Lee Hangyul. 25. An agent for the National Intelligence Service in South Korea.
It’s a position he’s held for three years now, ever since transferring from Incheon to Seoul. And he’s been operating in Seoul ever since.
Today is just like any other day as he readies himself to head down to the agency that’s about a ten minute-drive away from where he lives. He puts on his black padded jacket on top of his white long sleeves, a dark brown necktie messily hanging around his collar. He tries to fix his necktie, but he miserably fails for the nth time anyway; he just can’t seem to get it.
So he opts to leave it be and dust his black slacks instead. He combs his black hair backwards using his fingers, looking at his reflection one last time in the wide mirror at the wall of his living room, before he makes his way to his apartment's entrance.
Wooseok, his boyfriend and roommate of nine months, who’s three years older than him by the way, suddenly opens the door of his bedroom, quickly and forcefully for that matter. He must have just woken up, Hangyul concludes, as Wooseok is still yawning and rubbing the sleep out of his own eyes.
“Morning, hyung,” Hangyul gleefully greets as he slips into his shoes near the entrance. “I’m heading off to work.”
“Hold up a sec! At least let me say goodbye!” Wooseok rushes out to the living room and to him, the first two buttons on his white button-up still open, and his hair, well, still a mess of bed hair poking out in all directions.
“You’re so dramatic,” Hangyul chuckles at him, “You act like I’ll be gone an age.”
“Hey,” Wooseok slides his arms around the younger’s waist, “If we don’t take the time to treat our relationship seriously in these little moments, we’ll lose the big ones, too.”
Hangyul swears he feels his heart skip a beat upon hearing his boyfriend’s words. It’s a short and sweet interaction, seemingly barely worth remembering. But to him, right at this moment, it’s everything.
It’s made all the simpler by the fact that Wooseok is completely unaware of his job and the dangers each day brings with it.
He gives Wooseok the biggest genuine smile he could muster and brings the latter’s arms to his shoulders, as he proceeds to hug him by the waist. He places a quick soft kiss on the latter’s forehead, on both of his cheeks, on his nose, on his chin, and finally, on his lips. “Just tell me you’ll miss me.”
Wooseok scoffs at him and softly punches his chest with his right hand, smiling as he pulls away from him to grab a food from inside the refrigerator in the kitchen. “Whatever,” he says as he hands him something that seems like a tupperwear wrapped with yellow cloth. “I’m pretty sure you didn’t have breakfast again. I made that last night for you. Just heat it up with the microwave at your office.”
Hangyul can’t help but feel his heart leap out of chest at his boyfriend’s gesture. It’s things like this that makes him fall head-over-heels for him – his kindness, thoughtfulness, and gentle nature – aside, of course, from the fact that he’s the prettiest and most charming man in the country (and the whole world, Hangyul insists) he has ever seen.
And he is his.
He wonders how many nations he must have had saved in his past life. If the concept of reincarnation is true at all.
He accepts the bundle with a smile and pulls Wooseok into a hug again. “Thanks, love,” he pauses to give him a peck on the lips, “Should I not go to work after all?”
Wooseok chuckles as he hugs him back, and buries his face on his shoulders, with Hangyul making a mental note that his laugh is the best thing he’s ever heard. (Outside of the bedroom, of course.) “Stop kidding around, Gyul. I know this job of yours is really important to you, and you can’t afford to lose it, so no.”
“But you’re more important,” Hangyul pouts, “the most important, to be honest.”
Wooseok sighs at his remark as he pulls back to look at his face, a smile forming on his lips. “I’d really like to kiss the hell out of that pout, but you actually have to move your ass now if you don’t want to get caught up in traffic and be late.”
Hangyul pouts even more, staring into the pretty doe eyes in front of him. He would literally love to just stay in this moment, with Wooseok in his arms. To not go to work and just… be with the love of his life. “You forgot to wear your glasses.”
“I had to actually run right after I woke up because I thought you left without saying goodbye!” Wooseok retorts, his already large eyes even getting bigger.
Hangyul can’t help but pinch both of Wooseok’s cheeks at the sight. He’s really whipped for the cutest and the most adorable human being in front of him; he knows it, and he can’t be any happier than to spend his moments with him and have him by his side all the time. “I’m sorry, okay?”
Wooseok whines at him as his cheeks are being stretched out, but makes no effort to stop Hangyul; it doesn’t really hurt.
“I decided not to disturb your sleep. You know, you looked so peaceful sleeping there in my bed,” he teases, “so beautiful, in fact.”
Wooseok rolls his eyes but his cheeks still turned a shade of pink. He proceeds to pinch Hangyul’s cheeks, too, making sure to do it a little harder.
Or maybe not so little.
“Aw-ouch! That hurts!” Hangyul winces as he lets go of Wooseok's cheeks to rub his own with his palms in efforts of making the pain go away. “What’s that for?”
“That’s for pinching me, of course,” Wooseok says matter-of-factly, taking a moment after to look at him from head to toe. “And for doing your necktie wrong again,” Wooseok sighs as his hands come up to fix his necktie, with Hangyul watching his boyfriend’s slender fingers do the magic for him. “When will you ever get it right?”
Hangyul pouts again, and Wooseok tries to suppress his laugh at his boyfriend’s near-to-crying expression. “It’s just so difficult! It’s not my fault you literally got blessed with god hands and I wasn’t.”
“God hands?” Wooseok laughs, not being able to hold it in anymore. “Fixing a necktie means me having god hands?”
“Yeah? Why is that so funny?” Hangyul smiles as he watches him laugh, “It’s really difficult, hyung, I swear!”
Wooseok calms himself down before speaking up again, “Are you sure you’re 25?”
“Of course, I am!”
“No, you’re five,” Wooseok giggles.
Hangyul pouts even harder, making a sound that resembles a ‘hmph’ as he raises his nose up to his right, his gaze in the same direction before momentarily flicking back at Wooseok, then right back to his right.
Wooseok smiles as he sighs at his boyfriend’s antics. “If it makes you feel any better, you have god hands, too.”
“Oh?” Hangyul gently pulls him by the waist. He raises one of his eyebrows, his own eyes shining in mischief as he looks at Wooseok’s eyes, and then down to Wooseok’s lips. “I do?”
Wooseok realizes what he might have meant, and he feels the flush creep up his face again. He doesn’t know why he just had to blurt it out, but seeing Hangyul all sad and pouty makes him want to cheer him up. Now he swears he heard Hangyul’s voice go at least an octave deeper with that ‘I do?’ and he doesn’t want to make an even bigger mess of things after he scolded him for his necktie, so he just simply nods.
A small smirk forms at Hangyul’s lips as he slowly inches his face closer to Wooseok’s before dipping to kiss him, the latter meeting him halfway through. It’s quick and soft at first, each kiss lingering just a little bit longer than the one before it.
Soon it builds up, turning into a heated, passionate kiss, as Wooseok feels his back touch the wall. His left hand holds on to Hangyul’s broad shoulder for support, and his other hand tangles into Hangyul’s hair, subtly pulling him closer for more. It might have gone into a full make-out session if not for Hangyul’s phone ringing, followed by three consecutive message notification ringtones, interrupting them in their business.
Hangyul groans as he takes out the phone from his back pocket, his left hand still on one side of Wooseok’s waist.
“It’s my boss. Guess I have to go now,” he says as he looks back from the phone screen to Wooseok.
He can’t help but admire the way Wooseok’s red, swollen lips are parted. The way his pupils are dilated. The way his face is flushed. The way his breathing is heavy. He looks so beautiful against him like that, even with his ultra messy hair, and he feels his heart skip a beat when Wooseok clears his throat and gives him the prettiest smile he won’t ever get tired of seeing.
“I see, go now,” Wooseok breathes as he tries to compose himself again, kissing him one last time before letting go. “Take care, Gyul.”
Hangyul has just stepped out of his car parked at the agency’s parking lot, when he feels a sudden prolonged vibration on his wrist. The silent alarm on his watch goes off. Shit.
Break-ins are a nightmare even to the most prepared, but the bad news is worsened by three extenuating circumstances.
One, they got through his apartment’s security system, which makes them more adept than the average criminal.
Two, the majority of the NIS doesn’t even know where he lives. As far as the higher-ups are concerned, he’s still living in a flat a few miles east of his real apartment. Just a small way to avoid the surveillance that usually comes with his line of work, Hangyul reasons. Now, it’s blowing up in his face.
Lastly, and most importantly, three, Wooseok’s there. And he has no way of knowing the kind of danger he’s in.
Traffic is too jammed to have any hope of getting back there quickly on wheels. Shit. Shit. Shit.
He mentally curses over and over again, as he realizes he’s left with only one option. He runs.
Precious minutes tick by as he dodges pedestrians, his heart pounding as hard as his footsteps on the pavement. He ignores the open-mouthed stares and exclamations. The sudden loud beeps of car horns.
He can only think of Wooseok.
Every precious second with him. Everything he means to him.
And how it all started...
One year ago, Hangyul catches himself staring at the mirror above the bar.
For a dive bar tucked in between a bookstore and a women’s clothing store in Hongdae, the place has an impressive selection of liquor, he notes. Bottles line the shelves, and the mumble of conversation dulls the sound of traffic outside. On weekends, it’s typically packed with financial types in stiff navy suits – which is why he stopped by after 9PM on a random weekday night.
He slips onto a barstool, wedging his body into the closest thing to a dark corner. He sighs. Peace at last.
He orders red wine for a little liquid peace, reasons being that it’s classy and elegant, and he just feels like drinking it tonight. He takes a sip and pretends to care about the football game playing on the screen above. Drink, relax, and unwind, he mentally keeps on repeating to himself. Blend in, don’t be memorable.
He guesses this uneventful alone time counts as fulfilling his usual post-assignment checklist. But right as he downs the last of his drink, something calls out to him.
It feels like a whisper across his senses. The sensation of someone staring at him. The kind of feeling that sends his instincts buzzing and his hand reaching for the gun strapped to his side.
His gaze slips over the top-shelf liquor until he sees a face in the mirror’s reflection. There’s a man standing at the opposite end of the bar. And he’s looking at him.
Dark hair, doe eyes, black-rimmed round glasses, glass skin, petite body. Wearing a grey turtle-neck beneath a black jacket, and with a scarf around his neck. Sexy as hell, Hangyul might want to add.
A voice in his head begs him to forget protocol and call him over. To take this beautiful stranger somewhere private and strip him bare. To run his hands over the slender waist he can make out under his clothes. To forget the cool air out tonight.
His nerve endings burn.
Hangyul realizes he has been staring at the man’s reflection for quite a while. The man’s magnetic, and he could not even break eye contact if he tries.
This is surely not his usual reaction.
He enjoys sex, sure, but he knows he rarely abandon common sense to get it. Suddenly, however, he craves it. With this complete stranger.
The man approaches him at a slow, confident lope, and Hangyul can hear his own heart beating like thunder in his ears. He continues gazing at the mirror as he watches the man sit down on the stool next to him, a twinkle playing in the other’s clever eyes.
“I’m Kim Wooseok.”
His voice is like smooth bourbon, elegant and intoxicating – the kind of voice that washes over him, warming him, filling him to the brim.
Hangyul turns his gaze to him but stays silent for a second, debating on what to do. Just as he’s about to open his mouth to answer him, Wooseok asks, “you?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Hangyul,” Wooseok smiles gently, “I hope I’m not coming on too strong.”
“Maybe a little more forward than I’m used to, but I’m not complaining,” Hangyul smiles. “You thirsty?” He asks with the intention of offering to buy him a drink, of course.
But Wooseok’s gaze slides to him, and then slides down. Hangyul smirks to himself; the man beside him is not even bothering to hide his interest. “Are we really talking about drinks, Hangyul?”
He almost chokes on his own saliva as he looks at the other’s doe eyes staring back at him. Staring like he has just asked the most innocent question ever. “That’s up to you,” he sighs. It looks like he has found something other than a drink to take his mind off work tonight.
Wooseok smiles, and it literally lights up his entire face, Hangyul mentally remarks. The sight detonating something deep within him.
“Thirsty, yeah,” Wooseok pauses for a second, “But not for a drink… How about we head back to your place and get to know each other better?”
“I haven’t paid my tab yet.”
Wooseok reaches into his back pocket and takes out a wallet. He drops a bill on the counter and settles Hangyul’s glass on top of it. “You’re paid up,” he says as he smiles at him. “We can go when you’re ready.”
Hangyul can’t help but chuckle at the other’s action. His job makes random hookups riskier than usual, not to mention Dangerous with the capital D, but something about this guy makes him want to throw caution to the wind.
If he turns him down, take it slow and talk, will he spend the rest of his life regretting it?
Hangyul looks at him in the eyes, and right then and there, he gets his answer.
“You can take the lead,” Hangyul says after a short silence.
“Until I get your clothes off,” Hangyul smirks, “Then I’ll be in charge.”
It doesn’t take long to get back to his place and under the covers.
True to his word, the second Wooseok’s clothes come off, Hangyul takes command. Hangyul pins his wrists above his head with one hand, the one gently gripping his waist. “I’m in control tonight,” he whispers to Wooseok’s ear, making the latter shiver as he drops open-mouthed kisses beneath his jaw and down his neck, “understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Wooseok breathes as the younger goes to straddle him, his hips flush against his.
They meld together in the moment, illuminated only by the flickering light of the room.
Wooseok lets out a loud moan as he shivers, his hands reaching up to dig at the younger’s back. The sound – half longing, half desperation, with Hangyul’s name mixed somewhere in between – sends the younger into a tailspin as he captures his lips in a kiss.
The night is seemingly endless as it is, each of them ready for more the second things seem as though they’re about to slow down.
This kind of thing – hot, passionate sex with a near-stranger – isn’t new to Hangyul.
What is new is the strange feeling bubbling up in his chest. Like, maybe, he wants this to be more than just sex.
“Good boy,” Wooseok hums as he snuggles his way into the younger’s warm embrace.
That night, neither one of them remembers who fell asleep first.
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Three days after that night is when he really first got to know Wooseok.
He has asked Wooseok out to a date along Han river the morning after said three days of self-debate and staring at the latter’s KakaoTalk ID. Fortunately, Wooseok hasn’t complained yet at being dragged out for lunch and a walk around the water. And for being asked out on that same day.
Hangyul is nervous, he really is, for some damn reason. He is trying so hard to impress Wooseok that he doesn’t even know if he’ll flirt shamelessly, or play it cool, or let the other take the lead. He’s about to go crazy. All because of one man.
“I gotta say, I didn’t expect to be asked out again soon,” Wooseok gently smiles as he takes in the scenery in front of him while they walk together.
“Yeah well,” Hangyul clears his throat, “I had a decent enough time the other night.”
“What,” Wooseok snorts, “you’re saying you didn’t miss my killer smile?”
Hangyul contemplates on what to answer as he stares at the person beside him who’s currently beaming at him with a bright smile on his face. He can’t let himself get too close with the guy. It’s too dangerous.
“Let’s just skip the cute stuff,” Hangyul chuckles. “Fair enough?”
“Fair, I guess,” Wooseok turns his head to look at the river. “Still, it was sweet of you to cover the meal.”
Hangyul hums before saying, “Personal rule. I asked you out, so I pay.”
“Well, as long as you let me pay next time.”
Next time. His train of thoughts suddenly comes to a halt, along with his feet. “Next time?”
Wooseok, who’s already three steps ahead of him, stops as well to turn to him with an expression that is somewhere between teasing and hopeful. “Are you telling me there’s not going to be a next time?”
“Oh, fine...” Wooseok's smile grows bigger at him as he says that, and it’s so bright that he can’t help but smile back. “I also want it. A next time.”
“See? I knew I could get you to come around,” he giggles as he walks back to where Hangyul is, the two of them standing side by side as the sound of lapping water surrounds them.
For a moment, Hangyul feels the walls come down, a surge of intimacy rushing between the two of them. It was like, despite everything, he could tell him anything and it would be okay.
“So,” Wooseok starts as they both lean forward against the barrier that’s separating them and the river; their elbows crossed on top of it. Their distance not too close, but not too far from each other either. “You never told me. Are we the same age?”
“What? I’m your hyung then!”
“Wait, what? You are?”
“Yup, I’m 27 now. That makes you,” Wooseok hums as he gently taps his right index finger thrice against his own arm, then he looks at him on his left, “24, right? I am three years older!”
“I never would have guessed,” Hangyul chuckles at how exhilarated Wooseok’s voice sounds, seemingly happy about the fact that he gets the rights to the hyung card between the both of them. “You don’t look like you’re 27 at all, hyung.”
Hangyul doesn’t notice the pink flush that fills Wooseok’s cheeks as the latter immediately turns his face away. “O-oh, me?” Wooseok scoffs, “of course. I’m baby-faced.” He clears his throat as he proceeds to tease him, “you’re the one who doesn’t look three years younger than me at all. I honestly thought we’re the same age.”
“Ya, how can you say that. I even complimented you!”
“Ya! I’m your hyung!” Wooseok playfully hits his right arm, earning a laugh from the other. “Stop speaking in banmal around me!”
“Shireo,” Hangyul chuckles, “you said it anyway, I don’t look younger than you, aren’t I? Wooseok-ah?”
“But you’re still younger!” This time, he hits his arm harder. “And call me ‘hyung’!”
“Arasseo, arasseo, Seokie-hyung,” Hangyul laughs, even as he now rubs his own arm to ease the pain. It hurts, yes, but for him, it’s really worth it to see the older getting all riled up.
Wooseok groans, rolling his eyes, his smile not leaving his face. He should’ve pointed out his informal way of speaking again, but then Hangyul goes and calls him that. He wants to punch his self for getting flustered over little things. Or more accurately, over little things Hangyul does. “Whatever makes you happy, Gyul.”
Hangyul can’t stop laughing as Wooseok gives him that kind of death glare that’s supposed to make his toes curl in fear, but since it is Wooseok who’s doing it – with a matching pout – it surely looks cute in his eyes. Who wouldn’t find it cute? Who wouldn’t find him cute?
“Okay, okay. Mianhae, hyung,” Hangyul chuckles, as he turns his body to face him completely, arms still crossed, his side leaning against the barrier.
Wooseok can only sigh, shaking his head gently as he smiles, because it doesn’t really affect him that much. That Hangyul speaks informally to him. In fact, he actually likes it. It makes him feel like they’re closer. And luckily, Hangyul doesn’t seem to be dropping it any time either. “So,” Wooseok thinks of something to change the subject, “what do you do for a living?”
And just like that, the moment is gone.
Hangyul wishes he could tell him the truth. But it’s far too dangerous. His cover is sacred. Blowing it could cost him his life.
“I’m,” Hangyul pauses, “a bodyguard. Can’t you tell?”
Wooseok gives a laugh like soft velvet. “Should have guessed. With a body like yours, it’s the only thing that makes sense,” he smiles. “Nice to know you can keep me safe if anything goes down.”
Hangyul can tell by his cautious smile that the older knows he’s lying – but he doesn’t press the issue. It isn’t the reaction he expected from him, to be honest. Wooseok respects his boundaries… even the ones he desperately want to cross.
Eager to turn the conversation around, he lobs the question back at him, “what about you, hyung? What do you do?”
“I’m in tech.”
“You work on computers?”
“Yeah,” Wooseok chuckles, “now my secret is out. I’m a huge nerd.”
“Well, that’s good to hear,” he smiles, “I’ve always preferred smart guys.”
“Just wait till we get back to your place and I start talking differential equations.”
“You won’t be saying much of anything if you keep up with that smart mouth.”
“Ooh, now I’m really excited.”
A few twists and turns and Hangyul has reached the main city. He’s almost there, he just has to keep moving.
Please, let me get back in time.
Hangyul repeats the same line in his head over and over again, like a prayer for some miracle to happen, as he rounds another corner. Two more blocks and he crosses into a quieter residential area.
Please don’t let me be too late. Please don’t let me be too late.
A lane runs from the center of the row of officetels, apartment complexes and shops to a lone white building the back. He takes out his gun as soon as he reaches the gate at the end of the street, jogging though the walkway to the door of his two-story townhouse.
He can tell from the outside that he won’t have to worry about deactivating the impressive security measures. The door is busted down. Someone has already blown them apart.
He flashes back to the last thing he said to Wooseok before he left for work this morning.
“Take care, Gyul.” Wooseok’s tone is suddenly serious as he looks at him straight in the eye.
Hangyul had no idea this might be the last time he ever saw him alive.
“I love you. You know that right?” Wooseok continues.
Hangyul lets himself get lost in those shining eyes for a moment, before saying, “I love you too.”
Wooseok breaks into a dazzling smile. The kind of smile that makes him fall in love all over again, every single time he sees it.
“I mean it, really… Take care, okay?
“Nothing’s going to happen. I promise.”
“I know,” Wooseok sighs, “I just want to make sure you know how much I appreciate you.”
“I do,” Hangyul smiles. “Trust me.”
Trust me. He asked his Wooseok to trust him. But now, he might be—
His mind doesn’t let him finish the thought. Doesn’t want him to finish the thought.
By now, the regular alarm in his flat is already screaming. Neighbors stick their heads out and a car at the end of the lane slows down for a better look. He uses his phone to snap off the noise, just right before he notices a shadow moving inside his flat.
Wooseok? No. This guy is taller. Bigger.
Kim Yohan appears in the open doorway, shaking his head. What’s Yohan doing here?
Yohan served with him in the military even before transferring to NIS with him. He’s seen him through countless missions. Yohan is – excluding Wooseok, of course – his best friend. And he’s one more person he has left out of the loop.
Hangyul slams to a stop as raw, searing panic burns through him. “What happened?” he asks, his voice louder and his tone angrier than he was supposed to let out.
But Yohan gives away nothing. His blank expression sticks firmly in place. “Someone tossed the place. Did quite a number on the furniture.”
Hangyul debates on what to do. Should he ask Yohan for help? Or rush inside to search for Wooseok?
Hangyul makes a move for the inside of the house, but Yohan comes up to block his path. “What the hell?!”
“Look, Hangyul. I want to let you by, but you know I can’t. At least not until you answer a few questions,” Yohan sighs. “I admit I’m confused as to why it looks like you’re living here. Why you haven’t given the office the apartment’s specs so they could do a check and sweep it.” He clears his throat. “You know, the usual security measures we’re required to follow.”
Should he lie? Should he be evasive and not tell him about Wooseok?
Should he just tell him the truth?
Hangyul continues to weigh his options, even though it's clear – he admits – that if he tells him the real situation, Yohan might be able to help him.
“I… moved in here a while back. About a year and a half ago.”
“I just,” Hangyul thinks of the right words to say, “I needed a place where I could live my life. Where I didn’t have to worry about higher-ups looking over my shoulder. Where my personal life wasn’t on display.”
“That’s not what the job is,” Yohan raises one of his eyebrows at him.
“I know that. It’s just…”
Yohan can tell there’s more, but luckily, he doesn’t push it further. “We can discuss the details later.”
“I don’t know why you waited so long to tell me, but I appreciate you being up front now,” Yohan crosses his own arms as he sighs. “I’m your friend, Hangyul. I’m on your side.”
There’s a pause before either of them speaks.
“Is anyone there?” Hangyul asks to break the silence, but honestly, it was really done to know Wooseok’s whereabouts.
Hangyul puts on a straight face as he says, “Okay.”
“Yeah, good.” It’s not the most controlled reaction he has but it’s all Hangyul could muster right now, with the energy pinging around inside of him that has him ready to tear some skin. He has to keep it under control.
“Is it?” Yohan’s tone was suprisingly angrier, his voice heavier, and his eyebrows furrowed as he continues, “See, normally the way this works is, we’d want to catch the intruders in the act. Haul them to a secret location and question them. Any of this sounding familiar to you?”
Hangyul takes a deep breath to calm himself down. “I was talking about my neighbors. Innocent bystanders.”
“No, you weren’t.”
Hangyul definitely knows that tone, Yohan’s tone, that’s he’s speaking with right now. He has been with and served with Yohan long enough, that it isn’t hard for him to tell when the latter is tired of being jerked around.
As the few neighbors home at this time of the day trickle into the street, Yohan holsters his gun and steps outside onto the front porch. “Everything’s fine, kids, aunts, uncles. A small kitchen fire. You should stay inside your homes until the authorities get here.” With a general mumbling and shaking of heads, the gawkers return to their homes. Yohan gestures him to go inside, clearly still unhappy, and he follows him into the living room.
Broken shards of plates, glasses, pots, and vases litter the room. The sofa pillows and magazine are all over the place as well. The frames on one of the walls dismantled. Everything was a mess.
It seems that it isn’t intended to look like only a simple robbery took place there. There was a fight. His Wooseok clearly fought back, and his heart sinks at the thought. He silently prays to all the gods out there that he isn’t hurt anywhere. At all.
He scans his eyes across the room, finally releasing a breath of relief upon realizing that there isn’t a single blood to be seen.
“So,” Yohan speaks up, pulling him out of his thoughts, “you ready to explain?”
Hangyul felt a tingle glow at the base of his neck, and for all the years he’s done his work, he knows it’s his own telltale sign telling him that his life is about to be blown apart. “About what?”
“Denial. Interesting strategy,” Yohan hums as he subtly nods his head. “Dumb, but interesting.”
“What the hell are—“ Yohan interrupts him by handing him a white square-shaped piece of paper, slightly torn at the top.
“We’ll come back to the question later. We have another problem to deal with first.”
“What is this?” He flicks his gaze to the other’s outstretched hand holding the paper, then back at him.
“There was a message for you inside,” Yohan shrugs. “A pretty dramatic one, to be honest, what with it being stuck to the wall with a knife and all.”
Knives. Notes. Hangyul immediately grabs the note out of his hand.
“Cryptic,” Yohan continues, “threatening in a trying-to-sound conversational kind of way.”
Hangyul can barely hear him at this point. All he can do is read the words scrawled before him in black ink.
‘We have him. First date spot.’
hi! this is the first fic i've ever posted here, and english isn't my first language, so i'm sorry if there were typos, grammatical errors, etc i'd overlooked. this hadn't undergone intense proofreading... so how is it so far? i hope you enjoyed :)
Chapter 2: his nightmares
One particular night, three months ago, Hangyul finds himself in his own bed watching Wooseok drift off to sleep beside him.
He has been dating Wooseok for half a year by this time, and this said boyfriend of his has caught quite a habit of sleeping over at his apartment, doing it almost every other day.
For all those times he did, Hangyul has noticed that it is always Wooseok who would fall asleep first between the two of them. Not that Hangyul is complaining; there’s something peaceful about watching Wooseok sleep, his chest slowly rising and falling with each breath.
This time is different, though.
This time, Wooseok is kicking, shifting restlessly, and grasping for nothing but air. Hangyul reaches for both of his hands and clasps them with his own, his eyes full of worry and concern.
“No! Dad! Mom! No!” Wooseok suddenly wakes up, his eyes wide and his breathing ragged and heavy.
“Hyung,” Hangyul softly calls out to him, squeezing his hand gently. “Hyung, it’s okay, you were just having a nightmare.”
“What...” Wooseok breathes absent-mindedly, still unable to recover from his dream as he flicks his gaze to meet his.
“Just a nightmare,” Hangyul assures him. He gently bundles him into his arms, feeling Wooseok tremble in his embrace as the latter grips his shirt weakly, his heartbeat knocking against him like a small, frightened bird. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.”
They stay silent like that for a while, just basking in each other’s warmth. With Hangyul’s hand giving soothing motions on his back as he takes several deep breaths to calm himself down.
“Sorry, I just,” Wooseok starts after a moment, his voice muffled against the younger’s shirt, “I didn’t realize I was dreaming.”
“I know, baby, it’s okay,” Hangyul whispers back as he places a soft kiss on top of his head. One of his hands reaches up to softly caress his hair, the other one still holding him close.
He doesn’t hear Wooseok talk much about his parents, so he has always assumed it is a sore spot for him. But tonight, it sounded like his nightmare has something to do with them. He just can’t help but be worried and curious about it.
“What were you dreaming about?” Hangyul asks, breaking the comfortable silence.
He feels the older tense against him. “I don’t remember,” Wooseok replies, his voice taking on an evasive tone.
Hangyul hums, instantly catching his tone as he pulls back to look at his boyfriend’s face. He hesitates about pushing the topic further, but decides to ask anyway. “Were you dreaming about your parents?”
“Maybe,” Wooseok avoids his eyes as he sits up the bed, moving back to lean against the headboard. He looks down at his own hands. “I don’t know.”
Hangyul can only nod in response as he watches the other’s fingers start to fidget. He understands that he shouldn’t ask anymore, so he sits up to face Wooseok and quietly takes his hands, his thumbs running smooth, comforting circles on both of his knuckles.
Wooseok stares at their joined hands for a quite a moment, before deciding to speak again. “I… I lost them when I was younger.” He pauses, closing his eyes as he takes another deep breath. “They died in front of me, and I… I just saw it again.”
Hangyul feels his heart drop at his words. “I’m so sorry,” he says, holding his hands tighter.
Wooseok slowly opens his eyes to meet his concerned gaze and gives him a sad smile. “I don’t really want to think about it, if that’s okay?”
“Of course,” he subtly nods as he brushes away a few strands of hair that covered Wooseok’s eyes. “If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to.”
“Thanks, Gyul,” Wooseok sighs a breath of relief, pulling him into a hug as he buries his face on the younger’s neck. “You mean the world to me, you know that, right?”
Hangyul smiles, his heartbeat suddenly wilding at a quicker pace. “You mean the same to me, too.”
He feels Wooseok’s smile against him before they both gently pull away from each other. Wooseok places a quick soft kiss on his lips before nuzzling into his neck as they lie on the bed; the younger’s chest serving as his head pillow as he drifts off to sleep once again.
Hangyul holds him tighter as he whispers, “I’ll always keep you safe.”
Hangyul feels like he’s frozen in time as he reads the same two sentences over and over again.
‘We have him. First date spot.’
He stares at the letters, repeating them in his mind until he can’t seem to comprehend the words anymore. Like symbols with no clear meaning. Adrenaline builds inside him, rushing through every cell.
“This is bullshit,” Hangyul meant to think the words, but they come out in a rough, angry whisper.
“I can’t argue with that,” Yohan sighs.
Hangyul doesn’t respond. His mind becomes full of so many things and nothing at once.
He was so careful. Nothing – and really, nothing – about this place traces back to his work or name. He is sure he did every possible measure to let his superiors think he had only one address. Let them maybe plant listening devices there and watch over the wrong place.
So how did they find him?
This place is a secret, is his secret. The people in the office surely think he still lives in that one-bedroom in Insa-dong. In reality, he makes sure to visit that registered home of his once or twice a week just in case, but he never stays through the night. His superiors won’t actually really bat an eye if he never comes home much. It’s literally the kind of job he has.
He suddenly hears Yohan snort, pulling him out of his thoughts. “You think someone has you confused with another undercover agent in the neighborhood?”
“Yohan. Please,” Hangyul closes his eyes as he takes a deep breath, “I don’t have time for your bullshit right now.”
“My bullshit?” Yohan scoffs, “You’re the one who let this happen. It’s because of all this secrecy that they managed to grab whomever this note is referring to.”
He feels a pang of guilt rush through him as he hears Yohan’s words. He lowers his head as he opens his eyes.
“I’m going to need you to tell me exactly who that is,” Yohan continues.
“That doesn’t matter right now.” Hangyul steps further into the living room, scanning the place for clues, with Yohan following him only with his eyes. “I have to do a quick investigation before the cleaning squad arrives and takes everything,” he declares.
“No,” Yohan shifts to block his path, again. “We’re not handling this situation your way. Not this time.”
“Do we really have to argue about this right now?” Hangyul snaps, staring straight into his eyes. He has so much in mind to deal with, but he can’t just simply let others take control of this situation. He can’t afford a single mistake. Not when it would cost him Wooseok’s life.
“It should’ve not been done your way, long before today,” Yohan glares at him back, refusing to back down. He has tolerated Hangyul for so long; he has kept him in the dark, and he lets him be.
But enough is enough. Hangyul has to tell him what he’s hiding so he knows just what kind of danger they throw themselves into. So he knows how to help him.
“You should have told me before. Now, you don’t have a choice. Just say it.”
Hangyul looks down at his own feet as he contemplates on what to do. On what to say. He mentally curses as his fists curl into a ball, the paper crumpling in his hand. The timing for this is just… all wrong. He takes a deep breath, as he thinks and thinks and thinks. He isn’t sure if he even has the right words to explain it to him.
“Hangyul,” Yohan’s expression softens as he watches his friend struggle, “I can’t help you if you don’t trust me.”
He takes a deep breath one last time before opening his eyes, lifting his gaze back to Yohan. He knows Yohan is genuinely trying to help him, and he can’t just lose his temper.
He decides in that moment to tell him everything because, well, Yohan is his friend and he has his back.
“The first thing you need to know,” Hangyul turns to face the mess of a room again as he momentarily pauses, “is that I have a boyfriend… I couldn’t find the words to tell you earlier than this. I’m sorry. Are you happy now?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hangyul looks back at him, surprised at his response.
“Just that you’ve gone all this time without telling me,” Yohan sighs. “I kept waiting for you to trust me enough with this, and now that you finally do, I’m too late to help keep your man safe.”
“You knew?” Hangyul’s eyes widen as he asks, the look of shock still written all over his face.
Yohan can’t help but chuckle at his friend’s expression, “Of course I knew, Hangyul.”
“Then why didn’t you say something? Anything?”
“Well, first, I wasn’t going to be the one to point out to you that you weren’t straight,” Yohan rolls his eyes, but he smiles after. “I’m trained to notice things, remember?”
Hangyul’s lips can only form an ‘oh’ as he agrees, nodding at his friend. He’s still trying to digest everything in, and he’s too taken aback to even respond with words.
“In all the years I’ve known you, you haven’t really talked much about going out with a woman… I’ve seen you stare at waitresses before, sure, but at waiters as well. Oh, and I’ve been in a bar with you more than once, and watched some guy look at you, then ten minutes later you both disappear.” Yohan laughs as he sees his friend’s ear turn deep red, “I am not stupid.”
“I was going to tell you, just,” Hangyul’s face then turns into a sad one as he trails off, “in my own time.”
“I know that, and that’s why I never forced the issue,” Yohan sighs. “But really, all this sneaking around? From the agency?”
“You think it’s fair?” Hangyul asks after a short silence, with Yohan still waiting for him to answer, “You think it’s fair that we’re not allowed our own lives? That everything is held up to this awful scrutiny?”
“Of course I hate it,” Yohan sighs, “but that’s part of the job. The job you signed up for. And now you’ve seen what happens when you try to work around the system.”
“I know,” Hangyul huffs as he looks down again. “And I’m never ever going to forgive myself for letting them take him.”
“So,” Yohan hums, “who is this guy, anyway?”
“His name is Wooseok. Kim Wooseok-hyung,” Hangyul smiles sadly as he pictures Wooseok’s smiling face in his mind.
“Yeah, he’s three years older,” Hangyul can’t help but chuckle at his clearly surprised reaction.
“Heol…” Yohan says dramatically, his mouth agape and his hands even coming up to cover his mouth. “How about his job?”
“Daebak… Tech, really?”
“I like them smart.”
“You mean nerdy,” Yohan teases, as he subtly shakes his head, smiling.
Hangyul chuckles, followed by his swallowing down the emotions threatening to crawl up his throat.
A part of him wishes that he can turn back the time, but truthfully, he doesn’t even really know what he’ll do if he can. If he goes back, maybe to the part where he didn’t meet Wooseok yet, then he can’t get him involve with his mess, and he wouldn’t get hurt.
But a searing pain crosses his heart just at the thought of not having Wooseok in his life at all. He can’t bear it. “They have him.”
“Fuck, it could be anyone.” He tugs at his own hair before he slides his hands harshly down his face. “How many people have we pissed off all over the years?”
“A lot,” Yohan answers. “But as you pointed out, not many have your real home address. Think for a second. Someone… someone’s out there trying to get your attention. That person or group or whatever is trying to use this Kim Wooseok-ssi to lure you to them.”
“Not trying,” Hangyul huffs, “They don’t need to try, because I’m going to him.”
“Yeah, yeah, fine,” Yohan just sighs; it’s not really the point of what he said but he still lets him off, “but we need some intel here. How would someone get to him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Any chance someone followed you, or…” Yohan trails off but there’s something in his tone that puts Hangyul off. Like he wants to say something that Hangyul would surely be pissed about, but he doesn’t.
Except that Hangyul is, now, clearly pissed off. “What?”
He isn’t really sure he would like to hear what Yohan is going to say, though. Silence surrounds them for a moment until he hears Yohan clear his throat before speaking again, “what have you told Kim Wooseok-ssi about your life?”
“He doesn’t know I work for NIS. I didn’t tell him anything that could drag him into this.”
“What, come on. Not a thing?”
“Not a damn thing,” Hangyul emphasizes every word. “I’ve been lying to him too, just as I’ve been trained to do.”
Yohan lets out a long exhale. “Then I guess we’ll have to simply resort to asking the kidnappers what they want. When we rescue your man.”
Yohan goes to him and punches his forearm hard, a reassuring smile on his face, “We’ll save him! At least show me some fighting spirit. This isn’t like you at all.”
Hangyul scoffs at his friend, but he shakes his head as a small smile forms on his lips. Indeed, it isn’t like him to mope around at all. “Yeah.”
“Then after all of this, I’m going to kick your ass for not trusting me enough to tell me the truth,” Yohan continues, faking his angry tone.
“I had my reasons…”
“God, is this really Hangyul I’m talking to right now? You’re too serious.”
Hangyul sighs, mouthing a simple ‘yeah’ again. Just the fact that Wooseok is in danger somewhere out there, maybe alone in the dark and all tied up, makes his soul threaten to leave his body. His chest tightens as he hopes for the best case scenario he can think of – that Wooseok is just asleep, and they aren’t beating him up.
“Well,” Yohan sighs, “you can tell me all those reasons – and you really will – after we got Kim Wooseok-ssi back. Arasseo?”
Hangyul just nods. What really matters to him right now is that he gets Wooseok back.
Yohan points at the crumpled paper in his hands. “So, what do you think that means?”
His attention goes back to the only clue they have.
‘First date spot’? That would mean the Han River, right? That’s where he first took out Wooseok after all.
But what if they meant the bar in Hongdae where he first met him? He wouldn’t exactly call that a first date, though.
Fear and adrenaline are starting to affect Hangyul’s thoughts that he doesn’t even bother questioning at this moment how this person or group or whatever knew this kind of information. Instead, he takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. He knew he won’t go anywhere with his internal debate if he continues without thinking critically.
A bar in the middle of the city seems like a bad place to take a kidnapping victim. Surely, they’d want to take him somewhere isolated.
Somewhere no one could easily hear him scream.
It doesn’t take Hangyul and Yohan long to make their way to the Han River, and as expected, not a lot of people loiter in this place at this time of the day – about 10 AM on his watch.
In fact, there’s almost no one, except for an old couple leaving that they met at the entrance earlier, about ten meters away from them now.
It’s a bit too silent here. Aside from the sound they can barely hear of passing vehicles from the bridge across the river half a mile away from where they are.
It’s a bit too easy.
Hangyul can count on one hand the number of times an operation they did went according to plan. He can barely remember a time he didn’t have to fall back on a plan B, or C, or even D. Plan A tends to turn to shit and end in explosions after all.
And he can’t risk it. He can’t risk his Wooseok dying. He can’t make any mistake here because it could cost him his boyfriend’s life, and that simple fact makes him nervous than any open fire could ever do.
“We any closer to figuring out who’s behind this?” Yohan asks as they halt to a stop at one point along the riverside.
“We drove over in the same car. Did you hear me say I’d figured it out?”
Hangyul just sighs, as even he does not expect himself to be this irritable.
“Okay so any idea where ‘they’ would be keeping him? We’re talking miles of open land and numerous buildings here. We could call in reinforce—“
“No, just us on this one,” Hangyul interrupts him immediately.
“What? But we have a team for a reason,” Yohan retorts, quite surprised at the sudden disagreement.
“And if they come in now, we’ll definitely have a firefight. You know as well as I do that too many feet on the ground can tip off the target,” Hangyul reasons, his voice firm as he says the next lines. “I’m not willing to take that chance. Not with Wooseok-hyung’s life on the line.”
Yohan considers his words with a furrowed brow, but after a moment, he nods. “Fine. I’ll follow your lead on this one… Now that we’ve settled that, where’s your boyfriend? I’m ready to see the guy who has you messed up and ready to throw your career away.”
Hangyul sighs, a small smile forming on his lips as he hands Yohan his binoculars in response. “Factory, about 60 meters down on the left.”
“Hm,” Yohan follows to look at the direction he said, “I’m not seeing any movement. Not a person.”
“Yeah, but they’re here,” Hangyul voices out in a low whisper, his resolve firm. He can’t see any single person either, but he knows it, he feels that they are here.
Yohan hums an agreement, “Well yeah, like rats. Pretty sure they’re crawling out there somewhere then.”
“He will be the one without a gun.”
“Right,” Yohan says, understanding that by ‘he’, Hangyul meant Wooseok. “So how do you want to take this?”
Hangyul goes into silence for a while, eyeing the most suspicious place he has pointed out to Yohan earlier, before finally speaking up, “I have a plan.”
“I think I know what they’re planning,” Hangyul starts in a low voice as they both hide behind a bush, supposedly out of view from their target.
“They wanted us here, which means this is clearly a trap,” he pauses. “Look, what makes more sense? Them not preparing for us, or—“
“The fact that they’re hiding in wait,” Yohan continues his words, subtly nodding as he gets his point.
“Yeah, they probably have a few guys hidden around waiting to get the drop on us.”
“But you’re still planning on going in.”
“Of course, I have to,” Hangyul sighs heavily. “They have Wooseok-hyung.”
“So um… we just bumble in blindly? I thought you actually had a plan,” Yohan’s face turns into disbelief.
“No, and yes. We spring their trap.” Hangyul considers for a second, before saying, “At least, I do. You cover me from a distance. If anything goes wrong, you take out the opposition.”
Yohan’s brows furrowed at his words, “This is risky.”
“I know. But it’s the only chance we have.”
Hangyul waits, as silence surrounds them for a moment. Then, to his relief, he sees Yohan nod.
“Be careful, Hangyul.”
Hangyul moves in as quietly as he can, careful not to draw any attention to himself, as he holds his gun, ready to aim at anyone threatening.
It is a tall, abandoned building, perhaps a factory – the place he approaches. Its construction is still left undone, Hangyul concludes, as he eyes the barriers surrounding the place and the numerous metals, ladders, and cement bars poking out of the structure. The metal gate is left open, though. And the factory doesn’t seem unused.
He is within ten meters of the target building’s door when the clicking starts.
But it’s not gunfire.
It’s the steady shuffling of man after man appearing on rooftops and around corners. Men in battle gears armed and loaded with weapons and protective vests.
What the hell.
Hangyul mentally curses as he realizes that there aren’t just a few guys surrounding him, but a small army of them.
He hears a shot from a distance; Yohan fires and one of the men at the rooftop drops. Then another. He seizes the opportunity to upholster his own gun. Hangyul dives for cover, firing with aimed shots at each of the mercenaries above him.
“We’ve got trouble, Hangyul,” He hears Yohan whisper harshly through his earpiece, something their agency provided to be used in their operations.
Hangyul hums in response, “I can clearly see that.”
“No, they spotted me. I’m surrounded. They’re forcing me toward you.”
Sure enough, he sees Yohan running for his life, avoiding every bullet he can, as mercenaries continue to fire at him from above.
Hangyul curses as he wonders where the hell those firing at Yohan even came from. Yohan was clearly hidden, positioned at least twenty meters away from him. He feels a deep pit slowly form in his stomach as he realizes something.
It’s like they knew exactly how Hangyul would think.
He pushes down the thought as he sees Yohan clear the distance between the both of them in record time, miraculously avoiding every shot.
Their training and experience built up for all these years kick in, and the two of them dive to the only escape they have – inside the factory.
Hangyul and Yohan both rush inside, bullets whirring over their heads.
“How the hell did you make it to me without getting shot?” Hangyul manages to ask despite their quick movements, both turning their earpieces off.
“I’m actually good,” Yohan smirks, “but not that good.” His tone becomes serious as he continues, “Those were guiding shots. They were meant to miss, Hangyul.”
Hangyul’s expression goes grim as he realizes what he means, “So they wanted us in here.”
Just as the words leave his mouth, more mercenaries emerge from behind aisles and stacked boxes. At this range, there’s no way they would miss their shot. The two of them instinctively shuffle together, standing back-to-back, as both their guns quickly come up to aim at the men cautiously.
“Where’s a barrel of explosives to hide behind?” Yohan asks him from behind, his tone unexpectedly giddy. “There’s always one in the movies.”
Hangyul snorts in response. Yohan must actually be enjoying this situation far too much, not breaking under pressure and even managing to make jokes. He has to give his friend credit for that.
“Nope,” Hangyul replies, his voice remaining even, as they eye the mercenaries who have been aiming their guns at them. Nobody moves. Nobody, aside from them, says a thing.
“They’re clearly well-trained, and seem pretty excited to start shooting things, namely, us.”
Hangyul contemplates on whether they strike first, or probably negotiate with them. Surrendering is, of course, out of the question.
He eventually decides on the first one; negotiating with them won’t work. They seem to be mercenaries hired only to do one job, not the one they’re looking for – the mastermind behind this kidnapping. Hangyul figures majority of them does not even know where Wooseok is held captive.
“Let’s strike first,” he says in a low voice, audible to only the both of them.
“I like where your head’s at,” Yohan whispers back, “but I don’t know if we could pull that off. We could take out a few, sure. But the rest would just finish us off.” Yohan sighs, “I hate to say it, but they got us at this point.”
“Maybe, but we’re not dead yet,” Hangyul argues, “which means they want us alive.”
Yohan goes silent for about two full seconds, before finally saying, “They’re going to take us captive then.”
“Let them try,” Hangyul scoffs. “We’ve busted out of worst before.”
“Whatever. For now, the best thing to do is to go with the flow.”
“SHUT UP!” They hear one of the mercenaries shout, his voice thundering throughout the quiet, tense space. And at this, the men start to move in. Hangyul hears Yohan hum an ‘uh-oh’, and a ‘here we go’ as their opponents’ boots crunch against the debris and broken glass shards.
Hangyul conducts a mental inventory of the weapons he has with him. “If these guys take my gun, and they’re clearly about to, I need backup.”
“This is the oddest setup I’ve ever been caught in,” Yohan says in response, shaking his head.
“Oh, right,” Hangyul says teasingly. “I forgot you’re one to avoid these kinds of situations.”
“Ya, I’ve kept you alive so far, haven’t I?”
The mercenaries close in, still aiming their weapons at them, breaching the imaginary line Hangyul has drawn in his head for combat. Cross that line, and battle is guaranteed, that is his rule.
Hangyul swallows past the lump in his throat as he grips his gun tighter. It’s time to put an end to this bullshit. If he can’t strike first, he might as well try to negotiate. “We—“
He is cut off as the man in front of him aims a gun close to his forehead. “Weapons down.”
“Or,” Yohan speaks up from behind him, “we could just start shooting and see who’s left standing when we’re done.”
“Then you’ll never get what you came for,” the same man answers, pinning Hangyul with a mocking stare. “Who you came for,” he smirks as he momentarily pauses. “Or did you forget him already?”
Hangyul gives him the deadliest death glare he can muster, clenching his jaw as his eyes pins him down. Fear crosses the man’s face for a split second but it’s all gone the next moment, as the said man clears his throat, his face quickly turning into a blank expression.
“Let me speak to Wooseok-hyung first.” Hangyul slowly lowers his gun to the ground and holds his hands up. “I’ll do what you say. But first, I need proof that he’s alive.”
The mercenary stays silent for a moment, before nodding. “Fine, if that’s what it will take.”
Still aiming the gun to his head, the man pulls out an old flip phone and dials a number. Hangyul follows the phone with his eyes, thinking that they are probably using that old thing to avoid being traced. He could take him out while he’s distracted, Hangyul mentally remarks, but he knows one of these other jokers will shoot him for sure. So he won’t. He can’t save Wooseok if he dies.
“Yeah, it’s me. Put the guy through,” the mercenary speaks at the phone, his eyes still focused on Hangyul. A beat echoes through the room. “You have five seconds.” The man shoves the phone roughly to the side of his face.
“Seokie-hyung,” Hangyul can feel the tears threatening to form in his eyes, but he stops himself. “Is that you, hyung?”
[“Babe, what’s going on? Who are these people?”]
He clearly hears the fear and confusion in his trembling voice, and he feels his heart sink. “Hyung, I’m coming to get you. Just hold on until—“
Something hard smacks into the back of his head, stopping him.
He can make out the stars exploding in front of his eyes. He struggles to stay upright, but a second hit slams him to the ground. Then a kick to his side has him curling into a ball, as he reaches for his knife.
But just right then, the world around him goes dark.
Hangyul opens his eyes at the sound of Wooseok’s voice, only to be taken aback as he realizes that they’re not in the factory or anywhere dark, dangerous, and suspicious. They are in his apartment.
Wooseok sits on the floor, with his knees close to his chest and his arms crossed on top of them, as he leans his back beside the couch.
Hangyul’s eyes scan the entirety of the living room. Everything is in order. Exactly the way it is before all of that mess happened. He flicks his gaze to the side profile of the man by his side. It’s only the two of them.
Is this a dream? Or was everything a dream?
He hopes for the latter. He really hopes he just fell asleep that morning as he prepares to leave for work for the day.
“Hyung,” he opens his mouth, his voice filled with worry and concern. He tries to bring his hand up to reach Wooseok’s face, but his body doesn’t cooperate.
It is like he is paralyzed, though for some reason, he doesn’t seem to realize it.
“What are you doing here…? I- I thought they had you.”
He sees tears suddenly start rolling down Wooseok’s face, much to his surprise. “Why couldn’t you save me, Gyul?”
“Hyung, oh god… I…” Hangyul doesn’t know what to say. His chest tightens at the question he has been dreading to hear.
And he hates it.
He hates seeing Wooseok get hurt. Get sick. Bawl his eyes out. Silently endure everything. He hates seeing him cry all the more now that he’s the cause of all the pain he has. He badly wants to punch himself.
Honestly, he rarely sees Wooseok cry; he has such a strong personality, and that’s one of the things that Hangyul admires about him the most. When he does cry, though, it’s always Hangyul he seeks for comfort with.
Now he can’t do anything. He can’t even protect him. From the pain. From those bastards. From everything.
If he has the chance to take the pain away from him, and be the one to endure it instead, he would.
“I was so scared when they came for me,” Wooseok continues, still staring at the wall in front of him, his voice trembling. “Why… why did you let this happen?”
“Hyung, I’m so sorry,” Hangyul feels his cheeks get wet by his own tears, but he doesn’t care.
Wooseok buries his face in his own folded arms, as he finally lets out the sobs he has been holding in.
“I’m really sorry, hyung,” Hangyul’s voice cracks as he repeats his words, apologizing over and over again.
Because this time, he doesn’t know how to make him feel better. He can’t find the right words to make him smile. He can’t just pull him into a warm hug and embrace him to ease the pain away. He usually knows what to do. But right now, he just feels so… helpless.
Hangyul can’t even move, like he’s stoned in place. But maybe that’s for the better, he thinks. He can’t just let himself hold him like nothing happened because he knows it's his fault.
Wooseok doesn’t deserve this. Wooseok doesn’t deserve him.
“Seokie, I’m sorry.”
That’s all he can do. Apologize.
His heart shatters as he hears Wooseok sob even more, his shoulders shaking so much.
“Seok... I’m sorry I let you down...
I know this isn’t enough. My apologies aren’t enough.
I care for you so much but I wasn’t strong enough.
I wasn’t strong enough to protect you.
I told you I’d always keep you safe. But I… I failed you.”
Minutes, or more likely, hours could have passed, but Hangyul has no way of knowing.
His dream fades as he reenters consciousness. He shifts his arms and he feels a wire bite into his wrists. He looks down and another wire binds his chest to the chair.
The physical pain he feels fades into the background as reality hits him. He’s tied down.
Shaking off his dream, he takes a quick look at his surroundings, barely noticing the sticky feeling of tears that has dried off his cheeks. He makes a note of where he is – an abandoned warehouse. The perfect quiet place to inflict pain.
Just fucking fabulous.
His mind wanders, though, to where Wooseok might be. Is he in some warehouse somewhere too? Is he here?
His eyes adjust slowly to the light, but it doesn’t take long to make out the figure tied up next to him. It’s Yohan.
“Yohan,” he calls out in a low whisper, checking on his friend’s condition, “you okay?”
Yohan shifts as he hears Hangyul’s voice waking him up. “Well that sucked,” he whines as he feels the wires binding him too.
Hangyul gives him a weak smile, grateful to find his friend’s sense of humor intact. “Bet you’re sorry you answered the alarm at my house.”
Yohan chuckles raggedly at his words as he shakes his head, “I’ve had worse days.”
Footsteps echo behind them as they hear a figure enter the room. “Looks like our time is up,” Hangyul whispers. “If we’re lucky, they just plan to torture us.”
The figures stops right in front of where he and Yohan sit bound to their chairs. What quickly catches their attention is the striking fact that the man wears black all over - black turtleneck, black blazers, black pants, black shoes. He obviously doesn’t seem to be liking black much, Hangyul sarcastically thinks, as he lifts his gaze up to meet the eyes of his captor.
Deep, dark eyes… like deep, dark abysses leading to a whole universe beyond. He feels like he could drown himself in them over and over again. Like he always did for the past year.
For a second, it seems as though dreams have blurred their way into his reality.
High cheekbones. Firm jaw. The familiar mischief in his eyes.
That face. He knows it too well.
He wants to scream his lungs out and curse at his own fate, as he hears the man finally utter his name.
Chapter 3: real lies
Everything seems so long ago now, Hangyul thinks, as the man who once slept so restlessly in his arms paces ever so slowly in front of him, a chilling smile on his face and a gun in his hand. He follows him with his eyes, remembering how the said man seemed so vulnerable back then.
Was it all just an act?
“Gyul.” Wooseok stops in front of him, still keeping their distance a couple meters apart.
“Who the hell are you?” Yohan asks, his tone quite heavy with anger.
There is complete silence for a while, just Wooseok and Hangyul staring at each other’s eyes, as if searching for something. Yohan looks back and forth at them with furrowed brows. “I said, who-“
“What the hell?!” Yohan looks back at Hangyul, disbelief written all over his face. He waits for him to call it a joke or something. Except the younger doesn’t.
How Hangyul wishes this isn’t real. That this is just a thread left over from his dream. It has to be, but this is his sad reality. Wooseok – his Wooseok – is standing like the villain that he is, right there in front of him.
“So, the guy with the big gun is your kidnapped tech geek boyfriend?!”
“Not anymore,” Hangyul says, hurt and anger evident in his voice. He looks away and tries to blink back the tears threatening to fall from his eyes. Crying is both the most and the least thing he wants to do right now. He is so frustrated and mad to the point that he wants to vent everything out, but he won’t show him how much he is dying inside. He won’t give him that satisfaction.
Wooseok spears him with an icy smile in response. “You always did have such a temper, Gyul, didn’t you?”
“…Why do I think the next few minutes are going to suck,” Yohan breathes out, slumping back to the chair he’s tied to and ignoring the death glare he earns from Hangyul.
“That’s an understatement,” Wooseok chuckles.
The shock and confusion Hangyul feels turn into rage. He stares at the face he woke up to most mornings for the past six months, and feels nothing but seething hatred. “I’m going to kill you.” His voice is low and threatening as he lets out the words he didn’t expect he would ever say to Wooseok. He is taken aback by himself to say the least; he almost regrets saying it, until he sees a smirk creep up Wooseok’s face he’d so gladly wipe off at that moment.
“I look forward to seeing you try.”
Hangyul’s gaze snaps to the gun in Wooseok’s hand, then to the floor. He takes note of another wire that binds his legs, dashing any chance of kicking his way to freedom. Looks like Wooseok was smart enough not to use zip ties. It’s a shame, really. He could break those without any trouble.
Wooseok’s smile widens, as if he knows exactly what Hangyul was thinking. Hangyul clenches his fists, making a mental note that if Wooseok keeps smiling like that, he might just rip through the metal with his bare hands just to strangle him. A small voice in the back of his mind counters him, though, saying he can’t ever hurt Wooseok, but he chooses to push down that voice into abyss.
He debates knocking the chair over, but he quickly discards that idea, too. The wires are so well-tied to allow for movement. These bindings are clearly professional, and he can’t help but wonder if Wooseok tied them, and if so, where he learned to do them.
Wooseok opens his mouth to speak, as if to answer his unspoken question, but then stops - his attention changing its focus to something, or rather someone, over Hangyul’s shoulder. “We have company.”
It takes some concentration but Hangyul is able to hear the soft footsteps. A taller man in black suit approaches, with a much older man that seems to be one of his personal guards following close behind him. He carries himself like someone who is used to being in charge, Hangyul remarks; this man must be the one running the show.
“I see our guests have finally arrived,” the mysterious man happily says, then turns to speak to his guard, “We’ll need the equipment. Go retrieve it.”
“Yeah, a little late... But then, Gyul has a habit of showing up an hour after he says he will.” Wooseok comments, a mocking smile forming on his lips.
Yohan would have chuckled and joined in on the teasing had it been a different situation. All he knows this time is that he would have already spin-kicked Wooseok had his limbs been free. “That’s what this is about? You’re pissed he always missed dinner before or something?”
“Nice to finally meet you, Yohan,” Wooseok smiles, the same one Hangyul thought was genuine, but now, it just sends chills down his spine. “I see you failed at keeping Hangyul out of danger. Again.”
“Fuck you,” Yohan grits out.
Hangyul almost chokes on his own breath. Wooseok shouldn’t know anything about Yohan; he doesn’t remember ever mentioning Yohan’s name to him. Not even once. So, how did he know his name?
Just then, the guard returns, rolling a cart with him. On it is a machine the size of a shoebox. Hangyul can’t initially tell what is, but the jumper cables give it away. That’s not even counting the bucket of water on the lower shelf of the cart. Perfect equipment for electric shocks.
Sure enough, Hangyul has been trained to resist torture through various rounds and drills. Not his favorite part of the job, but he knows he can beat them if he stays focused. And he knows, too, that he can’t let himself get distracted by Wooseok at all.
“What the hell is all of this?” Hangyul asks, his expression now a calm, cold one, so blank even Yohan can’t figure out what’s going on in his mind.
The tallest of them lets out a chuckle, mocking him. “Your boyfriend did the job. Lured you here.”
“Since when,” he takes a deep breath as he looks at Wooseok, “when did you start working for them?”
“From the very beginning,” the tall man answers in his place again. “Remember that bar we sent him to?”
“You were an easy mark,” Wooseok shrugs.
Hangyul doesn’t have the chance to counter when he sees the tall man nod to his guard standing by the cart and say: “Let’s get started.” The guard flips a switch and a small light from the machine flickers on, a low hum beginning to fill the room. Hangyul knows he has to stall, has to keep them talking until he can figure out a way to escape this situation.
“I should’ve seen this coming,” he whispers under his breath, barely audible amidst the noise.
“Oh, poor little thing,” the tall man grins, shaking his head. “Don’t give yourself too much credit. Wooseok is a damn good agent. You didn’t have a chance against him.”
“I told you, he’s got an ego,” Wooseok approaches the machine as he talks. He twists the dial up to the highest setting.
“Well, I heard you’re also very good in bed,” the tall man hums. “In fact, your boyfriend has provided vivid details of your nights together… Not that you restricted yourself to nights,” he chuckles, “It’s amazing you found any time to work, with all the sex.”
Wooseok suddenly moves behind him, and luckily, Hangyul stops himself from flinching. The older rests his hands on his shoulders and leans forward until his cheek almost touches his own. “It was pretty great…”
“Wooseok, or whatever the fuck your name is,” Yohan interrupts, glaring at him, “if Hangyul doesn’t kill you, I will.”
Wooseok smirks at that. “Doubtful.” He follows the comment with a kiss, letting his mouth trail down Hangyul’s neck; the tips of his fingers dipping into the pocket of his shirt, lingering there and caressing his chest.
It takes all of Hangyul’s energy to hold still. Every cell in his body screams, too conscious under Wooseok’s touch. He needs Wooseok away from him. Now. “Untie me and I’ll show you just what I can do.”
The tall man shakes his head, grinning, “He is cute.”
Wooseok’s hand drops to his stomach, the other running down his thigh. “I like his self-assurance. And his-“
“Don’t touch me.”
“That’s the first time you’ve ever said that.” Wooseok grabs the collar of Hangyul’s shirt and pulls him into his chest. Then, delicately, he places a kiss against his ear. That’s when it happens: a quiet, almost imperceptible sound – a mumbled word: “pocket.” Little more than a breath and barely a noise.
Pocket…? Hangyul can’t help but wonder what the hell it was for, and why the hell it was whispered to him. Did Wooseok slip something into his pocket?
Yohan’s voice interrupts his thoughts, clearly irritated. “What did you see in this guy, Hangyul?”
“Exactly what Wooseok wanted your friend to see.” The tall man holds his hand out and Wooseok moves to his side. “Wooseok works for me, after all.”
One more second of this and his brain is going to explode. Wooseok awakened every one of his nerve endings with that touch, adrenaline surging through him almost like a bullet train. He stills his glare to the mysterious tall man’s face. “What the fuck do you want?”
“To sell,” he shrugs. “There’s a high price on your head, Lee Hangyul. Let’s just say… we specialize in sending people, like you, to those who are invested in meeting them. Having your agent partner here is just a bonus.”
“I’m not interested in meeting someone new. The last guy I dated turned out to be a piece of shit.”
Wooseok places a hand over his mouth in mock shock. “You can’t mean that.”
“But Wooseok is great. You have to be impressed with the way he tracked you down, waited for just the right moment, then worked his way into your life.” He flashes a smile at him. “Of course, it’s not as if you waited more than one night before moving him in.”
“It was a good first night,” Wooseok chimes in.
“Asshole,” Yohan hisses, “when I get out of these ties – and I will – I’m coming for you first.”
Wooseok scrunches his nose. “You’re not my type.”
“I don’t care. I’m going to kick your ass when I get out of here. Nobody hurts my bestfriend.”
In all honesty, Hangyul feels a familiar sting in his eyes, his heart clenching at Yohan’s words. Everything is just a complete mess, and yes, he is still trying to wrap his head around it. He is their only target. Yohan shouldn’t have been in danger had he not pulled him into this, but despite all of that, he is still on his side.
“I wonder if you’ll be so sure of yourself when we hand you off,” the tall man folds his arms in front of him. “Admittedly, it might be worth it to hold an auction. Imagine what we could demand for two NIS agents. The best of the best and all that...”
“So, this is all about money?” Hangyul snaps. Setting him up, getting him here - he refuses to believe his personal life has been turned into a shitshow just for some quick cash.
“Isn’t everything? We’re businesspeople. Pure and simple.”
“Business,” Yohan scoffs. “Right. That sounds exactly like something a human trafficker might say. Great company you keep.”
“It pays the bills,” the tall man shrugs. Then, his sunny smile disappears. “Now, I believe we’ve talked enough. I think it’s time to begin, don’t you?”
The guard moves in as if on cue, clutching the jumper cables in either hand.
“Torture?” Yohan throws mockingly. “Pathetic.”
“As if you’ve never used this trick.” The tall man takes his gun out from behind him as he smiles again. “Oh, and besides providing some fun, you’ll be easier to maneuver if you’re a little less… mobile.”
Hangyul has somehow anticipated being shot right then and there, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, he finds himself being circled by Wooseok, who is attaching the cables to the wires around him right now.
“You had months with Wooseok,” the taller man watching them speaks once again, directing his words at Hangyul. “And you passed along intel to him, but poor you, he told us everything you told him.”
Hangyul, despite struggling, furrows his brows at this, because he’s sure as hell what he said isn’t true. This doesn’t add up. He never told Wooseok anything about the job. He never passed along any intel. Why does Wooseok keep spewing facts that aren’t true? What exactly is going on?
“To be fair,” Wooseok hums as he continues attaching the cables, “I enjoyed every minute of the job.”
Hangyul feels the words tear into him like sharp knives. “Bastard.” How dare he.
“You’ll enjoy this, too,” the tall man laughs, clearly amused by their small talk. He nods again to his guard waiting by the machine. The latter picks up the bucket from the cart’s lower shelf, and suddenly, a wall of water smacks into him and Yohan.
The guard then reaches for the dial, but Wooseok blocks his path, stepping in front of him. “No. Let me.”
Hangyul clenches his jaw. He knows this is definitely going to hurt. But he will survive. He has to. Between his military experience, and his time at the NIS training ground honing his skills, he knows what he needs to do to get through this.
He hears the click of the dial to his left, and his muscles stiffen. Then a shot of electricity... Pain sears through his body, rattling his bones to the marrow. When it cuts off, his teeth are chattering.
“Still feel like you’re in charge?” Wooseok smirks, “Maybe you’d like another.”
Hangyul says nothing - does nothing but look hard at Wooseok as he tries to breathe.
Wooseok meets his eyes, seemingly enjoying bringing him immense pain. “So tough. I used to love it when you begged,” he adds.
Resentment thickens the air between them. Funny, really, this part that is between the two of them – men who spent so much time together, yet knew absolutely nothing about each other.
Wooseok’s body stands between him and the machine. Just enough space that he can see the dial.
Hangyul must have been shocked to his core for him to see things. No way was the dial turned up that high on the last hit. The shot burned, made his teeth slam together and his muscles clench, but he has experienced worse at lower volts… unless-
“Hyung,” he weakly calls out, realizing what Wooseok might be doing, and amidst his doubts, he wants to plead out the only thing in his mind (and heart) right at that moment: I still believe in you.
But Hangyul can’t bring himself to say it. He hopes, though, that the look in his eyes is enough to reach him.
Wooseok seemed to be affected at least, Hangyul insists he saw his eyes waver somehow, but not even a split second passes until it’s… gone.
Maybe, he is just imagining things. He wants to think he has that effect on Wooseok, but sure enough, he must’ve been the only one who thinks that way. Ever since the very beginning.
And maybe, he is really stupid. Stupidly in love with the wrong person.
“You are so weak.” Wooseok punctuates his words with another shot from the machine. The second hit proves stronger than the first. His muscles freeze and his breath hitches.
After what feels like ages, the buzzing stops. His body slumps against the chair. If only he can just get a bit more space between the bindings and his skin. If only he can squeeze his hand out, he can escape this hell.
“They can take more than that,” the tall man points at the machine. “Higher, longer.”
Another flick, and electricity runs through him again, interrupting his train of thoughts. This time, it doesn’t stop. Instead, it arcs an incredible pitch, straining his flagging composure.
“As much as we’ve gained from our Wooseok here,” the tall man starts, “I believe there are still some things you haven’t told him yet… The real classified stuff. I want you to spill everything you know about NIS.” A small smile forms on his lips. Hangyul feels like throwing up. “This pain won’t stop until you do.”
Hangyul reminds himself to stay strong. No matter what happens. “You know what?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
The tall man’s mood turns sour at his words, as if he had enough of playing with some little kids. “Fine. Have it your way. Do it again, Wooseok.”
The electric current tears a burning swath through Hangyul again. His muscles lock, his arms jerk, and his jaw nearly cracks from the force of his teeth snapping together.
The surge cuts off but he keeps heaving, trying to draw in gulps of air as his lungs shudder with pain.
“If you’re not going to say anything, we can at least have fun watching you scream.”
This time, he screams.
“I love seeing men like you on their knees.” The tall man coldly laughs. “You’re all so self-conceited until you’re broken. It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed myself this much...”
Still, Hangyul holds strong. He must hold strong.
“Well, as fun as this is, it’s time to move forward,” the tall man interrupts after quite a moment - of which still felt like years for Hangyul. He delivers his next line with a chilling smile. “It’s time to send the boys in.”
Wooseok perks up at his boss’ remark. “Give me a few more minutes to play,” he says.
“We’re on a timeline, honey,” he glances at his phone as he contemplates. “…but okay. I’ll walk slowly. Consider it a thank-you for a job well done.”
As he turns to leave, Hangyul calls out to him, “Wait.”
“When I see you again, I will kill you.”
“Is that so?” the tall man grins, his eyes forming into crescent moons. “A shame you won’t be seeing me again, then. I so would look forward to that meeting.”
His footsteps retreat until only the four of them remain. Silence envelops them, suffocating everyone in the room for the most part.
Yohan spits on the ground in front of Wooseok. “Coward.”
“Name-calling... Impressive.” Wooseok moves to kneel behind Hangyul.
“Wait,” the guard from earlier pushes himself from the wall he has been leaning against the whole time, and takes a few steps toward them. Even Hangyul had almost forgotten about him. “What are you doing,” the man asks, directed at Wooseok.
“Relax.” Wooseok’s voice is soothing, and he smiles as he holds up a hand to calm the guard. “I’m tightening the wire. I want this wire to hurt even more.”
From behind, Hangyul feels a tug and a pull. The wire around his chest tightens… but the one holding his hand loosens. He can bend his wrists. No way Wooseok – or whoever he really is, maybe ‘Wooseok’ is a fake name – would make that sort of miscalculation.
He wiggles his numb fingers. Nothing about this makes sense, Hangyul ponders. Wooseok has tortured and kidnapped him, but he is also loosening his bonds and spewing out bad intel… Confusion fills his mind as he tries to connect the dots. Is he actually an ally? Or is this an act again?
Right then, there’s the other sound. Faint, but distinct. The screwing of metal on metal. The guard takes his spot by the machine. “Tell me when you’re ready.”
“Just a second.” Wooseok moves around from behind him to face the younger.
Hangyul is close enough to touch him. He debates on what to do on this situation; he has to turn the tables around somehow. Should he try to get through to him now that his boss is gone?
Or, better yet, grab his gun. The wires are just loose enough. He has no idea why Wooseok slipped up like this, but it’s not an opportunity he plans to let pass him by. He strikes suddenly, ripping free from his bonds, the chair still tied to his chest, as he grabs Wooseok’s gun. A shoulder blow later, and he has knocked Wooseok down to the ground.
Hangyul turns and fires at the guard, but the guard is also fast on his feet. The bullets barely clip him.
The guard barrels into him, sending him sprawling to the ground, the gun flying from his grasp. “Damn you!” He shouts as he raises a fist to strike Hangyul, when–
Wooseok holds his gun once again, the smoking barrel aimed directly at them.
“What the fuck?” is what Yohan only manages to utter at that moment.
The once breathing guard is now lying on the floor, lifeless, a bullet lodged in the center of his forehead. Blood trickles down the side of his head and pools on the floor beneath him.
Sure enough, Hangyul feels as stunned as Yohan sounds. His gaze drifts to the silencer on Wooseok’s gun snapping to the latter’s face as he snips the wire around Hangyul’s chest. The last of the punishing restraint eases as he scrambles out of the chair. He still wonders when his computer geek boyfriend became such a damn good expert shooter.
“We don’t have much time.” Wooseok has just barely snipped Yohan’s wire when Yohan jumps up and grabs his gun. Without hesitation, he body-slams Wooseok into the wall.
“You bastard.” He grits out, with one hand holding Wooseok’s neck. With the other, his gun.
Wooseok struggles, but Yohan’s clearly been holding back a reserve of strength. He looks at the only other breathing man in the room, his expression softening as he calls out to him, “Gyul… Listen to me.”
Yohan further presses his gun to the side of Wooseok’s head. Wooseok freezes at the sound of the gun cocking. “Shut up. You’re dead.”
“Shit,” Wooseok visibly panics, pleading to his only possible savior at this moment. “Gyul, please… Stop him...”
For a split second, Hangyul doesn’t see the villain who stood over him, gleefully torturing him and Yohan. He sees Wooseok, the man he spent almost a year of his life with. Begging for his life.
Hangyul doesn’t know what to do. Should he pull Yohan off of Wooseok? But what if Wooseok is really an enemy? What if he’s just acting again? He has fooled him before and he can’t even tell at all if the Wooseok in front of him is genuine. Was Wooseok ever genuine to him?
Yet he knows deep inside, he can’t bear Wooseok dying in front of him. Heck, he can’t bear the thought of him dead. Surely, there has to be a way, right? Right. Of course, they can take him into custody. Tell Yohan to wait until they have more info.
“Yohan, hold on,” Hangyul starts. “We still don’t know everything that’s going on here.”
“We know plenty! This guy is the enemy. We have to take him out while we still have the chance.”
“You don’t understand!” Wooseok interrupts.
Yohan rounds on Wooseok, his eyes flashing with fury. “You don’t get to speak. This guy is dangerous, Hangyul. We can’t risk letting him call for backup.”
“But… he knows things he shouldn’t,” Hangyul swallows the lump in his throat as he tries to reason with him. “And he was clearly feeding them false information...”
“He knows those things because he was working with the terrorists.” Yohan abruptly turns his head to look at him. “And he fed them false info because he wanted to impress them. I know you think you loved this guy, but he was using you.”
Hangyul winces at the harshness and truth of his words. Just then, he sees Wooseok jerk his head at the pocket of his shirt. “Just look there, Gyul... There’s something there.”
“I said I didn’t want to hear anything else from you,” Yohan issues the order as he jams the gun tighter against Wooseok’s head.
“You’re not listening-“
“Shut the fuck up, or I will kill you. In front of him.”
“Yohan, calm down...” Hangyul puts his hand on Yohan’s shoulders.
“God, listen to me, Hangyul!” Yohan snaps back. “This guy may have been your boyfriend, but he’s a terrorist! At the very least, he supplies terrorists with intel and bodies!”
“That’s not true,” Wooseok retorts.
“He delivered you right to them, Hangyul,” Yohan angrily points out. “Used your feelings for him to do it!”
“That’s not what-“
Wooseok isn’t able to finish his sentence when Yohan speaks again, “One more noise, and this bullet goes into your brain.” There’s no mistaking the threat. Yohan’s finger slides onto the trigger as he makes it. “I didn’t fuck you. I don’t care what happens to you.”
Wooseok stares hard at Hangyul’s pocket again. And so, slowly – very slowly – Hangyul reaches inside his shirt pocket. From it he retrieves a small, thin, black square, barely a quarter of an inch in diameter. “What is this?”
“A specialized drive.” Wooseok immediately responds, quite relieved. He must have slipped it into his pocket when he was doing, um, things to him earlier.
All the information clashes and knocks against itself, making Hangyul’s mind spin. His computer expert boyfriend, an agent of a shadowy organization, slipping him a secret drive. It’s all too much. “Explain.”
“It’s got to be a tracker of some kind,” Yohan suggests.
“It’s not,” Wooseok says firmly, his gaze locked with Hangyul’s own. “Don’t mess with it. It’s encrypted. You couldn’t break the code even if you wanted to… You just need to get that drive back to Mr. Han intact.”
Hangyul’s expression goes blank at the mention of his own boss’ name.
Han. Han Seungwoo.
The man who runs the unit in which Hangyul is under. The second-in-command in the entire NIS. Few people know his first name because he never uses it. Over the years, he’s become known simply as Mr. Han.
Yohan swears under his breath and turns to Hangyul. “How much pillow talk did you two have?”
Hangyul scoffs, “None. That’s the point. None of that shit he or the man said was true.”
“So, he was trying to impress his boss,” Yohan rolls his eyes, before turning his head back to look at Wooseok again, “showing off, and pretending he knew more about you than he did. Who gives a shit?”
“I know everything,” Wooseok says, his resolve unwavering as ever.
“What the fuck does that mean?” Hangyul asks, having enough of Wooseok’s mind games.
“Nothing,” Yohan pipes in before Wooseok can have the chance to respond first. “He’ll say whatever he needs to save his life.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Wooseok holds his gaze, ignoring Yohan’s remark. “You need to go now, Gyul.”
“Not until you explain what you mean.”
“Gyul,” Wooseok reaches out to grab Hangyul’s hand, but the latter pulls away. Wooseok deflates, shaking his head. “I can’t.”
“…You don’t seem to value your life now,” Hangyul coldly remarks.
“Lots of hard work could turn into nothing, Gyul. There are things going on here that you don’t understand-”
“So help me understand, damn it!” Hangyul snaps. “If you don’t give me a reason not to smash this thing, I’ll crush it under my foot.”
“Wait, don’t!” Wooseok closes his eyes for a brief moment, taking a deep breath, before opening his eyes again. “I-I’m an NIS agent.”
Yohan scoffs, his mouth curving into a displeased smile. “Now I’m going to shoot you just because I want to.”
“Nice try, hyung. Who are you really working for?”
“Him,” Yohan pipes in again. “That man from earlier! That much is pretty clear.”
“Yohan, please,” Hangyul turns to him, tiredness evident in his voice, “let him say a few words.”
Yohan just shrugs, “Whatever.”
“Look, Yohan, if it still bothers you, I never talked with Wooseok about you. I never even talked about work. My real work. Other than knowing my address because it was his address too, all that talk about me spilling intel was pure bullshit.”
“You… might have let something slip by accident,” Yohan reasons. “You trusted the guy. Your guard was down and… ah, shit. You know what I’m saying. You’re only human, after all.”
“No,” it is Wooseok who defends him this time, “I gave him false info because I was trying to get a message out to Gyul.”
“Then what game are you playing at, huh? Mercenary? Professional liar?!” Hangyul’s voice cracks. He clears his throat, speaking gentler, “Whatever it is, you’ve stepped into some deep trouble. If that man realizes you lied to him, he’s going to kill you.”
“Not if I kill him first,” Yohan says.
Then comes a beat of silence. Wooseok feels like he needs to speak, say something to prove his innocence. And so he does. “Lee Jinhyuk. That man from earlier... I’ve been undercover for 16 months in Centa Juno. He’s- he's in charge of the group right now. The old leader’s son.”
Centa Juno. Hangyul has certainly heard of them before. An international kidnapping ring ran by a wealthy and well-connected family. They make their living gathering intel and delivering bodies – sometimes alive and sometimes not. Many in the NIS deny of CJ’s existence, but there are those on the fringes who speak of them in hushed whispers.
“No fucking way...” Yohan lowers his gun, quite dumfounded with what he heard.
“How do you know any of this information?”
“I told you, I work in the same organization as you do.” Wooseok then turns to Yohan, “Now, I need you to shoot me.”
“Absolutely," Yohan recovers quickly, raising his gun back up. Of course he seems more than happy to oblige.
“Stop, what the fuck are you saying?!”
“I have to maintain my cover, Gyul. The only way to do that is to say our friend here,” Wooseok points to the dead man on the ground, “got sloppy; he slipped up, you got away and I got shot.”
“This is insane.”
“Do it now,” Wooseok orders Yohan once again.
“I can’t promise you won’t lose a lot of blood.”
Hangyul tugs harshly at his own hair, making a mess of it more. “Both of you, STOP!”
“But he’s the one working for the enemy!”
“Gyul,” Wooseok composes himself. “I know I haven’t given you much reason to trust me, but I need you to listen. We’re out of time. Jinhyuk’s going to come back here with a group of guards and haul you away.”
“You led this Jinhyuk guy to Hangyul!”
“They already knew about him!” Wooseok shouts, leaving the other two speechless. He sighs after, calming himself down. “There’s a traitor in NIS and I promise you it’s not me, I made contact to protect you.”
“That’s it,” Hangyul heaves a breath. “You’re coming with us.”
“Not an option,” Wooseok counters.
“You come and we test your story.”
“Then my cover is blown and you will still be a target.”
Hangyul closes his eyes for a brief moment, considering his words. “...After everything that’s happened, how else can I trust you?”
Wooseok is silent for a while. “You know how missions work. I have a job to do.”
“So do I.” Hangyul reaches for his arm but Wooseok dodges around him, moving right up to Yohan.
“Stand down, Yohan,” Hangyul firmly says. He quickly catches Wooseok’s arm and twists it to his back, looping the wire that had once bound them around both his hands and pulling tight.
Wooseok struggles, “I’m trying to save you!”
“I thought you were worried about your cover.”
“You thought I would have lowered the settings on the machine, or untied you, if I cared about my life over yours?!!”
“This… is, um, very touching,” Yohan throws in, “but we should go.”
“I don’t,” Hangyul interrupts Wooseok before he could say anything further. “I don’t know anything about you. Don’t pretend I do.”
Icy cold water engulfs Hangyul as he plunges himself into Han River. Then, with powerful strides, he pulls himself toward the surface, until finally he bursts free, fresh air flooding his lungs.
“That was too close,” Hangyul breathes out, floating in the water, but it’s a second before he realizes that nobody is responding.
He knows he doesn’t have long to act; he doesn’t even give so much a second thought when he finds himself swimming back down to go get Wooseok, counting the precious seconds he has already lost.
It doesn’t take him long to spot him, floating motionless amidst the seaweeds. Hangyul panics, a rush of thoughts filling his mind. Did he hit his head? Or maybe one of the gunmen was able to shoot him on their way down? Fuck this. There’s not much time.
He pulls himself toward Wooseok as quickly as he can, his lungs screaming with the effort. His hands grip under the older’s shoulders and steady his head as he swims upwards. It is difficult doing so, but he reminds himself that he’s trained for this. ‘Wooseok’s life is on the line,’ the thought is what propels him upward, even when he feels his lungs burn past the point of endurance.
It feels like hours until finally, the two of them breach the surface. Wooseok stirs, his eyes flickering open. “Gyul-” He coughs water right when he opens his mouth to speak.
“Are you alright?” Hangyul asks, concern clearly transparent in his eyes and trembling voice. But it’s as if he realizes he should stop doing that- that he shouldn’t have searched for him underwater, nor saved his drowning ass, nor even just cared for him at all. His trust is broken into a thousand glass shards, and walking on them even when his feet bleed is just going to hurt him all the more.
His expression changes to something colder and unreadable, as if he never said anything close to him being worried about Wooseok a few seconds ago. Wooseok knows him enough, though. Knows him better than anyone else.
The older is about to respond and reach for him, when Yohan emerges in between them. Hangyul turns to his back without a word again, swimming his way back to land - with Yohan on his trail - upon determining that everyone is safe. Wooseok harshly wipes the hot tear that fell down his eyes as he silently watches Hangyul’s figure drift away from him, and pulls himself to follow them shortly after.
Chapter 4: mazes of truth
About an hour ago...
“Wait, what should we do about that chip?” Yohan asks as Hangyul tightens the wire binding Wooseok’s hands. “If it’s a tracker, we’d be giving away our position to all of CJ. They’ll know where our hideout is.”
“Gyul, that information is vital. I risked my cover and my life getting it. You need to bring it back to Mr. Han,” Wooseok pleads.
Hangyul knows Yohan has a point. A very good one. And if Wooseok is lying, they’d be risking not only their lives, but the agency as well. But then, what if Wooseok is telling the truth? He’d be wasting months of hard work and effort if he destroys it. Worse, they’d be back to square one in tracking this syndicate.
He takes a deep breath. “We bring it back.”
Yohan looks at him in disbelief. “Are you sure about this, Hangyul?”
“Worst case scenario, we burn a safe house.”
Yohan scoffs, “That isn’t exactly a low-cost result.”
“Better than what we will lose if he’s telling the truth. This intel could save lives.”
His eyes meet Wooseok’s, and a weak smile forms on the older’s lips, “You’re making the right choice, Gyul.”
Hangyul flicks his gaze away from him. “Don’t make me regret trusting you for this.” He takes the gun in Yohan’s hand and holsters it. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
With a few quiet steps, the three of them make their way out the door, and into the hallway lining the interior of the base. Hangyul is on the lead aiming his gun cautiously in front of him, and the other two follows him closely from behind.
Yohan harshly tugs Wooseok by the arm every now and then, making sure that the older will not do anything close to funny, especially when Hangyul has his back turned. He’s never going to trust his bestfriend’s (ex-) boyfriend anytime sooner.
A few more steps, and the sound of guards laughing amongst themselves tells them that the enemy is close.
“We can’t afford to make any mistakes here,” Yohan mutters, just loud enough for Hangyul and Wooseok to hear.
Hangyul stops in his tracks when they reach an intersection in the hallway. “Which way should we go?”
“Head to the roof,” Wooseok responds. “There’s a door down the right hallway, and a staircase leading up. You’ll have to get past some armed guards, but it’s your best bet.”
“I don’t buy it. This guy’s trying to lead us into a trap,” Yohan counters. “We should go left. It’s quieter that way. I’m willing to bet we’ll run into fewer guards.”
A beat of silence passes, both of them seemingly waiting for Hangyul’s decision. He turns his head only to find the other two guys throwing death glares at each other, their jaws clenched. He feels the tension in the atmosphere become a little more suffocating. Since when did this become a competition?
Hangyul sighs, finally deciding after mulling over Yohan’s words. “Let’s go left.”
“Your stubbornness is going to get the both of you killed,” Wooseok hisses.
Hangyul doesn’t say anything to that, focusing back on the path as they trudge quietly along the mostly-empty hallway and past a few closed doors.
But then it leads straight to a dead end.
“Crap, looks like this is not the right way,” Yohan curses, looking apologetically at Hangyul. “Sorry, I thought for sure this bastard was trying to lead us into a trap.”
“Are you two finally ready to listen to me?” Wooseok whisper-shouts.
Hangyul turns to answer him when, suddenly, one of the doors opens. A guard stares at them, slack-jawed, and makes a move for his gun when it finally dawns on him that their prisoners are escaping. Hangyul instantly drops him with a silenced shot.
“That was close,” he breathes out as he turns to Yohan. “You should grab that guy’s gun.”
“Good call.” Yohan moves to snatch up the firearm before moving back to their side in a matter of seconds.
“So, do we have to double back?” Hangyul asks, his tone managing to be quite indifferent still.
“No,” Wooseok answers right away. “Fortunately, there’s another way up. Take the door opposite the one this guy just came from, and you should be able to get to the steps.”
“Guess we have to trust him,” Yohan angrily mutters under his breath, giving only a shrug when Hangyul gives him a look – a look of which he didn’t really understand. Maybe it’s something close to a Yes, so please bear with it. Or maybe it’s a Not yet, we have to keep an eye on him. Either way, they have no choice but to follow his lead. “Bumbling through this place on our own gut feeling hasn’t done us any good.”
“I’m on your side, Yohan. You need to trust me.”
“Maybe,” Yohan grips his gun tighter. “But until I know for sure, I’m watching you.” He looks left and right, searching for more guards.
“Lots of mercenaries here,” Hangyul comments. “What’s with the show of power?”
“Jinhyuk was worried you’d bring the whole team.”
“Probably a smarter move than the one I chose.”
“Since they rigged the area with explosives, no.”
Hangyul only nods, not saying anything further, and gestures for Yohan to take the lead as the three of them continue down the hall.
The door to the stairway stands partly open. One by one, they make their way up into the stairwell. They are almost midway, when all of a sudden, Hangyul nearly gasps at a throb in his chest and head. He feels pain shoot through his body.
The adrenaline must be wearing off, he realizes, as he grabs the nearest bar to support himself. They messed him up pretty bad when they clocked him back at the factory. And electric torture only worsened him.
“Hangyul!” He barely hears Yohan’s voice amidst the throbbing in his head. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry. Those blows we took hit me harder than I thought.” He opens his eyes to Wooseok and Yohan looking at him, concern written all over their faces. He sees Wooseok opening then closing his mouth, without saying a word.
“We’re almost there,” Yohan assures him, “but we’re not likely to make it without sliding past a few guards. Are you okay enough to make a sprint for it?”
He doesn’t answer, only taking deep breaths in hopes of calming the pain down.
“It’ll be riskier taking it slow,” Yohan continues, “but if you can’t handle it, I understand.”
Already, Hangyul can hear patrolling guards approaching from the hall. He gulps the pain away as he grips his gun tighter; steadying himself away from the bar he was leaning against. “I can handle it,” he says. “Let’s just get out of this place.”
The two of them nod at him, and he hears guards approaching as the three of them book it up the stairs. Confused shouts sound from below, but they’re already racing toward the top.
One guard pokes his head out as they almost reach the doorway, but Hangyul quickly puts him down with a shot.
“Nice one,” Yohan smirks, before he raises his left hand, bringing Hangyul and Wooseok to a halt.
A second later, they hear voices – muted mumbles from the top of the staircase. Then a figure appears in front of them. He makes it two steps down before Yohan is on him, disarming him with a jab and locking him down in a stranglehold.
A snap, and the man’s body goes lax. Yohan cradles his head, then lets him slide onto the steps.
Hangyul bends down to retrieve the man’s gun. “Let’s keep moving.”
“Any chance you could let me have that?” Wooseok asks him quietly, referring to the firearm he just picked up.
“We’re not even risking taking off your bindings,” Yohan scoffs.
Wooseok heaves a sigh, subtly nodding his head. “I suppose that’s to be expected,” he mumbles softly.
Not for long, the three of them break into the sunshine.
Right then, he sees a guard patrolling the roof turn a corner, headed straight for them. Hangyul gets a silenced shot off before the man can even lift his gun.
He glances back at Wooseok’s side, but the crunching of footsteps alerts him. Three guards appear out of nowhere, storming towards them, and from there, he knows that any chance of them escaping undetected has been blown. This time, more gunshots ring out, bodies converging towards them, both from the rooftop and the stairs. Hangyul curses under his breath as he counts four- no, five men.
The three of them make it towards the air-conditioning unit located the farthest from the staircase and near an edge of the rooftop, sliding across the pebbled roof of the building.
“We can’t stay here,” Hangyul tells them. “Not with limited ammunition and no place to hide.”
“Five against two isn’t exactly great odds,” Yohan replies, eyeing the men running towards them from behind the air-conditioning unit.
“Give me one of the guns, Gyul,” Wooseok firmly says, determination filling his eyes. “I’ll cover you.”
Can he really trust him with a gun? Hangyul internally debates with himself, considering his options. He grabs the pistol he placed by his waist earlier, before subtly shaking his head and leaving it be. “We can’t trust you… yet.”
“Damn it, Gyul,” Wooseok snaps, seemingly on the string-end of his patience, too. “I know this is confusing, but if you don’t trust me, we’re going to die!” He knows how much Hangyul can be stubborn and how he wishes he doesn’t have to deal with it right now. Not when Hangyul (and sure, Yohan, too) is in great danger.
Yohan drops a guard with his pistol. “They’re coming out of the woodwork like ants. There’s no way we can take all of them,” he hisses under his breath. “We won’t have the time to climb down with all these guys shooting at us.”
Hangyul clenches his fist, gripping his gun tighter. He knows Yohan is right, especially with it just being the two of them in defense. Sure, he and Yohan had faced impossible odds before, but at least back then, they had decent cover. He scans the terrain, taking in his options – the guards, the roof and the Han River below.
There’s only one option.
He suddenly breaks into a run, shouting, “Follow me! This way!”
“There’s nothing that way but water!” Wooseok shouts back, getting to his feet to follow him despite his shock.
“I hope you can swim!”
There’s a beat of silence as Yohan and Wooseok both realize his plan, but neither stops running.
“Gyul, untie me. I can’t swim like this.”
Hangyul looks at his tied hands from the corner of his eyes. If he doesn’t untie him, he could drown, and this thought somehow made a string of ache shoot through his chest. He reaches out to him and quickly undoes his bonds, freeing his hands.
“Thanks,” Wooseok rubs his wrists soothingly, easing the pain away. He looks down at his hands as they continue their pace. “…Does this mean you finally believe me?” He asks as quietly as possible. Though, it seems Hangyul still heard him.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he replies. Then there’s a pause; the younger’s voice going a little softer, “But it does mean I care enough to not want you drowning.”
A small smile forms on Wooseok’s lips. He’s about to speak again when they hear more men file out behind them.
“If you really are an NIS agent,” Hangyul continues, “you’ve been trained for this. Prove to me you can survive this fall.”
Bullets ping around the three of them as they run. A few clip by them, but they manage to break past unscathed, jumping with all their might when they arrive at the roof’s edge. Hangyul feels his body go airborne, the sky zipping past him as water rushes to meet him. He lets out a yell that might be his last as his body plunges into the water.
And down he sinks, bullets still whizzing past, hoping beyond hope that everyone survives the plunge.
It doesn’t take them long to drag themselves out of the water and make it to the front of the NIS safe house.
Fifty-eight minutes, to be exact. That’s how long it takes to dodge onlookers, steal a car and wind around the back roads of Seoul to the two-story cabin. Not to mention the hood thrown over covering the entirety of Wooseok’s head to keep him from tracing the way.
Leave it to Yohan to go overboard covering their trail, Hangyul mentally remarks as he feels himself practically go numb from that dip.
“So I guess this is the safe house?” Wooseok’s voice is muffled against the leather.
Of course, there’s the other issue. Kim Wooseok .
Hangyul can’t help but keep flipping through the memories of what came before. All those days with Wooseok. The simple things, like eating dinner, or watching soccer, even though neither of them like the sport that much. They both had little downtime, but they’d stolen hours here and there.
Now he knows what he was really up to, working in all those late nights.
“I need a bathroom,” Wooseok speaks again when no one answers him.
“I’ll see what-“
“Nope,” Yohan interrupts him. “I’m vetoing this movement right now, Hangyul. Have you forgotten that we shouldn’t believe a damn word he’s told us?”
“I can piss on the floor if you want.”
“Whatever,” Yohan rolls his eyes, as the three of them make their way inside. The interior is spacious - the perfect hideaway in the middle of the countryside. “We should’ve shot him back in that warehouse,” he grunts.
Hangyul winces as he feels the exhaustion and pain slowly creep all over his body again. “We still don’t have all the intel. That’s why we brought him here.”
Hangyul conducts a quick sweep of the perimeter, checking that the security systems are in working order. When he gets back to the lobby, he sees Yohan alone, leaning against the wall beside a brown door and clutching a towel in his hand.
“Where’s Kim Wooseok?”
“I set him up in the interrogation room,” Yohan replies, raising his brow at the way Hangyul addressed the older, but doesn’t comment on it anymore. “I was about to head in to start asking him questions, but I waited for you.”
Hangyul reaches out for the doorknob and turns it, “I’m going to handle this one. I appreciate the assist, but this is something I have to do.”
He thinks to himself that maybe, he’ll look into Wooseok’s eyes, and feel nothing. Maybe that churning need to be near Wooseok, to hear his voice, will wither and die, now that he knows what he is.
Yohan steps in front of him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Probably not... but stand down. I want a minute alone with him.”
Yohan hesitates, but then steps aside, draping his towel on Hangyul’s shoulders. “I guess I can go get changed. And, Hangyul?”
“I’m just here if you need me,” he briefly smiles before disappearing into one of the rooms upstairs.
Hangyul steps inside to find Wooseok tied in a chair in the middle of the room. His hands are still by his back, and there is still a hood over his head.
Hangyul knows he has to decide now how he wants to handle this. Wooseok betrayed him, yes . Manipulated and lied to him, yes . But when it comes to Wooseok, he can’t help but trust him still. At least, a part of him does. He pulls off his hood and stares deeply into his eyes - those eyes that he so desperately wants to believe in.
Hangyul hopes his own expression is as unreadable as it can get.
“The hood was real annoying” is all Wooseok can manage to say as silence easily surrounds them.
"A necessary precaution.”
“I know,” Wooseok’s mood visibly drops as he looks down his knees, not really staring at anything in particular. From the looks of it, Yohan has let Wooseok dry off by the heater in the room, but without changing his clothes.
Hangyul feels a twinge of guilt. “Yohan tied you up.” He almost face-palms at how obvious it is.
“Yeah, that guy has some serious trust issues.”
“You did kidnap us.”
There’s a beat of silence before Wooseok responds. “But I… I did everything I could to get you out of there.”
Hangyul slides the towel from his shoulder and drops it on his lap. “Well, we have one bit of good news. You can swim.”
“Any chance of… getting dry clothes?”
“I’ll talk to Yohan, see if he has an extra.”
“Thanks, Gyul,” Wooseok weakly smiles, looking down at the towel on his lap. It’s comfortably warm. “I imagine you’re still pissed at me.”
“Well, yes... but it’s not because I don’t believe you.”
Wooseok lifts his head to meet his eyes, his own ones widening as a glint of hope washes over him.
“You haven’t given me a lot of reasons to trust you, either,” Hangyul takes a deep breath before continuing, “Our entire relationship has been built on an elaborate lie. I don’t even know the real you.”
“But…?” Wooseok asks when he doesn’t say anything further.
“But, I think you’re on our side.” Hangyul smiles bitterly. “I shouldn’t think that, right? Yohan definitely doesn’t.” He momentarily pauses, closing his eyes. “But… I do.”
Hangyul opens his eyes once again, and maybe, maybe he just wants to tear up and break down and hold him in his arms.
“Because you still mean something to me.”
Seeing Wooseok right there with his gentlest gaze makes him vulnerable and comfortable of just being open with his emotion and letting his heart out.
But Hangyul holds himself back.
“I don’t know if the you that means something to me is even real, or if you’ve been playing with my head this whole time.”
He sees Wooseok shake his head, and he takes a step toward him, closing the gap a little between them. The older’s closeness sets his nerves on fire and his heart racing.
“But still... still, I believe you,” Hangyul weakly scoffs. “Maybe that makes me an idiot.”
“This side of you is part of why... why I fell in love with you,” Wooseok mumbles softly, holding his gaze.
He detaches away from his eyes, turning his back as he walks over to the other seat across the room. “Was that part of the deception, too?”
“Gyul…” He hears Wooseok’s voice crack. “I swear, none of that was fake.”
Alright , Hangyul takes a long exhale. Maybe none of that was fake .
Except for the parts that were. Except for his entire reason for approaching me in that bar.
Hangyul tries to clear his head of doubts, but they cling to him, much like his partly-wet clothes clinging to his body right now. Wooseok may be telling the truth about being undercover, about them being on the same side, but that doesn’t change the fact that their entire relationship was predicated on a lie, does it?
“So, what now?” Hangyul asks as he takes his seat opposite of him, facing him again.
“Well,” Wooseok chews on his lip as he looks down, “that’s the hard part. I have to go back undercover.” When he looks up at him again, the determination is back in his eyes. “I’m sorry, but we have to work out the rest after.”
What little air is in the room vanishes. The low hum from the lights matches the one vibrating in Hangyul’s head.
“ Us .”
Hangyul straightens in his seat, considering the familiar face in front of him now etched with lines of worry and sorrow. “I wish there was an ‘us’.”
Wooseok’s lips form a thin line. “Did I- Did I dream what you whispered to me back then? That you’ll always keep me safe?”
The question rips into him, his mind wandering back in time.
“I’ll always keep you safe… No matter what happens, I’ll stand by your side.”
He remembers Wooseok’s hand reaching out and touching his own as he spoke, and at that time, he had thought it was just a twitch in his sleep.
“You thought I was asleep, but I heard you,” Wooseok bites his lower lip once again, willing the threatening tears to go away. “Did you mean it?”
Four words too many.
A clawing sense of loss builds within him, seeming to cut off his airways. Unable to see or think, Hangyul staggers blindly out of the room, leaving Wooseok behind as he vaguely hears him call out his name.
Hangyul finds Yohan sitting by the couch as he exits to the lobby, a pile of folded clothes on his lap. His fingers absentmindedly thrums over it.
“Yohan?” He calls out, pulling the other out of his thoughts.
“Oh, here are your clothes,” he stands up and walks over to him, handing him the clothes. “Go get changed.”
“Thanks,” Hangyul weakly smiles as he receives the bundle. He has moved past Yohan when he speaks again, “Can you take over?”
“Oh, okay,” Yohan turns to him. “Then, are you going to stay outside and listen in? Might catch him in a lie if he thinks you’re not there.”
He considers his words for a moment, before nodding his head. His clothes are wet, but not dripping wet; they mostly dried off along the drive to this house.
“Fair warning, I’m not going to go easy on him,” Yohan adds as he reaches for the doorknob. “I’m still pissed about that electrocution.”
Hangyul hums in agreement, “Just don’t hurt him.”
Yohan eyes him warily.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know for sure,” he manages to reason without stammering. He mentally pats the back of his head for that. His friend seems to have bought his words, at least.
“Okay. If I get too bad, you can step in.”
With that, Yohan opens the door and steps into the room.
The soundproof room is built to allow sound out, but not in, meaning that while Wooseok is unable to hear what happens on the outside, Hangyul is still able to hear everything said inside.
“By the time this is done, you’re going to wish I’d put a bullet in your brain” is the first thing Yohan says to Wooseok after he closes the door.
“You had your chance,” Wooseok replies. He is quite disappointed of the figure who stepped inside of his room this time, wishing Hangyul had came back, but he doesn’t show it.
“I’m not going to let you get into his head.” Yohan leans against the door, his arms folding in front of him.
“He still cares about me.”
“You’re pretty sure about yourself,” Yohan scoffs. “Some might call that false hope.”
“Hangyul and I…” Wooseok clenches his fists behind him. “We’re not over.”
“Yeah, right.” Yohan’s brows furrow with contained anger. “Pretty sure it ended when you joined the other side.”
“I’m not on the other side,” Wooseok emphasizes every word, willing himself to not lose his temper right then and there. “And what I have with Hangyul isn’t a lie.”
“ Had, ” Yohan corrects him. “You blew it. You’re on the outs with Lee Jinhyuk and with us. You know what happens now?”
“You finally wake up and realize I wasn’t lying about me being an agent?”
Yohan exhales, shaking his head in disbelief. He’s still sticking to his lies, huh. “Hangyul moves on,” he makes sure to emphasize every word. “He finds someone he deserves.”
“Shut up,” Wooseok says through gritted teeth, breaking the eye contact. He won’t show him how much his words affected him – how it sent arrows through his heart, and made it sink. He feels his chest tighten. “Says the man who didn’t even know his best friend lived with me.”
“Keep talking all you want,” Yohan puts his hands in both of his pockets, his jaw clenching at his words. “But you know what? You already lost .”
“Contact Mr. Han. He’ll be able to check my identity and verify.”
“Give me a good reason to bother him.”
“Because you’re both in serious danger of blowing my cover-”
It’s all too much, and Hangyul feels the throb in his head ache harder. With thoughts of Wooseok still pounding through his head, he pushes himself off the wall and makes his way upstairs.
Hangyul wishes the hot water could wash away everything that has happened in the past twenty-four hours. He tries his best to cleanse his mind of Wooseok’s memory. Of their last conversation before he left home the previous morning.
Wooseok isn’t the man he fell for. He is a liar who nearly fried them to death . It’s what he tells himself again and again.
But there’s still a side that nags at him; the possibility that maybe, Wooseok is what he says he is – a double agent.
He steps out of the shower and dries off, his mind spinning with bitter grudges and what ifs as he changes his clothes into something more comfortable. Just a pair of white shirt and jeans.
The alarm beeps and the light above the security panel by the door flickers. A familiar pattern: blue, then green.
Then he hears a familiar voice ring down the hall. “Hey guys! Miss me?”
Hangyul returns to find Yohan and another man, aside from Wooseok, inside the interrogation room. The said man being Lee Eunsang, the data reconnaissance expert under the same division as his in NIS.
Eunsang holds a cookie in his hand, and takes a bite before speaking again. “Always happy to come in on my five minutes off,” he grins, gleeful as ever. Seeing as the entire team is supposed to be on call 24/7, that remark qualifies as a joke to Eunsang.
“Hey, Eunsang,” Hangyul greets him. “Nice to see you.”
“Wish I could say the same, but you look like hell, hyung.” After a quick look around, he shoots him a questioning look. “You and Yohan-hyung showered together?”
Yohan snorts, “Not my thing.”
“Heh,” Eunsang smiles, pushes his glasses up his nose, then moves to stand in front of Wooseok. “So, who is this and why is he tied to a chair?”
“Hangyul’s boyfriend,” Yohan replies before Hangyul can say anything.
“Funny,” Eunsang makes faces, turning to Yohan as he does.
“Hard to keep up, isn’t it?” Yohan shrugs.
In his casual attire, Yohan looks almost as if he’s had a relaxing afternoon. Hangyul doubts he looks anywhere near that calm. Forget all his training and drills, Wooseok has his insides churning and his head buzzing.
“I get an emergency call and now a newsflash,” Eunsang puts his hand on his mouth in shock. “I mean, of course, that part of you having a boyfriend isn’t much of a surprise, hyung.”
Hangyul heaves a sigh, questioning why in the hell did he even bother trying to keep his private life to himself.
“Why is he soaking wet?” Eunsang asks again, pointing at Wooseok like he is some object, not alive nor breathing nor able to see them. “And why is he here and not on lockdown?”
“We threw him in the river.” Hangyul is the one who responds this time.
“Seems like a weird way to do the deed, but if that’s your thing, then whatever!” Eunsang laughs, his eyes going crescent behind his lenses.
Yohan’s eyes widen, seemingly able to get what he means, and moves to hit Eunsang on the back of his head. He pats his head right after, mumbling an ‘oh, sorry, was that too much?’
Hangyul only shakes his head at their antics. "This is about a mission, Eunsang-ah.”
“The mistake wasn’t dumping this guy in the water,” Yohan adds. “It was fishing him out again.”
“I’m still confused about the boyfriend thing,” Eunsang pouts as he rubs the back of his head.
“Ignore that,” Hangyul says. “We have a bigger issue. Kim Wooseok claims to be an NIS agent.”
“I am an NIS agent,” Wooseok finally speaks up after being silent in a long while, feeling that he has to correct his words. “A double agent.”
We have yet to see any proof, though , Hangyul thinks, but chooses not to say it out loud. He’d rest easier if he had evidence. “Then, who’s your NIS contact?”
Wooseok stares at him for a moment, contemplating before answering, “ Choi Byungchan .”
“Choi Byungchan?” Yohan asks mockingly, “How come we have never heard of this Choi Byungchan?”
“Besides the fact that I highly doubt you know every single higher-up in NIS by name?”
Wooseok rolls his eyes. “His assignments are top secret . Only the ones with the highest-level access work with him.”
Yohan looks at him incredulously, “And that’s you ?”
“I’m a double agent,” Wooseok repeats in a matter-of-fact tone. “So I would say I work for him, not with him. But yes, I’m one of the few that knows about him.”
“So let me get this straight,” Yohan pinches the bridge of his nose. “The only thing you have as proof that you’re working with the enemy is the name of a man we’ve never heard of, and have no way of getting in contact with?”
“Talk to Mr. Han. He knows him.”
“You keep saying that!” Yohan grumbles, his voice raising a little bit higher.
“Because it’s true!”
“Um,” Eunsang clears his throat amidst the tension, waving his phone in the air. “Mr. Han’s already been made aware of the situation.”
“That’s great,” Wooseok visibly relaxes, “Once he clears up this mess, you can let me out of here and-“
“You’re not going anywhere,” Hangyul interrupts his words.
“You’re going to get yourself killed if you don’t listen to me.”
Wooseok uses that tone he is using when he’s at the limit of his patience, Hangyul knows, and he also happens to know all about resisting interrogation. About redirecting conversations and avoiding answers by playing on emotions. He’s not buying any of it from Wooseok.
“As if you care about that.”
Wooseok’s lips form a thin line, and he just looks at him, his mind filled with so many things at once.
“Do you know… how many chances I’ve taken to protect you?”
Hangyul feels like he has woken up into some kind of alternate reality. His boyfriend, who likes action movies and limits his news consumption to whatever interesting links he finds on social media, is talking like he’s been his bodyguard for the past nine months.
“I’ve never asked you to.”
Little inconsistencies of the past are suddenly starting to make sense.
Late-night emergency calls to fix servers. Little talk about friends or family. Wooseok’s willingness to keep their relationship private, despite being more comfortable with people knowing than Hangyul ever was.
But whoever Wooseok is working for, both of their realities are the same. They both told stories to conceal who they really are. They are both alone . Not by choice, but by necessity.
“Wait, he really is Hangyul-hyung’s boyfriend?” Eunsang’s voice cuts through his train of thoughts.
“I think it’s safe to say ex ,” Yohan replies.
Wooseok seems to ignore them, only setting his eyes for Hangyul. “Gyul, you know the kind of people we’re dealing with in CJ,” he says, calmer this time. “I need to act quickly.”
“CJ?!” Eunsang asks again, and covers his mouth when he realizes he has asked too loud- and not because he has asked one too many questions. Nobody really stops him, anyway. He puts his hands down and lowers his voice, “He’s mixed up with Centa Juno, too?”
“Apparently,” Yohan answers him again.
“So they’re real and not just some training exercise…”
“Yes, they are real, and they’re lethal,” Wooseok steals a quick glance at Eunsang before looking at Hangyul again. “I need to go back in.”
Hangyul gives him one last look before he turns to his feet to go out of the room. He’s going to find some evidence. Surely, there has to be something in the database about him.
That is if Wooseok is telling them the truth.
“I really didn’t know they planned to take you today, Gyul,” Wooseok continues, “If I had, I would have-“
“You would what?” Hangyul pauses by the door, his back still turned against him.
“…I would’ve done anything to keep you out of danger.”
His words slice right through him, cutting straight to his ego and slashing it open.
“Is that why you helped torture me?”
“That was to save your life,” Wooseok answers almost immediately.
“ Great. I appreciate you going through all that trouble for me, then.” Hangyul wants to believe Wooseok’s story. To believe that not all of it was a lie. But how? "You’re saying this because you care about me, right?”
“So, coming into the bar that night was all a coincidence.”
A moment of silence.
“ Right . Just as I thought,” Hangyul mutters under his breath before leaving the room, the door slamming as it closes behind him.
It doesn’t take him long to go to the monitor room upstairs and sort through the files. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have top-level access from there, so he can’t look through everything, but he can at least go over personnel files.
The more data he sifts through, the more Hangyul feels his stomach drop.
“There’s no record of him in the database,” he mumbles to himself.
He starts to look for him in both the internal and external affairs of the service, anywhere in the agency, but there’s still nothing . It really looks like everything that Wooseok has said is a lie.
A tightness in his chest makes it difficult to breathe.
The next thing he knows, Hangyul finds himself heading back to the interrogation room, not stopping until he is standing in front of Wooseok again.
“Your excuse is a bust.” Hangyul clenches his fists by his side. “Want to try again? Or should I show you the kind of things real agents learn in training?”
“You get how this works, Gyul. Only a limited number of people know about my assignment.” Wooseok looks at him fully in the eyes, taking a deep breath as he finally decides to tell him everything. “Okay, listen. I am an agent for NIS, transferred to the CJ unit under Choi Byungchan. I went undercover for CJ for quite a while. Then they sent me to target you , Gyul. They… they knew you were into guys because of the traitor.” Wooseok pauses briefly to look at Eunsang, now seated on the chair across the room. It’s only then that Hangyul realizes Yohan is not in the room.
“Why are you looking at me?” Eunsang stops eating his cookie midway as his eyes widen in shock.
“Are you accusing Eunsang?”
“No,” Wooseok looks back at him. “I’m not saying he is the traitor. I’m just saying he’s an unknown and we have to be careful.”
“Well, now, I really don’t like this guy, hyung,” Eunsang huffs.
Wooseok ignores his comment. “Gyul, believe me. I had no idea when they planned to attack. I didn’t find all that out until it was too late. By that point, I had to play my role or risk breaking cover.”
“And we are supposed to take your word for it?” Eunsang chimes in.
Wooseok looks down, “My word is all I can give you.”
“Hangyul…” He hears Yohan and a clicking of the door with him.
He remembers what he has seen in the monitor room before he went back to this place. Nothing .
And then he remembers how much Yohan has warned him against Wooseok.
“Forget it,” he says as he storms out of the interrogation room, both Yohan and Eunsang following close from behind.
Yohan must’ve immediately understood the situation, judging by his tone.
“Look, Hangyul, I know you hoped…”
Eunsang suddenly tugs at Yohan's arm, shaking his head at him. But it doesn’t stop Yohan.
“Look, you can’t blame yourself for falling for him,” Yohan starts again, trying to be gentle with his tone as he can. “But, Hangyul, your love for this guy is clouding your better judgment.”
“My judgment is fine.”
“No, you’re a mess.” Yohan holds up a hand. “Don’t get me wrong. You’re holding it together on the outside. And who knows? Maybe you did the right thing by insisting that we bring him. But… whatever you felt for him didn’t just evaporate.”
Hangyul scoffs. “Yeah, it did. Just did.” He himself desperately wants to believe it.
“You know, I might believe you if you hadn’t moved him into your house, and kept every detail of your lives together top secret,” Yohan sighs. “…if you hadn’t risked everything to go rescue him- or the guy you thought he was.”
Getting conned – Hangyul never thought it would happen to him. The realization is a crushing weight, constricting his chest even further.
Yohan is about to continue his words when he gets interrupted by the alarm on the front door clicking, and a deep voice cuts across the hall.
“ Hangyul. ”
Hangyul recognizes the voice and the slap of anger in the tone. He has heard it all before, been called into the boss’ office more than once. The owner of the voice steps inside the house, his face rigid with annoyance.