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love like oxygen

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Some would say that Ilhoo’s decision to go see Jo Younggook one last time before officially cutting ties with him - more metaphorically than literally as he’d like - is stupid. He won't disagree with them. He knows first-hand how evil of a person Younggook is, and just how manipulative he can be, his strongest weapon his words.

However, Ilhoo has history with him. As much as he despises the man, he still had questions that needed answers, and so he went, carrying his heavy baggage full of empty expectations. He knew that, at the very least, he'd get the sweet satisfaction of seeing Jo Younggook in that blue prison jumpsuit.

But when Younggook tells him that no good person could want him, that's when Ilhoo knows it's way past his time of leaving. So he packs his hurts, packs his bitterness all back into his baggage that he carries like a penance over his tired shoulders, passes along his wishes of seeing Younggook rot in prison, and leaves.

No matter how much of scum Younggook is, however, Ilhoo can't help but carry his words as he leaves prison. As he drives, the words keep hammering inside his head, and it's hard not to believe the words of someone who's known you since you were barely out of your teens, of the one person who paid him attention when no one else would.

Ilhoo ends up at his restaurant. It's a weekday, a business day, as every day is for a restaurant, and he can't afford not to work; besides, knowing the way his mind works, it's better to keep himself busy, and this is the only option he has for the moment.

The restaurant is busier than usual, and he doesn't know what sort of luck has struck him on this day, but he knows better than to question on the rare occasions that things go well for him. Instead, Ilhoo goes about his day, cooks and thanks costumers with a smile, and only really has time to truly take a break when it's past 10.

When he sits on his desk and stops to check on his phone for the first time in the past hour, he isn't surprised to find a text waiting for him.

from Noh Jinpyeong, 10:34pm
Dinner at mine? I’ll get takeout on the way home.

Ilhoo checks his watch, and is glad to see it's only been ten minutes since he received the text. He doesn't like to let Jinpyeong without a reply for too long, aware that the other man’s newness to the dangers they faced still leaves him weary. Alright, he thinks to himself, and then writes the same word in reply.

He finishes up all that needs to be finished and closes shop. The drive to Jinpyeong's place isn't too long, and on most nights Ilhoo enjoyed it, glad to drive through the mostly empty streets and leave his worries behind him. But this night is different, because he's bringing his worries with him without even meaning to, and he can't let go of them. Now that he has nothing to distract himself, the drive feels longer and he can't seem to stop thinking about those thoughts from earlier.

He's done plenty of bad things in his life. Granted, he knows and lived with people who have done a lot worse, but that doesn't excuse nor does it justify him or his actions. Maybe he didn't kill when he was working for Younggook, but he'd gotten very close in many moments, and sometimes nearly killing is worse than going through with it.

He’s never been good at controlling his thoughts, and on days like this, that's near torture.

The only thing that gives him some peace is the thought of finally seeing Jinpyeong. With the end of the investigation, unsatisfying as it had been for Ilhoo, Jinpyeong spent a lot of time of the past couple of days finishing reports and filing statements, and he has yet to truly rest; and Ilhoo has yet to properly see him.

It's always a bit hard to find a spot near Jinpyeong's place to park the car, so Ilhoo parks as close as he can and then walks the rest of the way. With the key Jinpyeong gave him, he walks into the building and then into Jinpyeong's place, not surprised at the timid scent of food hitting his nose as soon as he opens the door.

Jinpyeong's got his back to him, drying his hands on the towel near the sink, the microwave on just a bit to the left. He turns just as Ilhoo’s closing the door behind him, and throws him a smile. “Hey there.”

And then he comes closer to Ilhoo, settling his hands on Ilhoo’s sides, and presses his lips against Ilhoo’s. And everything feels right again; like the mess that's lived inside Ilhoo during the whole day is magically gone, his insides falling back into a stasis.

Ilhoo lets his hands rest on Jinpyeong's shoulders, thumbs coming to rest on the valley of his collarbones where the few open buttons allowed to expose, and loses himself in the taste of Jinpyeong's tongue and the usual chapped feel of his lips.

They pull away from the kiss but not further, resting their foreheads against the other. “Not drinking enough water, I see.”

Jinpyeong rolls his eyes. “Sorry, mom. Not my worst offense today, though: forgot to have lunch and only had a snack four hours later.” He shrugs, and then lightly moves his head a negative way when he sees Ilhoo opening his mouth to berate him. “Don't judge me; today was hell.”

Ilhoo concedes, and drops his hands to Jinpyeong's arms so he can hold the other man tighter. “Okay, then.” And then he presses a kiss to the side of Jinpyeong's head, just as the microwave beeps. He pulls away and smiles at Jinpyeong. “Let's eat.”

They settle everything on Jinpyeong's table and then sit down to eat, both hungrier than they'd even thought before seeing the food.

“I could've cooked us dinner, you know.” Ilhoo points out, after he finishes chewing on a bit of tteokbokki.

Jinpyeong shakes his head instantly, and Ilhoo waits till he's done chewing for him to reply. “You've worked the whole day - it’d be unfair.” Jinpyeong takes a sip of his drink. “Honestly, how you're not falling over is beyond me. I've been craving my bed since mid afternoon.”

Ilhoo chuckles at the small crooked smile Jinpyeong gives him. “Who says I’m not the same? Give me ten minutes after showering and I’ll only wake up tomorrow morning.”

They take turns showering and cleaning up, Jinpyeong washing the dishes as Ilhoo showers and later coming out of the shower to find the dishes already dried up and Ilhoo already in bed, yawning as he waits for him.

Jinpyeong puts on sweatpants and an old t-shirt before following Ilhoo to bed, who just waits until he's properly lying down to rest his own head on Jinpyeong's chest.

After a long day with barely any time to talk to each other, they take this moment to catch up, arms wrapped around each other: Jinpyeong's around Ilhoo's shoulders, Ilhoo's over Jinpyeong's stomach. Jinpyeong asks him about work, and about the visit to Jo Younggook, and doesn't push it when Ilhoo doesn’t want to go into detail on the visit, hearing attentively to him talk more instead about Yoonkyung, the schoolgirl who often goes to his restaurant.

And then Ilhoo asks about Jinpyeong’s day, and how boring paperwork is, and gets to see the way Jinpyeong's eyes shine when he talks about how things are looking up and how he thinks a lot will change; and he doesn't think it will, at least not with only what they just did, but he knows deep in his bones that Jinpyeong will give everything in him to make things better, to do good, and it's one of the reasons why Ilhoo stood no chance against Jinpyeong; it's why he hadn't known what was going on until he had already fallen for the young prosecutor.

As they talk, Jinpyeong keeps a steady rhythm as he runs his fingers through Ilhoo's still slightly wet hair. His free hand is laced with Ilhoo's over his stomach as it always does without either of them being aware of it happening, like their hands have a mind of their own and as soon as they're safe they find each other, intertwining.

Much like Jinpyeong and Ilhoo themselves.

Ilhoo truly doesn't know when it happened and how he got so lucky as to find someone who knows all that he is and loves him not despite of it, but because of it. Because he's made of his character and experiences and although they come from different backgrounds, and were even, once, from different sides of the law, Jinpyeong never treats it as a negative. Jinpyeong makes him feel wanted, truly wanted and loved - and that was something Ilhoo wasn't sure he'd ever find. He's found a place where he can unpack his hurts, and have them taken care of; where he can unpack his love and care and have them nurtured and appreciated; where he can unpack his rage and have it be backed up; where he can give himself and be accepted wholly and have it be mutual. When he thinks of that, he can't help but think that yeah, he's very lucky.

Jinpyeong always falls asleep first, although this time he manages not to fall asleep mid-conversation. Instead, he presses a kiss to the corner of Ilhoo’s mouth and tells him 'good night’ before turning his head to the side to sleep. Ilhoo looks fondly at him for a few moments, and revels in the comfortable warmth that spreads through his chest as he does so. And then he thinks about his day, and about his life and the things that have happened, the things he's done and the things he didn't do, and comes to a conclusion.

Jo Yonggook told him that no good person could ever want him. But when Jinpyeong looks at him, he thinks Jo Younggook might have been very wrong on that.