There’s no window in their room, so morning comes with the beeping of an alarm instead of sunlight. It dings once, twice, three times, and then falls silent. Around the bed, artificial lights flicker on, considerately dim for the room’s occupants just coming out of sleep.
Closer to the wall, Jaeri stirs first. He stretches from head to toe as much as can with Wolf’s arm draped limp and heavy over his waist, then settles back into the bed to gather his thoughts from their sleepy haze. It’s moments like these that he likes the most - no chaotic, dangerous missions, no dimensional monsters lurking just over the horizon. No Alice, or HQ, or UNION. Just himself and Wolf in their own world.
Alas, it’s not to last - Wolf stirs a minute later, rumbling in displeasure and shuffling closer, tangling his legs with Jaeri’s. It brings a smile to Jaeri’s mouth, and he reaches up to place a hand on Wolf’s head, brushing soft bangs aside. Like this, Wolf’s hair is all ruffled and tangled from sleep. He can already hear the Closer’s complaints about it, and can easily picture the scowl to go along.
“Five more minutes,” Wolf grumbles into Jaeri’s neck, and he fights the urge to flinch from the ticklish sensation. “Just five… more… minutes…”
This too is familiar - Jaeri lowers his head to pat at Wolf’s cheek instead, just firm enough to be felt, and Wolf pulls away just enough to open red eyes to squint at him. Up close like this, nose to nose, they’re dark with sleep, more rust than blood-red, and Jaeri feels bad about pulling Wolf from whatever good dream he must have been having.
“I can’t let you, Wolf. I’m sorry.” It’s the usual apology, and Wolf closes his eyes again for a moment, probably mourning his rest for the rest of the day - there’s no telling when a mission will go overtime. He’s stayed up with Wolf for days on end, chasing a dimensional monster across the globe. Rest is precious, in today’s world.
“Hm. Coffee.” Wolf mutters, and Jaeri hums in agreement - he sits up, this time allowed by Wolf’s arm, only for the other man to grab onto the front of his shirt. Jaeri looks down, a silent question, but Wolf is staring at his chest with an odd expression.
The Closer tugs at his shirt - Jaeri reaches up automatically to hold it closed, and frowns down at Wolf.
“What are you doing? We need to get up…” Again Wolf tugs at the shirt, sliding a warm hand through the gaps in the buttons onto the skin underneath the thin fabric. Jaeri’s other hand comes down to curl fingers around Wolf’s wrist - to keep the hand against his skin or pull it away, he can’t say. It’s enough to make him quiet either way, waiting for Wolf to speak. Eventually he does, staring at his hand under Jaeri’s shirt. It rests just below his heart, a steady heat.
“..I wish we could stay like this,” Wolf murmurs, and Jaeri’s grip around Wolf’s wrist falls away in surprise. “I don’t want to get up and go fight monsters, Jaeri. I really do hate this job. It takes me away from you.”
Jaeri sits stunned while Wolf strokes a thumb over his skin, pale under his shirt, and a shiver travels down his spine from the intimate touch and heartbreaking words. This is.. unusual. Beyond unusual. But Wolf is serious, in the safety of their small bedroom, and Jaeri moves his hand to rest on top of Wolf’s head.
“I know, Wolf.” he says, as gentle as he can.. “If you really want to retire, you know i’ll follow you. Alice and Carol and even Celine would help make it happen. You can choose to go any time.”
Wolf removes his hand with one last stroke, and Jaeri immediately misses the warmth. But Wolf is looking up at him, turning slightly onto his back. For once, he can’t read the Closer’s expression.
“...But you want to stay and research, Jaeri. I know you do.You want to go back to a lab one day too, once you’re bored with making me coffee. It’s I who will follow you.”
There’s nothing he can say to that - it would be a lie to say he wants to retire, because there’s still so much to learn about the dimensional monsters, so many ideas he knows he can make reality if he goes back. The struggle must be obvious, because Wolf’s unreadable face clears, a more familiar smile curling at his mouth. The haze of sleep has fallen away - Wolf’s piercing red eyes stay locked on him even as the man himself stretches, all muscle and golden tan without his usual clothes to cover it up.
“Don’t worry, my gloomy Administrator. I don’t mind fighting as long as you’re happy ordering me to do it.”
Jaeri frowns as Wolf sits up, hand falling back to his side. “You know I don’t like ordering you into danger, Wolf. If I could, I would keep you with me too. It’s dangerous out there.”
The serious mood is gone - Wolf grins at him, sliding out of the bed to stretch properly, hair falling around him like a veil. It’s gotten longer in the recent months. “I know, I was just teasing. You can’t get rid of me that easy - i’ll always come back. Like that stray cat you like so much.”
“You fed it, Wolf. It only comes back for food, you know.” But Jaeri is talking to himself - Wolf is already halfway into the bathroom, waving his hand with a laugh. In the increasing light, he can just see the flash of the gold band around Wolf’s finger. Jaeri smiles and gets out of bed as well, turning the matching ring on his own finger around a few times.
There’s coffee to prepare.
Twenty minutes later Wolf pads into the small kitchen, yawning - there’s a towel around his bare upper half, and Jaeri hands over a mug of hot coffee, which Wolf takes with a nod of thanks. When Jaeri returns from his own shower, buttoning up his dress shirt, Wolf returns the gesture, and he takes the warm mug in one hand with a sigh of happiness.
“I wonder where Alice is going to send me today.” Wolf mutters, dressed now except for his coat. Jaeri puts the towel from around his shoulders onto his head, and Wolf reaches over to ruffle his short hair dry while he sips on the first coffee of the day. “Probably back to collect more crystals. Tiamat’s been acting up again.”
The coffee tastes sour in his mouth suddenly - Wolf reads Jaeri’s expression and laughs, kneading at his head over the towel to soothe away the memories of Tiamat’s mind control. “Don’t worry, Jaeri. At least it would be an easy mission.”
“I don’t like you going near her subconscious,” Jaeri mutters, almost sulking. Wolf tsks and removes the towel, smoothing down Jaeri’s hair with his ungloved hand. “I’ll be careful,” Wolf offers, and Jaeri nods,returning to his coffee.
They finish up preparing for the day mostly in comfortable silence, mugs placed into the sink to be washed later. They don their respective coats, and Jaeri unplugs his tablet from it’s charger. He puts up Wolf’s hair in a ponytail today, and Wolf swishes it cheerfully as they leave their shared room on the Wheel of Fortune.
“Good morning, Agent, Good morning, Jaeri.”
“Good morning, Alice,” Jaeri responds politely. Wolf grunts in reply, and Jaeri knows Alice is rolling her eyes where she is, though they can’t see her. Leaving the two to talk missions, Jaeri wanders to the area set up by Bona for research. He greets Don, and braces for another tense situation at the cold Planar Gate. No Tiamat today - only the unknown external dimension.
Here, the warmth of their bedroom is only a memory, one he keeps close to get him through the day.
Hardly an hour later Wolf comes up to him, and Jaeri knows what he’s going to say - the mission briefing came in on his tablet too, live feed already being set up so he can monitor Wolf in battle. The usual, things that’ve happened dozens of times already. Wolf sighs in displeasure as he tells Jaeri about Bona’s order to investigate Gremory’s latest mischief. They talk specifics for a few minutes until preparations are ready, and then all that’s left is one last action.
“Come back safe, Wolf.” Jaeri murmurs finally, the familiar knot of anxiety already coiled up in his throat - he swallows around it, straightening his glasses. The Black Book hovers beside Wolf casually - it’s appearance never fails to unsettle him, but Wolf ignores it as he gently pulls on Jaeri’s tie, urging him closer. The height difference is barely noticeable between them, but Wolf still tilts his head down for a kiss, and Jaeri still tilts his chin up to meet Wolf halfway.
It’s chaste and sweet, and the ritual before missions is then complete. Wolf gives him a much more genuine smile when they pull apart before he’s turning away in a whirl of black and red, Black Book already opening and flipping through pages as Wolf travels through the portal to access the other part of the dimension.
Jaeri sits on one of the boxes next to Don and glues himself to the tablet, tuning everything else out. Don talk on the phone, but it’s just white noise as Wolf appears on screen, wrapped in glowing red and black.
The mission begins, and Jaeri barely breathes. The ring around his finger is slick with sweat by the end of the fight against Gremory, and he only lets the metal go once the tablet screen fades to static, and he knows Wolf is back in the proper dimension, coming back home.
Back to him.
“Were you worrying the whole time? All that stress is going to give you wrinkles, Jaeri.”
Wolf grins at him upon his return, red eyes still alight with the afterglow of a fight well won. Jaeri sighs in relief and fond exasperation, setting the tablet down carefully before he lets Wolf whirl around him, strong arms nearly lifting him from the ground in Wolf’s excitement. The Closer smells like a fight too, coppery from blood not his own, something sharp, and he’s still warm to the touch, radiating it like a miniature furnace.
Jaeri closes his eyes and leans into it all, and when Wolf calms down, he gives his husband a kiss. This too is a ritual, and they let the contact linger for longer, less innocent and more promise, i’m back, i’m back.
“Yes, yes. Welcome back, Wolf.” Jaeri says softly, happily. Wolf leans back down, and greets him properly.
“Good work as always, Agent. Today you have the rest of the day off.”
Alice speaks before Wolf can say a word, and he ends up shutting his mouth with an audible click of teeth - even Jaeri feels taken aback. The last time they were given time off was.. no, he can’t even remember. Alice’s voice is obviously amused at their reactions, Mini Wheel doing a back-flip in the air.
“There are no further orders for either of you. Bona is compiling today’s data to send to UNION, so yes, you can have time off. Go and enjoy it, Agent Wolfgang. You too, Jaeri.”
With that Alice departs, Mini Wheel hovering without a glow. Wolf turns to Jaeri, excitement radiating off him. The Closer is grinning openly, and in the back area, Jaeri can make out Don give a full body shudder.
“Did you hear that, Jaeri? Finally some down time! What should we do?”
Well, there’s something they rather need to do before they run out of food completely. So Jaeri slowly says-
“Oh, come on, Wolf. It’s not that bad.”
Jaeri gives Wolf an exasperated look, to which Wolf pouts - actually pouts - back. He sticks his hands in his coat pockets, the picture of a moody teenager in an adult body. “You know, when Alice gave us time off, I thought we could sleep all day, or go to the beach, or anything except grocery shopping. We don’t need groceries, Jaeri.”
“Yes we do. The fridge has eggs and milk and that’s all. Please get a basket.”
Grumbling, Wolf follows Jaeri into the convenience store, picking up a hand-basket and holding it like the basket could come alive and attack him at any time. Jaeri doesn't even look back, and retrieves a grocery list from his own coat pocket. From the counter, a familiar voice pipes up.
“Oh, Mister.. welcome..”
Wolf brightens a little, bounding over to the counter to greet a tired Sully, ponytail wagging behind him like a dog’s tail. “Oh it’s you! Good timing kid. Say, is there any trouble nearby? Anything at all?”
Sully looks at him with bewilderment, and Wolf continues, words coming out in a rush.
“Even a petty theft or robbery. I’ll do anything, so please tell me there’s anything to do!” From behind him, Jaeri gives a sigh, and Sully quickly realizes he’s going to be in the crossfire of something, so he does what any teenager would do. He makes a break for it.
“Ah.. haha.. sorry Mister but there’s nothing.. It’s totally peaceful… a-anyway I have to clean the back now, so... just ring this bell when you’re ready to checkout…”
“Wait…!” But Sully vanishes into the back of the store, and Wolf can admit defeat, even if he hates it. Without a word, he turns to follow Jaeri into the isles of the convenience store, resigned to suffering.
Obediently he holds the basket as it grows heavier with items Jaeri neatly crosses off the list until his arms begin to protest, and by then Wolf is disgruntled enough to sneakily take out the bag of carrots from the basket, and shove it quickly behind a box on the shelf. This continues for a good while until Jaeri looks back at the basket & frowns - it’s obviously now devoid of vegetables - so Wolf puts on his most innocent and bored expression.
But of course it dosen’t fool his husband. Damn.
“...Wolf. I know you’ve been putting the vegetables back. Don’t do that - Sully is going to get in trouble.”
It’s almost enough to get him to stop. Almost. He sends Sully a mental apology before using a delightfully sneaky hand trick to make the tomato disappear. Jaeri turns around as soon as they leave the isle, looks in the basket, and then actually scowls at him. Behind his ridiculous glasses, Jaeri’s usually passive eyes are narrowed, and Wolf feels sweat gather at the back of his neck.
“Wolfgang,” Jaeri begins, deceptively calm, “touch anything else in that basket, and you’ll regret it.”
He doesn't even look into the basket until they finish getting all the vegetables back.
They move to the front of the store soon after in ominous silence, shopping almost complete. At the counter, Wolf goes to put the basket up, but Jaeri stops him with a gentle hand on his arm.
Gone is the stormy expression - Jaeri gives him a small, shy smile, and Wolf feels his tension drain away.
“You can pick out a couple chocolates. It’s okay, Wolf. You behaved.”
It’s a bit like he’s a dog in training, but Wolf accepts eagerly, carefully setting the basket onto the counter and moving back to the candy display to choose some sweets. He spots Jaeri’s favorite brand, and picks up a handful of chocolates, before getting some for himself. Sully is already ringing up the items when he returns, and gives him a curious look as he deposits his armful of sweets into the pile of otherwise healthy food.
“It’s his reward for good behavior,” Jaeri says pleasantly, and Wolf doesn't dare disagree. Sully laughs a little awkwardly, and finishes bagging their groceries, ringing them up. They bid Sully farewell once everything is packed away, and carry their groceries back out into the warm sunlight, doors sliding shut behind them.
“...I’m not angry with you anymore, Wolf.” Jaeri says after a moment, sounding a little guilty. Wolf is careful not to roll his eyes, and instead reaches through his bags to twine their fingers together before speaking.
“I know, babe.”
They walk back to the Wheel of Fortune in comfortable silence, hands linked.
“Oh, Jaeri! Wolf too. How are you both?”
Aboard the Wheel of Fortune, a familiar figure greets them - Wolf and Jaeri exchange greetings with Carol, who beams at them, before moving to take some of the grocery bags from them. The two release hands to let Carol accept the lighter bags, and she falls into step with them as they walk into the hall reserved for living quarters.
“Alice is here too, you know! She invited me on a tour of the Wheel of Fortune. It’s remarkable! Actually, it reminds me a bit of the Lambs Keeper…”
Wolf unlocks the door and lets them go first before following. “I didn’t know Alice was here, no. We’ll have to go say hello to her. No wonder she gave us a day off - she was going on a date.”
Carol doesn't even blush - she lights up instead, and Jaeri smiles as he begins putting away fruits and vegetables. “Oh, do you think that’s what she invited me for? A date? Oh no, I don’t think I dressed properly for an actual date.. I haven’t been on one in a long time!”
“I think you look lovely, Carol.” Jaeri offers softly, and Carol smiles at him, handing him the bags she carried before bouncing on her feet. Her excitement is infectious - Wolf finds himself anxious to go meet Alice face to face, and Jaeri is moving with more speed than usual, too.
“You’re too sweet for this world, Jaeri. Is Wolf taking proper care of you?”
Jaeri colors pink, dropping a tomato - Wolf laughs, and moves into the kitchen to help him put away the groceries, gently knocking their shoulders together, a silent comfort.
“I am, Carol. Don’t tease him. Actually I think he’s taking care of me still. Though I guess that’s his job.”
They trade a knowing look over Jaeri’s head, before Carol returns to her previous topic. “Well, i’ll let you settle in - Alice is in the main hub. I’ll tell her to wait to start the tour until you go greet her.”
“We’ll do that. Nice to see you, Carol.” Wolf says, and she waves before exiting. The door clicks behind her, and Jaeri sighs, sitting on the tile of the kitchen floor. Wolf tucks himself beside Jaeri, leaning into the slighter man, and for a long moment they just revel in the rare peace.
“I can’t believe Carol dragged us into a double date. I can’t believe Alice agreed to it.”
Wolf groans as he shrugs out of his coat, dropping the Black Book onto the couch and then collapsing onto it. Jaeri does the same, white lab coat fluttering to the floor over his black one, and Wolf grunts as the smaller man flops onto him in an unusual lack of grace. He accepts it easily though, shuffling them onto the couch properly, and wrapping his arms around Jaeri. Wolf gently slides the man’s glasses off, putting them on the coffee table, out of the way of flailing limbs as Jaeri burrows closer..
“That was terrible,” comes Jaeri’s muffled voice, faint and breathy with fatigue. “Let’s never do that again.”
“Agreed,” Wolf mutters. The Black Book is digging uncomfortably into his back, but Jaeri’s exhaustion is palpable, so he stays where he is, absently running his hand up and down Jaeri’s back. The motion soothes them both, and quickly he can feel their breaths sync up. In the dim light of the small room, he can see their smooth metal walls, light grey. A thought occurs to him, in the quiet.
“..Wouldn’t it be a triple date, actually? Alice called up Celine and got her to come too.”
Jaeri just groans quietly, so Wolf smothers his laugh, lets it rumble in his throat, and rolls them sideways deeper into the couch, carefully keeping Jaeri’s face tucked to his chest, blocking out the faint light.
Take care of him, Wolf.
He hasn’t thought about what he said earlier that morning again until now - but he meant every word, good and bad. There’s nothing he wouldn’t endure for the man in his arms - his husband. Someone special he’d never dreamed of being allowed to have, let alone keep.
But Jaeri stayed. Jaeri has always stayed. Wolf tightens his arms, and Jaeri makes a sleepy, questioning noise. Wolf shushes him gently, leaning down to press a kiss to Jaeri’s head.
“I hope we get another day off soon,” Wolf says after a moment, soft hair tickling at his nose. “Then we’re going to just stay in bed all day. I won’t get up for anything, even if a dimensional monster tries to destroy the world.”
“Wolf, you’ll have to get up for that,” Jaeri murmurs, and says nothing else, and for a moment Wolf thinks he’s fallen asleep. But then-
“...But I would like that. Just staying in bed sometimes can be beneficial for your health.”
It’s enough - Wolf smiles, and closes his eyes, listening to Jaeri trail off as sleep finally wins over him. In the morning, they’ll probably be sore from the couch, and they haven’t changed into their pyjamas, and the Black Book is going to dig into his back, but he won’t move again tonight, not for anything.
Not even if a dimensional monster tries to destroy the world.
After all, Wolf’s whole world is in his arms, safe and sound.