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A Long Time Coming

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The first time you had ever seen him, was in college. He sat by himself a lot, usually stared at that one overly popular guy that everyone liked to hang out with. You couldn't blame him, he was cute, charismatic, the stereotypical cool guy that people tended to fall all over. But your attention was always locked on him, for whatever reason. He was sort of cute, scrawny, but who were you to talk. You never introduced yourself or even looked at him when he faced you, what a coward. Still, you'd watch him, let yourself drown out whatever your friends were talking about and let yourself make sure he was there.

Later on, you, along with most of the young men your age, were signed to active duty. Nothing much of it, you bulked up a little, got a little more confident in yourself. Got to fight for your country. You felt proud to serve. He was there too, you saw him once or twice, couldn't bring yourself to say anything to him. Even after he had been assaulted by some of the people that were supposed to be training him. You couldn't do anything about it. Besides, the guy he liked had saved him.

You were just a face in a crowd.

After being released, you went to work for your relatives. Nothing was out of the norm, you had a nice home, good friends, a stable living. It was uneventful at most. You did that for a couple years. Went to work, went drinking with friends, let yourself look at other people. But all you could see was him. The train commute hosted him and the man he never stopped watching. You never let yourself get caught staring, though you never built up the courage to ever say anything. What right did you have? He obviously felt something for the guy, it wasn't your place to interrupt whatever he was battling with.

You tried to let it go. Tried to lose his face, slender frame, dark hair, in the brightly lit faces of others. Tried to let alcohol blur the lines so you could see someone else when they'd look at you with that look of desire and promise.

You couldn't. Nothing could break the spell. You were stuck on this seemingly insignificant man.

Then, he was gone.

He wasn't on the train anymore. The man he'd watch was there sometimes, but he wasn't. You tried to find him in unforgiving crowds and empty coffee shops, but he wasn't there. It was like he'd never existed. Weeks went by, there was no sign of him. His very presence, wiped away like cheap makeup. It was... unsettling. It made your chest swell and made your mind flood with horrible thoughts. Every wrong turn he could have made to lead him somewhere dangerous. If he had moved away. If his obsession had done something to him.

Or if he had moved on, and found someone to make him happy?

Your chest seized. No, that couldn't be it, he never even spoke to anyone. There was no way he'd have fallen for someone else, been swept off his feet.

The fact that the notion of his happiness made your stomach twist made you feel like a monster.

How disgusting.

Another week went by. Nothing. A few days spent in a drunken rut with some blurry face from a bar. You felt like garbage because all you saw was his eyes, his lips, felt every inch of what wasn't his skin. Tried to make it him.

It was never him.

Eventually, you started to seek him out. Look around the city, ask people who might have seen someone like him. You told people he was a relative, your family was upset that he'd uncharacteristically disappeared. They suggested the police.

What a joke.

You went to quieter places, wanted to see if maybe he frequented smaller stores, knew someone from the stix. Nothing turned up. You went into the bad parts of town, maybe he was in trouble with someone. They'd get all defensive, you were strong you were sure if anyone did you could give them a run for their money.

Nothing.

Until you hit a dead street, just off the main road.

It was quiet, houses seemingly empty, a couple cars here and there. It was almost deserted. But you walked up to a few houses, knocked on some doors. What few had residents usually gave you the answer you'd grown numb to.

"Sorry, I haven't seen him."

It was currently getting darker, you should have been heading home, but that voice in the back of your mind kept nagging, "One more house, just one more" until you couldn't ignore it. You shoved your hands into the pockets of the coat you had wrapped around yourself, nice and snug to battle the chilly night breeze. There was a house you hadn't checked yet, one with nicely trimmed hedges, a pretty large gate, a password lock. There were burnt out cigarettes in the empty planter by the door. Someone probably lived here. It wouldn't hurt to ask just one more person, right? You'd go home, go to the police in the morning, see if they could maybe do some digging. Not that they would.

Not that they'd care.

The hand holding the picture you'd taken of him one day tightened just a bit. The fact that no one else would care pissed you off. He was still a human being, who was missing. Someone should have missed him by now. Aside from you. But that didn't seem to be the case.

You took a few breaths to steady yourself, slowly pushed the gate open and stepped onto the walkway to the house. A couple steps up to the door, the smell of cigarette smoke was still fresh, maybe they'd just gone in for the night. You really shouldn't bother them. They'll be upset. Go home.

'But what about Yoonbum...'

The single thought plowed the others aside like a runaway train, and you raised a fist. Knocked once.

Twice.

Three times.

There was no answer.

'Go home.'

'Yoonbum might know who lives here, knock again!'

Another three knocks. Still nothing. You pulled your lip between your teeth and bit back the rising anger. Someone is here, now, and not answering.

'They're probably asleep.'

'Wake them up.'

Another succession of rasps against the door. Ten seconds pass. Twenty.

Thirty.

A minute.

Silence.

A broken sigh wisps it's way into the night time air, hands trembling in the pockets of your coat. What was the point? Yoonbum never even looked at you, he was always looking at him. You didn't even have the courage to talk to him. What was the purpose?

Even if you found him, you weren't /him/. You went to turn away, took a step down, when the door clicked open. You spun fast enough to send the lingering thoughts spinning, eyes far too hopeful.

Standing before you, a man. Your jaw went slack for just a moment. He looked unreadable. Face still, yet eerie.

It was /him/.

Oh Sangwoo.

Chapter Text

It felt like your limbs weren't able to function properly when the blond male step out of the doorway. You couldn't move, everything was frozen in the unforgiving cold wind of the early evening. The leaves fluttered, hair danced in his eyes, clothes ruffled, words lost in the sharp breeze. This was the man Yoonbum had been after for what was probably years. Oh Sangwoo. Someone who might actually know him, some way or another. The thought sent a wave of conflicting emotions twisting through you. Maybe he knew where Yoonbum had gone. That would mean he and Yoonbum are close.

He'd have to be closer to him than you.

He also might not know anything, which would only make you madder. It was clear to anyone who looked at Bum long enough that he was infatuated in some way or another with the blond. That would mean Sangwoo never took the time to see Yoonbum in any light other than a stranger on the street, a kid being attacked by army peers.

A sickening swell swallowed your lungs, you could still be the one to be closest to Bum.

Sangwoo looked tired, hair disheveled even more with the wind blowing it in several directions. His shoulders sagged, feet still undressed as if he had simply yanked the door open with no intention to go outside. Something about the blank look he was giving you made you nervous, but you took a steady breath and gripped the photo in your pocket.

"What do you want? It's late, I'm trying to get ready for bed."

He even sounded tired, voice deep with what could be a mix of anger and exhaustion. Part of you felt a little bad to have been so persistent and disturb him. You shifted your weight from foot to foot, hand moving from your pocket with the photo of Bum still clenched tightly.

"I'm looking for my relative. He doesn't usually just go off without letting someone know first, we're worried he may have gotten hurt."

You handed the photo over to the lazily awaiting hand Sangwoo had held out in gesture. You worried at your lip, hoping you came off as genuine enough, and tried to gauge the other male's expression.

What you found, was unsettling. His eyes had widened the tiniest fraction, fingers gripping the photograph just a bit tighter, muscles stock still. It was as if the wind had frozen his bones and he couldn't move. His eyes raked over the photo, lips parted wordlessly, until his features softened almost too quickly, a half assed smile of sympathy plastered on his face. It made you want to punch him.

"I'm sorry, I've never seen him before."

'Liar…'

"I wish I could help you more."

'Liar!'

"Have a good night."

You reluctantly took the photo back from the blond, gave him your own fake grin before bowing just fraction, watching him walk back inside. You stood there for a few minutes, letting the unforgiving wind knock your lingering thoughts around like a hurricane. The photo was slid back into your pocket, you turned to leave, you couldn't help but feel like someone was staring holes into your back as you latched the gate and headed down the empty road. There was something wrong, something was going on with Oh Sangwoo.

It involved Yoonbum.

It would involve you.

---

"Excuse me, can I speak to Officer Seungbae, please?"

The brown haired man at the desk of the police station nearly laughed. You felt the sudden urge to kick him in the teeth. Going to the police was your last chance to find anything on Yoonbum, especially if your paranoid thoughts had any merit about Sangwoo and how strangely he acted the evening before. Everything screamed that you had to get into that house and find out what was going on. Something wasn't right, you knew it. But the police in town were a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothing fools, if you hadn't heard about the officer named Yang Seungbae had been transferred from the Seoul department, you would have never had even bothered. But he had been removed from the department for some sort of badgering incident, you needed that persistence if you were going to get anywhere.

"I don't see what's so funny, sir. I need to speak to him."

"You can't talk to anyone else in the station, he's out on patrol."

"I'll wait."

The officer gave you an upset scowl that you chalked up as childish and decided to ignore it in favor of taking a seat in one of the few chairs near the door that wasn't for the detainees. You ignored the eyes that sometimes fell on you like they were going to tell you to leave, steeled your face, set your eyes on nothing in particular, squared your shoulders. It wasn't long before the door of the station swung open, a dark haired man with glasses walking inside. He gave you a curious look that you only half acknowledged until the brown haired fool at the desk barked, "Well there's your precious Seungbae."

Said officer furrowed his brows, looked from you, to the officer, and then back as you stood. He hesitantly shook your hand. "There something I can help you with?"

"I hope so."

---

"So, you think this guy--"

"Oh Sangwoo."

"Right… You think this Oh Sangwoo has something to do with your relative going missing?"

"Yes, that's right. I saw them together, on occasion, they were somewhat acquainted, but he denied knowing him at all. He acted strange, when I handed him the picture of him. I have a bad feeling he might have done something--"

"Now hang on." Seungbae raised his hand to cut you off, furrowed his eyebrows, and scowled over his desk at you. He had agreed to talk with you, for which you were grateful, but he seemed more incredulous than you'd hoped he would. It was as if every word came out weird and distorted, you felt like he was confused by something but before you could ask, he continued. "You think that this guy, this pretty much ordinary guy, did something to your relative? Do you have any proof other than he acted weird when he saw the picture?"

Your mouth hung open just a bit, words not forming properly. "Well, no…"

'Please, you're my last chance…'

"Then I can't really help you. We can put out a missing person's bulletin for you, but that's all we can do."

'No, no you don't understand!'

"I'll need you to be going now, I have business to attend to."

"I thought you were supposed to be some great officer!" Seungbae's eyes widened, lips parted on the last words he had said, hands frozen against the surface of the desk. You pushed yourself out of the chair you'd been seated in, hands slamming against the wood, blood racing. "You're supposedly this amazing guy from Seoul, right?! You could solve any crime, you never passed up a shot to help someone, huh?!" The officer flinched away when you snapped your hung head up, eyes catching his in an furious lock. "Why won't anyone help me find him? Is this some kind of fucking joke?!"

"You need to leave."

A tremor pushed it's way through your body, banging at the bones, weakening the muscles, making you slump, hands pushing through your hair as if to busy themselves and keep your one track mind from de-railing. Had to calm down, you had to calm down, you'd never find out anything with that sort of temper. This was your last chance to get any kind of help. Sure, you could just break into Sangwoo's house when he leaves, but that would be far too risky, especially if he might have hurt Yoonbum…

"I'm… I'm sorry. I've been looking for so long, I guess I'm just exhausted… Uhm, can I give you my name and number? Please, just in case something comes up?"

The black haired male gave you a sidelong glance, seeming to soften a bit once you let out a sigh of relief when he slid a notepad and pen your way. "I'll… be sure to do what I can for you."

"Thank you…"

It was about three days later when he called you with news. You had to meet him at the station, he had plans to visit Sangwoo's place in accordance with some unsettling footage he'd pulled from a black box at a minor car accident. You hastily agreed.

This could be your last shot at finding Yoonbum ever again.

Chapter Text

Seungbae had called you to tell you about some apparent evidence he had found that warranted a visit to Sangwoo's home, something about an altercation he had stumbled upon while viewing black box footage in his car. You immediately knew what it was, every fiber of your being knew something involving Yoonbum was going on at that house, but you tried your best to remind yourself of the officer currently driving you and himself to Sangwoo's home, reminded yourself to stay calm, make yourself sparse. Sangwoo wasn't going to be able to see you, Seungbae had a plan to go confront Sangwoo. You were going to wait in the car, remaining hidden from sight.

You had different plans.

You had to get inside that house.

"Tell him you received word of a disturbance if he shows up."

"I beg your pardon?"

"As a backup plan."

Seungbae gave you a sideways glance, to which you just gave him a faltering smile. "Sorry, I'm kind of a worst case scenario type of guy, it's safer to have a fall back excuse if you get caught. Should have a few, but you know, short notice only lets you think of so much."

The officer grunted in response, seeming to buy the excuse enough for you to fix your gaze to the rearview mirror. Sangwoo's routine never changed, he was currently latching his gate to head out. You followed every movement closely. Your nerves itched to get to the house. But you had to wait it out. There would be time.

Seungbae exited the car as soon Sangwoo was out of sight. He was taking his dear sweet time, observing everything, making you that much more anxious. He sure did like to be thorough. He was taking too much time.

Everything in your mind screamed to get out of the car. Bust into that house, ransack the place for any signs Yoonbum might be there. It wasn't until your phone dinged that your mind was allowed to travel anywhere but down the dark road of what-ifs. It was from.. Seungbae?

'I think you were right.'

'I saw a foot.'

'Something's not right here.'

You must have read the texts a hundred times a minute. A foot. Someone, or at least a part of someone, was inside that house, and it sure as the light of day wasn't Sangwoo. Someone was inside the house. Were they dead? Alive? Injured? Was it a man or a woman?

Was it Yoonbum?

A hundred possibilities raced around your mind in unending circles, finding loophole after loophole, pulling and tugging between jumping out of the car and breaking into Sangwoo's house, officer be damned, or going along with the plan you had come up with. To wait for Seungbae to either get inside, or wait for Sangwoo to come home and possibly let him inside with the piss poor excuse of a disturbance.

You'd already gotten Sangwoo's number from his friend's that you had managed to butter up about a week ago.

You'd already sent him a text from the throw away phone you'd purchased last night after getting the confirmation that Seungbae was coming to investgate. You pretended to be one of his closer friends, that he sometimes walked home with from his errands, saying you'd broken your old phone and had to get a new number because the old one was too much a hassle to retrieve.

'Hey, Sangwoo, there's some dude hanging around your house…'

'What? I just left there, were the hell?'

'I must have missed you, I'm covered head to toe, got a bug so you probably didn't see me in all this shit.'

'Ah, probably not. Can you see the guy?'

'Yeah, it's a cop.'

And sure as the day is long, here he came, stomping down the street with an unreadable expression. He was trying his best to look nonchalant, but every twitch and step, the way his eyes were locked on his gate, made it painfully obvious he wanted nothing to do with a cop at his door. You chucked the phone into your pocket after shutting both it and your own phone off. Then you waited. Seungbae popped back up, just barely visible on the doorsteps, talking with Sangwoo. You could almost hear the words 'disturbance report' fumble from his trembling lips, hand rubbing his neck as he'd been caught peeping the neighborhood cutie. Pathetic.

Then it happened. Sangwoo was headed to the door. He paused, typed in his passcode after about ten seconds, and swung the door open for the officer. You waited for the door to close. Waited a minute, exited the car, closed the door silently enough to keep the sound from disturbing the men inside. You made your way to the little side alley off to the right of Sangwoo's home.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Mind a mile a minute, you waited for the door to open again. The car would be empty, but Sangwoo was probably a paranoid kind of prick, and would probably see that Seungbae left the street. You had nothing to worry about, Seungbae wouldn't be able to get a hold of you at least until he left the street, and that was precisely why you decided to shut both of the phones off, lest the tone alert anyone that might still be outside. It was a risk you couldn't afford.

Breath in.

Breathe out.

The door clicked open, didn't click closed immediately. The car door opened, hesitantly started. The door closed as the car engine receded. A few more seconds, loud banging sounded from inside the house. You remained still, willing yourself to ignore the blistering cold wind snapping at your skin.

Panicked breathing erupted from the house, the door slamming into the wall resting next to it with a sickening snap. A single name.

"Bum?!"

Bingo. Everything went into high gear, your fingers twitched with anticipation, body ready to move in. Sangwoo's voice was carrying everywhere, it was hard to tell where he really was. But it was moving away. You chanced a glance around the corner of the alleyway to see him frantically searching. Everywhere and nowhere, heading away from his home.

Now was the time.

Your legs moved quicker than you expected them to, mind racing with a nervous fervor. The door was still open, in your hurry to get inside, you brought to closed with you. Nothing seemed out of place, everything was too orderly, too neat. Something was wrong with how nice it looked. It made your stomach twist into knot after knot, as you peered through every room upstairs first, hurried downstairs once more, the living area, the closet off to the left in the hall, the storage room inside it. Nothing. You hurried into the kitchen. He was hear, somewhere, and this was the only place you'd yet to search. A black office chair was seated at the counter, onions partially chopped on the counter with no utensils or dishes laid out. It, like the rest of the house, was spotless. Nothing out of order or strange aside from the partially prepped food. You paced around the kitchen, ripped open doors, rummaged around for anything that could lead you to where Bum could be. He was here and you had to find him.

It wasn't until you yanked open the doors under the sink did you wish you hadn't found him at all.

His eyes were wide, he looked like a wild animal that was afraid to be touched. He wasn't moving, hands pressed over his mouth as if he had been trying to not make a sound while Seungbae was searching the house. There were so many angry bruises all over his skin, bandages wrapped around his ankles and calves, his neck. He had on a shirt that was too small to be for a man and a skirt. Sangwoo was a perverted piece of shit it seemed. But even when he flinched away from your hands that reached out instinctively to touch him, and make sure he was real, you felt yourself smile. Relief washed over you, your twisted urge to have Yoonbum all to yourself was closer than ever, especially if this was what Sangwoo had done to him, surely you could be better.

You were better, you'd show him you were better, you could save him from this.

"Yoonbum, I'm so glad to see you're alive!"

He didn't say anything for a second, eyes wild and flickering over every bit of you he could, as if he was trying to figure out who you were, trying to figure out what you wanted, how you got in, how Sangwoo hadn't seen. He eventually moved his hands enough to say, "Who are you?"

His voice was so broken and raspy, it hurt your heart hurt and made you see red for a split second before you gently pulled the smaller man out from the cupboard, ignoring the way he seemed to panic at the motion. "My name isn't important, I'm here to rescue you. I knew that prick had to have had you here that night I came here looking… Oh, Yoonbum, I can't believe it's you! You're alive, I'll get you out of here. I promise, I'll get you out of here and get you to a hospital." Your hands moved on their own, smile forming on your lips subconsciously as they caressed bruised skin, brushed soft lock of black hair away from his dark eyes. Yoonbum looked as if he'd rather be elsewhere, but you were so lost in your twisted thought of holding him, keeping him safe…

Yoonbum's eyes drifted upward, widened slowly, your face fell into a childish scowl until the footsteps clicked into your mind like they clicked against the wood of the floors of the house. You whirled just in time to see a far beyond enraged Sangwoo, brandishing a knife poised to draw it down.

Mile a minute. You can't move aside, he'll hit Yoonbum. You can't not, he'll kill you. You can't counter he's too close, you can't move you and Bum without hurting Bum, you can't, you can't, can't.

You can take a blow.

Your left arm flew up across where the knife was plunging, cool metal making light work of nerves, veins, muscles. Nicking bone, piercing through the flesh on the other side. A scream ripped it's way through your throat, knocking around your thoughts enough to jumble them.

Stuttering, mile a minute. You can't knock him away he'll take the knife with him, you can't leave him armed, you can't let him stay over you like this he's draw back, can't let him keep the knife, you can't, can't.

You can disarm him.

Your right hand snapped out to grab onto the wrist holding the knife into your left arm. He was twisting it enough to cause another pained scream to tumble from your lips but you only tightened your hold on his wrist, pushing him away enough to keep his from forcing your arm back into any other part of you. You raised a leg and gave him a swift kick to the gut, the blond letting out a pained huff, grip slackening on the handle of the knife.

Now's your shot.

Another kick, a bit higher to the ribs, and he was dislodged, breathlessly trying to distance himself, hand free of the knife as he stumbled away from both you and Yoonbum. You couldn't remove the knife, it might've hit something vital, but at least it wasn't in Sangwoo's hand anymore. It couldn't hurt Yoonbum anymore. While Sangwoo collected himself from the floor, you quickly assessed the damage of your arm, nothing vital, but you bleeding a hell of a lot, obviously. You could remove it.

So you did. Pulled it clean out, blood dribbling down the skin of your arm, falling to the floor in river, splashing against the wood of the kitchen with an ear shattering patter. It broke through the thick silence in the room, along with Sangwoo catching his breath, stumbling to his feet. You were the same size as him, you could certainly take him on now that you were on the same level as him. The knife was dripping crimson, staining the metal, staining the floor, staining you skin. It was just resting in your hand, like it… belonged there. Sangwoo was eyeing you, like he was going to try and steal back his only leverage. So you tightened your hold, let yourself fell the curve of the handle, the rough texture, before looking up at the blond. You let yourself take a step, it broke the spell of silence balancing like glass in the room. No one was moving but you.

A few more steps.

You could save Yoonbum.

You could have him all to yourself.

Forever.

Just a few more steps-

There's a pressure on your leg, weighing it down from moving forward, from ending this. You don't understand what it is, it feels like it's dragging you into the floor, bringing you tumbling into a dark place. Your eyes flicker down, the knife goes slack in your hand as Yoonbum claws at the fabric of your jeans, pinning the appendage against the floor to keep you from reaching Sangwoo. It sent all of the organized thoughts into a whirlwind along with the trembling fear written over every part of the smaller man's face. The fear you wore not a month or so ago after he went off the map, the fear that swallowed your daily life.

The fear of losing the one person you never wanted to lose, no matter what, the deranged fear.

It was only followed by a sharp bout of pain to your skull, the flash of nothing but a fist colliding with the side of your face to send your body crumpling, knife skating away from the scene upon impact. All that followed was a barrage of pain and darkness, cold and musty as your chest collapsed at the pain in your heart with the look on Yoonbum's bruised face.

You weren't the one he wanted safe.

He wanted Sangwoo, like always.

Not you.