There’s the peculiar scent of ash that seems to fill the small room of Jinyoung’s hostel, it gathers in the air along with the heat and sticks to the back of his throat. He’s lying upon a thin mattress in nothing but boxers and a vest, and a puddle of his own sweat.
He isn’t sure how long he’s been here, doing nothing but staring at the stained cream ceiling, but it’s already dark out and Jinyoung long swore to himself he’d go out and experience Bangkok’s night market before he left. It was his last night in Thailand, and the sound of the crowds, sizzling of food and cicadas were a constant reminder of that promise.
A shower proves pointless the second Jinyoung tries to shuffle into a t-shirt and finds the beads of sweat have already formed at his temples. His hair, dark and wet flops a little just above his eyes to which he finds himself constantly brushing back with his fingers.
The sound of the crowds outside have grown louder, Jinyoung taking a quick peek out his window and through the netted screen, he see’s the streets lined up with stalls and bright yellow lights. An orange glow illuminating the ground below and reflecting against the dark water of the canals running through the capital.
Bangkok was a numbing sort of place, where you get lost in crowds and swallowed up in an energy where nothing but the moment is all you can think about. The smell of meat, the heat against your skin, the sound of music and chatter, and constant lack of loneliness was infinite here. You’re never really alone here, even if you were.
Jinyoung couldn’t have asked for more, for a place filled with so much fever he felt as if he would explode any second, shoot off into the night sky and float among the stars.
This place made forever feel possible, but forever doesn’t exist, and Jinyoung feels the ticking of anxiety grow louder as he stands still among the moving crowds.
It is warm, Jinyoung drinks in hot breaths and the stench of sweat mixed in with the scent of grilled meat like it were as light as air. He’d drown in it, if he could, in the people, he’d drown in the canals too but he’d already seen someone try that, and failed.
Someone taps lightly on Jinyoung’s shoulder and his vision is quickly invaded with the sight of four prawns curled up tightly on a wooden stick. He follows the wrinkly hand at the end and down towards the small old woman looking up at him kindly.
“You’re too thin,” She says, a hint of disapproval edging her words. Her voice reminds him of his mother, maybe by default all elderly woman sound similar, but the tone she held had a sort of familiarity to it. She must have a son, Jinyoung thinks. “Here.”
Jinyoung looks down at her held out hand for a brief moment and then smiles widely, “Thank you.” He says brightly as he goes into his pocket to find change but she quickly holds out a palm and shakes her head. Then roughly she hands him the skewer and nods at him to eat.
Jinyoung gives his own hand a look now and then raises his eyebrows, “You shouldn’t be so kind, how will you make a living?”
The older woman stops mid step and looks up at Jinyoung with mild surprise. “You speak Thai well.”
Jinyoung takes a quick bite into a prawn and nods.
She continues to stare at him sceptically as he rips into the seafood, “You’re not from here, however.”
Jinyoung nods again. “I come here often,” He says with his mouth full.
She gives Jinyoung a little shrug before heading back behind her street vendor. Jinyoung inhales the last of his skewer and quickly dispenses the stick into a bin before making his way deeper into the streets. The crowds here are thicker, and Jinyoung finds himself floating with the masses. The music grows louder quickly, it swims in the air and vibrates in his fingertips, he feels the tremor of it below his feet and tastes it on his tongue.
Jinyoung’s drowning in the atmosphere when a shriek cuts through the music and everyone in the area turns around to the sound. Jinyoung can’t make anything out from the wall of bodies but he hears the sound of something clattering and metal hitting metal. There’s a scuffle, the sound of grunting and people chiding them on.
There’s a brief moment where Jinyoung contemplates walking away and enjoying his last night in Bangkok eating street food and staring out onto the canals but the worse side of him tells him to make his way closer to the sceptical and at least asses the situation.
Jinyoung becomes so focused on pushing through bodies and sliding between gaps that he doesn’t realise he’s made it to the forefront of a fist fight between two kids. They’re both scrawny, the bones of their arms tight against their tanned skin, their tank tops loose against their chests.
“Okay enough,” Someone says from the other side of the circle. A man stands out from the crowd, he’s in black trousers and leather shoes, a white button down shirt tucked under his belt and his sleeves rolled up neatly to his elbows. Jet black hair that looks like it was intended to be brushed back unravels at his forehead and tickles at the thick lines of his eyebrows.
He looks out of place here, not just his attire but the way his features curve on his face, the angle of his jaw. His eyes are slim and sleek, pinching at the ends. He didn’t look Thai, in fact, he looked a little Korean.
“Kunpimook,” The man snaps and one of the boys fighting flinches but he’s too deep in the fight to answer to the warning in the older man’s voice.
That’s when Jinyoung intervenes. He simply steps closer to the two boys and rips them apart, their tank tops snapping at their throats as Jinyoung holds the back of the fabrics. “He said enough,” Jinyoung says in Thai and lets go of them. They stagger away, clutching at their necks, coughing.
“Kunpimook,” The man calls out again, walking towards the one boy with bright blonde hair and a busted lip. “What were you doing?” He hisses this in Korean and it piques at Jinyoung’s interest for a moment before the second boy tries to make a run for it, and Jinyoung has his hand back to his shirt.
“Where are you going?” Jinyoung asks casually.
“Let go of me!” The kid snaps, writhing under Jinyoung’s grip.
“Call the police! He stole food from the old ladies cart!” Kunpimook exclaims.
“Shut up! You don’t even know anything…” The other one voice quickly breaks and he looks like he’s on the brink of tears. “I’m just trying to feed my sister.”
“Hey, just let him go, like he’s the first kid to do that around here,” An old guy from the edge of the crowd shouts out.
Jinyoung looks between the old man, Kunpimook and the kid in his arms and then sighs. He goes into his back pocket and pulls out a couple of notes, shovelling them into the boy’s hand and then let’s go of his shirt. “Go, sending you to the police will be too much effort.” He says and the kid is struck for a long moment before he suddenly breaks out into a run, too soon disappearing into the crowd that already began to break up.
“Wha- why did you do that!?” Kunpimook jumps on his feet, looking ready to just sprint after the kid. “Why did you let him go?”
Jinyoung looks from the Kunpimook to who Jinyoung thinks now is his guardian and nods his head. “Which stall was it?”
“Which stall did he steal from?” Jinyoung asks. “Show me the way.”
Kunpimook stands there a little baffled for a moment before giving the man beside him a look. “This way…” He grumbles under his breath and turns on his heels.
“You’re Korean, right?” The man says as Jinyoung began to follow the boy.
“Ah, yeah,” Jinyoung says, giving him a nod.
“I’m Im Jaebum,” He simply replies and goes to pick up speed. “Thanks for stopping the fight by the way.”
“Park Jinyoung and...it’s no big deal, it’s not the first fight I’ve broken up.” Jinyoung murmurs, taking an awkward hand to scratch the back of his head. He felt a little conscious standing beside this man, he almost seems to glitter beneath the orange illuminations of the festival whilst Jinyoung sported a wrinkled checkered shirt over a tattered tank top.
“Why did you let the kid go?” He asks curiously, giving Jinyoung a short side look.
“Did you want to send him to the police?”
“Not really, no,” Jaebum says flatly and they continue to make a short walk to the back of the festival where the street vendors are lined up on either side of the canals.
Kunpimook makes his way quickly to a stall where an old lady is picking up chicken wings from the floor, a hand to the small of her back. He takes the bin from her hand and insists on cleaning up for her. She stiffly goes to straighten her back, but it’s in a permanent hunch and Jinyoung feels a pang of guilt as he realises the kid probably targeted this stall because the old woman looked like she could barely see in front of her.
“Miss, are you alright?” Jinyoung asks, a comforting hand to her shoulder. The old woman looks up at him and smiles softly into the folds of her wrinkles, her eyes disappearing into half moons.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” She whispers, nodding to herself.
“Miss, how much was the food he took and dropped? I’ll pay for it,” Jinyoung says and before the woman could even respond Jaebum quickly steps in.
“No, don’t worry, I’ll pay for it,” Jaebum says, already taking a hand into his back pocket.
“Why would you pay for it?” Jinyoung asks, arching an eyebrow at the man beside him.
“Why would you?” Jaebum shoots back. “Besides you already gave the kid some money, and let’s be honest, you don’t look like you can afford a ride back home.”
Jinyoung’s face drops, “Excuse me?”
“No money, no money,” The old woman says, tapping at Jaebum’s arm. She shakes her head vigorously and turns back to take the bin from Kunpimook, giving him a thankful pat on the head. Kunpimook gives her a warm smile and bows, returning to the two men only to offer Jinyoung a hard stare.
“We should have reported him,” Kunpimook grumbles. “No matter what, you shouldn’t steal.”
Jinyoung considers him for a moment before speaking, “Sometimes desperation comes before morale.”
“So are you going to pay for every starving or homeless person that decides to steal food or beg for money?” Jaebum asks, looking at Jinyoung like he’s trying to decipher something. The tone of his voice wasn’t particularly condescending but a little preachy, like he was trying to teach Jinyoung a lesson.
Jinyoung forces a half smile onto his face. “I should help when I can, shouldn’t I?”
“Can you afford it?” He retaliates like he was picking a fight but his face looks so vacant of amusement.
“Excuse me, but don’t you think you’re being a little rude?” Jinyoung responds, trying hard to keep his composure.
“Ah,” Jaebum blinks, and the little look of realisation he has on is possibly the most movement Jinyoung has seen this entire conversation. “Sorry, I can be a little blunt without realising.”
Kunpimook snorts from beside him and Jaebum gives him an unpleasant glare.
Jinyoung stands there stiffly, completely lost now. “Okay...well...I’m just going to go.” And possibly salvage the rest of this holiday.
“Ah, wait,” Jaebum calls out just as Jinyoung starts to turn on his feet. “Here, take this.” He says and pulls out his wallet from the back of his trousers, from inside he slips out a small card with his number and name on it and below that immigration lawyer.
“Why...are you giving me this?” Jinyoung murmurs looking down at the small card between his fingers.
“I’m not just an immigration lawyer, if you ever need help, just call me. I’ll do you a favour, just as a thanks for helping.” Jaebum says it almost robotically, and Jinyoung can’t figure out for the life of him what is going on.
“I...live in Seoul, I’m just here on vacation,” Jinyoung says looking up and down from the card to Jaebum.
Kunpimook sighs from between them, “He’s saying he wants to keep in contact with you, Mr. This guy has a really round-a-bout way of saying he likes you.”
“What?” Jinyoung spurts out.
“Don’t confuse him,” Jaebum sighs and then gives Jinyoung a thoughtful look. “It’s just formalities. I’m based in Seoul too, my office is in Yongsang. Call if you ever need any consultation or help.” Jinyoung doesn’t make an effort to say he actually lives in the next district, Seongdong, and just casually slips the card into his jeans pocket.
“Ok well...thanks,” Jinyoung’s eyebrows knit together in the middle and he awkwardly shifts on his feet. “I’m going to go now.” He says quickly and heads back into the direction of bustling people and loud music.
He doesn’t turn back but he hears Kunpimook snort a little, “What’s wrong with you?” He says and Jinyoung wonders about the answer to that question but he’s already too deep into the crowd to hear the other man’s response.
Jinyoung doesn’t know just how long he’s walked on for but somehow he’s made it to the other side of the festival where it’s less crowded and couples occupy the benches and sit on the edge of the streets, their legs dangling over the water.
He takes out his palm and stretches it before him, thinking about the kid he let run off. Even though he looked around fourteen or fifteen, he felt too light under Jinyoung’s grip. There were loads of kids like him around, so many orphaned and homeless. He was just trying to feed his sister, was an easy excuse for letting him go but he knows he shouldn’t have.
You can’t help everyone, Jinyoung. His mother’s words echo in his head, and he puts them on repeat in his head, even though it does nothing to release the anxiety pricking at his lungs.
The police station in Seongdong has it’s own distinctive smell. It’s a musky mix of paper and instant coffee, and the faint scent of cologne. It seems to be a quiet morning, no one but two police officers manning the desks. There’s just the soft humming of the printer and the click of a keyboard filling the room.
Jinyoung’s at the entrance standing a little awkwardly, his hands dug deep into the pockets of his coat. He’d only been gone for two weeks but he felt out of place, like he shouldn’t be here.
“Jinyoung!” Youngjae exclaims, jumping up from behind his desk. He takes off his police hat and drops it down in front of him before jogging round and tackling Jinyoung into a hug.
“Oof!” Jinyoung gasps from between Youngjae’s arms. The plastic of his jacket crinkles from the weight of Jinyoung as Youngjae tightens his grip and lifts the older one off his feet. “Youngjae...suffocating...”
“Oh, sorry,” Youngjae jumps back, dropping him. Jinyoung sucks in a breath and looks back at Youngjae to find a wide grin encasing his face, the ends of his lips curving into his eyes. It comforts Jinyoung to see something so familiar on his first visit back after so long. Honestly, he’d been a nervous wreck since last night. Sleep had not been an option, and there was a constant tremble in his hands that he’s been trying to hide in his fists.
“Are you coming back to work now?” Youngjae asks expectantly.
“Next week, next week, I’ve still got...some things to sort out,” Jinyoung says, patting at Youngjae’s arm, he tries to carve on a smile but his cheeks feel heavy and he can’t seem to get rid of the edgy feeling like something bad was going to happen.
Youngjae gives him a thoughtful look and offers him another smile, “It’s okay Jinyoung, take your time. We should get drinks later?”
“Mmhm,” Jinyoung absentmindedly nods, his attention already diverted. He’s staring down at the door in the far corner of the station, “Is the chief here?”
“Yeah, she came early today, think she was expecting you?” Youngjae says, giving the door a quick look over his shoulder. “She’s free right now, if you want to head in.”
Jinyoung gives his friend a small smile, clearly forced but the sentiment was there and Youngjae accepted it with his own. They give each other a pat on the elbow before Jinyoung slides his way past the desks, quickly giving Sanghyuk an acknowledging glance but finds he’s nose deep into his computer screen and doesn’t even notice.
When Jinyoung reaches the door to the chief's office he takes a deep breath, the nerves bubbling in his stomach now felt like they were just going to boil over. It almost feels like the two weeks he’d taken off were rendered completely pointless. He’d just came back to stage one.
Quickly Jinyoung takes his clenched fist and brings it to the door, lightly knocking twice. The sound echos in his head and he dreads to hear the chief's voice but it doesn’t come and in the next second, he finds the door before him swinging open.
Kang Seulgi is a beautiful woman, a kind one hidden behind a cold exterior. At first Jinyoung had feared her but he soon realised her harshness was just an act that came with the job. She is young, especially for the chief position, and there’s a lot of pressure on her as a female handling a mostly male dominated force.
Usually, Jinyoung found her to be a comforting presence, just like the police station itself, but everything now looked like needles, and Jinyoung felt like a balloon.
“Come in,” She says softly and as she turns to head back to her desk, Jinyoung let’s out the breath he was holding in. “Take a seat, Jinyoung.”
He follows her words like they were an order, his body stiff as he went to take a seat before her desk. The last time he’d been here he was stuck here for over twelve hours, the white walls and framed certificates, the shelves of files and books and the obnoxiously large wooden desk too soon began to feel like a prison. Sitting here again, he could feel the same suffocating feelings twirling in the pits of his stomach.
“You don’t have to look so nervous Jinyoung,” Seulgi sighs like she could almost see the roller coaster Jinyoung was taking in his head. “The worst of it is over, and tomorrow it finally ends.”
Jinyoung thinks, no, he knows her words are meant to be comforting not just because she spoke in the sort of soft tone she’d leave for when they were out as friends, but also because she is right. Things were going to end tomorrow and yet Jinyoung couldn’t let go of the anxiety in his chest like he were carrying bricks around his neck.
“Did the vacation help at all?” Seulgi asks, leaning over her desk. “You said you loved Thailand so I thought it was the best place for you to relax, but you seem to have come back just as nervous as ever.”
“I’m fine...Chief,” Jinyoung forces out, feeling the words stick to his throat. “Coming back just reminded me of it.”
Seulgi sighs and leans back into her chair, “What’s wrong Jinyoung? It’s not like you’re a rookie or something. People die, Jinyoung, it’s just something we have to deal with in this job.”
“I know,” Jinyoung bites out, his breath hitching every so slightly. “I know but…”
Seulgi gives him a thoughtful look and nods like she could hear the words unsaid. “Jinyoung, you don’t have to come back unless you’re completely ready. We can prolong your vacation, and even get yourself a psychiatric assessment to make it legitimate because at this rate it doesn’t look like you’re fit to come back to work.”
The words hit Jinyoung harder than he thought they would. It wasn’t like he didn’t know it but hearing them being said out loud made the reality of it all even more daunting. Jinyoung didn’t know much but work. He went from school straight into the workforce and he loved it, he loves it. So there was no one more frustrated than Jinyoung with the current situation because he doesn’t want to admit to himself, that as much as he grew up believing he only ever wanted to do good, and to help, when you end up slipping and do something…bad, it hurts just that much more.
“Stop thinking about it,” Seulgi scolds, her ice tone bringing Jinyoung quickly out of his thoughts. “Tomorrow is the last court session, the driver will most likely get off with a non guilty charge. You just have to say the story like you had several times before and that’s it, it’s over.”
Jinyoung flinches, would it really be over?
“This wasn’t your fault, Jinyoung, do you hear me?” She states clearly, sharply, and Jinyoung swallows her words down, desperate to believe them. “Repeat after me, ‘it wasn’t my fault.’”
Jinyoung opens his mouth but only air comes out and Seulgi sucks in that breath with a hiss as a warning. “It...it wasn’t my fault.” He forces out and immediately cringes, he couldn’t help but feel like the words were acid on his tongue.
Seulgi see’s the hopeless expression on his face and her shoulders slump in response, “What do we do with you Jinyoung? I know you’ve always been soft but you need to stop blaming yourself. Come on, I miss the smiley Jinyoung.”
Jinyoung did too but over the last three months he couldn’t seem to find where he went.
“Go home, get some rest, I’ll see you at court tomorrow, okay? Do you want me to come pick you up?” She offers and Jinyoung shakes his head
“No, thanks, I can get there on my own,” Jinyoung says and starts to get up off his seat, Seulgi follows him up, watching him closely.
“Just a warning…” She calls out just as Jinyoung reaches out for the door handle. “There’s going to be a lot of people tomorrow, reporters as well. You know...the defendant is an idol, so don’t let the pressure get to you, okay? Just be honest.” She’s repeated the instructions to him several times now and it’s then Jinyoung realises that she might just be as nervous about this case as Jinyoung is.
He gives her a reassuring nod, and somehow manages to conjure a genuine smile before leaving the office. Back in the front of the station Youngjae’s at his desk filing a report for a women.
“Ah, Jinyoung, you’re here?” Sanghyuk notes from his seat.
“Mmm Sanghyuk, how are you?”
“I should be asking you that,” He half smiles. “The court sessions tomorrow, right?”
Jinyoung nods, “Yes, it is.”
“Good luck, you’ll be fine.”
Jinyoung thanks him, thinking he’ll really need all the luck he can get.
The courtroom is a lot more crowded than Jinyoung was expecting. The rows of seats have been completely filled up and the back of the courtroom is filled with journalists. Jinyoung silently glad that cameras weren’t allowed inside.
The session has gone on for nearly an hour now. Jinyoung wasn’t familiar with this part of the judicial system, but after watching the defendant’s lawyers and the prosecution argue their sides, he knew this case was going to be a close one. He could feel the tension buzz in the room.
“Your honour, I’d like to bring a witness to the stand,” The defendant's lawyer announces and Jinyoung visibly stiffens in his seat. Seulgi notices and silently gives his thigh a reassuring pat. “Park Jinyoung, an officer at the scene.”
Soft murmurs erupt in the audience as Jinyoung gets up from his seat. He doesn’t really tell his body to do anything but rather it begins to work in automatic and thankfully he manages to make his way onto the stand without tripping over his own foot.
“Park Jinyoung,” The lawyer begins, giving Jinyoung both a calculative and encouraging look. Jinyoung knew his statement was going to be what won them the case and it made the knots in his stomach tighten. “You’re an officer at Seongdong station, is that right? For over four years now?”
Jinyoung takes a deep breath and leans into the mic, “That’s right.”
“On the night of August the 3rd, you were on patrol between 9pm and 11pm in Majang, were you not?”
The lawyer nods, putting up the act of looking at the papers before him. “I’d like for you to recount what happened that night for the court.”
Jinyoung took a deep breath and for the first time in three months he let the incident swim back into the front of his mind. For so long he was pushing it away, trying to forget it, nothing but the anxiety in his chest a reminder of what happened. Now the images came clear to his mind.
“It was around 9:45pm, I was patrolling the streets in the Majang area, my colleague had returned to the car because he had left his walkie talkie so I was alone for a bit. I was walking past a convenience store when I saw a hooded figure run out of the store with a bag clutched to his chest. I didn’t really know what was going on until the staff member had come out shouting someone had stolen the money from the cash register. He was still in sight when I started running after him. I began to shout for him to stop, telling him I was a police officer but he kept running, and I kept chasing him. He’d turned the corner onto the main road and I-” Jinyoung’s breath hitches but he quickly covers it with a clear of his throat. “The roads were empty, it was late after all, and he just ran out onto the street. That’s...that’s when the car came, it hit him. He…” Jinyoung takes a deep breath. “He hit the windshield and rolled over the hood of the car before...hitting the street.”
“This car you're referring to, this was the car that belongs to my client, Lee Inseong?” The lawyer says, referring to the man behind him. Jinyoung gave the celebrity a brief look, he had an impassive look on his face, his jaw set hard. He still remembers the look on his face that night.
“Yes, he had stopped as soon as he could after hitting the...victim,” Jinyoung licks his lips and leans away from the mic to take in another deep breath.
“In your statement you said my client had been speeding and that’s what caused the victim to die, but how could you be so sure? You hadn’t recorded the speed he was going at, and when you had questioned my client about it, he could not remember to give you a response.”
Jinyoung gives the lawyer a look before answering, “The road was a forty miles per hour zone. For the victim to have been hit to such an extent he rolled off the hood and off the back of the car meant he’d been going well and beyond fifty miles per hour, if he hadn’t been speeding...maybe he could have survived.”
The lawyer nods as if he is actually considering Jinyoung’s words seriously, “The matter of fact is however, the victim had run onto the road despite it being a green light because you were chasing him.”
Jinyoung bit on his tongue as the words cut into him and twisted at his insides. Because of him. He lets out a haggard breath as he clenches his hands, his fingers digging into his thighs.
“So in the end,” The lawyer continues. “I’d like to reinstate that my client is not a murderer. Negligent maybe, but not a murderer. The victim had run onto the road because he wanted to get away from the police officer, in the end not realising a car was impending.” He turns to the judge then. “Whether or not my client was speeding, he would have hit him, and whether the victim could have survived or not, is simply a matter of speculation. It’s not enough to put this man behind bars for a mistake he didn’t even commit. I’d hope you’d sincerely consider this when making your decision. Thank you.”
After the prosecution gives their final statements, the judge straightens up and addresses the courtroom. “That’ll be the end of this session. We’ll be having a recess until an outcome has been decided.” The judge deems and with one bang of his gavel, the session breaks.
Jinyoung’s sitting on a bench outside of the courtroom when Seulgi comes to sit beside him with two small foam cups of instant coffee. Jinyoung takes one from her with a sigh, the aroma rolling off into the air comforting him ever so slightly.
“That was rough,” Seulgi says, giving his back a rub. “But you did good Jinyoung, seriously. Well better than I was expecting at least.”
Jinyoung gives her a sly look from the side, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Anything for you buddy,” She grins and takes the cup to her lips.
The two of them stare at the large wooden doors before them. The height of them a little intimidating from where they are sitting across the hallway. Jinyoung dreads having to go back in but he he takes comfort in the fact it was nearly over.
“I hate lawyers,” Seulgi murmurs as she takes her sip. “Always twisting things around, blame shifting to win their case.”
“It’s their job,” Jinyoung replies with a slight chuckle.
“It’s a shitty job.”
Jinyoung gives the inside of his cup a small smile before he chugs down the rest of his coffee, popping the foam cup into the bin beside him. “How long till the decision is out?”
“Not sure, but I’d say half an hour, the outcome for this is pretty obvious,” Seulgi says a little bitterly.
“Do you think he should be charged?” Jinyoung asks curiously.
Seulgi looks up at the door before her and huffs, “I don’t know Jinyoung. The guy shouldn’t have been stealing but he didn’t deserve to die. That actor shouldn’t have been speeding but it was a green light.”
“What about me?”
“What about you?” Seulgi threw back. “You were doing your job. You were chasing a thief, what else were you supposed to do? Let him go?”
What she says makes sense, it makes sense, but Jinyoung couldn’t let go of the guilt that clogged his throat and left him breathless. He wouldn’t have been the first thief to get away, and there is always ways to find them even if they did. Everyday he thought about the different outcomes that could have come from that night. He could have gone back with Youngjae to get his walkie talkie, he could have easily taken a left down into the residential streets instead of the right to the main road. He could have called for backup, have the other officers on patrol corner him off. There was so many different options with so many different outcomes that didn’t involve a man dead on the street.
Jinyoung closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, putting a quick break to his thoughts. He’d been thinking like this for the past three months and he could continue thinking like this for the next three, six, nine months but ultimately he knew nothing was going to change.
“I’m going to go to the bathroom,” Jinyoung says, and Seulgi lets him go without saying a word.
He needs the space, but there was only so much space you could get in a court building filled with an obnoxious amount of men and women in suits and frilly garments. For the first time in three months Jinyoung finds himself missing the crinkling jacket of his police uniform and the uncomfortable wheely chairs of the station.
He thinks about Youngjae’s contagious laugh for a brief moment as he turns into the bathroom, quickly finding himself heading straight first into some guy’s chest.
“Oh, sorry,” He bows quickly and steps out of the way but the man before him just stands still in the opening.
“Park Jinyoung?” A vaguely familiar voice calls out. Jinyoung blinks, looking up to find Im Jaebum standing in front of him wearing a long black cloak. His black hair is slicked to the side neatly and Jinyoung notices two snake bite beauty spots just above his eye.
“Ah, hello,” Jinyoung blurts out.
Jaebum blinks, his eyes a little wide. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
Jinyoung clears his throat, “Uh, well, I’m...here?”
Jaebum’s lip twitches and he gives Jinyoung an arched eyebrow, “Yes, you are. What are you doing here?”
“I’m a witness- I mean I’m an officer in Seongdong. There’s a case going on right now, I was called in as a witness.” Jinyoung’s mutters incoherently, his tongue feeling a little too big in his mouth all of a sudden.
“A case?” Jaebum tilts his head in thought. “There’s only two scheduled right now, mine and...Lee Inseong’s case. Ah, you’re that police officer?”
“You know about it?”
“It’s a case with a lot of media coverage,” Jaebum says, stepping out of the bathroom for someone else to get in. The two of them shuffle a little back by the wall where a tall, large-leaved plant accompanies them.
“Ah, well...yeah…” Jinyoung murmurs.
“Also my friend is the defendant’s lawyer,” Jaebum says, a small smirk on his lips. “He was complaining about a witness being difficult.”
“Excuse me? Difficult?” Jinyoung scoffs, looking up to meet Jaebum’s eyes, only to quickly look away. “It’s probably because my statement wasn’t exactly what he wanted.”
“I’d imagine it was the truth,” Jaebum says, looking amused.
Jinyoung wasn’t expecting that kind of response so he just nods, sliding his hands into his pocket. “What about you? You said you have a case?”
Jaebum brings his hand up to reveal the documents that were hiding in the folds of his cloak. “You remember the little kid that got into a fight in Bangkok? I’ve been working on getting his family into the country. ”
“Right, I see.” Jinyoung nods, his eyes wandering around the brightly lit hallway. “Well...I should get going. The outcome should be coming out any second now. It was...nice seeing you?” Jinyoung turns around and curses inwardly, just how more awkward can he get?
“Ah, wait,” Jaebum quickly jogs up to Jinyoung, blocking him from getting any further down the hallway. “How about some drinks tonight? You look like you need a shot of soju.” Jaebum smiles at the last sentence, and its small but it changes his whole face.
Jinyoung opens his mouth then closes it, “Uh...what?”
“Drinks. Tonight. Soju.” Jaebum repeats, and Jinyoung wants to laugh but the man before him looks so serious, the laughter bursts before it even reaches his mouth.
“Why...exactly…” Jinyoung asks.
Jaebum tilts his head, “Why not?”
“Why not...he said,” Jinyoung mumbles under his breath. “Sure, why not.”
“Great,” Jaebum replies, not looking as enthusiastic as one would to an accepted invitation but Jinyoung’s quickly starting to get that maybe it’s just his face. “You have my number, right?”
“Number…” Jinyoung vaguely remembers placing a name card somewhere in between his suitcase. A suitcase that has been left unpacked for over four days now. “Yeah, I do.”
“See you later then, you should probably head back to your court case,” Jaebum says finally with a nod and makes his way round Jinyoung, leaving him with a swish of his cloak.
Jinyoung brushes a hand through his hair and huffs. He’s not entirely sure what just went on there but he isn’t particularly unhappy about the thought of taking shots of soju down later. He is particular about the Jaebum-being-there part. He wonders if stuff like this usually happens, you meet someone in another country and just decide to have a drink in the next.
Jinyoung isn’t really a people person. Not to say he’s much of an introvert, he considers himself pretty friendly but there’s a big difference between being polite and being outgoing. Although due to recent events his mind is constantly occupied and he feels like words come to him harder than they did before. He’s not entirely sure why Jaebum wants to meet with someone that's been talking in ellipses but he thinks he might just need a third meeting to be sure he wants nothing to do with him.
“Hey, Jinyoung,” Seulgi’s voice comes from behind. “What’s taking you so long? They’re about to announce the verdict.”
“Let’s go.” Jinyoung hurriedly says.
With two bangs of the judge’s gavel, a verdict had come in. The defendant, Lee Inseong, not guilty on charge of murder. Lee Inseong, however due to negligence, will have to pay a twenty million won fine and have his license revoked for two years.
Jinyoung leaves the courtroom that day feeling a mixture of both guilt and relief. Relief that he can finally put this behind him, as if the bang of the gavel was some physical representation for the full stop in this part of his life. And the guilt, a memoire for something Jinyoung would never forget.
Ultimately, when Jinyoung got home, he didn’t actually have to call Jaebum. However, he had to consider the consequences as a result of that decision. They were eventually going to meet again. If they had met so quickly after Bangkok, that must mean they had probably passed each other by before, and that means they will definitely pass each other again in the future. Then that’d be a situation far more awkward than having shots with a stranger could be.
Also Jinyoung is curious, even he had to admit there was something intriguing about Jaebum. He spoke coldly and bluntly, but without malice. Jinyoung had initially thought he was a compilation of arrogant, narcissistic and douchebag, but he seems far too unaware of himself. He’s also good looking, really good looking, and apparently that was enough of a reason then to dive into his luggage to find the name card.
They meet at a quiet bar to Jinyoung’s dismay. Quiet bar’s meant more talking, and less shots being taken, and less shots means slower or no chances of getting drunk beyond his mind. This worry quickly proves to be an unnecessary one however, because around half hour into meeting Jaebum at the bar, Jinyoung’s already half gone.
“I’m telling you…” Jinyoung mumbles, slapping his palm to the wooden table before him. The two of them are in a corner of the bar sitting upon high pedestals. The music is irritatingly mellow, as if willing Jinyoung to sleep, but he didn’t want to sleep, he wanted to drink. “There’s no such thing as falling.” He whispers the last word and then puts a finger to his lips.
Jaebum watches him across the table with a stone expression and his chin in his palm, “What?”
“Think about it, Mr Im-”
“Think about it Jaebum,” Jinyoung mumbles, taking a quick shot between words. “Gravity pulls us down and we push against it, right? So things don’t fall, things are pulled. There’s no such thing as up and down...just pulling and pushing.” He’s making aggravated hand gestures, his index fingers flinging all over the place.
“Pulling and pushing…” Jaebum repeats with vague nods, casually going to grab his own shot glass. He takes down the alcohol with one smooth swing of his head and breathes out between his teeth. “Very interesting.”
“You don’t look or sound interested at all,” Jinyoung grumbles, giving the other man a fine glare before lunging for the bottle of soju.
“No one’s going to take the alcohol from you,” Jaebum says and Jinyoung thinks he sounds amused but his face just says please, kill me.
“Okay how about this,” Jinyoung tries again. He sits up and shakes his head as if that’d dispel the alcohol swirling his vision. “Time...time doesn’t exist.”
“Really…” Jaebum says with one raise of his eyebrow.
“Really, telling time doesn’t exist, it’s made up. There’s just the earth revolving around the sun, the time is just shadows, Mr Im Jaebum. Time is a social construct.”
“I don’t think that’s right,” Jaebum comments but Jinyoung’s already nose deep into his next shot and doesn’t hear him.
He slams his small glass onto the table and gasps, “You ever think about death, Mr Immigrant Lawyer Im Jaebum?”
“Please god, just Jaebum-”
Jaebum has a frown on his face, and he really looks like he wants to be anywhere but here right now. “I guess...sometimes, doesn’t everyone?”
“Sure...sure, but have you ever seen someone die? And I don’t mean the kind of death where they fade away, and it’s natural and hoo-ha but the kind of abrupt, non-sense death. The wrong time and place death, the if one thing was different that day they’d be alive right now kind of death.” Jinyoung’s words are slurring and they weave into each other, he barely manages to take a breath in-between.
“Are you talking about the case?” Jaebum asks, his tone a lot softer than before.
“Am I? I guess I am…” Jinyoung says, going to grab the soju bottle but Jaebum has his hands around it too and they’re at a stall. “I thought you said I could drink as much as I want.”
“That was before I realised you’re trying to drink your feelings away,” Jaebum says unpleased, tugging the glass bottle away from Jinyoung’s reach.
“You know, I could just call the waiter for another bottle, right?”
“This is not why I invited you to drink,” Jaebum says the words so low Jinyoung thinks he wasn’t meant to hear them, but he did.
“Really? Because this is why I agreed to come,” Jinyoung shrugs, going to stuff his hands into the plate of fries already gone cold. “So why did you invite me out?” He asks, shovelling a handful into his mouth.
Jaebum loosens his grip on the bottle for a moment, dragging his finger up to slide around the opening. “I wanted to talk to you,” He says and bites his lip like he was holding something back. Jinyoung would push him if he wasn’t struggling to keep himself up right now.
“What did you want to talk about?” Jinyoung huffs, forcing his eyes wide open and propping his elbows up on the table to lean in and focus.
“I wanted to ask why you were in Bangkok but I guess I have the answer to my question now,” Jaebum says pouring himself a shot of soju.
“Ah yes, I was shipped away because apparently I was being useless at the station,” Jinyoung snorts, stuffing another handful of fries into his face.
“Was it the first time you saw a dead body?” Jaebum asks, taking down his shot.
Jinyoung watches with an intense stare as Jaebum brings the glass to his lips, his bottom lip pressed against the edge, his adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. Jinyoung almost slipped his head out of his hand and slammed into the table.
“Y-yes? No...no...yes, kind of,” Jinyoung mutters, rubbing at his eyelids. “I’ve seen elderly people you know dead in their house and stuff, but we haven’t had a murder case in Seongdong since I was appointed to work there, but also this case was….I….” Jinyoung’s eyebrows knit together, he’s at a loss for words and no amount of alcohol can seem to help him now.
Jaebum nods like he understands, “You blame yourself.”
“I know it’s not my fault but…” Jinyong mumbles and then drops into his arms. “Ugh, this sucks.”
“Well, some good did come out of this,” Jaebum says and Jinyoung looks up to give him a horrified look.
“What good could come out of someone’s death?”
“No, no…” Jaebum slaps his palm to his forehead. “I meant drinking with you, for god sake. You were such an awkward mess before it almost killed me, you couldn’t get your vowels out, I was about to shoot myself talking to you.”
“Well, sorry. Not everyone is a chatterbox with a stranger, are you forgetting this is like our third meeting?”
“Aren’t third meetings enough now to be comfortable?” Jaebum cocks his head to the side and Jinyoung doesn’t know how to read the little half smile that appears on his face.
“If alcohol is involved sure,” Jinyoung nods, waving his empty soju glass in the air. Jaebum gives him a narrowed look and reluctantly goes to pour him a shot.
“So you’re telling me you're just naturally inept with people?”
“I think the person naturally inept with people is you,” Jinyoung snorts, almost spilling all the alcohol in his hand.
Jinyoung swings back his glass and groans inwardly as the alcohol burns its way down his throat. “You’re rude and blunt, you make off-side comments, and your face is constantly…blank, then you hand people your business card and ask for drinks on your second meeting. Isn’t that weird?”
“Is it?” Jaebum almost smiles again but he hides it quickly in his glass of water. “I’ve only done it with you though.”
“What?” Jinyoung hiccups. “I think I’ve drunk too much, I’m hearing things.”
Jaebum outright laughs then and Jinyoung is so startled he almost finds himself toppling out of his seat. “It hasn’t even been an hour yet and you’re already gone?” Jaebum shakes his head and goes to get up off his seat. “Well, it’s okay, I only wanted to confirm something anyway.”
“Confirm what?” Jinyoung grumbles, giving Jaebum an unsatisfied look as he made his way round the table. Jinyoung jumps as Jaebum wraps his hand around his arm and tugs on him to get off of the chair. Jinyoung, drunk and dazed, follows him blindly and wobbly as Jaebum goes to pay for the drinks. The two make their way out of the dimly lit bar and out onto the streets of Gangnam, where the roads are buzzing with lights and cars, and everything seems alive.
“Confirm whaaaaat-” Jinyoung whines as Jaebum goes into his pocket and takes out a cigarette. “Ugh, don’t do that, it’s attractive.”
Jaebum freezes just as he brings the butt of the cigarette to his lips and gives Jinyoung a side look. “Attractive? Don’t most people say it’s ugly or unhealthy?”
“Well, yeah, it’s bad and unhealthy but it’s attractive, so don’t do it,” Jinyoung mumbles the words almost incoherently, struggling too much to just stay on his feet. He goes down to bend between his knees and looks out onto the road with fiery concentration. Sobering up was proving to be hard.
Jaebum’s chuckling under his palm when he decides to put the cigarette away and join Jinyoung on the ground. “What else do you find attractive?”
“Yeah, like beauty spots but on the face, besides the eye or the mouth, chin area,” Jinyoung says, not seeing the absolute wide smile that grew on Jaebum’s face.
“Is that so?”
“Tis so…” Jinyoung nods, the world spinning for a harsh moment he almost thinks he’s hallucinating when he see’s Youngjae.
“Jinyoung?” Youngjae calls out and his voice is so clear and loud Jinyoung thinks his imagination is far better than he gives it credit for. “What are you doing here?” Youngjae moves closer, and that’s when Jinyoung see’s the girl on his arm, peering curiously at him.
Not a hallucination.
“Ugh…” Jinyoung rocks back and gives his face a harsh rub. “Youngjae?”
“Jinyoung?” Youngjae blinks, giving the front of the bar behind them a look. “Were you drinking?”
“Yup,” Jaebum answers for him, pushing himself up onto his feet.
“Sorry, who are you?”
“Im Jaebum, a friend of Jinyoung’s,” Jaebum says smoothly, his familiar stoic face back on as he addresses Youngjae. Jinyoung almost finds himself scoffing at the word friend.
“Choi Youngjae, I work with Jinyoung,” Youngjae smiles brightly, despite the aloof manner Jaebum greeted him with.
“Up, up, up, help me up,” Jinyoung demands, waving his hand around in the air until Jaebum grabs him and pulls him up with one strong swoop. “Woah…”
“Are you drunk, Jinyoung?” Youngjae asks amused.
“Maybe,” Jinyoung breathes, eyeing the girl behind Youngjae. “Your girlfriend?”
“Ah, right, this is Im Nayeon,” He says, giving the girl a gentle tug for confidence. She bows at them and smiles brightly, the kind of bright smile that could freaking end wars and make Jinyoung want to dig out his own grave.
“Well, we wouldn’t want to interrupt your date,” Jaebum says a little coldly, he’s taken the cigarette back out of his pocket and lit it, eager to suck in the fumes. “I was just going to get Jinyoung a taxi home.”
“Ah, I see, well I’ll see you at the station next week, then?” Youngjae smiles and gives Jinyoung a friendly tap to the shoulder before continuing to make his way down the road, his girlfriend locked onto his arm.
“Well at least I got that confirmed,” Jaebum mutters, chucking the cigarette butt onto the ground, stomping on it with the heel of his shoe.
“Confirmed what?” Jinyoung demands as Jaebum goes to latch onto his arm again and drag him to the side of the road where he takes a hand out to hail a cab.
One comes to their rescue in an instant and as it parks on the curb Jaebum turns to Jinyoung. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” He says as if it was almost natural to assume he would.
“Why would you call me?” Jinyoung says under his breath as Jaebum goes to reach out for the door handle. “Also, what did you confirm?” He snaps now, standing in the opening of the door, feeling so close to slapping that monotone expression off Jaebum’s face.
Jaebum considers him for a moment, his face doesn’t move, but his eyes do like they’re reading something. Then out of nowhere he leans over the top of the car door and presses his lips against Jinyoung’s. “This?” He says like he wasn’t entirely sure of his own answer. “Have a goodnight Jinyoung.” He says finally before shoving Jinyoung into the car seat and shutting the door.
Jinyoung sits frozen in the back of the car, he hears the cab driver say something but he doesn’t respond. He’s just thinking about what the fuck just happened.
There’s a list of things that one should not wake up to when they’ve got a hangover. One is the awful smell of food, second is a complete orchestra of noises, and third, human presence. So Jinyoung’s really wondering exactly how Yugyeom manages to check all those like he’s purposefully looking to get killed.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jinyoung squawks from the entry of his bedroom. He’s staring past his living room and towards the small kitchen Yugyeom is creating a ruckus in.
Yugyeom pokes his head out of the door, a stupid smile on his face. “Oh, you’re up. Wow, you look like shit.” He says as he goes back into the kitchen, a second later he’s coming out with a stone pot of steaming stew and placing it on Jinyoung’s dining table for two. “Sit, sit.” Yugyeom gestures as he hops back into the kitchen, collecting utensils, side dishes, and two bowls of rice.
“You’re not going to try and lie and say you cooked all this, right?” Jinyoung deadpans as Yugyeom settles a jug of water onto the table.
“I wasn’t but thanks. Now, sit down.” Yugyeom orders and Jinyoung obliges only because there’s no way in hell he’s going to be able to get back to sleep until he finds a way to drag Yugyeom out of the front door.
“What are you doing here?” Jinyoung asks with narrowed eyes.
Yugyeom settles into the seat before him and quickly goes to dig into his rice, “Your mum asked me to come and heat up some food for you. I picked these up from her house.” He says with a full mouthful.
“Chew with your mouth shut,” Jinyoung grumbles, taking his own spoon to the stew before him. He brings it to his mouth and hums, he’d missed his mother’s cooking.
“Why’d you look like you just crawled out from hell?” Yugyeom asks.
“I’m just hungover,” Jinyoung sighs. “I drank too much soju last night.”
“Ah...after the court case?” Yugyeom nods, tapping a pair of chopsticks to his lips. “I heard about the ruling. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Jinyoung says unconvincingly, stabbing his own chopsticks into a piece of tofu.
“That’s why you got drunk out of your mind yesterday and woke up with a raging hangover?” Yugyeom chides, a wide grin on his face.
“Do you want a bullet in your foot or something?” Jinyoung snaps, shoving his spoon into Yugyeom’s bowl of rice.
“My bad, my bad,” Yugyeom squeals, picking up his bowl off the table and eating out of his hand.
Jinyoung’s glaring at him but fully ready to dig back into his own food when his phone goes off in the distance. He thinks of ignoring it but it keeps on going and now Jinyoung may just put a bullet in Yugyeom’s foot for the heck of it.
“I know what you’re thinking and don’t do it,” Yugyeom warns from across Jinyoung. Jinyoung just offers him a thin glare and gets up off the table.
His phone keeps ringing persistently and Jinyoung really thinks about just hanging up until he see’s the caller ID; Mr Lawyer. Now he’s staring at his phone skeptically, he didn’t actually take Jaebum seriously when he said he’d call him the next day, then again he didn’t expect to come out of last night with a kiss either.
“Hello?” Jinyoung gruffly answers.
“Jinyoung?” Jaebum’s voice is flat on the other end, and it pisses Jinyoung off beyond belief. “Didn’t think you were gonna pick up.”
“Thought I’d do it just to hung up on you.” Jinyoung snaps, a headache starting to buzz from the right side of his head.
Jaebum coughs out a laughter, “Is that so? You still mad?”
“Still mad? I didn’t have nearly enough time last night to be mad before I fell asleep, so here I am, mad.” Jinyoung bitterly says, staring down at his bedroom wall with a glare he’d think could burn a hole.
“Here you are,” Jaebum hums. “Are you that upset I kissed you?”
“Did you mean sexual assault?”
“Oooo, is that Officer Park talking or your hurt pride?” Jaebum remarks and Jinyoung wants to retort with something so bad but he’s not got a single comeback for that. Matter of fact is, he is just so freaking embarrassed. “Well, I’m glad sober Jinyoung is talking to me now without pausing for intervals every second.”
“This is hungover and annoyed Jinyoung actually,” Jinyoung corrects.
“Ok, so this is my favourite Jinyoung so far then,” Jaebum muses, his voice low and annoyingly charming from across the line.
Jinyoung looks down to give his phone a glare. “Funny, I don’t think I like any of these Jaebums.”
“Great, let’s meet for coffee in an hour?”
“Did you even hear what I just said?”
“Was that a yes? I’ll text you the address. Bye.” Jaebum says finally and infuriatingly he actually hangs up on Jinyoung and sends him an address. Jinyoung stares at his phone for a long time, wondering for a while if this is really just a corny dream induced by alcohol.
He sighs as he chucks his phone onto his bed and gives his bedroom door a look. “Yugyeom…” He calls out.
The cafe Jaebum suggested to meet at was a good twenty minutes away by bus. Jinyoung thinks it’s too much effort for a cup of coffee but he’s already halfway there.
To Jinyoung’s surprise when he arrives he finds that Jaebum is already there, sitting at a table by the large ceiling-to-floor windows, making notes in his journal. He’s wearing slim fitted trousers and a white button up top loose at the collar, he looks like he’d just come from work.
As if he could sense him, Jaebum pauses what he’s doing and looks up through the window at Jinyoung. He tenses up when their eyes meet but Jaebum just looks relaxed as he takes a hand and gestures for Jinyoung to come in, like he was cooing for a cat to approach him. Jinyoung thinks he might just bite.
“Good morning,” Jaebum says smoothly as Jinyoung goes to take a seat across from him. Jaebum shuts his leather bound journal then and stuffs it into his shoulder bag that’s settled onto the ground.
“Morning,” Jinyoung mumbles and leans back into his chair with a look of indifference.
Jaebum’s face drops, “Oh god, don’t tell me this is sober Jinyoung?”
“Is there something wrong with sober Jinyoung?” Jinyoung retorts, feeling moderately offended.
“Not really, he’s kind of cute, but I prefer the Jinyoung that I can actually get to know,” Jaebum says, leaning over the table with that ridiculously good looking face of his, the same face Jinyoung’s imagining clipping laundry pegs to.
“Did you just say cute?”
Jinyoung sighs, “Mr Jaebum...I’ve been wondering for a bit now, but are you interested in me or something?”
“I am, was it not obvious?” Jaebum blinks, as if he had a right to be surprised in this situation.
“I-wah...you…” Jinyoung bites his lip and places his forehead in his hands. “You constantly look like you’d rather be anywhere but where you currently are.”
“That’s probably because I do,” Jaebum shrugs. “But I like being around you.”
“We’ve only met-”
“Four times now, I think we’re progressing pretty well, don’t you?” Jaebum half smiles, and it’s so close to menacing Jinyoung thinks about bolting straight out of this cafe but something tugs at him to stay. Maybe the butterflies in his stomach, no, definitely the butterflies in his stomach.
“I’m a man you know,” Jinyoung tries to argue rather unconvincingly.
“You like men though, don’t you?”
“That is completely…correct, jesus christ.” Jinyoung grumbles and then abruptly gets up onto his feet. “I’m going to go get a drink.”
“Cappuccino for me, thanks,” Jaebum says and Jinyoung pauses mid-step to ponder the consequences of slapping a lawyer upside the head.
He goes to order their drinks, all the whilst Jinyoung’s thinking about how this is the first time in his life a man has ever outright confessed to him, and not entirely sure if he can even take it seriously. It wasn’t that Jinyoung is keen about hiding his sexuality but at the same time he rarely found the kind of person he thought he could pursue, crushes quickly turning into faded memories.
There’s nothing but the sound of the steamer and the dulled down sound of a radio filling up this small cafe, it eases Jinyoung’s headache. He’s peaking at Jaebum from over his shoulder as he waits for their drinks to be made. He decides then that he likes this sort of image, Jaebum sitting comfortably in his chair, looking out the window, the soft ambience and deep brown colours that circle him. It’s a calming sort of image.
“Your drinks.” The barista says, sliding a cappuccino and a latte across the counter. Jinyoung smiles at him and nods, taking the drinks and making his way back to Jaebum.
He settles into his seat feeling a lot more mellow than he did getting off of it, and Jaebum seems to notice it. “You alright there?” Jaebum asks, taking the cappuccino off its plate and bringing it to his lips.
“Yeah…” Jinyoung mumbles, mirroring Jaebum’s movements and bringing his latte up to drink.
“Is interval Jinyoung back now? Do I really to piss you off every time I want you to talk?” Jaebum huffs, looking incredibly disappointed.
Jinyoung rolls his eyes, “You really don’t have to try and piss me off, you do it naturally.”
“You talk like you’re not incredibly attracted to me,” Jaebum says, and Jinyoung thinks he’s meant to be joking but he just sits back in his chair with this incredibly serious look and this time Jinyoung doesn’t hold back when the laughter bubbles in him. “Am I that amusing?”
“You say the most ridiculous stuff with such a straight face,” Jinyoung wheezes, grappling the coffee table before him for support.
Jaebum licks his lips and looks out the window, fighting his own smile off his face. “Well is it okay to assume we’ll continue to meet then?”
Jinyoung coughs out the end of his laughter and looks up at Jaebum, “Are you really interested in me?”
Jaebum’s face drops and now he looks like he wants to shove his heel in Jinyoung’s face, “Do you really think I have enough time to waste chasing some guy I met in Bangkok?”
“Exactly...I’m just some guy you met in Bangkok, besides it wasn’t like we really hit it off that well,” Jinyoung says, giving the back of his neck an awkward rub.
“We didn’t?” Jaebum innocently asks. “I thought we hit it off well.”
“I got to search up your definition for well,” Jinyoung mutters under his breath and takes his latte up to sip.
“I saw you…” Jaebum suddenly says. “You put money in that old ladies jar at the festival without her looking.”
“You did it, thinking no one was looking but I saw you,” Jaebum says, not looking at Jinyoung now. “It just made me think ah, I want to get to know this guy.”
If Jinyoung could set himself on fire right about now, he thinks he would. There was so many forms of embarrassment, and Jinyoung was starting to learn about each one so painfully hanging around Jaebum.
“Is that it?” Jinyoung groans and lets his head drop into his hands, he could feel his face burning up.
“Hm, so let’s meet from now on?” Jaebum hums, a cocky expression on his face as he leans over the table and places his chin into his hand.
Jinyoung makes a strangled sort of sound and looks up at Jaebum only to look away again, “What? Like a relationship...or something.”
“We don’t have to label it right now but it’ll happen eventually, don’t you think?” Jaebum says surely, a wide smile completely taking over his face and in response Jinyoung feels his heart completely detach itself and drop into his stomach.
“Oh boy,” Jinyoung says breathlessly and it makes Jaebum laugh. Jinyoung finding he likes the sound a little too much.
Eventually comes a lot quicker than Jinyoung was anticipating. Then again, the other party was Jaebum, so in hindsight he should have seen it coming. It’s honestly just their third ‘official’ date when Jaebum asks Jinyoung to come over, and Jinyoung couldn’t say no any quicker.
“Why not?” Jaebum asks, pinching at the bridge of his nose.
They’re standing outside a barbecue store, having just had pork belly and soju shots. This time not enough for Jinyoung to feel like he was going to dive head first into the pavement.
“God knows what coming over to your house could mean,” Jinyoung accuses with a point of his finger.
“You haven’t let me come within a metre radius of you since the night at the bar,” Jaebum snaps, taking a threatening step towards Jinyoung. “Are you really going to be like this?”
Jinyoung takes a step back, a flat palm out towards Jaebum. “Begone.”
“Begone!? Am I demon!?” Jaebum squawks.
Jinyoung flinches, taking another awkward step back. He’s realised over the last two weeks that Jaebum has a short temper, to which was particularly hilarious to Jinyoung because for someone so persistent and annoying to have a temper that flickered like a switch, you’d really think he’d realise how goddamn infuriating he could be.
“Jaebum, I’m an innocent person, okay? I won’t do anything...till I’m married.” Jinyoung grins the last part and quickly swivels on his heels to make an exit.
Not that he is surprised to find Jaebum pulling at his elbow, but he does let out a surprised squeak when he gets flung back round and slams into Jaebum’s chest. “Married? You do realise that we can’t get married even if we want too, right?”
Jinyoung gasps and jumps back, “Married? Did you actually take me seriously just then, we’ve just been meeting for like two weeks?”
“How many times have I told you that Bangkok does not count?” Jinyoung retorts, bearing his teeth but Jaebum just continues to stare at him with the kind of look that could kill about a dozen sheep. Why sheep?
“You’re absolutely infuriating, do you know that?” Jaebum huffs, rubbing at the space between his eyebrows.
“That’s actually super funny coming from you,” Jinyoung shoots back and immediately regrets it because Jaebum’s now looking at him like he’ll actually kill him. Jinyoung can’t find the will to move as Jaebum makes his way towards him, taking a hand out to Jinyoung’s face only to press his hand against his cheeks, puckering up his lips.
“Here I was wondering all this time why you didn’t talk and it’s because you talk too much?” Jaebum’s smirking as he says this, and that always means bad news.
Despite this fact, Jinyoung still finds himself talking back. “This is really quite a funny conversation. Because for someone that looks like they’d rather be eight feet in the ground than walk on this planet all the time, you spend a lot of energy in getting angry.”
Jaebum leans in real close to Jinyoung now and Jinyoung could totally run away and not look back but he’s sort of anticipating too. “You’re really not going to come over mine?” Jaebum says with a raise of his eyebrow, completely ignoring Jinyoung’s previous statement, or saving it for later.
“I’m not, I got work tomorrow.” Jinyoung mumbles between his pouting lips and he almost winces as Jaebum pinches his cheeks closer together.
“Fine,” Jaebums says with an incredible amount of reluctancy and gives him a kiss. It’s wet and sloppy but Jinyoung feels Jaebum’s laughter in his mouth and immediately decides this is what a kiss is. When Jaebum pulls back, he’s biting his lip and trying to hide the evident giddiness in his face and Jinyoung also decides then he is in fact incredibly god-damn infatuated with this man. “I’ll help you get a taxi.” Jaebum says into the fist he made, quickly dropping the other hand gripping Jinyoung’s face to grab his hand.
Jinyoung doesn’t even try to hide the smile on his face.
Jinyoung finds himself dazing out a lot these days when he’s on patrol. In fact the honk of a car scares Jinyoung so bad he’s just jumped straight into a lamp post. “Jesus,” He hisses, holding his forehead as he doubles over in pain.
“Jinyoung, are you okay? How did you even manage that?” Youngjae asks from behind him, he’s trying to get a look at Jinyoung’s face but he’s practically got his head between his knees.
“I’ve got no clue,” Jinyoung groans, rubbing vigorously at his forehead.
“Come on, let’s get back to the station.” Youngjae laughs softly, giving his friend a pat to his back.
“Go on without me, I think I cracked my skull open,” Jinyoung grumbles, the inside of his head is rattling and as a result everything seems to look like the inside of a kaleidoscope.
“Come on,” Youngjae insists, grabbing Jinyoung by the puffy arms of his jacket, he starts leading him towards the main road where the police station is just on the other side and gives him a worried side look. “You alright?”
“Depends what you’re asking about,” Jinyoung says stiffly, giving the crossing ahead of him a long look. Evidently it was easier said than done to think Jinyoung could put the accident behind him and go on with life like he didn’t indirectly cause the death of another human being. These morbid thoughts especially hit him when he’s challenged with crossing a street that clearly indicates to walk via the friendly green man and yet Jinyoung could never feel more frozen than he does at these moments.
“Jinyoung…” Youngjae pitifully calls out and it’s that tone in his voice that pushes Jinyoung to take that step off the curb, puffing out his chest as he tries not to look at the cars waiting patiently for the green light.
He gets to the other side feeling incredibly ridiculous and embarrassed but decides to pin it on the fact he’d just walked straight into a lamp post and continues to make his journey to the police station.
“You need an ice pack,” Youngjae says once the two of them get under the blinding white light of the station. “Your forehead looks like it’s going to start shooting lazers.”
Jinyoung goes to his desk where he dives into the seat and sprawls out his legs, drowning in the collars of his jacket. “It’s fine, I’m heading home anyway.”
Youngjae evidently ignores him. Jinyoung just hears him as he disappears into the small kitchen on the other side of the station, where a series of rattling followed by the slamming of the fridge door is heard. Another moment later and Youngjae’s coming out with a towel filled with ice.
“Here,” Youngjae says and pops it onto Jinyoung’s forehead.
“Thanks,” Jinyoung sheepishly says as he goes to grab the towel from Youngjae’s hand. “I’m pathetic, aren’t I?”
“You’re not pathetic, Jinyoung, you’re human.” Youngjae responds, sitting onto his own wheely chair from beside Jinyoung.
“Being human sucks then.” Jinyoung huffs and leans back into his chair, closing his eyes.
Youngjae snorts and goes to pat Jinyoung comfortingly on the shoulder. “There, there.”
When Jinyoung opens his eyes he finds himself greeted with a brown briefcase. He looks at the hand holding it and finds Jaebum on the other side of their desks with the heaviest frowns on his face. “Good to see you too?”
“You’re getting off work, right?” Jaebum says, ignoring Youngjae completely. He lowers the briefcase to push up at the sleeve of his blazer and give his watch a look. “Let’s go. I’ll take you home.”
“Okay...I just need to get changed.” Jinyoung says, a little taken back by Jaebum’s demanding tone.
“I’ll join you,” Youngjae hurriedly says, scurrying past Jinyoung and quickly to the back room where lockers are aligned by the wall and small curtained box rooms are found for people to change comfortably.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jinyoung says as he follows Youngjae in and shuts the door behind him.
“He scares the living daylight out of me,” Youngjae whimpers as he tip toes to his locker and starts grabbing his casual clothes.
“You can’t be serious? Jaebum?” Jinyoung laughs as he starts to unzip his jacket.
“It’s not funny, he constantly looks like he wants to kill someone or kill himself,” Youngjae shivers, hopping out of his bottoms. “How did you guys even get close?”
“I met him in Thailand and we met by accident at the courthouse,” Jinyoung tells him.
“And now he’s walking you home?” Youngjae asks with a raise of his eyebrow and Jinyoung doesn't know what he's insinuating but he’s ignoring it either way.
“He may seem pretty cold but he’s all fluffy on the inside,” Jinyoung laughs, hoping to swiftly change the subject.
“If you say so…” Youngjae murmurs with a shrug of his shoulders. “Anyway, on a different topic Jinyoung, don’t you think you might need to see...a doctor? You know about- I know it’s none of my business but it seems like it’s still bothering you a lot.”
Jinyoung tenses up, his hands now stiffly unbuttoning his top. “I know but…” Jinyoung breathes and rolls out his shoulder. “I keep thinking I’m just going to get over it eventually, maybe I just need time.”
“Maybe you need help.”
Jinyoung gives Youngjae a hopeless kind of look and slips out of his top, sighing. “Maybe.”
“What were you guys talking about?” Jaebum asks once they get on the road. He’s got one hand on the wheel and the other propped on his door, a cigarette between his fingers. Jinyoung’s watching him from the passenger seat as he sucks on the roll up and breathes out the smoke through the opening in his window.
“Talking about? Who?” Jinyoung asks, far too distracted by the way Jaebum’s lips circle the cigarette.
Jaebum gives him a look from the side and Jinyoung see’s reluctancy in his expression, or was it uncomfort? “With Youngjae, I heard you guys talking in the changing room.”
“Ah, he was questioning why a supposed guy friend was coming all the way to my work just to take me home. Not like I’m going to be insistent on hiding it, but could you be a little more subtle?” Jinyong huffs, pouting up his lips a little in hopes to lighten the mood but Jaebum doesn’t seem to ease up and now Jinyoung’s feeling uncomfortable.
“Why? Do you not want anyone to know you’re dating someone or something?” Jaebum asks almost through his teeth, and if Jinyoung hadn’t been around him for so long the past two month, he’d think this was just Jaebum naturally, but Jinyoung could sense the tension coming off him.
“No...but I’m not keen on finding out how’d they’d react to it, either.” Jinyoung mumbles, now a little worried anything he says now will set Jaebum off.
“I see,” Is all he says however and Jinyoung slides back into his seat.
“Is everything okay, Jaebum?”
“I don’t know, you just seem really….off since you came into the station.” Jinyoung mutters, treading carefully.
Jaebum makes a harsh turn to the right and before Jinyoung knew it, they were already outside his apartment building. “I’m fine, just a....rough day at work.” Jaebum says finally, unbuckling his seatbelt. Jinyoung follows suit and slips out of the car, peering at Jaebum from over the roof of the vehicle.
“Uh...what are you doing?”
“Uh...I’m coming in,” Jaebum mocks as he locks his car with a beep of his keys and starts making his way to the entrance of the building.
“I don’t remember inviting you in,” Jinyoung notes, catching up to Jaebum as they enter the yellow lit hallway where a series of staircases leads up to four stories worth of apartments, and beside it a lift Jaebum goes to press a button for.
“If I was going to wait for you to invite me in I’d be waiting forever,” Jaebum says, stuffing a hand into the pocket of his long grey coat. Jinyoung stares at the deformed reflection of the two of them in the lifts door. Jaebum stood so straight and tall, his coat hanging just past his knees making him look so professional and suave, whilst beside him Jinyoung stood in worn out jeans and an old jumper.
Jinyoungs tugging down at his sleeves consciously when the lift arrives. Jaebum’s already made his way into the opening and he’s staring at Jinyoung from across the doors with that stoic expression of his that tells Jinyoung he’s thinking hard about something. “Are you going to come in or what?” Jaebum says and goes to grab Jinyoung by the wrist, tugging on him hard enough to make him trip up.
Jinyoung lands against Jaebum’s chest and Jaebum makes sure to keep him there. “What floor?” Jaebum asks, his voice close to Jinyoung’s ear.
“F-four…” Jinyoung swallows and goes to make space between them but Jaebum just tugs him back closer after pressing the floor button.
“What are you doing?” Jinyoung murmurs against his coat, he finds he likes the smell, a sweet bitterness, like wood and comfort.
“You don’t have to be so tense,” Jaebum sighs and his breath travels down the exposed skin of Jinyoung’s neck. “I’m not going to do anything, I promise.” He says reassuringly before the lift doors open with a ding and the two of them are at the opening of a hallway leading to a set of four doors.
Jinyoung gives Jaebum a brief skeptical look before looking down at where Jaebum latched onto his wrist. He moves his hand and shuffles it out of Jaebum’s grip to hold him by the palm and turns to lead the way. “It’s room two-oh-four.” He says and looks over his shoulder to find the tiniest of a smile on Jaebum’s face. “What you smiling for?”
“Is that ‘it’s room two-oh-four’ a hidden message for visit me more often?” Jaebum chimes, the smile on his face growing wider now, his eyes curving and Jinyoung can’t help but find himself smiling back.
“Whatever,” He grumbles and uses his free hand to grab his keys out of his pocket.
Jinyoung opens the door to his apartment slowly, now feeling a little conscience about letting Jaebum in where he can see him in full exposure. Jaebum, however, seems entirely eager and quickly makes his way inside ahead of Jinyoung.
“Woah, it’s so neat,” Jaebum comments first thing after slipping off his shoes and heading into the living room. Jinyoung follows up from behind him and peers over at the relatively small space. It’s just a box room, barely able to fit a sofa and a television, some cabinets and shelves pressed against the wall, on one side are the doors to his bedroom and bathroom, and the other side leads to a tightly fit kitchen. Jinyoung thinks it’s probably nothing in comparison to Jaebum’s apartment, not that he’s seen it.
“You know I walked in and thought this is Jinyoung,” Jaebum says, his eyes almost glimmering as he stares out onto the living space.
Jinyoung goes to slide past him and heads towards the kitchen. “Youngjae said the same thing, you know. Not that I really get it...want anything to drink?” He asks as he goes to latch onto the fridge’s handle but he doesn’t get to open it because Jaebum’s leaning over him, pressing himself against Jinyoung’s back. “Jaebum?”
Jaebum doesn’t say anything and instead tugs on Jinyoung to turn round. “You said you weren’t going to do anything.” Jinyoung lightly says as Jaebum tucks his chin into the hollow of Jinyoung’s neck and wraps his arms around him into a hug. “Jaebum?”
“Just- let’s stay like this for a bit,” Jaebum says softly, his voice low and husky in Jinyoung’s ear and Jinyoung just prays Jaebum doesn’t notice the goosebumps that rise on his skin. Jinyoung easily gives in and leans against Jaebum’s chest, placing his hands on the small of his back. He felt warm, the slow beat of his heart melding with Jinyoung’s and although the kitchen wasn’t exactly the most romantic of environments, Jinyoung couldn’t feel lighter than he did in this moment.
“Strange,” Jinyoung murmurs, his own voice a deep hum in his throat.
“What is?” Jaebum sighs contently, tightening his grip around Jinyoung.
“You always seem to relax me for some reason.” Jinyoung says, closing his eyes. “It’s weird, like I don’t think about anything else when you’re around.”
“Anything but me, I hope.” Jaebum chuckles softly and leans back slightly to look at Jinyoung’s face.
“Oh, don’t do that, nope, nope,” Jinyoung quickly says and sticks himself back to Jaebum’s chest.
“Don’t do what?” Jaebum laughs and the sound vibrates through his chest against Jinyoung.
“Look at my face...it’s embarrassing,” Jinyoung whines, tightening his grip on the other man’s waist.
“I know but I still want to see it,” Jaebum teases and goes to clap both hands against Jinyoung’s face, forcing his face up so Jaebum could get a clear look. “Cute.”
“I want to die,” Jinyoung mutters and Jaebum bursts out laughing, quickly letting go off his face to squeeze him back into a tight hug.
“Me too, me too,” Jaebum sounds so giddy in Jinyoung’s ears and every thought he has about pushing him away and making a run for it is expelled in an instant. “By the way, I’ve got a question.”
“Do you have baby albums?”
Jinyoung now forces himself up to look at Jaebum, “No. No, we are not doing that. I think we’ve done enough embarrassing things to save up for an entire year.”
“I’d disagree, we have to do a lot more cringey stuff,” Jaebum says, nodding furiously.
Jinyoung leans back and narrows his eyes, “Who are you?”
A half smile grows on Jaebum’s face and quickly he goes to peck at Jinyoung’s cheek, “I will leave at that for our apparent cringe-filled night.” Jaebum says with a sigh and detaches himself from Jinyoung.
“You’re leaving?” Jinyoung asks as Jaebum starts making his way back to the front door.
“Disappointed?” Jaebum teases with a flash of his teeth. He looks down then as he slips on his shoes and Jinyoung takes the opportunity to walk up to him, place a hand on his shoulder and kiss him. It’s a soft brush, a gentle kiss and Jinyoung thrives off the surprise on Jaebum’s face but it only lasts briefly before Jaebum quickly presses himself up against Jinyoung.
“What are you doing?” Jaebum murmurs against the plush of their lips and Jinyoung finds himself tugging on Jaebum’s bottom lip instead of replying. Jaebum closes his eyes and Jinyoung feels a deep hum in his chest like he was holding himself back and Jinyoung found he couldn’t help but play with the odd show of restraint. Jaebum suddenly pushes himself back, his eyes shut tight together as he let’s out a hot breath. “I promised I wasn’t going to do anything, and I’m going to keep it.” Jaebum murmurs, taking his lips to Jinyoung’s forehead, he holds himself there for a long moment before giving each other a knock on the head.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jaebum says softly, brushing a thumb against Jinyoung’s cheek.
“See you,” Jinyoung says into his fist, feeling his face rising each second in temperature. He really didn’t know what came over him when he had initiated the kiss, the embarrassment having a delayed hit.
“Bye,” Jaebum says as he goes to close the door behind him ever so slowly.
When the door finally shuts, Jinyoung crumbles to the floor. “Ahhhh, what am I doing?” He whispers to himself. He has his fingers to his lips, rubbing at them furiously as if he could wipe away the feel of Jaebum but it just proves fruitless and now Jinyoung’s thinking about nothing but kissing Jaebum.
He feels light, ridiculously light, floating on clouds light, and wonders for a brief moment if he’s allowed to have the sort of happiness that didn’t feel fleeting. He doesn’t really understand how Jaebum made such a whimsical entrance to his life, but he definitely hopes it’s permanent.
Jinyoung doesn’t see Jaebum the next day, or the day after. In fact, he doesn’t see him for an entire week and he can’t say his agitation is settled by a couple of texts every day. Apparently things have gotten hectic at the firm he works at, a big company had hired them in hopes to win a case they have over some sort of foreign trading issues. Jaebum had tried to explain it to him over the phone one night but Jinyoung couldn’t say he was focusing on anything much but the sound of Jaebum’s voice, rather than the words.
After seeing Jaebum nearly every day for two months straight, Jinyoung has become a little more than restless when things got cut off so quickly. He didn’t think he was the needy, clingy time but his constant foul mood seems to be saying otherwise. Which he didn’t like at all. Jinyoung was fine before, he was a perfectly calm and capable human before Jaebum decided he liked Jinyoung a little too much and stuck to him enough to make a Jaebum shaped outline in Jinyoung’s side.
Evidently it gets a little too much, and Jinyoung ends up finding himself in front of a ridiculously large building in the middle of Yongsang just after he gets off work. Now, Jinyoung knew Jaebum worked in an incredible famous and well-reputed firm but he still guesses when you date someone at the bottom of the force you’d think that same someone would have come from a humble environment in the first place. Nothing about this place looks humble.
Jinyoung actually thinks about turning back and making his way home but the security guard at the front desk has already spotted him. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“I uh...uhm- I’m here to see Im Jaebum…?” Jinyoung mumbles, unsure.
“Im Jaebum?” The secuirity guard looks confused and Jinyoung curses himself, like the man would know every single person that walked in and out of this building.
“He’s a lawyer-”
The security guard claps his hand, “Ah, ah the firm! It’s on the third floor, are you a client or…?”
“Just a guest, I’m visiting one of the lawyers, is that okay?” Jinyoung asks.
“Of course, of course, just sign here and go on up.” The old man smiles kindly and Jinyoung feels just a little bit of the nerves settle.
When Jinyoung reaches the third floor he immediately regrets everything. If there was a way to feel more out of placed than Jinyoung did then, it’s be phenomenal because he currently feels like jumping out of the closest window thinking it would be better than the absolute frozen state he is now.
Everything glimmered around him; walls lined with shiny polished metal, desks made of laminated wood and glass, rooms walled with large windowpanes. The lights upon the ceiling are small but clutter in their hundreds, lighting the entire office in a dim but expensive look.
It’s late at night so there aren’t as many people around as Jinyoung thinks but for the ones that are here they’re in perfectly tailored suits, expensive ties, and lawyer badges. Jinyoung’s standing at the entrance in a pair of jeans and his best black buttoned down top and seriously contemplates catching the same lift back down before it disappears.
“Can I help you sir?” A polite, petite woman at the reception desk calls out to him. She’s smiling so wide like she couldn’t be more happy to see Jinyoung at that moment, nearly one in the morning.
“I’m looking for Im Jaebum?” Jinyoung gruffly says, taking an awkward step closer to her.
“Im Jaebum? Do you have an appointment?” She asks and Jinyoung wonders briefly who the hell would have an appointment at this time but answers her with a no anyway.
“Just visiting, if that’s alright, I’m a friend. I know he’s been busy so I thought I’d bring him some food,” Jinyoung says, lifting the plastic bag in his hand for show. He’d been clenching his fist so tightly for such a long time now he’d completely forgotten he’d bought over some rice balls he made that morning.
“Yes, no problem, his room is number six, just down the hall there.” She informs him, pointing in the direction she’s referring too.
Jinyoung bows and thanks her before making his way towards Jaebum’s office. Which is on full exposure. The entire front wall of his office and his door is made of glass, exposing the skeletons of his room. It’s an incredible mess. Either side of the walls are shelves, books and files stacked and cluttered. The floor open and covered with binded files and papers, his desk a flood of notes, a landscape of skyscrapers made of texts.
When Jinyoung quietly enters the office, he finds Jaebum’s lying limp on his desk, asleep in the folds of his arms. He’s sleeping soundly, nothing but his heavy breathing filling the space in the room. Jinyoung shuts the door quietly behind him and makes his way slowly to his desk where he takes a seat in what was the only relatively empty thing in the room.
Jaebum looks tired, his eyes dark with a lack of sleep and his complexion paler than usual. Jinyoung takes a gentle hand to his face, brushing away the strands of hair clearly left unkempt from a lack of brushing. He wonders just how many all nighters Jaebum’s been making here.
Jaebum’s eyes flutter for a brief second just as Jinyoung finds himself tracing the snake bite beauty spots on his eyelid. He stares at Jinyoung in his half-asleep state and goes to grab his hand tugging at it, he makes a nonsensical sound in his throat and brings Jinyoung’s hand to his lips. “You’re here?” He murmurs hoarsely and goes to tuck their interlocked hands under his cheek and shuts his eyes again.
Jinyoung’s smiling a little to himself, watching Jaebum as he opens his eyes again, a little more awake then he was before. It’s a couple of seconds later does Jaebum finally shoot up from his sleeping state and take in Jinyoung with wide yes. “You’re here!?” He jumps and rubs at his eyes furiously.
“You’re awake?” Jinyoung asks him and goes to grab the plastic bag from beside his leg, quickly taking out the wrapped up rice balls. “Good, now eat.”
“Wait what?” Jaebum grumbles, his eyebrows stitched together in the middle. “What’s going on?”
“I came here quickly to make sure you’re eating, sorry I couldn’t make anything better, I was in a rush this morning,” Jinyoung explains, unwrapping a ball and handing it to Jaebum. “I won’t bother you for long, just eat and I’ll go.”
Jaebum swallows down a breath, “You don’t have to sound like I'd find you a bother.” Jaebum says taking a hand out to grab the rice ball, but instead of bringing it to his lips to eat, he puts it down beside him on the desk and goes back to grab Jinyoung’s hand. “I missed you.”
Jinyoung bites his lip and nudges his hand, “Eat.”
Jaebum’s smiling widely now, using his free hand to start eating. “You made this for me? Wow, I feel loved.” He says between mouthfuls of rice and Jinyoung wants to act disgusted, but he can’t help but feel really giddy. Not that he was going to let Jaebum know that.
“How are you? You look like you haven’t slept all week…” Jinyoung asks, reaching over the desk to rub at the rice stuck to the end of Jaebum’s lips.
“I haven’t really.” Jaebum replies, licking at his lips. He’s stuffing his face now but despite that he hasn’t let go of Jinyoung’s hand.
“Eat comfortably,” Jinyoung says and tries to tug out of his grip but Jaebum just tightens his hold and shakes his head as if to say he doesn’t want to let go.
“What you been doing?” Jaebum asks, going to reach out for a new rice ball. “Damn, these are good.”
“It’s rice,” Jinyoung says with a roll of his eyes. “And the usual, work, home, work.”
“Missing me?” Jaebum smirks and Jinyoung cringes. “Well, of course you would be, otherwise you wouldn’t have come to visit me at...oh my god, it’s one in the morning. What are you doing here?”
Jinyoung raises an eyebrow at him and nods his head, gesturing to the food. “Just eat, I came after my shift anyway, it’s not a big deal.”
“You work until this late?” Jaebum frowns.
“We take turns, the station has to be open all day and night after all,” Jinyoung snorts, leaning his cheek into his other palm, he’s taken a focus now in rubbing his thumb to the back of Jaebum’s hand. “When are you done? With all this I mean?”
“Hmmm...three more days I think?” Jaebum says, chewing slowly. “Well our first court case is on Tuesday, after that, things should ease up, depending on how it goes.”
“I see,” Jinyoung says, trying hard not to show how displeased he is with the situation. It was enough to know he is a clingy type of person, he didn’t need Jaebum to realise and get tired of him.
“I missed you,” Jaebum says all of a sudden, looking Jinyoung in the eye. “Woah...I didn’t realise how much I did until I saw you. It’s easy when you’re bombarded with work. How am I going to stand another three days?”
“Can you shut up?” Jinyoung groans and tries to lean back but Jaebum’s latched onto his hand and he’s just frozen mid motion. “Why do you say the most cringey stuff with such a straight face, it kills me.”
“Well we’re both two really awkward people so one of us has to make up for it on the straightforward part,” Jaebum laughs, going to reach for a bottle of water but pausing immediately once he realises he has to let go of Jinyoung to unscrew the top. Jinyoung’s about to let go but Jaebum seems to have found a solution when he places the bottle between his legs to hold it and unscrews the top with his free hand.
“You’re ridiculous.” Jinyoung huffs.
“I’m smitten, actually.” Jaebum chides with a raise of his eyebrows and takes the bottle of water to his lips with a smirk.
Jinyoung snorts into his hand and Jaebum’s smirk has turned into a full blown smile now. He places the bottle of water back onto the bottle and with a content sigh he says, “Thank you for the food. Now come, come.” Jaebum gets up off his seat all of a sudden, stretching his hand over his desk so he doesn’t have to let go of Jinyoung as he makes his way round.
“What are you doing?” Jinyoung asks, getting up off his seat as Jaebums tugs at him, leading him to the sofa that’s been pressed up against the front of the office. It’s covered in notes and texts, files and the lot and Jaebum brushes them all off onto the floor with one swoop of his hand.
“Sit,” He demands and Jinyoung flops onto the sofa obediently. “Perfect.” He says finally before settling himself on the other end, and dropping himself onto Jinyoung’s lap, his head snuggling into his thighs.
Jinyoung sucks in a breath and doubles over, “W-what the hell are you doing?”
“Let me sleep...just for an hour.” Jaebum murmurs, sighing contently as he finds the right position on Jinyoung's lap.
Jinyoung finds himself stiff for a long time, unsure of where to put his hands and how far apart he can have his legs but in the end they become silly thoughts when Jaebum’s breath falls even and he falls asleep peacefully. Jinyoung stares down at him, the tips of his fingers brushing at the ends of his hair that fall on his face.
“Is it okay?” He finds himself whispering.
“Is what okay?” Jaebum murmurs, his eyes still shut.
“You’re still awake?”
“Half.” Jaebum hums and snuggles his face into Jinyoung's stomach. “What’s okay?”
Jinyoung takes his hand to tug gently at Jaebum’s earlobe, “Just wondering if it’s okay to feel this content.”
“Content? Do you mean happy Jinyoung?” Jaebum says.
“Yes.” Jinyoung honestly replies and Jaebum opens his eyes at the tone of his voice. He stares up at Jinyoung, reading his expression before pressing himself up on his hands so he can lean up to him and kiss him.
“It’s okay,” Jaebum whispers into his mouth and presses another kiss to him. “It’s okay.”
Insecurity is a funny type of thing, except it’s not funny at all, and it closely resembles maggots. It can grow in the happiest, the wealthiest and strongest of people and it tears them apart from the inside out. Jinyoung has always lived with insecurity, it essentially became something that he learnt was just a part of him, something that dwindles in the back of his head.
It’s something he learnt to live with, as much as it can twist his thoughts and twist his insides, he’s learnt to differentiate between putting himself down and being down. That is to say he didn’t think it settles in people like Jaebum. Confident, poised Jaebum, who has a successful paying job, friends in and out of work, and a relationship that so far as been smooth sailing for the last four months.
The thing about insecurity though is that it can be pretty much the elephant in the room. It could be something you’ve been raising for so long without realising until it’s so big, it completely takes over your mind.
Jinyoung thought he knew Jaebum well, four months isn’t a long time to some people, but to them it was enough time to become so knotted together, the thought of being apart, even for work, ached. And yet, Jinyoung still hadn’t seen the insects that had been rattling in Jaebum’s mind. Just as maybe he hadn’t seen the insects rattling in Jinyoung’s mind.
“Jaebum, you have to calm down,” Jinyoung snaps from across his living room. The second Jaebum barged into his place he’d started pacing like he was ready to chaff a grave in the middle of Jinyoung’s apartment.
He’d come to pick up Jinyoung from the police station, as he usually did when their shifts fit, or when Jaebum finished early. Unfortunately for Jinyoung, Jaebum had come the one moment Jinyoung was leaning over Youngjae, looking into his eye after he gave him a nice elbow to the face. Jaebum had not taken it well, which had then lead to Jinyoung getting dragged out of the police station with his uniform on and now they’re both in Jinyoung’s apartment, Jinyoung a lot of confused and Jaebum furious.
“Jaebum, would you just talk to me?” Jinyoung huffs, throwing his hat off his head and shuffling out of the stuffy jacket. “You hadn’t said a word in the car.”
“Talk? Talk, right, let’s talk,” Jaebum stammers and now Jinyoung is bewildered beyond belief because Jaebum does not stammer. “Actually, how about you talk?”
“What? I’m sorry as far as I’m concerned I just got dragged out of work in the wrong clothes and you’re angry for no reason-”
“No reason?” Jaebum scoffs, absolute fury on his face. “When are you going to tell me, Jinyoung?”
“Tell you what?”
“Tell me about your feelings for Youngjae.” He demands and now Jinyoung is struck with a completely new set of confusion. “When...were- jesus.”
“Uh...Jaebum, I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about. What? Youngjae? Is this your weird way of trying to spice up our relationship or something because I’m telling you this is not a great way to go about it.” Jinyoung tries to force out a laugh, awkwardly rolling up the sleeves of his button top.
Jaebum’s stopped pacing now, staring at Jinyoung with this ridiculous look of pain on his face. “I knew...I knew when we were first going out that you initially liked Youngjae, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I thought it would be easy once we started dating, you’d forget about him, but...am I wrong?”
“The only thing you’re wrong about...is everything you said just then,” Jinyoung retorts, his own ball of frustration now building up.
“Then it’s not true? You didn’t have any feelings for Youngjae?” Jaebum throws and now Jinyoung is frozen. “Jinyoung?”
“Okay, so it was a bit of a crush, like a tiny weensy bit-” Jinyoung makes a gesture with his hand but Jaebum’s already barrelling his way out of the apartment. “Jaebum! Jaebum!” But Jaebum keeps going until he slams the door behind him, the sound rattling through Jinyoung. “Oh, come on.”
Jaebum hasn’t spoken to Jinyoung for over four days now, despite the fifty missed calls Jinyoung has left him. Jinyoung’s thought about giving up and ignoring him but just as much as he’s been waiting to talk to Jaebum, he’s also realised what he must have been thinking this whole time, and it frustrates and upsets him.
His crush on Youngjae was so close to nothing it’s ridiculous. Jinyoung ultimately was lonely, any relationship he had didn’t last long and flings with men were so uncomfortable to him, he outright hadn’t had sex in over a year before meeting Jaebum. Youngjae was a comfort, someone he’d daydream about sometimes, but it wasn’t anything beyond fleeting. He didn’t think it was obvious but maybe Jaebum always saw more than he let on.
“You’ve been down these days,” Youngjae says as they make their way down a residential street, another casual patrol for the day. “Is it Jaebum again?”
“Again? What makes you think it’s Jaebum?” Jinyoung coughs awkwardly, straightening up his back.
Youngjae gives him a disbelieving look, “Because your mood seems to fluctuate in accordance to his appearances, and he hasn’t appeared in a while.”
“And what does that make me?”
“Upset? Annoyed? Frustrated? All three?” Youngjae hits the bullseye on the mark and Jinyoung can’t say anything at all to that. “Did you guys fight?”
“You make it sounds like we’re a couple or something,” Jinyoung laughs obnoxiously loud but immediately shuts up the second Youngjae throws him that flat look of his. “Yeah, we fought.”
“Did you apologise?”
“What makes you think it was my fault? How do you know he doesn’t need to apologize?” Jinyoung scoffs, feeling awfully defensive all of a sudden. The two of them make a turn onto the main road where traffic is thick, people heading home after work.
“Because he seems like a really careful type of person,” Youngjae says.
“Yeah, he seems like every move he does and everything he says he makes sure it doesn’t like affect you in anyway.” Youngjae explains. “Kind of like he’s protecting you?”
“You mean he’s holding himself back?” Jinyoung frowns, stuffing his hands into his pocket.
“No, I think you’d know better than me if he holds himself back but what I mean is that he cares about you, a lot. It’s obvious.” Youngjae says, and now that Jinyoung’s heard those words come from someone else, he realises like a baseball to the head how right he is.
There’s a loud honk then and the awful sound of tires screeching against the pavement. Jinyoung flinches so hard he falls back into Youngjae. “Oi, watch where you’re going!” Some man shouts out from his car window. Jinyoung and Youngjae both look to find a guy on a bike in the middle of the road, just at the crossing, struggling to get back on his feet.
“Jinyoung, don’t worry, I got it.” Youngjae says giving his friend a comforting pat.
“No...no it’s fine, I can help.” Jinyoung breathes and Youngjae gives him one thoughtful look before offering an encouraging nod.
Jinyoung doesn’t even knock before he enters Jaebum’s office. He’s secretly glad however Jaebum is alone and he hasn’t just bravely waltzed in on a meeting or something. Jinyoung had eventually decided that five days was long enough for Jaebum to get over himself and if he really was going to be persistent in not answering his calls then he was just going to corner him.
Jaebum’s looking up starstruck from his desk, and Jinyoung wants to feel all cocky and stuff but the second he see’s Jaebum he crumbles inside. Jesus, he missed him.
“Jinyoung, what are you doing here?” Jaebum gapes as he gets up off his chair and awkwardly stands behind his desk.
“You’re not answering my calls,” Jinyuong states flatly and he feels incredibly satisfied to see the guilty look on his face.
“I didn’t want to talk to you.” Jaebum retorts.
“Ouch.” Jinyoung sighs and goes to close the door behind him. “Well, I’m here so we’re going to have to talk.”
“Can we do this later? I’m in the middle of w-”
“So you can ignore me more and avoid me? I don’t think so, I’ve kind of held back enough for someone that just got accused of something and got no chance to explain any of it.” Jinyoung grumbles and then he takes a deep breath. “I was ready to come here with some speech about how shit you are and how this isn’t my fault because in all honesty, that whole Youngjae thing was blown waaay out of proportion.”
“I know.” Jaebums says.
“Wait what, you know? You weren’t meant to give in that easily.” Jinyoung huffs, dropping his hands to his side.
“I quickly realised my tantrum was just me projecting my insecurities on you, then I go too embarrassed to see you.” Jaebum mutters, giving the back of his neck an awkward scratch.
“Are you serious?” Jinyoung deadpans and Jaebum just avoids eye contact. “Well, anyway I thought about it for a while and I guess I can’t blame you. I probably made you feel really insecure without you realising, right?” Jinyoung says with a sigh.
Jaebum doesn’t reply, he’s just standing awkwardly where he is, tugging on the sleeves of his top. “Jaebum, I haven’t been in a lot of relationships, so I’m kind of just naturally awkward, you know.”
“I know,” Jaebum groans, rubbing his face with his palm. “I know but I couldn't help it, these past few months the more I fell for you the more I worried you were never going to even get close to my feelings. I started thinking about maybe you liked Youngjae more than I initially thought, or maybe you just weren’t into men and you strung along awkwardly.”
“That is the most stupid conclusion a person could come to,” Jinyoung retorts and it earns him a tired burst of laughter from Jaebum.
“I know, right? But I couldn’t help it.” Jaebum sighs again into his palm. “You didn’t like skinship, you wouldn’t let me stay over, it was just a struggle to get a text from you some days. I told myself it’s just because I was probably the first serious relationship you had and then I would start to think about your previous relationship and it just...kind of kept...going.”
Jaebum takes in a deep breath and Jinyoung’s now staring at him in bafflement. “Is this what happens behind that stone face of yours?”
“Fucking hell.” Jinyoung sighs. “Well, I guess that puts my insecurities away.”
“You had insecurities?” Jaebum asks.
“Do I have- of course I have insecurities, have you seen yourself.” Jinyoung gestures widely to Jaebum.
“What about me?”
“You literally glow. You constantly look like you’ve just got off a runway while I constantly look like I’m ready to take the bins out after a five hour nap. I’m always thinking what does he see in me? How long will it take till he realise he can find someone better?” Jinyoung admits with a heavy breath and puts his hands on his hips. “But it’s fine you know, I think even if it isn’t going to last long, I know at least it was real. I know you love me, and I love you.”
“You just said you loved me,” Jaebum says and walks round his desk, apparently now having un-nailed his feet from the ground.
“Yup, and I’m going to say that’s a silent acknowledgement that you love me too?” Jinyoung says unsurely, narrowing his eyes as Jaebum takes another step closer to him.
“I feel really dumb right now,” Jaebum murmurs and slowly goes to grab Jinyoung’s hands.
“You should.” Jinyoung says and quickly gives Jaebum a peck on the lips. “I love you.”
A smile, a ridiculously stupid wide smile spread on Jaebum’s face as he looks up at Jinyoung. “I love you too.”
“Thank god, otherwise this was going to be really awkward,” Jinyoung sighs in relief. Jaebum takes another step closer to him and wraps his arms around Jinyoung.
“I think I’ve really grown to love awkward,” Jaebum says into Jinyoung’s neck.
“You know Jaebum?” Jinyoung starts and Jaebum leans back to take a look at him.
“People die...you know, that’s a thing,” Jinyoung murmurs and it earns him a surprised look from Jaebum.
“Yeah, I know. Are you going somewhere with this? You’re kind of killing the mood.”
“Yeah, well what I mean is that people die. Sometimes it’s sudden, sometime it’s not, sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes it’s slow. My point being is that let’s not risk it, okay? We’re happy now so let’s just suck it all up and be happy for as long as we can before god knows what happen. Insecurities, fights, problems, they’ll happen but let’s get through them. Let’s move in together.” Jinyoung announces and it takes Jaebum a few seconds to catch up.
“I’m sorry, what?” Jaebum’s jaw is slack. “I feel like you were talking about one thing and then you said something completely different?”
“Yeah, it just came to my head. Let’s move in together.” Jinyoung says it more strongly the second time, now even more sure of his decision. “I mean like we both work relatively close to each other so location isn’t much of a problem. If you can handle the small space you can move into mine or I can move into yours but I don’t know if I can afford your rent but like I guess I can contribute instead to food and pay the bills then-” Jinyoung’s rambling incoherently, the nerves suddenly getting the better of him, and Jaebum notices so he presses his lips against Jinyoung’s to stop him. Even still it doesn’t stop him abruptly because Jinyoung is now stood against Jaebum blinking and then he asks, “Is that a yes?”
Jaebum snorts and doubles over in laughter, “Jesus, it’s a yes.”
“Great, great, that’s good.” Jinyoung says, making small victory fists.
“It is good but let’s think of the details later, okay? I really want to kiss you right now,” Jaebum says with a happy sigh and kisses him. Jinyoung stares at Jaebum’s face, a small smile growing on his lips as he kisses him back.
He thinks briefly about how one thing can change a person's life, how an accident can lead to an escape, how an escape could lead to a meeting. How a meeting lead eventually to changing Jinyoung’s life forever, and he knows nothing will stay the same forever, but he decides it doesn’t matter, and instead silently revels in the contentedness.