he knew I was awake the entire time, I didn’t want him to pull away again,” Taeyeon explained, “He told me what our friendship – his and mine – meant to him. Even if he thinks I didn’t hear him, the fact that he was finally able to open up is enough for now.”
Sungmin nodded before shooting her a glare, “Don’t even think about getting up and challenging me to a fight right now.”
“Damn your future sight,” she muttered,
Sungmin sighed as he closed the first-aid kit, “Look, you haven’t been sleeping properly and Kyuhyun’s just gone to talk with Junsu. This will be the only time you can sleep without worrying that he dream walks to confront you since he’ll be preoccupied. I’ll have Kyuhyun tell me when he leaves Junsu so I can wake you up, okay?”
“I… I’ll have to face him sometime, Sungmin.”
“I know, but not like this. It needs to be face-to-face.”
Her hesitance still evident in her face, she slowly consented, closing her eyes once more.
Beside her, Sungmin let himself fall back into the grass, lacing his fingers behind his head. After shooting off a telepathic message to Kyuhyun, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to rest, too.
Kyuhyun had entered the house belatedly remembering that Sungmin’s house was actually a large mansion. With this in mind, he stood on the back terrace trying to figure out how he would find Junsu. On the chance that he wasn’t in his room, it could take him forever to find the other man. So, with a trepidation he rarely ever felt, he telepathically sought out Junsu to ask of his location.
When Kyuhyun followed the directions he had been given, he entered a room on the second floor and found Junsu standing beside a billiards table prepping his cue.
“You were looking for me?” Junsu prepared for his next shot, leaning over his cue as he aimed,
“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about something,” Kyuhyun explained as he walked into the room, his eyes immediately taking in the surroundings; he hadn’t been in that room before.
It had two billiards tables made of black wood, its surface a royal blue instead of the typical emerald. Around the room were scattered chairs and tables made of the same dark wood, the upholstery blue with silver-embroidered designs. As if the room did not already scream of money, one end of the room had a large fireplace with a black-marble mantle.
“If it’s about this morning, I apologize,” Junsu said as he made his shot, his gaze carefully following the white ball around the table until it hit the number four ball into a corner pocket. The white ball stopped just short of a centimetre of falling in, too; “I’m mad at all of you, but that doesn’t excuse my rudeness.”
“In my defence, I found out last, so, I really didn’t deserve it,” Kyuhyun held up a hand to stop whatever else the other was going to say, “But I didn’t come to talk about that. I wanted to talk about you and Taeyeon. You guys need to talk about what happened – properly. I know you’re both professional, but your personal issues are affecting the team.”
“She was going to hide him from me! If I hadn’t found out now, I would’ve gone through my whole life knowing I have a child!” Junsu exclaimed, slamming his cue down on the billiards table,
“Do you seriously believe she would never have told you?” Kyuhyun questioned, slowly walking around the room,
“I… well, we’ll never know now since I found out,” he muttered as he picked up his cue and moved to his next shot, his movements jerky,
“So, you’re going to hold it against her forever?” The younger man questioned as he stopped by a window, realizing that it looked out towards the back and, furthermore, gave a clear view of where he and Taeyeon had been sparring.
“What do you expect me to do, Kyuhyun? Pretend she didn’t hurt me when she left? Pretend that I didn’t hate her when I realized she hid my son from me?” He questioned as he leaned over for his next shot. When he hit the ball, it missed the intended target completely.
“No, don’t pretend anything, but at least try to forgive her. We’ve all made our mistakes since that last mission,” Kyuhyun turned his back to the window, leaning his hips back against the sill as he loosely crossed his arms about his torso;
“And, if I can’t forgive her?” Junsu asked, his voice oddly flat.
He had asked himself that very question at least a hundred times since he found out he had a son. He never thought he would be hurt any more worse than when Taeyeon had cut away from him so completely. How wrong he had been.
When he walked into the familiar church with Sungmin, he had looked around the church’s interior with a kind of wonder. The church had been a part of Taeyeon’s past, the Taeyeon he knew before everything and everyone broke apart. More importantly, the church had been an important part of her past, of her relationship with her late father. Being in that church had made him feel that he was close to her again, as if the old Taeyeon was within reach. How short-lived that feeling was.
He spotted the woman with the small child belatedly. He recognized her immediately as Taeyeon’s stepmother and, perhaps he wouldn’t have thought anything of it until he saw the alarm cross her face. Suddenly, instinctively, his attention was drawn towards the little child standing against her as she sat in a pew. So small, the little boy smiled at the stepmother with adoration, tugging on a strand of her hair in a futile attempt to gain her attention. When the child’s attention began to wane and wander, Junsu had finally gained a glimpse of his face and his heart stuttered then stopped.
The little boy looked identical to himself at that age.
As reality came crashing down around him, he was further pushed over the edge by his so-called friend’s confirmation as he whispered, “Give her the chance to explain.”
Junsu had to leave that church right then and there. As much as his son’s existence already began to consume his heart, he couldn’t look at his son without being reminded of her betrayal. By the time they had returned to the mansion later that day, he had been in a full rage fueled by anger and sorrow.
“You don’t even realize that you’ve already begun to,” the younger man’s words ruthlessly pulled him from his memories,
“What!?” Junsu almost dropped his cue from his surprise,
“You talked about your hatred in the past tense,” Kyuhyun shrugged slightly as he glanced over his shoulder to look out the window again. His team mates were still asleep in the grass; “I think what you feel now, you’re trying to hold on to in an effort to protect yourself.”
“And what would you know!?” Junsu demanded, eyes narrowed angrily as he swung around to face him, pointing the cue at him. Horrified to see how badly his hand shook, he lowered the cue.
He always knew that Kyuhyun was the smartest of them. Indeed, although he never said it, he admired the younger man, especially since it was an area he was weak in. During the first year they were a team, he often wondered what kind of pairing they would make since they could cover each other’s weaknesses quite nicely. However, they retired from the Sector before such a duo could ever be utilized. Now, he felt as if Kyuhyun saw directly into his soul, gaining a knowledge that only Junsu should know. How was it that the younger man could understand him so clearly? They were too different to be as close as the others were like Youngwoon and Sungmin or even come close to the camaraderie that Sungmin and Taeyeon display. Indeed, even though Kyuhyun and Sungmin butted heads often before they retired, the antagonism they showed only hinted that they knew each other well rather than true dislike. Junsu and Kyuhyun had never even fought simply because they never interacted enough to actually have a disagreement. Sure, they would have the small squabbles with the other members when deciding upon a mission, but nothing more than that.
“I do the same thing. I keep talking about this team as having a timeline, being finite. And, yet, all I hope for is anything but that,” Kyuhyun admitted as he looked at the other, his expression unreadable, “I talk like that because I’m afraid that if I think long-term, hope for more, then I’ll only face disappointment when it doesn’t happen.”
Junsu was silent then. Kyuhyun always seemed so far from him since their personalities were so different and their expertise were so different. However, as they stood a few metres apart in the billiards room, for the briefest of moments, they were completely alike. He recalled the younger man’s words the previous week. Although he never said anything, Kyuhyun was just as troubled as the rest of them and he suffered the same insecurities that Junsu had during the two-year separation. They had briefly discussed it the week before, but after that, the topic had been set aside, the emotions too raw and painful to deal with while their case was still open. Perhaps after the case was finished could they all get together and talk about everything between them.
“You weren’t the only one hurt by the absence of communication over the years, Kyuhyun,” Junsu reminded as leaned back against the billiards table, “All your fears about the others, I wondered them, too. Youngwoon and Sungmin are like brothers, so, I never imagined they wouldn’t see each other. I knew you and Taeyeon had become friends when you were still a desk agent. When Taeyeon cut off all communication with me, I never knew she did so with everyone… I never even knew she left Korea. All I knew was that she no longer lived with her stepmother.”
“You love her still,” he formed his words into a statement rather than a question,
Even so, Junsu answered, his words soft and wistful, “Somehow… yes.”
“You two were my ideal couple. Every time you two were together I couldn’t help but think that should I ever be so lucky as to find someone who could love me even just a fraction of how you two loved each other, then I’d be okay,” Kyuhyun confessed, his voice taking on a warm quality that Junsu had never heard in the younger man’s voice before. Kyuhyun turned just enough so that he could look comfortably out the window, his gaze once again on the members sleeping in the grass.
“I’m not an easy person to get along with. I usually say what’s on my mind because I’d rather be honest than spare someone’s feelings. After all, all my life facts were always more substantial, made more sense to me than emotions. Sarcasm is my best shield and brings me much amusement. I know I annoy the hell out of almost everyone, Junsu, and I’m okay with that,” he insisted as a small smile tugged on his lips, his voice lightly amused yet unapologetic; “Those are my faults just like you have yours. However, you found someone who loves you in spite of that and I want that, too.”
There was something terrifying about a person who understood themselves quite clearly. It made others aware that they might not have the same insight. Junsu, for example, felt that as Kyuhyun grew silent; startlingly so as if everything he was was laid out before him and he couldn’t understand most of it. He had always prided himself in being honest and, yet, even then he had still found a way to lose himself in his quest for the truth.
As if reading his mind, Kyuhyun mused aloud, “No one is perfect.”
What scared Junsu was that even though Kyuhyun seemed to be talking in the general sense, he knew there was more to what the younger man said; he wasn’t sure if Kyuhyun was alluding to himself or to Taeyeon.
“You… You spoke in present tense about her love for me,” Junsu realized then, looking up at Kyuhyun as an emotion rose up within him almost desperately and, yet, he daren’t name it.
“Hmm… I did, didn’t I?” Kyuhyun offered him a small smile before pushing away from the window and leaving the billiards room.
It wasn’t until Kyuhyun’s footsteps completely faded beyond the open doorway that Junsu finally allowed himself to acknowledge that earlier emotion: hope.
It was later that night when a knock came to Kyuhyun’s bedroom door. He had just about to slip into bed when the disturbance came. Not caring he was only clad in a pair of boxers, he stomped to the door and practically threw it open,
“Sungmin?” He fought the creeping heat he felt on his neck and face which usually meant he was beginning to blush. After all, it was just the other day that he had kissed the man and they hadn’t been alone since then.
“You said you’d be my alcohol, so, here I am because I sure as hell need a drink right now,” Sungmin pushed his way past the younger man into the bedroom and began pacing the floor at the foot of the bed.
Kyuhyun tentatively closed the door before making his way to the bed and sitting at the foot, crossing his arms loosely about his torso as he became startlingly aware that he was almost naked while the older man was still dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He watched Sungmin pace with the agitation of a caged animal. It was something he rarely saw in the other ex-agent, especially since his particular specialty required a cool, clear head and steady hand. Sungmin at that moment was anything but, with his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides and then moving up to run through his hair. Indeed, even his steps were jerky in nature.
“What’s wrong?” Kyuhyun asked, finally, when it seemed as if the other wouldn’t talk first,
“Taeyeon and I went on a mission last night. It was just some recon work to see if the guy in the security tapes I was analyzing was linked to any of the agents’ murders, specifically the one who was hit by an unidentified car,” Sungmin revealed as he paused by the desk, turning to look at Kyuhyun as he sat on the desk’s edge. “We found evidence on his car of recent body-shop work and even found a receipt which was dated just a few days after the hit-and-run. I was able to break into the body shop’s computer system earlier today and get the information about the work done according to the receipt information and all evidence points that the guy was the one who killed the agent.”
“Are you worried about the lack of definite proof? We can’t exactly hope for any when there haven’t been any witnesses in this case even when the last team was working on it,” Kyuhyun reasoned, “We’re working so hard to actually see Kwon handling the leaked information from the NIB simply because we’re following him on a hunch. Everything in this damn case has been about hunches. I’m not surprised that we cannot get anything more damning than the information from the body shop.”
“It’s not that. I know how weak the case we’re building is even though the evidence we’re finding can be damning under the right circumstances. I’m not so weak that I’d crave a shot of whiskey or a few beers just because of that!” He defended,
“Then, what is it because I’m not understanding you?”
“If I use this evidence against this guy, I’ll be destroying his family,” Sungmin answered, his expression bleak as his gaze locked with Kyuhyun’s,
“No, no!” Sungmin stood up straight, “I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that I’m just ensuring that justice is served and I shouldn’t think about such things, but I do anyway. He has a wife and two kids. He has a stable job that provides for his family. His company profile is filled with praise from coworkers and bosses. He is a good man -”
“He may have killed an agent!” Kyuhyun reminded, slowly getting to his feet,
“He may not have, too! What if I put all this suspicion on him and he’s investigated? If he’s innocent, that stain won’t leave him.”
“And if he’s guilty?”
“Then, I destroy his family! I take a husband away from a wife. I take a father away from a daughter and son. I take away their main source of income. What then, Kyuhyun? What then!?” He demanded. When Kyuhyun didn’t reply right away, he took his frustrations out on the desk chair and he kicked it away from him; “Fuck. It shouldn’t be this hard.”
Hesitantly, Kyuhyun closed the distance between them and settled his hand on the older man’s shoulder, “Why is it this hard, Sungmin? This is most definitely not your first case and you’ve probably hard more difficult cases in the past. You’ve investigated target’s backgrounds before and I’ve never seen you so… volatile about having to put one in jail. Even with the target from our last mission we…” Kyuhyun stopped, refusing to allow memories of that mission to take over.
“I told you before Kyuhyun that I drink to forget… no matter how guilty, I still remember faces,” Sungmin stated quietly, hollowly, “It was because of this that Youngwoon instilled the ethics on whatever team we created. The least amount of blood on our hands, the better. He wanted to protect me and people like me who have difficulty forgetting from being haunted for the rest of our lives.”
“Is that why you’re so agitated now? Is this the case that makes it all too much?” Kyuhyun asked quietly,
“To do our mission last night, I had to see into his family’s mind to find an entry into the house. I… I’m not as practiced as Youngwoon is in using his telepathy in such a way, so I had to sift through so much and…” Sungmin ran his fingers through his hair until he was palming his head with both hands, his fingers digging into his scalp; “It made his family so much more… it made him more than just a target… I saw more than just their thoughts; I saw their memories.”
“And we saw his daughter,” Sungmin’s voice seemed to break halfway through his last word; “We were leaving the house and were cornered in a hallway as his daughter walked passed. She was so small… so vulnerable… so innocent of the sins of her father and… and, yet, she would suffer so much because of the information I have of her father. What will her life be like if her father is arrested and sentenced? And the son? He’s still a baby! Because of me, he may grow up not knowing his father or only feeling shame where his father is concerned!”
“I know this is tough to hear, but if this guy is guilty we have to report him -”
“But, why do I have to be the one to do that to that family!?” Sungmin turned to face him, his eyes bright with the threat of tears, “Why did I have to learn so much of his family? Why did I have to see their most precious of memories?… Who am I to take that away from them?” He grabbed Kyuhyun’s shoulders, gripping them tightly, “When I think back to all the families we could have damaged… destroyed… I can’t go back to being disinterested. I can’t go back to seeing our targets as black and white.”
Kyuhyun was left speechless when Sungmin’s eyes glassed over with tears and then those tears spilt over his lower lids, dotted his eyelashes and trailed down his cheeks.
“This is my last mission, Kyuhyun. It needs to be,” his voice was barely above a whisper as his grip loosened on the younger man’s shoulders.
Kyuhyun could feel the other slowly begin to sink to the floor as if his strength was seeping away from him. He caught the older man to him, pulling him flush against him. With one arm wrapped around his waist to keep him upright, he used his free hand to cradle the other’s face, forcing him to keep eye contact.
“Then, it will be your last mission,” Kyuhyun insisted, his thumb gently brushing the tears away from one cheek. His gaze was unrelenting, taking in the other’s face as if burning it to memory, the sweep of his eyes like a caress, “If you need me to be, Sungmin, I will take this burden from you. I will take the guilt from you if you wish it.”
Sungmin had always been fascinated by the younger man. Had found himself watching him without reason, caring without knowing who he was. Before he realized it, he had become infatuated with him. He had hoped that the separation would have dispelled his feelings or, at the very least, eased them. But, try as he might, he could never banish Kyuhyun from his thoughts. And, now, with Kyuhyun pressed against him, with their gazes locked and him crying so freely, Sungmin realized he never wanted to part with the younger man again.
Sungmin raised his hands, cradled the other’s head and gently pulled him until their lips met. When Kyuhyun gasped at the sudden contact, Sungmin took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, slipping his tongue into the other’s mouth. He tasted Kyuhyun mixed with the salty tears he rarely showed anyone. He angled his head ever so slightly to deepen the kiss any more, his mouth growing greedy and demanding. Kyuhyun tried to back away, his hands moving to Sungmin’s shoulders as a means to push him back. Sungmin, feeling the other attempting to break the kiss, only grew more insistent.
Suddenly, he was shoving Kyuhyun against the desk, his pelvis pinning the other’s against the edge with his feet caging Kyuhyun’s. The younger man could feel his heart practically bursting from his chest. The older man was commanding, his kiss growing rougher. While a part of him wanted to embrace Sungmin back, another part of him was questioning the motives behind the kiss, questioning the emotions. The pressure of Sungmin’s pelvis pressing against his was becoming almost unbearable as the other wore jeans and all he wore was a pair of boxers.
When Kyuhyun felt one of Sungmin’s hands slowly caress down his neck and chest, those slender yet strong fingers settling on his hip, he fought the shiver travelling down his spine. He knew he was fast growing addicted to the other’s kiss if he wasn’t already and he knew he had to end it before it got any further. He managed to slip his hands between them and shoved Sungmin away. He had to use some of telekinesis since Sungmin could easily overpower his natural strength and this caused the other to stumble back several feet.
Sungmin stared at him in disbelief as he caught his breath, “I thought you said you would be my alcohol.”
“I know and… and I will,” Kyuhyun fisted his hands at his side in an effort to focus his mind and take control over his body’s natural instincts to what had just happened between them. He forcibly turned his mind away from the feeling of blood rushing to his lower body. “Not like this -”
Sungmin felt then as if he were doused with icy water. He had thought he understood the other well, thought that his feelings - at least a fraction of them - were returned. How wrong he had been.
“My apologies for misunderstanding,” he gave a small, curt bow,
“No, Sungmin -”
“I won’t disturb you again. Have a good night, Kyuhyun,” Sungmin’s tone was cold and distant. With his expression carefully shuttered, he left promptly, the door closing quietly and securely behind him.
Everything within Kyuhyun screamed at him to go after the older man, demanded he explain everything. And, yet, he was afraid. Despite his promise to Sungmin, he was scared of opening himself to another person, letting someone come close enough to hurt him. He had never allowed such a vulnerability before except for with his parents. To do so again horrified him.
“Damn it!” He hissed and punched his fist into the wall.
(Next, Chapter 10: A Great Typhoon)